Black Friday & Cyber Monday Best SEM Practices During COVID-19

*Updated October 8, 2020

A Guide To Black Friday SEM Tips to Take You To Cyber Monday

The holiday season is fast approaching and for many businesses (especially e-commerce) this season is critical to a business’ success. Though this time can be especially stressful and trying during COVID-19, businesses that are prepared to meet the needs of potential customers when they are most ready to make purchases can better leverage opportunities. In a year when consumers are shopping online more than ever before, it is essential to have digital strategies that reach your target audience on the right platform at the right time. Online Optimism has created a guide to the Thanksgiving weekend shopping holidays to help you make sure that you are implementing all the possible features of your marketing plan. Take these COVID-19 Black Friday SEM best practices and prepare for Cyber Monday and the December holiday shopping season.

Start Early:

Summer may feel a little early, but the truth is, your plans for the holiday sales weekends should be solidifying. It is said that 35% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before October is over. Though people are already gearing up, it is important to stay in the know about the true impact that these shopping days can have on a business. In 2019, Cyber Monday was the largest recorded shopping day with $9.4 billion in sales, and in a year when traditional retail sales are declining yet e-commerce sales are increasing, that number is only expected to grow. By comparison, last year’s Black Friday revenue brought in $7.4 billion and Thanksgiving day’s brought in $4.2 billion. Your business cannot afford to be complacent about these shopping-centric holidays. But if you are a bit behind the ball, here are some SEM features that need to be added to any campaigns you are working with. 

These stats speak for themselves, and with entire weekends dedicated to sales and savings as early as Thanksgiving, you want to stay ahead of the game with your advertising strategy to capitalize on shoppers during these busy times. Make sure that you have a different strategy in place for each day. Just as a quick catch-up, here are the key dates you need to know about:

  • Black Friday – Friday, November 27, 2020
  • Small Business Saturday – Saturday, November 28, 2020
  • Cyber Monday – Monday, November 30, 2020
  • Giving Tuesday – Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Have a Strategy for Each Day & Each Platform

Mobile Advertising:

As advertisers, we all know that in today’s marketplace a majority of consumers are using their mobile devices to locate stores, to research and compare sales, and to make their purchases. It is going to be most important now more than ever to make sure that both your site caters to the mobile shoppers and your campaigns are optimized for mobile.

  • Optimize your site for mobile! During the time before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, it is going to be important to have your mobile site in tip-top shape for customers who are planning to shop online. Make sure that your site uses a responsive web design and that your page speed is fast so that you aren’t losing shoppers once they complete their search.
  • This can be the perfect time to increase your mobile ad spend during the important days listed above. This will allow you to capitalize on the increase in traffic during this time.
  • Try testing out Google’s mobile ads to reach customers who might be on the go when they’re shopping.
  • If you are using one set of extensions for both devices, think about the different calls to actions or copy that would appeal to them. For example, for desktop users, one of your sitelink extensions might be a link to your “About Us” page but perhaps you’ll want to change that sitelink to a product comparison page for mobile visitors. Remember one experience doesn’t fit all – adjust for the different devices your customers use to shop with you.
  • For Black Friday, you might have customers willing to visit your location or be visiting storefronts to find your products. Enable affiliate locations and have your location and hours updated. Consider placing a bid adjustment on locations where you have storefronts. For Cyber Monday, increase the bid adjustments for your mobile visitors.


Video advertising is the perfect way to reach your target audience in a number of different key moments in their buying cycle. The true benefit of video is the fact that it allows you to show products in a visual way, great for sharing, and can be integrated across a number of platforms which helps familiarize customers with your brand.

  • Video can be used to increase overall brand awareness, to share the story of your brand, and to highlight new products and features or share the sales you are planning for Black Friday SEM campaigns or Cyber Monday promotions.
  • YouTube has a number of great ad options that can be used to not only increase brand awareness, but to help drive conversions as well. Try creating a TrueView for action campaign and use prominent CTAs like ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Visit Our Store’ to increase sales.
  • YouTube gives nonprofit organizations special access to unique features with their YouTube Nonprofit Program.  Nonprofits can use donation cards on videos, link directly to their sites from videos, use Google’s production resources, and utilize a dedicated technical support team. This is perfect for Giving Tuesday!
  • By connecting your Merchant Center Feed (if you are using Shopping advertising) and your YouTube channel, opt your campaign in Search partners and your product ads could show beneath relevant video content.


If your business has an organized and robust product feed, implementing a Google Shopping campaign into your Google Ads account can be the perfect way to get your products in front of people who are actively shopping.

  • Build your digital storefront by implementing Showcase Shopping ads. This ad type will allow you to highlight your brand and products earlier in the purchase journey by showing a user your ad when they are searching more general product terms.
  • Capture more holiday shoppers with Google Smart Shopping campaigns. This campaign type will handle all hard work for you by automatically optimizing your bids, products, and audiences for you. This is great if you are new to Google advertising or if you are a smaller business and don’t have time to maneuver through the platform.
  • Using Google Shopping Campaign Priorities is a great way to push your Black Friday sale products. This feature allows you to decide which campaign places a bid when more than one of your campaigns is advertising the same product. This is the perfect way to make sure that your sale products take precedence during this busy time. By grouping the products that you really want to push during the holidays you can bid more effectively.
  • Show potential customers your promotions and deals using Google Shopping Merchant Promotions. This feature allows you to append special offers to your shopping ads. This is a great way to distinguish yourselves from advertisers with similar products and also encourage people to venture deeper into your site to view the rest of your offers.
Merchant promotions for shopping ads
Adding Merchant Promotions to your Shopping ads can help show off your sales & deals.
promotion extensions for Black Friday
Add promotion extensions for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Search Campaigns:

During the holiday season, consumers are making holiday-related shopping searches in abundance. Paid search can be a huge driver of sales for eCommerce retailers and can also help raise awareness of your product or brand. There are plenty of Black Friday SEM optimizations that your campaign can be adding.

  • It is important to budget your ad spend for the holidays. Increasing budget during October and November or allocate your monthly budget until the end of the month so that there aren’t any missed opportunities. 
  • Analyze your historical data to help better optimize your campaigns for peak shopping periods. Paying close attention to day of week and time of day performance can help you to determine when to increase or decrease bids.
  • Utilizing Google’s Price Extensions is a great way to showcase your discounted prices right below your ads.
  • Adjusting your ad copy for this busy season is also important. Incorporating your sales into your ads (especially in headline copy)will allow potential customers to quickly see exactly what you are offering and may even urge them to click through to your site to discover more deals.
  • Use Promotion Extensions to highlight your discounts and promotions right alongside search ads. Google offers the option for you to select an Occasion, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, allowing customers to know exactly what a deal is for. You can even use specific promo codes within your ads and offer percentage or monetary discounts.

Remind Your Audience:

The holiday season is an important time to reach a new audience of shoppers, but can also be a great time to reconnect with past shoppers and site visitors. Remarketing to these audiences with a personalized approach will help you remain top of mind this holiday season. Your best potential customers are ones that are most familiar with your products.

  • Use Customer Match to use your online and offline data of past customers to re-engage with them across Search, Shopping, Gmail, and YouTube campaigns.
  • It is important to have your Remarketing lists ready to go before the busy season approaches. Your lists should encompass a range of different users, such as website visitors, YouTube viewers, app users, etc. You can use these specific lists to advertise to different groups of people.
  • Pay attention to new customers who have recently visited your website. These people are likely shopping around for holiday gifts and should be used in your Remarketing efforts. Have higher bid adjustments on these customers lists.
  • Use Dynamic Remarketing campaigns to tailor your ads to people who have previously visited your website. This campaign type is especially helpful to reach people who might have abandoned a specific item in their cart. This can serve as a friendly reminder to complete a purchase.

Contact Online Optimism today to learn more about how our digital ads team can help you prepare for an unprecedented holiday season.