Greed is good but a little common sense is even better.
While cyber Monday and online holiday shopping have every marketing manager wringing hands in anticipation, too often, I find one of the biggest mistakes a marketing department or company can make happens at this time of year.
Changing campaigns or web sites.
December is absolutely, positively the worst time of year to do this and for so many different reasons.
Why risk your business?
If you are dependent on holiday sales for your business, plan for them. Don't, as I've seen far too many times, panic into them. Search marketing is fundamentally marketing and it requires a marketing plan with some basic tenets, principles and approaches appropriately attached.
Simple stuff: What is the goal? How are we going to get there?
There are two ways to gain revenue: Sell more stuff to existing customers or find new customers.
An increase in PPC budget can and in all probability will increase traffic metrics but it may not increase conversions, and may well spike your acqusition costs. If you play your PPC conservatively throughout the year then a PPC increase may be appropriate to your business.
PPC is the starting point and what of the browsing audience? Browsing, not buying.
What's the solve?
Creative seasonally specific marketing initiatives in your annual plan. A simple campaign structure that can be turned on and off separately and distinct from your business as usual initiatives.
It is the seasonal campaign that you want to play with, not your existing campaign.
Are your metrics real at this time of year for consumer sites?
For consumer product sites, if traffic spikes but sales don't spike accordingly do you blame your PPC initiatives? Consumer audiences shop differently at this time of year. They tend both to browse more and to compare more before choosing to make their purchase. They also coupon more in trying to find the best deal. (I find my perfect flatscreen TV through a PPC campaign, but then I leave the site and spend a couple of days hunting around online to find an affiliate coupon and when I do, I access the site that way.)
Are your metrics real at this time of year for B2B sites?
Budgets, planning and forecasting have already been implemented at this time of year and more often than not, companies are looking for ways to hold costs at this time of year.
As such, B2B business tends to soften as does traffic. For this reason, while it may seem logical to introduce broad spectrum site changes, it's actually not a good idea because you're not targeting your true audience.
In fact, more than one B2B client has stopped their B2B campaign during the last two weeks of December rather than trying to panic sales from a market that simply isn't there. That's smart business.
And just as this is the worse time of year to change PPC campaigns, it's even worse for changing web sites. You risk your usual buying audience, you risk your rankings and you risk your PPC campaigns and analytics as in the panic things are bound to be missed.
They reality is that most Interactive Agencies have more than one client and there's a pretty good chance that a few of those clients are retailers making (understandably) seasonal but not unreasonable demands.
So, don't change your existing campaigns or your web presences. Introduce specific elements that can be measured and monitored, stopped or started in and of their own right.
Oh, and here's another tip: If you are going to insist on making changes at this time of year, the worst day to do it on is a Friday.
Have a good one.
~The (SEP) Guy
PS - As this is my last post for the year, I have to say a public THANK YOU to Chrissy @ Google; Susie @ Sympatico; Nora & Catherine @ MSN; and Avi, Carla, Mark, Ben & Matt @ Yahoo! We couldn't do what we do without your help and we wouldn't enjoy it as much we do without your smiles!