6 Holiday PPC campaign mistakes to avoid

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Jingle Bells… Jingle Bells… oh, stop groaning, it really is that time again. ‘Tis the season for Holiday PPC!

Holiday PPC is actually my favorite, because it’s the perfect match up: heavy (sometimes desperate!) search activity met with smart PPC ads resulting in lots and lots of lovely conversions. Everybody wins.

But there are some common mistakes—and I should know, I’ve made most of these. Here’s my checklist, so you don’t have to make them, too.

1. Know the buy cycle, and set up early.

I set up my Christmas PPC in August. That’s right, August. While you people are still lounging at the beach, I’m thinking snowflakes and Santa Claus. Analytics (and years of experience) show me that my clients’ customers start searching for their products in September. That means I need to do my keyword research, write new ads and set up landing pages WAY ahead of time so I can pop the cork right after Labor Day and still have time for last minute changes. Now we’re already past Labor Day, so that means you should probably start thinking about it now. But it’s ok, you can finish reading the post first.

You also need to know that last reasonable shipping date before the holidays. That means LOOK AT THE CALENDAR. My ads will shut down on December 22 this year.

2. Don’t forget the other guy.

I often have competitors pimping the same products I do. Raven is loaded with more espionage tools than 007, but for these purposes, I like the Event Manager; not only can I track my own seasonal campaigns, I can track when each competitor starts his. And KEEP THOSE EVENTS around because they’ll come in handy next year. (I have been lobbying @RavenJon for multiple event colors so I can see at a glance what’s what, but you can also use the event tags.) I particularly like to make sure I get at least a week or two jump on the enemies other guys.

3. Don’t forget mobile.

Google is projecting that 44% of searches for last minute gifts this year will be mobile. That’s a pretty stunning number. Are your customers there? Then you need to be there too. Make sure the High-End Mobile / Tablets option is checked in your campaign settings and design your landing pages accordingly; it makes no sense at all to PAY to send a smartphone or tablet shopper to a page that is not optimized for mobile.

4. Everything has a shelf life.

Nobody wants to see your Christmas ads in March. It makes us sad. But you’d be amazed how many people forget and just keep them running. It’s the PPC equivalent to going away on vacation and letting two weeks worth of newspapers pile up on your front walk. Not only does it look bad, but you’re giving off a strong signal that nobody is minding the store, and that could be dangerous. So don’t do it. Put end dates on your seasonal campaigns. Note that when you reach that date, your campaign goes into “expired/deleted” mode rather than “paused,” and so you’ll have to reactivate if you reuse it next year.

5. Check for date references.

A few years back I congratulated myself when I reactivated all my old holiday campaigns and had everything up and running by first week of September. Woo hoo! The previous year’s campaigns had done so well I figured I’d just run them again. But strangely, a couple weeks later, CTR seemed kind of low. Turned out I’d forgotten that I was making heavy use of the sentence “New Designs for 2008!” in my ad text. Only problem was, the current year was 2009. D’oh.

6. Calling Captain Obvious.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this in 2011, but it appears I still do. Your home page is usually not the best choice for a landing page. Neither is a site search results page. If your ad text is not enthusiastic about what you’re selling, nobody else will be either. 70% of PPC is organization. Use extensions wisely. Rotate your tires. (Okay, I just threw that one in there to see if you were still paying attention.)

Photo courtesy of Mike Fleming, from Flickr