School is out and summer is here! This can only mean that we Digital Marketing gurus have already finalized all back-to-school marketing plans, right? Maybe not, but with these takeaways from projected outcomes and recommended strategies, you can shape your PPC plan for this year’s back-to-school season into something for the record books.

As mentioned in our first back-to-school blog post, back-to-school searches and shopping are starting earlier every year and advertisers need to get ahead of the game in all channels. Last year, Google found that three out of five back-to-school-related Google searches originated on mobile devices, up more than 35 percent from 2015. In 2017, we already see that back-to-school terms are experiencing a ~50 percent growth in searches while product categories (shoes, backpacks, jeans, etc.) are seeing a ~40 percent growth year over year.

Set your account up for success by focusing on these top three areas this back-to-school season.

1. Fully fund your Brand terms

If you’re a reseller, focus on maximizing the top brands you carry for the back-to-school season including top performers from last year, proprietary brands and new, emerging brands for your business. Be more competitive with your bidding strategies on these brands, and segment them out from other bid strategies to be more flexible with return on ad spend (ROAS) goals and drive more traffic to your site.

For trademark owners, own the top position and gain the highest impression share possible by utilizing ad copy and ad extensions that set your brand apart. Leverage your top sellers and exclusive products to highlight what makes you different from your resellers.

2. Emphasize mobile

It’s no secret that mobile use has been growing year over year. Google has adapted to consumer behavior by serving product listing ads (PLAs) above text ads in search engine results pages (SERPs) making mobile PLAs a growing entry point for consumers during their shopping phase and a more integral part of your marketing strategy.

Generally, we see that mobile drives a higher click-through rate (CTR) with a lower cost-per-click (CPC) while desktop continues to drive a higher conversion rate (CVR) and ROAS. Balancing your budget is important in order to fully fund the highest revenue drivers while carving out budget to be more aggressive on mobile PLAs. Mobile text ads also hold importance ; however, since they now show below PLAs, there could be more opportunity to drive higher click rates through shopping campaigns.

3. Maximize targeting methods

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) and customer match (CM) strategies are crucial for a successful search program particularly within Shopping and Non-Brand campaigns. Depending on your needs, there are different ways to boost new or returning customers and increase their lifetime value.

New customer acquisition can be a lower performing avenue for conversions; however, investing in these new customers can fuel additional users within the current audience lists. By excluding all existing RLSA and CM lists, we put more focus on those who have not been to the site within the given cookie windows. Reaching these consumers at a higher level of the conversion funnel means they can be tracked through an attribution software that showcases attributed orders and revenue along with journey analysis, like our in-house attribution and insights platform, Cadence.

Returning customer strategies allow a more efficient way of bidding on broad terms to consumers who already visited the advertiser’s site or are part of a CRM segment. We saw tremendous success with these campaigns that were tested during the 2016 Q4 holiday season including a ROAS upwards of 7:1 during Cyber Week and into December. Comparing that to the typical Non-Brand performance proved RLSA attracted highly-qualified consumers who had already begun their shopping process with a specific brand. Larger cookie windows may also bode well for this type of strategy to re-engage consumers who may have purchased a few months ago but now want to purchase new items for the upcoming school year.

Google also recently released other audience-focused optimization tactics such as similar audiences, demographics for search ads and in-market audience targeting (in beta). Use this peak season to test these new methods of targeting to find the best fit for your brand.

Search is constantly adapting to consumer changes, especially within the realm of Google. This back-to-school season, it is imperative to set yourself apart from resellers and competitors, balance your budget for different campaigns and maximize your targeting methods to reach customers at each stage of the conversion funnel.

Talk to your Search account team or contact us today to ensure your back-to-school search strategies are fully optimized to make the grade.