Identifying and Getting Through an Off-Season Slump in PPC


This is a guest post by Paid Media Manager Jessica Cates.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday 2016 sales exceeded anticipated growth. While many PPC accounts out there would have benefited from the strengthened consumer confidence this season, other industries experience slow downs in the winter months. Seasonality slumps, while frustrating, eventually improve but most PPC managers understand they can’t just wait it out without making some changes to their strategy or reassuring their clients that lags in performance are often temporary. The first step to getting through the slump is to get an idea of when it will occur.

Anticipating Seasonality Trends

Accounts with historical data are going to be much easier to pinpoint seasonality trends. I’ve worked on many accounts where data wasn’t tracked correctly or at all in the past so this information wasn’t available to me. In addition, some of my clients are doing PPC for the first time so getting that data can be tricky. When preparing your budget plan at the beginning of a PPC program, a client should be able to give you at least an idea of when their industry gets sluggish so you can take note. You can also supplement their industry information with tools like Google Trends to get a general idea of when people are searching on a global, national or regional level for keyword terms.

Using Google Trends

As an example, I’ve used the search term “beach rentals” in Google Trends to look at interest in the term over the last 5 years. You can see an obvious trend year-over-year with the interest staying fairly even through the late winter into spring and the largest spikes occurring in the weeks leading up to the 4th of July. Then there is an obvious fall off in interest throughout the late summer until it hits its lowest points in November/December. This report can be tailored by state and metro to find more detailed information.



Using Google Analytics

When you have the data, taking the time to annotate major events throughout the year in Google Analytics will help you recall their impact on your account when reviewing for trends later. Below is an example of a client’s franchisee websites over the last 18 months. We’ve noted where some major events happened. This is helpful for all accounts but this one in particular is one of 30 franchisee websites for one client so keeping track of which location did what at what point in time becomes especially important.


Looking at conversions and revenue is another important part of putting together a thoughtful strategy for your year. Above we are looking at sessions just to get a general idea of traffic peaks and valleys.

In Google Analytics, take advantage of revenue vs. cost information if it’s set up properly and available to you. By using the ecommerce conversion rate and engagement metrics, you can identify areas that were profitable but could be optimized for better conversion rates next year or areas that didn’t hit your needed ROI goals that should be adjusted for the coming year.

Adjust Your Strategy

Many clients are tempted to completely pause their account or pull back significantly during the down times. Adjusting for the season is definitely a good idea, but in many cases, discontinuing advertising efforts completely might not necessarily make the most sense. Sure, there are exceptions to this theory, but in a sense, it’s similar to the argument that when economic times are tough, businesses often cut advertising first when it’s really what’s keeping them going.

One of my clients in the window treatment business tends to see their best performance throughout the late spring, summer and early fall. In the two years we’ve ran this account, we’ve noticed an obvious loss of interest around the holidays that lasts into the New Year. Then, around spring-cleaning time and moving season, it ramps back up! However, just because their best months are in the spring and summer, there are definitely still people with window treatment needs in the off months, and some high-funnel leads are looking to make a purchase in the next few weeks after the holidays end.

Some of the things you can do to help push business during the off-season include:

Create seasonal sales with tailored incentives, ad copy, and landing pages to drum up business and interest.

This is a good time to test some new messages and get creative. This is especially a helpful tactic when you’re working with a high-ticket item that people might wait for sales to pursue.

Reach back out to the existing customer base through email marketing.

Using the window treatment client from above as an example, we’ve noticed that many people will upgrade their window treatments one or two rooms at a time rather than doing the whole house in one go. In addition, customers from years ago could be in the middle of a move or renovation and need your services again.

Use the Customer Match option in Google remarketing or in Facebook.

Try showing these customers a different message versus your normal remarketing messages. Is it time for a service call? Do you have new products available since they made their last purchase with you? Can you offer previous customers a special sale?

Take advantage of competition.

You can definitely get ahead of competitors who drop advertising during seasonal lulls by getting lower average cost-per-clicks and fewer ads to compete with for customer clicks.

Plan on moving budget around to different platforms.

When you conduct your seasonality analysis, make sure you segment your platforms and see if the decreased performance is overall or just in certain mediums.

Don’t wait to create your seasonal plan of attack until the last minute.

Getting ahead of it and presenting to your client along with your budget recommendations and strategy will go along way to better communication.

Use this time to reach those higher funnel individuals with informational remarketing.

One of my clients has great video assets so we started using them to remarket to visitors across YouTube and Facebook. The great thing is that the videos are actually helpful in understanding the process of their business and helps customers figure out how to hire for their product and benefits of going with them.

Communicate The Process

Which brings me to my last point – communication! Setting the stage early on with your clients is one of the best approaches I have found that avoids a stressful conversation about why leads are slow or cost-per-lead has been higher. If you’re prepared ahead of time and have an idea when things will slow down, be sure to mention it in your calls and reports leading up to downtime so it doesn’t take them by surprise. Here’s some tips for smooth client communication:

  • Show your client what to expect by simplifying data into year-over-year tables so they can see it for themselves.
  • Communicate what you’re doing to counteract the higher cost-per-lead or lower leads. Merely saying it’s “just a slow time of year” probably won’t win you many points.

Remember, there’s always something you can do to help push the needle during your account’s downtime. And, with a bit of forward thinking, planning, and communication, you can help find a solution that works for both you and your client.

How do you deal with seasonality in PPC? We’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies in the comments!

About the Author:

Jessica CatesJessica started her PPC career in 2010 and has since worked with clients in various industries, including higher education, auto maintenance, home services, SaaS, and healthcare. She is currently the Paid Media Manager for Flint Analytics, and has previously held roles at both Hanapin Marketing and DAC Group. When Jessica isn’t working on PPC accounts, she enjoys hiking, decorating her home, going to concerts, and spending time with her husband and dog.