16 min read

For our latest Google Marketing Platform Sydney meetup we wanted to end the year off the right way, by talking about your Google Ads Strategy for the Holidays.

With the Australian consumer the most pessimistic in 4 years, it’s more important than ever to spend your marketing dollars wisely. We spoke to Erran Su, Growth Marketing Analyst about how to utilise Google Ads to catch the final wave of holiday shopping by targeting the right audiences to make it the best December ever for your business.

Holiday Google Ads Strategy

In this presentation, we’ll discuss the big trends, key ideas and some actionable strategies that you can take away to implement on your own site. Let this serve as your springboard to effectively explore the world of SEO further.

What We’ll Cover

tl;dr? Skip to the slides or skip to the section you want to know more about:

View the slides below and read on to learn about the best Google Ads strategy for the holidays.


State of Play

Tough year for the Aussie economy

2019 has been a tough year for the Aussie economy. We’ve heard a slew of news about struggling local business, retailers in particular. While consumer confidence was at a 5-year high this time last year (Dec 2018), we’re now seeing a 5-year low just 11 months later.

What does this mean for the shopping season?

Shopping Season

According to a survey of executives and senior managers in the Australian retail sector by Deloitte, expectations for holiday spending are low. Consumers are becoming more conservative in their spending and half of all retailers are expecting zero or negative growth year on year.

But, don’t fear just yet. This is a golden opportunity for businesses with a good digital strategy and who are willing to leverage the power of technology. While in store visits are down, online shopping is predicted to double down on growth. This means having a targeted digital strategy is critical to your success for the busy holiday period.

More Consumers and Choosing to Shop Online

Consumers are researching before they buy more than ever. They are comparing prices across websites and online sales are expected to boom. This means businesses have a real opportunity to help consumers choose wisely by marketing their products and services. Of course, with consumers becoming more demanding it’s not an easy task.

To win the race, businesses need to:

  • Know their customer and target the right audience
  • Offer convenience, efficiency and a smooth digital experience
  • Show customers what they want
  • Be present at the discovery phase of the user journey

Google Ads Should Be Your Platform of Choice

Google Ads for the Holidays

  • People are turning to Google for advice and inspiration. Purchase decisions are more often made online, not in the aisles.
  • Search = Intent. When a user searches for something, they are showing their intent. An intent to purchase. That puts Google Ads at the bottom of the digital funnel. This is a crucial channel under the current economic environment as social media and other upper funnel channels get more expensive during the holiday season.
  • Google’s powerful machine learning capability will help you show your ads to the right people at the right time.
  • 3 out of 4 customers will buy a gift from a new retailer. This makes Google Ads a great place to showcase your products.

The Holiday Shopping Period

  • Consumers start their holiday shopping early in October/November but there are always plenty of last-minute shoppers before Christmas and during the sales afterwards.
  • 67% of festive shoppers still haven’t done all the shopping the last week before Christmas.
  • 86% of people still searched for festive season shopping the week after Christmas.
  • With a good Google Ads Strategy for the holidays, the impact on your business will last long after the shopping season ends.

Google Ads Strategy - Holiday Season

Google Ads Strategy for the Holiday Season

Google Ads Strategy for the Holidays Keywords

  1. Review your keyword coverage.
    • Are there sufficient keywords in your account?
    • Are all your products/services covered?
  2. Unpause any keywords (due to low volume), they should be given another chance to perform.
    • Review your paused keywords. Search volume during the holidays are expected to spike across the board, so it’s important to review your paused, low volume keywords. They may bring surprise traffic and leads.
  3. Use Google Trends and other planning tools.
    • See what people are searching for during the holidays with planning tools like Google Trends.
  4. Don’t forget the negative keywords.
    • Minimise potential wastage. If you have your account running, review your search terms again.

Google Ads Audience – Your Key to Success

Google Ads gives you the power to find your potential customers sitting at each point of the funnel.

Google Ads Audience - Your Key to Success

Audience targeting is arguably the most crucial part of your Google Ads strategy for the holidays. Spend your budget on the people who are most likely to purchase. Google Ads, with its enormous amount of available data and machine learning capabilities, allows you to find users at different stages of the decision making phase.


Holiday Google Ads Strategy - Demographics

First, the basics. Use past data to find your target customers and set up demographic, location targeting, etc. And remember, non-targeting is as important as targeting.

  1. Build a persona of your target customer.
    • How old are they?
    • Where do they live?
    • What’s their gender?
    • What language/s do they speak?
  2. Do not exclude! Why?
    • Because data isn’t always accurate for demographics.
    • People are purchasing gifts for others. Even though they may not be your target customer, they may be buying for someone who is.
Affinity & In-Market

Google’s affinity audiences are groups placed into predefined buckets of general interests.

In-market audiences are users who have shown intent to compare and purchase a specific category of product.

with custom affinity audiences you can create your own highly tailored audience in Google Ads based on users most recent web activity.


Remarketing in Google Ads for the holidays

Remarketing to audiences is one of your greatest advantages.

79% of shoppers don’t know what they’re going to buy 10 days before Christmas. BUT they’ve done their research and a good remarketing campaign can be the difference between them coming back to you or your competitor.

It’s important to create meaningful segmentations in remarketing audiences. Users abandon for all kinds of reasons and you’ll learn more about them the further down the funnel they are.

Go beyond the basics and leverage the power of Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to create better audiences in Google Ads.

Use the MECE Approach

MECE Method for Google Ads

Retarget site visitors with the MECE method (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive). This approach allows you to capture all visitors while targeting them in different ways, depending on their level of engagement.

The focus should not only be on pageviews but rather the viewers intent. Meaning, their action on the website (clicks, videos watched, form fills).

Review actions that are valuable on your website and find ways to record those actions.

Bidding Strategy

Bidding Strategy for Google AdsManual or Auto or Smart Bidding?

Bidding has been one of the biggest headaches for PPC advertisers. It can be complicated and time-consuming. Over the years Google has amassed a huge amount of data and has invested heavily in machine learning, which brought us auto-bidding. However, smart bidding takes this learning one step further and adjusts as you go.

Which strategy should you choose?

We recommend avoiding manual bidding. Instead, choose the right auto-bidding or smart strategy that works best towards your business goals and your available data.


48% of consumers are triggered by ads that use seasonality themes.

Creative is often overlooked in PPC. In the era of auto-bidding, good creative is more important than ever. Google agrees. Creative Excellence is one of the key pillars in evaluating an account’s performance.

How to Create Killer Ad Copy for the Holidays
  1. Include seasonal messages (Christmas, New Year)
  2. Create a sense of urgency
  3. Make them an offer they can’t refuse
  4. Send different messages to different remarketing audiences
  5. Use extensions (as many as possible)
  6. Utilise responsive search ads
Use the IF Function

The IF function gives you an easy way to show different ad copy to different audiences. It’s proven to be very effective as users prefer tailored messaging.

IF function enables custom messaging to target your ad copy based on certain conditions. It is currently available for devices and audiences.

Google Ads IF Function

Mobile – Your Key Focus

51% of traffic came from mobile during seasonality campaigns and 31% of online sales revenue came from purchases made with mobile devices.

Mobile Google Ads Strategy

What you can do:

  • Be more aggressive on mobile
  • Tailor creatives using IF function
  • Ensure landing pages are optimised for mobile

Shopping Ads

Shopping Ads and Google Ads

Shopping ads are eCommerce’s best friend. If you have eCommerce, shopping ads are a must.

Shopping ads can:

  • Broaden your reach
  • Speak to the right shoppers
  • Showcase your products
  • Be used for Merchant Promotions
Smart Shopping

Why do you need Smart Shopping?

Smart Shopping is another machine learning-driven feature from Google. The Ads are tailor-made for merchants with smaller budgets and with less time to strategically manoeuvre them. The optimisation process that goes into producing ads with the highest conversion value possibly takes around 15 days.

Smart Shopping combines standard shopping and display remarketing. Smart Shopping combines your existing product feed with Google’s robots to show ads to people who are likely to convert at your chosen return on ad spend.


Smart Shopping Strategy for the Holidays



  • Increase your presence
  • Save your time for optimisation
  • Remarketing display ads


  • More complicated attribution
  • Lack of negative keywords
  • Lack of product control

Before You Launch Your Campaign

What to Check Before Running Ads

  • Have a plan for your holiday promotion strategy
  • Make sure tracking is set up properly
  • Don’t forget the basics
    • Is your credit card up to date?
    • Is the location targeting correct?

Learn to Love the Machine

Machine Learning

Google, with more data than ever under its belt is pushing hard for the utilisation of machine learning in Google Ads.

Before you rush to judge and criticise the machine, consider the following:

  • What did you tell the machine to do and how did it perform on that?
  • Did you give the system enough time and space to learn?
  • Are you feeding the machine the right data?

Don’t Forget About the Humans

Digital Psychology

While you need to learn to love the machine, don’t forget about humans.

Pay attention to digital psychology:

  • Loss aversion
  • Need to complete
  • Scarcity
  • Rewards

How to Measure Your Success

  1. Be clear of the goals you want to achieve
  2. Don’t overlook assisted conversions
  3. Sometimes it’s ok to compromise ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) if you can acquire high-quality new customers

Go Beyond Search and Shopping

Beyond Search and Shopping - Google Ads Strategy for the Holidays

  • Over 55% people search for a product, learn more on Google and then make a purchase.
  • Over 90% of shoppers say they’ve discovered products on YouTube

Google Ads is powerful, but it is part of the wider digital universe. If your budget allows, combine your Google Ads efforts with other channels, including social and video to further your digital performance and drive results for the holiday season.


  • Digital is the key to success in a weak economic environment
  • Be more sophisticated in remarketing to your audience
  • Prioritise mobile
  • Trust the machine (when you give the correct instructions)
  • Don’t forget the humans
  • Go omnichannel (if budget allows)
  • Think long-term

Thank You

Join us at the next Google Marketing Platform Sydney meetup or see our other locations here.

Google Marketing Platform Sydney

Paul Hewett

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