Eight-step PPC checklist for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Lottie Namakando

Head of Paid Media

With the global pandemic dominating this year, it’s safe to say 2020 has been an unpredictable one. Now, just a few weeks away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), we’re starting to think about what to expect.

One of the many impacts of COVID-19 has been accelerated digital adoption. According to Google, physical shop footfall has dropped year on year (YoY), and consumers will continue to shop more and more online. But reports by Numerator showed that although Prime Day 2020 saw a 2.42x increase in sales, on average, consumers spent less compared to 2019.

So while in previous years we’ve talked about BFCM revenue growth expectations and setting accounts up to capitalise on this, this year it feels more important to discuss how to maximise BFCM, no matter the path it takes.

Want to make sure your ecommerce business is fully prepared for Friday 27th November? Follow this eight-step PPC checklist.

1. Plan, monitor and adapt

The key for 2020? Have a plan, but monitor the market and be ready to adapt.

In recent years, BFCM has ceased to only refer to the weekend period, with increased purchase intent spreading into the week before, creating an earlier, longer peak period. So, while it’s important to have a solid plan in place for the weekend itself, the key will be capitalising on traffic – and potentially lower costs-per-click (CPCs) – early on, making sure you don’t miss the boat.

Although right now things are unpredictable and tough to plan for, you can use tools like Google’s Rising Retail Categories report to spot changes in search interest and identify fast-rising retail categories and opportunities. You can also use tools such as Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility ReportCOVID-19 Community Mobility Report to understand how people are responding to changes in policies and how this might impact your business over this time.  

And as we approach Christmas, when deciding on your strategy and copy messaging, make sure you’ve factored in any changes to last postal dates this year compared to previous.

2. Budget and bids

Traffic and competition will increase considerably over BFCM weekend, so be prepared to adjust your budgets, and review your bidding strategy targets and performance.  

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 avoid 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.

  • Use Smart Bidding in conjunction with seasonal adjustments. In 2019, we ran with auction-time bidding throughout peak and found that by using seasonal adjustments, bidding strategies were able to cope with the huge fluctuations in conversion rate and traffic we see in peak periods.

Don’t be tempted to change your bidding strategy targets too often. Bidding strategies require a learning phase, and making changes to them in this period disrupts their ability to learn and can cause you problems.

3. 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.

In addition to your keyword targeted campaigns, you can use Dynamic Search Ads to make sure you don’t miss any extra or newly-trending relevant search queries. Just make sure you negative out your target search terms from your standard search campaigns.

4. Audiences

Understanding who is now searching and interacting with your brand is important. With changes in online search behaviour and new audiences going online in 2020, we recommend reviewing what your audience profile now looks like and how it compares to previous years. This will help you build your strategy.

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 in-market and affinity audiences to reach the people your brand is most likely to resonate with.

  • Get prepared for 2021 by creating separate audiences of consumers who visited your site in key periods throughout 2020. You can remarket to them over the same period next year. Just remember to close your audience after the event, so you have audiences built of visitors you know interacted with your website over those key times this year. For example, try creating a BFCM 2020 ‘website visit’ audience in your audience library which you open to collect visitors on the 23rd of November and then close on the 1st of December.

5. Ad copy

Maximise your search engine result page (SERP) impact by making use of the third headline and second description line in 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!

Top tip: Why not create ad copy which is tailored not only to the search term but to an audience as well? With so much data available to enrich your targeting beyond just the keyword, you can make your ad copy more engaging by using language or USPs that resonate with a particular audience. 

  • 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.

6. 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.

  • Look at 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 if you’re not already (only available on Google Ads). Test running them alongside your standard shopping campaigns. Smart shopping gains retailers more product inventory exposure across three different networks – Google search, Google Display Network, Gmail and YouTube – driving traffic to your online shop.

7. Landing page experience

Make sure your landing pages are consistent with your PPC ads, 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.

8. 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, monitor and adapt, organising your strategy as early as possible to deliver a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaign. But be prepared to move with a market that’s responding to uncertainty. 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? Please get in touch at results@icrossing.co.uk – we’d love to help!

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