Back to School: Now That’s What I Call a PPC Strategy!

colored-pencilsBack to school shopping represents the second biggest consumer spending event outside of the holidays. In addition, parents who shop online will spend an average of $266 more than who only shop in stores, according to the National Retail Federation/BIG Research 2011 back to school survey.

If you’re an online retailer, this is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss. Take advantage of the below tips to help you get the most out of your digital advertising campaigns during this competitive but lucrative season.

“Back to School” Means More Than Just School Supplies

Apparel and school supplies aren’t the only hot back to school products. For 2011, electronics represent 31 percent of K-12 shoppers’ budgets and 36 percent of college bound students’ projected spend. Also remember that college students are shopping for furniture and appliances, and that family members are buying them gift cards.

Before heading back to campus, college students will also spend a total of $5.4 billion on food. Back to college spend is twice as large as K-12 back to school spend!

Capture this opportunity. Build out your paid search keyword list and make sure you allocate time and budget to optimize your campaigns for all the products shoppers are looking for. Don’t forget to check your Google SQR reports for more keyword ideas as well.

Start the Conversation Early

Don’t wait until August to start promoting back to school in your digital marketing campaigns. According to a study by Google and OTX, 15 percent of back to school shoppers start researching purchases in May, and by the end of July 40 percent of shoppers have already started buying.

By bidding more aggressively before summer, you can make sure potential customers see your paid search ads while they’re researching. You can also “stake out” a higher position at a time when there’s less competition, improving your quality score and helping you maintain visibility when the competition heats up.

If you missed this opportunity in 2011, it’s not too late to grab some of these sales – 30 percent of shoppers are still making purchases two weeks before school starts, according to the NRF survey. You might have to pay a higher CPC to grab these customers now, so make sure you catch their attention with a compelling offer.

Communicate Both Deals and Value

Back to school shoppers aren’t just looking for a deal – they’re also looking for value. Prices and discounts are still important, but today’s savvy shoppers are also looking for warranties, free shipping, no-hassle returns, and other factors when choosing where to shop. Make sure you communicate these features in your banners and your paid search creative!

Don’t forget that 14 states are participating in sales tax holiday weekends during August and September. These laws apply to online purchases as well. Do some research and find out how this affects you, and get the list of states here.

Don’t Restrict Your Demographic Targeting

Dads of children in grades K-12 will spend 25 percent more than moms on clothing, shoes, electronics, and school supplies, according to the NRF survey, and college bound males spend 35 percent more than their female counterparts.

Targeting for digital advertising is getting more and more powerful. If you utilize targeting features to optimize your back to school campaigns, don’t exclude men.

Take Advantage of Paid Search Features

Make sure you’re taking advantage of all the features and functionality Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter offer. Adding a back to school sitelink to all of your AdWords campaigns is a great test. Try adding it in May and see how many searchers click – as mentioned above, shoppers start researching early.

Location extensions are a great way to speak to shoppers who are researching online for offline purchases. Also, many shoppers use their phones to compare prices while in the store.

On a smartphone search results page, there are a full four screens of scrolling between the top rail positions and the rest of the ads. You should create a separate campaign targeting mobile devices so that you can bid more aggressively and show different messaging to these searchers.

Back to school is an interesting season. Because there’s no specific “holiday” date, advertisers have to make sure they’re speaking to shoppers over a long consideration period while still keeping messaging and offers timely. With a little planning you’ll be ready to take advantage of the second biggest shopping season of the year!

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