Location and time of day are important considerations in search marketing. Put most of your search dollars into PLAs, retarget differently to various customer segments, and measure results in a nuanced way.

Udayan Bose

Udayan Bose, founder and CEO, NetElixir

With summer coming to an end, retailers are prepping for the holiday season, adjusting their campaigns to shifting consumer behavior and changes Google and other platforms have implemented this year. In order to stay ahead this holiday season retailers must focus on the following four areas, which are becoming increasingly important to drive desired sales goals.

Location, Location, Location

Location plays a huge role in e-commerce, and manifests uniquely in all of its applications. Google continually optimizes its search results to show “near-me” store locations. This algorithm change affects consumer search and purchasing behavior by leading consumers to conduct more searches to help discover local store options.

It’s important to treat new and returning customers separately in remarketing campaigns.

To help consumers along in their journeys, retailers can hyper-target customers based on physical location and provide unique offers and higher bids to them. Homing in on specific geographies, customers near physical retail stores (via longitude/latitude data), near competitors, etc., allows retailers to reach customers during moments that are more meaningful on the go.


Offering store pickup options is another great way to showcase location benefits. Using ad copy such as “buy online, pickup in store,” enabling extensions to help customers with same day pickup FAQs and overlaying customer match and audience lists to target repeat customers are ways retailers can enhance their ads.

Another location element is time zones. PPC [pay-per-click] campaigns must take them into consideration by considering buying trends specific to each time zone, determining the reach in a retailer’s top regions, and modifying the day-parting strategy during the early morning and evening hours when buying behavior can vary drastically.

PLA to Win

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) should make up 50% to 60% of a retailer’s total search marketing budget, Within this budget, 80% should go toward promoting the retailer’s top-selling products and categories. With these types of ads an integral part of any retailer’s campaign, there are a few additional tips and tricks for PLAs to help maximize their ROI.

  • Structure the PLA campaign so that a significant portion of the budget is allocated to the top-selling SKUs (the “STARS”) followed by most profitable product categories.search marketing bidding strategy
  • Treat branded and non-branded search terms separately in PLAs to ensure that consumers are able to find products whether they search with a brand name or not.
  • Add product viewers (shoppers that view products on a retailer’s site) as separate audiences into PLA campaigns by identifying product pages and segmenting the page visitors as product viewers. Allocating incremental bid adjustments to these audiences helps to streamline spend on PLAs.

Rethinking Retargeting

Many retailers treat all retargeting the same—if you have visited the site in the past, you get re-targeted to bring you back again. This approach doesn’t lead to the best results.

It’s important to treat new and returning customers separately in remarketing campaigns, with unique goals for both groups. For example, an existing customer might be more prone to shop and may not require as strong of an offer to buy again, but the returning non-customer might require more aggressive techniques. The goal is to understand the different groups of returning website visitors (i.e. returning customers, power customers, cart abandoners, people who viewed page but didn’t add to cart, etc.) and build out robust retargeting campaigns, instead of lumping them all together.

Better Attribution


Determining success can sometimes be just as difficult as achieving it. While sales are the ultimate goal, retailers should be well beyond counting clicks and return on ad spend as their sole methods of attribution. Retailers should be measuring other variables like margins, return rates by channel and category, repeat purchase frequency, cost per new customer and revenue share shift in high-margin categories.

Changing attribution strategy can have powerful results. For example, a leading women’s apparel retailer was able to substantially lift cart size and value by establishing a product category which had a low unit price but acted as a doorway for purchase of other higher value products.

With consumers becoming more and more savvy with every passing year and giants like Amazon taking a larger piece of the pie, retailers can’t afford to approach their digital campaigns in the same way. The key to success is to be customer-focused and data-driven. In addition to applying data in the four outlined areas of concentration, retailers should also have strong social, SEO and mobile strategies in place. Personalization is another big area of focus as consumers are responding positively to the ways it enhances their experience.

This holiday season is looking like it will be a big one. Retailers should be preparing to make the most of it.


NetElixir provides search engine marketing services to five of the Internet Retailer Top 1000 online retailers in North America, according to Top500Guide.com.