Christmas in July?

Christmas in July is a marketing-influenced pseudo-holiday infrequently celebrated in the United States. Technically speaking, if you wanted to hold an event to denote the halfway mark between successive Christmases, you should hold it on June 24, which correlates with the eve of my birthday, and really throw a blowout party.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I love a party. It’s absolutely awesome getting a boatload of gifts every six months, like clockwork. What stinks is that it’s 90 degrees outside. Thoughts of Christmas are sparse at best.

Perhaps you can conjure up a bit of holiday spirit while huddled around a bowl of ice cream and watching reruns of “The Simpsons” Christmas episodes. Those who actually celebrate Christmas in July prefer frozen margaritas and daiquiris served poolside instead of eggnog shakes and reruns of network TV holiday specials.

Even thinking of Christmas in July is a bit of a nightmare for most online marketers. Not only is it hard to get into the holiday swing of things, it’s also a bit disruptive for natural search optimization. But it doesn’t have to be if you keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year. Then it can actually work to your advantage when the real holiday season finally rolls around again.

Spirit of Christmas Past

Most online retailers focus much of their seasonal energy on creating lavish holiday landing pages within their Web sites in tandem with Black Friday. Suddenly there’s an influx of new Web pages with the start of the holiday season.

You’ll find entirely new sections of a site dedicated to gifts for him, for her, for kids, for pets, and the like. Search engines love these new pages because they represent fresh content worthy of discovery. But then the shine fades, and these pages quickly become just another bit of content that requires only routine crawling to keep indexing fresh.

Meanwhile, online marketers end up in the seasonal fight of their lives with other Web destinations for unbranded ranking supremacy. Some leverage all sorts of tricks to achieve and maintain top rankings in search results. Others use more traditional paid tactics to ensure CTRs (define) don’t falter. Oddly enough, what you really need to do is not kill Christmas, so to speak.

You can keep the spirit of Christmas alive by not killing it in the first place. If you have to kill those pages on your site, at least consider harvesting the links.

Spirit of Christmas Present

This year, consider what parts of your holiday sales campaign you can keep alive on your site throughout the year. Consider, for example, fruits baskets and gift cards.

If your online store always sells fruit baskets or consistently promotes holiday gift cards only for Christmas, keep the content alive on your site after the holiday sales season is through. You don’t have to link to your seasonal landing pages from the top navigation year round. You just need to keep the URLs consistent from one holiday sales season to the next.

If you orphan the Web pages, crawling and consequent indexation refreshes will be nominal. Ideally, you can still link to the pages from a site map to help sustain the pages over the non-holiday dry spell. This way, you won’t lose those inbound links due to 404 error messages sent to the spiders if the URLs are eliminated and the content removed.

Because the pages will likely be found and presented by internal site search results, you can always adjust the content to say that the items aren’t currently available. That way usability issues are minimized. If this still isn’t acceptable to your usability team, you could temporarily redirect the URLs to alternative pages within your site, or even to your home page. It’s important to try to avoid a contextual disconnect.

Remember: bring the old URLs out of hibernation when the next holiday sales season begins. Refreshing the content and prominently linking to it throughout your site’s navigation will bring the pages back to life with little or no loss of inbound links — year after year.

Spirit of Christmas Future

The idea of harvesting inbound links to seasonal landing pages isn’t something new. It’s just one of those opportunities so many online retailers miss year after year.

If you’ve ever been called into a Scrooge-like meeting to discuss why your holiday landing pages for “gifts for women” isn’t on the first SERP (define), at least you now have some options for preparing a better Christmas future.

Start dwelling on Christmas present to make link building a no-brainer for many holiday sales seasons to come.

Meet P.J. at SES San Jose, August 18-22 at San Jose Convention Center.

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