Cyber Week 2018 Planning Guide: PPC Tips & Tricks

It’s almost that time of year! You know the one – Cyber Week – which runs from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, and accounts for nearly 32% of all holiday revenue. It’s the time of year that purchasers dive heavily into holiday shopping, and most advertisers and retailers get gray hair. Seriously, in the industry, it is known to happen and is seen as your initiation into all things Q4.

This year though, don’t let the big Q4 push stress you out! Based on research from seasons past, we’ve compiled a quick and straightforward list of our top 10 tips and tricks for your PPC account to ensure all your bases are covered this holiday season.

  1. Determining Your Offers – The first thing that goes into building a successful digital strategy for Cyber Week, is understanding the offers you have at your fingertips. Talk with your Sales, Merchandising or Marketing team to understand what’s on the table this year for promotion. A note to the wise – Free Shipping alone isn’t going to cut it. Popular deals can focus on clearing out old inventory, or offering the latest and greatest your company has to offer. Some ideas are Money Off & Percent Off promotions, Gift with Purchase (GWP), Buy One Get One (BOGO) deals, Free Sample Offers, a VIP Discount, Deal of the Day or Hour, and some retailers are even creating Mystery Boxes for an extra $5-25 to increase AOV (average order value).
  2. Flighting – Research from both Bing and Google Ads indicate that users are shopping for the big deals earlier each year – with some seasonal searches being executed as early as October. If you don’t have your holiday offers up yet or your digital plan in place, make sure to get to work. Even if your offers aren’t “live” yet, consider running ads for a sneak peek at some deals you will be offering.
  3. Budgeting – A very important part of running PPC ads for Cyber Week is budgeting. You typically need more than you’d think. A good starting place is to review your historical data and bump up your spend even more so to align with an increase in online shoppers, and well as adding more media and offers to your plan this year. Keep the budget gates wide open and be sure to have your PPC Manager checking in often to push budgets even more if needed. If you need approval on your ad spend, make sure you get it well in advance and that you’ve identified the appropriate escalation route if you’ll require more budget to capture additional sales this holiday season.
  4. Remarketing Lists – One of the very great things about Cyber Week, is that your site traffic is sure to spike. Make sure you have remarketing lists already in place in Google Ads and Bing so that you can capture your users and remarket to them well into the new year. Also keep in mind, that many of the people coming to your site during the big sales week are likely deal shoppers or gift-givers and can have different shopping behaviors than your typical customer. Keeping that in mind, be sure to segment these users properly into their own lists and to align your remarketing strategy well with any behaviors you’ve identified.
  5. Campaign Types – Let’s be honest. Across Google and Bing Ads, Q4 is filled with competition. If you’ve just been doing the “same old, same old” – now is the time to amp up your game. You should be running on Search, Display, Gmail and Shopping networks, and across all devices that make sense for your product or service to get the most out of your holiday ads. Doing a check on your campaign settings can’t hurt either. We like to ensure all our ads are set to “accelerated” delivery versus “standard” so that Google isn’t holding us back from appearing in any auctions. This is a step you’ll definitely want to take if you have sufficient budget that you plan to have last throughout a given day.
  6. Campaign Targeting – You should also be using some of the many precise campaign targeting features in your account. Consider strategies for observed and targeted audiences, customer match lists, remarketing lists, age, gender, HHI, parental status and more. There are so many different strategies here – so rely on what’s worked, as well as what has potential. One thing we are fans of is using RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) to hit a list of our most frequent shoppers with a special VIP discount. The VIP discount is typically a promo code, only served in the ad that targets our RLSA list. Another option is to consider the gift-giver. If you sell women’s apparel, and most of your purchases come from women, consider a separate campaign only targeting men, with different messaging that assumes they are the gift-giver searching for what to buy their wives, girlfriends, mothers, etc. Consider ad copy that speaks directly to them, with something like, “get her what she wants this holiday season.”
  7. Tracking – This seems like a no-brainer, but please, please, please, ensure all your tracking is working properly in your PPC account prior to the big sales week. Right before Q4, is often when a lot of site-side work is done in preparation, and it’s important that your tracking is stable and dependable – not only for this holiday season, but also so that you can reference your correct data next holiday season. If you aren’t already taking advantage of measuring cross-screen purchases and conversions, as well as In-store purchases – now is that time. During the busy holidays, even you might start research on one device and end up purchasing on another device or in-store. Make sure that if your PPC ads are touching any users, that they are getting ample credit for assisting with conversion. This can help you shine, as well as help you secure even more budget for 2019.
  8. Creative – You already know that you’re up against some major competition when it comes to ads this year. One trick we learned from years past is to not alter our core paid search ads, but instead rely on changing ad extensions, like sitelinks, callouts, and structured snippets, to promote our deals during Cyber Week. While fresh new text ad copy might seem relevant, we’ve found that the ads typically don’t pick up enough steam in time for the holidays due to the understandably lower quality scores for new ads. So, instead, we stick with our tried and true ads, and beef them up by adjusting our extensions. It may not work for everyone, which is why it’s great to start testing prior to the big sales week. If you are considering changing your text ads more significantly, do so thoughtfully. We’ve already discussed personalized messaging for certain audiences, but you can also play around with other features, like Countdown ads, which will count down to when your big sales start or end. On the display side, make a splash! If you are typically using run-of-the-mill static creative, consider something animated. If you’re remarketing strategy on the Google Display Network (GDN) isn’t very sophisticated, now is the time to start adding dynamic remarketing ads into your creative mix. Also, test out the newer Responsive ads in GDN, which are performing quite well for our clients.
  9. Bidding – These days, there are so many different bidding options and algorithms. You can do manual or automated, you can use bid strategies, you can schedule bids to increase or decrease, and you can bid adjust against different audiences, geos and more. Make sure your bidding strategy is planned and tested well in advance and that you have backups in place. For many of our accounts, we have success with Target CPA bidding, however, we are prepared for Google’s algorithm to go a little wacky with new traffic (again, with behavior that’s atypical), and so we are prepared to turn off our bidding strategies and rely more on manual bid adjustments if data indicates that our bid strategy is not performing up to par with an atypical audience. Also, don’t be afraid to use different bidding options for different campaigns – we often use a mix across our portfolio of campaigns to ensure we are getting the most out of our bidding.
  10. Scheduling – Remember that ads, as well as bids or new campaigns and adgroups can be scheduled accordingly prior to the big sales week, but don’t rely solely on this. It is imperative that you have both automated and manual checks in place to ensure everything is launched and adjusted as planned. Expect Google and Bing ads scheduling to run a bit slower than expected. You don’t want to be responsible for any missed opportunities or revenue!

That’s it – our Cyber Week planning guide for PPC in a nutshell!

While we’ve covered all the major items to consider, tell us what you’re focused on! Is there anything special you are considering for Cyber Week 2018 that we haven’t outlined? We’d love to hear your thoughts and help you along the way. If you need help managing your promotions for the remainder of 2018, give our team a call.

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