This blog post is part of Forrester’s Holiday 2019 retail series.

Search marketing — both paid search ads and search engine optimization — are tried-and-true performance marketing tactics to convert customers. As such, retailers have invested heavily for years in paid search — we are forecasting that retailers in the US will spend a whopping $7.8 billion in paid search this year. And a good chunk of that will come in the final quarter of the year. With the holiday season gearing up, we have to talk about some things to keep in mind regarding your search marketing strategy this year.

  • Allocate at least 10% of your paid search budget for “risks.” Many retailers we speak with are very cautious with how they allocate their paid search dollars. It’s common for us to speak with retail companies that spend anywhere from 40% to 90% of their paid search budget on “branded terms” (i.e., words like “Old Navy sweater” or “Dell laptop”). The problem with doing that? You are often capturing customers who already know about or are loyal to your brand. Our advice: Take 10% of your budget and take some risks on those consumers that aren’t already your customers. Invest in nonbranded terms further up in the customer lifecycle that you haven’t been willing to invest in — it will help increase ROI on your branded terms and increase awareness with customers you don’t already have a relationship with.
  • Sync up your paid search campaigns with paid social campaigns. Retailers are planning to increase spend on social marketing more than any other channel this year. But search is right behind social — 51% of retailers said they will spend more on paid search in 2019 than 2018. Your opportunity: Coordinate your paid search and paid social campaigns. Facebook and Google dominate the discover and explore stages of the customer lifecycle and should not be looked at as separate strategies this holiday season. Look to social campaigns to generate awareness and customer demand in the discover phase, and use search campaigns to convert those customers on your website when they are intentionally looking to buy. Your search and social teams will be the best of friends at your company holiday party.
  • Do not forget about SEO. Good ol’ SEO is still alive and well! Most retailers with eCommerce websites get the vast majority of their site traffic from people searching on Google and then clicking on their organic links in the search results. This means you have to be on top of your SEO process and ensure that SEO best practices are being met by web developers, content writers, and anyone else who touches your website. Most importantly, make sure you are optimizing your mobile website, since more than 50% of searches on Google occur on mobile devices.

What are you thinking most about this holiday season as it relates to search? Do you foresee prices on paid search ads increasing? Does your SEO process need an overhaul? We’d love to hear about your questions and plans for this holiday season and into 2020. Likewise, check out the other blog posts in Forrester’s holiday 2019 blog series to learn what digital tactics and commerce developments are most important this year.