I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the holidays are approaching faster than you can imagine. Black Friday is just over a month away, with Christmas not long after that. Many businesses will think they have plenty of time to prepare for the holidays.
Sorry to say it, but those businesses are wrong. If you are not preparing for the holiday shopping blitz now, you are falling behind.
I Don’t Even Know Where to Begin!
Don’t worry about not knowing where to begin when it comes to preparing for the holiday shopping season. That’s what this guide is here for!
There are ways to avoid this kid’s terrible (but hilarious) fate. The first is to know your target audience. For example, did you know that more than 70% of Bing’s audience is over 34 years old and a third of their audience makes over $100,000 a year?
In other words, if you are targeting a younger audience, Bing may not be a priority. Knowing your audience is such an important part of having online success and it is mind-blowing how many companies miss out on this.
The second step is figuring out where your product or service is going to have the most success. Are you an e-commerce website using Google Shopping Campaigns? Are you a b2b business? Don’t feel left out, the holidays can work in your favor, too!
Like I said above, don’t worry if you don’t know where to begin. The following 8 tips are the perfect starting point to making sure you have a successful holiday season!
If you have an e-commerce site, there is no reason to not run Google Shopping ads. Shopping should be your bread and butter this holiday season.
One of the things I like the most about Shopping is that the ads are a combination of Search and visual ads. The user sees a picture of the item and also relevant information pulled from your feed by Google.
This brings me to the most important thing you can do when running a Google Shopping campaign: Optimize your feed! Without feed optimization, Google will not be able to show your product for the right searches. Along with that, if your feed is optimized, Google will be able to automatically pull information such as free shipping and place it in your Product Ads.
I recently wrote about the mobile-friendly changes to Google Shopping, be sure to check out my blog post for more details.
During the holiday shopping season, it is more important than ever to keep your feed as updated as possible. What do you think happens if someone clicks on an ad for a product, only to find out that you are sold out? They go somewhere else. Don’t miss out on sales because of poor feed management.
Along with feed optimization, it is important to make sure that your Shopping campaigns are completely optimized.
One trend that we have recently noticed is that bidding lower than what you think would work can actually give your campaigns a huge boost.
For example, we have drastically cut bids in one of our client’s Shopping campaigns over the last two months and we have seen the number of conversions double between August and October, with October looking like it will be the highest amount of conversions from Shopping the account has ever recorded.
Like I mentioned before, Shopping should be your bread and butter this holiday season. Make sure both the feed and campaigns are optimized to their fullest potential and you will have a great start to holiday shopping success.
Ever feel like some ads are following you around like some kind of creepy stalker? More than likely, you’ve been to that company’s site and they are targeting you based on the pages you went to, how long you were on the site, or even if you placed something in your cart and then did not check out.
When done right, retargeting is far from creepy. It can actually take your accounts to the next level when it comes to low-cost conversions. This is the nice thing about retargeting: based on how your audiences are built, you can segment customers by intent.
If you have an audience for an informational page such as About Us, you know that there is some interest, but the customer is probably not ready to buy yet. You can tailor ads specifically for that audience with messaging to entice them to come back and learn more.
Along with that, if you have an audience for cart abandoners, you know there was intent to buy there but something changed that. If you create ads that give the customer a reason to come back, you can create conversions from missed opportunities. Below are the two types of retargeting that you should be using this holiday season:
RLSA (Retargeting Lists for Search Ads)
This is retargeting through the Search network instead of the traditional method over the Display network (we’ll get into this below.) What’s great about RLSA is the ability to target people who have already been to your site and then deliver a different message to them, which sounds tailor-made for the holiday season, right?
People clicking on Search ads show much more intent than those that click on Display ads. If you can find a way to change the messaging in your ads for those that have already been to your site, do you think they would be more likely to convert? I do.
People love to feel like something is being personalized for them. If they put something in their cart, you have a chance to tell them why they should come back and finish their order. Don’t miss out on being able to draw them back in.
This should be your go-to on the Display Network. I’ve yet to find a good reason why a company should not be running retargeting ads. This is the easiest way to reach people who have already been to your site.
You will not find the same level of intent using Display ads as you would using RLSAs, but since they have already been to your site, they are already familiar with what you offer, making them more likely to click and convert.
Like RLSAs, tailoring the message of the ad to their level of intent is a great way to bring customers back to your site. Each step in your purchasing funnel can have a different type of message, all with the purpose of bringing the customer back to the site to convert.
Like I said earlier, some users find ads following them around to be a bit creepy. This is why it is important to put a cap on the amount of impressions a retargeting ad can make to a user in one day. We all know that people become blind to ads they have seen over and over again, so it is important to make sure you are not hammering potential customers with ads.
Like Shopping, retargeting is too important to ignore this holiday season. Reaching new customers is great and should always be an area of emphasis, but what about those that have been to your site and already have an idea about what you offer? Don’t miss out on those customers.
Think Google is your only option when it comes to search engine advertising? Think again. Bing can be a great secondary platform to use to reach your target audience. Why would you want to pass up 20% of the search market?
Bing does not have the reach Google has, but it has an audience that has spending power. Bing is great for reaching those that are not as tech-savvy (*cough* parents and grandparents *cough*) because they are less likely to use a browser other than Internet Explorer.
With Bing, you are more likely to pay less per click and have a higher click-through rate. For one of my clients in a more expensive industry, their average cost per click in AdWords is around $10 with a click-through rate of around 2%. In Bing, the average CPC is around $3 with a CTR of around 7%. That’s a huge difference! Yes, there is less traffic in Bing, but to semi-quote the modern day quasi-philosopher Rasheed Wallace “Stats Don’t Lie.”
Bing has a very exciting new option for this holiday season. You can finally use retargeting in Bing!
To use this feature, you must place Bing’s new Universal Event Tracking code on your site and build audiences in Bing’s Shared Library, much like Google. Bing’s ads even work like Google’s RLSAs. This is a great opportunity to reach customers that have visited your site but do not use Google.
I’ve written about mobile before and I am still a Guru according to Google, so I won’t babble on in this section.
The most important thing I hope to have you walk away with from this section is to make sure mobile customers can use your site! Why make mobile specific ads if the experience on your site for a mobile user is terrible?
Even if your site is not mobile-friendly, there are ways around this. Using a landing page creation service, which we will cover below, is a great way to make sure that your user experience for mobile visitors is a good one.
If your site is mobile-friendly, make sure users know that ordering on mobile is simple and efficient. Since you can create mobile-specific ads, call that out!
The last thing to keep in mind is your ad’s position on mobile. According to Google, the top position on mobile gets 75% of clicks. While Google has been experimenting with three mobile ads, there are usually only two. If you are not in one of those positions, your ad is not going to get clicked on.
Mobile usage has been exploding over the last few years and will continue to trend in the upward direction. Make sure you are doing all you can to create a simple and efficient mobile experience for your customers.
Did you know people spend almost two hours a day on social media? That number represents about 28 percent of all online activity. Your customers are using social media, so why aren’t you advertising there?
Almost all of the major social networks offer some sort of advertising. Facebook’s advertising features continue to become more robust, with new features for ecommerce and mobile advertisers being released almost weekly it seems.
Just in time for the holidays, Pinterest has rolled out Buyable Pins for stores using specific ecommerce platforms. If your store uses Bigcommerce, Demandware, IBM Commerce, Magento, or Shopify, you are eligible to use Buyable Pins.
This is looked at as a game-changer for social advertising because of how easy it is for customers to buy from Pinterest pins. Instead of having to go to another site to find what they were looking at on Pinterest, customers can now buy straight from the Pinterest app. This eliminates several steps for customers, making them more likely to convert because of how simple the process is.
The biggest challenge of social advertising is knowing your audience and where they are. Obviously, the same people will be spread across many of the platforms, but there are instances where messaging should be much different.
Your messaging between Facebook and Twitter may be similar, but it should not be the same as LinkedIn. Know your audience and where they are spending most of their time.
There are so many people on social media that not using the platforms’ advertising features, especially during the holiday season, is a major mistake. You can reach new and returning customers within the apps and websites where they are spending the most time. Don’t overlook the importance of social when creating your holiday advertising strategies!
You can write the most compelling ad of all time, but if your landing page experience is bad, you have almost no chance of having a high amount of conversions. It is hard enough to get customers to your site, don’t make things more difficult by having a poor landing page.
Your landing page should be specific to the product or service you are advertising for. The more tailored the landing page is, the better.
The great thing about the holiday season is that you can have some fun with landing pages. Spruce them up with some holiday theming. Also, this is the perfect time to entice users with a sale or some sort of offer that you would not use year-round.
This isn’t possible for all websites for many reasons. Maybe you don’t have the coding skills required or maybe you don’t have the most cooperative developer. Don’t worry, there are ways around this.
The easiest thing to do is use a landing page creation service such as our favorite, Unbounce. These services make creating landing pages simple for any user, regardless of technical skill. Even though these pages are being created off of your site, you can make it look like they are a part of your site.
When creating a landing page, whether on your own or through a service, the most important thing you can do is make sure that the conversion process is easy. If you are using a simple form, the less information you ask for, the better. The entire point is to get the customer into your funnel. Once they’re in, then you can ask for more information. Making the form short and to the point makes converting easy, which makes it more likely to happen.
One final suggestion for landing pages is to always, always, always test new ideas on the landing page, even if it is as simple as the color of a button. I built two exact landing pages in Unbounce for a client with the only difference being one page had a green button and one page had an orange button and split the traffic being sent to the pages 50/50 and the page with the orange button converted almost three times more than the page with the green button.
Even the smallest detail can make all the difference in a landing page. Always test and don’t be afraid to get a little outside the box with your ideas!
Now, you may be thinking, “I’ve read so much great information here, but what about ads?”
Well, this section is for you. Since I’ve covered a lot of different options for ad types, I’m going to focus on the different types of Search ads that Google offers and why you should be using them to reach your customers.
Dynamic Search Ads
If you have thousands of products on your site, Dynamic Search Ads may be for you. DSAs can act as a catch-all for products that people are searching for, without actually having to build a campaign focusing on each product you offer.
Instead of using keyword targeting, DSAs use the information within certain pages of your site to decide what is relevant to users and then shows ads with a dynamically generated headline to those users.
There is an issue with DSAs being triggered by search queries that have nothing to do with anything you offer, so negative keywords have to be used and updated almost daily for these ads to be successful. With that negative comes a positive though, as the broader search terms that are converting can be used in new campaigns to control costs by bidding.
Having a sale? You can add a countdown to your ads to give customers a sense of urgency. Want to let customers know in which of your stores they can find certain products? Yeah, you can do that too.
AdWords offers many customization options to advertisers that let them tailor ads to give customers a sense of urgency or give them information that they may need.
Instead of having separate ads that you have to pause and activate for each day of a sale, ad customizers allow you to create an ad with a countdown that is dynamically updated each time a search query triggers it.
Are calls more important to your business than anything else? If so, these ads could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Instead of showing a regular text ad on mobile, the headline of these ads is replaced by your phone number and instead of taking the customer to a landing page, they call your business straight from the ad. These shouldn’t be confused with Call Extensions, which will be covered below.
While these aren’t exactly ads, they are important parts of ads that should be included almost all of the time.
The first type is Location Extensions. These allow customers to see where you are located and are very important for mobile users. If you have a physical store, these should be turned on for all ads.
The next type of ad extension is Call Extensions. These show your phone number in ads. On mobile, it is possible to call straight from an ad, much like a call only ad. The only difference is the number is showing up with a full text ad when Call Extensions are turned on.
There are other Ad Extensions, but for the holiday season, those two are the most important. They allows customers to be able to find you and also contact you easily. In the right situation, both should be active at all times.
There are many more options for ads, but those will be the most important this holiday season. The great thing about all of the options is that you can mix and match the different types in different campaigns to find exactly what works for you!
The Display network can be great just because of its massive reach – over 2 million sites according to Google—but at the same time, it can do more harm than good unless you know how to control where your ads are showing up.
The one thing to always remember is that if you are using the Display Network for basic banner ads, you are more than likely not going to see many conversions. The basic ads that the Display Network can run are great for awareness and we see great results conversion-wise when combined with other tactics both on the Search and Display networks.
If you’re looking to create awareness for your product or service, this can be your bread and butter. Regular Display ads are great for creating awareness, but more than likely will not convert as much as a search or retargeting ad. Display ads can spend a lot of money in a short amount of time, so it is important to keep a close eye on your budget and bid lower than you would in a search campaign.
Gmail Sponsored Promotions
This is a new type of ad that was in beta but is now available to all advertisers through AdWords. Google released this ad type just in time for the holidays, allowing you to target people based on keywords in their email. Google says that they are not reading your email, which is probably the best joke I’ve ever heard from them. There are multiple targeting methods and ad types available to allow you to reach your target audience. With this being so new, there will not be as much competition so click costs could be lower. Jump on the bandwagon now before competition and prices go up!
If you are interested in learning more about Gmail Sponsored Promotions, be sure to check out this blog post from Shannon covering everything you need to know about the new ad type!
And there you have it! Everything you will need for a successful holiday season. I know, there is a lot of information in this blog post. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @LelandReed! Thanks for reading!