5 Ways the Smart SEM Manager Prepares for the Holidays

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Businesses kick their marketing efforts into high gear during the holiday season – which is technically from Thanksgiving until the New Year, even though I’ve seen people hanging Christmas lights from their windows before others start carving pumpkins. Many times, businesses depend on strong sales during the holidays to take them from the red to the black. As such, there’s extra pressure on the online marketer with e-commerce clients to drive the strongest performances of the year during this time.

Without strategic planning and execution, delivering on these expectations can be next to impossible. But by following these five outlined tips, you’ll be primed for success.

1. Establish Budgets Early

This should be a no-brainer. Use the performance history of the account as well as current trends to determine what a realistic budget for the holiday season should be. Work with your client to come up with a total budget and stick to that number. If you think the budget will be insufficient, try to create a plan to move spend from one or more low-performing campaigns into a high-performing campaign.

2. Determine KPIs

Imagine it’s January 2016 and you’re looking back at Q4. How will you determine success? Of course it’s important to hit established goals, but if there’s an opportunity to make a push for greater revenue and sales, would a possible increase in CPA be acceptable? Speak with your client before the season kicks off to figure out where you can be most flexible and what targets can’t be sacrificed.

3. Plan Promotions in Advance

Way in advance. Seriously.

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The fewer last-minute adjustments that need to be made to accommodate promotional messaging in search ads, sitelinks, or Merchant Center Promotions, the better. Request a promotional calendar from your clients. Review all promotion details about a week or so in advance with your client if possible, just to iron out the details. When it comes to launching promotional creatives, use automated rules whenever possible to schedule future actions and remove any chance for human error.

4. Thoroughly Review Merchant Center and Shopping Campaigns

Because the last thing you want to see before the start of a big seasonal push is a high percentage of disapproved Shopping products, do a quick review of your Merchant Center account and make sure all feeds are in excellent condition. Review your feed schedule. And, make sure your Shopping campaigns are structured in a way that makes sense for your business.

Remember: An item placed in the High, Medium, and Low Priority campaigns will automatically revert to the bid set at the High Priority Level. This is true regardless of whether the bids set in the Medium or Low Priority campaigns are higher.

5. Use Auction Insights

Auction Insights won’t tell you how much a competitor may be bidding for a select term. But frequently examining Auction Insights will tell you if any competitors are creeping up on you (or beating you) in Google’s auctions. One of the more overlooked features is being able to segment Auction Insights by device type. This provides a useful look at who the key players are in your auctions and where you could be getting the most pressure – on desktop, mobile devices, or tablets.

Bonus: Add in Targets with No Set Bid Adjustment

Because this can’t hurt and you may come away with some real learnings to report to your client, try adding in new targeting criteria, such as average household income, to your campaigns with no set bid adjustment before the holiday season kicks off. As time progresses, periodically check in on these new targets and see how they perform. At worst, you’ll have no real actionable data and can simply remove the new targets if performance merits. But at best, you’ll have a better understanding of a new target audience and the ability to increase or decrease marketing efforts to that audience by applying bid modifiers.

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OpenGov raises $15 million – Software prepares to eat Uncle Sam

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Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 5.22.11 PMYesterday, Mountain View startup OpenGov announced it had closed their Series B round of financing at $ 15 million. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Thrive Capital and Formation 8. The investment marks the first for Andreesen Horowitz in the civic technology field, and represents the maturing of the civic innovation market.

The investment world has been slow to back the proliferating sector, similar to hesitation around other markets rich in red tape like healthcare and education. Indeed, government has historically been viewed as a major impediment to the success of internet industry, rather than as a business opportunity.

But there is growing momentum in the civic tech field, with an increasing number of governments coming on board, more entrepreneurial interest in tapping government data sets, and now one of the Valley’s blue chip venture capital firms bestowing support and prestige.

It’s not the biggest civic tech funding round to date. Last fall Accela, which provides cloud enterprise software for governments, raised $ 40 million. But the OpenGov round is significant because of Andreesen Horowitz involvement and because its products are not only for internal government use but are entirely citizen facing as well.

OpenGov currently has 95 clients that range from small towns to major U.S. cities, as well as state agencies. It is focused entirely on financial information, and its current products present a government’s financial data in a sleek interface with a variety of filters to break the data down. It incorporates historical data as well as current, allowing users to track the differentials between budgeted and actual data for the current year. Here is all of Los Angeles’ financial data going back to fiscal year 2009/2010, for example.

“All the key stakeholders benefit from what we do with this data, visualizing it and making it available online: financial officers, department heads, elected officials and journalists,” says CEO Zac Bookman.

OpenGov CTO Mike Rosengarten offered Pando some insight on where they company goes from here.

“Reporting is just the first stepping stone for our bigger vision which is providing governments with instant and meaningful access to their data, and helping them understand that data so they can govern better,” Rosengarten said.

He added that the next enhancements OpenGov plans to roll out involve self-service and data analytics. The self-service piece would allow a government to get its data incorporated with OpenGov in a matter of weeks without needing massive internal IT builds. Currently the sales and implementation cycle for governments takes months if not longer.

Abhi Nemani, formerly co-executive director of Code for America, has cited government rules around procurement as a major logjam for the spread of civic technology. OpenGov’s self-service offerings could make this process more seamless and digestible for government officials, giving the startup another leg up on traditional contractors.

The data analytics piece would allow a local government to look to its neighbors or comparable cities across the country and compare their success or struggles on a line-by-line basis. Further, it would incorporate alerts that could be set to notify officials of significant events.

This all sounds pretty simple and straightforward, and the interface is incredibly user friendly. But the reason this field is still wide open, twenty years into the age of the commercial internet, is not a simple matter of the unsexiness of government financial information or the snaggled procurement process of local governments. It has a lot to do with the technical difficulty of the task.

OpenGov’s sleek, interactive graphs demonstrate that it’s already capable of receiving the general ledger of a city, county or agency and transforming all that data into a series of interrelated charts and graphs at users’ fingertips. And this capability is likely to increase as a result of yesterday’s announcement. Rosengarten says he has received over 30 resumes from engineers at top Silicon Valley firms in the last 24 hours.

The civic innovation trend is beginning to attract top talent and investment, and OpenGov is leading the charge. It’s a positive sign for taxpayers who want to know how their money is spent, and for government workers who want to access data in an instant. Marc Andreessen has famously said that “software is eating the world,” and soon, with his help, it may eat the Leviathan.

PandoDaily

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