Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 3 – paid search)

This is the third of our five part series helping you to maximise sales over the Christmas period, with a particular focus on the 6th December, Cyber Monday, when online sales peak before Christmas.

After focusing on research and planning on day 1 and website optimisation advice yesterday, I turn attention to paid search, the perfect tool for maximising sales over the Christmas period due to its immediacy and flexibility.

Day 3: Paid search

By this point, you should have established the products that will be the focus of your Christmas marketing efforts, who you are trying to sell these products to, and your key messages to attract this audience.

With this in mind, I look at how to apply this planning to the various component parts of your paid search campaign:


I recommend you begin by reviewing the keywords you are currently targeting. If you have an established paid search campaign already focused on your ‘hero’ products, begin by looking at the historical keyword performance. Identify the keywords that have worked most effectively in terms of click through and conversion rates. Consider culling low performing keywords and divert budget into those that have proven to perform most effectively.

If you haven’t added to the keyword list in a while, now would be a good time to analyse if searchers are looking for products in ways you had not previously anticipated. Consider that come Cyber Monday, many prospects may have already decided on the gifts they are going to purchase. Search queries will become more specific as prospects get closer to the point of making their purchase (having already worked through the research and consideration stages of the buying cycle). Reflect this in the keywords you target on, and around Cyber Monday.

For example, if you sell a line of popular, branded T-Shirts, in a wide range of sizes and colours, add search term variations to your campaign that reflect longer tail search queries, for example:

Brand X blue t-shirt
Brand X red t-shirt medium
Yellow Brand X t-shirt

Targeting very specific, long tail terms will ensure you capture visitors when purchase intent is at its greatest.

Also, be sure to update your negative search term list to include those terms that you DON’T want your ads to appear against. The easiest way to do this is run a Search Query Performance report. To run this, go to the Keywords tab in AdWords and click “See Search Terms”.

Advert copy

Now that you’ve selected your terms and put them into tight-knit groups, it’s time to get creative with your ad copy. The key to maximising click through rates from your adverts is to ensure that the ad copy is relevant to the search terms being targeted, whilst also being reflective of the key messages you have established during your planning i.e. lowest prices, fast delivery and so on.

I recommend creating a number of different variations of advert copy that take account of where prospects are likely to be in the buying cycle, triggering these ads at the appropriate time in the build up to Christmas.

Let’s use our T-Shirt’s to demonstrate an example:

Mid October – mid November
A section of your target audience will already be in research mode. Reflect this in your ad copy by ‘warming up’ prospects with messaging that reflects their ‘mooching’  behaviour i.e.

“Looking for the perfect Xmas present?
Brand X T-Shirts in stock now”

Searchers will be quite willing to purchase even at this early stage if there is a compelling enough reason to do so. Therefore, you may want to offer incentives for ‘early bird’ shopper i.e.

“Starting your Xmas shopping early?
10% off Brand X T-Shirts today”

Mid-November – early December
It’s around a month until the big day, still plenty of time for shoppers but it’s definitely time to start creating a sense of urgency, especially for popular products that may run out of stock i.e.

“Brand X T-Shirts back in stock.
Buy now for guaranteed Xmas delivery”

With Cyber Monday on the 6th December, any special offers or promotions you are running to coincide must be reflected in your advert copy i.e.

“10% off Brand X T-Shirts today.
Order for delivery before Xmas”

Mid December – until the last day you can guarantee delivery
Shoppers looking for gifts from mid December onwards will be looking for guaranteed delivery before Christmas. This is where advert copy needs to create the greatest sense of urgency, especially if you have an advantage over competitors by being able to offer the latest guaranteed delivery date i.e.

“Brand X T-Shirts in stock
Order to arrive before Xmas, guaranteed”

In summary, the build up to Christmas is a great opportunity to create urgency by creating and triggering adverts that focus on the motivating factors of your target audience in the build up to Christmas, namely availability, immediacy, speed of delivery, for example.


Don’t miss out on sales due to a limited budget, especially on Cyber Monday. By this point you should have selected the products you know can deliver a return over the Christmas period. This will give you the confidence to increase budget, thereby guaranteeing all day visibility for your adverts, and maximum sales for your ‘hero’ products.

It is wise to check that click costs are not escalating as competition increases. Regularly monitor your campaign over the Christmas period. This is not the time to ‘set it and forget it’ (in fact there is never a time to ‘set it and forget it’!).


If you are not already using third party software to help automate aspects of your paid search campaign it is probably too late in the day. Often the integration can take a number of weeks, sometimes months; time you do not have.

However, if you are utilising a tool, such as DC Storm for example, ensure you are taking full advantage of the functionality on offer. This might include:

Rule based and automated bidding
This is where rules are created and applied to your campaign based on financial data, such as the price of your products and profit margins. By applying rules based on this data, you can ensure click costs stay within agreed parameters, for example calculated against your profit margins for those ‘hero’ products.

Product feed integration
Third party programs can be aligned with your stock systems to automatically take down adverts as your stock is diminished. This reduces waste by ensuring adverts are live only for products that are actually available, vitally important during the Christmas period.

Task scheduling
Tasks can be scheduled at specific times. For example, if you have a sales promotion that begins at 9am on Boxing Day and ends 5pm on the 27th December, you can schedule specific sale ad copy to run at those times.

Well, that should be enough to keep you going. Tomorrow, Lucy talks editorial link building…

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