Searching for Christmas

“Is your paid search strategy ready for the festive season?” asks Ben Knight, Founder and Director of Products & Strategy at Croud.

While a well-executed paid search strategy should be an all-year-round plan, it is vital for companies to get this right during the festive season. With peak demand comes bigger budgets and more competition, so it’s important that brands know how to maximise their search strategies at Christmas.

santa shoppingGoogle is predicting a whopping 40% of the whole year’s sales will happen in the run up to Christmas. But is preparing just for Christmas Day and the New Year enough? The first key dates for the diary are Black Friday, 28th November and Cyber Monday, 1st December. The latter is expected to be the biggest shopping day of the year, having ranked number one for spend in each of the past four years.

While traditionally US retail events, in recent years these days have started to attract huge attention from UK retailers. For example, Argos’ homepage a couple of weeks ago was a homage to Black Friday, setting the tone for the heavy discounting culture on the day.

There are many ways brands can look to benefit from these huge dates on the retail calendar. A few of these are listed below:

Free delivery

A recent Google survey revealed that 73% of UK consumers say that free delivery is a key factor in their online shopping habits; with an additional 49% stating that they often abandon the shopping at the checkout process because of unforeseen or mounting delivery costs.

If brands do offer free delivery they should push this message out across multiple advertising channels. There is often a substantial uplift in CTR as a result of free delivery messaging across Search, Display, GSP and more.

Prioritise Mondays

Whilst not everybody likes a Monday, they are the biggest days for retail clients in the majority of verticals in terms of impressions, clicks, and sales. Brands should take this into account as they begin to optimise their campaigns to maximise performance on these days and prepare for the increased competition.

Improve the checkout process

Unfortunately for online retailers, the latest statistics show that 98% of consumers don’t convert. In fact, shopping basket abandonment makes for some sobering reading with 69% in 2011, 72% in 2012 and 74% in 2013 of shopping baskets being abandoned due to poor user experience.

It’s important that brands are continuing to invest in improving their online user experience. Whilst this will cost them in the short term the long term gains could be six fold as eConsultancy suggests that every £1 spent on improving user experience generates £6 in revenue.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) allow marketers to customise ads based on a user’s past actions on your site which can help businesses close the conversion loop and adjust targeting strategies based on previous actions. Google quote average CPA savings of 48% in travel, 46% in retail and 42% in finance. and RLSA can be used to highlight compelling promotions for shopping cart abandoners e.g. 5% off for the next day or 10% of for the following 7 days.

Companies can also use RLSAs to send users to a landing page with a time limited deal to encourage transaction completion, tailor ads specifically for current clients, non-paying subscribers or even those that aren’t, as well as selectively reach and up-sell “free trial” or “basic service” customers to show them tailored ads offering special deals.

Google’s RLSA product allows brands to de-market people that they don’t want to spend money on which allows them to save ad spend on consumers that have already signed up, made a payment or subscribed.

For example, December and January are also the key peak times for dating sites. At this time they can decide to not show paid-for ads to those that are doing navigational searches every day to check if they have new matches or dates. As a result, the cost per registration can be decreased significantly.


There are a number of options available for brands and retailers all looking to stand out on the search engine results pages this Christmas, including tailoring ad copy and maximising relevancy and conversion rate before users even make it to the site.

  • Call-out extensions: Now rolled out globally, call out extensions are quick win for all advertisers, allowing an extra line of ad text to communicate USPs to your customers.
  • Form Extensions: Segment users searching on generic terms and stand out from competition at the same time by including a form extension, allowing users to enter data and customise their landing page experience, or even pre-fill a field on a lead capture form on your landing page.
  • Ad Customizers: These allow for parameters within your ad to change as directed.
  • Delivery: Take customisation one step further by automating changes to creative using Google Scripts and ad parameters to allow more flexible control of ad copy in almost real time.

Recently expanded to the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Australia and tied into the fact that 83% of shoppers would be more likely to visit a store if they can check the availability of an item beforehand. These ads run on dynamic scripts for stock and locations and are a great addition to any PPC campaign during the festive period

Finally and importantly, what does your experience tell you and what lessons did you learn last year? Which of your products were the best sellers, how competitive were your bids and what would you be able to deliver if you optimised to margins rather than CPA?

Look at the data and plan accordingly. A lot of information is there and your marketing and search account teams should have been thinking about this for the last couple of months. Organise a brainstorm to discuss this with all stakeholders and think smartly before committing to a strategy.

The festive season is a potential goldmine for retailers and marketers need to start taking advantage of this with their paid search strategy right away. Paid search isn’t just for Christmas but if done correctly in the coming weeks, can give a brand the momentum it needs to hit the ground running next year.

Leave a Reply