These are the dog days of summer, but the clock's is ticking. Time to get e-commerce sites ready for the holiday sales surge.
In the northern hemisphere, summer's extended daylight hours provide extra time for fun in the sun. As we enjoy vacations, family gatherings, picnics in the park, and weekend getaways, the clock steadily moves toward the autumn equinox and the start of another school year.
With back-to-school campaigns in full swing and Halloween-related promotions booked, now's the time to make some final tweaks to your e-commerce site for the holiday sales season. We're about 100 days in front of Thanksgiving Day, so there's no time to waste implementing a few of these last-minute traffic-building tips to help your e-commerce site attain optimal search engine visibility just in time for the holiday sales surge.
We know the holidays are upon us when a quick trip to the mall or a leisurely stroll down Main Street assaults our senses with dazzlingly festive displays. An e-commerce Web site is no different. It's time to prep Web window dressings to reflect shifts in buying habits during the holiday season.
Don't add a Flash landing page or a huge holiday interstitial to your site; you don't need any barriers search engine spiders won't understand. Changing your site's window dressings for targeted seasonal search terms should be subtler, something search engines and humans alike will appreciate.
One of the best ways to adjust holiday sales messaging for search is via the site's navigational scheme. Consider modifying the site's internal linking structure to reflect seasonality and to better target gift-related search queries.
Don't trash the current navigation structure, rather embellish it with a few additional links containing well-targeted, keyword-rich anchor text. Doing so helps create one- or two-click shortcuts that efficiently channel search-referred visitors to all your great gifts and goodies.
Remember, home pages usually have the highest PageRank, which can help channel your site's linking prowess to seasonally targeted destinations. A few well-targeted links from the home page will pass greater PageRank to popular holiday categories and products, more so than a site map or a series of footer links. It's not a bad idea to complement your site's holiday sales focus through these site elements, too.
Consider which goods or services categories deserve to be no more than three clicks away from the home page. Do some keyword research and fine-tune terms to hit an optimal holiday sales target. Stay on theme and don't go overboard in home page linking. Bear in mind Google's Webmaster Guidelines recommends Webmasters keep the number of links on a page to fewer than 100. Site visitors will appreciate the compliance with usability fundamentals, and spiders will have time to crawl your site.
Hooks and Ornaments
With your holiday hooks set, there's still time to dangle a few ornaments out on the Web and earn a handful of high-quality inbound links. Doing so algorithmically augments seasonally oriented search engine visibility. A single link from an on-theme PageRank 8 site can boost rankings within several weeks -- just in time for the holidays.
We're talking quality inbound links, not an unnatural, inorganically acquired series of fabricated links. Build links strategically to avoid raising red flags with Google or Yahoo. Reach out to pertinent business partners to earn your fair share of targeted inbound links. And don't forget to leverage the blogosphere to create a positive image of your site's seasonal shift and attain optimal traffic and online exposure. Spend some time commenting on product-friendly posts by influential bloggers. If you don't have the time, money, or inclination to maintain or launch your own blog, try generating positive buzz in the blogosphere by sending free product samples to bloggers, no strings attached.
Bloggers can damage your online reputation as readily as they can help it, so tread carefully. It's a bad idea to try to buy bloggers off by sending them useless items they aren't interested in. As always with social communities, you must know your audience well, so lurk before you leap. Bloggers will appreciate those who contribute to the conversation, showing it in outbound links.
Deliver the Goods
Holiday giveaways such as free shipping and gift-wrapping still appeal to seasonal shoppers looking for deals and last-minute gifts. Remember to include actionable messaging in the information that's used for most search engine snippets. Add the seasonal details to your site's meta description tags to enhance click-throughs and reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.
If you get locked out of your site by a code freeze, there are other services and search optimal options you can leverage to have the work done outside the native site with little or no tech time required. Often code freezes don't include the creation of static seasonal pages that can help promote gift certificates or limited-time offers and that work in tandem to complement social media marketing or online ad campaigns.
Deliver something new to the holiday sales season by preparing a few well-targeted seasonal search campaigns today. Natural search engine optimization may take a little longer than a pay-per-click campaign, but the results tend to yield progressive levels of search referrals year after year.
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P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.
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