The holidays are nearly here, and PPC marketers are already in overdrive. As a rule of thumb, the holiday season means more impressions, more click-throughs and (hopefully!) higher conversion rates. However, there might be some paid search marketers out there who’re procrastinating and will dive into execution mode without spending some quality time building the right budgeting and bidding strategies for their campaigns. (Not you though, right?)
Fortunately, CommerceHub is no stranger to holiday and is ready to drop some quick tips to get you off and running, whether or not that’s to close that procrastination gap or to give you the reassurance that you’re ready to go.
Increase Daily Campaign Budgets in Preparation for Additional Traffic
As we all know, search traffic to retail sites tends to spike during the holiday season, starting in late October and staying up into the end of December.
Increased traffic from PPC campaigns means you’re probably spending more of your campaign budgets than usual, so you’ll want to increase holiday PPC budgets based on the YoY growth that you expect for each product category and/or brand. Don’t forget to account for a little extra cushion in your budgets, so you don’t have to make an eleventh-hour plea on Cyber Monday to keep things going.
To help determine what these budgets should be, set up automated reports in Google AdWords to keep track of how much your campaigns spend every day and send them to yourself. Do you see your campaigns exceeding the daily budgets during the holiday months? Time to up that daily budget limit specifically for the season.
Ramp Up Bids for Product Listing Ads (PLA) and Text Ads
Surprise, you’re going to have to increase the max cost per click (CPC). You and a hundred other PPC marketers are probably trying to get impressions for the same keywords and products, right this minute. And it’s not just on search engines like Google and Bing, but also on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
- Make sure your bids are competitive at the right time. Watch your keyword groups closely and don’t back down from a competitive bid if it’s not unreasonably high. Set and adjust bids based on expected demand. This is where your forecasting skills come into play. Dig out past data and combine it with recent trends in your bid patterns to arrive on the bids you’ll need to make for the same keywords this holiday season.
- Consider bidding multiple times in a day, especially for enterprise size accounts that have a number of popular keywords in multiple categories. Google can ingest and use submitted bids in under an hour (sometimes faster), even during the busiest times. If the volume of your traffic is enough to bring you the conversions fast enough, you’ll want to make adjustments more often, especially starting Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Bing Ads has increased its processing times with product ads as well this year, though it’s not as fast as Google. If your traffic volume does not justify intra-day bidding, focus on increasing bidding frequency overall – a few times a week, definitely more than once a week, or as per the specific demands of your campaign.
- Leverage benchmark max CPC data where available as a guide. To ensure your campaigns don’t miss out, target your bids to be at the benchmark or higher during this season. On high volume days, use intra-day total conversion value information available in Google AdWords to make well-informed bids.
Recognize Important Differences in Bing Ads versus Google AdWords
Bing Ads is slower to accept bid changes as compared to Google. During Holiday 2015, we saw it take up to 12 hours for a new bid to take effect. This year, Bing Ads has made significant improvements to speed that up, but the following still holds true on the approach to take when working with products ads specifically this year.
- Ramp up your spend on Bing Ads slower than Google AdWords. Don’t triple a daily campaign budget on the morning of Black Friday and expect it take full effect right away. Definitely plan a bigger buffer on Bing Ads and get your changes in place earlier. By the same token, prepare to pull back spend sooner on Bing Ads than AdWords, given that it might take more time to take effect in the reverse scenario as well.
- You might want to bid your most aggressive on Cyber 5 Weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday). However, do not pause campaigns on slower days like Saturday and Sunday. Instead, plan ahead to set less aggressive bids for these days to ensure a smooth campaign rollout. I would choose to control spend during this time by bidding over dropping/increasing campaign daily budgets – especially if there has historically been volatility or unpredictability in campaign performance.
- You can also apply bid adjustments by hour through the scheduled targeting feature on Bing Ads. If you choose to use this feature, make sure you include all hours of the day in your schedule, even for hours where no bid modifier is applied. For instance, if they only set Monday 9AM-5PM +10%, they will only deliver on Monday between 9 and 5 and by the time zone set at the campaign level.
- Check the titles of your products that you’re submitting via the feed for Product Ads. If multiple products have identical product names (even if they have different ID numbers), Bing Ads will only serve ONE of the products with that product name. Make sure to have unique titles to increase the eligibility of your product catalog for user queries.
Set Bids Appropriately and Anticipate CSE Channel Lag Times
Bing Ads is not unique in being slower than Google on recognizing intra-day bid updates. Many Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) present the same problem. Think about using a similar strategy as outlined above with Bing for these CSEs when it comes to submitting bid changes.
- The holidays are also the time when channel rate card prices go higher. Don’t let these rate hikes catch you off-guard. Identify all rate card increases that CSE channels will be implementing for Q4 now, and adjust your bids accordingly well in advance. Some of them are already active!
- Allow sufficient time for bid updates to be reflected after feeds are delivered. Different CSEs take varying times to process product feeds and bids. Here’s a snapshot of feed processing times for key CSEs:
- Connexity: 24-48 hours
- NexTag: 4-12 hours
- eBay Commerce Network: 24-48 hours
- Connexity: 24-48 hours
This is an improvement over previous years, where some CSEs would take up to 2 days to update bids!
Budget Smarter, Not Harder
If you have a paid search bid management platform to help you manage your bidding strategies, great. Just make sure that you know how often that platform will be making adjustments on your behalf. A less sophisticated platform may actually do more harm than good, and we often see managers turn them off or manually override edits since they’re not built to deal with the volume that the holidays can bring, especially during Black Friday weekend.
Make sure that when you’re adjusting portfolios or reviewing performance with those tools you’re removing or flattening out spikes in the reporting. A high conversion rate over the course of 4 days will make November look really good – better than it might actually be overall.
Don’t forget, it was an election year, which means that a lot of e-commerce sites’ performance would have seen a dip during that week, especially when compared to year over year numbers.
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