About Francis Shovlin

Francis Shovlin has been in the search industry for over 5 years, with the latter half at SEER Interactive helping companies in a variety of industries and sizes hit their marketing goals. The self-proclaimed “master of 70 characters” also enjoys fine beer and music. You can follow his random thoughts on life and paid search on Twitter:@fmshovlin

Back to School Planning for Digital Marketers

back to school

Back to School is the second biggest consumer spending event of the year, right behind the winter holidays. While last year experienced a dip, things are expecting to bounce back. Is your business ready for it?

Hopefully you’ve already planned your company’s marketing strategy for back to school seeing as the spike in search has already started, but if not, there’s still some time. With almost 80 million students enrolling in high school or college this season in the US, according to Google’s latest ‘Back to School’ study, there is plenty of opportunity to capture.

Parents’ Journey to Purchase

As with any campaign, it’s especially important to keep the user’s path to purchase in mind. This means visibility and consistent messaging accross all devices. While users may not be converting on smartphones, they sure are using them to research. Capture your potential client on their mobile before they’ve made their decision, whether it’s on the road or while they watch a video on YouTube.

Some tactics you can deploy on AdWords would be:

  • Display phone number and relevant store locations to users searching on mobile devices (or computers!) to drive in-store sales. Increase bid modifiers around your store locations for maximum reach.

  • Generate awareness via Affinity audiences and Interest targeting on the Google Display Network. These features allow you to more precisely target the audience that is most likely to buy from your brand. For example “Bargain Hunters” or “Value Shoppers” are examples of Affinity audiences and “Shopping” or “Apparel” are good labels to use for interest targeting.

  • Remarket! Whether they’ve engaged with your website or watched a video of yours on YouTube, it would be unwise to not attempt to reach back out to potential clients.

Get Ahead of the Game

Since we’re a little late for this one, consider it an early tip for the 2015 season. Last year, 20% of shoppers began purchasing in mid-July. Each year, search interest grows around “back to school” keywords, and more specifically “back to school sales [year]”. Another early tip would be to make sure you’re ready for “back to school sales 2015” based on that data. You can see that “back to school sales 2014” (seen in green) is already starting to peak in the chart below.



There’s even growth for just “back to school” each year too. What’s interesting to note here is the mini-spikes during January which is likely folks heading back for their spring semester of college.


 Highest Spending Days

Plan around the highest spending in-store and ecomm days, maybe even more so if you’re strapped for budget. Typically, offline sales occur during the weekend while online sales are up early/mid-week throughout July and September. Considering this when bidding could help ensure you get the best ROI.

Complement Offline Marketing

Consider complementing your offline marketing with online campaigns. If you’re running a specific ad in a region or DMA, also have an online campaign counterpart, especially for mobile devices. If I’m reading a magazine or I see a billboard that interests me, I’m likely to pull out my phone to research. Hell, I may even do some research on my phone while I’m in the actual store itself. Note that this also aligns with our suggestion to think about the user’s journey to purchase. Getting in front of your audience at all times could be an easy way to increase sales and conversion rates, online and offline.

What are some tips and tricks you’ve tested in the past that helped create a successful back-to-school campaign?


Why the New AdWords Features & Products are Important to your Business


Francis Shovlin, a SEM expert at SEER Interactive shares his opinion on Google Adwords new features announcement this April 22nd. This included a new addition to its Estimated Total Conversions (in-store sales), new ways to market mobile apps, and some shiny new reporting & experiment tools. He will be reviewing a few and understand why they’re important, and if they are, to your business. 

AdWords Impact on In-Store Purchases

This will be an amazing metric to measure once it’s available, and somewhat accurate, for all advertisers with brick-and-mortar locations. Clients with physical locations often (ok, always) wonder what impact our PPC campaigns have on their in-stores sales. With this new factor in AdWords’ Estimated Total Conversions, you’ll now have more insight than in the past. I’ve heard some negative feedback on Estimated Total Conversions since they’re exactly what they say they are: estimates. However, I’d rather spend my time wisely and focus on how to use the data to grow and inform than waste it complaining. Everyone else can have fun not engaging and educating your customers at critical moments and losing budget.

Promoting Mobile Apps

For advertisers that have mobile apps, this is a big win. Google released some incredible stats saying that 80% of apps are used only once, and that 60% of apps are never even installed! That sounds like a horrible investment and easy way to make the case for not creating one. With their new capabilities though, you’ll now be able to reach users in a way you couldn’t before and attribute value back to your mobile app.

I believe the most impactful new feature for mobile apps announced today was what they’re calling app re-engagement. These new campaigns/ads allow advertisers to send users directly to their app. So you might know of some companies that have a great app experience, but a poor mobile one. Now, I can easily send a user to a specific page in my app and ensure they’re getting the service they deserve.

In addition, you can also now track in-app purchases and downloads – a huge plus for advertisers that already have strong engagement.

Advanced Reporting & Experiment Tools

Ever get sick of creating Pivot Tables? Or, ever create a Pivot Table only to realize you didn’t download all the data you need, then have to go through the entire process again? Oh, and then you still have to analyze the data once you’re done? That could be a thing of the past with AdWords shiny new “advanced reporting”. While they’re not available yet, I’m excited to get my hands dirty. This new feature looks very user-friendly and allows advertisers to analyze data through multiple dimensions. In other words, it’s a richer, more fluid version of the current Dimension’s tab. Happy data exploring!

And last, but not least, a feature I thought was very interesting and impactful: experiments and drafts. Similar to “advanced reporting”, parts of this feature is already available (Experiments betas in Campaign settings). The new version goes above and beyond; allowing advertisers to see the impact a change would make, such as a bid adjustment or campaign settings (new & awesome!), without ever pushing it live. Then, like with the current Experiments, you can test the impact with a specific percentage of traffic to mitigate any risk involve. If you like what you see, you can apply the changes with a simple click of a button. Happy A/B testing!

Now that you’ve had at least a day to think about the new changes coming to AdWords, how do you think these new features will help advertisers?


How do Ad Extensions Affect Ad Rank?

ad-rank-changesGoogle recently announced a major change to their Ad Rank equation. Ad Rank had been calculated by your bid and Quality Score in the past. Now, Google will factor in the expected performance of your ad extensions.

A brief history of recent Ad Rank changes

This isn’t the first time Google has made changes to the Ad Rank equation. Just two years ago, they announced a new bidding ability, bid-per-call, and that it would also be factored into Ad Rank. Many people within the search industry were in an uproar after this announcement since not all advertisers focus on calls leading some to believe they would be at a disadvantage. However, this feature was deprecated after just over year….

Tracking Conversions Across Devices with Google AdWords

enhanced-campaigns-tracking-multiple-browsersWith enhanced campaigns, Google promised advertisers many interesting features for tracking offline conversions such as visits to stores and even purchases made in store. These will all eventually be part of Google AdWords’ new offering, Estimated Total Conversions. Some of these seemed unfeasible at that time, and still do, but it’s Google so we’ll see what they develop. In the meantime, let’s focus on their first step with Estimated Total Conversion s– cross-device conversions….

Three New AdWords Conversion Tracking Features

AdWords tracking features update

Image credit: aizymusic.com

Google AdWords has quickly (and quietly) released three new features and abilities to their conversion tracking over the last month, all of which give advertisers more flexibility to the data they’re analyzing. From choosing how long to attribute conversions back to a paid campaign to tracking conversions between multiple accounts, there’s something for everyone. Let’s take a quick look at each one….