What to Expect from PPC Accounts During The Holidays

Best Holiday Movie EVER

Best Holiday Movie EVER

‘Tis the season to be selling.  So many sites make a large percentage of their income during these last 6 weeks of the year.  For some, it’s even make-or-break–especially with the year we’ve had.  For those of you who spend your day running a business instead of PPC accounts, here is a brief rundown of what you can expect to see in your PPC accounts when you do have time to check them:

More competition:  This is probably the most obvious, but you need to consider what more competition means.

  • Higher costs per click
  • Lower click-through rates
  • Budgets that dry up before you realize it

This year I have seen a huge drop in click prices almost across the board.  I suspect that people that not only did they get smarter with what keywords they were bidding on, but that they lowered their monthly budgets to build up their year-end war chest.  If this is correct, then it means you can expect much fiercer competition at levels that seem outright ridiculous.  Click costs can rise 2-3x within days, and if you don’t respond in kind your traffic will disappear as your ads are relegated to page 3 of results.  But don’t forget to raise daily budgets, otherwise your money will be spent much faster due to the more expensive clicks eating up that money.

Keep an eye on daily budgets and Impression Share:  In Google you can run an account report and view impression share as a selectable metric.  Right now I want you to login into your account and run this report broken down by months for the entire year.  Look at your average impression share.  Review this information daily during your busy season to make sure this number doesn’t drop off .  If you see it declining, consider raising your daily budgets.

TIP: If your campaign settings are set to accelerated spend, meaning Google will serve your ads as often as possible until your budget is depleted, then you can run an hourly impression report to see what time of day your ads typically go offline.  By doing some simple math you can determine how underfunded your accounts are to achieve an 80-90% impression share (you’ll never achieve 100%).  If you can afford to increase your budgets to to achieve the higher impression rate and get more traffic, then you should see a spike in your conversions (assuming your conversion rate stays constant)

Watch out for competitors bidding on your Trademarked terms: Competitors will try to steal your branded traffic.   Some will bid on your name, and others will even include your name in their ads.  If you have a registered trademark, and you see a competitor using your name or the keyword insert function on your TM as a bidded term, you can file a complaint to Google and they will shut down the ad.  In Yahoo you can have competitors banned from advertising on that term all together.  In both cases you will need your trademark registration number for the engines to even talk to you about this complaint.

Lower Conversion Rates, Followed by Higher Conversion Rates:  If you’re a retailer, this will drive you mad for the first week or two of the holiday season.  Consumers will spend a lot of time shopping across various sites getting gift ideas and looking for the best deals.  This means that conversion rates typically drop.  However, two weeks into the season you’ll start seeing the conversion rate jump.  Once this happens be ready to boost your campaign budgets to capture as much of that traffic as you can.

Huge Traffic Spikes from Shopping Engines:  If you’re not on Google Base, Shopzilla, Nextag, Become.com, and many of the other shopping sites yet, open accounts now.  Google base is free, and if you ask nicely you may get your Google Base and AdWords account linked, so some product images will show up in your ads.  It’s a limited beta that may be closed, but if you can get in the click-through rates will be phenomenal.

Lastly, keep an eye on the content network.  If you are running any ads on any of the engine’s networks, stay focused on the conversion rate.  Kill it as soon as the conversion rates drop (which it usually does, but not always) and transfer that money to search.

Next week I’ll discuss how to get the most out of the shopping engines.  Here’s a hint: You rarely want to promote your best product.


  1. Alan Mitchell

    Completely agree that click volumes can increase massively over the Christmas period, and being too restrictive on daily budgets can mean missing out on a large amount of potential customers.

    Interesting point about conversion rates dipping then rising towards the holiday period. Never really thought about it myself (guess it takes many years of seasonal data to define a trend), but guess it makes complete sense.
    .-= Alan Mitchell´s last blog ..To Deep-Link Or Not To Deep-Link =-.

  2. Matthew Umbro

    One item not mentioned is AdWords new sitelinks feature. Though this feature is not available to all advertisers (similar to the Google Base and AdWords linking) it can be huge for your click-thru-rates (CTRs). Allowing the user a choice of destination URL will lead to a more relevant user experience, especially if you have several holiday offers.

    Thanks for the tips, Brian.
    .-= Matthew Umbro´s last blog ..Writing PPC Text Ads that Matter =-.

  3. Mike Taylor

    If you cannot afford to fund your keywords all day, is there a way to only show ads say later in the day when others may have depleted their daily allowance?

  4. Czech Vacationer

    Is it really possible to make any good money using PPC? I really doubt it…. One of my friend has tried to earn some using popular PPC service – and any time he was trying to withdraw his money some sort of error happend so that seemed that he was working just for free.


  5. Brian Wallace

    Yes, it is entirely possible to make money using PPC.  Do you have more information about what your friend was trying to do with a PPC service?


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