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Marketing Tactics for the 2010 Holiday Season - Q&A with Lisa Raehsler

I am happy to present our first online interview with Lisa Raehsler, a SEM strategy consultant and PPC expert. Lisa is a certified Google Advertising Professional (GAP) who has supervised over 30 pay per click campaigns.

This interview is in collaboration with SES, Chicago 2010. Our questions are in context with holiday marketing techniques, and I believe that Lisa’s insightful thoughts will help small and medium online retailers prepare better for the upcoming holiday season.

Many thanks to lisa for sparing time to answer our questions and our special thanks to Byron Gordon of SEO-pr.com who made this interview possible.
Interview Questions:

Many small businesses run their marketing campaign on a tight budget, what strategy should these small businesses use in order to compete with the big boys?
To level the playing field between large and small advertisers, search engines use quality scores to determine the position of an ad in the "sponsored results" section. A higher quality score will allow an ad to appear higher in the list, with potentially more sales from it. Small businesses will need to focus on optimizing for quality scores for their most competitive and profitable keywords. The same terms in the keyword list should be in the advertiser's ad copy and landing pages to reinforce campaign relevancy and good quality scores.

What should be the primary online marketing channel for ecommerce business owners this holiday season?
Without a doubt-- PPC. Its the most cost-effective/measurable media.

What are some of the key challenges that you have confronted during holiday shopping campaign and how you overcame it?
Many ecommerce advertisers will miss opportunities to capture traffic because their budgets will max out. They'll need to allocate more budget during this critical holiday period than the rest of the year. The easiest way to estimate the seasonal increase is to (1) check last years data (sales and traffic) and (2) check tools like Google Insight for Search to see keyword search volume by specific timeframes and regions.

What is the right time to plan and kick-start a holiday PPC campaign?
It depends on the category. Apparel can be promoted as early as late September or early October. Other retailers and electronics will see Black Friday signal the beginning of the season. Planning should start as soon as possible to integrate PPC with the rest of the marketing mix and to leverage results data from the previous holiday season.

Google Instant: How is it going to affect the search pattern & SEM industry this holiday season?
 Many believe long-tail keywords, which tend to be product-specific, will suffer somewhat from searchers settling for the suggested search term, rather than continuing to type. You will notice that Google's shopping results are displayed prominently in both the organic and paid results. It will be important for online retailers to check and optimize their product feeds.

If you were asked to provide a holiday marketing checklist, what would you include?
A media plan with PPC, Google "remarking", and other retargeting networks. I'd also make landing page testing a priority because many advertisers have seen double digit increases in conversions through A/B testing landing page elements.