PPCUsing Third-Party Data for Smarter Digital Marketing Strategy

Using Third-Party Data for Smarter Digital Marketing Strategy

Besides the holidays, back-to-school shopping is when people spend the most money. For retailers, the first day of school, which varies by region, is one helpful bit of third-party data.

There are a lot of compelling stats about back-to-school shopping that we could use to kick off this article. But as a studious, expert PPC marketer you really only need to know two things: this is the second-highest spending season, behind the holidays; and 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planned to spend more in 2014 than they spent in the previous year.

So now you’ve got the kick in the pants you need, how do you get after it with a plan of action to capture the most revenue you can, while simultaneously eliminating wasted ad spend? Data. Third-party data can drive your PPC strategy.

This is a one-size-fits-all strategy. Just as you already work with the seasonality of marketing, which applies to the entire year, a data-driven strategy works across verticals and across micro-events. To it work, you’ll need two pieces of information: predictable, measureable events or micro-events that impact your product or service – in this case, the first day of school in 2015 across the U.S. – and the consumer behavior that’s relative to those events. How soon before school starts do folks start their back-to-school shopping?

Part One: The Event

For retail, the back-to-school season is a pot of gold waiting to be snatched up. But when you look more closely at the micro-events, the actual start dates vary across the country by as many as six weeks. The pot of gold is a moving target. The week of August 2, San Diego schools shift into gear. But New York isn’t hitting the books until the week of September 6.

See below for a visual of how school start dates spread willy-nilly across the country by week. The last three weeks of back-to-school show big differences in the Texas, Great Lake states and New York. Each state has its own color, while each dot represents a different school district. A dot’s size shows the number of students in that particular district.

Texan students go back to school on the fourth Monday of each August. Also, watch New England and North Carolina:


In the Great Lake states, school doesn’t start until after Labor Day:


Finally, New Yorkers go back to school later than most:


There’s clearly a huge opportunity to blanket the country with your back-to-school campaigns, as well as an equally-huge opportunity to waste ad spend by targeting areas that aren’t even considering shopping yet. Drilling into specific start dates and tailoring your campaigns geographically means less wasted ad spend

Part two: Consumer Behavior

The second piece of the strategy, which is about the consumer behavior, comes into play at this point. So first we understand that start dates are wildly different across the country – but when do people start shopping for back-to-school?


The majority of school shopping happens at least a month before school starts. After school starts, the action is pretty much dead. Zero in on a combination of schools’ start dates and shopping start dates to get hyper-targeted with your budget, making it work hardest when it’ll make the most difference. 

Another way to use the data is to target only the districts with the highest number of students, and ignore smaller districts to save budget.
Review session

  1. Break out your campaigns by geography. To get as specific as possible, buy this data from MCH Strategic Data – the cost of the data will be well worth it as your targeting becomes more precise. You can even create specific ad copy, calls-to-action and bids by geography.
  2. Stagger campaign start dates. This is how you can get incredibly smart with your budget.
  3. Stagger campaign end dates. Don’t forget to drop off according to the school start dates. The evidence is clear – very few folks shop for back-to-school after school starts.

If you take a run at this PPC strategy, drop us a line and tell us how it worked for you. We’d love your details – they might even show up in a future article!


Data-Driven Market Research and Competitive Analysis

whitepaper | Market Research Data-Driven Market Research and Competitive Analysis

Semrush Keyword Difficulty

whitepaper | Analytics Semrush Keyword Difficulty

Searchmetrics Core Web Vitals Study

whitepaper | Analytics Searchmetrics Core Web Vitals Study

The Ultimate Guide to Forum Link Building in 2020

whitepaper | Analytics The Ultimate Guide to Forum Link Building in 2020