After record-setting snow in Boston this winter, us locals could not be more joyful at some of the first signs of spring trickling in. Yes, we’ve still had a few snowfalls, and days with bone-shaking wind-chill, but those 60 degree days scattered in are finally giving us hope! We won’t die in this rumored snow apocalypse after all!
With these subtle signs of spring, it got me thinking about the huge PPC opportunity for the home improvement & garden industry. After all, with flowers blooming and sun shining, home owners are ready to tackle their beaten up lawns and bring their tulips back to life after being hit with blizzard upon blizzard. As you can see from the graph below, there’s an uptick in searches for gardening needs this time of year (think, spring cleaning needs, gardening goals, pool opening prep).
To get a clearer sense of the strategy and challenges those within the industry face I spoke with several WordStream clients in the industry that work for companies with varying business models. Even with a variety of offerings I found some over-arching themes that home & garden marketers should take note of.
Let’s dive into the specific paid search tips home & garden marketers should implement into their paid search strategies this spring and going forward.
P.S. You might also be interested in these eight creative PPC strategies for 2021!
When you work in the home improvement & garden vertical, the entire paid search experience should be built around fluctuations in seasonal demand. But if you’re not careful when building out your account, and if you’re not keeping an active eye on changes that need to be made with seasonal and weather fluctuations, then you could end losing a huge chunk of potential customers.
WordStream client O’Connor Lawn and Garden is a third-generation business that sells lawn equipment and has lots of local brand recognition in their home state, Oklahoma. They decided to branch out online six years ago when they launched their site, but getting involved with paid search proved more challenging than expected: “When we took our PPC in house this year, we realized that lots of stuff was completely wrong. We were paying a lot of money, the ads weren’t set up correctly, we weren’t using negative keywords, conversion tracking wasn’t set up right,” explains Bridgett Davis, O’Connor’s Lawn and Garden Internet Manager.
Aside from the major issues Bridgett had to repair upon taking over their paid search account from the previous company they used to outsource with, she’s found weather to be a prime factor in determining her PPC management strategies. “In the winter months we’re not going to have people purchasing lawn mowers. With 14 feet of snow in Boston, people aren’t really thinking about their lawns,” she says. “We cater our campaigns to seasonality – turning them off in November, December, and January. We move our budget to the months when people are really shopping more.” But this isn’t the case with every location Bridgett is advertising in: “Florida, Louisiana, and Texas are green 11-12 months out of the year, therefore we have a huge amount of customers there. Being in the industry, I know when it’s green in which states.”
Craig Simpson, co-founder of the South African based e-commerce company On the Patio, is relatively new to paid search, but is strongly taking seasonality into consideration. “Coming into our first winter, we are making drastic change. More of our ads are on smaller, kitchen-oriented items, décor items – all of our 360 all-year-round products,” says Craig. “We’ll be taking budgets away from umbrellas, outdoor furniture, and focusing on outdoor covers in order to cover up furniture and keep everything nice for the next season.”
So what steps need to be taken to make sure you’re staying on top of the weather when it comes to your PPC efforts?
Picture yourself on a warm summer night as the sun sinks into the horizon: the kids are full of burgers and hotdogs, and everyone comes together to sit around the fire-pit, tell stories, and roast s’mores. Oh no! You don’t have a fire-pit? Well, you need a fire-pit to make these memories!
With home improvement advertising, unsurprisingly the target demographic tends to be families and home-owners, so what better way to sell then paint a picture of family bonding, happiness, and memory-making? It couldn’t be easier to appeal to the sentimental side in this industry, yet companies don’t think to take advantage of the opportunity within their PPC strategy. This is a huge mistake because emotions are insanely powerful, and once you awaken this side of your searcher’s brain, they’re going to feel like they absolutely need your product.
I recently spoke with Clare Esson, Sales Manager at Katchakid, a brick and mortar business selling pool safety equipment such as safety nets, fences, pool covers, and other equipment to ensure child pool safety. Clare explained how instead of heavily pushing the products they sell, her paid search strategy is to focus on drowning prevention. “We believe in not only the products we sell, but the philosophy of why we sell these products,” she says. “You can’t be untouched by what drives people to make calls to places like us. Maybe a neighbor just had an accident or something even worse. We try and appeal to the parent’s emotions to encourage them to make a purchase to prevent a dangerous incident like this from occurring.”
When implementing a paid search strategy to gain conversions, Craig faced several challenges. “We’re pretty much the only e-commerce business dedicated to this space in our region, although we do have competition from the brick and mortar guys,” says Craig. “We realized early on that we need to create ads proving to people that the experience we’re creating is a better experience than going to the store.” How did Craig prove this? By appealing to the sentimental side of the searcher, which leads me into what you can do to improve your PPC experience through emotions.
”With our display ads we try to tell a story through the visuals,” says Craig. “We try to convey that emotional feeling of being outside on a patio with friends and family, and that helps push people to the site because when seeing the image they think ‘I want that experience.’”
Holidays and life-events like graduations, weddings, and anniversaries naturally bring up home & gardening needs, and while marketers in the industry likely think about this, they might not spend time adding holiday-related keywords (think “Easter tableware” or “outdoor lights for 4th of July”), tweaking ads, and running special promotions to gain an uptick in conversions during these peak times. Well, reality check, you absolutely should be leveraging holidays, sales, and promotions to the best of your ability with your PPC strategy.
So when is the best time to run a sale? This could take some trial and error to figure out, but some of our experts weighed in.
“We run two separate sales periods,” says Craig. “The first is our Spring Sale – we make a big effort with display and text ads, use ad extensions to promote our 25% discount on outdoor furniture, and we see a massive increase in traffic and overall revenue.” Craig explained that for the spring season he decided to run this at the very beginning of spring, before the upside of the season when people will buy regardless, but his winter strategy is a bit different. “For winter sales, we’ll likely do these towards the middle of the season to support the downside of the sale. As numbers change we like to prop those up.”
Bridgett’s strategy is a bit different as she has to work with the manufacturers who provide the lawn mowers, but she uses the discounts given from them to provide more value to her customers. “The manufactures put out rebates at specific times of the year, so we look at those and then I promote them on AdWords. We also buy in volume so we get discounts that we then pass on to our customers,” she says. “We can beat the price nationally and we usually do. Some areas in the U.S. I can ship to cheaper than buying it locally, which is why they should buy it from me.” But what about holidays? Aside from these sales at random, Bridgett advertisers more heavily the week before the 4th of July and Memorial Day, which makes sense since you can imagine home owners are looking to clean up their lawns before their big firework-filled 4th of July barbeques.
Lastly, Clare runs promotions at the beginning of each season as she finds these times to be the most valuable since shoppers are starting to fulfill their seasonal needs.
So, what can you do to promote holidays and sales?
Home improvement advertisers, stop day-dreaming about summer barbeques and start implementing these strategies to increase sales in all seasons through your paid search efforts!
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