It’s October 3rd, but more importantly, we’re three days into Q4.
For most performance marketers, Q4 is the most important time of the year. It’s inclusive of online shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday (yes – this is a thing invented by eBay).
Advertising budgets open up and marketers utilize every strategy possible to increase traffic, sales and overall company growth.
With so many digital marketing strategies available, how do you prioritize what is best for your budget?
It really depends on your KPIs.
You may operate in an environment that works to grow top-line revenue without efficiency constraints or in an environment where efficiency (ROAS) is critical to everything. In some cases, basket size (average order value) is the most important metric. And in other cases, branding and new traffic is the most important thing to a business.
Depending on what your business goal is, you may have may have a different approach to Q4. In any case, here are a few good tips to remember and to use to maximize your advertising budgets this quarter.
Lean Into Product Listing Ads
E-commerce companies thrive in Q4 thanks to how much online shopping has grown in recent years. While Amazon claims the majority of traffic on peak shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, midsize retailers still have plenty of opportunity to capture new traffic with product listing ads.
Product listing ads (also known as PLAs or Google Shopping Campaigns) are a quick and easy way to get into auctions with the likes of major retailers. PLAs are based on a feed of product data that consists of important attributes like a title, description, color, material, size and of course, price. Advertisers use this data to set up campaigns in Google Ads by product types, brands or another attribute that is important to their business. Traffic can be highly targeted so you know you are only paying for clicks that are most likely to convert.
Most advertisers who kicked off product listing ads in 2019 now report the ads make up ~20% of their online revenue and have become more than 50% of their advertising budget. If you are looking for a new channel to lean into this Q4, PLAs are highly recommended. Plus, Google now offers handy automation tools to let your data drive most of the bidding.
Display & Retargeting
For prospecting new customers or remarketing to existing customers, you cannot pass up on display ads. These banner ads are deployed on sites in the Google Display Network, YouTube and Gmail, with the potential to reach millions of users. You can also set up retargeting logic to display banners to customers who have already interacted with your site. If you run standard e-commerce sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, display and retargeting advertising is a must-have to gain interest in the sales.
Display banners also bring a branding aspect to the table. Having an ad displayed on a site like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times is bound to increase your brand awareness even if customers are not clicking on the ads. You get in the mind of consumers and the next time they are thinking of a product or service you offer, you’re likely to be top of mind.
As a word of caution, be careful in how you set up display campaigns. Ads in the Google Display Network can show on mobile apps that likely have no relevance to your business. This can drive up costs really quickly without hitting an ROAS target. When setting up campaigns, be sure to include certain exclusions in the campaign-level settings and only target ads to audiences you think are most likely to convert.
Paid Search Is Still Critical
You can’t forget about standard pay-per-click ads. These headline and description-based ads still take up a substantial amount of real estate in the result page and you don’t want to be lost in the shuffle. For Q4, look through your most profitable year-to-date keywords and make sure they continue to have prominent bids. You may also want to consider what worked best for Black Friday and Cyber Monday of the previous year.
If you are following suit with popular e-commerce shopping sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, make sure you’re bidding appropriately on the keywords related to the sale landing pages. For instance, if you operate a home improve or hardware store online, you likely don’t want to bid on [black friday sale]; something like [black friday sale hardware store] will have a much lower CPC and will pull in more qualified traffic.
Google has also introduced seasonality adjustments for its smart campaigns. This bid modifier takes into account high traffic seasons like Q4 and can help align bids to make sure you stay competitive.
Test Into Paid Social Programs
There is no doubt social media networks have grown in 2019 and they offer a wealth of opportunity for picking up new shoppers. From Facebook ads to shopping campaigns on Pinterest, customers are actively looking for products and with a few simple steps, you can place your products right in front of them.
Paid social campaigns are a little more difficult to measure given where the shopper is in the conversion funnel. More often than not, social channels are at the beginning of the sales funnel (first click) and take longer to convert. You can think of social advertising as a branding move like display ads to try to get your brand and products in front of shoppers earlier in their journey.
With any strategy you use or test into this quarter, it’s important to measure everything you can. This gives you the ability to know what works and what doesn’t so as to be prepared for Q4 2020. Using Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, set up conversion funnels to know exactly where your ad budget is going. You’ll be able to identify where customers are running into issues with your product pages, having trouble in the cart or just leaving the site altogether.
For any search-based campaign, review search terms constantly to understand how people are finding you and to negate low quality traffic. For branding campaigns through display or social media, grow and refine audiences to show ads to customers who are most likely to convert.
Again, the most important thing to remember is what KPIs are most important to your business. If you’re strapped to a certain ROAS target, PLA and text-ad campaigns are going to be your best bet. If you are concerned with getting products in front of as many potential shoppers as possible, consider display banners, retargeting and paid social ads.