Updated August 12, 2019

It’s that time of year again…the weather is cooling down, travel plans are being made, and holiday excitement is spreading!  For all the advertisers out there, we know the busiest time of year is upon you and that you are wondering if there’s any way to truly be prepared.  While it may seem like a large undertaking, I assure you there is a light at the end of this holiday tunnel.  The best advice I  can give for the Q4 season is to PLAN AHEAD.

By planning ahead and making sure you are prepared prior to the Q4 shopping season you leave yourself in an optimal position to master anything that comes your way. This is what we always try to help our clients do in the crazy Q4 season, so we’re busy ramping up towards the holidays ourselves. That’s why I wanted to share my top 5 steps in preparing for Q4 success today.

Here are my Top 5 Steps in preparing for Q4 success:

  1. Look Back – First off, how did you handle the Q4 season in 2013?  Did you see any great successes or glaring failures?  The first step to improvement is finding an area that was handled poorly and adjusting your normal practices for better results. Find out what tripped you up last year and account for it in this year’s plan.  Common AdWords problems advertisers run into this time of year are ad disapprovals, budget limits, and credit card issues or expiration dates. One of the easiest ways to miss out on holiday opportunities is for your ads to be down.  Make sure you have proper ads in place, each campaign has enough budget, and all of your credit cards are up to date.  If you mainly saw success last year, choose an area where you would like to see even more growth and create a plan to drive that performance this Q4. Utilize your own history to pinpoint opportunities for improvement and growth.
  1. Create Goals – There is no way to measure success or failure if you do not set goals for yourself first.  Did you want to maintain a certain CPA, drive conversions at a specific ROI, or break previous sales records?  These goals won’t matter unless you establish them ahead of time.  Look at your performance from last year and determine whether or not you were happy with the results. Whichever outcome, aim to beat performance this year so you can guarantee happiness!  By setting clear, concise goals ahead of time you will be able to best create a plan to beat yourself year over year.  Some of the most common Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that advertisers use to judge their performance are CPA, ROI, ad spend percentage, percentage growth, CTR, conversion rate, and profit.  Pick one or two and stick with them.
  1. Plan Ahead – As shoppers, we all know that the time to buy is during Black Friday and Cyber Monday each year.  We eat lots of turkey, take a nap, and prepare to shop for the greatest deals of a lifetime each year, what fun!  As advertisers, we know that everyone is looking for these great deals, so we must come prepared!  Nowadays it’s all about remaining competitive.  If you don’t normally offer special promotions for the holidays, you should consider it.  Shoppers are expecting deals on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, etc.  It is the season of the shopper and if we want to remain competitive we need to keep that in mind.  Try to use promotions such as free shipping, buy one get one, and 10-50% off  in your ad text to best compete with the countless vendors trying to capture traffic on these important days of the year.  If you simply cannot offer a promotion, we still advise that you find some way to use promotional ad text. Using those types of key words and phrases will catch shoppers’ eyes.

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  1. Execute – Put your plans into action!  Have your ads created ahead of time and waiting in a paused state in your account.  Don’t wait until the last minute and risk running into any disapproval issues. If you have decided to utilize specific campaigns for this season, make sure they are built out ahead of time as well. Like the ads, they can be in a paused state until the proper dates.  Once everything you need is created and waiting in your AdWords account, make sure to label it!  By utilizing Google’s labels you can stay organized for the Q4 season.  Labels are commonly used to separate Black Friday ads from Cyber Monday ads, specific promotions from other promotions, and so on.  While staying organized is key, you also want to make sure you are promptly posting your relevant ads and campaigns.  If you are busy and don’t have time to do this for yourself, I recommend you use AdWords automated rules.  You can create automated rules to enable and pause specific ads, keywords, campaigns, etc. at specific times and dates.  Whether you choose to use automated rules or not, make sure that your ads and campaigns are posted early or right on time.  Shoppers are ready for deals the second they start, so missing out on this by even a couple of minutes could make a difference.
  1. Benchmark – As the days and weeks pass by, benchmark your current performance against last year’s performance and this year’s goal.  Don’t wait until the end of the season to do this!  Track progress day by day with your KPIs to make sure that you are keeping up with your goal so that you can make adjustments in case you are falling behind.  Nothing is worse than setting goals and missing them because you weren’t watching closely enough.  Again, I stress, follow through with your plan by making sure you are constantly monitoring performance. This will allow you to catch any areas in which you need improvement or where you can push for more gains throughout the season.

Of course, there are many more ways to prepare for the Q4 Paid Search season, but these are the fundamental steps that will help you get through this year.  While it is best to stick to your Q4 plan, remember that you can’t always account for the obstacles ahead and you might be required to adjust.