Are You Ready To Go Back To School?

By Kristina McLane | @Hanapin | Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

I went to elementary school in the 90s. To me, going back to school meant trying to talk my mom into Lisa Frank notebooks rather than the boring college rule blue.




In 2015, as a PPC specialist, back-to-school shopping now means revenue and return-on-ad-spend. However, this year is turning out tougher than expected for commerce. Once considered the second biggest shopping event of the year, back-to-school shopping has seen a decline this year. This makes it difficult on ecommerce accounts that typically see boosts in revenue from July through September.


According to CNBC, there is a 20 percent decline in the amount that parents are planning to spend on back-to-school items. This applies to all students in kindergarten through high school. More parents are planning to reuse last year’s items than any year previous. However, even with all the decline in spend, there is still roughly $24.9 billion that will be spent on back-to-school items.


If you want a cut of the $24.9 billion, there are a few basic tips to help ensure you get the traffic and conversions that you need.


Start Earlier


Some schools and particularly some states are starting school earlier and earlier. Before, you could assume that the majority of students wouldn’t begin the academic school year until after Labor Day. These days, some states are now starting school as early as the first few weeks of August.


If you run an ecommerce account with back-to-school specials, you might have already missed out on some of that $24.9 billion. If you haven’t been advertising back-to-school specials, no worries! There is still time to benefit from the post- Labor Day starting schools.


Ad Copy


It is a basic paid search best practice to make your ad copy as relevant as possible to the search query. Knowing that your audience is a parent searching for a backpack for their child can help you tailor your ad to the back-to-school shopper. Speaking directly to that parent is common sense. You may consider:


  • Including specials deals that set you apart.
  • Referencing what they are doing – back to school shopping!
  • Speaking to what matters to the parent (ie: reliable backpacks or durable shoes)


This can mean saving time by getting all the supplies in one place or saving money, because they have so many supplies to buy. Like at Christmas, free shipping is huge and if you offer it, advertise it!




Landing Page


If you are going to mention “Back to School” specials in your ad copy, it is important to follow that thought through to the landing page. Congruency or similar messaging from keyword to ad copy to landing page is known to improve conversion rate and also ties everything together neatly.




An example of Staple’s “Back to School” messaging is shown above. When you arrive at their website, the same message is displayed on the home page.



Bidding & Ad Positions


Bidding up to top positions is not always the best strategy. However, if the back-to-school season typically returns high revenue, it’s important to be as aggressive as possible with ad position. This is the time to push your top products and what you know works well. Focusing on what works well during this increased traffic period will ensure that your time is spent on what is going to give you the best return.


Shopping Campaigns


Ecommerce accounts and Shopping campaigns are best friends. Anything that applies above can be applied to your Shopping campaigns. Editing descriptions and headlines to reference back-to-school deals only improves the congruency between your Shopping ad and ideally the specials that you are enforcing on your landing page.




While descriptions and headline are important, there is something that can make a larger impact for the back-to-school season. For Shopping campaigns, the largest impact will come from aggressive bidding and good impression share. Ensuring that your Shopping ad is showing for relevant searches is a necessity, especially for top products. A well-segmented structure will allow you to bid up the products that will bring the most return.




Dynamic Retargeting can be a huge advantage for back-to-school season success. Whether through Google or Facebook, dynamic retargeting puts super tailored ads in front of your previous website visitors that didn’t buy the first time around. Testing urgency or promotions can help give you an advantage along with testing cookie windows to create an even more impactful message.


Final Thoughts


The back-to-school shopping season is obviously not for everyone. Lead generation, B2B and a lot of eeommerce accounts cannot feel the impact of the second biggest shopping event of the year. Back-to-school promotions are for the limited few and each year it gets more and more competitive. While education can see a boost in this time frame, clothes, shoes and school supplies should also expect to see some boost. The key is starting early, being smart and tailoring everything for your audience.