2018 Holiday Paid Search Strategies & Best Practices

Last year was the biggest online retail holiday season in history and growth is only expected to continue. To share in holiday retail success, it is important to prepare in advance and stay up to date with current trends to leverage the holidays to their full earning potential.

This page shares trends in holiday shopping and tips to best execute holiday paid search campaigns from selected research and reports from Google and eMarketer.

Paid Search Holiday Shopping Trends

  • > 50% of shoppers start holiday shopping research in October or earlier

  • Last year 30% of shoppers said their holiday shopping was completed before Thanksgiving

  • Not only is holiday shopping starting earlier, the season has extended into January and 20% of December sales occur after Christmas

  • One third of shoppers said that all of their holiday weekend purchases were driven specifically by promotions

  • Last year continued the trend of expanded mobile traffic and increased mobile conversions, with a 40% increase of retail sales via mobile devices

  • 40% of e-commerce sales are expected to be made on mobile platforms in 2018

  • In the past year, 40% of YouTube users turned to the platform to learn more about a product before they bought it

Paid Search Holiday Planning Tips

Key Holiday Dates for 2018

  • Singles Day - Sunday, November 11, 2018

  • Thanksgiving - Thursday, November 22, 2018

  • Black Friday - Friday, November 23, 2018

  • Small Business Saturday - Saturday November 24, 2018

  • Cyber Monday - Monday, November 26, 2018

  • Hanukkah Begins - Monday, December 3, 2018

  • Green Monday - Monday, December 10, 2018

  • Free Shipping Day - Sunday, December 16, 2018

  • 2 Day Shipping Cutoff - Saturday, December 22, 2018

  • Christmas Eve - Monday, December 24, 2018

  • Christmas Day - Tuesday, December 25, 2018

  • Boxing Day - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

  • New Year’s Eve - Monday, December 31, 2018

  • New Year’s Day - Tuesday, January 1, 2018

Plan Ahead

  • Use historical data around search traffic spikes to inform your marketing plan. Then, choose the best channels to reach customers

  • Look at past conversion rates to set benchmarks for this holiday season, then map bids to the sales calendar to know when to bid aggressively. You can also take the heavy lifting out of setting bids by leveraging automated bidding.

  • Create promotional campaigns with seasonal keywords ahead of time but keep them paused. Pausing holiday-specific ad text and ad extensions will allow you to have more time to focus on adjusting settings without a deadline.

  • Discover missing keywords by running search terms report for the same time period last year, and then filter for conversions > 0 and cross reference these against your current keyword list.


  • Prepare for an influx of mobile shoppers by adding mobile-relevant extensions to your ad (such as location, call, price, or app extensions) to showcase your business’s information in detail. Extensions will help shoppers find the details they need directly from your ad.

  • Account for cross-device influence and compare mobile COS to desktop COS. Make sure your device-type bid adjustments reflect their relative value.

  • Speed is one of the often overlooked variables that can have a huge impact on traffic and conversion. Three tools we love for conducting benchmarking and diagnosing performance issues are TestMySite, Page Speed Insights and WebPageTest. TestMySite now estimates traffic loss due to performance and is worth checking out.

Online Video

  • Educate shoppers shoppers as they’re browsing product reviews and looking for recommendations with informative video content. Make your video ads interactive to connect viewers directly to your products and provide information that brings them closer to making a purchase. Utilize TrueView for Shopping.

Campaign Management

  • Keep an eye on your competition. Regularly check on your average position and overlap rate compared with advertisers who participated in the same auctions as you, particularly on your most important campaigns. Use auction insights to check in on your performance.

  • Monitor your budget to properly pace for the holiday season. Actively measure your “burn rate” (dollars spent to date divided by the budget allocated to date) to see if you’re over-pacing. If your budget is limited, view your campaign performance and prioritize ad or product groups to see what’s spending the most.

  • Don’t go dark after Christmas, drive additional post-holiday traffic and re-engage interested shoppers who haven’t completed their purchases using re-marketing lists and customer match.