Last Minute Holiday Survival Checklist for the Digital Marketer

Kirsten Pickworth, Director of Client Services

The holidays are already here or at least they certainly are when it comes to your budget and campaign strategies. The time to plan for holiday season campaigns is giving way to the timeline for implementation and final optimization.

If you’re feeling behind, here’s a list to help with merriment across your marketing team this holiday season. Even if you’re not in the retail sector, it’s worth checking this list twice and heeding some advice from some experts Josh Thompson, Senior Social Media Strategist, and Max Trotter, PPC Strategist.

Refine, Clarify, and Tune Your Budgets

If you have extra budget, define now how much extra you’re willing to invest in campaigns that perform well. It’s also important to identify how much you want to risk on ad copy tests that might not pan out as planned. A few questions to ask:

Brand vs. Non-Brand Spending

  • Talk with your paid advertising specialist and ask: How much campaign spending should be dedicated to brand vs. competitive non-brand terms on key dates?

“If you’re going to spend on anything, it should be brand keywords. It’s more important than ever to protect your brand name during this season, when there are so many bottom-of-funnel purchases,” says Max Trotter. “If you can afford to bid on brand and non-brand, then do it. Right now, you’ll have the highest conversion rate and chance of engaging long-term customers.”

Budget Increases for High Performers

What percentage are you willing to increase your budget if the return on ad spend (ROAS) is performing well?

“Don’t leave money on the table. Most importantly, be ready to be flexible and be aware of your campaign performance,” says Max Trotter. “If daily spend was set at $2,000, ROI is positive, and the campaign is gaining traction with customers, why would you stop now? And if it’s not performing well, then don’t push it harder. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to spend more.”

Similarly, if you underspend, where do you want the additional budget to go? If you slightly overspend, where could that budget be pulled from?

General Rules for Holiday Budget Changes

Plan to increase your remarketing budget and engage past customers or users who have already have a touch point with your brand. Consider shifting your prospecting and remarketing breakdown from 80% prospecting and 20% remarketing to 65% prospecting and 35% remarketing.

Prioritize Home and Landing Page Changes for Holiday

Dead end homepage takeovers, isolated campaign landing pages, and microsites are about as helpful to your users as an ugly Christmas sweater. Sure, promote product specials, sales, discounts, and events, but make sure everyone has a pathway to get back to your primary content and products too. This is still a time to build brand affinity, and you don’t want to lose an opportunity by directing a user to a disconnected experience. Attract their attention, but tastefully and simply.

If you plan to make any last significant changes to your top landing pages this season, don’t forget to:

  • Test the promotional experience and watch colleagues test it.
  • “Watch for friction points,” says Josh Thompson. “Checkout using a promotion should be as seamless as possible. If you can, use links that apply discounts automatically at checkout to keep the user engaged.”
  • Ensure priority pages are being indexed by Google and Bing by submitting it to Search Console. If your user can’t get to a landing page again by searching for it, they’ll get frustrated.
  • Plan in time to test and troubleshoot any new functionality.
  • Closely coordinate campaign launch timing, so there isn’t a disconnect between ad copy or email content and what users find on different sections of your site.
  • “Use an optimized landing page linked from the homepage to promote a sale. And on products pages add links to specials page,” recommends Max Trotter. “Create a connected experience around the highest potential pages for conversion.”
  • Ensure your site and especially new pages are as optimized as possible – you have about 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention. Use this developer-facing checklist to triage your site.

Be bright and engaging for the season, but clear. Prioritize content for your site and your paid campaigns that will answer your user’s questions and keep them engaged while they are busy this holiday season.

Write and Evaluate Your Content Now

Bring some holiday cheer to your product messaging: Even if your business doesn’t have a big, competitive promotion, you can still garner attention with holiday-themed ad copy.

  • “If your generic ad is sandwiched between more relevant, seasonal ads, you might lose that potential customer,” warns Max Trotter.
  • Use Google Analytics to keep an eye on what content is engaging your users, then prioritize edits for those pages.
  • Make sure landing pages are optimized for topics, not only specific keywords. You’ll show up in the SERP when it matters most for brand visibility and conversions.
  • Update metadata to align with the new content, sending a signal to Google and searchers about what’s on your landing pages. A helpful, relevant meta description can attract a busy potential customer to your site over a competitor’s.
  • Employ a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway to avoid any embarrassing typos in your new content or changing ad copy
  • And Keep your paid campaign content simple and connected to your landing page content.

And on that last point: “Don’t include discount codes in your ad copy. Promote the offer and give customers the right link that applies a discount at checkout.” Josh Thompson reminds us. “You can’t copy and paste from a Facebook ad. Keep thinking about having the least amount of friction as possible in your user experience. People are going to make a purchase during this season. If they don’t have time for you, they will buy from someone else.”

Know What You Want for Christmas

Keep your Goals and KPIs top-of-mind when making decisions about campaign changes. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and say “yes” to too many opportunities, campaigns or last minute changes.

  • Double check your progress and trends in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Bing Ads, and keyword tracking tools.
  • Watch for red flags but don’t get too distracted. Focused effort during this influx of traffic and final stretch toward year-end goals and influx of traffic can help you clearly identify new campaign, testing, and budget opportunities for the New Year.
  • Check in weekly to identify barriers to progress. Stay focused on your primary goals and the steps you and your team need to take to meet them.
  • “With paid social, it’s OK to push the budget threshold, but don’t make changes too frequently,” says Josh Thompson. “You need to give the Facebook algorithm time to optimize. Make a change once and a maximum of twice during a busy campaign day. Over-optimizing hurts way more than it helps.”
  • “For PPC, changing bids once a week is ideal, unless the campaign is spending insane amounts of money,” says Max Trotter. “You need to take time for more analysis and informed decisions before bid shifts.”
  • Celebrate successes along the way. Keeping teams and partners motivated during the holiday season can take extra effort. Over communication and recognition about the impact of their time and energy on progress toward goals is always worth the time.

Keep The Lights On

No matter how much you plan for every scenario, there’s always the potential for technology or human error that could have a dramatic effect on your site or campaign platform.

  • Find out who’s on call from your team, your agencies and your development and hosting partners? Make sure everyone on your team has the contact list and knows who’s responsible for each channel and solution. The last thing you want on a busy holiday is confusion about who’s in charge and who can make a final decision.
  • Create a backup plan for when the site or server goes down. This approach should be consistent across site sections and platforms so users don’t get confused by mixed messages or changing landing pages.
  • Build a checklist of campaigns to be paused if issues arise with site performance. There’s no need to burn budget or frustrate your audience by directing them to a page that’s not functioning properly. Save money and customer service inquiries by taking swift action and communicating clearly through these pauses.

You can survive the holiday season, learn about your customers, and achieve your goals. Clarity and over-communication with your teams about expectations will always make the difference when roadblocks and distractions arise. I hope this checklist is a good starting point for your marketing team and collaboration with an agency this holiday season.

Kirsten Pickworth, Director of Client Services

Kirsten Pickworth

Interim VP, Agency Services
Interim VP, Agency Services

Kirsten is Portent's director of client services, with more than 15 years of experience building integrated marketing strategies for B2B and B2C businesses and nonprofit fundraising. She is a marketing nerd who is always learning and looking for ways to collaborate and teach in her community. Kirsten is also a mom of two who enjoys writing, volunteering, baking creations, and adventuring in the mountains and waters of the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her family.

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