It might only be September, but our dedicated search specialists have been thinking about Christmas for the past eight months. In this Q&A blog post, Imants Krezins, Head of SEO, and Dan Roberts, PPC Account Director, explain why September is a key time for Christmas search campaigns as well as why it's important for brands to still think about the festive shopping period after 25 December.
1. Why is September a key month for your channel when it comes to Christmas planning?
Dan: From a planning perspective, September is about preparing for Q4. You’ve got events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, final guaranteed Christmas deliveries, which usually falls on or around the 21st December, and Boxing Day. During this time, you must also plan for events such as New Day and January Sales that take place in Q1 2019.
It's definitely a busy time for paid search teams. Be sure that necessary preparation and research - new keywords, ad copy and effective budget planning - are a priority. This ensures that brands are ready to capitalise on the increase in customers during this key period.
Organic Search (SEO) is a channel that requires resources to constantly be aligned and as a result, it takes time for the effects to come into fruition. This is why it is so important to start preparing for the festive period months in advance. When it comes to Christmas, September is the month.
Specialists need to ensure that relevant landing pages are or, where needed, created from scratch. Optimised means that the content:
Also be sure that your business has a plan in place to attract links from external sites. These are links that help users navigate to a brand's site, but also look better in the eyes of the search algorithm. This setup, when rolled out correctly, then leads to clients ranking for top positions in organic search.
2. How will 2018 be different to last year in terms of search trends?
Dan: For the past five years, we've seen search trends shift as mobile growth continues and the confidence in last-minute shopping improves.
The concentration of search queries happening in November and December continues to grow YoY whereas the rest of the year starts to flatten out. More people are searching closer to Christmas, which indicates that, due to delivery times and online shopping experiences improving, people feel more confident buying their gifts closer to Christmas, rather than planning earlier in Q4.
A consequence of this however is that competition between November and December has grown substantially YoY. For example, competition in November increases by around +50% for Retail and General Merchandise. Up until December, we see advertisers push budget into core categories, but also expand into extra seasonally relevant ones, too. This means that competition is more crowded as there are more advertisers per category.
The advertisers that will win in 2018 are the ones that have a really good audience strategy to efficiently capture that last-minute demand.
3. This is the first Christmas since GDPR legislation took effect. Will this change how Christmas campaigns are run and if so, how do you see campaigns being different?
Dan: For paid search, the GDPR legislation really only affected clients that were using Customer Match (an Audience Type in Google Ads). Our team of experts were prepared in advance of May, which meant that clients didn’t see a negative impact in terms of performance. As a result, it means that by Christmas, Customer Match should be back up to pre-GDPR levels (if it isn't already).
GDPR hasn’t really affected the planning and implementation of SEO campaigns. For the majority of campaign activities, our experts use data that highlights and preferences of groups of people, rather than specific individuals.
4. Why is it important for brands to still reach customers after Christmas Day and into the NY?
Dan: Paid search isn’t just for Christmas. Customers don't stop searching for products after this period. This is due in large part to end of year sales through Amazon and pre-January Sales, particularly in travel and holidays. Additionally, searches for wider trends such as ‘New Year, New You’ will affect fashion, health and beauty and lifestyle brands.
To reiterate, those with a good audience strategy should capitalise on the increased traffic levels through Q4, and use these audiences more strategically going into the post-Christmas period and Q1 2019.
Brands not engaging with audiences post major sales days is one of the biggest missed opportunities. While it's true that the holidays are when people spend time with their families and friends, it's also the time when people go online for research, entertainment and shopping. By being visible and proactive, brands strengthen their relationship with consumers, leading to brand loyalty i.e. the holy grail of marketing. One of the central vehicles for this is great content. Brands that create content that people can easily find online and want to share on social media will win this Christmas.