Six Last-Minute SEO Tips for the Holidays

Tapping into last-minute holiday shoppers can work well for brick-and-mortar stores, but it doesn’t bode well for online retailers — especially if your online store is counting on targeted, holiday related search engine referrals to get found and make sales.

Shoppers will scrutinize product pricing, shipping fees, and miscellaneous handling charges very closely this year as they seek the best deals. Hopefully, you started studying your holiday sales opportunities in July.

If you were naughty and didn’t refresh your holiday keyword research in July, please put this task on your calendar now for next year. If you didn’t begin evaluating your products positioning for holiday-related items in August and take some products online in September, consider adding these tasks to your list for next year to avoid getting another lump of coal in your search stocking.

Better yet, start preparing for your next seasonal shift in product positioning now by initiating all of the above about three months in advance of the shift. It’s nice to think you can still change your online store’s search engine positioning for Valentine’s Day if you get cracking now. OK, Valentine’s Day sales lift pales in comparison to the holiday sales season for the average online retailer.

If you find yourself panicking in November, there are still a few tactics you can implement to try to improve your search-engine visibility in Google and MSN. (I’m afraid that ship has already sailed for Yahoo unless you want to position a landing page for post-holiday bargains and discounts in January. Although you could opt for a surge in your paid inclusion efforts if you find yourself flush with online marketing dollars.)

Here are six steps you might be able to implement in time to improve your holiday sales positioning in the search engines:

1. Hold Those URLs

If you’re this tardy in initiating your holiday SEO (define) initiatives, you might be able to take advantage of using some old URLs from last year. If you never bothered to take your Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa pages down last year and you just stopped linking to the themed landing pages from your site’s navigation, then you can revive and refresh the content under the same old URL construct. At least that way you can maintain any inbound links to these pages without having to set up permanent redirects. Doing so might help you recapture a little of your search positioning swagger just in time for the holidays.

2. Refresh Your XML Sitemap

Many online retailers carry special items for the holidays only. Are these new items also a part of your site’s XML sitemap? Of course, you could always set up a special holiday XML sitemap that can be readily removed when the holiday goods and the shoppers are gone. You can also monitor this special holiday XML sitemap’s uptake from Google Webmaster Tools, but only if you take the time to set up an account.

3. Refresh Your HTML Sitemap.

Now is a great time to include internal links to special holiday sale sections from your site’s navigational map. Doing so won’t necessarily help improve your search engine positioning, but it will provide another clear crawl path for the spiders to discover and index the new URLs — assuming you don’t use JavaScript dropdowns or mouseovers.

4. Refresh Your Title Tags

Unless you have some sort of search engine optimal content management system powering your site, it might be impossible to refresh every title tag in your site’s repertoire. All the same, you can strategically optimize some title tags to help improve your search engine positioning.

For example, take at look at the title tags for your brick-and-mortar stores. Do the title tags include each store’s address line, including street, city, state, and ZIP code? If not, tweak these title tags. You can initiate an in-depth local optimization strategy next year.

5. Get Some Last-Minute Links

In-store promotions and online giveaways are great ways to harvest valuable holiday links. If a store is helping with local fundraising events, get some press coverage and some links to targeted destinations within your site. If you donate goods or services to schools or non-profit organizations, ask for some links in return.

Hit the social sphere with some particularly gitchy items or ask prominent bloggers to review a few of your holiday wares. Have your receptionist Twitter away in spare time. Rev up your RSS feed with targeted, keyword rich headlines. Expand your site’s appeal across social venues like there’s no tomorrow.

6. Watch the Metrics

Monitor your site’s metrics for search engine referrals and traffic bursts in correlation with each last minute holiday sales tactic you implement. Sure, you should monitor search engine positioning, too. But nothing beats watching the conversions rack up for your site from holiday search referrals you’ve earned.

Making the most of your online holiday sales is never a set-it-and-forget-it proposition when it comes to SEO. If you can still take a few steps to improve your site’s positioning now, then you can bake a long-term optimization strategy all throughout the next year.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.

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