Image shows a laptop oepn on a table. Christams lights in the background

Prepping your Google Ads for the holiday season: 11 things you MUST know

Nov 16, 2021 | Marketing best practices, Online advertising & SEO

Are your Google Ads in shape for the holiday season? With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas fast approaching, it’s important to ensure your campaigns are ready to face a spike in online shopping. In fact, the online purchase penetration rate in the UK has been growing exponentially over the past decade, rising from 62% in 2010 to an impressive 87% in 2020 (Statista.com). What does ‘penetration rate’ mean exactly though? It refers to the percentage of people that have purchased something from a company at least once within a specific timeframe (in this case, a decade).

Black text on red backgoround. Text reads: 87%  Uk online penetration rate

Last year, 75% of UK shoppers stated that they’d do their Christmas shopping online (Statista.com). Surely, the pandemic has had a strong impact on these figures. However, even before Covid-19, the in-store shopping experience often began online with people searching for products and comparing the best options on the web first. 

Blick text on white background. Text reads: 75% share of shoppers who buy Christmas gifts from online stores

With this in mind, here are a few tips to ensure your Google Ads are in the best position possible as we approach the holiday season. 

Plan your Google Ads ahead of the holiday season

Most shoppers start searching for Christmas presents in mid-November, two weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is a great opportunity to get your products at the forefront of thousands and thousands of potential buyers. Planning your Google Ads ahead of the holiday season is essential! If you haven’t done so yet, then carry on reading. On the other hand, if your ads are up and running, then make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes. 

1. Re-think your target audience.

We’re sure you know who your audience is, but wait a minute – are you sure your target group hasn’t changed over the festive period? For example, women may be looking for men’s clothes and men, on the other hand, for women’s perfumes. Grandchildren may be looking for kitchen appliances for their older parents. 

Take a moment to analyse the keywords or search phrases that bring visitors to your website through organic and paid search. Try to incorporate more general phrases into your campaigns. Yes, phrases that normally don’t work for you in the course of the year, but whose search volume will rise rapidly in the run-up to Christmas.

2. Forecast and ‘plum up’ your budget.

Are you ready to see Cost Per Click going through the roof? CPC is a straightforward pay-per-click bidding model for which advertisers are charged every time someone clicks on their ads. The more popular the keyword(or the season!) the more expensive those clicks will be. We know this is sad news, but if you want to keep your share of the pie, you’ll have to increase your Google Ads budget over the holiday season. 

How much extra budget should you invest? Data from previous years can be a fantastic place to start: take a look at your overall campaign Cost and Search Impression Share to start your forecast.

Black text on green background. text reads: Search IMpression share is the impressions that you've received on the Search Network divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive

In simple words, this is the portion of your target audience that you’re showing ads to. Say that in October last year your spend was £500 and your impression share 75%, and our spend on the same campaign in November was £1000 with a 50% impression share. Clearly, November’s spending wasn’t enough to maintain your impressions share for the size of a growing audience. This year’s budget should be certainly higher than £1000!

3. Leverage on Google’s bidding strategies

Increasing budgets is normally associated with an increased cost per click, so be prepared for this and do not limit your campaigns (at least not the strong ones). Two adjustments you can consider: 

Black text on blue background. Text reads: Enhanced Cost Per Click automatically adjusts wour manual bids for click that seem more or less likely to lead to a sale or conversion on your website
Google Ads Help definition
  • Manual Cost Per Click bidding allows you to set a maximum price on the cost of someone clicking on your ads. If you want to keep costs under control, this is certainly a good option to consider. If you decide to use Maual CPC bidding for your campaign, we recommend switching to Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (ECPC) over the festive period. ECPC is a form of Smart Bidding that, as Google sais: “Unlike Target CPA and Target ROAS Smart Bidding, which automatically set bids based on your cost per conversion and return-on-ad-spend targets, ECPC will try to keep your average CPC below the max CPC you set”. 
  • If your website normally registers a high volume of conversions, then the best bidding strategy over the holiday season will probably Target Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS). We recommend switching to this bidding strategy in advance. This allows the system to overcome the learning phase comfortably before the shopping spike kicks in. Check out this handy guide from Google if you like to learn more. 

Be discoverable and dominate the scene.

As we said earlier, adjusting budgets and bidding strategies can certainly help you rank higher in search results and be at the forefront of your potential buyers. A few more options for you to consider: 

Are your Google Ads targeting holiday season terms?

Do you need to add holiday-specific terms to your existing list? You can search for missing keywords by running a keyword report for the same time last year. Once done, identify the keywords that have generated conversions and cross-reference it against your current keyword list. You can then broaden your match types to capture more relevant queries!  

Top tip: Create a new campaign to keep your holiday-specific keywords separate from the rest, and make sure you track performance regularly. We recommend expanding high-performing exact match keywords into phrase and broad match types. Keep this monitored over the festive season!

Try Dynamic Search Ads.

If you have a well-developed website and/or a large inventory, then Dynamic Search Ads are a great and easy way to find customers that are looking exactly for what you offer. How do DSA work? Google ‘scans’ your website content in the search for relevant keywords to target. Not only this, ads headlines and landing pages are automatically generated using content from your website – all you have to do is add a nice and creative description. This is an incredible feature to help you save time and keep your ads relevant. If you’re intrigued, you can find out more in this super helpful guide

YouTube ads

If you haven’t run campaigns on this channel before, do check their targeting options – they’re pretty great! YouTube ads are a cost-effective way of raising awareness to the right audience for your product or service. In fact, Google reported that 79% of consumers used both Search and YouTube before making a purchase during the Christmas period last year. 

Black text on white background. Text reads: 79% share of consumers who used both Search and YouTube before making a purchase

Display ads

These are pretty similar to YouTube ads in the sense that you can tactically show your image-based ads to users based on their interests, demographics and behaviours. 


We all know how important it is to be visible to customers along the whole purchase journey. A good search campaign will put your ads in front of people in the market for your offering. However, targeting people that have already visited your website can be extremely powerful too! Building remarketing lists within Google Analytics it’s pretty simple, you can read more about it here. You can then show your products to your most engaged website users!

If you want to learn more about remarketing in general, we recommend reading our guide on how to best use remarketing to increase your conversions

Build a fab digital shop window 

With 75% of UK holiday shoppers buying their Christmas presents online last year, being present and standing out on Google is more important than ever. So, what can you do to create strong foundations for your Google ads in view of the holiday season? 

Is your ad copy festive enough?

It’s time to review and fine-tune your copy so that it truly reflects the festive period. We said how bidding costs will start to rise, so it’s essential to keep your Ad scores high. Re-think your ad copy and: 

  • Include the ‘festive keywords’ in headline 1, in the description and in path 1.
  • Tweak headline 2 and description 2  so that it reflects the holiday season as much as possible. 
Google ads screenshot showing an example of advert headlines
  • Use promotion extensions to feature Christmas discounts and offers. 
Google ads screenshot showing an example of advert promotion extention
  • Update your Sitelinks to Christmas discounts, limited offers, Christmas packing and other benefits such as delivery options. 
Google ads screenshot showing an example of advert sitelinks

Keep your product price always updated.

This is essential to avoid people bouncing off your website and wasting clicks! If you have a big inventory and you need to make frequent changes to prices, then having an automated feed can solve great part of your problems. 

Drive online customers to your store!

Consumers that click on a Google Ad are more likely to visit a store and buy. This is a great opportunity to drive more shoppers to your store thanks to Google ads this holiday season. 

Black text on white background. text reads: 25% share of consumers who are more likely to buy something on-store after clicking on a retailer's Google Ad
Source: Google data, U.S., Median percent difference comparing in-store purchase per visit and spend value between merchants’ search ad click-attributed and unattributed subgroups, Oct-Nov 2016, Advertisers = 25

 We recommend enabling location extensions to bid by location and target people that are close to your store as they search. 

Top tip: use your ad extensions to add store-focused details such as in-store discounts and limited availability. 

Bear in mind that people do run their searches across multiple channels, so it’s worth looking into other ways to reach out to potential customers over the festive period. Check out our 10 steps for planning your December holiday marketing campaign for more useful tips!

Not sure where to start? Feeling confused? Keen for more? Book a free consultation with us today to brainstorm your options!


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