1 BRIGHT EDGE Search Engine Marketing Strategies for Valentine s Day For brands that want to compete in the hot Valentine s Day SEM market, what s the best approach for paid and natural search marketing? In this paper, we examine the past effectiveness of Valentine s Day PPC and SEO strategies and offer tips for maximizing Valentine s Day search visibility while minimizing SEM costs.
2 OVERVIEW For brands offering Valentine s Day gifts, there s heated competition to capture last-minute shoppers. In this environment, what are the best ways for marketers to capture online transactions and market share on search engines? Performics, the thought leader in the art the science of Performance Marketing, and BrightEdge, the leader in enterprise SEO, collaborated on a study on the search engine marketing environment for Valentine s Day In this paper, we explore the most effective PPC and SEO Valentine s Day strategies. VALENTINE S DAY ONLINE CONSUMERS: A SURGE IN SEARCHING ACTIVITY We first identified the top terms for Valentine s Day gifts including flowers, roses, teddy bears and cologne. We found that search activity was intensely concentrated on a very few of these keywords with the top 10 terms accounting for 79% of searches on the 83 terms we studied. Out of the top 10, fully 60% of the top search volume comes from just two terms: flowers and Valentine s Day. When we compared January 2010 against February 2010, we observed massive increases in searcher activity on our keyword set. For example, the number of searchers looking for flowers was up 50%. Similar increases were noted for other related keywords like roses, bouquet and florist. One would have to imagine this was particularly intense in the first half of February as it s natural to assume that searcher interest in flowers dropped to a more normal level after Valentine s Day passed. PPC: INCREDIBLE KEYWORD INFLATION COULD MAKE FOR EXPENSIVE COMPETITION In a high-volume period with focused activity on a very few keywords, PPC is a high stakes game. Valentine s Day 2010, for example, saw an astonishing battle break out over holiday-related AdWords terms in the ten day buildup to the big day. We found that the aggregated PPC cost (total clicks x cost per click) of the keywords we studied increased by nearly 9x from January to February. Most of the inflation came not simply from an increase in searching activity on those terms (which was still up a considerable 84% from January) but from advertisers bidding up keywords; the average CPC on these terms grew 382% month over month. In particular, the top ten search terms by weighted CPC on February 12 were the subject of a bidding war, with the average term increasing 32x in price from its February 1 level. Service and price sensitivity remained important differentiators for AdWords bidders; some of the most dramatically bidded-up keywords included the tokens delivery and cheap. Cheap flowers and cheap roses were two of the mostly hotly contested phrases, implying a lot of advertisers were looking to snare last-minute price sensitive shoppers. If that s so, they need to have incredible conversion rates or amazing margins on that initial sale. Attracting price sensitive customers is a poor recipe for generating loyalty, so it s crucial that the first sale be a profitable one for the advertiser. When a searcher is looking to buy a holiday-related item primarily on price, odds are that he will be next year, too, and may not be loyal. In an interesting aside, we noticed that some of the keywords that had the most inflated bid prices in the run up to Valentine s were branded terms like ftdflowers and flowers.com, the latter going up over $19 per click. This may have been a defense strategy by those brands to prevent redirection of searchers looking for their sites. 2
3 SEO: AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN SHARE FROM OTHER RELEVANT SITES In November 2010, we looked at the sites appearing in the organic search ranking for all our keywords studied previously. We then compared to the sites ranked on the same keywords in February, In order to simplify the comparison, our analysis focuses on SEO Share of Voice, which is a measure for comparing the value of organic search for any set of domains or sites. SEO Share of Voice is determined by combining: y The number of keywords out of a set for which a site appears in search engine result pages y Its rank on those keywords relative to its competitors y Search volume for the words in the keyword set In November 2010, the top ten sites took 75% SEO Share of Voice for the 83 terms we studied. Three of the top 10 (Wikipedia, IMDB and History.com) are not in the Valentine s gift business but still scored highly for flower-related terms, taking about 33% of the total SEO Share of Voice. It was these three sites that would take the heaviest losses as brands ramped up their pre-holiday SEO programs. By January 2011, the top 10 sites on our search terms represented 74% of total SEO Share of Voice, but there had been significant changes among the leaders. Most significantly, November leader Wikipedia decreased by a full 28% of its SEO Share of Voice. It still remained in the top spot, but its SEO SOV had dropped to be essentially equal to the #1 flower brand, FTD.com. The lower end of the Top Ten had a number of new entrants with direct interest in the Valentine s gift business such as order-flowers-delivery.com and zefrank.com making big strides. SEO is a matter of slow evolution, not leaps and bounds. The sites in our study that enjoyed an increase in SEO Share of Voice exemplify this, with no site increasing its overall SEO SOV by more than 1.9%. Nevertheless, these small changes add up to a huge positive effect on certain sites visibility with the top 10 gainers growing by their SEO SOV by an average of 57% compared to the previous month. Even smaller sites with log PageRank and relatively few pages like valentines-day- 123holiday.net were able to make huge gains in SEO Share of Voice because of their tight focus on Valentine s Day-related keywords. CONCLUSIONS Competing in Paid Search Could Get Costly, So Play It Smart! Most Valentine s Day search traffic is concentrated on a fairly small set of search terms and the inflationary cost of bidding on these terms makes it essential that advertisers convert site visitors. Advertisers should utilize landing page conversion optimization strategies like A/B and multivariate testing to determine which landing page messages, images and shopping cart paths work best at converting paid search visitors. Landing pages should also clearly align with keywords. For instance, if a searcher comes from a keyword like cheap flowers, landing page messaging should focus on low prices and free shipping. Unless you have great margins and conversion rates, it may be too costly to compete on the most popular search terms at peak times. If you are running out of budget and conversion rates on high-volume terms are low, you may want to focus solely on flower-related mid- or long-tail keywords, such as keywords related to bouquet or orchids. Competitive monitoring is another way to manage costs at peak times. Solutions like Performics Benchtools inform you of what your competitors are doing by the hour in peak periods. For instance, if you know that a key competitor is likely to run out of budget for the day, you can wait until that happens and then run your ads in higher positions at a lower cost, rather than inflating CPCs by going head-to-head with that competitor all day long. 3
4 If You Plan Ahead, There s An SEO Opportunity It s worth placing an emphasis on SEO to manage PPC costs at peak times. Earning high organic search placements reduces the risk of getting involved in PPC wars. For instance, if an advertiser has top organic search visibility for a highvolume term like flowers, that advertiser can likely run in lower, cheaper paid search positions for the flowers term. Planning ahead of the holiday is critical. But even activating your SEO program as little as 60 days out from the big day can make a difference. Our study shows that some sites that had very low SEO Share of Voice in November were able to make significant gains by January. It s not realistic to expect your SEO Share of Voice to grow massively; no site s SEO SOV in our group increased by more than 1.9%. But this is also a matter of degree; on a proportional basis, we saw some sites like zefrank.com and virtualflowers.com grow their SEO SOV as much as 6x from their initial low share. Even sites with low PageRank and relatively few pages were able to rank highly on our keyword set because of their heavy focus on Valentine s Day and related keywords. Don t underestimate the value of your site in keeping its gain in SEO Share Of Voice once the holiday is over, setting it up to build again for future holidays. Another consideration for emphasizing SEO is that unlike in PPC, there is the potential to take mind share from sites that aren t competing with yours for dollars. Search engines make a point to elevate relevant non-commercial sites in their mix of results, but that doesn t mean there s not an opportunity to take share from them. Uncovering SEO and PPC Synergies Are Key Performics refers to joint management of organic and paid search programs as OneSearch. The OneSearch framework, simply put, is a focus on the overall search strategy before segmenting out natural and paid search tactics, and the joint management against that strategy. This includes routine status meetings between PPC and SEO strategy leaders, joint keyword research, holistic-closed loop-reporting and keyword level data analysis and testing. In a peak time like Valentine s Day, OneSearch allows a brand to discover opportunities for search efficiency, including uncovering each keyword s potential value in PPC and SEO. This helps the brand to determine which channel is the better investment and to allocate paid search funds efficiently depending on organic keyword rankings. 4
5 About Performics Performics integrates the art and science of Performance Marketing to optimize digital actions that accelerate brand engagement, participation, leads and sales. Our performance specialists are certified experts and recognized thought leaders whose proficiency in paid search, SEO, feeds, social, display, mobile and affiliate empowers our clients to make smart decisions about their digital spend and increase ROI. Founded in 1998, Performics is now the performance marketing agency for ZenithOptimedia, part of VivaKi within Publicis Groupe the world s third largest communications group and the top global spender in search and leverages exclusive partnerships with leading publishers for scale and innovation. Performics is headquartered in Chicago, with global hubs in London, Paris and Singapore. [Publicis Groupe, Euronext Paris: FR ] Connect with us: performics.com blog.performics.com About BrightEdge BrightEdge is the leading enterprise SEO platform, and the trusted partner of the largest and most recognizable brands in the world. The BrightEdge platform gives marketers tools to view how every piece of their company is affecting SEO, and actionable recommendations that will drive revenue and improve rank in search engines across the globe. The BrightEdge technology drives more than $3 billion in organic search for leading brands across multiple industries, including seven of the top 10 Fortune 1000 retailers, and leaders in e-commerce, technology, media and Internet, financial services and consumer goods. BrightEdge is based in San Mateo, CA and is privately held with financing from Battery Ventures, Altos Ventures and Illuminate Ventures. 5