There are a million and one ways to develop holiday strategy for your paid search clients. However, the preliminary stages of any holiday PPC strategy should include a meeting with your clients discussing the topics that will be crucial components of your Holiday campaigns. Below, I’ve outlined the top 10 questions you should be discussing with clients to kick off the holiday season, as well as how you can help them work toward the answers when they need help.

1.  Are your primary KPI goals changing during Q4?

Businesses will often adjust their KPI thresholds to accommodate for increased holiday traffic & competition. It’s important to ask questions about any changes in goals well ahead of time, as mid-quarter switches can make hitting targets much more difficult.

I have a client who has a strict budget threshold for the majority of the year—we’re looking to maximize revenue within a set budget that remains constant regardless of ROAS. However, during November & December, they switch to an uncapped budget and are looking to maximize profit above an ROAS (return on ad spend) of 4:1. It’s important to check in and confirm that you have a clear understanding of how a client’s targets differ during the Holidays.

2.  Is there a set Q4 budget?  What is your monthly Q4 budget?

In some instances clients will be working with uncapped budgets (as long as you’re hitting a profitable ROAS).  However, other clients will still have strict spend limits during the Holidays.  Retail clients will almost certainly be working with larger budgets than their Q1-Q3 budgets. For clients looking for assistance in determining just how high that additional budget should be, factor in last year’s Q4 spend & ROAS as well as how you’re pacing for spend this year.

For example, take a client who spent $100k in Q4 of last year. If that same client spent $75k in Q3 of 2013, you’ll want to factor in the 33.3% spend increase this year.  If that client spent $120k in Q3 of this year, they’re probably going to pace closer to a $160k Q4 budget.

Additionally, you’ll want to take a look at ROAS numbers from last year and how they factor into this year’s budget. If this same client had a minimum ROAS threshold of 5.0, but managed to hit an ROAS of 7.0 in Q4 of 2014, that’s a strong indicator that they were too conservative with spend last year.  If you know that, and see a strong ROAS in Q3 this year, you’re going to want to propose an even higher Q4 budget.  Conversely, if ROAS dropped 25% YoY, you might want to propose a reduction in spend to ensure the client is profitable.

3. Do you have a separate mobile ROI target?

The stats on increasing mobile browsing & shopping during the holiday season are hard to argue with.  Daily views of mobile retail ads were up to 175% higher than quarterly averages during the week of Thanksgiving.

mobile xmas retail ad views

While we typically see lower direct ROAS on mobile traffic, there are a lot of indirect benefits from these mobile impressions and clicks.  I know I’m not alone in using my iPhone to browse for gifts for my family during my bus ride home from work, but making my actual purchase on a computer at home. Don’t eliminate valuable research clicks just because mobile doesn’t have the same ROAS as desktop ads.

So what does this mean for setting mobile goals for the Holiday season? I’d recommend that clients have an ROI threshold approximately 30% lower than their desktop. This can be tweaked based on how conservative or growth-focused the client is, but accepting a lower ROI threshold for mobile allows for an additional stream of traffic and revenue.

4. Can you share your promotional calendar with us?

This may seem self-explanatory, but getting our hands on a promo calendar well in advance can make or break a holiday season. We can plan ad copy, budgets, and schedule bid changes to ensure the promotion is just as successful in PPC as in other channels.  Plus, I’ve never met an account manager that loves to receive a 6pm client email saying “we are running a promo starting at midnight tonight – can you change all of our ad copy?”

5.  Is there specific promo copy you want us to run?

This is a great place to factor in learnings from past holiday seasons.

What’s worked in the past for the client? Promo codes? Communicating time-sensitivity in ad copy? Take a look at historical Q4 data and determine which promo language drove the highest CTR & conversion rate.

6.  Are you creating holiday specific image ads? 

The sooner the client can get these over to you, the sooner you can create scheduled actions to save the trouble of manually uploading these ads on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

7.  Are there any holiday specific items/products we should advertise?

While you won’t want to start running ads on holiday-centric items until they are available for sale, it’s never too early to get ahead of yourself and start building out any holiday specific campaigns & ad groups–just remember to upload them as paused!

8.  Can you alert us if popular products go out of stock?

While retail clients are usually eager and excited to alert you on all of the new products coming in, it’s equally as important to know when these products go out of stock. By continuing to run ads for popular products that lead to an “out of stock” page, conversion rate and ROI can take a serious hit.

9.  What is your cut-off deadline for shipping by Christmas?

Last year my clients saw a 40% conversion drop off the day after their Christmas shipping deadline passed.  Nailing down your client’s last day of shipping for Christmas arrival allows you to begin to proactively pull back on spend before the decline in conversion rate occurs.

10.  Are you doing free shipping?

This can be a deal-breaker for cost-conscious shoppers.  Does your client know the repercussions on conversion rate if they don’t offer this?  Are you highlighting this language in ad copy now?  Are their competitors running free shipping offers?

Between running promo ads, CPCs that fluctuate by the hour, & surges in competition, the holidays can be a stressful time in the digital marketing world. But by staying on top of your holiday planning by starting early & keeping a clear line of communication open with your ecommerce clients, you can ensure that your clients have a very merry holiday season!


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