Christmas is the biggest time of year for many online businesses, and if one of your main sales driving factors is PPC you need to make sure your campaigns are in good shape!
We’ve decided to break the task of Christmas PPC preparation into manageable chunks and each working day, for 12 days before the start of December, we’ll suggest something you can do to optimise your PPC campaigns.
Step One: Data Analysis
Google Trends: Use Google Trends to see how search volumes varied over the course of the last Christmas period for your keywords. Make a note of the key dates and weeks when searches peaked and dropped off.
Products and Sales: Look at the sales data for the 2011 Christmas period. Which items were top sellers? Will they be top sellers again this year? What do you know will be a top seller this year? What’s being promoted by competitors that you stock too? The products you have identified as top sellers, or key sellers, need to be price competitive, available throughout the Christmas period and easy to find on your website.
Keywords & Ads: Review how your keywords and ads performed over the 2011 festive period. What can you take from the data? Did certain keywords do well early in the festive season? Did others flop as it got closer to the big day? Did certain ads outperform others? Remember to look at both the click through and conversion rates of ads. Consider noting down a list of your top ten or top 20 keywords as ‘ones to watch’ throughout the season. Of course, if you have new keywords this year that are likely to be top performers watch these closely instead (or as well).
Conversion Rates: Examine the conversion rates for your campaigns/adgroups/keywords for the 2011 festive period. Were there any trends? For example, were Mondays busy for you like they are for many retailers, or were your best days Fridays? Perhaps you found your conversion rate was much better at the start of December rather than half way through. Whatever you discover make a note of it as it will form part of your bidding and budgeting strategy.
Key Dates: The whole of the Christmas period is super important but there are a couple of famed dates in the Christmas search marketing calendar renowned for being extra busy. These are Black Friday (November 23) and Cyber Monday (November 26). Take a look at how your campaigns did on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2011 (November 25 and November 28 respectively). What can you take from the stats? Were searches up? Were sales up? Were positions down? Make a note of your findings as these will also affect your bidding and budgeting strategy for the Christmas period.
If you are in control of a PPC account without historical data, don’t worry, you can still use Google Trends and find industry reports for your market. If you have a supplier they can perhaps talk to you about what did well in 2011 in terms of products that sold well, or products that they know will be big this year. As long as you’re aware of what might be approaching (like busy days and product trends) then you’re still going to do well, you will just need to be watching everything a touch more closely.
Step Two: Budgets
When planning your budget for the month of December, or the Christmas period, or the quarter containing Christmas, consider these things:
Cyber Monday and Black Friday: Refer back to your notes about performance on these days in 2011. Were they good for you? If so, you might want to make sure your daily budgets are bigger on these days
Christmas Shut Down: If you are shutting down your PPC activity part way through December you will have a shorter time in which to spend your monthly budget, factor this in when calculating daily budgets
Christmas Day & Boxing Day: If Christmas Day and Boxing Day are big days for you, make sure you reserve enough budget to cover these times sufficiently too
Step Three: Website and Landing Page Updates
• Make your site look festive (but don’t go too crazy, it’s beyond us, but not everyone loves Christmas)
• Highlight Christmas offers/deals
• Ensure Christmas delivery times are clear and easy to find
• Make sure top selling/popular/most-wanted products are easy to find
• Make sure call to actions are really obvious and not hidden behind any baubles or other Christmas paraphernalia!
• Make sure your exchange and returns information is clear and easy to find. If you have an extended returns policy for Christmas, highlight this as people will be interested in it
• If you deliver very close to Christmas Eve/Day then make this super-clear – many people will shop at the very last minute when they know they can
• If you offer bundles of products or related products at the checkout make sure you’re making the most of this. Shopping online is very convenient and if someone can buy 10 presents and all the bits and bobs to wrap them with, then they most likely will so don’t miss out on the opportunity
Step Four: Top Performing Ads
This involves looking at your notes on last year’s ad performance and ensuring the ads that are live in your account now are the ones that did well last year. Ads accrue their own ‘history’ so good CTRs in 2011 will count for something this year too.
Look at the ads you’ve noted down as last year's top performers, can you see patterns within them, for example do they all mention ‘24 hour delivery’, or did they talk about buying online to 'avoid the hustle and bustle of the shops’? Incorporate what worked well into any new ad text you create. Of course, do test new ad text varieties, but do learn from what didn’t work well last year. Also, remember to include the obvious ad best practices like featuring special offers, calls to action and so on.
Another important thing to note is to make sure all your ads are approved and up and running in time for your key dates! This means not adding dozens of new ads at 9am on Cyber Monday. You never know, the Google team might all be in training on your important day and unavailable to approve ad text. Your new ads could sit in an ‘under review’ state for hours meaning they’re not showing much (or at all) and you will lose out on sales!
Review ad text performance (once you have enough data) and pause/add ads as you see fit.
As it gets closer to your delivery cut off date(s), consider mentioning this. It can create a sense of urgency and increase sales. Do note what your competitors are doing aswell though, if you are the only one not delivering after December 14th you will look unappealing alongside them, so don’t mention it.
You could also think about adding a kind of Christmas countdown to your ads, like “Only A Few Days Left Until She Expects That Great Gift”. You probably won't want to be adding new ad text to your account daily so keep references to ‘time’ generic, for example “under a week to go”, “only a few days to go” and so on.
Step Five: Keywords & Bids
• Use your keyword performance analysis (which you've already put together) when deciding on CPC bids for keywords. If a certain group of keywords consistently did well over the 2011 Christmas period consider setting higher CPCs for these keywords to gain good positions this year too
• Competition can vary from one day to the next over the busy festive period so watch positions closely on a daily basis
• Due to the amount of competition you're likely to face at this time of year you might have to bid considerably more than usual to maintain positions - so watch out for this
• Ensure your keyword lists have been expanded to cover Christmas-related searches, or enable last year’s Christmas keywords. Remember to keep Christmas keywords grouped together in tightly themed adgroups, this will allow you to write highly targeted ad text and achieve high quality scores
Step Six: Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads
Make sure your Google Merchant feed is up-to-date and that your PLAs are set up and optimised ready for the Christmas rush. Look out for any errors or products not inserted into the Google Feed, and then clean up any issues as soon as you can.
Remember not to bundle all your PLAs into one place, instead split them out into different adgroups differentiated by product_type, for example. This will allow you to monitor the performance of the PLAs more accurately and you’ll be able to adjust your bidding according to performance.
By making sure your PLAs and Google Merchant Feed is well optimised will mean more ad "real estate" for you!
Step Seven: Mobile
Consider updating your mobile PPC strategy (if you have one) for the Christmas period. If people are browsing your site on smart phones before buying in-store or from a desktop or laptop PC, ensure it is easy for them to do so. Make products, prices, contact info, delivery times and opening hours really easy to find.
If you are not targeting mobile or tablet devices, consider doing so. If your site is not mobile-friendly you could still target tablet devices as most sites will render OK on these (do check this out though).
Also remember to make sure your click-to-call extensions are enabled if you’re running mobile campaigns!
Step Eight: Ad Scheduling
If you cannot deliver products past a certain date in December you may need to pause your advertising; ad scheduling is a convenient way to do this. It might be that different product ranges can be delivered up to different dates, if this is the case set up reminders to ensure the different parts of your advertising is paused at the right times. Leaving your advertising running when you can’t deliver gifts in time will lead to disgruntled customers and lower conversion rates over the holiday season.
Also, if you receive a lot of calls as a result of your PPC advertising, and have not already done so, you might want to pause your advertising during your out of office hours and focus your budget on the times of day when you can talk to people.
Ad scheduling is useful when you have call extensions enabled too. For example, if you close at 8pm you might want to shut down ads with call extensions at this time as you won’t want to disappoint people by encouraging them to call a closed shop/business.
Step Nine: Sitelinks
Update your sitelinks for Christmas. If you have any special offers or products you’re promoting – link to them via your sitelinks. You may even link to your Christmas delivery details, wrapping service or January sale previews. Having good sitelinks in place can make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for!
Step 10: Keep Checking and Reviewing Ad, Keyword and Sales Data
This is an obvious one, but keep a really close eye on everything including your keywords, ads, sales and conversion rates throughout the Christmas period. Doing this means if something within your campaign suddenly drops off you will be in the best position to notice it as soon as possible and recover from any dips.
If something has dropped off it might be because an item has gone out of stock, a competitor has an unbeatable offer or maybe your position has decreased.
Step 11: Think Ahead to After Christmas and New Year
Throughout December make sure you take the time to look ahead to the campaigns you’ll be running after Christmas. Are the Boxing Day/January sales a big deal for your business? If so, have you got new ad text approved and ready to go? Make sure your keywords are up to date and that website changes are ready to go/in place.
You could also consider previewing your up and coming "sales" within newsletters and/or mentions on your website, but remember not to distract people from buying during your critical Christmas times though.
Step 12: Other Post-Christmas Ideas
If all of your PPC activity was shut down over Christmas remember to set reminders for when you get back to work. These reminders might include:
• Reduce CPCs to pre-Christmas levels
• Pause ads that mention ‘Christmas gifts’ (remember to extend these checks to your sitelinks too). You may also need to perform some landing page checks. For example, some of your ads may have used a special Christmas landing page
• Update your website to reflect current sales and/or offers where applicable. This should be done as soon as necessary; it might not be able to wait until the first week of January when you return to the offce
• Update keyword lists to include seasonal phrases such as “January sales” (if relevant) and/or pause keywords that centre around “Christmas gifts”