Jan 25, 2019

How to prepare for your Google Ads holiday campaigns: 8 key lessons from last year’s data

By Supermetrics

Ecommerce AnalyticsGoogle AdsPerformance Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Jan 25, 2019 ]

6-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi

The data from your last year’s holiday campaigns are useful year round, especially when planning for the upcoming holiday season. And although Christmas is the big shopping season for retailers, there are other holidays and seasonal trends that impact brand. In this post, I offer eight tips to help you put historical data to good use.

1. Forecast to actual

This is the simplest number that business owners (hopefully) review year round. The bottom line revenue. For seasonal trends, compare what you expected to make and what you actually made in Q4 of 2018 compared to Q4 of 2017. Go beyond the raw numbers to what it cost to make that amount. For those who ran a Google Ad campaign, you want to view what you spent on your campaign in 2017 compared to what you spend in 2018 and if it had a positive ROI.

2. Share of voice

In addition to the increase or decrease in revenue based on the budget for your Google Ad campaign, also look at the impression share for the most recent holiday season. Did the share increase or decrease when compared to the previous year? This will show how often your ads did not display because of a limited budget so you can be better prepared budget-wise next year. If your campaigns performed well when they did run, but lost share because they run out of money, you want to allocate more budget for the next holiday season.

3. Keyword popularity

How did people search this year compared to the prior year? Was keyword use similar for your offerings or did consumer search patterns and terminology change over the last year? One thing you can expect to see in your Google Ads account is longer keyword phrases in recent months due to voice search. When people can talk instead of type, the way they search changes. These longer phrases likely increased the most on mobile devices where people look things up on the go. Compare your data on the phrases and devices used to Google Trends to see how searching behavior has changed and use Google Trends as a research tool when planning for your campaigns next year.

4. Keyword revenue

Knowing the popularity of keywords compared to those in your campaign and website traffic is good, but what is the revenue that was generated from those keywords? Separate these high revenue words into their own ad groups for the next holiday season to maximize their performance. With bid simulators, you access data about how your campaign might have performed if keyword bids were increased for high revenue terms. Also look for words that should be negative keywords in the future because they do not generate revenue. These burn up your budget without the results.

Google Ads negative keywords

5. Bid strategies

As Google provides more advanced bidding options with machine learning, they recommend advertisers use automated bid strategies rather than manual bid strategies in Google Ad campaigns. Become familiar with the automated bid strategies if you are not already using them so you can pick the one that works best for your goals. If you already use automated bidding strategies, compare what you used in Q4 of 2018 to Q4 2017 and note changes in performance.

Google smart bidding

6. Auction insight

Many of your competitors were also advertising on Google ads during the holiday season so use the auction insights report to see how you ranked compared to your competitors. This will uncover opportunities for growing campaigns next year. You may decide to use a strategy of target outranking share if one competitor was consistently higher than you in the SERPs. Compare CTR and conversion rates through the holiday season.

7. Cross channel

It is unlikely that Google Ads was your only channel for promoting holiday campaigns. You likely ramped up your other marketing efforts with additional email newsletters or paid social media. View how Google Ads performed in conjunction with other channels. Did Google Ads influence other channels, resulting in conversion in a subsequent visit? Or did Google Ads result in immediate purchases? With attribution modeling, you learn which channels were involved before conversion happened and how much of an influence Google Ad had for that conversion compared to other channels.

digital marketing attribution model

8. Device performance

People use multiple devices and various channels for everyday use – including shopping. I suspect an increase in the mobile use of your site visitors compared to tablets or desktops in Q4 of 2018 because this number continues to grow for all sites. If there was heavy mobile use and foot traffic for a brick and mortar store, you will want to have the appropriate bid adjustments on mobile devices for next holiday season when it will be even higher.

Plan now for where you feel your campaigns were weak. For example, if you did not get the expected foot traffic, create more locally-focused campaigns with special offers for people who walk into your business. If your campaigns revealed a high click-through but low conversions, it could be that your landing page was the problem or your offers did not speak to consumers at the right place in their journey.

You can use a Supermetrics template, such as as the High Level PPC Report to view the metrics of your campaigns and the Post Click Analysis template to see performance across channels.

Every year, the holidays seem to sneak up on us. Before we know it, people start their Christmas shopping and we see targeted campaigns on Google earlier and earlier. There is no harm in starting early by reviewing this data and sharing it with your team to plan for what to do in Q4 this year. And for many retailers, such as florists, their big holiday – Valentine’s Day – is right around the corner.

About Tina Arnoldi


Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn.

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