SEO for the Holidays

Nov 14, 2023It Depends - An SEO Podcast, SEO

In our latest episode of ‘It Depends – An SEO Podcast,’ we discuss the strategies of improving your online presence during the holiday season. With a primary focus on E-commerce, we provide insights into understanding what people are looking for and how to boost your site traffic. We discuss practical tips to enhance your website’s visibility and increase sales leading up to Christmas and what steps to take once the holidays are over. Whether you’re well-versed in online strategies or just starting out, this episode offers valuable advice to ensure your business thrives this holiday season. Tune in for helpful tips on managing your online presence during the busy holiday rush.

Transcript

Jay (01:19.082)

Hey Lindsay!

 

Lindsie (01:23.526)

Hey Jay, what’s going on in your world these days?

 

Jay (01:29.258)

Well, we are recording this on the 10th of November, and I am getting ready for a very belated night of horror movies. It is hard to get friends together when you have small kids. So we’re carrying Scary Season over for, you know, an extra 10, 11 days, whatever it is. That’s it. What’s up with you?

 

Lindsie (01:53.968)

There you go. Well, I just was gonna say, we’re gonna talk about the holidays today and starting that off with Spooky Season, I guess, here, continuing Halloween just right up to the holidays to Christmas and all the buying seasons that come in rapidly after those horror movies.

 

Jay (02:01.111)

Yeah.

 

Jay (02:12.986)

The real holiday for the year is over, but for those who choose to celebrate other things, we’ve got a topic for you today. And what is it?

 

Lindsie (02:22.386)

Yeah, yeah. So we are going to talk about SEO for the holidays, the buying season of the holidays, right? This massive time of year when people spend millions and probably billions of dollars on every sort of little thing for their mom, grandma, and child possible. And how does SEO fit into the marketing mix during this time of year? And

 

Where are we right now? So we’re recording this in November. Are people too late? How do we plan for next year? What should be happening? All that good stuff.

 

Jay (03:01.13)

Yeah, and I feel like unless you work for a company that does Black Friday in July, and then another Black Friday in October, and then like three Black Fridays in November, you’re, if you’re like most of us, you’re probably getting emails or Slack messages that are like, hey, we’re launching our Black Friday page or our Christmas page or whatever it is, can you do SEO for it? And yeah.

 

Lindsie (03:26.918)

Yeah, get us traffic, come on.

 

Jay (03:30.21)

So that’s kind of the place and time that we’re approaching this from, but we’ll get into some things that you can do after the holidays are over, and then maybe to get ahead of things next year. You know, we’re close to New Year’s resolution time. We want to be aspirational that we can not do this in the middle of November next year.

 

Lindsie (03:50.874)

looking forward to 2024. And I think to level set a little bit, really focusing the conversation on B2C e-commerce, not saying B2B or software doesn’t have holidays because they do, but most of the sales and buying is happening on the consumer front. So that’s really where the big focus of this conversation will be at least.

 

Jay (04:17.23)

Follow the money. Yeah. So what are we talking about here? The holidays come, there’s a bunch of sales, people get their credit cards out. How does that impact search? That’s what we got to start with, right?

 

Lindsie (04:19.474)

Ha ha ha!

 

Lindsie (04:31.99)

Yeah, so I guess the first thing is like, is it even possible? And maybe we start with this question for both of us. Does SEO even matter as people are searching for things, whether they search differently or any of those things? Like, does SEO work? Is it valid this time of year? Or do we just pay for traffic? Is it advertising? Is it, you know, the television ads? Is it…

 

you know, direct marketing emails is, does SEO play a part in this at all?

 

Jay (05:06.67)

And that’s hard because I think the typical like business owner or marketing manager, whoever it is, you know, if you work for a smaller company, you have this idea of like, I want to rank for Black Friday sales, or I want to rank for gift ideas for dad, or something very general like that. And you know, as an aside, I wish we had a little crystal ball because Google’s

 

Jay (05:36.174)

trying to get all this like auto-generated useless content out of search results. Most of the results for that are like affiliate links to Amazon reviewing products that nobody has ever seen in person and just, yeah, it’s just, you know, oh here’s, here’s like the Walmart and Target Black Friday deals. But either way there’s a giant industry of websites that are trying to rank for those terms. There’s the mega retailers that rank for those terms.

 

Lindsie (05:49.35)

They’ve never tried.

 

Lindsie (05:56.392)

Yep.

 

Jay (06:05.13)

So I think part of answering that question is you have to appropriately set your sites for what size of website and business you are. If you’re a smaller retailer, you know, you’re not outranking Amazon and Walmart for the, you know, whatever the top terms are. The other 364 days a year, then you’re not going to outrank them for this. And you’ve got to figure out how to really go after your audience.

 

for much smaller, more specific terms, and then SEO could matter.

 

Lindsie (06:37.562)

Yeah, I think that’s the big thing is we have a lot of clients that are like, we have this Black Friday page, like you said, and how do we get to rank number one for Black Friday for, you know, clothing? And it’s like, it just, especially here mid November, like it’s just, it’s not. Put your money somewhere else. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we can do. Um, but it is also better.

 

I think as we stated at the beginning, to plan for the future, right? That’s a lot of what SEO is, is the long-term play. So I think back to a question you asked before of how does search behavior change? And I don’t think I’ve noticed this historically much, but have you ever noticed that people, how they use Google and how they search for products is unique during the holiday season?

 

Jay (07:31.306)

Um, I mean, there’s, there’s a sense of urgency and especially as we get closer to, you know, it’s, it’s too late to ship stuff that, that urgency really increases. So, you know, this is getting really deep into like the long tail search, but. You, you’ll see some search terms like this comes up in like PPC search term reports where you get a little more juicy nuggets like this, but you know,

 

Lindsie (07:42.934)

Mm-hmm.

 

Jay (07:58.19)

People will say like, next day delivery for XYZ product and things like that. You know, Amazon is kind of like the starting point to that, but if there’s some, you know, if people want to shop somewhere else or they don’t have a prime account, you know, you’re one of the three people left in the country that doesn’t. There’s folks that will search with that like, aspect of timeliness. You know, I forgot to buy a gift for so-and-so or my…

 

Lindsie (08:15.73)

the world.

 

Jay (08:24.362)

My neighbor that I hang out with two times a year bought me a gift and now I have to buy them one. I’m in a panic. But I don’t want to go to a store.

 

Lindsie (08:33.05)

Yeah, well, and I guess I think people do heavily search for ideas for people that they absolutely have no idea what to buy for. And yes, it may start general like gifts for mom, but then it may be more specific of like gifts for mom that likes gardening and hummingbirds and hates the color black or something very, very specific about the person’s qualities, I guess.

 

Jay (09:02.042)

Yeah. And if you’re some kind of specialty retailer, you know, you focus on one, you know, specific type of product or market, like a lot of folks do, this is, this is your wheelhouse. Because there’s, you know, I’m, I’m a middle-aged guy in the suburbs, everybody smokes and grills. And there’s a million gift guides out there that are like, what to get a guy that likes grilling.

 

and you’ll get the generic recommendations of here’s some oven mitts and some tawns. But if you’re like a barbecue supply store and like this is what you do 12 months out of the year, you should be able to make an awesome guide that can rank well and has a lot of value behind it. Because I mean you you’re going to push something that’s unique that the person that you don’t really know that you’re buying for but they have a grill, you know, they might actually. Yeah.

 

Lindsie (09:34.204)

Yep.

 

Lindsie (09:52.251)

Right?

 

Lindsie (09:55.934)

that they might actually like these things.

 

Jay (09:58.478)

might appreciate it. So that’s kind of like speak to your audience. We give that advice all year round, but sometimes people kind of forget about that when it’s madness of the holidays.

 

Lindsie (10:11.142)

Madness. All right, so as we’ve said, November, we’re right here. You know, we’re in the kind of final stretch of the last like 30, 60 days before Christmas, before other major holidays are happening here. What do we do now? What is something we as an SEO, either partner or internal SEO person, what is something that we should be doing and should be thinking about today?

 

Jay (10:36.874)

I think the biggest thing is having some kind of purpose and control over what pages are being created on the site. So you know, a lot of times folks will just like make a copy of categories and say this is like the, I don’t know, the steak seasoning sale page, but it’s like you already have a steak seasoning page. So like make a, make a general, this is everything on sale page. That’s good for your users.

 

maybe for specific products or categories of products, you know, tweak them to be holiday or sale focused and don’t just like duplicate stuff. So general Black Friday page, general Christmas sale page, maybe, maybe stop there.

 

Lindsie (11:26.286)

So what is your feeling on title tags and meta descriptions like steak seasoning, let’s stay with the grilling and I have this like really great steak seasoning, it’s 50% off for the holiday season and I want to sell just like oodles of steak seasoning. Is there value in trying to not only optimize for rank but rather optimizing for click through rate within…

 

the search results, so having things like, you know, free shipping or quick shipping or sale in the metadata. Does that help?

 

Jay (12:03.562)

Yeah, especially, you know, if you’re a shopper, you know, or searcher, and you might be considering buying something from a store that you’ve never bought from before, having those call-outs in titles and descriptions can really help. You know, say like, you know, in your description, you could throw out that like, order by December 15th, ships free, arrives by Christmas, or whatever it is.

 

Yeah, call out that there’s a sale, something to say that like, hey, we are, we are like actively catering to you for this season. This isn’t something where you’re going to order and we’ll get around to shipping it in two months or whatever it is. Um, so that can, that can help grab people’s attention, add a little trust before people get to your site, improve click through rate.

 

Lindsie (12:55.334)

So kind of just a random question that popped into my mind. I mean, how does the smaller retailer focus and drive traffic during this time when companies like Amazon and Walmart and Target are really just like ruling the space? Is it just a hyper-focus? Like, let’s get really deep into those long.

 

tail keywords, have great metadata that’s enticing, and roll from there. Is there anything else that we could be doing or thinking about to try to get that traffic away potentially from the behemoths in the space?

 

Jay (13:35.27)

So, let’s assume that you’re not just selling commodities that you can buy anywhere. Because if you are, Amazon’s going to get it to you faster, Walmart’s going to get it to you cheaper, and probably faster, and you’re just not going to win. So, focusing on the fact that you have something unique and calling out those values is probably the most important thing you can do. Because all of these giant retailers, you know, they have,

 

the thing for the, you know, the suburban dad that likes grilling, you know, the gift set with some steak seasonings and whatever. But there’s going to be like, they’re selling it because there’s going to be like a hundred thousand people in the country that are going to get that on Christmas morning. So if you can say like, hey, we can get you the, the like grilling gift set that none of your neighbors are going to have, or none of your friends are going to have, that’s like something unique. And there’s people that

 

Lindsie (14:20.166)

Mm-hmm.

 

Lindsie (14:30.648)

Right.

 

Jay (14:32.854)

care about, you know, giving a thoughtful, unique gift, and you want to, you know, you have a specialized retailer because those are the type of people you’re trying to sell, like sell stuff to.

 

Lindsie (14:43.166)

Mm hmm. Yeah, that’s so again, back to know your market. Know what makes you special. Know what makes you unique as a product and a solution overall. And really lean into that during these times. Don’t just go after the volume. Okay.

 

Jay (15:00.03)

Yeah. And to, you know, just throw on a specific thing, like you can, you can like bundle your products together, make your own gift basket or gift set. And, you know, one, you can call out in your just meta descriptions that maybe your store is the only place in the whole world that you can get that thing. Um, but also if you’re a retailer or your chances are you’re using like Google shopping and merchant center. So.

 

Lindsie (15:10.396)

Yeah.

 

Jay (15:28.034)

For paid and organic listings, there’s like a bundle option where you can put together a custom package, get a lot of, you know, as people are like clicking on that shopping tab and filtering and scrolling forever, kind of like they do on Amazon, you can get a lot of visibility there, you know, use some cool photography, all that stuff to make you stand out.

 

Lindsie (15:42.31)

Yep.

 

Lindsie (15:49.022)

Mm-hmm, I like it. Okay, so let’s move into it’s January 1st, and you’re like, okay, I just did all this work, right, for the holidays, and now I need to clean it up. What are the steps that need to be taken to get the site back to a place to where it’s not just holidays?

 

Jay (16:13.282)

So, yeah, I mean, keeping a good log of what you all changed is super important. You know, have a spreadsheet of every URL where you added something holiday or seasonal focused to a heading, a description, and a title, whatever it is. So keep, you know, hopefully you are organized. Otherwise, you know, do a crawl of your site. And, you know.

 

Lindsie (16:35.62)

No.

 

Jay (16:41.506)

do some filtering of your crawl. The absolute worst case is like a site colon search in Google with like holiday or Christmas or whatever it is, and you’re going to miss stuff, but hopefully you’ll find all the most important things that way, but if you don’t have a crawler or any resources and you weren’t organized upfront, that could work. So do all that. And then the next big thing is like, you’ve probably created some new pages, like maybe you have the Black Friday.

 

landing page. Maybe you created some blog posts for gift ideas or whatever it is, and you have to decide what happens to those.

 

Lindsie (17:20.35)

Where do those go?

 

Jay (17:22.062)

Yeah, so if it’s possible, I think a real helpful way to go is let’s say we have yoursite.com slash Black Friday. You know, there’s going to be no relevant products on there. You know, leave that page live, maybe change it so it’s just like a coming soon image in case somebody lands there in March. And then, you know, don’t link to it from anywhere.

 

Lindsie (17:45.554)

somehow.

 

Jay (17:50.583)

You know, you’re going to take links out of your navigation away from your home page because it’s not relevant anymore But then Google will still know about that page when it comes time to think about this in the year

 

Lindsie (18:02.438)

Yeah, and I think just a side note and recommendation is don’t put years in your URL. So don’t do it like Black Friday 2023. We’ll see that a lot. And then you’re forced to change the URL every single year. And then you’re not getting any long-term value to that page. Even though this is something, like you said, you’re not driving people to 12 months out of the year.

 

Having that live and that consistency is really, really valuable. So just don’t put years in things, just let it be Black Friday.

 

Jay (18:40.106)

Yeah, the slight loss of optimization for the year with the URL path is more than made up for by not having to do redirects.

 

Lindsie (18:52.27)

Mm-hmm. You can still put the year in the title tag or in the content or other places on that page, just not the URL. That is something that should stay static year after year.

 

Jay (19:04.222)

Yep, definitely.

 

Lindsie (19:06.198)

Yeah, okay. So we’re creeping into kind of the final section here of like, so how do we prep? How do we think? Okay, again, we’re in January, we’ve cleaned up. Now how do I like prepare myself for 2024 is holiday season. So it’s not mid November. And I’m like, oh, I need to do something. What are those steps I should be taking?

 

Jay (19:29.762)

So if you can, there’s always an aspect of like some of these deals aren’t decided on until last minute and there’s things that are like secrets and whatever. But try and get as much live as possible and visible to Google in like September. So you have two months of ramp up time to get stuff discovered, indexed and ranked. And you know.

 

start building at least the shell of the content on all your main pages that you’re gonna try and drive traffic to. And realizing that you’re probably gonna have to say, like coming soon, if those pages get some traffic, that’s a good opportunity to throw like a sign up for our email list to be the first to know when deals go live sort of thing. But really the idea is, these pages aren’t gonna get traffic until somewhere in late November when people really start searching. But…

 

you know, it takes time for stuff to rank. And if you’re a site that is pretty good at SEO, Google is crawling stuff pretty regularly. That two month window somewhere in there, you can get to the point where, like when you actually have your stuff go live in November or build out more in November, you’ll rank a lot higher a lot quicker at that point.

 

Lindsie (20:53.102)

Yeah, I think there’s also a lot of value in quarterly planning to like, hey, we are in July, right? So what is the next quarter? Where are we going to be the quarter after that? And what are the pieces that need to come into play? I think SEO gets real focused sometimes on where the traffic is right now, even though we all say and we all know it’s a long term game, right? And so…

 

we get a little focused on where the volume is right now and don’t always focus on where we should be in the next three, six, nine months. So pre-planning as much as you can, having those pages, having them crawled. And I like the idea of the coming soon and the call to action to get people to sign up. All right, what else? Are there any other final things that somebody should be doing?

 

to prepare for the holiday season in SEO.

 

Jay (21:52.861)

Should we talk about local SEO?

 

Lindsie (21:56.006)

We can talk about local SEO. I mean, I think this is something that is an interesting, almost an entirely additional conversation too. So if you have locations, one, what should you be doing? Is it different than what the B2C e-commerce site is doing?

 

Jay (22:20.37)

Yeah, so I mean the biggest thing is you have this local profile in Google business and wherever else you’re listed, which is probably a number of places that some amount of stuff can change and some of it is, is good for SEO. Some of it is good for customers, some both. Um, so like, you know, basics, like update your hours, um, because in local search there’s filters for like open now.

 

And if you have like extended holiday hours where you might not normally be open when somebody is searching there, you know, if they use that filter, cause they need like, I need something now, you know, it’s like the, the office gift exchange. This is the only time I have, they’re going to miss out on you. Um, you know, there’s, you can like post updates and stuff in, in Google business and things like that. But you know, trying to grab the obvious things like your, your photos.

 

are pretty prominent. So, if you have some big sale that runs for a week at a time, make, you know, if you’ve got a flyer for it, make that one of your main photos and have it jump out, stuff like that. So, just kind of like take advantage of all the little things that Google Business has, because they show up in so many different ways at so many different times, and it’s just like extra real estate in search results, extra ways to get in front of people.

 

Lindsie (23:40.04)

Right.

 

Lindsie (23:44.862)

Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I think I would be interested. I don’t obviously have any statistical information about this, but I wonder as somebody who’s looking for that unique and special product, if their likelihood of walking into a store is higher, you know, I want a specialty cheese package. Are they just as likely to buy it from an e-commerce store or are they?

 

you know, more likely to walk into their local mom and pop cheese shop. I don’t know. We live in Wisconsin, so cheese is something that’s highly prevalent here. I don’t know.

 

Jay (24:22.57)

Yeah, I mean, I have like a handful of people that I try and outdo myself every year with like a really unique gift for them. You know, from like some small retailer halfway across the world or something like that. But the problem with those things is it takes time. Like a lot of these folks, they’re small shops, they don’t have a giant shipping operation. So you got to plan ahead.

 

Lindsie (24:37.19)

Yeah.

 

Jay (24:50.222)

and that like tideliness aspect and you know it’s just the fact that as humans we’re not really good at planning ahead um like for these unique gifts sometimes that’s just the only way you can get it uh to get to someone in time is go somewhere in person and get it today

 

Lindsie (24:58.819)

Yeah.

 

Lindsie (25:08.622)

Yeah. And I bet again that local STO gets even more important as the closer and closer you get to the day of gift giving.

 

Jay (25:19.47)

Yeah, I mean honestly for, for some of the like gift exchanges and stuff that we all are a part of, you know, if you’re a wine shop or liquor store or something, like have a photo of all of your gift boxes and baskets and things like that. And then you know, if you’re searching it’s like, oh I can get like four people covered at this one store.

 

Lindsie (25:34.65)

Oh, that’s a good idea, yep.

 

Lindsie (25:41.754)

Check. The wine lover, the whiskey lover, the beer lover, we’re good. Got all the people.

 

Jay (25:47.883)

Yeah, definitely.

 

Lindsie (25:50.29)

That’s an awesome idea. I like that. All right. Well, I think we’re, we’re through the things that we needed to talk through here and hopefully we’ve given people some tangible thoughts and ideas of things they can do to implement SEO tactics this year and next year to help grow their, their holiday season revenue.

 

Jay (26:11.546)

Yeah, enjoy the shopping season. If you’re working for a retailer, enjoy the selling season. And the craziness only lasts for like another seven, eight weeks. We’ll get through it.

 

Lindsie (26:22.81)

Yeah, good luck. All right, Jay, talk to you later. Bye.

 

Jay (26:28.45)

Thanks, Lindsay. Bye.

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