What to Do if Your Black Friday Ads Flopped

While most of America was stuffing their face with Turkey, digital marketers around the world anxiously awaited the ensuing cyber selling free-for-all. Good performance on Black Friday and Cyber Monday can set an account up for record numbers during the holiday season. On the other hand, underwhelming numbers can lead to account uncertainty and a less-than-solid client relationship moving into the New Year. That said, all is not lost if Black Friday flopped. Two years ago I shared 5 Fast Fixes For Your Holiday PPC Strategy which included executing the following:

  • Analyzing High-level YoY Paid Search Traffic Changes (engagement, device distribution, etc)
  • Day of month budgeting for top CVR days
  • Holiday specific ad copy
  • Examining the Product Performance Report
  • Holiday specific search query analysis

In honor of this optimistic approach, let’s discuss 5 additional fixes to help turn around slow starts to the fast-paced holiday season.

Auction Insights

The first thing to do when performance is down year over year is to analyze the variables of the auction’s themselves. In the previous iteration of this article, we spoke about identifying changes in the SERP and distribution of traffic across devices. An equally important aspect to analyze is the players in the game. Compare 2018 numbers to 2017 and check to see if any new competitors have entered the field. Additionally, keep an eye on your competitive metrics leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Fluctuations in these will provide strong indications as to the aggressiveness of your peers and be an accurate indicator of what to expect leading up to the final days of December shopping.

Platform and Campaign Budget Optimization

After understanding the differences in the auction YoY, it’s extremely important to execute budget optimization that is in reaction to the holiday season. Nearly every company is going to have to have higher budgets, more aggressive bids, and improved offers at this time of year. Shifts such as this could lead to your typical heavy hitter campaigns lagging behind. First things first, look at this from a platform perspective. If one medium seems to be underwhelming, don’t wait until it’s too late to shift that money into a more impactful area. Particularly in the last year, the Facebook marketplace has gotten increasingly competitive and expensive. If for whatever reason the return isn’t what you’ve expected, look to shift funds into Google, Bing, or display/programmatic. Alternatively, if your CVR and return are performing well in Facebook despite elevated holiday costs, ride that train until the last stop.

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Beyond platform allocations, adjust to the marketplace with each individual medium. If you haven’t explored the magical world of Excel Solver, now is the time to implement and even possibly learn How to Automate Excel Solver.

Ad Copy Opportunities

During the holiday season, it is extremely important to update copy from your Evergreen content. CTR and CVR are often positively correlated when you can speak to the current promo you’re offering. Beyond that, customizers such as countdown help provide urgency and encourage your audience to take action prior to the conclusion of your current sale.

If you are a tad behind and haven’t already implemented, consider testing RSA ads and adding a 3rd headline/2nd description to your ETA ads. Lastly, keep on top of all ad extension opportunities Google offers. While the Black Friday/Cyber Monday extension is now gone, turn towards Price Extensions and Promo Extensions to increase engagement and help convey additional information to your audience. Consider updating callout extensions as well to speak to holiday-specific benefits such as expedited shipping, free returns, guaranteed delivery by a certain date, etc.


Last time we walked through holiday-season performance saving tips we discussed day of month budgeting. While I’d recommend revisiting that conversation, it’s also important to assess the aggressiveness of your day of week and hour of day modifiers. The common-sense tendency is to increase on nights and weekends, but make sure your data supports this claim thoroughly. For a more detailed walkthrough, read up on the Top Ten Tips For Effective Dayparting.

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If you’re still using last-click attribution (semi-related: 2019 is the perfect time to catch up to the future), I’d highly encourage you to examine the assisted actions during this analysis. Many shoppers are likely to be researching via mobile prior to completing their gift purchase on a desktop. You don’t want to miss out on this portion of the purchase process.

Upper-Funnel Campaign Testing

We’ve touched on this earlier, but poor performance early means a deviation from the typical strategy is needed. Given the elevated intent of the holiday season, often times upper funnel efforts see higher direct returns and a shorter sales cycle than typical.

With this in mind, consider incorporating both Youtube and Gmail campaigns into your gameplan. If you’re a bit weary or budget-strapped, start with remarketing efforts before moving onto the prospecting side. That said, get acting now since time is quickly ticking away on the shopping season!

Bonus: Don’t Pay For Returns and/or How To’s

Chances are you already have an extensive negative keyword list avoiding such terms, but here is a gentle reminder to revisit this list and ensure you’re not paying for non-revenue generating search queries. Common categories include returns, customer support, set-up, how to’s, troubleshooting, product-specific FAQs, etc.


A slow start to the holidays doesn’t doom you to full season failure. A large majority of shopping remains. According to this survey, only 5% of shoppers are finished while 49% don’t plan on completing their purchases until mid-December and an additional 16% procrastinating until the week of Christmas. Take a second to collect your thoughts, analyze the data, and set the strategy for where opportunity exists.

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