'Tis the Season to Make Holiday Plans

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Every year around this time I see an article about the need to enjoy the summer yet also start to think about the back-to-school and holiday seasons. This year it's me bringing you this friendly reminder. It really is time to prepare for the revenue that search engine marketing can drive in these upcoming back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Though it wouldn't be unnatural to think about search - at least paid search - as being the perfect medium for a last-minute plan, such a thought process will cost you in terms of lost revenue and increased expenses.

If, by chance, you are completely new to SEM, you need to build some history before the busy season. No paid search campaign is as successful on day one as it is on day 30, or 60, etc. Right now is the perfect time to figure out which product and keyword categories provide the important combination of volume and profitable transactions.

With Google's quality score, which measures historical clickthrough rate as a function of your ranking and click price, and Yahoo's pending launch of a similar scoring system, it is of further importance that you build a history now. This is so that later in the year when the market is flooded with seasonal advertisers, you will have a cost advantage.

Also, you will know which keyword categories perform very well (and call for unlimited budget as long as they stay profitable), which have average performance (and likely will perform much better during the back-to-school and/or holiday season) and which just won't perform at all (and deserve minimal, if any, budget).

As you think about what keyword categories make the most sense for your paid search efforts, ensure that you also test various promotional creative messages and landing pages.

If your company is like most, you have at least a few weeks lead time for new creative and landing pages. Get out ahead of this schedule, develop a few conceptual options and get them into development. Then, come September, you'll be testing and learning instead of waiting for creative you wish you had.

Though the time is getting close, it's not yet too late to capture additional organic search traffic (the non-paid search results found in the main body of the engines) as well.

Depending on the size and architecture of your Web site, fixing all organic search-listing roadblocks may not be possible. However, at a minimum, starting a search engine optimization process now can result in increased search placements for a few of your most important pages and perhaps the new ones you are building with targeted promotional messages.

Whether the back-to-school and/or the holiday seasons are big times of year for your business or whether you leverage other seasonal/promotional efforts, it is important that you involve your search marketing team - in-house or outsourced with an agency - to maximize your return from these initiatives.

Your promotional efforts will drive search behavior, so start planning now in the summer months and enjoy the benefits in the busy seasons ahead.

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