Caitlin Schlichting

The holiday season is coming. It’s the most important part of the year for most businesses who sell online, and you really want to dominate this year. But how do you stand out in such a crowded marketplace? Google Ads provide an amazing opportunity to stand out … if you do things right.

You’re probably thinking, “Google Ads are old news. I’m going to focus on social media ads this year.” Google Ads aren’t old news. They are constantly improving, and you are missing a huge opportunity if you aren’t putting a big focus on Google during the holidays. By doing things right with Google Ads, you will set yourself up for the biggest holiday season you’ve ever had.

Here are the things you should absolutely be doing during (and before) the holiday season this year if you want to maximize your sales:

Test everything.

Most companies come up with one “perfect” campaign … one “perfect” holiday sales event. You should be trying several different campaigns and sales. Test different messaging and creative approaches. Test different offers and specials. Test different audiences. When one of these combinations works, you need to be scaling that campaign as quickly as possible to take advantage of it. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked tactics when it comes to using Google Ads during the holidays.

You have such a limited amount of time to have success that you need to be testing and scaling as quickly as possible. Sometimes this will mean having some campaigns that flop. Those flops are worth it when you find and scale the winners.

Build up your lead and remarketing lists before the holiday season.

People are more likely to buy from you if they have had previous interactions with you.

In fact, 70% of web site visitors who are retargeted with display ads are more likely to convert on your website [Source].

That is why you have to start your holiday marketing efforts earlier than the time when most people start buying (and really all of your marketing efforts throughout the year should be leveraged during the holidays with Google’s Customer Match feature to build custom audiences).

So, since everyone is more likely to purchase from you if they are familiar with you, it would make sense to build brand awareness and engagement first (before asking them to buy). Here are a couple of ways to do that using Google Ads:

  • Send traffic to a blog post or content on your website.
    This strategy works best with display ads. Make sure you have (at a minimum) these two things in place on your website before sending traffic: 1. A Google Remarketing Pixel (this can be done through either Google Ads or Google Analytics. 2. A lead magnet (a “First Time Buyer” discount code could work fine for this) in order to get someone to give you their email address so you can follow up with them with all of your holiday promotional emails.
  • Get people to watch your videos.
    YouTube video is a great medium to reach people with your message. Using YouTube Ads, you can get a lot of people familiar with your product/service by telling an entertaining and informative story. Then target those people who have watched your video(s) with display ads, Remarketing List Search Ads (RLSA) or a more promotional video when it is time for your big holiday push.

You are already leveraging your email list by sending emails (if you aren’t, you should be), but that is only the beginning of what you can do with your list. You can remarket to to them with YouTube ads and Gmail Ads (you can even set up bid adjustments using RLSA).

These remarketing tactics work really well during the holidays when people are more receptive to your promotional messaging.

Growing your list and your remarketing audience and then promoting your products to that list is the #1 way to stand out during the holiday season. But it isn’t the only way.

Let Google’s smart tools help.

So you’ve got a list of people who are engaging with your content and who are on your list (either leads or buyers). You’re remarketing to these people and emailing them with promotional messaging during the holidays. That’s good. But how do you continue to build that engagement and list throughout the holidays?

Use Custom Intent targeting with Google Display ads. Custom Intent targeting is a way to let Google use its algorithms to find people who are likely to purchase your products or services.

Use Similar Audience targeting to reach people who are most similar to your current customers, leads and website visitors. This is just another reason to focus on #2 (growing brand familiarity).

It also typically improves results when you combine these two methods with other types of targeting … essentially targeting people who are most like your current “likely buyers” and are also showing intent based on the sites that they visit (placements) or topics that they are reading about (topics and keywords). Combining different audiences like this is called audience layering, and it is a really powerful way to target potential customers.

Bottom line? Google collects and analyzes a ton of data. Use it to make the most of your marketing during the holidays.

Use available ad enhancement tools to differentiate yourself.

Promotional feed

For ecommerce stores running Google Shopping ads during the holidays, you should split out a completely separate product feed with only your best sellers. Doing this allows for much more precise control over where your budget is spent and allows you to scale your campaigns using the most profitable products in your store.

Promotion extensions

Google Search Ad promotion extensions are an incredible way to differentiate yourself. Instead of making potential customers wait until they are on a site to see the awesome holiday deal being offered, they get to see that offer right there on the ad.

Do you offer free shipping or discounts during the holidays? You should always let your potential customers know that before they get to your site. Don’t miss this opportunity as it is one of the most common mistakes found in Google Ad audits.

Countdown widgets

One other big differentiator in Google Search Ads right now is using a countdown widget. Do you have a limited-time offer? Want to let people know they only have two days to order if they want to get a gift delivered before Christmas? This is the place to do that. It’s a great way to show urgency right there on an ad without taking up valuable ad copy space.

Utilize all the other ad extensions

This is something you should be doing all year long. But it is even more important during the holidays when you’re trying to stand out among all the competition. Ad extensions like review extensions, callouts, rich snippets, location extensions and call extensions can all help your ads stand out in a crowd when your competitors might not be using them.

Following these tips will help you dominate the biggest season of the year. Don’t wait until next year to start taking advantage of these strategies.

About Caitlin Schlichting

Google Ads Mentor for Unicorn Academy


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