Ecommerce SEO must be adaptive, with campaigns that effectively targets relevant holidays and seasons. By custom tailoring your SEO strategy to include seasonal campaigns, you will boost conversions and get ahead of your competitors.
SEO as a medium is typically focused on driving long-term success, however there is an opportunity to adjust your strategy and generate results year-round in the short term by customizing campaigns based on seasonal events like winter holidays and other relevant occasions.
Designing an SEO strategy to align with Black Friday, Christmas, Hanukkah and other major holidays is a worthwhile investment as consumer interest in ecommerce continues to rise every year.
In 2015, ecommerce sales increased 20 percent between Black Friday and Christmas Eve as compared to the previous year according to Internet Retailer, highlighting a growing opportunity to align your SEO appropriately.
A majority of ecommerce brands obviously cater their marketing to seasonal events of relevance to their business, but SEO isn’t often prioritized like paid advertising, display, social media, etc. when it comes to optimizing for a timely campaign.
According to Julien Berard, SEO manager at Coastal Contacts, an ecommerce brand specializing in eyewear and contacts, the main benefit of adapting to seasonality is being in the “right place at the right time to catch the largest possible audience when they are ready to purchase.”
Learn how to alter your SEO campaigns to account for the consistent trends and yearly nuances that occur each holiday season in any industry.
Timing Seasonal SEO Campaigns
SEO as a marketing medium typically takes months to produce results. Timing is one of the biggest concerns to consider when investing in a seasonal campaign as not preparing ahead of time can result in missing the height of the holiday shopping period.
However, most marketers disagree on exactly how early to start optimizing SEO for a seasonal event as recommendations vary from two months to six months ahead of time.
According to a BigCommerce projection, if an organization wants to participate in over 90 percent of the search traffic around a given holiday, content specific to a seasonal event needs to be published at least 45 days prior.
Vanessa Penagos-Pino, content and inbound marketing director at 1-800-PetMeds, suggests a longer lead-in time. “In my opinion, two to four months in advance is a good start with regard to planning a large SEO campaign for holiday seasonality. At the same time, I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all approach for this, but planning in advance is definitely key.”
The rule of thumb for timing a seasonal event is taking into account expert advice and adapting it to work for your company and campaigns.
“Accurate timing [for an SEO campaign] is everything with the winter holiday shopping season and it has to start early,” added Art Enke, director of marketing services at Digital Current.
“Regardless of your industry, niche, product, or service, we recommend starting approximately six months prior to the peak season, which realistically means starting to optimize for the winter holidays in early March each year.”
To best align the timing of a holiday-specific SEO campaigns, coordinate them with what’s happening across other marketing channels ahead of a seasonal event.
“Holiday SEO must be inclusive of all marketing efforts, online and off, to drive all of the signals Google now weighs, said Brian Wood, associate director of marketing, SEO at Wayfair, an ecommerce brand specializing in home goods. The traditional SEO testing and measuring of Google algorithms needs to be applied to optimize offline marketing tactics as well.”
The more coordinated each marketing channel is online and offline, the better the chance your holiday specific content will gain traction in search at the right time.
For example, Sportman’s Warehouse, an outdoor recreation retailer and ecommerce company, partnered with Digital Current to optimize their website months ahead of time to increase their visibility ahead of key seasons for hunting, camping, and more.
Their goal was to compete with the larger brand-name retailers across channels and drive more seasonal organic traffic.
Digital Current reviewed which keywords were most often used in conjunction with the various seasons, optimized key pages with these season specific keywords and consolidated multiple pages competing for the same phrases, which were diluting their rankings.
As a result, the brand was able to increase traffic and conversions, as well as increase rankings for multiple keywords related to the popular outdoor seasons.
How to Cater SEO to Holiday Seasonality
The first step to success with adapting SEO strategy for holidays, vacation season, or another occasion is identifying which targets to focus on.
According to Vanessa Penagos-Pino of 1-800-PetMeds, “This can vary depending on the industry of the online retailer, but I would say initially mapping out the shopping seasons most relevant to the retailer should be a first step.”
Once it is clear which seasonal events are of relevance to your company, refer to your analytics to analyze year-over-year activity to see which holidays and events drove the most sales, conversions, and engagement previously.
“The second step is combining this data with what’s happening in your overall industry to find areas of opportunity worth addressing,” says Penagos-Pino.
“Focus on reviewing your legacy data, as well as available industry data to clearly identify where to invest in seasonal SEO,” adds Art Enke of Digital Current.
Refer to Google Trends to see what search patterns emerge during specific holidays to begin building an optimization road map for that campaign.
The third step is building out a list of keywords the organization will focus on based on what’s being searched for during a specific event like Christmas or hunting season.
One of the goals of this process is to find keywords related to both the company’s offerings and the specific holiday that illustrate a user’s intent to purchase. For example, an apparel company might plan to optimize for “best t-shirts of 2016” or “top-rated clothes of 2016.”
Next, begin optimizing pages across a website with content focused around this list of relevant keywords for the holiday season. This will entail creating new pages on a website, but also optimizing existing pages with refreshed information, paragraph headers, title tags, updated time stamps, and more.
According to Scott Laughlin, SEO manager at Walmart, focusing optimization on existing pages is the most effective way to scale your seasonal SEO efforts.
“I recommend maintaining evergreen landing pages for the specific holiday terms you want to capture, and then pointing navigation from there to existing shelves rather than building new holiday-specific shelves that could risk duplicating what you’ve already got,” Laughlin says. “[Maintaining] and building traction to those year-round evergreen URLs isn’t sexy, but that’s the tried and true way to win holiday-centric search queries.”
Lastly, after updating content across a website to resonate during a particular holiday, monitor results to ensure pages are performing as planned or if they require further optimization.
Measuring Short-Term Success
The most important part of running a seasonal SEO campaign is measuring progress as it is happening, since there is typically only a short window of time to drive results.
According to Art Enke, year-over-year organic traffic to seasonal pages provides the clearest indication of success.
“When optimizing for the winter holidays, I typically look at organic visitors from August through December and then compare that time range to the previous three years,” he says. “Look at organic pages per visit, time on page, and bounce rates. Ultimately, the best metric is total number of goal completions, as measured by Google Analytics.”
After reviewing key SEO metrics like goal completion, bounce rate, time on site, organic-driven revenue, and organic traffic, identify which pages need to be further optimized in order to better perform during this highly competitive shopping season.
“It doesn’t do any good to rank number one 10 months of the year if you get outranked during the two months that drive 90 percent of the traffic,” notes Brian Wood of Wayfair. “There is often a huge flux in rankings right around the peak season as all the sites gear up their SEO efforts.”
Get Started on Your Seasonal SEO Strategy
There is no secret formula for staying ahead of the curve with a seasonal SEO campaign, other than investing time to research the landscape, optimize accordingly, and continually monitor progress to see what could be better positioned for success.
How does your organization handle SEO during the holiday seasons? Has your organization seen success with building organic rankings around key holidays? Let us know over on Twitter @DigitalCurrent.