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There Are Less Than 100 Days Until Black Friday: Here’s How PPC Marketers Can Prepare

It might seem like there are still a few whisps of summer left, but Black Friday is coming up fast. What you do now and in the next few weeks could make the difference in your Q4 return on ad spend, and in your return on ad spend for the entire year.

The goods news is that you do have enough time to get ready for this change. While November 29th (the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday) may be only a bit more than two months away, there’s time.

So breathe. Relax. But let’s get to work.

Your PPC prep for Black Friday chunks out into the following nine areas:

  1. Know what you’ll be selling.

Usually companies pick a short list of best-selling products or 1-2 offers and focus all their resources on pushing those items and/or deals. You need to get this year’s deals defined as soon as possible.

  1. Having all the elements you need to confidently sell those items.

As a PPC manager, you may not be directly responsible for all of these assets, but you’ll need them to do your job well. You will need ad creative, landing pages, follow-up emails – and (if you sell physical products) the assurance your company will have the items you’re selling in stock. If you are re-using creative assets from last year, make sure everything still exists and still works. No broken links on the landing page, please.

  1. Get your ads tuned up for Black Friday.

Here are just a few of the issues to address just with your ads:

  • You really do need Black Friday-specific display ads and related images. Generic ads will not get clicked.
  • Consider setting up promotion extensions for your ads.
  • Write copy specific to Black Friday on all your ads.
  • Change your ads sitelinks for Holiday deals and promotions
  • If you are very brave, you could add countdown timers to your text ads. Obviously this would be the sort of thing to test rigorously before the big day.
  • Consider adding [product keyword] + “Black Friday” for the products you most want to promote. This is a highly targeted phrase that has extremely high purchase intent.
  1. A bid and budget strategy pre-planned so you aren’t making (too many) snap decisions on the big day.

This is probably something you’ll need to work out with your boss. You need them to answer questions like:

  • What is your budget for Black Friday?
  • What is your budget for all of Black Friday weekend (including Cyber Monday)?
  • What is your target ROAS (return on ad spend)?
  • If any of your key products sell out, what should you do? Cut bids but still promote the out of stock products? Offer different products (which ones, how much stock will you have?)
  • How much can you increase your bids for Black Friday and Black Friday Weekend? Searches for hot items often spike by ten times on Black Friday. Are you willing to increase your bids by 30%? 40%?
  • Where is your boss going to be on Black Friday? Will you be able to reach them for quick decisions?
  • If you’ve spent all your Black Friday budget by, say, 1pm, but your ROAS is good, will you be given more budget?
  1. An understanding of what worked for your PPC campaigns and for your company in general last year on Black Friday and Black Friday weekend.

Run reports from last year’s Black Friday and Black Friday weekend performance. Refresh yourself on what did well and what didn’t.

  1. Your new Black Friday campaigns and channels (text ads, display ads, and shopping ads, Amazon ads) will have to be selected and then created well before you need to turn them on.
  1. If you’re going to try any new marketing or advertising tactics, they need to be tested them thoroughly before Black Friday.
    It’s not OK for some hot new technology to break on the big day.
  1. Decide If you want to skip advertising to a general audience and just do retargeting

Some PPC marketers see Black Friday as a huge ecommerce opportunity. Others see it as a day when all bid prices jump by 30% or more and customer service gets treated really badly. To avoid all the competition, these PPC marketers shut all regular campaigns down and switch to exclusively retargeting campaigns. Why? Because retargeting works so well. There are plenty of statistics to prove it.

  1. If you’re using automated bidding or any kind of machine learning platform to manage your PPC campaigns, you’re going to have to figure out how to turn off those automations and how to best run the campaigns yourself for a few days.

Why? Because Black Friday is a black swan event in PPC. Nothing behaves normally. Even if you have data on what happened last year for Black Friday PPC, this year is going to be different. Even some basic campaign settings, like Google’s Standard delivery option, won’t work on Black Friday because it’s based on historical data.

A PPC Marketer’s Action List for How to Get Ready for Black Friday and Black Friday Weekend

Here’s a rough calendar of what you need to get done every week from now until Black Friday. As you can see, there is enough time – but there isn’t a lot of extra time.


4th week of September (September 23-27)

  • Develop Black Friday offers.
  • Assess marketing analytics from Holiday 2018.
  • Do an inventory of all of last year’s campaign assets.
  • Assess any inventory issues and take action on orders (may already be too late; you may have to work with the inventory you can get or have on hand already).


1st week of October (September 30-October 4)

  • Finalize Black Friday offers (including upsell and cross sell offers).
  • Meet with creative team to develop Holiday 2019 (including Black Friday) creative… which will include text ads, display ads, video ads, landing pages, possible holiday design for product pages, email followup.
  • Develop and plan 1-3 things you want to test for Holiday 2019 (countdown timer, retargeting ads, shopping ads, Bing ads, Amazon PPC).

2nd week of October (October 7-October 11)

  • Develop all creative for the pre-holiday tests.
  • Finalize bidding strategy for Black Friday and Holiday 2019.
  • Decide which ad sitelinks you’ll be promoting on ads.

3rd week of October (October 14-October 18)

4th week of October (October 21-October 25)

  • Assess results of pre-holidays tests.
  • Build out campaigns for Black Friday and holiday 2019.
  • All creative assets for your Black Friday Google Shopping campaign due.

5th week of October (October 28-Nov 1)

  • Develop final plan for what new tests/campaigns/tactics to roll out for Holiday 2019.
  • All ad creative for Holiday 2019 delivered.
  • All creative assets for your Black Friday Google Shopping campaign finalized.


1st week of November (November 4- November 8)

  • All landing pages for Holiday Campaigns completed.
  • Google Shopping Ads campaign created and reviewed. Many PPC pros recommend using Single Product Ad Groups (aka SPAGS), especially for Black Friday.

2nd week of November (November 11- November 15)

  • All email messages and follow-up assets ready for Holiday 2019.
  • Launch your Google Shopping ads Black Friday campaigns (for the specific short list of products you’re pushing on Black Friday).

3rd week of November (November 18- November 22)

  • Absolutely everything – all campaigns, ad creative, landing pages, follow-up assets and fulfillment – ready to go by the end of the week.
  • Download the bids for all of your regular campaigns so you can restore them easily after the holiday is over.
  • Possibly: Begin pre-Black Friday ad teasers and email promotions.
  • Second week of your Black Friday Google Shopping Campaign.

4th week of November (November 25- November 29)

  • The week of Black Friday.
  • Either set up Merchant Center promotions or add “sale_price” data to your Google Shopping Feed. Upload your new feed right before Black Friday starts.
  • On Black Friday, monitor your ads. They should be near the top of the paid results, but avoid first position.
  • Stay in close contact with the person in charge of product inventory at your company.
  • If you’ve got real-time reporting, hurrah! If not, let it go… Google Analytics doesn’t update fast enough to be very helpful today.

After the third week of December (or all the way up to Monday, December 23rd for those of you who do rush shipping), begin transitioning your campaigns back to normal.

Parting Thoughts

2018’s Black Friday generated $6.22 billion in ecommerce sales, up 23.6% from the year prior. If that trend continues, this year we’ll all rack up $7.69 billion in online spending. In one day.

Get your Black Friday PPC ducks in a row, and you’ve got a great shot at getting your slice of those billions. Good luck!



  1. Unsplash, Thor Alvis.
Pam Neely

Pam Neely

Pam Neely has been in digital marketing for 20 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blogging. She has a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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