Understanding & Preparing for Seasonal Changes in Search Volume

The process of optimizing pay-per-click advertising campaigns for seasonal changes is one of the most important things that digital advertisers can understand. Now that the biggest holiday season has come to a close, many advertisers believe that they are out of the woods with regard to major seasonal changes in search volume for their PPC campaigns. If that is the case for you, then it’s time to dig deeper into your data. While it is important to prepare for the more obvious recurring seasonal changes, advertisers must understand that winter, spring, summer and fall are not the only seasons they have to prepare for. These types of changes can also occur on a monthly, weekly or daily basis.

If you sell snowboards, the busy season is going to be in late fall and early winter because that is when people are shopping for equipment for the upcoming season. What you may not have noticed is that every 4 years, there is a huge event that heavily involves snowboarding. This event drives a massive spike in search volume during February — the Olympics. This February we can forecast a significant spike in “snowboarding” search volume caused by the Sochi Winter Games.

rsz_1snowboard_olympics

Every 4 years during the Winter Olympics we see a spike in search volume for “snowboarding” during the month of February.

Above is still a top level look at the search term “snowboarding”. If we drill down even deeper down to the last 30 days, we can see that every Sunday search volume is much higher than any other day of the week.

rsz_snowbarding_weekly

Search volume for “snowboarding” is highest on Sundays.

How to Take Advantage of Seasonality

Now that we know that there are different levels of seasonality, how can we take advantage in our PPC campaigns? Here are a few helpful tips that can help you maximize your results:

Keyword Strategies

Addressing when consumers are in different stages of the buying cycle is beneficial when planning what keywords are going to get the most engagement from your audience during a specific season. Typically, the further along a consumer is within the buying cycle, the deeper your keywords list should be. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the further out a consumer is from making a purchasing decision, the more breadth your keyword list should have.

For example, if a marina is running an ad campaign in the winter, they should focus their campaigns on the full spectrum of services that they offer. Keyword lists may include boat sales, boat repairs, boat slips, winterization and so on. As the boating season approaches the keywords should gradually be tailored to be more specific and focused in order to reach consumers deeper within the buying cycle. At this point, the campaigns should reflect the specific makes and models of boats that are for sale, common repair issues, and a heavy focus on boat slips until all the docks have been filled.

For companies that rely heavily on specific holidays, marketers should also add holiday specific terms. A chocolate store, for example, should add keywords related to “Valentine’s Day chocolates” rather than just broader terms like “chocolates”. Adjustments like this can drive down CPC and, in turn, boost your ROI.

Bidding & Budgets

For more granular seasonal changes such as weekly, daily or hourly changes, simply adjusting bids and budgets can move the needle in a positive direction. For days that typically receive more search volume than others adding bid adjustments to increase bids by 5-10% can help maximize the ad’s visibility. This strategy can also be effective for days that typically receive less volume as it can help boost CTR on days that your ads receive fewer impressions. Bid adjustments can be most effective when implemented on a weekly, daily, or hourly basis.

Saving budget during slow periods and reallocating to busier times throughout the year can also be beneficial to companies that rely heavily on seasonal sales. This allows companies to maximize their sales during busy periods and spend less when the chance of converting a sale is less likely.

Ad Copy & Extensions

When approaching a busy season it is important to include seasonal hooks in your ad copy and extensions. You can increase the relevance of your ad by directly addressing where the user is in the buying cycle in your ad. For example, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means there will be a spike of traffic of people searching for flowers for their loved ones. During this time of year highlighting a Valentine’s Day special will resonate more with users than birthday flowers.

flowers

Replacing “Birthday Flowers” with “Valentine’s Specials” can help make an ad more relevant during the Valentines Day season.

Landing Pages

Onsite performance metrics are the most important metrics to look at when optimizing pay-per-click campaigns. Therefore, making changes to a landing page can have the biggest impact on the conversion rate of a campaign. Optimizing landing pages to reflect seasonal changes can improve user experience and generate more conversions.

When optimizing landing pages for seasonal changes, advertisers should consider tweaking the copy and design to highlight specific seasonal offers. If you have already made changes in your ad copy to reflect the seasonal changes, this will ensure that the message is consistent between your ad and landing page. Not only could creating a more relevant landing page help improve the user experience, but it can also improve your quality score and therefore improve your position and lower CPC.

Conclusions

Seasonal changes in search volume are inevitable but are fairly easy to predict and understand. Understanding when and why these seasonal changes happen is the first step to developing a plan of how you can capitalize on the changes that are going to occur. When addressing seasonal changes it is important to be proactive and plan ahead rather than being reactive and play catch up to your competitors.

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5 comments on “Understanding & Preparing for Seasonal Changes in Search Volume

Evan Auerbach

Great post, James. This type of data is useful in forecasting content strategies as well. Creating content surrounding before these trending events take place, is also a great way to take advantage of seasonality.


I really like the snowboard example. Interesting what we discover when we drill down deeper! Lots of good ideas here.


Amber

I agree! A lot of great ideas here! Thanks for sharing with us!


Abe Uchitelle

James, taking the Olympics as an example, does the search volume go up with searches that are just as likely to convert as the same campaign in a non-Olympic year? I’m curious if sales of snowboards go up with the search volume or if the search volume goes up without a marked increase in conversions.


    James Kravic

    This all depends on what search term is being used. The biggest portion of the search volume will be Olympics related and cannot be tied to the conversion funnel. However, the Olympic event its self will provide additional lift in the conversion funnel. For example, if a customer is watching snowboarding in the Olympics, they will be more likely to be shopping for snowboarding gear than if the Olympics was not on the TV. The event can help motivate new people to try snowboarding for the first time as well as current snowboarders to purchase new equipment or hit the slopes more frequently.