Paid Search (PPC)
Owen Gill

Digital Marketing Consultant at Hallam Internet, with experience specialising in PPC and SEO.

Seasonality can play an important role in your paid advertising campaigns. Let's take a look at some of the main reasons why advertisers could be missing out on search visibility and what actions can be taken to ensure this threat becomes an opportunity.

Experienced business manager will know if their products or services are more in demand at different times of the year, and more often than not, the search volumes from online users will mirror that. Some sectors are affected far less by seasonality than others, so ignoring how your target audience is using search engines throughout the year is an easy mistake to make.

Seasonality: The Predictable…. and the less predictable

However, due to the complexity of a customer’s buying journey when using online media, you cannot just assume search trends follow the trend of your overall business performance. You may find the most consistently performing businesses throughout the year will still have large segments of their target audience increase search activity during certain times. You must take this into consideration when launching a campaign to ensure you’re not missing out on any opportunities.

Discovering season trends

So, how do you find out when people are searching, and when they’re going to convert? Well, there are various ways of gathering this insight, but the two methods I’m focusing on are using the Google Trends tool and reviewing data already accrued in an advertising account.

Search Trends

Firstly, Google Trends has a wealth of data available for advertisers to use, so it’s important it’s utilised when you’re running any advertising. The examples below show search trends throughout a twelve-month period (1st Jan 2016 – 31st Dec 2016) in the UK. These are pretty obvious searches that have clear signs of seasonality, but I’d encourage anyone to review the search queries they believe are most important to their business and see if any trends can be discovered.

 

Example 1: Summer Terms: Garden furniture and sunglasses

Search trends for sunglasses and garden furniture -

 

Example 2: School Terms: school uniforms and pencil cases

Search trends for pencils cases and school uniforms

Competition Trends

If you already run PPC advertising, you could find that search trends related to the keywords within your campaigns don’t move significantly. However, you may have had times where performance has dropped, seemingly inexplicably. These dips in performance may have occurred due to increased competition on the terms you’re looking to gain visibility for. When advertisers increase their bids and new competitors enter this space, you’ll find that your visibility can decrease if you fail to counter or anticipate these moves.

A good example of where this is apparent is within the automotive industry. High volume search terms such as ‘used cars’ and ‘buy used cars’ don’t change tremendously over a 12-month period, but the aggressiveness of the advertisers bidding on these terms certainly does. You’ll find that March and September are ‘high converting’ months for retailers, and although search volume remains stable, online users covert into a purchase far more regularly. Therefore, forward-thinking advertisers anticipate this and apply measures to ensure they don’t miss out on this more lucrative visibility.

Depending on how long they’ve been running campaigns, this insight is already available to many advertisers just by reviewing their accounts. The clearest indication of when the competition increases within any sector would be to review the campaign’s impression share and the potential impression loss based on rank or budget. The below screen shot is from Google AdWords, which clearly displays that visibility was lost in this campaign during June and July where competition increased.

Impression Share Loss

Anticipating Changes

Right, so we now know that search trends move throughout the year and your competitors are likely to alter their approach to bidding. So, what can you do to maximise any opportunities and avoid the threat of missing out on highly valuable traffic?

Fluid/Flexible Budget – By allowing your budget to move throughout the year based on the search demand and competitiveness of auctions, you will decrease the possibility of losing out on impression share.

Various Bidding Strategies – Although your budget may change, your bids across an account could still be limited when gaining visibility. This is caused by increased competition in the auctions. To address this, depending on your objective there are different manual and automated bidding strategies you can use which will help maximise visibility.

Bid Adjustment and Scheduling – If you find that there are certain times of the day, different devices or different locations where people are more likely to convert, it’s key that you apply bid adjustments to ensure you’re maximising any ad exposure at more lucrative times.

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