10 Tips To Get Ready For Holiday SEM Craziness

While many people look forward to the holidays as a time to unwind, open presents, and take family vacations, life is far from bucolic for many SEM pros between Thanksgiving and Christmas. ’Tis the season for wild fluctuations in bids (upwards) and make-or-break ad buys. As an early Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus gift, here are 10 tips to maximize your holiday SEM.

1.     Prepare to engage in intra-day bidding. Bidding competition for top terms is fierce during the holidays. While Google doesn’t allow you to see your position in real-time via the AdWords UI, you can simply do searches for your top queries on Google and see if you are ranking high enough. If you get outbid, you can quickly up your bids that day – waiting for tomorrow may be too late.

2.     Coordinate with your merchandizing team in advance. Do everything you can to offer free shipping, guaranteed delivery, and gift wrapping. Get this set up now to be ready for the holidays.



3.     Understand the real significance of Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the beginning of the online shopping period, not the peak. Most retailers see peak traffic in the second or even third week of December.

4.     Know your competitors’ ship dates. If you can guarantee Christmas delivery a few days after your competitors can, save your budget to spend like crazy once your competition goes dark!

5.     Change messaging by date. Buyer behavior changes as the season progresses. Early shoppers (e.g. November) are well-organized and looking for bargains. Last-minute shoppers are afraid of not getting a gift to a loved one on time and want guarantees of availability and delivery.

6.     Set your campaign and ad group budgets appropriately. The combination of massive CPC spikes (sometimes three times as high as average) and equally large spikes in click volume will drain your campaign and ad group budgets very quickly. Set budgets high enough to handle all the traffic.

7.     Try persistent promotions. A lot of retailers like to run concurrent 48-to-72-hour sales throughout the holidays. For example, you might offer a Cyber Monday sale of 30% off all orders, and then on the following Tuesday offer $20 off any order over $100 for a few days. Creating time-specific offers drives urgency and differentiation.

8.     Adjust LTV. If you bid based on expected lifetime value (LTV), know that buyer behavior in the holidays is totally different than behavior outside the holidays, simply because buyers are purchasing for others and not for themselves. As such, the LTV of a buyer might be totally different than your normal customer.

9.     Work weekends. Please don’t shoot the messenger! During peak holiday shopping periods, if you aren’t paying attention to your campaigns on the weekend, you are likely going to miss major traffic opportunities and get out-flanked (from a bidding or ad text perspective) by the competition.

10.  Learn from last year. Though your product mix and top sellers might be totally different than what was hot last year, there is still tremendous value in looking at your historical data to predict this year’s holiday performance. Time of day, day of week, geography, ad text, device performance  -- all  these factors hould be analyzed and used to make smart decisions in 2014.

Hope these help. Have a coffee on me when you get to work on Saturday morning in early December!

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