With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to make sure your Google Ads campaigns are fully prepared for what promises to be an extraordinary time for online retailers.
Whilst Black Friday and Christmas have traditionally caused a surge in online shopping, this year Google are anticipating unprecedented levels of traffic. Their recent survey found that more than a third of UK shoppers who normally shop in stores say they won’t this year, with 70% stating they will shop online more for the holidays than they did in previous seasons.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your campaigns are in the best position possible as we approach the festive season.
Whilst it’s not usually what most business owners want to hear – If you want to maintain your share of the pie, it’s crucial that your budgets reflect the uplift in traffic. Knowing exactly how much extra you should be investing can be tricky, but here is an insight into how utilising old data and an underused metric can help!
In the case of prepping for the Holiday period, data from seasons past can be a brilliant place to start when planning future budgets. When you’re looking back at your previous years’ performance with budget in mind, some key metrics you want to take note of here are Cost (obviously!) and, what I’d refer to as the unsung hero of metrics, Search Impression Share. Search impression share as explained by Google is “the impressions that you’ve received on the Search Network divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive.” In layman’s terms, this more or less is the percentage which shows the portion of your target audience that you’re showing ads to.
So how does this tie into budget planning?
If, for example, in 2019 your spend for October was £1,000 and your impression share was 75%, yet your spend on the same campaign for November was £2,000 and impression share was 50%, this indicates that your increased spend wasn’t enough to maintain your market share for the size of the growing audience, ultimately meaning your ads aren’t being seen by a large chunk of users actively searching for your services. This could give you an insight moving forward into how much extra you’ll need to invest to find that sweet spot of reaching a decent portion of your target audience, whilst staying within a reasonable budget.
In short, simply throwing money at Google during the holiday period is never a solution, but ensuring that a realistic, well-researched budget is in place and accounted for is essential for the success of your PPC campaigns.
The average user’s path to purchase is continuing to become more complex and long winded with each passing year. With Google reporting that 71% of U.K. holiday shoppers used three or more channels to do their holiday shopping last year, being present and standing out across those channels at varying stages will be more important than ever and your marketing efforts will need to reflect this. Whilst search campaigns will undoubtedly continue to play a huge role, this year relying on them alone may not be enough – so here are a couple of other areas to consider.
If your offering is product-led then it’s likely Shopping campaigns will be something you’re already running or have at least considered. When implemented properly, these campaigns can be highly effective, particularly over the busy Black Friday / Christmas period. If it is already a part of your online marketing mix, ensure that your feeds are fully optimised – this means double checking product titles and descriptions as well as keeping images up to date. If Shopping is something that you’re looking to add to your marketing plan, be sure to get the campaign up and running well in advance of the ‘Black Friday surge’. This will give both you and Google’s machine learning systems (more on these later!) plenty of time to not only iron out any kinks, but also to learn and optimise, putting your ads in the best position to succeed when interest is at its peak.
Another point to note: If you’re looking to do a specific promotion on your Shopping ads make sure you leave ample time to submit your promotions to Google, in order to ensure they’re live in time for Black Friday.
If you haven’t tried YouTube ads before, why not start now? In fact, Google reported that 79% of consumers used both Search and YouTube before making a purchase during the Christmas period last year. With the fantastic range of targeting options available, you can be laser-focused on raising awareness to the right audience for your product or service, during that crucial research phase. Better still, this can all be achieved in a cost effective manner (we see some campaigns achieve a cost per view of 1p!). This same idea also applies to Display advertising, where you can tactically show image-based ads to users based on their interests, demographics and more – all whilst on their favourite websites!
Whilst the above focuses mostly on reaching new audiences at the beginning of their journey, it’s just as important to be visible to these users further down the sales funnel. Whilst a well-run search campaign will be picking up users in the market for your offering, proactively putting ads in front of people who have previously visited your website can be an extremely powerful tool. This can be achieved through building meaningful remarketing lists within Google Analytics and will give you the ability to show your products to your most engaged customers as they browse their favourite websites or YouTube channels. With competition peaking during the Black Friday / Christmas period, being able to convert the most ‘low hanging fruit’ could be essential to your success.
Make the Most of your Search Ads
It may seem like an obvious point, but it’s often seen that advertisers don’t utilise every tool available to them when it comes to their search ads. With a limited amount of characters available within the ads themselves, it makes it difficult to get across all the great things your business can offer, whilst also trying to tie in some sales messaging. That’s where maximising the areas around the ads (Ad Extensions) becomes essential.
Sitelinks should already be a mainstay within your search campaigns, but during the holiday season, opportunities within these are often missed. In a broad sense, Sitelinks offer you the ability to present users with relevant sections of the website to the main ad that you’re showing them – typically filled with ‘About Us’ / ‘Contact Us’ type messaging. During the Black Friday / Christmas period, these extensions can be used a bit more tactically, by pushing offers for similar high-demand products or services to the user’s original search.
For example, if a user is searching for ‘Men’s Tennis Racket’, in an ideal world the main copy of your ad will reflect this. A sitelink gives you the opportunity to also tell the user about the fantastic 50% off sale that you have on Tennis Balls – whilst it’s not directly what the user searched for, it’s certainly something that may be of interest and can help you stand out from the crowd.
Callouts should also not be forgotten about – these provide you with short, 25 character sections which could help to concisely get across some key sales messaging. It’s also essential to make sure your price extensions are kept up-to-date and reflecting any offers or sales.
Perhaps the most crucial extension during this period though could be the Promotion extension, which effectively does what it says on the tin. These extensions give advertisers the opportunity to reference the occasion and promote sales without taking up characters in the headline or description of the ads themselves!
Where most advertisers’ initial focus will be on ensuring the copy within their text ads is ready to go, it’s vital to ensure that the extensions that go alongside them aren’t neglected and are utilised as another sales tool.
Black Friday and the Christmas period never fail to be volatile periods for online advertisers, with constant fluctuations in volumes, new search terms popping up at an increased rate and ever-evolving search habits. Due to the events of this year, we’d anticipate seeing this to an even higher degree this holiday season, meaning that there will be a certain amount of unpredictability and uncertainty heading into it.
What does this mean for Ads? Well, whilst there is still undoubtedly a place for ‘manual’ control of bids and adjustments in a world of automation, Google’s Smart Bidding offering could be the solution for many advertisers this festive season.
Smart bidding uses advanced machine learning algorithms, alongside a wide range of contextual signals (such as search query, time of day, device, to name a few) to optimise your bids. Simply put, if the signs point towards a potential user being likely to purchase on your site, you’ll pay more for their click and vice versa. What’s more – Smart bidding isn’t just restricted to search campaigns, you can use it across YouTube, Display & Shopping campaigns. In fact, Google report that in early testing, advertisers using Smart Shopping campaigns drove over 20% more conversion value on average at a similar cost.
“This sounds great – Shall I turn to smart bidding on Black Friday?”
In short, no. A misconception is that a turn to smart bidding will be a quick fix. Due to the systems being reliant on performance statistics from your account to optimise, we’ll often see gradual improvements in campaigns as they generate more data, with the early phases actually proving the most challenging. With this in mind, if you’re looking at utilising smart bidding over Black Friday and Christmas, ensure that there’s been an adequate testing period in the build-up to it. This allows you to see which Smart Bidding system works best for you and also provides the machine more time to build up a pool of data, which will ultimately result in better optimisation and therefore results.
In summary, more so than years gone by, we will see those who have put the most effort into preparation thrive during the Black Friday / Festive period. Whilst the digital marketing arena has become more unpredictable than ever, taking a measured, strategic approach towards your online advertising efforts will provide a solid foundation to build upon.
Ensuring your budgets are well thought out (and not just increased for the sake of it!), considering different channels to reach users across their purchasing journey, using all the tools available to you and taking advantage of Google’s machine learning systems should hold your campaigns in good stead and allow you to make the most of what the industry tips to be one of the most exciting times in the digital era.
I hear you! Christmas, CHRISTMAS?! Yep that’s right, it may be summer but now is the time to start thinking about the festive season and how you’re going to start planning Facebook ads to make the most out of advertising during this period.
In part one of this series, we will look at planning and preparation.
STEP 1: 5 – 6 months in advance (NOW!)
Lay the foundations
- Evaluate your tech needs – what we mean by this is look at your Facebook pixel, catalogues and tracking. Are they working effectively and do you need to make any optimisations for campaigns such as dynamic ads?
- Test and learn campaigns – you should be using AB split testing to determine what delivery and creative methods are working the best for you before the season kicks on so you are using the best ad strategies for your business. Here’s some things you could test:
- Do automatic placements improve conversion rates and cost?
- Which bidding strategy drives higher conversion volume?
- How should I consolidate audiences with campaign budget optimisation?
- Which create concepts resonate with key audiences?
- Which discount strategies are most effective?
- Do creative overlays improve conversion rates?
- Should I add static brand assets to dynamic creative?
STEP 2: 3 months to go
Build your audience
Start to generate interest in your product with prospecting campaigns and pre-awareness holiday campaigns:
- Brand awareness campaigns: Sometimes businesses stay away from using the brand awareness objectives as they are not optimised for ‘conversions’. However, brand awareness campaigns are really important in the run up to big events. By using brand awareness objectives in the run up to a big event, not only does your brand awareness increase, but it increases the intent of the user which in turn decreases the CPA and increases the CTR in the long term.
- Broad targeting: The latest motto at Facebook is ‘broader is better’. When I first started doing social ads, I loved using all the interest based targeting to get some lovely niche audiences. However, Facebook’s machine learning has got so good now that it knows who to show your ads to out of all the people in your broad audience. Just because you are targeting 2 million people, does not mean Facebook will try and show your advert to 2 million people! By going broader, I have found that the CPA’s and CPC’s are lower than if I go more specific with targeting. So, don’t be scared of placing your fishing net a little bigger, you could reap the benefits
- Lookalike campaigns: If you have not tried a lookalike campaign, then you should! It’s doing the hard work for you, Facebook will look for people that look like your desired audience. For example, you can ask it to look for people who look like your website visitors, purchasers and more.
- Dynamic Ads and broad audiences: By using dynamic adverts, you can personalise your ad sets with your product catalogue and different creatives. It’s like each of your dynamic adverts are a helpful sales person, introducing the top products that they know they will like, or reminding them of things they have already shown interest in.
STEP 3: 1 month to go
Ramp it up – Flash sales & stay in touch
The month running up to Christmas is when there are usually flash sales such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday and so this is a great time to really ramp up your prospecting and testing.
Forward planning is key to making your flash sales work. Facebook say that even for a sale that is only 3-4 days long, they recommend preparing 4-8 weeks in advance. Think about the phases in the run up to the flash sale, every business will have different timelines but here’s a template to consider:
- 4 weeks in advance – test creatives, acquire new customers through brand awareness and prospecting
- 2 weeks before – carry on testing and optimising creatives, start remarketing to your audiences, keep yourself top of mind
- Sales days – you should know by now which creative has worked the best. Do not touch the adverts otherwise you will reset the learning phase
STEP 4: The final few weeks
Heavy lifting complete
In the last 4 weeks, most of the heavy lifting has been done. You have already assessed tech needs, tested your delivery & creative strategies and built your audiences. Don’t start changing the adverts during the crucial sales period – keep your adverts out of the learning phase, this will keep the CPA’s down.
You might want to consider increasing bids and budgets for shopping days and also consider how close you are to the big day. The closer you are to Christmas, consumers are less concerned about price and more concerned about delivery speed and collecting offline. Here, you can leverage creative overlays to highlight expected shipping services, digital gift cards and offline collection services if you offer them.
Another aspect you need to consider during peak is your communication. People increasingly expect to speak to business in the same way they speak to their friends and family. 64% of people prefer messaging to call and email and 1 in 2 people wish they could communicate to more businesses through messaging. Think about your communication channels and how easy it is for consumers to get in contact with you.
POST HOLIDAY TACTICS
So, we’re finally here, peak holiday season is over, but after all that effort to build brand and find new audiences and drive sales, don’t forget to keep your audience engaged. You could retarget ads to high value holiday purchases with dynamic ads, highlight post holiday sales and introduce new merchandise.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss creative considerations!
The ups and downs of your mood during the pandemic. You’re loving lockdown one minute but suddenly weepy with anxiety the next. It truly is “an emotional coronacoaster”.
Experimental cocktails mixed from whatever random ingredients you have left in the house. The boozy equivalent of a store cupboard supper. Southern Comfort and Ribena quarantini with a glacé cherry garnish, anyone? These are sipped at “locktail hour”, ie. wine o’clock during lockdown, which seems to be creeping earlier with each passing week.
Blue Skype thinking
A work brainstorming session which takes place over a videoconferencing app. Such meetings might also be termed a “Zoomposium”. Naturally, they are to be avoided if at all possible.
Le Creuset wrist
It’s the new “avocado hand” – an aching arm after taking one’s best saucepan outside to bang during the weekly ‘Clap For Carers.’ It might be heavy but you’re keen to impress the neighbours with your high-quality kitchenware.
As opposed to millennials, this refers to the future generation of babies conceived or born during coronavirus quarantine. They might also become known as “Generation C” or, more spookily, “Children of the Quarn”.
Wine consumed in an attempt to relieve the frustration of not working. Also known as “bored-eaux” or “cabernet tedium”.
An overdose of bad news from consuming too much media during a time of crisis. Can result in a panicdemic.
The elephant in the Zoom
The glaring issue during a videoconferencing call that nobody feels able to mention. E.g. one participant has dramatically put on weight, suddenly sprouted terrible facial hair or has a worryingly messy house visible in the background.
An attention-seeker using their time in lockdown to make amateur films which they’re convinced are funnier and cleverer than they actually are.
Covidiot or Wuhan-ker
One who ignores public health advice or behaves with reckless disregard for the safety of others can be said to display “covidiocy” or be “covidiotic”. Also called a “lockclown” or even a “Wuhan-ker”.
The sudden fear that you’ve consumed so much wine, cheese, home-made cake and Easter chocolate in lockdown that your ankles are swelling up like a medieval king’s.
Using health precautions as an excuse for snubbing neighbours and generally ignoring people you find irritating.
Someone so alarmed by an innocuous splutter or throat-clear that they back away in terror.
Extra make-up applied to “make one’s eyes pop” before venturing out in public wearing a face mask.
The 10lbs in weight that we’re all gaining from comfort-eating and comfort-drinking. Also known as “fattening the curve”.
…and finally, finally: One sentence to sum up 2020, so far: At one point this week, 1 loo roll was worth more than a barrel of crude oil!
Google is making the majority of product listings in the Shopping tab FREE for merchants!
**UPDATED 5th October 2020**
From Mid October 2020, it will be free to list your products in Google Shopping in the UK and Europe through the Merchant Centre.
Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.
For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we’ll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months. Link to announcement>
WHAT IT MEANS TO ADVERTISERS:
- Advertisers are now automatically opted in to “surfaces across Google” which means that free listings will be eligible on the Shopping tab. To check, go to the Growth tab in Merchant Centre under Manage Programmes
- We don’t think that this is actually going to to have a major impact on advertisers since, despite the large volume of listings on the Shopping tag, the majority of Shopping ad clicks come from the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), and this will remain an exclusively paid for ‘surface’
- There will still be paid listings in the Shopping tab – probably at the top and bottom
WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?
- The first reason Google is taking this path is in response to the massive gain in product advertising share for Amazon in the last few years.
- Secondly, it will raise the profile of the Shopping tab, and appeal to consumers as well as advertisers. Potential new advertisers can ‘try before they buy’ and become familiar with the platform before deciding whether to pay for product ads.
- The change will raise awareness of the Shopping platform
- Lastly, in Europe at least, it improves Google’s argument that it is opening Shopping to competition, complying with the EU’s competition ruling that saw the company fined $2.4bn in 2017
Tell us a bit about yourself…
After spending three years at University in Bristol and graduating with a degree in Business Management, I came back to sunny old Devon to pursue a career in digital marketing. Having spent the last 3 years working as a Digital Manager within a full-service marketing agency, I recently joined the team at Launch Online to further hone my craft and surround myself with fellow PPC geeks!
What’s your job role at Launch Online?
Account Manager, where I’ll usually be working across a wide range of clients which involves analysing and optimising digital activity, ensuring that online marketing efforts are as effective and efficient as possible. Due to current events, my role has changed slightly, where I’m now using my experience in web usability, to provide our clients with valuable insights as to how they can make their customer’s online journey more seamless and ultimately drive more conversions, in what is a difficult time for most businesses.
What would a typical day look like for you?
I’m not sure I’ve come across a typical day yet! First thing, I’ll usually catch up with the rest of the team, and then will begin to crack on with whatever tasks come my way. These can vary from assisting my colleagues, to auditing accounts internally or exploring client websites and researching their competitors. I also always try and put some time aside to learn new skills, and keep up to date with the latest goings-on in the world of PPC. Right now I am learning advanced Google Tag Manager skills!
What is something you look forward to everyday?
Learning something new about the fast-evolving world of digital marketing! Outside of that, it’ll be checking in on performance after making tweaks to a campaign, or finding new ways to improve our clients’ websites.
What do you like most about your job at Launch Online?
The team dynamic is great, and as well as being good fun, provides a strong foundation for creative thinking and new ideas. I’m relishing the opportunity to learn from the rest of the team, who all have their own unique wealth of experience.
How do you wind down after a day at work?
Outside of work, I’ll usually be found kicking a football around, watching a gritty crime drama, eating too much or re-repairing some poorly constructed DIY I’ve already put together at home!
About Launch Online
Launch Online is a Google Premier Partner offering Digital Advertising & Marketing services to clients across the UK & Europe with offices in Devon, Cornwall & Leeds.
1 Barnfield Crescent
1 Higher Trevornick Business Park, Atlantic Highway
Tel: 0333 222 4035