An unusually mild winter this year (along with with a recovering economy) resulted in an earlier jump in search queries for garden, patio and outdoor equipment.

For example, by Mid-March 2012, query volume on Google for the outdoor & patio category had already reached May 2011 levels. Many advertisers benefited from this earlier spike in interest though more sales earlier in the year. Those who succeeded most were the ones with competitive search bids and daily budgets that were already set up to capture demand when it occurred, regardless of the time of year. It is not uncommon for advertisers to lower their bids and budgets in their off-seasons, only to raise them when demand is historically higher. The problem is that by doing this, advertisers unintentionally remove themselves from consumers' consideration sets when consumers are in the research phase earlier in the season. This is particularly true for high-involvement consumer durables with longer purchase cycles (such as higher-end patio and outdoor furniture and grills).

The same philosophy holds true for other marketing channels such as display advertising, mobile search and TrueView video. The most successful advertisers are the ones who respond by putting their message against those queries and content, regardless of the time of year.

With so many sources of information and ways to access the web (tablets, mobile phones, Internet TVs, laptops, YouTube, web forums, etc.), the likelihood of an advertiser getting a conversion just by bidding on long-tail terms at the end of the purchase funnel is becoming increasingly remote. It is important to have brand continuity across both demand generation (i.e. display and video) and demand fulfillment (mobile and search) channels. When the time comes to make a purchase, the advertisers who have been top-of-mind across the entire funnel are the ones who will ultimately be the selected brand.

Tend the roots. Utilize Top-of-Page Bid Estimates to ensure your ads are always appearing in the top three ad spaces on the Google Search results page.

Maintain and grow your crops. Review how much you invested daily during your peak season last year by visiting the dimensions tab in AdWords and customizing the columns to view Lost Impression Share, and then segment your data by day (or week). Set your new daily budgets for this season based on your previous high-season daily investment and how much impression share you lost due to low budgets.

Use timed sprinklers instead of a hose. Implement Automated Rules and have the Google system automatically adjust your bids and budgets on specific (or all) campaigns and keywords to appropriate levels to ensure maximum coverage against consumer demand.

Reap the benefits of what you have sown. Leverage early outdoor & patio equipment demand by pushing complementary products (such as accessories) to customers who have already made purchases this year. Some of the best ways to accomplish this are:
  • Set up remarketing campaigns to reach the exact users who have purchased from you already. Show them ads with compelling offers to up-sell them on complementary products (hint: if you have conversion tracking installed, there is no need to re-tag your site to remarket to previous customers. Just use your conversion tag as a remarketing tag too! When setting up this list, just click the drop down to select from "existing tags")
  • Utilize the new, improved Keyword Tool to scan your website and ensure keyword coverage across all products you sell (hint: be sure to uses the "columns" drop down to show the recommended landing page and approximate CPC)
  • Leverage Dynamic Search Ads, to automatically create ads and choose appropriate landing pages based on the products you sell
Sell your crops beyond the local market. Reach on-the-go consumers with ad text that appeals to consumers on-the-go (i.e. "Call us today for great deals") and include a click-to-call phone number in your ads. For more information on the explosive growth of mobile and how to adapt to the changing landscape, check out our newly released Mobile Playbook.

Host a harvest festival. Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes by including a social component. The YouTube Playbook for Advertisers and G+ for Business provide insight into how to get the party started.

Plant seeds in various soils. Integrate promotions across all devices and platforms. Some crops grow better in different soils, just like customers convert differently according to how they access information.

Now that you have all the tricks for tending to your account for Summer-specific categories, it is time to watch your sales and performance grow. Happy harvesting!

Posted by Joe Rosenberg, The Google Retail Team