Prepping for the Holidays: A Guide to PPC Holiday Strategy

Austin Randall
By Austin Randall

With the holidays right around the corner, we’ve been putting thought into advertising strategies for our clients who plan to run promos around that time.  AdWords and Bing Ads are great platforms to help push important messaging around deals that pertain to your target markets, in a time that is 100% critical for many online businesses.  We’ve outlined 6 key strategies that will help with your online success through PPC.

Grow Your Remarketing Audiences

This first tip involves a bit of ramp-up time, as you’ll want your remarketing audiences to be a large and as qualified as possible going into the third week of November.  Review all your current audiences to understand each segment you’re targeting and how the growth of each segment has been trending.  Then review your promo details and who they most appeal to.  Do you need to create any new ad groups to target the segments who will care most about your promo?  Consider isolating those audiences in their own campaigns too, so you can ensure they won’t run out of budget.

Related: Holiday Marketing Tips for E-Commerce Websites

Once you know which audiences will find your promo most appealing, it’s time to grow those segments.  Allocating a higher budget during the weeks leading up to a promo is just as important as having a higher budget during your actual promo.  Reason being, you’ll want to invest extra spend to ensure your remarketing audiences are as large as possible.  Then once your sale hits, open up the floodgates hitting your audiences hard with Display remarketing and RLSA.

Use Promo-Centric Ad Copy (But Not In All Your Ads)

An obvious way to advertise your promo is through your text ad copy on the search engine.  Utilize your Headlines and be as descriptive of the promo as possible, leading with the most value-add.  Also, keep in mind your audience.  It’s good to keep your brand name in ads that are triggered by people searching for your brand, but having your brand take up space in your Headlines for generic searches is most likely a waste of space.

You have this great promo, so it should be advertised in the Headlines of all your ads, right?  That’s not necessarily the case.  We’ve found that Click-Through Rate will actually decrease when compared to evergreen ad copy in some cases; we’ve seen CTRs drop up to 73% in our own clients’ accounts.  The traffic being sent to your site through promo ad copy is usually more qualified, since they know exactly what to expect when clicking through, but you may actually be deterring some searchers from clicking through if your promo ad isn’t as relevant.

For this reason, we’ve found it best to keep 1 to 2 evergreen ads in the rotation for each ad group alongside promo ads.  This will help to capture those searchers who may have otherwise scrolled past.  There are other ways to advertise your promo through ad extensions which we’ll touch on in a moment.

PPC Forecasting Tool

Prepare For An Increase In CPCs

The AdWords and Bing Ads ad auctions are all based on competition, where the market dictates cost, and you’ll only pay $0.01 more to out-beat a competitor’s ad.  With that in mind, you’ll find it makes sense that CPCs tend to rise around holidays when advertisers are aiming to be in the most ideal ad spots possible.  Prepare ahead of time by setting up automated rules to increase your CPCs during key sale dates.

Related: Beat the Competition This Holiday With These 5 PPC Tactics

Start by assessing your KPI goals (i.e. Return on Ad Spend over 300%, or a CPL of $150), and determine a good conversion threshold (i.e. over 2 conversions in 30 days).  Once you have these important benchmarks established, create automated rules around those KPIs (i.e. increase bids by 25% for any keyword that have converted twice in the past 30 days at a CPL of under $150, at midnight on November 23rd.

Reserve Enough Budget For Key Dates

Spikes in e-commerce traffic start around the Monday before Black Friday, and peak at an all-time high for the year on November 24th and 25th.  Your accounts’ spend potential will take a tremendous spike as well because of this, along with a more competitive ad auction and higher CPCs.  Be sure to reserve enough budget for this spike. We recommend assessing spikes in years’ past to predict how your account will react this year.  If historical data isn’t available, then take your keyword sets and run them through either the Keyword Planner, or run your top 3-4 keywords/product categories through Google Trends to get an estimate on available search volume.

Related: How to Stand Out Online This Holiday Season

Remember that Sale dates aren’t the only time you’ll want to increase your spend, as the weeks leading up to your sale are equally as important to building your remarketing lists.

Look at the graph below, that represents search interest of three popular sale items: TVs, Xbox’s, and Computers.

Utilize The “Promotions” Ad Extension

This is a feature only available through the new AdWords interface.  Think of Promotion ad extensions as the text ad counterpart to the sunsetted Shopping campaign Special Offer extension.  They include an extra line of text to accompany your ad, that advertises a special deal or limited time sale. These deals will stand out with a “price tag” graphic and link directly to your sale page (or any other page you’d like to use for that traffic), see below:

We’ve found Promotion Extensions essential to running sales, paired with one of our previously-mentioned strategies of keeping 1 or 2 evergreen ads in rotation while running sales.  Promotion extensions ensure that every ad has sale representation, even if headlines are not advertising the sale.

Align With Your Other Channels To Create A Unified Message

Our last tip may be on the more obvious side; if you’re running a promotion, make sure your messaging is aligned across all channels.  Seamless messaging ensures a positive and clear consumer experience.  When a visitor get to your site, there is no question on what the sale is, where they can redeem, etc.

That just about wraps it up.  We’ve compiled these tips over years of trial and learning, and have seen success with the above.  Make sure you’re ready for the holidays, and get what’s coming to you with a thought-out PPC strategy to support!

Austin is the Director of Paid Media at Power Digital Marketing. He made it a point early on in his career to be a Jack of All Trades digital marketing, having hands-on experience in PPC, SEO, Social Media, and Affiliate Marketing. That experience comes in handy for his passion of creating and orchistraiting impactful cross-channel strategies for businesses he works with.