How to Ace Your Back to School PPC Campaign

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

September may seem far, far away, but that leaves plenty of time to perfect your PPC strategy for the back-to-school season!

As kids around the country start to get ecstatic at the thought of breaking up for the school holidays, and as parents prepare themselves for the struggle to keep their children entertained for the next six weeks, marketers are preparing for one of the year’s biggest opportunities: back-to-school shopping.

Whether they’re planning a focus on school uniforms, school bags, pencil cases, or lunch boxes, retailers should look to predict the hottest trends in six weeks’ time and adjust their PPC campaigns accordingly.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be analysing how John Lewis, BHS, and Marks & Spencer are taking advantage of the back-to-school season. For now, though, let’s focus on why you should start thinking about your campaigns now so you can beat your competitors online later.

Why Start in July?

A report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed that retail spending in August of last year was up 2.7% year-on-year, according to WGSN.

The non-food category was particularly strong, exhibiting 3.9% growth as parents rushed to get in on early deals for their children’s’ school equipment, including uniforms and other items associated with heading back to school.

Clothing and shoes led this charge, illustrating the power of back-to-school spending. Dressing-up outfits related to the Disney film Frozen also ranked pretty high, although this was down to a cultural trend rather than the time of year.

Another report by ShopperTrak set out to find what point in August proved the most popular for parents buying clothes and supplies for their kids. It revealed that in August 2014, transactions occurring in the first two weeks of the month covered 51% of the period’s total spending, with the remaining 49% coming in the second half.

Although this represents only a 2% shift from 2013’s split, it shows that the beginning of August is quickly becoming the hot time for parents to hit the shops before school.


But a recent Google study revealed, in fact, that the back-to-school search period spans even longer, starting as early as May! But if you haven’t set up your campaign yet, don’t fret – there’s still time to get going.

As late July thru August is the hottest period for parents to hit the high street and buy school uniforms, getting a headstart on market school-themed items is the key to sales success. You need to be proactive and plant the seed early in the minds of mums and dads that you’re the one they should turn to when buying school uniforms.

The Rise of Local (And Why That Means Mobile)

With mobile retail searches rising dramatically in the last few years, it makes total sense to ensure that you’re covering mobile when it comes to back-to-school SEM.

That same Google report revealed that people are using mobile to shop around the clock. The report found a whopping 40% of back-to-school searches were done on mobile in 2014 – that’€™s a 25% increase over the previous year!

The way people are using mobile to search has changed, too. Parents are likely to be searching for retailers that can cater to the specific requirements for local school uniforms. That means you need to make sure that your mobile campaign is targeted to location so that users can easily search for their local branch.

To make your mobile PPC campaign a success, make sure the destination landing page is optimised for mobile as well, making it easy for customers to complete their purchase or look up physical locations on their small screens.

You’re also more likely to rank higher if your mobile ads are relevant and mobile-preferred, so consider the messaging and how you’re flagging your adverts to Google.

Don’t Forget About Google Shopping

Google Shopping is the most effective way to boost your ROI when it comes to back-to-school searches, particularly those related to school uniforms. Although school uniforms vary less than casual, everyday clothes, it’s important that parents can see what you’re selling to ensure it’s the right match for their school’s clothing code, making any images you attach to these ads ideal.

Google Shopping ads gain more clicks (50% more than text ads to be precise, according to Dave Ragals, Global Managing Director at IgnitionOne, writing for CPC Strategy), so including extra details like the product name, prices, and a picture is well worth the effort.

It’s All in the Copy

Starting a new school year can be a very expensive time for families, especially if more than one child is returning to school. This makes back-to-school the perfect opportunity for you to communicate any special offers you may have to boost the clicks.

And don’t forget to include the names of local schools or your general area if you’re using geo-targeting to make your ads more specific.

Using Competitive Intelligence Now

Although ads don’t need to start appearing until later in the month, it’s important to start thinking about which keywords to target now. Will you be targeting particular schools in local areas? Or should you target generic, nationwide terms?

Before you start planning your campaign, it’s key to ensure you have performed some research into what your competitors are doing.

Next time, we’ll look deeper into how John Lewis, BHS, and Marks & Spencer are using PPC to cover the entire market. In the meantime, however, it’s a good idea to start looking into how your competitors are using sponsored search to boost their search engine visibility, making it cheaper and easier for parents to buy school uniforms for all their children.

Adthena’s competitive intelligence for search allows you to look at the entire market across desktop, mobile, and Google Shopping so you can make sure you’re covering all bases when it comes to capturing the back-to-school market.

(Image credit: David Lisbona/flickr; Google)

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.