There may still be snow on the ground from this past winter in some parts of the country, but with digital marketing, Holiday prep for next winter should start in Spring. This is especially true for brands who are launching their marketing efforts for the first time.
For larger brands and/or brands already running digital marketing campaigns, the months from late Spring and Summer through to Q4 are when account health checks are done. Best practices are implemented, new interface features are tested and put in place, and other efforts are tried such as new copy, promos, etc. By testing and iterating in the months leading up to Holiday, when Q4 arrives, these accounts should be running their A game. This is why April is RFP season in digital marketing. Brands want to give themselves and their new agencies ample time to get their marketing campaigns in the best possible shape for Holiday.
For brands who are new to digital marketing and Paid Search, though, there are different considerations for why it is critical to launch well in advance of Holiday. All have to do with particulars in the Google Ads interface which work quite differently for new rather than existing advertisers. Here are some examples:
- Dynamic Remarketing May Not Be Available: We recently came across a situation in which dynamic remarketing was not available in the Google Ads UI until the brand had spent $50,000 lifetime. Remarketing is an important complement to Paid Search, but this feature would have been unavailable to the brand had they launched their search advertising too close to Holiday.
- Smart Shopping Campaigns will not be available out of the gate, either. Before turning on a Smart Shopping campaign, an advertiser has to have received 20 PLA conversions over a 45-day period from another campaign in the account. For brand-new advertisers, Smart Shopping campaigns are a good option since they use machine learning to generate conversions more efficiently. One note here is that machine learning is something most search engine marketers are not fans of because the levers we like to use to tweak performance are unavailable with these campaign types. However, our testing has frequently shown better performance with Smart Shopping rather than Manual or Enhanced CPC. And for new advertisers with limited budgets, this option helps accelerate learning.
- Bidding options are limited: Like Smart Shopping campaigns, Google’s Target ROAS and Target CPA bidding options become available in the UI only after generating a certain number of conversions. You need time to do so. Next, it is a best practice to run a Google Ads Experiment to test the different bidding options to determine the winner. So between generating the necessary conversions and then running the Experiment, you need at least a few months to leverage these options.
- Low Search Volume Keywords: An account may have a comprehensive and sophisticated keyword list, but that doesn’t guarantee that some of them will ever receive any impressions. Very specific, long-tail keywords are pretty much a thing of the past. If a particular keyword is not searched frequently enough, Google labels it “Low Search Volume.” Once it gets that label, your ad will never show for those searches. In the months leading up to Holiday, advertisers need to work out the kinks in their keyword lists or they risk losing impressions, not being able to spend their Holiday budgets, and lost sales. There are good workarounds for the Low Search Volume issue, but you don’t know if you need to move to Plan B until you see the results of Plan A.
- Time is necessary to build up the remarketing pool: There are very strategic tactics that can be employed with remarketing, and remarketing, in particular, does great at Holiday. But even the simplest, most basic remarketing campaign needs prior site visitors in order to serve ads to. If a brand thinks it may do some form of digital marketing down the road, the Google Ads or Analytics and Facebook pixels should be put on the site upon launch.
- Seller Ratings: Google now offers Seller Ratings utilizing Google Reviews. Seller ratings are the stars that show on a Paid Search text or PLA ad indicating how favorable customers are toward a product. Ads with Seller Ratings typically see CTR lifts by about 20%. Because improved CTR yields better Quality Score, ads with Seller Ratings also tend to show up higher on the Search Engine Results Page. Before Google offered Seller Ratings through Google Reviews, retailers had to amass dozens of reviews before Seller Ratings would show. With Google Reviews, though, you need a lot less as you can see in the example below for Free People. Still, brands do need some time to build up their reviews. It is not something that can really be leveraged if campaigns launch in Q4.
- Analytics: Upon launching digital marketing, hopefully everything is set up properly in analytics, but sometimes some additional tweaking needs to be done. No brand wants to spend time during peak Holiday selling days focused on forensic accounting of their digital marketing sales in Google Analytics. Likewise, what brand wants to invest sizably in Paid Search and not be able to gauge ROI? Making sure analytics is tracking properly in advance of Q4 is necessary.
Some lucky brands might see the success they desire right out of the gate when they launch on these marketing platforms, but for smaller, lesser-known brands, that is the exception rather than the norm. Success can best be achieved during the time when it’s needed most given a solid six-month lead time.