Whether your holiday budget is big or small, it’s important to capitalize on the potential success one can have from search marketing in Q4. Typically, advertisers invest the most into what is usually considered to be their highest revenue-driving quarter. But what if you’re a small program competing in the same space as advertisers with the deepest pockets? Here are six holiday marketing tips for getting the most out of your small holiday budget.

1. Focus on Your Brand

Your branded keywords should be considered top priority to maximize revenue and market share during the holiday season. Take action and protect your brand from outside competitors by:

  1. Creating a Core campaign that houses your top branded keyword(s)
    • “Always On” strategy – 100% coverage
  2. Focus on impression share
    • Capitalize on exposure during the peak season by out-bidding your competitors on your top brand terms. This will maximize your impression share and subsequent opportunities for coverage.

2. Budget Breakout

Efficiently allocating budget is crucial throughout the year, but with more competition during Q4 comes more challenges. We recommend having a sophisticated budget plan in place by starting with previous holiday periods, forecasted trends and future strategy as a baseline. Ensure your Brand Core campaign is fully funded throughout the holiday season with the budget delivery method set to Accelerated. For all other campaigns, we recommend setting campaign delivery to Standard to ensure your budget is allocated more evenly throughout the day.

  1. Accelerated Delivery
    • Distributes your campaign budget as searches occur
      • Depending on search volume, the campaign will stop serving ads once budget is depleted
    • Tip: Give your Core Brand campaign enough budget to prevent budget from capping
  2. Standard Delivery
    • Distributes your campaign budget evenly throughout the day
      • Your ads will run evenly throughout the day, but you may miss out on impressions
    • Tip: Maximize efficiency and visibility for campaigns on Standard delivery by utilizing ad scheduling, audience bid modifiers and device bid modifiers

3. Ad Scheduling

Ad scheduling is imperative to ensure your ad dollars are being spent on the right day, at the right time. Rakuten Marketing utilizes ad scheduling as a best practice for all clients, especially for those with limited budgets. When looking at ad scheduling during the holidays, we recommend looking at past campaign performance. As Cyber Monday trends show, conversion rates spike later in the day.

Focus on adding negative bid modifiers to hours with lower conversion rates (CVR)–and vice-versa–to ensure you’re paying less for users who are less likely to convert and investing more into those who are.

4. Know Your Audiences

Audiences are vital to a program’s success. We recommend layering a variety of audiences into your campaigns and adjusting bid modifiers based on performance. When comparing multiple advertisers, it is typical to see audiences carry a higher CVR & return on ad spend (ROAS).

Audience types include:

  1. Customer Match (CRM): List of the advertiser’s emails (uploaded by the advertiser)
  2. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA): Users who have interacted with your site previously
    • Recommended lists: All Visitors, All Converters, Cart Abandoners, etc.
      1. Lists must have more than 1,000 active users in order for lists to serve
  1. Similar-To: Google’s auto-generated list of new users who have similar behavior to users in RLSA
  2. In-Market: Auto-generated list of users who are currently in the market for a specific service or product
    • Available in Google and Bing
    • Tip: Include In-Market categories outside of who you believe fits the mold of your customers.

Even though the advertiser above only sells fitness equipment, categories like “Activewear” and “Fitness Classes” outperformed both Equipment categories.

When updating targeting settings, choose ‘Targeting’ if you only want to serve ads to users within your audience lists, and ‘Observations’ if you want to maximize your reach. In most cases, we recommend using the Observations setting while adjusting bids accordingly.

5. Promotions

Give consumers an incentive to shop your brand instead of others! Be sure to highlight the sale throughout your ad as well on your site. Showcase sales by utilizing different ad types and extensions each engine offers. Whether it’s through headlines, callouts, sitelinks or promotion extensions, we recommend utilizing as many resources as possible to maximize real-estate on the SERP.

6. Smart Bidding

If your campaigns meet performance thresholds, Smart Bidding algorithms like Target ROAS and Target CPA can be a great way to efficiently improve performance while minimizing any heavy lifting. Because fluctuations occur during higher-volume shopping periods, test the algorithms early and keep a close eye on performance during the peak season–do not “set it and forget it.” If performance isn’t up to par, revert to manual bidding.

  • Tip: For more advanced bidding algorithms like Google’s Target ROAS or Target CPA, loosen goals to increase volume and tighten goals to conserve budget.
    • Performance can take up to two weeks to normalize as the algorithm gains learnings. With large spikes in traffic, it is typical to see thrash post-holiday. Reverting to manual bidding post-holiday while campaigns normalize is often recommended.

If your campaigns don’t qualify for the more advanced algorithms due to volume limitations, we recommend enabling Enhanced CPC (eCPC) on all campaigns. This algorithm takes multiple signals into account, including user location, behavior, and time of day, and increases or decreases your baseline bids at the time of the auction.

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