Search offers help for retailers looking for a holiday booster

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With the holiday season approaching, consumers are flocking to retail locations — and now, more than ever, online — to find gifts. This time of year is especially important for search marketers looking to connect online shoppers to their clients.

“We know people are doing more and more shopping online,” said Alex Porter, VP of Internet marketing firm Location3 Media. “We want to take advantage of that increase in conversion rates.”

“This is such an important time of year for retailers,” said Ellen Corrigan, senior director of search media at iCrossing, agreeing. “They have to push harder and drive more advanced tactics to meet their objectives [in today's slowed economy].”

Experts say the key to making more informed decisions about when and which keywords to optimize is strong data. How­ever, Corrigan warned, it is also important not to over-optimize.

“If you're collecting data and tweaking campaigns every day, you're not really getting a grasp on what the return on a specific [paid search] position is,” she said. “You might get a ton of clicks because you pushed it up to the No. 1 rank, and the conversions may not be there because your data wasn't complete.”

Another key point is to make sure your other marketing efforts leading up to the holidays support your search campaigns when the season arrives.

“If you've done enough during the year to establish the brand and product as desirable or luxurious or whatever niche you're trying to fit into, people are going to come back for the brand and then be enticed by the offer as opposed to the offer… given by competitors,” said David Gong, account manager for Range Online Media.

But when it comes to those offers, how can companies stand out? “If you're sell­ing a product that 30 other companies are selling, ad copy is your first chance to differentiate yourself whether it's with free shipping or online coupon,” Porter said.

Danielle Smith, manager of strategy and client development for Range, said creating a sense of urgency also is vital.

“In the last seven shopping days we might update customers by saying ‘only five days left,'” Smith said. “That creative drives really strong conversions, because the consumer will realize the holiday really is close.”

Industry experts also stressed the importance of relevant landing pages.

“With our ads for Williams-Sonoma, we use words like ‘elegant' and ‘quality' so consumers know what to expect when they click over,” Corrigan said.

At the end of the day, creative ad copy, strategy, research and planning are most important.

“More people are searching, and there's an influx of advertisers, so you just have to be smarter about how you spend your money,” Porter said. “Then it's about tak­ing advantage of every click you're getting and squeezing the most out of it.”

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