SEM Investigation: How Does Seasonality Affect Paid Search?


Paid search managers regularly monitor campaigns to analyze and evaluate trends, changes in performance or the effect of recently implemented optimization strategies.
But sometimes it can difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for a change in campaign performance, as was the case when Evidence-based marketing investigated a recent decrease in PPC performance.

Conversions Analysis

A key performance indicator for any marketer is the return on investment on campaigns. But without specific tracking of revenue to each campaign in paid search, number of conversions is perhaps the next best indicator of a campaign’s performance.

After looking at a report evaluating Adwords performance over the last 6 months, some surprising results stood out and made us pay attention:

The account’s best performing campaign suddenly dropped to zero conversions from the dates of December 16th to January 13th.

Change History
We were eager to understand if this sudden drop in performance may have been due to a change made to the campaign and consulted the “View Change History” option in Adwords.

In fact, there were no specific changes made to the campaign in the weeks previous. Could the drop in conversions really be attributed just to seasonality?

Effects of Holidays
To further understand if seasonality effects of the holiday period in December resulted in drastically reduced conversions, let’s take a look at how other holidays have affected the campaign in the past?

Here is a snapshot comparing cost to conversions during Thanksgiving for the entire campaign – conversions again dropped to zero for the holiday period:

Independence Day on July 4th 2010 showed another similar drop for the campaign with no conversions:

Comparing the results of the same date last year, we can see a similar effect:

A Strategy
Change In Order?

If there are no conversions consistently around a holiday period, should paid search managers pause campaigns to reduce unnecessary cost?

Not Necessarily. Consider:

  • Not all conversions happen online – offline conversions may still continue at a regular pace during a holiday period.  For a more in-depth analysis, consider implementing call tracking software to evaluate the impact of offline conversions.
  • If branding is important, you will definitely want to continue the campaign as although conversions may be affected, impressions and click may still stay strong.
  • Your competition may not be pausing campaigns and you don’t want to lose any advantages that may have been gained in the past.

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