3 tips for a COVID-proof Google Ads strategy this Black Friday

With the UK officially in recession and uncertainty around the future of COVID-19 regulations, retailers are unsure what Black Friday 2020 could have in store.

However, eCommerce vitals look positive. In July, online retail sales were up 52.9 per cent year-on-year (ONS), despite the fact that England’s high street had reopened the month before. The threat of a second wave and increased bargain-hunting could also play into online retailers’ hands this Friday 27 November.

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing through the Google Ads Search Network is an effective way to grab online shoppers’ attention on Black Friday, allowing you to gain prominent positioning on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs) and ensure a positive return on investment. You can also use Google Shopping to attract clicks from higher-quality prospects actively looking to make a purchase.

Here are my tips for making the most of the platform during this unprecedented period.

Promote the right products

When deciding what products or categories to promote through your Google Ads, think about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer demand. People’s lifestyles and finances are different this year, so what were your best-sellers on previous Black Fridays may no longer perform as well.

If you haven’t already, compare sales data from the past six months against the same time last year (while focussing more on recent weeks — especially when it comes to seasonal products) to identify trends and determine what your audiences truly want. Better yet, break it down by demographics so you can better target your Google Ads.

You will also need to consider inventory levels. Sales can surge dramatically on Black Friday so you might want to promote pages with lots of stock. It’s also a good idea to have backup ads in place so you can switch strategies if something sells out.

TIP: On Google Shopping, make sure that your feed is updated regularly so that out-of-stock products aren’t shown as available.

Finally, think about margins. To ensure that every sale provides a healthy return, you’ll need to calculate how advertising costs and Black Friday discounts will affect profits.

Create click-worthy ads

I’d recommend creating your Black Friday ads around a week in advance. This will allow you to use up-to-date “intelligence” while leaving you with enough time to fix any ads if they’re disapproved.

To ensure that your Black Friday promotions are going to be competitive, take a look at what other retailers have planned or what they offered in previous years. You might also be able to see what kinds of ads they’re running and adjust yours accordingly.

The Google Ads Promotion Extension offers an effective way gain real estate on the SERP and highlight the special deals available as part of Black Friday. Make sure to set ‘Black Friday’ as the occasion: the term is strongly associated with good deals and many people search specifically (Google Keyword Planner says there were 368,000 searches for ‘Nintendo Switch Black Friday’ last November), so having this bolded term should help to attract clicks.

You should also keep information about the sale in your main ad copy, both to reiterate and in case your Promotion Extension doesn’t show. And make sure to take advantage of the Black Friday hype by mentioning when your deals are coming to an end, as well as using calls to action like “Buy now”, to add to the sense of urgency. USPs, such as free delivery or exclusive product offerings, will also help your ads stand out at this ultra-competitive time of year.

When it comes to Google Shopping ads, you’ll want to make sure that Black Friday prices are reflected in your listings. If you’re offering a voucher code, you’ll need to make sure this is set up in the Merchant Centre, so that the price drop is communicated to potential customers. If you’re updating the live prices on your site, you’ll need to update your feed accordingly.

I’d recommend using automatic rules to ensure that your usual ads are paused and your Black Friday ads are live at the right times. Even a little downtime can seriously impact your sales at this time of year.

Be flexible with your bidding

Automated Smart Bidding strategies can struggle to adapt to the Black Friday spike, so it is worth investing the time and effort into a more manual approach if possible.

While you will want to have more budget set aside, my number-one tip is to avoid having it set in stone, especially as things are so uncertain this year. Keep an eye on performance throughout the campaign, and if conversion rates and return on ad spend (ROAS) are performing as expected, keep utilising your budget. If things aren’t going as planned, avoid wasting your spend.

Bidding on the right keywords is crucial to maximising return on investment on the Search Network. When conducting research in Google’s Keyword Planner, try looking at the historical metrics for November 2019 to get a more accurate picture of Black Friday search demand. The best keywords are usually those with “Black Friday” plus the product name or type, the more niche the better.

You should also allocate more budget to higher-quality audiences. Retargeting can work particularly well on Black Friday, especially if you’ve advertised your upcoming sale, as previous visitors may delay their purchase knowing that discounts are on the way.

Finally, make sure that your landing page delivers a great user experience that’s consistent with your Google Ads. This should help your ads to rank higher and increase the conversion rate.

by Bradley Hall, head of paid search at Glass Digital

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