Managing Adwords Accounts With Large Seasonal Shifts In Volume

An Adwords campaign is a very frail and fragile thing. A slight adjustment made on your end can be all it takes to tip the scales very strongly in your favor, or the straw that breaks the camels back and leaves you broke. You can't just be mindful of your own actions though, you've also got to watch your competitors and, most importantly, your customers.

Let's very quickly get through an example scenario for those that might be reading this article preemptively and have not yet encountered a situation such as the one we're about to touch on, and we'll then get right to the useful stuff.

Even a seemingly straightforward advertising campaign can present quite a few difficulties throughout the year. Take bike rentals for example...
Even a seemingly straightforward advertising campaign can present quite a few difficulties throughout the year. Take bike rentals for example...

Service Businesses Almost Always Have Seasonal Shifts, Some Are Huge.

If you rent bicycles along the boardwalk to tourists and travelers and run a small advertising campaign on Google to promote your business to those looking for fun activities to do when in the area, you'll definitely have some seasonal things to be mindful of. The volume of searches occurring will very likely increase quite a bit during the warmer months, and any special festivals or tourist attractions happening nearby may also cause a spike. You are also likely to suffer from the exact opposite: painfully slow seasons in which either your conversion rate or total clicks available will drop, or both.

When you see an increase in click volume, you may also see conversion rates drop, wreaking havoc among your costs per acquisition (CPAs). Neighboring businesses may also decide to raise their bids during these busier months, meaning that you may also have to pay even more per click even though your conversion rates have taken a visible hit.

Sometimes an increase in click volume on Adwords can actually mean a higher cost per conversion for you if all of your competitors react by jacking their bids up.

Things can get rough, even for a local business. Especially for a local business. You have to know what to look for and it's a huge asset to know what you can do in anticipation of these shifts for the future.

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What To Do When Your Click Volume Increases Drastically

If your campaign experiences a sudden increase in available click volume you definitely want to be on top of the action to try and capitalize on the shift and hopefully increase overall sales.

How to Spot an Increase In Click Volume
If you are suddenly hitting your budget limits in a campaign that was previously not, or if you are suddenly getting a lot more clicks and spending a lot more money than you were, then you are obviously experiencing an increase in click volume, but it won't always be this easy to spot.

If your campaigns routinely hit hard budget limits all year round then you may have to look for other signs. A decrease in your total search and Display impression shares without any decrease in actual clicks or impressions that you are receiving could mean that there are suddenly more clicks available and your piece of the pie has gotten smaller. If you see your total clicks or impressions go down along with your impression share, you might be dealing with an increase in competitor bids for whatever reason.

How to Best Handle Extra Impressions and Ad Clicks
Just because there are more clicks available for your keywords doesn't mean that the conversion rates will maintain. The first thing that you are going to want to do is check for any changes in conversion rates associated with the increase in volume. If you are hitting a daily budget cap, consider raising the budget limit briefly and assessing the conversion rate when the extra traffic is allowed. Hitting a hard budget cap means you'll only get a portion of the clicks as your sample size, potentially compromising some of your data.

Depending on what you see happening with your conversion rates, there are a few different things that you can do. Every campaign is different and there is no guaranteed best-method, but these are some general outlines that you'll want to model after to some degree.

  • Increase daily spending limits and allow campaign to run. Check on the average position of your ads and consider lowering your bids until you no longer continue to receive enough clicks to hit your maximum budget. This method focuses on economically getting as many clicks as possible. An average position of 3 for your ads is usually where you want to land, but if you can still max your budget with an average position of 4 or even 5 then you should definitely consider giving that low of a bid a try. It might just be the best thing you've ever done for your business. Some businesses only thrive near the top position, you just have to make the call on this yourself based on your results.
  • If the metric that you are seeing move is primarily your Costs per click and, possibly, costs per acquisition or sale, you might be headed for a rough patch. Always check back into your change history and make sure that you didn't do something yourself: even the best account managers make the mistake of forgetting the work that they've already done, so watch yourself. If you can't find any reason to blame yourself, then what you are seeing is the result of higher bids entering the auction for your keywords. In this situation you want to decide if your costs per sale will allow you to raise your bid, or consider shifting some budget into the Display network or an alternate set of keywords. Do some testing if you have to, but don't fall into the trap of raising your bids over and over again to compete - that's what Google wants you to do and you'll be regretting it later!

See the small square underneath the Max CPC value in each column? Click that box to use Google's bid simulator and find out roughly how many more clicks are available to you with a higher bid.
See the small square underneath the Max CPC value in each column? Click that box to use Google's bid simulator and find out roughly how many more clicks are available to you with a higher bid.

How To Best Manage a Large Decrease In Click Volume

If you find that your website traffic and advertisement clicks slow to a near-halt at certain times of the year, you'll definitely want to have a plan to deal with it. Often times you will still receive clicks on your advertisements and continue to spend budget daily, but these clicks won't convert hardly as well as they do during your peak season. People might Google snowboards year-round and browse through products, etc., but the conversion rate might triple during the Winter, just an example.

Again, there is no set pattern that your campaign or anyone else's will follow. You might see a decrease in total click volume but an increase when it comes to conversion rates. There's just no telling, but I would say the latter is definitely a rare occurrence based on the accounts I've worked on myself.

Step 1: Check Your CPAs

You need to first find out what you are spending per sale. If your conversions aren't so cut and dry, do whatever you can to give yourself an estimate. Any figure to go on is helpful, even if flawed. If you can afford to spend more per sale and very much want to grab up as many conversions as you can during this off-season, then you should consider raising your bids to get your average position up a bit higher. Use the bidding simulator for your keywords (small line graph icon located within max CPC column in keywords tab, see image to right). If it looks like there's room there to grow, go ahead and raise your bids by about 20%-30%, depending on your situation. Avoid increasing by too much, you can always go back and raise it more if need be.

Step 2: Look Into Alternate Targeting Methods

Sometimes direct search campaigns lose their mojo for part of the year, and the costs per click make it so that advertising there just isn't worth it. In these situations you don't always have to turn your account off and go into hibernation mode, it might be the perfect time to explore the Display network. Clicks cost much less on Display, and you can sometimes find people further along in the buying process that aren't going through the usual direct-search means to get there because of the seasonal shift.

Let's go back to a snowboarding company for an example. People who search "buy snowboard online" may be much more likely to window shop and not actually buy anything during the Summer months, whereas this keyword is one of your biggest converters during the Winter. It might be so severe that the keyword loses its profitability in the Summer. You might discover, however, that people spending their time on snowboard review or comparison webpages have a decent conversion rate even during the Summer because they are more serious shoppers, and the costs per click are such that these clicks are actually very profitable. Just like that, you're back in the green and you can now begin shifting to Display advertising during the hottest months of the year, and expand on your targeting and advertising within the Display network to further optimize.

How To Know When To Change Things Back To The Way They Were

One of the biggest problems with seasonal shifts is that, at some point, things are probably going to change back to the way they were. If you are making large changes in bid to really maximize your profits at each point throughout the year, you will really need to dedicate yourself to the campaigns and check in regularly if you hope to be able to know when it's time to start changing things again and if you want to avoid missing out on the biggest parts of your fiscal year.

Create a Schedule To Check Bids and Budgets

It should be a routine to check the performance of the campaigns you manage. If it isn't already, you should be asking yourself why not. Jump into your campaigns every couple of weeks or once a month and take a look at your impression share on the line graph at the top of the browser version of Adwords. If you see impression share dipping, you might need to raise bids again or increase your budget. If your impression share is actually going up, it might be a sign that you are bidding too high but you should check your conversion rates before you go lowering your bids. You can also check total spent per day on the line graph to see any shifts, as well as your conversion rates and CTRs.

Take Notes

Be smart. Take notes of seasonal shifts you see and watch for them the next year around. If it happens twice, you can probably assume that it will happen every year. You'll almost always do better if you know to be expecting a change.

As with most anything, you'll have to be vigilant if you want success. Always keep a close watch on your campaigns, but strategize the changes you make and plan them out. Don't allow for a single day's or week's worth of data to cause you to make stupid decisions, but don't wait so long that you miss your shot.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of this article. Helpful? Is there anything you would add yourself?


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