1. Cast a wide net when it comes to keywords

Make sure you research and build a long list of all the terms people could use to search for your products, both within paid search and Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

Think about the context, so add in words like Christmas or Gift to your standard terms. And then prioritise – which keywords best fit your business and attract the right type of shoppers?

Use match types and negative terms strategically to help narrow your list to the most effective keywords.

Google PLA performance

2. Create multiple ads and see where shoppers click

At the beginning of the Christmas period look at running multiple creative concepts and then see which performs best.

Research what your competitors are doing and remember that PLAs allow you to add photos and graphics, delivering greater impact. Does offering free shipping give better results than money off vouchers?

Test and evaluate to hone your creative.

3. Be smart with bid management

Don’t just go for the lowest Cost Per Click when it comes to bidding. After all, it is better to spend £5 on one click from a valuable visitor than £1 on five clicks from people that don’t buy anything.

Make sure you know the Christmas calendar so that your bid management copes with the busiest days without missing opportunities – or overspending.

And don’t forget smartphones and tablets – ensure your bid strategy covers all devices this Christmas.

4. Optimise your website

Nothing puts a potential buyer off more than clicking on your compelling ad, only to be dumped unceremoniously on the generic front page of your site.

Create personalised landing pages (by product or product group) that are in line with your keywords and ads so that potential customers aren’t disappointed and can easily continue the buying process.

5. Track and follow up

Customers often don’t buy on the first visit, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest.

Aim to engage with visitors and get them to sign up to your communications and use retargeting, both on the web and via Facebook Exchange to keep reminding them about your products and offers.

Don’t forget existing customers either – if they bought from you once, go back to them with new offers closer to Christmas.

6. Keep optimising!

Search engine marketing is always dynamic, but this is particularly true in the run up to Christmas.

Create a calendar of activities at the beginning of the period, but don’t just set a strategy and sit back; analyse your data on a daily basis and tweak your keywords, ads and bidding strategy in a continual cycle to maximise opportunities.

When it comes to retail paid search, Christmas is the most competitive period of the year. So focus on each step of the Search Engine Marketing path – keywords, ads, bid management, website, follow up tactics and optimisation if you want to outperform your rivals and make it a Merry Christmas in 2013.