7-step PPC checklist for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Emma Burnham

We’re just a few weeks away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) 2019, so it’s time to get in gear for another year of record revenue.

According to IMRG, online Black Friday sales continued the trend for year-on-year growth in 2018, reaching £1.49bn – up +7.3% on 2017. And as BFCM falls in line with November pay day this year, we can expect even greater revenue.

Want to make sure your ecommerce business is fully prepared for Friday 29th November? Follow this seven-step PPC checklist.

1. Budget and bids

Traffic and competition will increase considerably over BFCM weekend, so be prepared to adjust your budgets and bids constantly. It’s important to make necessary bid adjustments, but be wary of getting into a bidding war that could affect your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Key points that can help you manage your budget efficiently:

  • Increase your budget. We recommend forecasting a 10-20% increase in overall budget from last year’s BFCM. This additional budget will allow you to increase your bids a few weeks before the actual event, catching the demand of users who like to get ahead of the game. It will also contribute to budget flexibility, and you should make sure you increase your campaign’s budget to avoid it running out early in the day.

  • Set campaign alerts. Budget alerts are key to avoiding missed opportunities caused by budget constraint. Make sure your campaign settings are not ‘standard delivery’; this option works based on historical data – it can’t understand anything about a surge in traffic on a single day.

  • Maximise mobile bids during the day. In 2018, mobile purchases counted for more than a third of UK sales on Black Friday.

  • Use Smart Bidding. In 2018, we recommended manual bidding to stay ahead of the curve. Having tested auction-time bidding extensively in 2019, we’d recommend using bid strategies over BFCM as it’s now able to cope with the huge fluctuations in conversion rate and traffic we see in peak periods.

2. Keywords

Review last year’s performance and identify what bids got you into first position. Did any keywords turn out to be more or less competitive? Did generic terms add any benefit to your business? Optimise your PPC campaigns for the seasonal period by tunnelling deep into your keyword research. It’s essential for bringing more traffic to your site from the most relevant audience.

  • Use non-brand terms to build up awareness, but avoid overspending on them. According to Google research, users tend to search with generic terms in early November, then narrow down their query with branded terms just before Black Friday. 

  • Don’t bid on generic terms like ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’. These terms can be very competitive and too broad. Add them as negatives to your campaigns instead.

  • Review your keywords and implement branded promo terms, e.g. branded + Black Friday, branded + sale, branded + deals. People will be searching for those Black Friday bargains, so nailing your keywords is important. Use Google Ads and Bing’s search query report to build a keyword portfolio of terms searched in the months up to BFCM.

  • Consider Christmas terms. They’re likely to have a higher search volume over BFCM in 2019, as Cyber Monday falls in December. So if you rely on these for revenue, make sure they’re well covered.

3. Ad Copy

Make the most of Google’s recent product and feature updates for search ads, like a third headline and second description line for expanded text ads, and responsive search ads to capitalise on Google’s machine-learning. They’re a great way to show tailored ad copy to your audience.

Your ad copy is key, so make it as appealing and visible as possible by doing the following…

  • Plan your strategy early. Confirm promotions, write the ad copy and get it signed off with weeks to spare. Focus all traffic through BFCM offer ads and switch off all other ad copy.

  • Align your PPC ads with on-site messaging and emphasise the seasonal offer or promotion by adding BFCM references.

  • Count down. Create a sense of urgency with your ad copy, making it clear that your Black Friday offers are only valid for a limited time over the weekend. Shoppers won’t want to miss out!

  • Set up ad copy extensions including price, sitelinks, callouts and structured snippets. Ad extensions are crucial in determining your adverts’ ad rank, but also encourage additional clicks to the site through the extra information displayed.

  • Set up automated rules to activate/pause your ads at certain times. This will help you be more efficient. Just make sure you double check that all the rules are reflecting the promotions offered on site and for the correct times.

4. Audience

As with any paid search campaign, make sure your audience depth (the percentage of spend running through a pre-defined audience bucket) is as high as possible. To reach the right people…

  • Retarget past visitors and customers through remarketing lists, especially basket abandoners and past converters.

  • Upweight bids for returning users. Create a budget hierarchy and bid higher on the most valuable customer.

  • Use customer relationship management (CRM). Review your VIP customers who purchased high-value products on Black Friday last year and give them the chance to access the sale earlier or offer exclusive discounts.

  • Build lookalike audiences to the above user groups. This will help you find users searching in the same way as your existing ones.

  • Use Google’s in-market audiences to reach the people your brand is most likely to resonate with.

5. Shopping

Maximise your product visibility and implement all features and product launches within Google Ads and Bing. These are the four most important steps:

  • Optimise your shopping feed. Make sure you have as many products available as possible by fixing disapprovals.

  • Increase exposure by reactivating non-brand campaigns and increasing bids based on priority labels like seasonal (bestsellers), stock, price (competitive price against resellers) and margin (focus on profit against revenue).

  • Showcase offers and promotions to shoppers for standard shopping campaigns (on Google and Bing) by taking advantage of the 45-character promotional text field.

  • Implement smart shopping campaigns (only available on Google Ads) to run alongside your standard shopping campaigns. Smart shopping gains retailers more product inventory exposure across three different networks – Google search, Gmail and YouTube, driving traffic to your online shop.

6. Landing page experience

Make sure your landing pages are consistent with your PPC by providing the best user experience on site. Landing page optimisation is crucial for special offers and deals, making it obvious that customers are in the right place and that you’re actually offering what you advertise.

  • Optimise your site to improve conversion rates. Create a sense of urgency by adding a countdown banner for when specific sales will end.

  • Prepare for lots of traffic. As expected during this period, ecommerce sites will experience a huge increase in traffic – especially from mobile devices. So make sure your site is ready to deal with this surge.

  • Minimise the user journey to product pages (it should involve as few clicks as possible) and optimise your site’s checkout process. This will lead to an increase in sales.

Remember: online visitors are impatient and competition will be high, so make sure the increase in traffic won’t slow down or crash your site. Any interruption can result in unhappy customers, a negative opinion of your business and a loss of revenue.

7. Monitor, analyse and optimise

It’s important to track all metrics on your ecommerce site.

Gather useful insights from Google Analytics and other real-time tracking tools. The data will help you to understand the performance of your business through the BFCM period, giving you the chance to learn what worked and what needs to be improved for the next year. It’s worth setting up automated trackers in advance, giving you the data and insights you need to make quick decisions over BFCM, not just retrospectively. More time should be spent optimising your activity than pulling reports.

In summary: prepare, plan and organise your strategy as early as possible to deliver a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaign. Discounts are clearly important, but delivering an exceptional customer experience is key to retaining your existing audience and gaining new users.

Need help with your PPC activity? Contact us on results@icrossing.co.uk

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