Small Business Saturday might feel a bit weightier this year for many, given the shortened shopping period from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Individual retailers and restaurateurs participating in the annual holiday season kickoff plan to offer coupons, discounts and other holiday promotions, according to new research from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
This year, 70% of those participating believe it will help them attract new customers, and 67% plan to offer discounts to drive sales. Offering a free gift with a purchase is an incentive 33% plan to deploy. Notably, the number of small business owners planning to rely primarily on paid advertising to promote Small Business Saturday has doubled since 2012.
Now in its fourth year, Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and has grown into “an annual celebration of the independent businesses that help boost our local economies,” say Amex and NFIB .
If you plan to participate, how can you ensure your paid search marketing spend is maximized and gets you the most bang for your small business buck? Avoid these five PPC goofs to help make your Small Business Saturday a win:
1. Don’t Set It and Forget It
Earlier this fall, the WordStream team discovered a few frightening SMB AdWords behaviors  that mean big opportunities for those who can get it right. Over half your competition – 53% of small business advertisers – optimize their ads only once per quarter. That’s right, once every three months. If ever there were a time to get active and make optimization a regular habit, this is it. Take time in the run-up to Small Business Saturday to clean up your account, optimize your campaigns and plan for the weekend, but also plan to spend 20 minutes a week optimizing going forward.
2. Don’t Use ‘Holiday’ in Your Retail PPC Ad Copy
The Bing Ads team shared some interesting research recently that uncovers critical ad copy insights for retailers. PC users don’t look fondly upon ads with the word “holiday” in either the title or description, for example. The word “Now” in an ad title doesn’t perform well among PC users, either, though they respond well with increased CTRs when it’s placed in ad copy. Bing’s John Gagnon shares their heatmaps for prime PPC terms, with breakouts for Apparel & Accessories, Consumer Electronics, Department Stores and other verticals here .
3. Don’t Ignore Your Quality Score
A lower quality score can mean costs per click up to 400% higher, with a 64% more expensive cost per action. Considering that the average small business quality score is 5/10, there should be room in your campaigns for improvement!
Site extensions are but one tool you should check out to help give your QS a boost. Elisa Gabbert recently shared a few other quality score hacks  that should have you well on your way to substantial improvements.
4. Don’t Skip Over Negative Keywords
The terms you don’t want to appear for are just as important as those you do. We found that 1 in 5 small business aren’t using a single negative keyword – these advertisers are essentially throwing money at unqualified traffic.
Negative keywords are sometimes obvious, i.e., you sell boys clothing and don’t want to appear in searches for “Mens” or “Girls” clothing. Others are more difficult to determine and might require a bit of legwork to uncover. Erin Sagin  has some great tips for advertisers looking to beef up their negative keyword base and avoid nonsensical clicks.
5. Don’t Send Your Traffic to Never Never Land
Once you’ve spent for the click and captured your prospect’s attention, why on earth are you sending them to some generic landing page or – *shudder* – your website homepage? You’ve caught their eye with a specific offer, now deliver on your promise and send them to the right landing page. Amazingly, 25% of small business AdWords advertisers send all of their PPC traffic to just one landing page, while another 20% are satisfied sending clicks straight to their homepage. This is a bad experience for a potential customer, who is now seeing irrelevant information after the jump. A good experience will see PPC traffic landing on a clean, attractive page with a strong headline, concise copy and a clear call to action. Learn more about landing page optimization here .
Are you ready for Small Business Saturday? Had you heard of it before you read this column? Let us know how you plan to use paid search to boost your holiday sales and where your greatest challenges lie so far.