Don’t go cold turkey on your PPC campaigns

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The clocks going back can only mean one thing, Christmas is nearly upon us!…and it seems to be catching up with us marketers, and shoppers alike, faster than ever before. You’d better get your skates on if you work in PPC management, as searches for Christmas gifts started as early as September this year. (Source: Google Internal Data).

The focus should no longer just be optimising your PPC campaigns for desktop users. The way people shop online is ever-evolving, so it is vital to capture users across multiple devices and platforms at every minute of the day. After all, if your brand is not visible when a user is searching for Christmas gifts on the commute home from work, then it is very unlikely they will revisit your site when they are ready to buy their present. They will visit a competitor, which is not what you want!

So, if you are one of those people who has bought all of their Christmas presents already, wrapped them in colour co-ordinated paper and ribbon and is ready to put them under the tree, then I expect your paid search campaigns are as equally organised. Or perhaps you prefer to leave your Christmas shopping until the last minute? Then listen up, because there is no time like the present to get your campaigns in shape for the festive period.

We discuss top tips for getting your PPC campaigns in shape, as well as new(er) initiatives for capturing shoppers’ attention on their Christmas shopping journeys.

Let’s get crack(l) ing!

2014 performance

Before you rush into launching any new activity, take some time to look into your eCommerce data in Google Analytics. Ask yourself which products sold well in 2014 and what role mobile played in these campaigns. Did performance peak on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? –I expect so! Use this wealth of knowledge to guide your 2015 Christmas strategy.

Key dates :

Knowing key dates for purchases online will mean you can set your clients’ expectations and plan for seasonal spikes effectively.

Black Friday – Black Friday 2014 was the biggest eCommerce shopping day on record. UK Black Friday queries grew by 273% YoY and Sales were up 74% YoY. This really is a game-changer – so brace yourselves!

Cyber Monday – Searches on Cyber Monday grew by 39% YoY too – so another one to be prepared for.

Boxing Day – 20+% YoY growth to retail sites.

Last Order Days – Equally pay attention to your retailer’s last order dates. Nobody wants to receive a Christmas present on Boxing Day – so make this clear in your messaging.

Christmas keywords

So you know your historic data like the back of your hand, it’s time to get festive with your keywords. You will notice in search terms reports that Christmas related keywords started coming through earlier this year than they did in 2014. Harness those new searches and build out your Christmas keyword lists accordingly. House these either in individual ad groups or campaigns so you can easily review and optimise activity. What’s more, when you are planning your strategy for 2016, you can go back into the account and see how they performed.

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Be careful if you are bidding on pure generic ‘Christmas gift’ related terms as search volumes are enormous and completion is fierce.  You may not be able to bid on them cost effectively through standard search. Perhaps look at overlaying RLSAs on top of this activity so your budgets don’t shoot through the roof! This way you are attracting visitors who have already engaged with your brand and so you have greater control over reach and spend.

Equally use your 2014 data to help with your RLSA and re-targeting activity – capture users in another moment of their journey. If a user bought a gift voucher from you last year, it is very likely that they will return to your site and buy another one this year. Think about how you can increase the lifetime value of your customer. Perhaps offer them an incentive such as a promo code or maybe free delivery. Likewise if a user visited your site last year and did not convert, why not? Was a competitor offering a better deal? Use re-targeting ad copy that they cannot resist. And bidding techniques – you know the drill.

Ad copy

It’s no good having a sparkling Christmas campaign if you are not going to get festive with your ad copy. Again, have a look at what promotions you ran last year and see what worked well. If you are not able to run a promotion in the lead up to Christmas then think about mentioning something in your ad copy such as ‘The Perfect Christmas Gift Ideas’. It is all about creating the Christmas demand.

Countdown Ads are a great way to give shoppers a sense of urgency to buy your product. How about counting down to Black Friday or perhaps counting down to the last delivery dates? With Google making it much easier to bulk edit your ads through Adwords editor, you can create new countdown ads much quicker and on a much larger scale. Think about mobile specific ad copy too. The stress of last minute shopping will force more people to purchase through their mobiles – so capitalise on this.

Searches on Black Friday and Cyber Monday vary by time of day, and many shoppers are on the web browsing for the best deals from 12:00am. This is where Google’s automated rules can give you a helping hand. There is no good setting your ads live at 9am when you get into the office, as you will have missed out on a huge amount of interest from keen shoppers who stay up through the night (there are a lot more people out there than you would expect). Automated rules mean you can schedule your Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads to go live first thing in the morning so you can appear competitive from the word go.


Mobile queries are forecast to grow 42% YoY (Source: Google Internal Data) and it plays such a pivotal part of the buying cycle. Used for the research and capturing interest phase – it is important that your visibility is as strong on mobile as it is on desktop.

Use local inventory ads to highlight in-store availability and increase footfall to a store and use call extensions (with Google forwarding) to assist people in their ‘searching’ phase.

Likewise use cross-device conversion in Adwords to understand the true value of your mobile advertising. Did a mobile ad assist with a desktop conversion later on in a user’s journey? Give it credit if so.

Bids and budgets

With Christmas shoppers increasing their activity online every year, you must keep an eye on the key metrics as you can expect them to get a little hectic! Look out for increasing competition, rising CPCs, incremental traffic, CTR changes and possible drops in Impressions share. The key dates are ones to watch out for.

Google Shopping

As Christmas is a pivotal part to any online retailer’s yearly calendar, then getting Google shopping right is also key. Have you got a new product launch which needs to be factored into your feed? Or perhaps you are running a site-wide promotion? Yes, we want these promos to show in your standard text ads, but with shopping ads driving 1/3 of retail traffic – you mustn’t forget merchant promotions in your shopping ads.

Stock levels will also change much quicker so ensure your feed is up to date and relevant. After all, you do not want to waste budget sending traffic to a red tinsel page when the tinsel is out of stock!

Video Advertising

With an increasing demand for videos over Christmas, it is important to ensure your brand has visibility for this ad type. If a customer has seen your brand on YouTube, they are much more likely to revisit your brand later on in their journey – another magic moment. And how about incorporating Google shopping in here too. So, if a user is watching a video on how to cook the perfect turkey, then target them with a shopping ad selling ‘gravy’ with a special promo code. Job’s a good’en.

To sum up; review 2014 performance, get creative with your Christmas copy, pay attention to key dates and most of all, ensure you are targeting users at every moment of their shopping journey.

Now it’s time to eat, drink and be merry!

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