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Back-to-School PPC: A+ Tips and Expansion Ideas

  |  July 29, 2011   |  Comments

How to prepare for $68B retail spending event.

Aww, back-to-school already? Yes, it's that time of year again when retailers' minds turn to reaching parents and students of all ages purchasing supplies, clothing, and electronics. According to the National Retail Federation, combined K-12 and college spending will reach over $68 billion this year, serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

The flexibility and real-time nature of paid search and PPC campaigns make them ideal tactics for the back-to-school marketing mix. In recent surveys, more people say they will shop online and will comparison-shop online than last year. With this audience more available online, it will be critical to be visible and offer unique messaging to entice shoppers.

Keyword Expansion

Now is the time to review your current program to determine how back-to-school themes can be incorporated into your account. Major themes include keywords related to textbooks, school gear, supplies, dorms, apparel, software, games, laptops, mobile devices, tablets and more. If your products fall into these categories or subcategories, it's a good idea to reach out to the back-to-school crowd and capture this seasonal traffic.

You will be working on a short and accelerated timeline, so once your new keywords are implemented, quickly expand high performing keywords and employ negatives real-time as they become available from query reports.

Ad Creative

Whether you are starting from scratch or revisiting the creative from last year, you can attract more clicks by incorporating the appropriate keywords.

  • Include enticing offers in your ads that focus on discounts and deals for shoppers by using phrasing like "coupon," "% off," and "sale" in the ad copy and title.
  • Incorporate "student" and "school" in the ad copy.
  • Highlight your relevance to shoppers by incorporating "back", "school," and "student," to your ad copy.
  • If you are utilizing SiteLinks in Adwords, don't forget to edit your SiteLinks to include back- to-school language and promotions.

Paid Program Expansions

Including back-to-school seasonal tactics will not only expand the potential of your current account, it is also a great way to test new approaches for winter holiday season.

  • Remarketing/retargeting: Although it's too late to set up a new retargeting campaign, the current audience can still be leveraged with back-to-school specific messaging, offers, and cross-sells, as appropriate. Prepare ahead next year by tagging appropriate content early to later target with back-to-school messaging.
  • Google Display Network: Leveraging the Google display network is an option to get more exposure to the back-to-school audience. This may be a good time to test category targeting. According to Google, the following categories and subcategories, in order of frequency, were the most commonly searched themes for back-to-school queries:
    • Society: Education, legal, social science
    • Entertainment: Music and movies
    • Shopping: Apparel, mass merchants, and department Stores, Flowers Gifts and greetings
    • Local: Regional content, jobs
  • Facebook ads: If you're doing Facebook PPC, this is the perfect time to try targeting a student audience. Students can be targeted by their education status if they are in high school or college, and you can also specify a college name. This audience can also be reached by interest or category such as "Precise Interests" from users profiles like "student council" or "Broad Categories" like "consumer electronics" or "gaming". Mix and match depending on the products you offer.
  • Mobile and tablet only campaigns: In comparison to previous years, students are more connected than ever. According to Google internal data, last year there was a lift of 500 percent in mobile searches for retail and consumer electronics categories over the summer months. This provides a unique opportunity to capture searchers attention on platform not totally saturated with ads. Remember that searches are more general on mobile and tablets than searches conducted through a desktop with a full keyboard. You will need to segment out mobile and tablets in your campaign settings.

mobile-ad-example

Back-to-school seasonality seems to pass in a flash. Search traffic begins in early July, peaks in mid August, and falls off at the end of September. Early planning is recommended, but more essential is understanding the shoppers you are trying to reach, where they purchase, and how to stand out from the crowd this back-to-school season.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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