2014 Holiday Marketing Prep List

It’s time to start thinking about your holiday campaigns! We’ve compiled this prep list so you can make sure you’re ready for the upcoming holiday shopping season.


Review Holiday 2013 data

The first thing you need to do is to understand how your accounts performed last holiday season. What worked? What didn’t? What did you intend to do differently this year? Go back through your old reports, emails, and notes. This would also be a good time to check in with other key stakeholders so they also can start thinking about Holiday 2014.


Check in with IT department

There always seem to be some last minute holiday emergencies that could easily be avoided if Marketing and IT departments communicate frequently and early on. Make a point to schedule some time now with your IT department to understand what they’ll be working on in Q4, and what sort of contingency plans are in place if things don’t go as planned this holiday season.


Communicate with your stakeholders

It’s important to communicate your plans with key stakeholders – whether that’s your internal merchandising department, your in-house marketing team, or your agency. Set up check in meetings as we get closer to the holiday season so everybody can share their learnings along the way.


Perform a landing page URL audit

This is such an important, yet often overlooked step. At least quarterly we recommend advertisers review their ad destination URLs to ensure (1) they’re using the most relevant landing page possible and (2) they’re not pointing any ads to dead pages. Magnifi Online has a process to assist with this task.


Perform a URL tracking parameters audit

Similar to a URL audit, you should also check to ensure that (1) you’re correctly and accurately using all the tracking parameters you’re supposed to be using on all ad URLs, and (2) you’re not using any necessary tracking parameters that can be stripped from ad URLs.


Perform a conversion tracking audit

Next you’ll want to check your conversion tracking setup. Things to consider are:

  1. Are convesion tracking pixels placed across all necessary pages, and not placed on any non-confirmation pages?
  2. Are conversion tracking pixels firing 100% of the time or are they being constrained by firing rules?
  3. Is revenue data accurately flowing through your tracking pixels?
  4. Have you set your view-through conversion window to a reasonable amount? (the default is 30 days, we recommend reducing that to 1 day)
  5. Are you properly tracking and attributing “soft conversions” from actions such as newsletter signups, account creations, phone calls, etc.?


Analyze key products

Next, start looking at which products drove the bulk of your revenue last year. Have you added new products that are expected to do even better? Have prices increased?


Map out key dates

Shoppers are already starting to look for their holiday gifts. But you probably won’t see a huge spike in conversions until Black Friday. It’s important to understand how much you want to spend in the meantime to generate brand awareness and build your remarketing pools. It’s also important to understand your order cutoff date, effectively marking the end of your holiday season. This year, Black Friday is on November 28th. That is one day sooner than last year, but still only leaves about three weeks until cut-off. Christmas is on a Thursday.


Map out key promotions

Now it’s time to figure out what you’ll be offering promotion-wise. Will that last the whole holiday time period or certain days only? Will you offer % off deals, $ off deals, BOGO deals, etc.?


Map out shipping rates

It’s important to understand how much you’ll be charging customers for shipping as we move closer to the holiday. Shoppers expect free shipping, but at some point most advertisers start charging for shipping, especially for guaranteed holiday delivery. Expect conversion rates to drop when shipping rates start to spike.


Map your ad copy testing plan

Smart advertisers plan out their copy tests early, and sync them with their promotional calendar, so that one week after Black Friday you’ve selected your winning ad copy and riding that home through the remaining holiday weeks.


Map out your holiday landing page strategy

Will you be deploying any holiday-specific landing pages this season? If so, share that info with your agency so they can plan accordingly.


Fine tune your branded/non-branded strategy

Savvy online marketers know you must invest in non-branded keywords to grow your brand, even if they don’t appear profitable on first order. Think about lifetime value — how many more times will this new non-branded customer come back to shop? When you look at it that way, non-branded search is a lot more exciting as an acquisition channel. Many advertisers plan to correlate their non-branded investment with conversion rates.


Fine tune your online/offline strategy

If you have brick-and-mortar stores too, then you need to think about how you’ll use mobile ads to drive (and track) foot traffic in those stores. Ensure your Google Maps account is up to date with correct store locations and hours, and then ensure you’ve synced that data with Google AdWords. Many advertisers double-down on mobile once order cutoff gets close, in an effort to encourage offline shopping.


Set revenue goals and ROI targets

Now that you have some context and understand your prior year’s performance and have a good idea of what you’ll be doing this year, it’s time to set some realistic revenue goals and ROI targets. We estimate, on average, that search revenue will be up about 25% from last year, and ROI should be as good or better. Think about what’s different this year: have you optimized your checkout process? do you have a new mobile website? have you recently scaled up dynamic remarketing campaigns? All of these can factor into how this holiday shapes up.


Tune up your PLA campaigns

By now you should have already upgraded from the old PLA format to the new Shopping Ads format. Now it’s time to kick your PLA campaign into overdrive. We recommend labeling your best selling products accordingly in your data feed, and creating a “Best Sellers” PLA campaign that bids more aggressively than your “all products” campaign. We also recommend signing up for Google’s new Merchant Promotions feed so you can highlight promotional messages in your PLA ads.


Tune up your remarketing campaigns

Are your remarketing campaigns running on full steam? Are you dynamically retargeting shopping cart abandoners with ads featuring the products they’ve left in their shopping carts? Do you have a robust “all buyers” list so you can serve ads this holiday season to your best non-holiday customers?


Tune up your ad extensions

Now is the time to make sure you’re taking full advantage of every applicable ad extension. Here’s a quick list to consider:

  1. Sitelink extensions. To provide additional links to deeper pages of your site.
  2. Call extensions. To provide searchers a way to call your business from the ad unit.
  3. Location extensions. To drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar locations.
  4. App extensions. To drive searchers to your app download page.
  5. Review extensions. To highlight positive reviews and PR about your brand.
  6. Callout extensions. To highlight key differentiation points under your ad copy.


Tune up your mobile ads

Mobile ad units display fewer characters of text than ads on desktops, laptops, and tablets. Therefore you should have some “mobile-preferred” text ads running in your account that condense your message down to a shorter character count. If you send mobile traffic to different URLs, you can control this easily through mobile-preferred ads too.


Map out your post-holiday strategy

The holiday season is not over at Christmas. Consumers do a lot of shopping the week after Christmas too! Make sure you have a strategy in place to capitalize on post-holiday shopping.