PPC and SEO tactics for a successful holiday marketing season

The holiday season is critical for businesses seeking to boost sales and reach. With 42% of people starting their online shopping journey on a search engine, it’s no wonder that leading brands are focusing their efforts on search engine marketing (SEM), including pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO).

These brands are leveraging real-time data to analyze bid strategies and adapt to changing keyword focus areas as Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, doing their best to capture surging demand—and stay ahead of the competition.

Why PPC and SEO? 

Adapting PPC and SEO strategies to align with the unique demands of the holiday season can lead to increased visibility over competitors, better delivery of targeted promotions, a better user experience for online shoppers, and higher ROI.

By investing in seasonal optimization, brands can ensure maximum visibility on the search engine results page and capture traffic and sales. Read on for specific tips on how to maximize your PPC and SEO campaigns.

Best PPC tactics for successful holiday marketing campaigns

Plan ahead

As with most things in life, being prepared is half the battle. Start planning as early as possible, but whenever you plan, be sure to: 

  • Set clear goals
    Decide on your key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives for the holiday season and ensure they are aligned with broader business goals. Your holiday-specific KPIs will inform many aspects of your PPC campaigns, including your bidding strategy and goals. For example, if your focus is sales, set your goal to maximize conversions or revenue.
  • Leverage historical data to inform budget allocation
    Understanding seasonal search trends associated with your vertical and performance for your brand based on historical data will go a long way in informing your strategy. Use this past insight to help determine the budget allocation needed to support increased volume properly this holiday season.
  • Perform keyword expansion research
    Identify the most relevant keywords for your products or services and create holiday-themed keyword lists. Focus on high-converting and high-traffic keywords—where those terms overlap is your sweet spot.

Optimize ad copy and messaging

Once you have determined your plan, it’s time to optimize your ad copy and messaging. Your ad copy should be tailored to the holiday season—specifically, be sure to highlight any available offers. Consider the following tactics

  • Include holiday-themed ad copy
    Use phrases like “Black Friday Deals” and “Cyber Monday Specials” to increase relevance during this period.
  • Create urgency
    Use ad extensions or dynamic countdown timers to create a sense of urgency and encourage action.

Use ad extensions effectively

Ad extensions can enhance your ad’s visibility and provide additional information to potential customers. For holiday campaigns, include the following:

  • Promotion extensions
    This type of extension lets you highlight your special offers, discounts, and promo codes directly within the ad.
  • Site link extensions
    Include links to specific product categories or any areas you want to feature specifically during this period.

Monitor and adjust in real time

The holiday period is extremely competitive and dynamic. Monitor your campaigns regularly, and be prepared to make the real-time adjustments below:

  • Bid management
    Wherever possible, use automated bidding strategies to make sure your campaigns continue to align media KPIs with business goals.
  • Negative keywords
    Continuously update your list of negative keywords to filter out irrelevant traffic.
  • Variant testing
    Experiment with different ad variations to see what resonates best with your audience.

Leverage remarketing

Most purchases don’t happen after a single search. As with other campaign types, holiday campaigns perform best when you include retargeting, including remarketing to your previous website visitors and abandoned cart users. Implement a strong reengagement strategy to bring potential customers back to the products they browsed but did not buy.

Analyze and optimize after the holidays

After the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush, it’s essential to analyze your campaign performance and make data-driven decisions for the rest of December and future holiday seasons. Use analytics tools to review the success of your strategies, identify what worked and what didn’t, and adapt your approach accordingly.

Best SEO tactics for successful holiday marketing campaigns

When it comes to the holiday season, your SEO efforts should focus on optimizing your website for a seamless purchase experience. After all, no one wants to buy anything from a slow, buggy website. And with increased competition, it’s important that customers can find the information they need to easily make a purchase.

Again, plan ahead

Ideally, you should start strategizing weeks before the holiday season since getting approvals to make site updates and implementing those changes can take time. The sooner you start preparing, the more likely your website will be ready to greet the influx of holiday shoppers.

Review historical performance

Start by reexamining last year’s performance. Understanding where the holiday crowd congregates on your site and how content performed can help inform your strategy for this year. For example, if you know that your “hat” product outperforms during the holidays, shift resources to improve that page’s technical performance and ensure it’s fully optimized to match seasonal language and terms that you know perform well.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What products and services saw the highest boost in traffic and sales during the holiday season?
  • Which products underperformed?
  • What keywords performed well, and which keywords could have performed better?

The answers to the above will help create a road map for user experience improvements this holiday season.

Refresh your keyword lists

Just as with PPC campaigns, your SEO campaigns need a holiday refresh as consumer search behavior shifts during the holiday season. For example, more transactional keywords will be searched, as will queries containing a mention of a holiday (e.g., Christmas pajamas) or the words “gift,” “sale,” or “buy.”

These terms also have more competition, however, so you’ll want to work with your paid search team to ensure a holistic search strategy is implemented to maximize visibility for both competitive and niche long-tail search terms. Specifically, when building your keyword lists:

  • Prioritize optimizing keywords with purchase intent.
  • Target keywords that have performed well in the past.
  • Look at search volume trends to understand the seasonality of certain terms.
  • Prioritize optimizing pages where users can convert (e.g., product detail and product category pages). Make sure these pages highlight any holiday-related benefits or promotions.

Create evergreen holiday content

In addition to optimizing your website using the latest search trends, it’s also a good idea to create evergreen holiday-related blog or article content. This will help your brand stay top of mind throughout the ever-lengthening holiday shopping season. (Christmas lights before Halloween, we’re looking at you!)

Program content for long-tail keywords, such as “gift ideas for him,” “gift ideas for [whomever],” or any other relevant product recommendation or gift guide ideas. This content should link to relevant products and help lead consumers down the funnel toward a purchase. Since long-tail, niche keywords generally face less competition, evergreen content supporting them fosters long-term sustainable growth.

Monitor website performance and user experience

With more shoppers active on your site than usual, it’s important to ensure that your site infrastructure is sound since a smoother user experience leads to higher conversions. Areas of focus should include:

  • Page load speed
    Slow page load speeds can be frustrating for users trying to make a purchase. Optimize key pages for faster load times.
  • Navigation and information architecture
    An often-overlooked factor of user experience, website navigation makes it easy for users to get from one page to another. If users can’t easily find the products they’re looking for, they may hop to a competitor’s site. Ensure your products are neatly organized into categories and subcategories.
  • Linked holiday specials
    During the holiday season, it could be beneficial to link to holiday sales and gift guides directly and more prominently throughout the site so users have an easy time finding them.

Integrate with PPC

PPC and SEO work best in conjunction. Remember to connect with your paid search team and optimize holiday campaigns for better overall ROI.

Online sale holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can eat up paid budgets. Leveraging organic data to align with the paid search team on what terms to target or remove from your campaigns ahead of upcoming sales is a good way to drive paid performance and get the most bang for your buck.

For example, work with your paid search team to bid on important keywords you don’t currently rank for (and are thus invisible) or to prioritize PPC ad groups that drive traffic to holiday season campaign landing pages.

In conclusion, a well-executed paid and organic search strategy can significantly boost your sales during the holiday period. Early planning, keyword expansion, content and ad optimization, and continuous monitoring are the main drivers of success. By staying nimble and adapting to the ever-changing online shopping landscape, you can make the most of this crucial time for e-commerce businesses.