It’s coming. We can tell over here at PPC Hero because more and more questions are coming in asking about preparing for the holiday season in PPC. It’s true…the peak holiday ecommerce season is right around the corner! If you were thinking you still have some time to put this off, I’d strongly caution you to re-examine that thought and get started now. The more time you give yourself, the stronger the strategy will be behind your holiday campaigns. According to many predictions, this year’s holiday season will see a 16.8% increase in sales over last year, so get on board and take your piece of that revenue pie! Of course this may not include all the details necessary for every ecommerce, but the following checklist should get you started down the path of launching successful holiday PPC campaigns!

  • Put your plan on paper first. As you’re working through the rest of this list, either digitally or good ‘ol pen and paper, get your entire strategy figured out before you jump in. Generally speaking, the holiday season means a lot of promos and expiration dates, on top of additional campaigns and/or ad groups to manage. No matter how you map it out, make sure you have a complete understanding of how you’re going to attack your holiday PPC structure before you get started, or you could potentially get lost in the details.
  • Have you done this before? Whether working on an in-house account for your company or managing accounts for clients at an agency, dig back in to previous years and see if you can dig out any holiday campaigns or account elements that existed before. Especially if you’re unfamiliar with these attempts, you want to check things out and see if you’ve got a good base to work from, or if you’re staring at a walking-dead mess of a campaign. If this is your first year managing the campaign, ask questions to the client or rest of the in-house team about previous strategies that did and didn’t work so you don’t repeat mistakes, but can build on successes.
  • Cover all your keyword bases. When getting ready to build out your holiday keyword strategy, there are multiple segments of possible queries that could be used to find products you’re selling. You need to consider:
    • all the holidays between now and into January of the coming year (i.e. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day, Christmas, New Year’s closeouts, etc.). Do you need to build out modified versions of terms in your account with the specific holiday in it? We’ll discuss promotions in a minute, but many shoppers at this time of year search for deals by holiday name, so this could be a portion of your keyword build out.
    • whether you’ll be running promotions to match those holidays. Specifically for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many queries for those potential shoppers look for deals and brands to shop by inserting the holiday names in their search. Do some research using something like Google Trends to check out your vertical and see if there are similar trends you should target with holidays called out in keywords.
    • who could be shopping for your products and who might be likely recipients of your products for the holidays. You may find it necessary to build variations of keywords that include things like “gifts for dad” and so on to capture searchers not quite sure of what their final purchase will be.
    • if you have additional products to add to your account or pull out in to campaigns for just this season. Sometimes product offerings change entirely around the holidays (seasonally specific products roll out or you run your account in such a way that requires some of your product terms be pulled out in to holiday-specific campaigns) and you want to triple check your product line and make these changes to include as many products as possible in your keyword strategy.
    • what traffic do you NOT want? Before you go launching a ton of new keywords, think about what traffic those terms could drum up that you don’t want, especially if you’re playing with some broad match terms. Add those terms as negatives and save yourself some pain, heartache and money ahead of time. Again here, you could use Google Insights to check out popular shopping phrases around the holiday season and what portions of queries would bring irrelevant clicks your way.
  • Build out some campaigns. This is personal preference, as some people skip down to the ad writing portion of the show, incorporate some of the above keywords in already existing campaigns/ad groups/ad copies and pause the rest. I prefer to have all my holiday account elements in separate, holiday-specific campaigns that can be easily paused or enabled without a ton of digging later. You can then build in ad groups with different promotions that will accompany each holiday. Another idea to keep top of mind for structure decisions is budget, particularly if a different ad budget is given per holiday or in a similarly segmented way. Again here I’ll say the exact structure you decide on is yours (share it in the comments section below if you want to discuss!), but you certainly need to keep things orderly to see success over the holidays.
  • How could you forget the ad copy? This is my personal favorite part of ecommerce PPC account management during the holidays, because you can get a bit fun and creative with ad copy to entice clicks/sales. You’ll need to write ad copy for the holidays based on your holiday account structure. If ad groups are based around individual promotions for specific holidays, you want to make sure you call out what the holiday/promotion combination is. If you’ve decided to run campaigns around who may be receiving your products as gifts, making sure the terms with “mom,” “brother,” etc. are in the copy is key. The normal PPC rules apply: incorporate keywords and explain what makes you special to the searcher for what they’re shopping for. Get their attention with relevant and exciting headlines, followed by descriptive content with the benefit and value the searcher gets by choosing your brand for their holiday shopping. Even more (I told you this was my favorite part), consider extending display URL’s with holiday sale sections (i.e. and changing up your sitelink strategy to incorporate holiday-specific sections of your website for this time of year.
  • Give your landing pages a holiday overhaul. If you have the capabilities, put some holiday branding on your website, with some snowflakes or holiday-inspired color scheme. No matter what, you need to alter landing pages and website promotions to match what you’re advertising (really, you should have the promotions on you site reflected in your ads, but you know what I’m getting at) and if you don’t have the shipping estimates chart readily available at most steps of the checkout…consider making that happen, especially if you have speedy delivery! I also encourage ecommerce clients to build out gender or age-specific categories on their websites if they don’t have them already, to help searchers refine their navigation as quickly and easily as possible to aid in an easy sale.
  • Upload and prep settings. Once you get your account structure completed, it’s time to upload the whole thing in to your PPC account and make some last settings decisions before turning things on. First, if you have separate Search/Display campaigns for the holidays, make sure you’re segmented network targeting accordingly. Likewise, set some end dates on campaigns if they’re tied to specific holidays, to keep from having to manually turn them off.  Another suggested setting to consider is ad delivery (standard vs. accelerated) because if you have the budget, pushing your ads to show to as many impressions throughout the day could mean great things on the revenue side. Cautiously, of course!

How have you been preparing for the holiday season this year? What have you done in the past that worked really and what ideas fell flat? Share your ideas and experiences with us on Twitter @ppchero!