Paid Search Holiday Tips

Women sitting around a shared desk planning a paid search strategy

The holiday shopping season has already begun and shoppers are searching, clicking, and buying quickly to check off their holiday gift lists. Demand is projected to ramp back up in Q4, after a more subdued Q3. Because we could all use a little extra support this holiday season, read through for some paid search holiday tips and trends to ensure your campaigns are optimized for success.

Engage Your Customers Through Personalization

In order for your campaigns to be successful, you need to meet your customers where they are. We have seen a lot more clicks in social media engagement this year. Platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest are on the rise. The controversies following Facebook have allowed the focus to shift to other channels — and customers are responding well. Meeting customers on the channels where they are active will keep your brand fresh and top of mind. 

In general, the theme of personalization resonates with customers. People want their own preferences to be acknowledged and addressed by brands. Nowadays, people expect brands to have a stand on social topics and respond to messages that communicate a brand’s efforts in sustainability and social awareness.

Marketers should communicate what their brand stands for, as well as core product and offering in their ad copy to connect with loyal customers as well as acquire new customers who resonate with strong brand purposes.

Defining Your Success

It is important to go into this holiday season with a very clear view of what success means for you. 2020 was an anomaly, so any comparisons to last year’s numbers will be tricky. The abnormal highs and lows from last year are difficult to attribute to one specific approach. Last year also saw an October Prime Day, which shifted the holiday demand a month in advance. 

The key to having a successful 2021 holiday season is to create a holiday strategy that is unique in and of itself for this year. While last year’s insights can be helpful, 2020 should not be the benchmark for this year’s success. This October did not have a Prime Day event, but still, sales are up by about 6% YoY.

For your paid search holiday strategy specifically, a major focus area should be campaign automation and how those solutions will drive results. Automated campaigns are running on last year’s data. It will take some time for your current campaigns to figure out the specific demand patterns we are going to see during this holiday season. As such, do not make any more changes to your campaign structure now. While your structure may not be completely optimized, the algorithm will improve over time. As you figure out your right product mix and keyword strategy, so too will the algorithms pick up data and adjust as needed. Anything new created now will be too late for the algorithm to collect sufficient data to deliver the best results.

What you and the algorithm learn about your customers’ online shopping behavior for the next few weeks will inform your last-minute holiday push, as well as post-holiday strategy.

Staying Competitive 

When thinking about your Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, responsive search ads should be a focus area. Plan these promotions in advance, as RSA is a complex unit that cannot be easily tweaked. Ensure you pin your offers to headline one or two for maximum visibility.

While it is important to stay competitive, keep an eye on the overall cost per click. CPCs, especially on Google, have been consistently rising across retail industries over the past few months. It is important to understand how much you are willing to spend to maintain a competitive advantage on keywords before it stops becoming profitable. 

Overcoming Supply Chain Issues

Concerns over supply chain issues and inventory stockouts are on everyone’s mind. There’s no easy solution. However, aligning your paid media strategy with your current supply chain strategy requires constant and transparent communication between both teams. Whether you’re in-house or with an agency, your campaign managers need to know what is happening in the backend. 

Your website should have features to hide out-of-stock items or recommend in-stock items, but you need to ensure your campaigns reflect the same message. Shopping campaigns automatically pull out-of-stock items from their display. However, you should still periodically check in to ensure your ads are running smoothly. From a text ad standpoint, ensure your core brand and non-brand ads land customers on a part of your site that has inventory. These changes will need to be done on the fly as you’re updated with any supply chain issues.

Have a Plan B and C ready in case your Plan A top sellers go out-of-stock sooner than usual. You want to have a strategy in place to make up for the potential lost revenue over the upcoming weeks through other, not-so-popular items. Consider what products you have on hand and what is trending so you can continually engage shoppers.

Retaining New Customers

When defining your success for this year, of course, the vanity metrics of ROI and cost per order are still relevant. However, we recommend also keeping a very close watch on the number of new customers that are converting through your paid campaigns. Additionally, you should measure how many of the new customers acquired during the 2020 holiday are returning to your brand this season.

Last year brought over 7 million new-to-online shoppers to the e-commerce landscape. NetElixir predicts that 25% of them will continue to shop online this holiday season. Retaining those new-to-one shoppers by understanding their unique purchasing journeys will create a new opportunity for your brand to engage with a diverse customer base.

A Recap of 2021

From an advertising perspective and their own product development, Amazon’s growth throughout 2021 has been phenomenal. Marketplaces have emerged as a key element of any e-commerce strategy.

With Facebook’s ongoing struggles as a platform, other channels have an opportunity to meet marketers’ needs. So, one of the highlights from the paid search world is the evolution of Google’s discovery ads. Discovery ads are one of Google’s most successful product launches from the past two to three years. Google has improved these offerings with every passing month. To Google, these ads act as a bridge between traditional search advertising and paid social. As such, we expect discovery ads to play an important role in this year’s holiday campaigns.

2022 Forecast

There are a lot of up-and-coming channels to get excited about for 2022.

In terms of Google products, YouTube is poised to have a strong year next year. While YouTube may not be a viable platform for every brand, it will become more accessible to advertisers in the future. Brands should consider how to leverage more video assets in their campaigns.

In the world of marketplaces, Amazon will continue to grow its market share. At their unBoxed event just a few weeks ago, Amazon announced several exciting new launches set for 2022. By integrating with Twitch, Amazon will change how customers interact with their ads and potentially reach a whole new audience. Amazon is taking a stronger stand on supporting brands that follow good sustainability practices. Leveraging your brand’s sustainability and environmentally-conscious measures is not just a trend anymore, but a necessity to keep up with the competition. 

Finally, the social media landscape opens massive opportunities for brands. With Facebook’s struggles, brands along with their customers have jumped to other social channels and found favorable results. Instagram used to be a major focus for any social media strategist. However, now there is more space for brands to find their voice across a variety of channels. Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest will make up a larger portion of a brand’s paid media strategy. 

Managing your paid search portfolio is the secret to meeting your customers at the right moment on the right channel.

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