Pay-per-click campaigns should change through the seasons

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Seasonal events, whether Valentine's Day, Easter, the Super Bowl or anything in between, can present considerable opportunities for pay-per-click advertisers. Search volumes around these events increase considerably, increases that could mean more potential customers visiting your Web site.

So, how should you go about tapping into and benefiting from these seasonal fluctuations? Here are five top tips you should consider when developing seasonal pay-per-click campaigns.

Adjust keyword strategies

A lot is written about the relative benefits of generic versus specific keywords and this issue becomes increasingly important when planning seasonal campaigns. As a rule of thumb, you should bid on more generic terms while seasonal events are still a way off, then bid on more specific terms as the events draw nearer.

Bear in mind the buying process of your potential customer. If you're a television retailer, for example, you should bid on more generic terms such as "TV" or "TV deals" while people are still at the early stages of researching gift ideas. But then shift to more specific terms such as "low cost Sony Bravia TV" as people get closer to the point of acquisition.

Despite the natural cut-off imposed by seasonal events, people will still shop at different speeds. Bid on a blend of terms throughout your campaign, but weight your keyword strategy towards more generic or specific terms depending on how close the specific event is.

You should also add seasonal-specific terms into your existing keyword portfolios. A florist, for example, should bid on "Valentine's Day flower delivery" or "Mother's Day flower delivery" rather than simply "flower delivery." This small change could help drive down your bid price and, in turn, increase your ROI.

Focus on your ad copy

In addition to keywords, make sure you also focus on the title and description of your ads. Include seasonal hooks to help add relevance, a level of urgency and to increase the association of your brand with the particular seasonal event.

Consider also using your ads to turn negative market perceptions into positive selling points by developing, for example, campaigns that guarantee flower delivery before Valentine's Day, or reassure customers about exchange policies post-Christmas. Monitor the press to pick up on these issues and be ready to amend your ad copy accordingly.

As seasonal events approach, competition for share of voice online typically increases. On particularly competitive keywords, be prepared to include special offers or promotions within your ad - a well-worded offer can mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.

Think about your landing pages

With pay-per-click, ad and landing pages should work together seamlessly to help drive optimum results. So, when planning seasonal campaigns don't just think about your keywords and the ad itself; think also about your landing page.

Consider tweaking landing page copy to highlight specific seasonal offers. This helps add synergy between your ad and your Web site and will further strengthen your brand's association with whatever seasonal event you are looking to leverage.

Don't just believe the hype

Much hype surrounds the peaks and troughs in peoples' search behavior and e-commerce habits in the days and weeks leading up to seasonal events. While these statistics can be useful to inform your seasonal strategies, be wary of turning your back on your own sales data.

Historic tracking figures and sales data should form a central part in shaping your pay-per-click strategy, from initial keyword development to the tone of your ad copy and the scope of any special offers.

Pay-per-click's direct response power means that you should closely integrate your marketing, sales and fulfillment divisions to ensure campaign effectiveness.

Adapt and evolve

Once you've developed your strategy, don't stick to it. It sounds strange, but make sure you use the flexibility of the pay-per-click model to constantly adapt and enhance your seasonal campaigns. Look at how sales and stock levels are developing and be aware of your competitors' actions. Optimize your campaigns accordingly.

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