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10 Tips for a Successful Holiday Comparison Shopping Engine Program

Comparison Shopping Engines require active management year-round in order to ensure that you're driving customers to your site profitably and not leaving money on the table.  During the holiday season the financial stakes only get ratcheted up, as do the potential pitfalls that come with the annual surge in shopping activity that can make or break the entire year.  To help make sure your CSE efforts not only hold up, but excel this year, we offer the following 10 tips for a successful holiday program: 1. Increase your Budgets: With the increased traffic that comes with the holidays, you want to make sure that your ads don't stop showing because you hit a budget limit unexpectedly.  CPC minimums can increase up to 25% for some product categories during the fourth quarter and this increase, combined with rising traffic, can deplete your budget much faster than usual. 2. Watch Your Economics Carefully: Most shopping engines increase their CPCs during the holidays because their traffic becomes more valuable to advertisers.  Monitor your performance throughout the season closely to make sure that the CPC increases are not causing your products to run inefficiently. 3. Keep Stock Levels Up to Date: If you have products that go out of stock, remove them from your feed or list them as “out of stock” as soon as possible to avoid upsetting your potential customers and paying for traffic that most likely won’t convert. 4. Update Your Feed Often: All of the shopping engines prefer having the most up to date version of your feed possible.  To keep the engines informed of your promos, price updates and stock status, you should plan on sending them your feed daily during the holidays. 5. Offer Promotions to Users: Simply put, Comparison Shopping Engine users are looking for the best deal. In order to stay highly competitive you will probably need to offer some promotions.  Unfortunately, free shipping has become quite common and many customers have come to expect it.  If you can make it work within your margins, you might need to add a percentage off the regular price as an extra incentive. 6. Keep Shipping Rates and Promotions Updated: Having enticing promotions won't do you much good if users don't see them.   If you are offering free shipping or other incentives, be sure to push those promotions on each engine in as many ways as possible. Update your shipping price in the feed and/or at the account level, depending on where you set your shipping rates. If your promotion is a percentage off the regular price, send the sale price to the engines. Additionally, take advantage of the promotional text fields offered by several of the engines. 7. Adjust Bidding Strategy for Holiday Stand-Outs: Analyze data from last year’s holiday season to understand what types of products perform particularly well during the holidays. Certain categories, such as personalized gifts or candy tins, may perform quite differently in November and December than they did during the rest of the year.  Simply maintaining your current bidding strategy through the holidays could cause you to miss out on great selling opportunities. 8. Optimize Your Feed Now: Have you made many changes to your feed lately? Check your titles and, when applicable, make sure they include helpful product traits such as manufacturer, color, size, year, etc. You have up to 70 characters to use for Google, so use as many as you can fit. Also, make sure that all of your products have descriptions and images and that they are properly categorized. 9. Add Keywords: Are you providing keywords to the engines that accept them? For Google, you can add keywords in a custom field to provide their robots with additional information about your products. For the other engines, filling up the keyword columns with relevant terms will also help you drive quality traffic to your site. 10. Keep Up With Engine Specifications: Google just started strictly enforcing their new policies for Unique Product IDs and Clothing products. Other engines are also requiring new fields that, if not adopted, can keep individual products or even your entire feed from being accepted.  Log into the engines' interfaces to see if they have announced new fields or you can pull an updated feed requirement list to check your feed against the new specs.
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