Peak planning for PPC

Rob Dennis

Paid Media Manager

Get more from your PPC activity this season

As we’re heading into peak season for retail clients, we’re going to look at what you can do to get more from your PPC activity to make this Black Friday and Christmas season a success.

Ad Copy

Testing Ad Copy

To better understand what messaging resonates best with your audience and improve performance, test your ad copy during the build-up and throughout your peak period.

Ad copy themes that you could test include:

  • Product: price competitiveness, ease of use, USPs over the competition, effectiveness etc.

  • Service: quality, convenience, speed etc.

  • Company: experience, pricing, quality, convenience etc.

You can also create audience-specific campaigns and tailor your ad copy to address the specific needs of a potential customer. For example, if you sold laptops, a video games enthusiast would be more interested in their different aspects than a business professional.

Adding countdown timers to your search ads will encourage potential customers to act, as they’ll add scarcity during the promotional period. They can also be used to grow excitement in the build-up to the promotional period too, encouraging searchers to sign-up for your mailing list.

To get maximum exposure for your offer, add any promotional discounts to your ad copy.

Key takeaways:

  1. Ensure that you analyse which ad copy performed the best after the peak period, as this can be used to optimise your “business-as-usual” ad copy, as well as inform your messaging in future peak-period ads.

  2. Tailor your ad copy to your audience as much as possible.

  3. Add countdown timers to increase scarcity and encourage action.

Ad Extensions

An easy way to build your potential customer pool prior to the sales period is to use Google’s lead form extensions across your existing campaigns. Use lead form extensions to build your first-party data audiences prior to the sales launch.

Make sure that you have promotion extensions added to all your search campaigns to help increase the awareness of your active promotions.

It’s also important that you maximise the SERP real estate available to you by adding promotion-specific ad extensions across all extension types, including promotional sitelinks, callouts, and price extensions.

Key takeaways:

  1. Add promotion extensions across your paid search activity to ensure your promotional offers get maximum exposure from an interested audience.

  2. Implement lead form extensions before your sales period launching so that you have as many emails as possible that you can contact when your offer goes live.

  3. Give your promotion as much coverage as possible through tailored ad extensions.


Making use of labels for your ads or campaigns will help you segment your sale-specific activity from your business-as-usual activity. You can allocate budgets, automate, analyse performance and optimise more efficiently by filtering the campaigns via the label.

Top tips:

1. It’s easier to create and apply labels to campaigns within the Google Ads Editor.

2. When creating your automated rules, always preview them first to ensure that they’ll work as expected.

Set up


Review demand uplifts from previous peak periods through changes in impression share and use these changes in demand to inform your budget allocation for peak. Knowing these changes will help you make informed budget decisions.

Upload in advance

Make sure any sale-specific campaign creatives are uploaded and ready to go plenty of time in advance of the sale going live. This is to ensure that Google approves the ads prior to launch.

Top tips:

  1. Creating your campaigns via the Google Ads Editor is quicker and safer than creating them in the interface, as you can upload multiple campaigns in bulk and double-check that the settings are correct before going live.

Device bid adjustments

If you spot differences in performance during a sales period versus a non-sales period, then it would be prudent to adjust your device bids during the promotional period to maximise the benefits that these changes in behaviour will bring. If you’re using automated bid strategies, these adjustments suggest what devices should be prioritised instead of necessarily adjusting the bids.

Ad scheduling

Whilst Google is pretty good at adapting to peaks in demand, you can help it drive more performance by applying an ad schedule. The best way to build your ad schedule is to review your previous performance during other sales periods and build it based on this data. If you’re using automated bid strategies, these adjustments suggest to the automation what hours and days should be prioritised instead of necessarily adjusting the bids.

Product feed

If you’re running Shopping campaigns and discounting products during the promotional period, utilise the ‘sale_price’ parameter within your shopping feed along with the ‘promotion_effective_dates’ parameter to tell Google that your products are discounted and how long they’re discounted for. This will help to avoid pricing mismatch issues.

Adding a promotional feed to your Merchant Center account will help you manage promotions. This is particularly helpful if you’re running multiple offers at once across various products or categories or making use of promo codes.

Top tip:

Apply your sales data from a feed rather than manually adding it, to speed up the process of applying your promotions.



Making full use of the available audiences on Google will help to ensure you’re reaching the people who are most likely to purchase from you and become valuable customers. Refining your audience strategy will allow you to limit spending on poor performers and reallocate it to those most likely to convert. If you’re using automated bid strategies, any bid adjustments only suggest to the automation what audiences should be prioritised instead of necessarily adjusting the bids.

  • First-party data – Targeting previous, repeat or your most-valuable purchasers based on their customer lifetime value can help develop greater loyalty. It’s also worth considering those that haven’t purchased within the past year, as you could look to re-engage these lapsed customers. The great advantage of using first-party data on Google is the platform can create similar audiences, which will help you to easily find additional customers.

  • Remarketing – Creating remarketing lists of those that have shown purchase intent, such as “adding to cart” or “checkout abandoners”, and advertising to them to complete the purchase increases the likelihood of these people successfully completing their purchase.

  • Custom – This is an extremely effective way in reaching a highly relevant audience who may have otherwise not been aware of your brand. You can target those that have visited your competitors’ websites, searching for black Friday deals and those that are searching for generic terms relating to your products.

  • In-Market – Target the audiences interested in particular products and services, as well as target the available seasonal shopping audiences, such as online black Friday shopping and online Christmas shopping. A good way to identify the most effective audiences is to review which of these are the main sales drivers within your Google Analytics account.

  • Combined Audiences – Build combined audiences to reach a very specific audience through and/or logic. For example, you may be running a sale on children’s football boots; by creating a combined audience you’d be able to target parents who are looking for football equipment to gift to their child for Christmas. You shouldn’t be too granular with your combinations, as your ads may not serve.

  • Cross-Channel Audiences – Use UTM parameters if you’re running paid social activity, as you will be able to remarket to users that have engaged through your other marketing activities through Google.

  • Peak Audiences – Ensure that you create audiences that have engaged with your ads during your promotional period so you can reuse them next year or in other sales periods.

  • Affinity – Target those with browsing habits and interests similar to your market positioning, as well as generic ones such as shopping enthusiasts or luxury shoppers. Review the best-performing affinity audiences in your Google Analytics account to find the most relevant.

  • Exclusions - Excluding those that have recently purchased during the promotional period, will help you reach new customers and minimise wasted spend on those who’ve already purchased.

Seasonal Adjustments

Setting seasonal adjustments allows you to tell the search engines how much of a change you expect to see in conversion rate during a promotional period. Set this as granularly as reasonably possible, as this will help the search algorithms adjust to the changes brought about from your sales period and then swiftly return to normal.

Top tip:

1. Always compare the sale period with the same length of time immediately prior to its launch. Calculate the percentage difference between these dates and use this difference as your adjustment. For example, if the conversion rate changed from 5% to 6.25%, you need to set the adjustment to +25% as the conversion rate increased by 25%.

Bid strategies

Given the popularity of Black Friday and the festive sales period, there may be increased competition in the market compared to other times of the year. Because of this increase in demand and competition, Google may feel that it’s unable to meet your normal ROAS or CPA goals; costing you sales volume and negatively impacting promotion performance.

You may be able to drive more volume from your campaigns by adjusting your targets to a lower level that the search engine may find easier to achieve. We recommend not adjusting by more than 15% from the current performance to ensure performance isn’t compromised.

Bidding for new customers

Bidding up for new customers can help you grow your customer base. Ensure that you analyse historical data from previous promotional periods to understand how lucrative these new customers are for you when setting this amount.

Key takeaway:

Calculate your customer lifetime value before the launch of your promotionto fully understand how much a new customer who made their first purchase during this period is worth to you.

What to do post-peak?

When your sales period has ended, it’s critical to analyse the performance of your audiences, ad copy tests and campaignto plan more efficiently for future sales periods. Key things to analyse to inform future campaigns and business-as-usual activity are:

  • Ad copy: which messaging performed the best

  • Audiences: which audiences drove the most sales and were the most profitable

  • Campaign performance: which campaigns or campaign types were the best performers

Top three takeaways

As you can see by the scope of this guide, there are many things you can do during the shopping peak to improve your paid search performance. However, there are three actionable takeaways that will help you get more from your peak paid search activity and during your business-as-usual period:

  1. Test your Ad copy – Testing your ad copy helps you better understand what matters to your target audience and this knowledge can then be fed into other aspects of your digital marketing strategy, including social media and on-site copy.

  2. Develop an audience strategy – Developing an audience strategy will help you identify and learn more about those who are interested in your brand as well improve brand loyalty.

  3. Understand the value of your customers – Knowing how much a new customer obtained during your peak season, you can then more accurately inform your marketing activity in the build-up to, during and post-peak period. You’ll be able to bid more efficiently and should see more profitable results in the long term.

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