Once our bellies are full of Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, and vegetables, many of us turn our attention to the upcoming holiday season. Millions of people rush to get their hands on gifts for friends and loved ones—especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Last year alone, American shoppers set the record for Cyber Monday sales with over $7.9 billion in spending.
Even if customers make their purchase in-store, 23% research the product online before purchasing, and a total of 75% use the internet prior to purchasing, whether the final purchase is in-store or online. As such, this holiday lead-up period can present a massive opportunity for ecommerce business owners.
To make the most of these shopping holidays, it’s crucial to have an SEO strategy established ahead of time to drive the most traffic to your site and capture the most sales. Here are some holiday SEO tips to help you take advantage of this incredibly popular shopping season and maximize your organic traffic.
Assess Your Site’s Current Load Times and Performance
No matter the time of year, your site needs to be functioning properly to reap the benefits of your marketing efforts. This is especially imperative during the holiday season. Slow load times, broken pages, and other common issues can be the difference between a visitor making a purchase or leaving your site and purchasing somewhere else.
Check your site’s performance regularly to make sure that there aren’t any ongoing issues that could be affecting its organic success. Keep an eye out for:
- Slow site speed
- Broken URLs
- An abundance of redirected URLs
- Lack of canonicals or incorrectly set up canonicals
- Duplicate content
- Lack of internal links
- Unsecured pages and page resources (no SSL certificate)
If your site is experiencing any of these issues, your organic presence could be suffering.
Tools for Assessing Your Site’s Performance
There are a number of tools at your disposal that can help determine your site’s performance and areas you can improve on. SEMrush shows you your site’s current keyword rankings, which is essential for optimizing your pages. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool shows your site’s page loading speeds and how they stack up to other websites. You can also make use of resources such as Siteliner and Copyscape to scan your site for duplicate content, which crawlers can flag—this could have a negative impact on rankings.
Is Your Site Ready for an Influx of Mobile Users?
In addition to checking for these problems, it’s vital that you optimize your site for mobile users. Last year, consumers used their smartphones to make more than 33.5% of all ecommerce purchases on Black Friday. Assess your site’s mobile compatibility to ensure that you are set up for success when the holiday season arrives. Address all formatting issues, mobile speed, and image sizes early on so that your pages’ rankings don’t suffer in the meantime. You should also analyze your site’s local SEO viability and make any necessary improvements. Targeting a local audience will allow you to rank higher in organic search results on mobile devices when users search for relevant keywords in their area.
Study Last Year’s Trends
Google’s algorithm updates frequently, which can make it difficult to know exactly what to do. It’s challenging to discern how to improve your site’s rankings or how changes to your site will affect visitors’ behavior. It is for this reason that it’s so crucial to look at the pages that were most successful last year, and then make sure that you optimize these pages for the coming year.
There are several tools at your disposal that can help you find out more about your site’s most successful pages, including Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with these services, you should—they can be very insightful when it comes to learning more about your site’s performance. Thanks to the metrics and analysis they provide, using Google Analytics and Google Search Console is perhaps our most effective and important holiday SEO tip.
Tips for Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics allows you to view real-time information about your site. This includes how many people have visited your site, what regions your visitors live in, which of your holiday marketing tactics are driving the most traffic, and much more. You can also view which of your users converted into sales, your visitors’ behavior within your pages, and which pages are getting the most traffic. Google Analytics is a quick and efficient way to learn all about how users interact with your pages and how you can leverage that information to increase sales. It can be especially useful during the holiday season for showing you real-time updates on the success of your seasonal organic search strategies.
Tips for Using Search Console
This free tool from Google “helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.” You’ll want to make use of the following features:
- Performance: Search Console let you select a custom timeframe, where you can then compare total clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and more.
- URL Inspection: Under this tab, Search Console allows you to check the performance of individual pages.
- Coverage: In this section, you’ll receive a breakdown of all the pages on your site and their current status: valid, valid with warnings, error, or excluded. This can be especially helpful for quickly identifying broken pages, as well as which of your pages your robots.txt file block or appear as “noindex.”
You should familiarize yourself with Search Console in order to have the most up-to-date information possible regarding your site and its performance.
Identify Relevant Keywords for the Holidays
There are a number of tools that can help you create a list of relevant Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-related keywords to target. For instance, Google’s Keyword Planner allows you to segment keywords by month, which can be useful for identifying high-volume keywords during the holiday season. It’s just as important to target relevant keywords during the holiday season as it is during the rest of the year; however, with the increased traffic that comes along with the holidays, one could argue that it’s more important during this time.
Here are some tools that can be useful during your keyword research:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
What to Look for When Researching Keywords
Several key metrics measure keywords, including average monthly search volume and difficulty score. These metrics allow you to assess how much competition there is to rank for a particular keyword. The higher the competition, the more difficult it will be to rank for that keyword since many other businesses are trying to rank for it as well. As such, you should try to find a niche that works for your site. Target keywords with low to moderate search volume and low to medium competition, as these have the highest chance of ranking.
The ultimate goal of keyword research (and SEO in general) is to rank for relevant keywords in the SERPs (search engine results page). As such, if your site is already ranking well for certain keywords, it is crucial for you to maintain those rankings. SEMrush is a tool that can show you which keywords your pages are ranking for, as well as your competitors’ rankings. Using this tool, you can create a keyword strategy that takes advantage of your pages’ current rankings and also targets new, relevant keywords for the holiday season. If you are unfamiliar with keyword research, this helpful guide will break it down for you.
Make Use of Long Tail Keywords
If your brand’s competition includes businesses with large marketing budgets, it may be more prudent to target “long tail” keywords—low search volume, highly-specific keywords that are likely to match exactly what the user is searching for.
For instance, if your business sells basketball shoes, the keyword “basketball shoes” is likely too competitive for you to have a reasonable chance of ranking for it, especially if you run a small ecommerce site. Rather than targeting this highly competitive, broad keyword, try focusing on something more specific, such as “men’s high-top basketball shoes.” While this keyword has a lower search volume than the broader “basketball shoes” keyword, its specificity means that it is more likely to be exactly what your users are searching for. This, in turn, can increase click-through rates and conversions.
Use Google Trends to Research Seasonality of Keywords
Another helpful tool from Google, known as Google Trends, can be especially useful for identifying a keyword’s popularity during certain times of the year. Using this tool, you can input your potential Black Friday and Cyber Monday keyword targets to identify the most popular times that people search for those queries. In addition, Google Trends allows you to see which regions target the keyword the most, as well as related queries to help you come up with more ideas for potential keywords.
Create Landing Pages for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Offers
To increase your chances of showing up on Black Friday and Cyber Monday related search queries, it’s important to create pages that target relevant keywords. To find the best prices available, users will often search for terms that include “Black Friday deals” or “Cyber Monday deals” along with a particular product or category. Depending on the industry your business is in, it may be beneficial to create a Black Friday or Cyber Monday page for each product you plan on offering at a discount.
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to create pages and target relevant keywords.
Use an alternative strategy. Create the pages ahead of time, then use a 302 redirect (a temporary redirect, as opposed to a permanent 301 redirect) so that the pages remain hidden until needed. This will give you ample time to optimize the pages for the holidays as well as Googlebot, Bingbot, and other crawlers time to scan the site. You could even create an entire “mini-site” of holiday-related pages that are not visible to visitors until it’s time to start ramping up for the season of giving.
Once you create the pages, it’s important that you add them to your XML sitemap as well as your site’s navigation. The goal of creating these new landing pages is to drive traffic from search queries that include holiday-related keywords; however, you should still have a way for returning customers to access the new pages if they would like to see your holiday deals. By adding the new pages to your sitemap, you are providing a sort of roadmap for crawlers to quickly find your pages and index them. With these two simple steps, you are making it easier for users and crawlers alike to view and access your new holiday landing pages.
Coordinate SEO With Your Other Marketing Efforts
To make the most of your holiday SEO strategy, your marketing efforts should work in tandem with your other strategies. This will provide users with a unified experience that shows them exactly what they’re looking for. Create posts on social media that announce holiday offers and link to the corresponding pages you’ve created. Furthermore, include Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-focused keywords in your paid advertising. Businesses that invest in their omnichannel marketing efforts during the holidays are likely to reap a myriad of benefits.
Paid Search and the Holidays
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only two days out of the year, it’s important to coordinate your paid search efforts with your SEO strategy. This way, you’ll have the most cohesive omnichannel experience for your users. Similar to your SEO strategy, your Paid Search efforts can benefit from revisiting last year’s holiday season to see what strategies were effective. Based on your findings, you can determine how you could use those prior strategies to increase sales in the upcoming season. Another strategy for PPC and paid search is to significantly increase your budget on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This allows you to show your ads more frequently and drive increased traffic to your site.
Measure Success in Real-Time
You have taken the necessary steps to prepare your site for the holiday season, but how do you know if they were successful? Google Analytics and Search Console offer a variety of reports to help you identify which of your pages have been the most successful. These reports can break down your site’s traffic by total visitors, click-through rate, and much more. Every business is different and has its own set of metrics to look for. As such, Google Analytics and Search Console are great options for learning about a variety of insights into your site.
Leverage Social Media to Increase Traffic
Like with SEO and paid search, you should begin planning your social media strategy for the holidays well ahead of time. First and foremost, you should determine the start and end dates of your social campaign, as well as which channels you plan on utilizing. Once you determine this, create a plan for how many posts you will publish and when you want to roll them out. From there, you can study the social media tactics that your competition has used in the past and use the strategies that are applicable to your business.
It’s Never Too Early to Get Started
We hate to break it to you, but if you’re just starting to consider your strategy for the holiday season, you’re already behind many other sites. The businesses that make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s increased traffic are the ones that start planning weeks (even months) in advance.
If your business is in an industry that will see an increase in traffic or sales during the holidays, it’s best to start preparing ahead of time. It’s never too early to begin preparing for the holidays, and every little bit helps. Many industries— especially toys, games, and electronics—will see a spike in traffic around the holiday season.
To review, here’s a checklist of things you can do now to prepare your site for the holidays.
- Start sooner rather than later
- Check your site for issues affecting performance
- Study last year’s trends and take note of ones that could be useful for your business
- Identify relevant keywords for your niche
- Create landing pages specifically for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals
- Coordinate SEO with your other marketing efforts
- Track/measure success and adjust your strategy to focus on what’s working
There are many steps you can take to improve your site’s organic rankings during the holiday season. We hope these holiday SEO tips have given you some ideas on how you can make the most of this high-spending period. With the right strategy, the holiday season can be the most successful time of year for all types of businesses. There’s plenty of holiday pie to go around—make use of these tips to increase your chances of getting a slice and consider the services of a third-party SEO contractor to help you make sense of your site’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday SEO efforts.
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