Keeping Christmas Alive

It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to enjoy a weekend at the art fair, spend some quality time at a baseball tournament or two, celebrate a wedding, and get ready for Christmas.


That’s right. Now is the time to make a list and check it twice in order to influence whether your search engine referrals this holiday season will be naughty or nice.

To be certain, the back-to-school bump is right around the corner, only to be followed by Labor Day sales and Halloween. But you should have your eye on Thanksgiving now if you want to have an impact on your search engine positioning before the holiday crush and rush.

About this time last year, I told online retailers to channel their seasonal energies by taking their old holiday URLs out of the attic and refreshing the content for the coming holiday season. My recommendation is all about link harvesting before you get to link building.

What’s the difference between link harvesting and link building?

Link harvesting is all about storing the links your content has earned over the years and channeling it to an optimal destination within a Web site. Link building is more about securing new backlinks to a targeted destination by initiating a series of different inbound linking tactics.

If you didn’t take my advice last year, it might not be too late to make a little search engine referral Christmas magic this year. To do so, you have to search your referrals from Christmas past and find the URLs that were created to feature gifts for him, for her, for kids, for pets, and the like.

If your organization abandoned the URLs, leaving the pages alive but disconnected from the native site, there might be a chance to resurrect the holiday landing pages his year. To do so, you’ll need to search through your site’s log files or metrics for November and December to find the old URLs.

After you determine the URLs, you can quickly check to see if last year’s holiday pages are worth reviving. See if any of the pages are still indexed by the engines by using an advanced search query string such as [], for example. You can also check to see what kind of inbound links the pages earned by doing an advanced search query for []. Of course, you could simply go to Yahoo Site Explorer to get an accurate picture of both indexation and backlinks.

Don’t worry if you find the URLs but for some reason can’t reuse the pages because your content management system won’t allow for it. Plan ahead for this year by creating a series of “coming soon” holiday pages and permanently redirecting (301) the old URLs to the new URLs you plan on using this year when the time is right to revive the content.

If you can’t find the URLs and you don’t have a link-harvesting plan in place, now is the time to work with your Web site design team to set up a series of static, unchanging holiday URLs that you can use year after year. Remember, the content needs to be changed and updated all through the year — not the URLs.

While you’re poking around the 2008 log files and metrics, capture top referring holiday-related keywords and phrases that sent serious search referral traffic your way. Doing so will make it that much easier to spend some quality time preparing your holiday keyword refresh right now.

The research time will also add a bit of insight into your Web pages strengths and weaknesses. If you plan ahead for the holiday sales season now, you will be able to take advantage of opportunities missed last year.

Other things you can plan to do to help catapult this year’s holiday landing pages to top positioning in the search engines include:

  • Link to the URLs from the home page of your site when the time is right. Doing so will likely pass along the optimal level of PageRank and Trust Rank from your site’s strongest page.
  • Always link to the URLs from your static HTML sitemap within the site.
  • Link to the holiday landing page URLs from related category and subcategory pages.
  • Schedule a timely XML sitemap update to ensure your holiday URLs are included in the mix.
  • Ensure the marketing department is prepared to use the holiday landing page URLs in all other venues, such as e-mail marketing, blogs, and social media destinations such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Prepare a series of initiatives that concentrate on building links to the newly refreshed holiday content. Link bait is always in season, but it’s even more important during the holidays.

Keeping the spirit of Christmas alive by way of a little link harvesting or URL restoration should make this year’s holiday sales season all the more brighter in the search engines.

Meet P.J. Fusco at Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.

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