The heart of the holiday season will quickly be upon us, and it can be a make or break time for online retailers. Preparedness and planning are paramount for success during the holiday season. So before Thanksgiving arrives, make a game plan to prepare your paid search to take advantage of the surge in holiday shoppers by preparing promotions and inventory and analyzing and adjusting your campaign settings.

Holiday PPC Checklist

Before you decorate the tree, make sure you’re ecommerce is ready to roll before Thanksgiving. Image via Pexels.

Preparing Your Promos 

When entering the holiday season, promotions are a great way to drive traffic to your site, and to tempt those visitors to convert. Calling out these promotions in both AdWords and the Google Merchant Center can help set you apart from your competitors. For this reason, it is important to submit your promotional ad copy early in both interfaces. This will allow you to correct any possible disapprovals or problems with your promotional ad copy early, so you’re not scrambling to get your ads running on Cyber Monday morning.

If you have historical data on what promotions have worked in the past, use it! Last year’s conversion data can inform your decisions for this year’s promotions. If your big ‘10% off orders over $500 deal’ did not perform so well last year, skip it in favor of your more popular free shipping offer. Similarly, don’t allow keywords or products to be split between two unequal promotions. For example, if you are running $5 off Nike shoes but also running 30% off site-wide, you do not want these ads to compete against each other. Evaluate your promotions in terms of the best performance, and ensure that the top-performing promo is running for all eligible products.

Check Your Inventory

Product performance and availability is crucial during the holidays. That’s why it’s so important to evaluate last year’s product performance when planning for this year’s holiday season. Particularly for niche retailers, where inventory does not change much from year to year, running out of stock for products that performed well the previous year can seriously impact this year’s performance. Make sure you are properly stocked in your best performing products from 2015 well in advance of Thanksgiving.

Evaluating last year’s performance is less relevant if you’re selling products that tend to follow yearly trends, like toys or clothes. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that last year’s must-have toy will perform as well this year.

Once your top-performing products are in stock, make sure that they are updated in your Merchant Center feed and appropriately targeted in your Shopping campaigns, and consider creating some new dynamic remarketing lists to target viewers of your top-performing and highest-revenue products.

Daily Data Analysis

You can also leverage last year’s data through aggressive and granular day parting. Most accounts will use some form of daily bid adjustments to take advantage of an account’s best performing hours and days. However, consumer shopping habits change significantly during the holidays. In fact, leaving in the daily bid adjusts you already have set can actually lead you to bid down during your best performing hours. For example, if you typically see slower performance on Fridays throughout the year, you likely have some sort of negative bid modifier set for Fridays. But if you leave this in, you’ll bid yourself down on Black Friday – one of the busiest shopping days of the whole year!

With this in mind, it’s important to look at the previous year’s holiday performance by hour and day to truly measure how consumers behave during the entire holiday season (not just Black Friday or Cyber Monday). If possible, it is best to make day parting plans for each week of the holiday season in order to make the most out of consumer purchasing patterns during this crucial time. To track this properly, you should make a spreadsheet of the previous year’s performance by hour of day, both with individual and aggregated hourly performance. In a similar vein, be aware of your shipping deadlines. Don’t waste money pushing ads if the customer cannot get the product in time.

Go Big with Budgets

Make sure your budgets are in order and no campaigns are limited by budget. This is the time of year to over-inflate your campaign budgets. You do not want to be rolling along during Black Friday, only to have Google limit your traffic due to limited budget concerns. The more nuanced (and dare I say smarter) means of controlling budget is through bid management rather than campaign budget. That is, set your campaign budget to what you’re willing to spend, and then manage your bids so that you’re not budget limited.

As you can tell, the overarching theme in a successful holiday season is being prepared in advance and looking back at what has worked in the past. Whether you use hourly and daily performance, best-selling promotions, or top-performing inventory analysis, looking back at the previous holiday season will provide invaluable data for this year. The old adage of history repeating itself does not fall flat during the holidays. Leverage all the data you have from previous years to ensure your success this year.