Below is the recording of a Facebook Live video I gave this week in our Scout Digital Training closed Facebook group (for students from our public courses and workshops), where I discussed identifying and managing seasonal fluctuations in digital marketing.
You can watch the video, or skip below it to check out a short summary and tips.
What is a seasonal fluctuation?
Seasonal fluctuations can occur in any business where the products or services tend to be more or less popular at particular times of the year, which may be impacted by the climatic aspects of the season.
The important thing to recognise is that there is nothing wrong with the business, products or services, simply that the audience may not be as interested in, or searching for them at particular times of the year.
The examples I give in the above video are of a cold beverage company who experience their quietest months from June to August, and an outdoor kitchen designer/builder/installer who also sees a similar slump over winter.
Conversely, both experience their peak sales during summer.
Common sense and past performance will often identify when and how seasonal fluctuations may occur, there are some ways you can also identify them in your digital marketing and analytics.
How do you identify seasonal fluctuations?
The tip off I received for my beverage client was in their relatively new Google AdWords campaign.
The campaign had been performing increasingly well over the past few months it had been running, and June was the first month we saw a slight dip.
The dip was in Impressions and the resulting Clicks, NOT the performance. This was the clue.
It was the visibility that had decreased, not the engagement.
The Click Through Rate, Average Position, Search Impression Share and Cost Per Click were all very strong. Changes in these areas generally indicate being out-performed by competitors, or under-performance of ads.
When engagement remains strong, and Impressions or Sessions (of website visits in Google Analytics) decrease, this is generally an indication that there is less search activity occurring.
So check visibility versus performance on your ads.
Also check overall website visitation and activity. Again, if visitation has dropped, but engagement is still strong (time on site, pages per session, low bounce rate etc) it indicates simply less people visiting, as opposed to issues with your website’s performance.
If possible, also look back at the same time last year, and do a full year or even two year overview to examine the natural curves of activity to identify any peaks and troughs in your audience.
What should you do about seasonal fluctuations?
Firstly, don’t panic. If you have correctly identified them as seasonal, this means regular business will resume later.
Obviously from a business/financial point of view, you should be examining your overall cashflow and budgeting to accommodate these, but that is not my area of expertise to discuss, so I’ll stick to what you can do from an advertising perspective…
Review your advertising budgets and allocations
This will depend on how you ad campaigns are set up.
If you have a single campaign, the budget is managed at the campaign level, and the ad groups that sit beneath it generally self regulate to use the budget according to the interest in each of the ad groups.
So look to see whether your monthly allocated budget is actually being used or not.
If it isn’t (due to less Impressions and Clicks) you may wish to reduce ad spend over the quiet period to save some money, or reallocate it to another campaign or area.
You could even create some new ad groups or campaigns that are more seasonally appropriate to make use of it.
Make use of the “spare” time to:
Have a rest! Ha! No… if you do find you are a little quiet at certain times of the year (this doesn’t just have to be over winter), from a marketing perspective take some time to…
Review and update your strategy
It doesn’t need to be a long task, simply a chance to go back and have a look at:
- What are our goals?
- What are our objectives?
- Are they still relevant?
- Are we on track with achieving them?
- Who are our target audiences? Have they changed?
- Are we representing our brand appropriately?
- What can we be doing from a content perspective (more on that later)?
- How are our channels looking?
- Do we need to go through and update our bio, check links still work, profile picture, cover photos etc?
Consider doing a social media spring clean – or winter clean, and check your overall strategy is on track.
Review and update your reports
Another thing you can do is review your reports and how appropriate they are.
Often we get so busy and we’re just reporting on the same numbers over again. Take half an hour or an hour to do a critical review:
- Is all this information in the report still relevant?
- Does it relate back to the goals in our strategy?
- Can we be representing this better?
- Is there any information we report on that we simply don’t look at, that we can remove?
- Is there anything else that we want to include in our reports to refresh it?
It may be an opportunity to set up a dashboard, custom dashboards in Google Analytics, or a dashboard program like Dasheroo, and automate your reports, so when you do get busy again, your reporting is occurring in the background.
Review and update your content
As I mentioned it briefly in the strategy section, it’s a good opportunity to review your content, and even adapt it to the seasonal fluctuation.
In a down period you might not be doing as much of the hard sell, but it’s a great opportunity to still keep your audience engaged, and it’s really about your audience.
Think about who they are, what they want, hopefully you have a profile of them in your strategy.
What’s important to them?
And what’s the underlying message that you want to deliver?
For example the cold beverage company is in the health industry and they have a health and wellness angle.
In winter they could be focusing on content about:
- Keeping your immune system strong
- Tips for healthy eating
- General winter health and hygiene care
- Self care
Nourishing, warm health and wellness activities that are relevant during winter that will resonate with the audience, keep them engaged with the brand, and visiting the website (or engaging on social media).
You might even set up some different AdWords campaigns that point to those types of blog posts or resources that might not be sales-oriented but are good for bringing new traffic to the site.
And consider your calls to action to subscribe to your email newsletter, so you are building a database to promote your products to when the season is more relevant.
For the outdoor kitchens client I mentioned, it’s a great opportunity to be sharing images from their clients who have outdoor kitchens install and what they are doing with them over winter.
How they can be enhanced with heaters and cafe blinds to create an extra space to enjoy with friends and family during winter. This creates great social media content.
They could also share recipes suggesting what people could make during winter in their outdoor kitchens: casseroles, winter-inspired pizzas etc.
So all is not lost! What you do in winter, you will reap in summer!
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