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How to plan a budget for contextual ads during the holiday period

Late December and early January are always unusual times in terms of advancement. And in 2023-2024, even more so. Still, you can’t rely on intuition when calculating context costs in such a difficult time. If you have historical data, read how to calculate the budget based on them. If not, we will tell you what to rely on. You will also learn what non-obvious points to consider when calculating your budget on contextual ads.

What to consider first

January is considered a non-standard month among marketers and PPC specialists. User behavior this month differs from usual, and advertisers must adjust to it. Therefore, the budget for context after the holidays this time should be calculated especially carefully. But first, let’s consider the important points even before the calculations begin.

Holidays may vary from country to country

For example:

  • in the USA and Europe, the “quiet” period begins before Catholic Christmas and ends with the celebration of New Year;
  • in Bulgaria, in addition to Christmas, the day off falls on Christmas Eve;
  • In Poland and most European countries, the break begins just before Christmas and ends after the New Year’s Eve celebration;
  • in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the quiet period falls in early January until Orthodox Christmas, etc.

What to do

If you are promoting in several countries, consider when the New Year’s holidays occur there. Also, remember that people usually go on vacation a little earlier and can rest longer than the official weekend ends.

Strong changes in the auction because some business is turning off advertising

It would seem that, in this case, advertising should be cheaper. But your account may, on the contrary, be overspending, even if you haven’t increased bids and budgets. This is especially true for businesses that sell popular products — for example, clothing or cosmetics.

Let’s say that 20 companies participated in your niche auction, and 10 of them turned off advertising for the holidays, and the traffic remained about the same. This means that you will start to buy some of it additionally. And even though the traffic will be cheaper, there will be more of it.

What to do

It is likely that some advertisers will also turn off their ads for the holidays this year. Therefore, we recommend reducing your rates and budgets by about 50%. This way, you will definitely stay within your planned budget. When exactly to reduce expenses? Do it on the quietest days. For example, in Kazakhstan, from December 31 to January 8.

Keep track of what is happening in the auction. You can do this on the “Auction Statistics” tab in Google Ads. Don’t forget to revert to your previous settings when you need to.

Keep an eye on news and campaigns, even during holidays and weekends. It’s better to do it daily because changes are happening much faster now than before. And you need to be prepared for that.

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Pent-up demand

Many people put off shopping until early next year. Because in the holiday hustle and bustle, they simply need more time to do everything they planned. And some people go on vacation at all, and they don’t have time for that. Therefore, even if the beginning of the holidays will be calmer, the second half of January can be very active.

What to do

Consider that, at first, campaigns can spend less than usual. And then, on the contrary, more. Therefore, it is not advisable to budget for January according to the same principles as for other months.

If you don’t have last year’s statistics in your account

If you started marketing less than a year ago, use Google Trends data. This tool will show you how the demand for products similar to yours has changed over the year.

contextual ads, google trends

Below this graph, you can also see in which regions the query was most popular. This will come in handy if you are working across the country and are deciding which cities to allocate more budget for promotion.

You can also use the keyword planner in Google Ads:

contextual ads, google ads keyword planner

As can be seen from the example of Christmas decorations, the demand situation is almost the same from year to year. Therefore, on the basis of this data, we can predict that the situation will be similar next year. And we can plan budgets based on this.

If you have historical statistics

Let’s say you have a fairly old account, and it has data from last January. In this case, analyze:

  • the amount of traffic — the percentage of orders and clicks received;
  • cost of traffic — price per click;
  • conversion rate.

Let’s say that the conversion rate does not change in the specified period. Then you should not reduce the costs of advertising campaigns, much less stop them.

I also advise you to focus on call-to-action conversions in addition to online conversion data. In many niches, people can order online and by phone. Especially in January, when customers are in doubt — whether the store is open or has gone on vacation. So people call to make sure there is someone to take the order.

We use our own call tracking to evaluate call conversion data. We go to Ringostat, open up last January’s data, and look at the number of targeted calls — that is, fairly long calls. These long conversations usually mean that a potential customer is genuinely interested. Below is an example of a call report with conditional data:

contextual ads, calltracking

Things may seem to have changed so much in a year that historical data will not be useful. But they are still worth keeping in mind.

  1. Look at what has happened to the demand for your goods and services over the past few months and budget for January in roughly the same way. It is better to budget more and not spend than vice versa.
  2. Try to prepare for likely scenarios in advance. Consider whether demand for certain items may increase in the new year. If you are sure that something will be more popular, allocate more budget for advertising this product, order an additional batch, etc.

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Maybe turn off the ads altogether?

Some advertisers say, “It’s the vacation anyway, and no one will buy anything. It’s better to turn off advertising so that the money is not wasted”. But we do not advise such reasoning — unless you have run out of goods or the entire staff goes on vacation.

Why is it better not to turn off advertising in other cases? There are several reasons.

  1. This is an opportunity to get your competitors’ audience if they turn off advertising. And that’s without the usual and expensive “race” in auctions.
  2. Turning off ads will negatively affect optimization if you’re using auto-strategies. It will take time to re-train them.

Let’s say you do decide to save money in January, or you have a limited budget for that month. In this case, it’s best to adjust budgets and rates. How do you figure out what you can “cut”? Analyze all of your campaigns and see which of them are performing worse. For example, KMC ads may not bring direct conversions.

Ideally, you should focus on ROI — that is, the return on investment on specific promotion channels. In this case, end-to-end analytics will help you. This tool collects information about advertising costs from Google Ads and compares it with sales data in CRM. As a result, the user sees in the report how each channel and keyword is paying off — this shows the ROI column:

Example of Ringostat end-to-end analytics report

In Ringostat’s end-to-end analytics, you can manage bids without going to the advertising office. Just click the “Play” button opposite a certain keyword, and the recommended changes will be applied.

Another option to save money is to use the auto-rules in Google Ads. They will automatically disable what you need during the holidays.

  1. Go to the “Rules” section in the Google Ads tools.
  2. Click “+ Rules for Campaigns.” Enter the name of the rule and select the campaigns to which the rule will apply: for example, all in the account or some. Select a status and action, such as “Suspend”.
  3. Set how often the rule will be applied. For example, once on a certain date and time. After that, specify an email to receive an email when the rule is applied and save.
contextual ads budget on holidays

To summarize: no matter how unpredictable the future may seem, you still need to prepare for it. Do it base on clear data and use useful tools. In addition, you can always consult with colleagues from other companies in thematic communities on Facebook and Telegram.

About author

Editor of the Ringostat blog. Author of articles for the media about digital and big portals about business. Studied journalism at the Odessa National University named after I. I. Mechnikov.