There’s not much you can do about the changing seasons.
As the months progress, the weather changes. Holidays come and go. And if your business is seasonal, even in a small or indirect way, there will be times when your marketing and advertising efforts simply don’t work as well as they would in other seasons.
Maybe you’re an HVAC company that sees significantly lower demand in fall and spring, when compared to spring and summer. Or maybe you sell pools, along with related equipment and accessories, and winter is practically a dead time for you.
Whatever the case, you’re not going to see as much value during your slow times.
So how do you beat these PPC campaign seasonality issues?
Predictability in Seasonality: How to Identify PPC Seasonality Issues
Some seasonal patterns in business are totally intuitive and predictable. If you sell Christmas decorations or specialize in winter holiday apparel, you’re going to see sales spike in November and December – without much activity the rest of the year. If you own a landscaping business in an area with cold winter weather, you shouldn’t expect much activity until spring.
But some seasonal fluctuations are less predictable – and harder to understand.
Many businesses see significant and consistent drops in conversions, sales, and other KPIs at around the same time every year – despite little to no logical reasoning to support the trend. For example, you might notice plummeting sales at the beginning of February, with restoration to normalcy around mid-March, every year of operations.
How do you begin to identify and understand these patterns?
The simplest analytics tool is to study a year-over-year chart (and preferably, several that cover different variables). Look at as many years as possible and watch for observable trends. Is there a month or series of months when you see a boom in sales? Or especially low sales? Take a look at not only sales and revenue, but conversions, ad traffic, organic traffic, and other factors.
At this point, you should be able to identify your biggest seasonal issues.
It could be valuable to analyze the root causes for these seasonal disruptions, but that’s not always the case; sometimes, it’s enough to simply know that a trend exists. The good news here is that as long as you’re willing to experiment and continuously make progress, you should eventually close the gap between your best and worst seasons.
Here’s some additional good news; whatever seasonal issues you face are probably also affecting your top competitors. That means they’re struggling with the same things you are. It also means you have a critical opportunity to surpass their performance.
Pushing Your Seasonal Advantages in PPC Advertising
Part of your seasonal optimization strategy should be pushing your campaign to do its best during your peak busy season. When do sales usually spike? And how can you make sales increase even further?
The most straightforward answer here is to increase your spending. Assuming you can keep all other variables consistent, including the relevance of your audience, the quality of your landing pages, your conversion rates, etc., a bigger budget should lead to much better results.
If you face significant competition during the busy season, this may not be a viable option for you, as ad spending can become cripplingly exorbitant when there are too many people competing for the same group of keywords. Here, if you don’t have the budget to compete, your best strategy is some form of avoidance. That could mean targeting a different demographic, targeting people at a different stage of the sales funnel, or even offering a different selection of products and services so you’re not trapped in a pit with a bigger, more threatening competitor.
Making Up for Seasonal Issues in a PPC Campaign
The bigger issue for most brands is finding a way to make up for seasonal slowdown.
Just as “everyone is a genius in a bull market,” every advertiser is brilliant during the busy season. It’s the slow season that’s a much bigger problem.
Many advertisers confront this problem by simply reducing their budget or minimizing their marketing efforts during this slow season. Intuitively, this makes some sense; if you’re not seeing adequately profitable results from your efforts, there’s no reason to spend as much as you did before.
However, you can get an edge over your competitors and create more value for your brand by adjusting your PPC advertising strategy specifically for the slow season.
These are the strategies that can help you:
- Analyze the root causes. First, do your best to understand the root causes of the slow season. Is this a problem because of weather changes, specific holidays that come and go, average vacation patterns, or some other identifiable cause? Or is there some, more nebulous, ethereal factor in play here? You may not be able to understand the root causes in full, but the better you understand your target audience, the better you’ll be able to target them in this off season.
- Make use of contextual display ads. Contextual display ads have a few advantages over search ads, especially when you’re using them in the middle of a slow season. In case you aren’t familiar with these types of ads, contextual display ads appear on Google’s display network, rather than on their search engine results pages (SERPs). These ads also only display for pages that are contextually relevant to keywords and phrases you choose. This way, your ads will only appear to people who are genuinely interested in what you’re selling. Because of this, you’re much more likely to reach the right people, and as an added bonus, these ads are typically much cheaper than comparative search ads – helping you stay within budget during this relatively tough period.
- Consider targeting a different niche. Depending on the nature of your business, it might benefit you to target a different niche. If your primary demographics aren’t buying during this season, is there a different demographic worth targeting? For example, if you suspect your business sees lower activity due to seasonal weather changes, can you target people in a different geographic area, who may not experience the same weather patterns as the people in your primary geographic target? Exercise your creativity here to reach a new segment of people.
- Focus on micro conversions. You probably won’t see as many conversions as usual during your slow periods, but that’s okay – because you might be able to pick up plenty of micro conversions. For the uninitiated, micro conversions are very similar to standard conversions, but instead of resulting in revenue generation, they’re simply one link in a long chain that could eventually lead to revenue generation. For example, a micro conversion could be a person downloading a PDF from your website; they may not buy anything from you today, but they’ll become more familiar with your brand and more trusting of it, so they’re more likely to buy from you in the future.
Micro conversions aren’t as valuable as full conversions, but they’re much easier to get and they’re less expensive to manage. During your off season, micro conversions are a potentially lucrative way to keep your campaign running – and the real bonus comes weeks or months later, when you’re carefully nurtured early-sales-funnel micro converts eventually decide to purchase from you.
- Use multiple networks. When most of us think of PPC ads, we think of Google, and for good reason – Google has access to one of the biggest and most diversified display ad networks available. But Microsoft’s Audience Network (MSAN) is similarly impressive, offering access to platforms like Bing, Amazon, Forbes, AOL, CBS, and Yahoo.
If you want to increase the effectiveness of your display ads, or make the most of a limited budget, it’s a good idea to take advantage of multiple networks simultaneously. Not only will you broaden your reach, you’ll also be able to take advantage of the most cost-effective advertising opportunities available. Microsoft and other secondary networks may not have the notoriety of Google, but they also have less competition and, in many cases, lower prices.
- Don’t hesitate to start early. Instead of following conventional advertising patterns during your slow season, consider getting an early start for your busier season. Focus on stimulating interest and guiding users through the earliest stages of the buying funnel, rather than pushing them to make a final purchase. Your results won’t be as tangible, at least not immediately, but it’s better than doing nothing.
- Make more emotional appeals. Advertisements are much more effective when you incorporate some kind of emotional appeal. If, during your slow season, your buyers are less likely to logically seek out a solution like yours, you might be able to persuade them if you can stimulate an effective emotional response. Just exercise caution to avoid emotionally manipulating your audience; there’s a fine line between persuasion and deceit.
- Speak to your specific audience. All your advertisements will be more effective if they’re specifically fine-tuned to your specific target audience. This is especially important during your off season, when your customers are going to be thinking and making decisions in ways that differ from the norm. Use surveys and other forms of market research to better understand how your target demographics think and feel during this time, and design better advertisements to reach them effectively.
- Improve your brand value. You can also spend this time building up your brand value and reputation. Advertising isn’t just about landing sales; it’s also about making your brand more visible, better acquainting your customers with your offers, and building trust with new prospective users. Provide value to your customers in the form of better content, establish your authority with meaningful contributions to the industry, and develop your reputation by highlighting the aspects of your business that make you trustworthy. Customers may be less likely to take action or make purchases during this time, but they’ll still be receptive to learning more about your business. And if you’re successful, these customers will remember your brand when the seasons change.
- Experiment and analyze. Don’t forget to experiment and measure your results. Experimentation and adaptation are the heart of any PPC campaign, so they become even more important when you’re dealing with seasonality issues. You may not immediately understand exactly how the seasons of your business develop or why they develop in such consistent patterns, but if you’re willing to experiment with different variables and study your results closely, you’ll walk away with better insights – and a better foundation for your future advertising efforts.
Are you looking for more advice on how to properly address seasonality issues in your PPC campaign?
Or are you ready to increase your budget for this powerful advertising strategy?
PPC.co can help you with everything from initial strategy to ongoing experimentation and optimization. Contact us for your free proposal today!
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize search engine marketing (SEM) ROI. Connect with Sam on Linkedin
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