Post Holiday Madness - What to Check to Put Your PPC Account Back Into Shape for the New Year

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Brad Geddes

Last updated December 6, 2016


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Every year we see many accounts prepare for the holidays by getting their strategies in place, documenting everything that is going to happen, and know what to do post-holiday.

Then during every holiday season, we see accounts shifting in unanticipated ways, last minute promotions put into place, and undocumented changes that can cause negative effects on the account post holiday.

Here are the most common issues we see that companies need to fix once the New Year passes.

Ad Changes

The most common problem is having active ads with holiday themes words and discounts that are no longer offered.

Unfortunately, AdWords doesn’t have the ability to do ‘or’ searches where you can put in if ad text contains holiday or discount or Christmas, etc then show the ads.

You will first need to find all the types of words that you only use during the holiday season, such as:

  • Holiday
  • Christmas
  • Discount
  • %
  • $
  • Etc

And search for ads that contain those words in your account and pause those ads.

This leads to the next problem, ad groups with zero ads in them. While many 3rd party PPC systems can automatically show you this information or have better filtering options; if you are reliant on AdWords for diagnosing this information; the best place to start is with the ad details report found under the dimension tab.

I usually recommend filtering by ad groups with at least 1 impression in the past month since this report will show paused ad groups and campaign. You can then sort by active ads and find ad groups with zero ads in them and then start to enable or create ads in those ad groups.

Ad Extensions

Next, look through your ad extensions, especially callouts and sitelinks, for any that are holiday specific. Pause those extensions and replace them with your non-holiday extensions.

Negative Keywords

A common practice during the holiday is to remove some negative keywords so that your ads show for more search queries. If you removed negatives or unapplied negative lists, now is the time to add them back to your account.

Landing Pages

If you changed your ad final URLs to holiday themed pages or guides; you will want to change the final URLs by editing your ads, or pausing your holiday ads and resuming your non-holiday ads that didn’t have dedicated holiday landing pages.

Topical Keywords

Keywords such as ‘Christmas gifts for women’; ‘Black Friday Sales’; etc aren’t nearly as valuable now as they were a month ago.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should pause them all. There is search volume all year long for some of these search queries. You have the option to either pause them or you can create a specific set of ads and landing pages for these types of words.

For instance, we’ll see retailers advertise on ‘Black Friday Sales’ all year long. However, outside of the holidays, their landing pages will instead say it’s not Black Friday yet, signup for the newsletter to get sales, and here’s our current sales.

This is a way of continuing to receive some traffic on topical keywords outside of the holidays.

Bid Modifiers

Lastly, check your bid modifiers as you might have dramatically increased some of them for the holidays. This is especially common for audience lists.

Pause – Don’t Delete

Your holiday traffic is valuable; and some of it won’t return to your site for another ten to eleven months. This doesn’t mean it’s value is gone – it just means the value won’t be there until late this year. If you pause your holiday ads and campaigns; then you can enable them again this coming holiday year (where appropriate) since they do have established history and information for you to examine year over year.

Wrap-Up

The holidays are over and it’s time to return your accounts to their ‘normal’ state. The main culprits for showcasing holiday information well into the spring usually comes from the ads and sitelinks. These are the primary places to examine so that you aren’t showing prices and discounts in your ads that don’t match your website and cause poor user experiences.

If you documented your strategy back in the fall; look at those documents so you can also see where you made changes. Some companies even keep a checklist of what needs to happen in January to return the account to normal. If you’re this organized, don’t forget to utilize your own checklists.

Lastly, once the account is back to normal; start examining what ads and landing pages worked. What sitelinks made a huge difference? Were there certain topical keywords that lead to a lot of revenue? Make a document of the wins and losses that you incurred during the holidays so that you can leverage that information later this year when it’s time for more holiday madness.

About the Author

Brad Geddes is the author of "Advanced Google AdWords", and founder of Certified Knowledge, an online source where the Paid Search community comes together for PPC training, tools, and advice. Brad makes it his mission to share his expertise in Paid Search with online marketers so they can build successful online campaigns that generate business. He frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land, co-moderates the AdWords forum on Webmaster World, has spoken at more than 35 conferences, and has led more than 60 AdWords seminars.


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