Specializing Search for the Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving festivities behind us, retailers have already begun to pick up the pace as it relates to online promotion and incentives. Online advertising investment inevitably ramps up this season and competition for coveted organic search rankings increases.

So in light of that, I wanted to talk today about search marketing during the holiday season. What can you do during the busiest shopping season of the year to ensure your site has an optimal presence online? Of course, tried and true strategies you always employ to improve your online visibility should continue to be utilized, and you may want to consider ramping up spend if your budget allows. But in addition, there are some potential tips and tricks you can try around the holiday season to up your odds of success.

  • Add holiday oriented search terms and messaging to your paid and organic strategies.

    Consumers are going to be in a holiday season frame of mind when searching online, so you want to make sure the keywords you use and the listings you display will resonate with them. Adding keywords such as “Christmas,” “holiday,” “gift,” “present,” or “gift card” to the beginning and end of your existing phrases are easy additions. (For example, if you’re a DVD retailer or rental store, you might add terms such as “holiday DVD set” or “movie gift card.”) Writing new organic page titles and descriptions, or paid search ads with a Christmas theme (e.g., “Great deals on DVDs for everyone on your list!”) may also improve relevancy for holiday shoppers.

  • Avoid competing on very broad or generic holiday terms such as “Christmas gift ideas,” or similar.

    These terms will be near impossible to achieve top organic rankings on, and they will cost you dearly in paid search. Your energy is better spent identifying and optimizing for terms that are specific to your product/service. Users searching for “golf lovers Christmas gift idea” are going to be much more qualified and motivated to buy than someone who searches for “gift idea for men.”

  • Leverage unique engines, not just the standard search engines like Google.

    There are many other types of search engines that can be particularly leveraged this time of year:

    • Shopping engines (e.g., Shopzilla) enable you to showcase your offers and sales to those who are looking to buy.
    • Video engines (e.g., YouTube) provide an opportunity to disseminate product demonstrations or testimonials to your audience.
    • Vertical engines (e.g., Kayak.com for travel) facilitate enhanced visibility among a niche target audience.
  • Create helpful holiday content in order to entice users to your site and improve your authority.

    For up to a couple months before Christmas, people will be eagerly looking for content that will help them prepare for, and plan their holidays. Capitalize on that interest by creating compelling content that is seasonally-relevant. For example, if you sell gourmet food baskets or kitchen supplies, consider including holiday recipes on your site. If you own a clothing boutique or a salon, consider offering beauty and fashion tips for getting glam for holiday parties. If you’re an electronics retailer, you might offer a holiday buying guide for PCs or flat screens.

  • Include “value” based keywords in your search listings.

    Because so many people will be searching for savings this holiday season in particular, it makes sense to include value-based keywords in your paid and organic strategies, if you haven’t already. Optimize your site for terms such as discounts, coupons, vouchers, savings, sale, promotions, etc. You may want to consider creating a “savings” section on your site to highlight items that are on sale or for which you have a promotion. You can then optimize more easily for such terms.

  • Consider employing day-parting techniques to heavy up your budget during key shopping times.

    People are more likely to be browsing online, comparison shopping, or planning shopping trips during the week, since many will head out to malls or family gatherings on the weekends. Similarly, as it gets closer to Christmas, shopping volume will increase. Black Friday — the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, when retailers are said to go from “in the red” to “in the black,” profitwise — is historically the busiest shopping day of the year and therefore it may make sense to heavy up spend leading up to this day. Gating your budget according to key dates and times can help you maximize your budget over the holiday season.

Try out at least one of these tips on your search marketing strategies for the holiday season. Hopefully they will help you capitalize on those hungry holiday shoppers scouring the Web for deals and steals!

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