Make Sure You Don’t Get the Black Friday Blues

black-friday-shoppersWe’re fast approaching the season for annual rituals – joining with family, stuffing our faces, watching football, and frantically preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After all, nearly a quarter of retail revenue for all of Q4 comes in the week beginning on Black Friday (and including Cyber Monday). If Q4 is the retail feast, then that week is its main course.

What does this ritual consist of? Hopefully, the major pieces are already out of the way. Creative testing, landing page testing, quality score priming, poring through last’s year data to set up your bid strategy and determining who’s available when – and hopefully not in a tryptophan-induced coma – to answer what questions.

But there’s still a lot of last-minute preparation that many marketers tend to forget until, well, the last minute.

Planning Your Ad-vantage

Next week is a lot like rush hour for the search engines – a lot of advertisers trying to steer a lot of creative and bid changes through the same space at the same time. Whether you’re driving these directly in the engines, their desktop tools or a third-party bid management system, those are just the on-ramps. It can all wind up in the same bottleneck.

Try to beat the rush. This is critical. Even though your ads may be scheduled to run Friday at 12:01 a.m., getting them in early can save you headaches and improve performance.

During the holidays, editorial review can simply take longer. And this year, Google will be reviewing all paused ads.

Give yourself two days to get your creative into the systems to ensure adequate time for review and, if necessary, revision. It also can’t hurt to touch base with your engine reps to make sure they don’t see any red flags and to make sure you know how to reach them if your ads wind up getting caught in editorial limbo.

Have a Plan B

The best laid plans always include a back-up. When dealing with countless iterations of ads and keywords, there’s always the chance of a gap somewhere. This is especially true when you factor in the “out of your own control” element of editorial review.

It’s important to keep an evergreen ad in each and every ad group. If your new creative is rejected or doesn’t show up for some reason, a back-up ad will help make sure your group remains active.

If possible, choose from an already-existing ad, preferably one that includes the same promotion, where applicable, as this will mean a higher quality score as opposed to a brand new ad with no quality score.

Who Did What and When?

Even as you check things off your list – or scramble at the last minute – remember that you may not be the only one in your account thinking of these things. It sounds simple, but version control can get way out of hand during times of increased pressure.

Whether it’s a colleague, boss, agency, brand manager or someone else who means well, make sure you coordinate and have a system for keeping tabs on who makes what changes. Otherwise, you run the risk of stepping on each other’s toes… or worse.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to produce a bulk download of your account the way it exists before your changes go into place. This can save you a lot of hassle in determining if someone missed something, as well as in troubleshooting with the engines if things don’t go as you anticipate.

Turkeys Get Roasted. Don’t Be One!

Most search marketers have had these dates circled on their calendars all year. Planning should have begun in January, if not last November.

There are always small details that can trip up the most prepared of us. With so much on the line, it’s imperative to make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s crossed.

About the author

Dave Ragals serves as Senior Vice President of Client Services for IgnitionOne, where he oversees the company's client services operations and is co-author of “The Integrated Marketing Playbook.” Mr. Ragals has more than 13 years of online experience.

He began his online career with CNN, where he served as V.P., News Features at CNN Interactive, managing the creation of highly-customized content as well as several large business relationships with advertisers and partners. In addition, he developed the paid search marketing strategy for the American Cancer Society, where he was in charge of Web Marketing. Mr. Ragals graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.