With search being central to the consumer shopping cycle, search should be part of your strategy to not only drives sales, but also build your brand awareness as consumers are considering what gifts to buy for the holidays.

In a joint test with Levi's, Google found that paid search ads, whether or not clicked, raised consumer awareness of the Levi's brand.

When in-market consumers were asked which brand of jeans came to mind, 53% of consumers named Levi's when a Levi's search ad was in the top sponsored position, compared to 30% who named Levi's when there was no Levi's search ad on the page. (a statistically significant lift)

Better yet, when Levi's "non-customers" (people who hadn't bought Levi's jeans in the past 6 months) were asked the same question, 45% named Levi's when the ad was in the top sponsored position, versus 23% who named Levi's when there was no ad in the search results. (also statistically significant)

Placing your ad in top paid position can increase top of mind awareness for both current customers and non-customers, a desirable outcome at the time when consumers are making their holiday gift lists.

Source: Google/OTX Brand Lift of Search study, April 2009. Research was sponsored by Google, conducted by OTX, an independent marketing research company, in a controlled "laboratory" format that mimicked an actual online search query. Question asked: "Thinking about specific brands of jeans, which one brand comes to mind? Please only write in the first brand that comes to mind." Results are a significant increase from control (no exposure) at 95% confidence. n=2,000 online consumers who had recently purchased jeans or intended to soon.

With 79% of holiday shoppers finding the internet very or extremely helpful, where are shoppers planning to go once they head online this holiday? Not surprisingly, 60% will head to store websites (such as, etc.) and 42% will head to online-only retailer websites (such as,, etc.) to seek out product information and store offerings and make an online purchase.

46% will also head to search engines to seek out information and complete their holiday shopping - a 7% lift over last year.

With such a high percentage of consumer completing their holiday shopping on search engines and other content sites, consider reaching these online audiences through advertisements on both search engines as well as news, consumer, blog, video-sharing, and review sites.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (Q8) Which of the following online sources, if any, do you plan to use for your Holiday Shopping during the upcoming Holiday season? n=2002

With 58% of consumers already starting their Holiday research, it is clear that completing research prior to purchase is the norm for holiday shoppers. In fact, when we spoke to consumers responding to our recent Google/OTX Consumer Intentions Survey, 48% plan to spend more time this holiday season shopping around for gifts. That's a lift of 12% compared to 2008 during the initial downturn in the economy.[1]

And, as we see below, shoppers look to a variety of sources to complete this research. The internet ranked as the most helpful source of information with 79% of consumers finding it very or extremely helpful. Next up were friends, relatives and colleagues at 59% and in-store displays at 56%. [2]

When it comes to your online marketing efforts, ensure that you are creating useful, informative advertisements that highlight price, product features, and special promotions where applicable to ensure you are capturing the information-seeking shopper this holiday season.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. n=2002 [1] (Q16) Using the scale below please tell us how much you agree or disagree with the following statements about shopping during the holiday season [2] (Q7). Based on your past shopping experience, how useful do you think each following sources of information will be to you while you do your Holiday Shopping? (Top 2 Box)

This holiday season more than ever retailers are gearing up and planning ahead. We recently spoke with some of the leading retail experts and discovered that all of them plan to focus on a few key strategies to help them succeed in the coming months. Beginning today we will be launching a weekly holiday video series showcasing the top holiday tactics they have shared with us:

Stay tuned for more retailer advice from your peers, and check out our Fast.Forward. Channel to connect with marketing leaders across industries.

As we discussed yesterday, keeping an eye on key product categories and hot items is always vital during the holidays. Google Insights for Search provides a platform to do just that—the tool enables us to look at search trends and see how things change from day-to-day and year-to-year.

Below are the rising searches in the 'Mass Merchants & Department Stores' category, followed by rising searches in the 'Consumer Electronics' category. These are searches that show significant growth during a time period with respect to the previous time period. In this case, we're looking at the last 7 days compared to the previous 7 days.

For instance, today we see that 'black friday' search terms make up 4 of the top 10 in the 'Mass Merchants & Department Stores' category, indicating that consumers are already seeking out Black Friday deals. In the 'Consumer Electronics' category, we see rising interest in e-readers. This indicates increased search interest in this product category and may be noteworthy to retailers who carry this item.

Keep an eye as these search terms and the search terms in your category change to better understand how consumer sentiment and search queries are changing over time. These consumer trends can help inform your keyword strategies.

Consumers are ready to have the Holidays back. When asked where they plan to make purchases this season, many indicated that they are focused on practical categories such as apparel (81%) and electronics for the home (50%). However, many are also looking to make purchases in the entertainment (69%), toys (64%), and jewelry (51%) categories.

In the technology industry, we see consumers honing in on video games (55%), digital cameras (36%), and MP3 players (33%).
Keep an eye on these key categories and hot products this holiday season and ensure you’re allocating your online marketing budgets appropriately to capitalize on demand and consumer interest.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (S11) Listed below are a variety of products or services that you may purchase for yourself or someone else during the upcoming Holiday Season. Which of the following do you plan to shop for or purchase? n=2002.

As we discussed in yesterday's post, consumers are getting an earlier start than ever this holiday season – they have already begun both researching and purchasing holiday gifts.

We also spoke to consumers about when they would be completing the majority of their holiday purchases. Consumers responding to our recent Google/OTX Consumer Intentions Survey from September, said that the majority of their holiday purchasing will take place during Thanksgiving weekend and during early/mid December. In fact, 32% of holiday shoppers plan to do the majority of their purchasing Thanksgiving weekend, while 40% indicated they would do so in early and mid-December.

It’s important to target these audiences through your online campaigns when they are ready to purchase as well as both early and late in the season to ensure your brand is in the consideration set. Also, don’t forget the early birds and last-minute shoppers. As indicated above, those planning to shop before Thanksgiving and those planning to wait until the last minute or even after the holiday season to complete the majority of their purchases account for 25% of shoppers.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (Q2). When do you plan to do the majority of your holiday purchasing? n=2002

Consumers are showing early interest in holiday shopping and purchasing this season. With 9 out of 10 consumers planning to shop this year, the majority of these consumers have already started researching their gift purchases - looking for the right gifts at the right price. In fact, according to the latest Google/OTX Consumer Pulse Check survey, 58% of holiday shoppers report that they have started their holiday shopping and researching as of the week of October 5, 2009. Compared to the last week in August, that is a lift of 32%.

Likewise, almost half of consumers have made a holiday purchase so far this year. 45% report that they have started holiday purchasing. Compared to the last week in August, that is a substantial lift of 25%.

With that, the holiday season is well under way with consumers heading to retailers earlier this year - some exciting and positive news headed into the holiday season. Be sure you are capturing this early interest through your online marketing campaigns.

Attracting the right consumers this holiday season will be more important than ever. Join us as we share findings from new research on consumer plans for the 2009 holiday season and strategies marketers can take to better target and reach their customers.

During the webinar, we will discuss:
- How consumer behavior has changed and how shopping habits look headed into the holiday season
- What changing consumer behavior means for your search and online marketing strategies
- Recommendations for how to effectively target your audience

Date & Time
Tuesday, October 20th 2009
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST / 11:00 am – 12:00 am PST
Register Here

Halloween is quickly approaching! Average consumer spending for Halloween has consistently increased since 2003 and last year reached over $65 per person [1]. In order to take advantage of this seasonal traffic, we wanted to provide 3 'tricks and treats' of our own to help you achieve your online marketing goals.

1. Keep an Eye on Search Volume
As you can see with Google Insights for Search, Halloween searches are on the rise and will continue through October 31st. This graph shows queries for 'Halloween' over the last 4 years.

Start creating Halloween keyword lists and ad creatives that speak to Halloween consumers - remembering that this holiday can involve product category searches including costumes, recipes, make-up, decorations, party supplies and toys. As the average consumer begins their searches mid-October, add general terms like 'costume ideas' and 'funniest costumes' to capture these consumers as they're making early buying decisions.

2. Watch out for Rising Searches
You can also leverage Google Insights for Search to keep an eye on rising search terms. In the last 30 days, we've seen 'halloween,' 'costumes,' and 'halloween costumes' rise to become three of the top ten searches in the shopping category. We've included the top related rising searches to help get you started.

This year we're seeing that halloween costume ideas include typical apparel items as well as those that fuel a creative, 're-wearable' costume - especially during this Do-It-Yourself economy. Remember to run Search Query Reports throughout the month as traffic increases. Search Query Reports will allow you to see the most 'popular' Halloween costumes and keywords, allowing you to add keywords you may have missed and filter out keywords unrelated to the Halloween products you offer.

3. Highlight Promotions and Shipping Cut-Offs
Lastly, as the Holiday approaches, remember that shipping dates are always crucial. People will need to get their costumes or supplies well before the 31st weekend. Emphasize these dates in ad text and highlight any promotions and discounts to capture these last minute sales.

Happy Halloween!

[1] National Retail Federation, NRF 2008 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.