Paid search is a key element of marketing campaigns during the festive shopping season.

What should advertisers be focusing on to succeed this year?

Here are six key tips to inform your search advertising campaigns this festive season:

1. Analyse past performance and forecast for the future

Reference historical data when planning your campaigns, but don’t simply replicate the same tactics from the previous year. Where were your peaks in 2013 – and how does the changing calendar impact them?

In 2014, there will only be 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas itself – one more than 2013, but five fewer than in 2012. Make use of forecasting tools to gain insight into future performance and potential returns and adjust your strategy and budgets accordingly.

And, ensure you have sufficient budget to cover all potential peaks – even after Christmas when the New Year sales begin.

2. Share insights across channels

During a recent Christmas insights webinar, a poll of digital marketers in attendance revealed that 63% identified Facebook as the key social platform for their Christmas 2014 marketing. Make the most out of Facebook campaigns by running complementary search campaigns in tandem.

You can use social insights to expand your keyword targets by analysing what topics and adverts are performing well on social channels. Is there a pattern in likes or interests that spark ideas to test some new paid search keywords for the festive season?

The same applies to hashtags; if an audience engages heavily on a specific topic, consider how it can be utilised in ad copy or through new keywords.

Similarly, use search insights to inform social advertising in order to reach audiences that are most likely to convert. For example, leverage technology that will create Facebook Custom Audiences of consumers who click on paid search ads, and use Lookalikes to expand your reach to new customers.

3. Make full use of Google shopping campaigns

Last year, global retail Product Listing Ad (PLA) spend increased 138% year-on-year. Given the opportunity, Google shopping campaigns should be an important element of your paid search strategy.

The product images shown in PLAs help make them stand out on the crowded search engine results page. One handy tip for PLAs is to ensure your feed is optimised with the consumer in mind.

Google’s PLAs for ‘blue shoes’

Be sure to also take advantage of the text under the price, which is referred to as the promotional line.  

While product-specific information helps reduce irrelevant clicks, the promotion line can help drive more pertinent clicks, such as Free Shipping before 10th December or 10% off today only.

4. Keep optimising throughout the season

Christmas is the most competitive time of the year, meaning that you need to be able to react quickly in the changing landscape. Therefore don’t just create your paid search or social advertising campaigns and leave them running.

Make sure you keep monitoring performance and are continually optimising. Study data on device, keyword, and ad copy on a real-time, day-by-day basis and make sure you can change campaign details quickly.

Set alerts to know if your ads or campaigns hit certain thresholds and automate the execution of actions to pause, launch, or optimise campaigns.

5. Re-engage with previous visitors

Retarget consumers that have engaged with you in the past, either to close the sale or to sell further complementary products.

For example, re-engage customers that have visited your site through the Facebook Exchange (FBX) or Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

Again, this is the perfect opportunity to bring together paid search and Facebook advertising to reach customers across multiple channels. 

6. Be localised and mobilised

Utilise local search features to be sure consumers can find bricks and mortar shops – ensure addresses, maps, and place pages are up to date online to drive physical traffic.

Additionally, activate geo-targeting around store locations, particularly important for reaching on-the-go shoppers on their mobile devices. Mobile ad extensions will help give more attention to these storefronts as well.

This enables you to target shoppers who want to get hold of their purchases NOW – handy as Christmas looms.

By following these six tips, marketers can help maximise their returns this season and generate strong performance to help stay ahead of the competition.

For more on this topic, read our post on why Christmas begins early for online retailers, or download the Econsultancy Paid Search Marketing Best Practice Guide.