Holiday PPC Management Findings 2018

PPC Management Takeaways From Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018

With another Black Friday and Cyber Monday PPC season under our belts, it’s time for us to exhale with the rest of the retail and marketing world. As we take a second to catch our breath, we wanted to look back at the crazy week that was and take note of what we learned this go around. We reached out to a few of our PPC Managers to share their notes and insights:

 

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Anna Bochert – Manager, Paid Media

Smart shopping can work incredibly well (if you have the historical conversion data to allow it). Comparing Wednesday, Nov 21 to Tuesday, Nov 27, a smart shopping campaigns running in a large retail account saw a 913% increase in conversion value and a 75% increase in conversion rate. CPCs in this product type campaign only saw a 8 cent increase when comparing to the week before Thanksgiving, while in 2017 the product type standard shopping campaign saw a 26 cent increase during the same time period (week before Thanksgiving and during Thanksgiving).

Ensure your brand campaign budgets are not limited. One retail client saw a 97% increase in spend on their brand campaigns, and the campaigns were frequently limited by budget. While we had to be on top of budgets to ensure the campaigns were always showing, we saw the greatest return here (136% increase in ROAS). Another example of how manual management is needed, even in the days of automation, Google Ads Scripts, and machine learning.

Google recommended not to change the goal of Target ROAS in shopping campaigns since the strategy should be able to determine the traffic spike and adjust accordingly. However, we didn’t see this work in our favor on some campaigns, where we saw a lower than optimal spend during our busiest times on Black Friday compared to the previous year. Based on our data, we are very wary about using Target ROAS during the holiday season and recommend more manual bidding options to truly drive revenue during these few days.

 

Jason Stinnett – Sr. Manager, Paid Search

For a few B2B eCommerce clients, we saw sales dip as expected over the entire Thanksgiving weekend. This is to be expected unless there is some type of incentive running for the Black Friday week. Monday was back to business as usual, with most of those campaigns putting up average to above-average results.

Thanksgiving weekend is different every year for professional services and lead generation focused clients. Some years you don’t get many clicks, other years the clicks keep coming in but people wait to call or make a commitment. The biggest decision you need to make as a business owner is whether you’re prepared to quickly respond to the those few leads that do trickle in over the weekend.

 


Justin Lindh – Sr. Manager, Paid Search

Black Friday may not be the best time to test out new automated optimizations such as automated bid strategies or Google’s new Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). RSAs are a singular ad unit that you can upload 15 headlines and 4 description lines and Google, using its machine learning algorithms, will automatically mix-and-match each element and serve the best combinations. We tested out RSAs across five different verticals since August and found that in four of the five cases, the click-through rate (CTR) for RSAs was at least 16% lower than the CTR for our control group (Expanded Text Ads). And in the one instant where CTR did not decrease, the RSAs produced a negligible 1% increase. I’m all for testing out new features as they come, but high volume, high impact times like Black Friday may not be the best time to experiment with new features, so we recommend holding off on that until after holiday traffic and sales spikes.

 

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Jordon Meyer – Founder & CEO

Holiday PPC planning starts as early as July but really ramps up in September-October with our retail and eCommerce clients. We prepare as much as possible, but there’s always a curve-ball or two thrown our way. Having managed holiday (hell week, we called it) at Best Buy corporate – I prepare our team for Black Friday and Cyber Monday PPC at a world-class level. Sure, it’s overkill for some of our clients, but we’re always prepared for whatever is thrown at us.

On the seller side: Locking down deals and pricing with merchants, figuring out shipping rules, load testing shopping cart systems and dealing with website code-freezes is stressful but critical to ensuring things go right.

On our side: Scheduling ad changes (sometimes hourly), promo extensions, shopping feed refreshes, budget changes and bid optimization requires near hourly management…yes even over the weekend! Machine Learning and automation from Google and Bing help alleviate some manual work – but for optimal results we are still very hands-on with our campaigns.

The data-driven approach we use really helps make fast and accurate decisions during such a crucial shopping season for our B2C clients. On the B2B side there’s plenty of work to do as well to shield ourselves from artificially high CPCs and distracted buyers not ready to make B2B decisions quite as fast as normal due to their personal (B2C) buying needs.

This is our 4th year in business and for a few clients, our 4th holiday season together. I’m happy to say that our early numbers continued to beat year over year numbers. We’ve already started 2019 holiday planning with a few clients!

 

About the Author

Jordon Meyer

Jordon Meyer is the Founder and President of Granular. With over 12 years of hands-on paid search marketing experience, he's one of the most experienced PPC experts in the Midwest. His experience comes from both agency and client-side work, from small digital agencies to running the day-to-day PPC on the internal marketing team at Best Buy. He started Granular out of the demand for his work and the overall need for a laser-focused PPC agency.