Santa's making his lists. Are you?

Fully 40% of holiday shoppers begin searching and purchasing before November 1, which means search engine marketers need a game plan now to make some jolly-good sales this season.

Optimize your small business holiday advertising with these tips from the Bing Ads Holiday Planning Guide.

1. Budget early

Looks like holiday shoppers are giving big this year. In fact, eMarketer forecasts a 16.6% retail ecommerce sales hike in the US during the 2017 holiday season.

To get your share of retail and online transactions, you'll want to set aside ample budget for your campaigns.

Consider starting with last year's budget (assuming it was a good benchmark) and plug it into this handy calculator to estimate your budget.

2. Make a plan

According the National Retail Federation, 40% of holiday shoppers have already begun searching for the perfect gift. And 85% of them research online before they buy—whether in-store or online. That means engaging shoppers early should be high on your priority list.

When planning your campaigns, keep the following in mind:

  • Use remarketing to decrease cart abandonment rates and keep your business top-of-mind. Remarketing increases the chances that shoppers come back to purchase with you when they're ready to buy.
  • Make it easy for shoppers to get product info, comparison-shop, read reviews, and find your deals and offers.
  • Make sure ad campaigns render well across multiple devices. Always use preview tools to ensure your ads show up correctly before launch.
  • Capitalize on relevant keywords and seasonal attention-grabbers like "special holiday offer."
  • Monitor budgets and bids closely to ensure you are staying competitive.
  • Use reports to track progress and optimize campaigns as needed.

3. Optimize, and keep doing it

As we head into November, holiday activity ramps up. Your goal this month is to keep an eye out for opportunities to tweak campaigns to make the most of seasonal search trends and activity spikes. Hopefully, you've already reserved a bit of extra budget for the big search and shopping dates.

  • Make sure your shopping campaigns are ready to go, and experiment with new ad experiences tailored for shopping.
  • Choose optimal keywords and run A/B tests to see which ones resonate with shoppers.
  • Track how customers are using your site so you can make the experience even better.

4. Make a Black Friday strategy

As Black Friday approaches, shoppers are scouring the Web for deals, anticipating a post-turkey shopping spree. Your main priority here is to make sure they find the best deals (yours!). And on Black Friday, since they're out and about, most shoppers are doing mobile searches. Here's your task list:

  • Make sure your keyword variations include your brand name.
  • Maximize extensions to make it easy for shoppers to click-and-call your business, find your nearest location, or shop from your app.
  • Highlight deals and incentives using callout extensions.
  • Ensure you rise to the top of search results by setting your mobile bids high.

5. Keep going: Cyber Monday's coming up!

Cyber Monday shoppers are there to grab deals. According to Bing Network data, Cyber Monday is the biggest PC/tablet search day; and, notably, brand search queries hit 19% on Cyber Monday. Here are a few tricks to help you win:

  • Use targeting options to focus on device, location, time of day, and demographics.
  • Bid on your competitor's brand as well as your own.
  • Use image extensions to stand out, and review extensions to nurture trust.

6. Make the final stretch count

As Christmas draws near, your early planning and campaigns continue to pay off. In particular, offline locations gain increased business from shoppers who've already done their online research. And as time runs out and last-ship dates pass, in-store purchases climb. Plus, don't forget those post-holiday shoppers who are eager to return or exchange gifts or redeem gift cards.

December is the time to...

  • Drive traffic to offline locations in the run-up to Christmas, particularly as key shipping dates pass.
  • Update ads to generate urgency and to rally procrastinators.
  • Highlight customer-friendly service and return benefits.
  • Promote post-Christmas deals and make it easy for shoppers to redeem gift cards or check their balance.

Happy planning!

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Six Helpful Tips for Holiday Search Ad Campaigns

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image of Frances Donegan-Ryan

Frances Donegan-Ryan is global community engagement manager at Bing Ads, where she helps businesses of all sizes capitalize on the power of search marketing.

Twitter: @FrancesDR

LinkedIn: Frances Donegan-Ryan