March Madness – A Study In Seasonality

images-5March Madness is upon us. That delightful time of year when every casual sports fan of any variety becomes a veritable guru of sporting prognostication.

But really, March Madness presents a very interesting situation from a PPC perspective. Consider these fairly unique circumstances:

  • Selection Sunday starts at 6pm Eastern
  • Most brackets close on Thursday
  • That leaves not quite 4 full days to reach a huge audience

Extreme Seasonality

Here is Google Trends data for January 2011 through January 2014:


As you can see, March Madness search traffic has a little volume in February and April, but the vast majority falls in the month of March.

Handling Extreme Seasonality In Your Campaigns

Lest you think that this type of extreme seasonality only happens for college basketball, here is a screenshot of an account I am currently managing.


This is the last 30 days for an ad group promoting an event. Traffic begins picking up about 3 weeks prior to the event and comes to a very quick crescendo. Can you guess which day the event ended? Pretty obvious.

Here are the 3 main things you need to handle extreme PPC seasonality:

  1. Research – Look through your analytics for search queries that popped up and then disappeared. Use a tool like Google Trends. Go over your annual calendar. Find any events that would drive seasonal search traffic.
  2. Prepare – You’ve identified the opportunities, now make sure you have a great user experience for that traffic. Get the page created and live months (yes, that’s a minimum of 2) before your event starts. Further, I recommend it prominently display the specific year so people know it’s up-to-date.
  3. Monitor & Optimize Quickly – Remember that you’re in a very tight window so you’ll need to watch closely and make changes quickly. If you’re big on a 99% confidence level, you may need to relax your standard to 90% or even 80%.

In conclusion, every business has some subset of their keywords that are subject to seasonality. Whether it’s recurring or one-offs like a big publicity hit, these are great opportunities to make hay while the sun shines.

What highly seasonal areas have you seen in your PPC accounts?