Insider's Guide to Holiday Search Tactics

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This weekend, I headed to one fantastic sale at a well-known clothing store. Past experience had taught me that this particular store would have people waiting for the doors to open, so I left a bit early. I also brought along the mental protective gear; shopping in New York can be a contact sport. I arrived just after the doors had opened, and to my surprise, I was the only one there. While the obvious answer to this is the economy, the store had clearly not optimized its marketing. Be it the message or the actual discount offered, search marketers have a leg up on retail this year. 

It was during a conversation at the most recent SEMPO NY working group event that I realized how deft search marketing can be. A colleague described her weekly process of slowly reducing a client's PPC bid to see just how low she could go while still holding on to that top slot. William Alvarez agreed with this tactic and added that for some clients, he has been able to slowly move budget to content networks “identifying those that give me the same results…and in many cases more traffic and conversion.”

A change in consumer search behavior has prompted a shift in keywords and copy for both PPC and SEO.

“We have noticed and increase in traffic to terms that include “affordable” or “discount” in the phrase,” said Alison Ganz, director of marketing for HawkEye Search. She added a caveat that these searchers are clearly price sensitive, and should be carefully monitored to make sure that they don't result in “bleeders.” 

In the SEO bucket, Danielle Smith, strategy and client development manager, for Range Online Media noted, “Although they are often optimized within paid search, many marketers haven't fully explored the coupon and deal-type term derivatives in their SEO programs. If brand appropriate, reconsider your natural term portfolio and have it correlate to the new economic state.”

Clearly, this is a season of testing. While most would rather have tested at the earlier end of the holiday, lackluster sales require that every search marketer constantly think more creatively about the business.

“Now is a great time for marketers to take a closer look at their campaigns and devote internal resources towards regular testing to make sure that you're putting your best foot forward with every ad,” Roger Barnette, president of SearchIgnite, suggested.

For Barnette, this process includes creative messaging and landing pages.

Brian Renner, a search consultant, agrees.

“Imagine spending the same on PPC but doubling conversion rates from 1% to 2%...same as cutting your budget in half,” Renner said.

Of course, no search marketers recommends completely cutting budget. Rather, they recommend spending smarter.

Kate Morris, director of client strategies, New Edge Media, recently stressed the importance of tightening spend. For others, such as Mike Grehan of Acronym Media, this is a season of aggressive data analysis.

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