How to Properly Use Labels to Run Promotions for Google AdWords

Running promotions are no new thing to any PPC manager who’s managed a campaign during the holiday season. We’re all familiar with the hustle in the leading months to ensure all your campaigns are ready for any and everything. But is there a way to cut down on the ad transition work load? Absolutely.

By using labels and automated rules in AdWords, you can schedule your ads to go live and come back down based on your promotion timelines, as well as ensure full coverage of ads. First, let’s discuss the benefits of using labels on your promotional ad copy, then we’ll get to the procedure.

Why Labels Are Great for Promos

No matter how big or small your promotional workload, using labels can be of great benefit to your AdWords workflow. Although they’re not supported in AdWords Editor currently, I believe it’s worth the extra effort to use the interface to add labels where needed. Here’s why.

First, using labels gives you great insights to data in both the short and long term. Depending on how you set up your labels, it’s incredibly easy to monitor which offer is resonating best with customers by using the Labels portion of the Dimensions Tab. There you can see all of your labels and their corresponding stats in one quick view and determine if the emphasis on “Free Shipping” or “25% Off” has a higher ROI. In a longer-term view, you can also compare year-over-year promotional performance just as quickly with labels and maybe show the impact that different performance have on sales.


Second, automated rules are extremely easy to use with labels. Using labels, you can set your ads to update your promos when needed so you can use your precious time to analyze data and make adjustments to campaigns to maximize ROI. For your sanity’s sake, you can automate each rule to send you an email once the rule is carried out or if there’s an error so you can rest at ease or jump into the account if needed.

Setting Up Labels for Full Coverage During Promos

Before we get too far here, it’s important that everyone understand how automated rules function. Let’s say you automate ads to go active at 12 a.m. (midnight), they will go live at some point between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. So if your promotion goes live on your site at 12 a.m., there’s the potential for your ads to live 45 minutes after your sale started. This isn’t an enormous deal for most sales, but for sales like Black Friday where people are vigilantly on their computer, you could miss out. But setting the ads to go active at 11 p.m. the previous day isn’t much better. In that instance, ads could go live as early as an hour before your sale is in effect on your site. False sale ads could be damaging to your brand, especially during these high promotional periods.

Let’s get to the process.

First, labeling.

  1. Label all ads with the promo/offer corresponding to the sale. This includes any A/B copy variations of the same offer.
  2. Label all non-promotional ad copy as such. Any current ad that you have that doesn’t include a specific offer can work here.

Make sure that any and all ads that you’ll want active are labeled in such a way that you know what they mean and the time period they correspond to for ease in automating later.

Next, automate your promotional copy.

  1. Filter ads by individual labels and automate those ads to go active within the hour that the sale will go active on the site. For a promo that starts at 12 a.m., this means you should schedule those ads to go live at 12 a.m.
  2. Then, automate those ads to be paused in the hour before the sale will end on the site. If the sale will be taken off the site at 12 a.m., schedule the ads to be paused at 11 p.m. the previous day.


The third and last piece is your non-promotional safety net.

  1. Filter ads for the non-promo labels you applied earlier and automate those ads to pause an hour after your promotion is scheduled to start. E.g. for the 12 a.m. promo, these ads should be automated to pause at 1 a.m.
  2. Then, schedule these ads to reactivate an hour before your promos will come down at the end of the sale. For the 12 a.m. end promo, your sale ads are scheduled to pause at 11 p.m., so these ads should be scheduled to go live at 10 p.m. to ensure full ad coverage.

Due to the inaccuracy of when automated rules will run, you want to make sure your non-promotional ad copy is active for an overlapping hour as your promotional copy to ensure full ad coverage. Yes, this does mean that your non-promotional copy will run during the sale for more than an hour, but from my experience, clients/bosses are more on board with non-promo ads running for a short time during promos than they are with no ads running during promotional times, even if it is only for 20 minutes.

Bonus step: Bridging the gap between two promotions with non-promo ads. At times, you may have one promo going live directly after another has ended with no promo downtime in the middle. To bridge this cap:

  1. Schedule non-promo ads to go live two hours before the first promotion ends and to pause one hour after the new promotion starts. Assuming the 12 a.m. end and launch of old and new respective promos, your non-promo ads should go live at 10 p.m. the prior day and to pause at 1 a.m. the day of the new promo.

Following this method, you’re guaranteed to have full coverage of ads during the high-volume seasons, a minimal amount of non-promotional copy overlap, and good visibility into the stats to make the best optimizations possible.

What are your tactics for managing promos? Share in the comments!

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