Land Back-to-School Searchers with PPC Marketing

The back-to-school shopping season is nearly here, and that means retailers will be selling everything from laptops to toothbrushes to parents of kids ages 5 to 25 who are headed back to school.

As digital marketers, we talk a lot about long-term strategies like search engine optimization and social engagement building, but these strategies can take months to ramp up. On the other hand, back-to-school season is over in a flash with only one to two weeks to capitalize on the opportunity available. For projects like this, where it’s important to immediately increase spending and then just as quickly scale it back to zero, search engine marketing via paid advertising is a much more effective strategy. In this article, we’ll detail some PPC marketing techniques you should be using to ensure that you score high this year in back to school sales.

Determine whether to use the display network or search network

There are traditionally two options when using PPC marketing: the search network or the display network. The search network is Google, Bing, or Yahoo search results. When customers search for products like yours, you can buy preferred placement above or to the right of the search engine results. The display network encompasses the millions of publishing partners that these sites serve advertising to, everything from Parents.com to CNN. Display network ads are often displayed as banners, whereas search ads only display text. In most cases, small brands will prefer the search network in the absence of brand awareness and expensive creative and production for advertisements, and larger brands and market leaders in specific niches tend to occupy the display network, which can drive increased frequency and thereby cause better recall of the brand and product.

Consider multiple publishers for your ads

While there are millions of sites out there that serve advertising, only a few will reach your specific target market and be open to your products. A thorough media plan can help you weigh the costs, traffic, and audience of various sites and hone in on certain characteristics that make some sites better for your traffic than others. Depending on your budget, you may decide to publish PPC ads on one site or dozens. Larger budgets will require multiple publishing partners as the limiting factor on a publishing partner is how much traffic they can push to your ad. A medium-sized site that receives a million hits a month might deliver just 2,000 clicks on your ad in a week or two.

Optimize Your PPC Campaign with A/B Testing

As your ads run, certain ads will begin to perform better than others based on a number of metrics, including click-through rates, conversion rates, and spend levels. As a PPC marketer, it’s crucial that you begin to optimize your ad campaign early on so that you can achieve higher ROIs. You can segment and test your ads along a number of variables, including the sites that ads are displayed on, headlines, body copy, call to actions, and design. Cull advertising that underperforms in A/B tests as well as work that delivers low quality traffic.

At the end of the day, the metric to optimize for is your return on investment. You can easily calculate this by dividing a customer’s lifetime value (or in the case of a back-to-school fire sale, their shopping cart value) by the amount you spent to acquire them. A higher value indicates a winning ad. To get these values, you’ll need to implement analytics capabilities along your entire purchase funnel. Additionally, while understanding the core ROI of sales compared with costs is relatively quick to analyze, there is also value in growing your email list and social networking traffic. You can begin to qualify the lifetime value of customers on these lists over time with a solid analytics platform.

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