The Q4 holiday shopping season is upon us! For many digital marketers, Q4 is the pinnacle of our entire year, especially those working in retail. Many companies save money all year, in preparation for the massive marketing machine that runs during the holiday season. Today’s post is geared towards those marketers who have paused or massively budgeted down SEM accounts who must reactivate and ramp them up quickly.
Pair Back, Don’t Pause
It’s too late to do anything about my first tip, but it could influence your strategy next year. In general, I recommend avoiding the situation where you bring large-scale SEM operations offline and then online. The pausing/unpausing can be dangerous and risky. If you’re out of the market for a long time, you may not be happy what you find when you come back. The pausing/unpausing can cause higher CPCs, lower positions, lower CTRs, and adverse effects on account history.
The risk gets higher if your competitors have the strategy of staying in-market during the very time you are paused. It’s always easier (and safer for your SEM operations) to stay in the market year-round. Try to stay in-market, even if at lower bids and budgets, even with a paired back account (exact match only, Google AdWords only etc).
It’s also too late for my second tip, but again it will help next year! If you must save budget and “pause”, don’t literally pause but instead budget down. Pausing is risky. It takes you completely out of the market. Coming back into the market can be difficult. You can make things a little easier for yourself by budgeting way down (target a $5 or $10 dollars/day per campaign) and leveraging standard delivery instead of accelerated.
This strategy can mitigate some of the challenges associated with ramping back up because you didn’t leave the market completely.
Here’s my first tip that is immediately actionable: Set expectations with your key executives and stakeholders. CPCs are going to be high, CTRs may be low, worst of all CPAs will be higher than target. Get the team ready. All that money that was saved during the off-season has a cost. It’s the cost of coming back to market, and re-introducing a brand that was absent for a long time. Sometimes the cost of re-entry so high that you realize it may have made sense to run year-round (which brings me back to my first suggestion).
Another tip that’s immediately actionable: Come out the gate strong, incredibly strong! It’s much better to spend too much, and still have a viable operation vs. going low and causing permanent (and potentially irreversible damage). Let me explain…
When you have been out of the market a long time, your account has limited recent history. Your brand is foreign to consumers. Your CTR will be low. Also CTRs are naturally lower as you rank lower. Search engines are supposed to normalize for position but the normalization is never perfect. Come back into the market with a low position, a low CTR, and limited/no recent account history and you could see your quality scores plummet. You may even have trouble ranking at all. Raising a bad quality score is very difficult (sometimes impossible) and extremely expensive.
My solution: Come back to market in the top positions. Go very strong, of course on the keywords that have historically converted well for you. You will spend too much, but you will create a viable, sustainable operation. You will have a business vs. no business. You can bring down bids gradually, over time.
Bring your “A Game”
Another tip: When reactivating, bring your “A Game”. Test new ads daily, participate in all the latest ad extensions and beta tests, craft the best landing pages in your industry. Leverage all of your down time (when your account was paused) to plan. Coming back into market is challenging, and you need to be the best in your industry to rebuild that great history.
Get ready to work long hours. Reactivation in SEM is difficult and requires around-the-clock work. Expect to work until 3:00am multiple days in a row.
Ramp Up Early
Don’t wait until Black Friday (or a really big/important day) to reactivate. Reactivating is tricky. Bugs will occur, things will go wrong. Give your team at least a week to “pre heat”. Even if it’s a low-converting week, it’s better to start spending to build history than risking one of your biggest days of the year. Again, it’s expensive to reactivate! The pre heating will be painful from a CPA perspective, but it will be even more painful to miss out on sales on one of your biggest days.
Account reactivation can be treacherous and daunting. I hope today’s tips help add some calm and clarity around the process. Moreover, I hope these tips help you plan for the future. Even during times of lower conversion rates, leverage SEM to generate leads for your next busy season. Find ways to say online year-round and you’ll be the real winner.
Best of luck during your Q4!