Months of planning, weeks of implementation, days of scrambling, and one extended “break” hoping it all pays off. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday officially in the books, digital marketers are quickly diving back into the data to see where opportunity lies for December.

While the first weekend of the holiday season is a good indicator of PPC account health, there is plenty of time for gaining additional ground before the shopping concludes. Despite the launch of holiday songs in October, the majority of shoppers will not complete their lists until mid-December. To go beyond, over 30% of those shoppers will continue up until Christmas Eve. For digital marketers, this provides just enough time to double down on early success and retool shorting comings through these five fast fixes.

1) Year Over Year Paid Search Traffic Changes

One of the most valuable pieces of data delivered by Black Friday and Cyber Monday is early indications of changes in paid search traffic level. These fluctuations foreshadow what an account manager can expect throughout December from a competition and cost perspective.

To begin, an advertiser can gain a sense of traffic and cost shifts by comparing year over year numbers from each major time segment. While ultimately strategies differ between companies, shifts in CPC, impression share, and conversion metrics on Black Friday or Cyber Monday will likely provide an accurate gauge for where to allocate your time. Tapping into the auction insights report is an excellent way to supplement and make sense of your analysis.

Analyzing these trends is particularly vital this year given major SERP updates such as expanded text ads and AdWords’ removal of the right hand rail. In short, Paid Search is likely to become an even more integral part of a complete digital strategy.

2) Day of Month Budgeting

Digital marketing is all about connecting with the right audience, at the right time, with the right offer. At no other time of the year is this truer than the holidays where demand is at peak levels. While many retail accounts already incorporate day of month scheduling, conversion rates during holiday shopping tend to differ from typical patterns across the remainder of the year. The data below demonstrates these differences.

Holiday PPC conversion rates compared to the remainder of the year

This particular data set originates from a large online retailer and shows how drastic these behavioral differences can be. For the final month of the year, conversion efficiency actually seems to flip with the strongest days of performance occurring earlier in the month. A steep dropoff begins roughly the 19th of December, a time when many customers turn to physical stores in order to avoid shipping. This simple and quick analysis tells us to spend early and adjust for efficiency throughout. For this client, pacing slow on budget early in the month would effectively lower our final revenue and ROAS numbers.

3) Ad Copy Refinements

Remember those promotional ads you launched roughly two weeks ago in preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Well it’s time to circle back to that test and capitalize on the insights it provided. For many clients, a small increase in CTR can yield huge improvements in conversion volume. While it’s likely the exact message or promotion will remain fluid throughout the holiday season, using a a template based approach allows you to carry over results and effectively test new variations.

Beyond the typical grind of an A/B test, there is no better time to incorporate Ad Customizers than the holiday season. With shipping deadlines, cyber sales, and short-lived promotions, customizers grant an advertiser the ability to convey important information with dynamically populated fields. Customizers frequently increase user engagement while simultaneously prequalifying an audience. Remember to test in a designated segment before pushing account wide.

4) Product Performance Report

With significant increases in traffic come equally large shifts in specific product performance. This is multiplied by the emergence of new competitors in the digital space from year to year. A quick first step to improving performance for online retailers is to optimize at a product level within Google Shopping. In order to do this, navigate to your relevant shopping campaigns and select the products tab. From here you’ll find access to all necessary key performance metrics. Following a little bit of extended analysis, you should be able to start shifting budgets to where value has been demonstrated.

Beyond the AdWords interface, the Product Performance report within Analytics is the perfect place to identify overlooked or missed opportunities. While setting your filtered view for “paid search” can provide additional statistics regarding revenue and conversion rate, valuable information can also be garnered while viewing”all sessions” or “organic traffic”. Frequently account structure and limited budgets will unintentionally lead to certain products claiming the majority of spend. Cross referencing the strongest performers across multiple source mediums can reveal valuable expansion items.

5) Search Query Analysis

Every successful account manager is all too familiar with the process of search query analysis. Despite the added workload of holiday promotional schedules, it is vital to ensure this task remains part of the routine. Search behavior and intent remain unique during December which certainly will manifest itself within the search query report. Pay special attention to seasonal language regarding promotions, competitor terms, and shipping needs.

Closing Thoughts

For many account managers, Thanksgiving break through Cyber Monday is anything but a vacation. Fortunately, however, we are now on the right side of the holiday scramble. There is plenty of time to fine tune your holiday PPC strategy before the mistletoe is promptly swapped out for New Year’s Eve glasses awkwardly inserting 2017 into the design.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Gardner