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The holidays are coming! Before you panic about rising CPCs, untamed floods of traffic, budget caps, and the usual challenges, plan to put these four keyword/audience-targeting strategies into play to set yourself up for success.

1. Start with Those Who Are Ready to Buy

Building out brand keywords is a fundamental step in your holiday keyword strategy. These users know what brand they want and are ready to buy – as long as the sale is appealing. Even though your non-exact match brand keywords could still pull in sale-related queries, you’ll want to segment these queries for the holidays in order to bid most effectively. Consider building out keyword variations that include the brand name plus “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, “Cyber Week”, “sales”, “deals”, etc.

2. Reach Non-Brand Searchers Who Know What They Want

Once you have the brand-aware audience covered, it’s time to capture the attention of the more complex non-brand audience. These users are especially challenging during the holidays because they are intensely shopping for the best deals and have the power to instantly compare deals at their fingertips. What’s more is that competitors will bid aggressively for their own sales, so cost-per-click rises quickly. That’s where a smart keyword strategy comes into play.

Building out long-tail non-brand holiday sale keywords has multiple benefits. Mainly, it’s a way to expand your non-brand keyword set for holiday terms, without accidentally blowing your budget on people looking for fine jewelry when you sell vacuum cleaners. For example, create keywords such as +vacuum +cleaner +Black +Friday, rather than just +Black +Friday +deals.

If your budget is limited, refine the keyword even further by taking a top-performing query or best-selling product and pairing it with “Black Friday”, etc. For example, +best +robot +vacuum +Black +Friday. Similar to the brand keyword strategy, this method doesn’t necessarily increase potential impressions, but it is a means to control bids on these terms and maximize impression share on them during a critical time of the year.

Lastly, these keywords are important to build out because they have good potential for high Quality Scores. If you bid specifically on these long-tail keywords, include the keyword in the ad copy, and use a sale-specific landing page that also contains the keywords, chances are the Quality Score will be pretty high, and you may get a more favorable CPC.

Ideally these keywords should be housed in a separate non-brand holiday campaign. That way you can maximize budgets and spend on these high-priority holiday sale keywords. Also, when the holidays are over, and users stop searching for these keywords, they will become marked as Low Search Volume. Having the keywords in a separate campaign, you can easily just pause the campaign to take these keywords out of the mix until next year.

3. Find Your Existing Audiences Within the Short-Tail Chaos

Want all the excitement of bidding on +Black +Friday alone – without the risk of exhausting your daily budget in under 2 minutes? RLSA campaigns are here to answer to your prayers. Set up an RLSA campaign with standalone Black Friday/Cyber Monday keywords, but only target your audience lists. That way, you can still serve your ads for the queries that most Black Friday shoppers are using (e.g. “Black Friday deals”), but only spend money on users who are already familiar with the brand and therefore somewhat lower in the intent funnel.

Keep in mind, though, that the broader the audience list, the more closely you’ll need monitor the spend, queries, and performance. If you’re willing to take the greater risk, target all of your audience lists in the campaign. Otherwise, keep targeting limited to existing customers.

Even with the safeguards of audience targeting, you’ll want to monitor queries throughout the day, and quickly add negative keywords for anything irrelevant. Even though these users are aware of the brand, they might not be aware that they’re in a certain audience list and will certainly be confused why they’re seeing an ad for pet supplies when their query is “Best Buy Black Friday.” If you have any historical data from previous holiday seasons or can come up with a comprehensive list of negative keywords to proactively put in place, definitely do so, but understand that you can never guarantee what exactly people will search for this year.

4. Never Lose Sight of Your High-Intent Audiences

Lastly, if you’re not already layering audience lists onto your non-RLSA campaigns to make bid adjustments, now is the time to do so. Bump up the bids on your highest-priority audiences (e.g. past purchasers) so you can stay in top positions for your best customers. Even if they’re not necessarily searching for the sales, keeping the brand top-of-mind for these users increases the chances of including your brand in their consideration set when it is time to buy gifts. Or you can pleasantly surprise them with a sale ad that convinces them to buy, even though they were “just looking.” We’ve all been there.

Now you’re ready to compete on Black Friday keywords alongside the big dogs. But unlike those other guys, you’ll be taking an advanced approach to only bid on the keywords and/or users you want to go after, for which your client and your ROAS will thank you.