July 21, 2011, 10:03 AM

Heading into the holidays, retailers should freshen up their keyword bids, an expert says

Merchants should look back at the keywords that spurred sales during last year’s fourth quarter.

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As retailers gear up for the holiday season they can’t rely solely on the same keyword bidding approaches they’ve used all year, says Frank Kochenash, vice president of performance services at Mercent Corp.

Mercent earlier this year launched a platform that offers online retailers insight into what products consumers are buying when they click on a paid search ad.

“Frequently retailers are basing their keyword bidding by looking at the trailing week, month or quarter,” he says. “But when we get into late October and early November the way people shop changes.” During the holidays, he says, shoppers are more focused on buying. Because of that retailers should look to what keywords, products and promotions worked well during last year’s holiday season and build their keyword strategies from there.

For instance, most of the year a retailer might not want to bid on a competitive keyword like “North Face Women’s Denali Jacket.”. “When there aren’t a lot of buyers that type of keyword can be tough,” he says. “But during the holidays when everyone is looking to buy, you can make money on it.”

Even so, retailers can’t get too caught up in their paid search positions, he says. “You have to maintain discipline,” he says. “You can’t get lost in the hype of being number one if that doesn’t pay off.”

A retailer’s keyword programs need to be in line with its overall holiday strategy, says Kochenash. So if a retailer’s buyers bought a lot of an item it believes will sell well, the keyword strategy should reflect that by bidding on terms related to that product. Moreover, the copy should sync with the merchant’s broader messages. For instance, if it offers free shipping that should be noted.

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