Holiday Season Countdown Kickoffs For Online Marketers

Driving back from work today, my lovely wife mentioned that she can’t wait to have a pumpkin spiced latte and then proceeded with the list of holiday gifts that she would like to receive. This can only mean one thing: holiday season is around the corner.

For most people, holiday musings bring to mind family, time off work and abundant amounts of food. For those of us in the digital advertising industry, its the time of year where every day brings a different level of excitement, where revenue goals are achieved and when long days in the office become the norm.

With proper planning, correct strategy and execution, you should be enjoying the holidays a lot more this year.

Start Early & Know Key Dates

A successful holiday search campaign starts with early and in-depth planning. For most advertisers, the holiday season can make or break their company’s financial goals. With that in mind, I offer up this simple checklist of how you can prepare early and run a proactive holiday campaign.


  • Analyze last year’s holiday performance data
  • Designate this year’s performance goals and budgets
  • Identify your competitors (old and new)
  • Build out holiday-specific landing pages
  • Finalize your promotional calendar
  • Come up with a personal plan for success


  • Finalize your keyword list
  • Write specific ads for each holiday promotion (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Days, etc.)
  • Come up with the final campaign structure
  • Set budget and keyword bids
  • Launch your campaigns, as holiday shopping starts early


By knowing all of the important dates and developing a specific strategy for each, you can maximize your ROI and avoid reactionary, last-minute campaigns.

As late as 2010, marketers were making the mistake of waiting until Black Friday to ramp up their holiday campaigns and increase budgets/bids. However, online shoppers are more sophisticated than ever and are starting to shop progressively earlier each year.

According to ComScore’s 2010 Holiday Spending Data, in 2010 online spending on Thanksgiving Day increased by 28% when compared to 2009.

source: Kenshoo

Here are some quick tips and points for some of the top shopping days during the holiday season:

Cyber Shopping Kickoff Day – Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 2011

By getting ahead of Black Friday, and getting aggressive in October and November, you not only increase your revenue throughout the extended holiday season, you also get early indication of which keywords will be used by your top spending customers and which ads will be your top performers.

Based on data provided to us by Kenshoo (compiled from over 100 advertisers and $2Billion in PPC spend), a leading paid search management platform, search query volume for keywords related to “Black Friday” spiked immediately after dinner time, 6pm EST, which means launching your Black Friday ads and keywords should start during Thanksgiving Day.

Source: Kenshoo

Beyond Black Friday – Nov. 25, 2011

Black Friday has become synonymous with online shopping deals. So make sure that you have keywords and ad creative that specifically includes “Black Friday deals.” Set your bids based on strategy that you set up in September, and use your early indication data from Thanksgiving, and then continuously optimize.

For some of our clients, Black Friday is the highest revenue-generating day online. The second highest revenue –generating day is, for many retailers, the day after Black Friday.

Make sure you that you think of Black Friday as “Black Friday Weekend” and allocate your budgets accordingly. Even though online demand typically decreases on Saturday and Sunday, so does your competition as most focus 100% on that one day. By staying aggressive on Saturday and Sunday, you are likely to increase your overall revenue for “Black Friday Weekend.”

Remember, build your Black Friday campaign from the surge in traffic coming during Thanksgiving and stay strong into Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday – Nov. 28, 2011

If you followed my plan and started early, by now you should have a specific list of keywords and ads ready to be launched. This preparation, paired with a specific bidding strategy and unique promotion, you should be off to a great start for Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday is all about great deals online. So, make sure that your keywords, copy, and landing pages reflect those great deals.

Green Monday – Dec. 12, 2011

Green Monday is the day when online sales can be some of the highest, since that is the cut off shipping date for a lot of online retailers to ship products in time for Christmas day. Since most of your shoppers are making last minute decision on buying holiday gifts, make sure to reinforce “in stock” messagaging, along with “get it in time for the holidays,” and “order today.”

Make sure that you have enough budget allocated during Green Monday and check your bids and campaign budgets often. It is not uncommon to see a big spike early in the day that might deplete most of your daily budget allocation.

Last Minute Shoppers “Free Shipping Day”- Dec. 16, 2011

Based on the data provided to us by Kenshoo and the ComScore 2010 Holiday Season Study, Dec 17th 2010 (a.k.a. “Free Shipping Day”) saw the highest increase in online retail spend at 61%. Even though holiday shopping starts early, there are plenty of shoppers still waiting for that last minute deal or buying last minute gifts. (Full disclosure, I fit solidly into this category of shoppers).

It is holiday shopping crunch time, and common sense indicates that shoppers are looking for “Shipping with delivery in time for Christmas” promotions. A promotion we’ve employed to great success in recent years is to target in-state or same delivery zone shoppers,. You can geo targeted your creative to say “Free next day delivery” or “Free 2 day delivery,” as a way to differentiate from your competition.

In most cases, you should still be able to ship your products via regular ground service, but due to the proximity of your shopper, their product would arrive with plenty of time for the holidays.

For online retailers, keeping these key dates in mind and finding the strategy, keyword plan and implementation tactics that work for their unique business is paramount to holiday success. In my next article, I will address what is, in my view, the next important strategy to exceed your business goals this winter – mobile shopping done right, with your customers’ ease in mind.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Search & Retail


About The Author: is Founder and Chief Idea Officer at PMG (Performance Media Group), a full-service digital agency that cultivates the world’s most progressive brands online utilizing digital media, social media, e-commerce usability, information architecture (IA), and creative design. Follow his musings on Twitter @GeorgePMG.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter


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  • John

    Starting early is very necessary to have the full benefit of black Friday. This is the day for which I used to save penny. “Earliest First” is my favorite quote for black Friday. As stock becomes empty early on that day.


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