The Black Friday Ecommerce PPC doomsday checklist of dramatically epic proportion

Welcome fellow eCommerce PPC laborer, to that annual moment of glory, reward, doom and failure. A weekend of highs and lows, a weekend of anticipation and excitement as the first revenue numbers begin to roll in. A weekend of last minute phone calls and fear as Amazon takes over your auction insights report.

This is Black Friday / Cyber Weekend and in the immortalized words of Samuel Jackson as he faced the coming onslaught of toothy reptilian hordes: “Hold on to your butts.”

After which he was soon eaten.

Since ZATO (my Paid Search micro-agency) focuses on eCommerce PPC, I was asked to prep a sort of checklist… items to have front of mind during this crucial weekend. Here are my thoughts, written with both in-house and agency folks in mind!

The 5 Bs Black Friday weekend final checklist


  • Last Minute Budget Clarifications: Should you have had all of your finalized conversations with clients far before Black Friday week and have a locked in budget scheduled and ready to roll? Yes.
    • Does this always happen? NO!
    • Can this still change the weekend of the deals? YES!
    • Make it a point to stay on top of how budgets are shifting throughout the weekend beginning Thursday night. Like the odd tide movements shortly before a tsunami, expect a spend drawback early in the week due to consumer expectation for the weekend, and then watch it roll in Thursday evening and on into Friday!

    • Make sure you know who the person is with the actual “say-so” for budget adjustments and prep them for emails or texts from you. When requesting additional budget make sure you touch-base on performance, and do it early enough for action to be taken if you don’t get additional approved budget.
    • “We are at 60 percent of our budget. ROAS is beating goals and top-line revenue is 30 percent over last year, we expect to spend an additional $XXXX today if approved. Would you be able to approve that, or should we begin pulling back on bids and limiting exposure?”
  • Daily Budget Caps: Two things to be aware of moving into Black Friday.
    • First, even the most seasoned PPC professional has been guilty of forgetting to bump up daily budget limits on campaigns! Make sure you don’t accidentally limit exposure by keeping daily caps are pre-Black Friday rates and kill your traffic prematurely. THEN DON’T FORGET to pull back on them next Tuesday or you may have to answer some hard questions from your clients/boss.
    • Second, keep in mind that your Google Ads daily budgets are eligible to spend 2x what they are set to. This is REALLY important to keep in mind on a day when you’ve likely already bumped up your budgets. e.g., if your budget goes from $2,000/day to $6,000/day on Black Friday… your campaigns could be eligible to spend up to $12,000 on Black Friday and that will ruin your day if that budget wasn’t approved.


  • Competitive Markets: If you haven’t already determined to adjust bids, it’s a good idea to consider pre-emptively raising bids intelligently in your account.
    • I like to give a little bump heading into the weekend, this often looks like taking Past 30-90 days (depending on account size) and raising bids on entities over ROAS targets by 10-15 percent. For certain clients, I may even push an overall CPC bump of 5-10 percent across the board if I know from previous years that it is warranted.
    • Not running automated bidding strategies, and thinking you should test it for the holiday season? I’m gonna stop you right there… you need time for the algorithms to catch up to your industry/account and this isn’t the time to start that. Continue your bidding strategies and plan to create some tests moving forward in Q1 2019.
  • Non-competitive Markets: While Black Friday is a comprehensive event here in the US, there are certain eCommerce companies who don’t want to participate for various reasons.  As one example, we have a client with a specialty, high-quality product who doesn’t do discounts during this time. A Black Friday discount often results in wasted spend since people are in rabid, price-shopping mode, so we typically take one of two actions:
    • Lower bids across the account, lower budgets, stay in the space for exposure, but not allow budgets/CPCs to spiral out of control when we know purchasing will be naturally lower.
    • Pause all campaigns for the weekend that are not Client Brand searches or Remarketing (GDN + Search + Shopping) campaigns. This ensures that we are still there for people actively wanting to find our client, but not unnecessarily joining the rat race when consumer mindset doesn’t match our client’s core values.

✔️Bargain notifications (promotion extensions)

  • If you run eCommerce PPC, you should know this by now… but if not you definitely want to set up promotion extensions in Search campaigns and do your best to get Shopping Promotions approved and running.
  • The Search Promotion Extensions are a gift from above and have prevented us from having to totally change all ad text (except in the most competitive markets). Word on the street is, Google is testing more obvious ways of showing promotions in 2018 so it will be interesting to see what happens in the SERPs this year!
  • The Shopping Promotions are more difficult to get approved, but can be a great way of making your PLAs stand-out in the loaded SERPs, so they are definitely worth throwing in if you haven’t done so yet. You still have time before Turkey Day so get cracking! I recently wrote a walk-through on using the new Google Merchant Center promotions tool, which should prove helpful if you’re just setting these up for the first time.


Remember the number one rule of Black Friday weekend… it’s chaos and historical data is useless! Ok, that’s not entirely true, but there is some truth to it… specifically be watching for, and ready to adapt to these changes in behavior.

  • Audiences: Remember, your target audiences can shift in dramatic ways around gift-giving season. This is because people are purchasing gifts for others, outside of their normal behavior. They typically are also purchasing more than normal this time of year.
    • Consider removing Checkout complete exclusion audiences for this season.
    • Consider resetting (or at least rethinking) audience bid modifiers: Similar audiences, remarketing audiences based on user behavior, custom intent audiences… all of these can shift in purchase behavior and you may want to consider giving them a clean slate as we move into this weekend.
    • Be watching audience behavior this weekend, and willing to react quickly with positive or negative modifiers based upon the data as it rolls in.
    • With audiences that existed last year, you can always analyze behavior for this week through Mid-December to see if you can preemptively set bid adjustments based on historical data… being willing to adjust quickly if this year acts differently!
  • Competition: Competitor behavior shifts dramatically as well, and this is difficult to analyze from previous years since (at least in our accounts), competition often increases from previous years.
    • For instance, in one client we are seeing Amazon taking a much larger portion of the Shopping Ads pie than in 2017 and they were non-existent in this space in 2016. It’s a world of giants these days, but you can still sneak around intelligently targeting specific terms, placements, products, and more… just keep an eye on the competition and expect some efficiency loss over this weekend.
    • Watch auction insights closely, and be willing to react to increased competition in the space quickly by adjusting bids (if you have the margin).

✔️Bad-stuff-breaking plans

Even the best-laid plans of mice and people can go to poop over this weekend. It’s important to have a plan to account for what you will do if some automation breaks, budgets under/over-spend, the shopping cart or the entire website goes down… and any of the other 3,457,409.2 things that can go wrong. The only tip I have for you at this point is what I noted before… HAVE YOUR CONTACTS LOCKED DOWN.  Make sure you have quick access to:

  • The developer / person / robot who can fix broken website things.
  • The CMO / VP / person who can approve budget requests immediately.
  • The graphics person who can change that ad misspelling ASAP.
  • The developer / person / robot / feed system who can fix your Shopping feed to GMC ASAP.

I’m sure nothing bad will happen to your accounts, but if they do, having an agreed-upon plan for quickly communicating with the people who have the say-so is the absolute best way to mitigate any damage, troubleshoot, and solve the problem quickly.

There it is, now go enjoy your Thanksgiving off. Watch people walking down a street holding balloons the size of boats. Watch people throwing an oblong object at each other seeing which person is better than others at running into other people. Eat fowl.

Then get ready, because here it comes…

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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