SEM Advertising for Black Friday 2017 – 5 Fast Facts to Know

SEM Advertising for Black Friday 2017 – 5 Fast Facts to Know

How are you preparing your SEM advertising for Black Friday campaigns? Arm yourself with these five fast facts to get more performance from your SEM advertising for Black Friday…and the rest of Cyber Week.

Retailers – are you and your SEM advertising for Black Friday ready? Black Friday is one week away. And it’s expected to be a big one. In 2017, online spending is projected to increase more than 5% on Black Friday and more than 6% on Thanksgiving, to $3.52B and $2.05B, respectively. This is due to a number of factors, including the steady overall growth of e-commerce 15% quarter-over-quarter for the past year. It’s also, of course, due to the extra day of holiday shopping. (Black Friday falls on November 24 this year, while it fell on the 25th last year – giving people more of a headstart on December deals).

So, for those running SEM advertising for Black Friday…what do you need to know?

1. For digital, Cyber Monday is the new Black Friday

Is Black Friday no longer the biggest digital shopping day of the year for those running SEM advertising campaigns this Black Friday? According to ComScore: Yes. For online shoppers, Cyber Monday is a bigger spending day than both Black Friday and Green Monday and has been for years now. In 2015, Cyber Monday online sales totalled $2.28B to Black Friday’s $1.66B and Green Monday’s $1.4B; in 2016, Cyber Monday online sales totalled $2.67B, compared to Black Friday’s $1.97B and Green Monday’s $1.62B.

What does that mean for your SEM advertising campaigns for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Of course, both shopping days are still extremely important. And of course, you should be allotting significant spend for both, but in theory, Cyber Monday could be a bigger business day for your company. What does this mean for you in practice?

2. The 2x AdWords budget change means Cyber Week budgets need to be managed carefully

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog on SEM advertising, Google AdWords’ daily budget cap was raised from a potential 20% overage cap to 200%. This isn’t as big of a threat for campaigns set to run for longer than a month – even in the case of overage, overage charges will be refunded by Google. The threat here is campaigns set to run for less than 30 days.

In the case of shorter-dated campaigns, the increased AdWords daily budget cap will essentially use up to double your daily budget to drive clicks for you that day.

Great for driving tons of potential sales on Black Friday.

Potentially a problem for your SEM advertising for Black Friday…if you burn through most of your Cyber Week budget before the actual big day – Cyber Monday. With Cyber Week budget that get unexpectedly depleted early, you don’t want to end up going dark on the biggest online shopping day of the year.

To avoid this potential disaster, it may be worth considering a throttled budget in advance. If, for instance, you can accurately estimate traffic and potential clickthrough rates on Black Friday,  you may want to set your budget to as little as 50% of your projected budget. Worst-case, you’ll end up spending 200% of 50% – or 100% of your originally planned budget. In all cases, it’s important to ensure you have enough budget going into these big shopping days – it’d be a disaster to go dark while competitors are racking up holiday sales.

3. Free shipping matters

As if shoppers weren’t finicky and demanding enough, they’re now not only looking for the best deals, but also the convenience and savings of free shipping. Free shipping has been associated with higher and higher amounts of holiday dollars in recent years, with 73% of 2016’s retail holiday dollars being for orders with free shipping, compared to 68% in 2015 and 55% in 2014. With free shipping becoming an increasingly popular option, it may make sense to think seriously about making this part of your Cyber Week offering.

4. What’s the #1 biggest online retail category?

The answer: Apparel and accessories, which have grown faster than total online retail for 12 of the last 15 quarters and is now the #1 online retail category, period. Are you a running SEM advertising for Black Friday on behalf of a department store such as Macy’s or a general merchandise story such as Target? While we don’t necessarily recommend putting all your budgetary eggs in the apparel/accessories basket, we definitely recommend making sure that all apparel-related campaigns are sufficiently budgeted and do not end up hitting spending caps that cause them to go dark.

5. Mobile – Becoming a majority in a few spaces, less applicable with high transactions

Regardless of whether you run SEM advertising for Black Friday or for any vertical during any time period, you get it – mobile is an important and growing factor in SEM advertising of all stripes. However, while mobile spend still lags desktop spend in most cases, for the holidays, mobile is outpacing desktop for holiday spend in these categories:

  • Toys & hobbies
  • Video games, consoles & accessories
  • Music, movies & videos
  • Jewelry & watches
  • Flowers, greetings & gifts

However, mobile share of holiday dollars predictably tends to decrease with higher transaction sizes – due in part to mobile user experiences that still lag behind desktop in Western markets, such as user interface issues and Wi-Fi connectivity, which continue to result in wary online shoppers making their final purchases on a desktop computer rather than by phone.


Cyber Week 2017 is expected to be an extremely big period for retail, with Cyber Monday in particular being the biggest day and apparel being the biggest segment. We recommend going into your SEM advertising campaigns for Black Friday with a comprehensive plan, including specific budget targets (and caps for those with strict budget limitations).

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Andrew Park

Andrew Park is a content marketing manager at QuanticMind. A UC Berkeley graduate and lifelong Bay Area resident, Andrew has done tours of duty in editorial, PR and marketing, and now works with the QuanticMind team to communicate the importance of data science and machine learning in digital advertising.

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