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Sep 23, 2009 | 5 minute read

Optimizing Your Comparison Shopping Engine Marketing for the Holidays

written by Linda Bustos

We originally published these tips early last November as a kind of 11th hour playbook for holiday comparison shopping optimization. This year, we're reminding you a bit earlier so you've got an extra leg up. Big thanks to Rick Galan from Mercent for contributing these tips.


  • Start your holiday shopping engine activities NOW if you haven't already. Things ramp up very quickly, and if you are not ahead of the curve, you are already behind it. Make sure that come mid-November, the only thing you are working on is bidding and promotions.
  • Know your budgets for the entire holiday season. Make sure that you are working with realistic numbers, and they are sufficient for the whole season -- which includes post-holiday gift shoppers looking to take advantage of big sales. With the recent economic difficulties, plan for more customers to adopt this strategy this year to save money. Set aside some budget to capture these post-holiday deal hunters.
  • Know your goals and targets for the holiday season. Make sure that you know what performance is expected and approved by upper management so there are no surprises. Have these goals broken down monthly, weekly, daily if possible, and ensure you can track current performance in a target-to-date fashion. (1 day into the week you fell short of your daily goal by 10%, your goals for the rest of the week adjust to accommodate that shortfall)
  • Understand holiday bid pricing and management strategies. Comparison shopping engines typically inflate bid prices for the holidays, especially for certain categories. Make sure you factor this into your bid strategy, and revisit your bids on all engines to make sure you are where you need to be. Pre-emptively determine the ballpark your bids should increase to (or decrease, depending on category) and have the changes prepared. But consider that many merchants will not make any adjustments and will end up at the category minimums throughout the holiday season. Be ready to do some analysis to find the optimal bid after the rate hike, and keep a close eye on it. Be ready to turn bids down when your season has ended.
  • Know what search keywords drive the sales of your top products. Put processes in place to monitor their position among each engine. This will help you track how your bids are affecting the ranks/results, and open up some opportunities for improvement.
  • Check all your engines’ interface for error or warning messages. Reach out to your account managers to determine best ways to fix any issues you may find.

Data Basics

  • Error check your datafeeds. Make sure all the data being sent out is accurate, and being fully accepted by the engines without error. Actually look at the individual data fields on products across multiple categories to make sure they are populating the correct fields. Look these products up live on the engines to make sure they look correct.
  • Watch your stock. Verify that the products you are sending to the engines are only in-stock products. It's critical to avoid the poor customer experience and added cost of clicking through to out-of-stock products. For particularly high-velocity products, the threshold may need to be set higher than just “1 in stock”.
  • Perform quality assurance on tracking urls. Look at your product urls to ensure that all necessary tracking tags are included, as well as any tracking tags or pixels you have integrated in your checkout path.
  • Ensure that all your products are categorized correctly. Don't just look at uncategorized products, but look at how your current categories are set up. See if there are any better ways to map them.
  • Watch your filters. Check any product-data or product-performance based filters that you may have in place, restricting products from being sent in the feeds. Verify that these still make sense given the season, the increased minimum bids and the increased ROAS.


  • Organize your promotional schedule. And know your calendar through the end of the year. Work ahead of time to prepare promotional copy and product/category lists so that you can set up promotions quickly and not have to worry about it later.
  • Encourage promotions that push "one stop shopping." Tighter wallets this year mean consumers are going to be looking for deals in their gift buying even more, and bundling promotions are very powerful.
  • Repeat shipping promotions. If it makes sense for your business to run shipping promotions, make sure run them at least a few times throughout the season. Not everyone buys their presents on the same weekend.
  • Know all your shipping cutoff dates. Be prepared to lower bids or pull products off immediately when those cutoffs have been met.
  • Don't forget your product pages. Work with your website teams to make sure promotions and other pertinent holiday information is available on your product pages. This is often overlooked since they are not traditional landing pages, but they are for you.
  • Don't forget value propositions. Make sure you are adding your holiday promotions and value propositions to your feeds whenever you can. Use the promotional text fields, but don't discount other places to message such as the description. Don't forget to message those bundling promotions as well!
  • Don't forget gift cards. A number of shopping engines now accept Gift Cards as products. Make sure you are sending these and that they are listed on CSEs like, Shopzilla, PriceGrabber,, and NexTag.

Analysis & Optimization

  • Know your top products/categories. Use that list to guide your data optimization and add keywords to the feeds that support them. Use website analytics to find which keywords drive clicks and conversions for your top products.
  • Perform margin analysis. Know what products you cannot afford to send through each channel, and suppress those from the feed (or 0 bid them on engines that support that).
  • Remove poor performers. Look for products that have had little to no conversions, but a large number of clicks/spend. Check the categorization of the products, landing page, price competitiveness. Determine if there is anything you can do to make adjustments, and if not - bid down sharply or cut these dead weight products.

Thanks again to Rick for sharing these tips. If you're interested in learning more about shopping engine strategies, check out the Mercent blog.