Well-Seasoned SEO

This time of the year usually brings out a certain level of anxiousness among search engine marketers, paid and organic alike.

The PPC (define) crowd is in a frenzy, detailing buys, bids, and keyword lists long into the night. Visions of landing pages dance in their heads. Their workload is amplified to drive paid performance to the predictable crescendo of the 2006 holiday sales season.

Meanwhile, organic search marketers are putting the finishing touches on what can be naturally optimized before code freezes lock sites down for the holiday sales season. This doesn’t mean we’re not busy. Even if an e-commerce site is considered hands-off until the new year, there are always other elements of natural search that can affect performance before the year is over.

If your site has new pages that are in development but not quite ready for prime time, for example, consider building links to them into your site map now, well in advance of the time you’ll need those pages to be highly visible in search engine results.

Linking to placeholders for holidays specials, such as free shipping deals or gift card promotions, is never a bad idea. At the outset, the placeholder page might contain information about signing up for e-mail alerts or news about other in-site promotion notifications via RSS (define).

If the content is scheduled to change as different deals ebb and flow through the season, all the better. Just remember to keep on-the-page and behind-the-page natural search elements consistent, relevant, and on target.

By optimizing special deals or gift ideas pages now, you gain the opportunity to place these pages as high up in your site hierarchy as possible when the offers are ready for public consumption. Ideally, these pages should be one click away from the home page to maximize the PageRank flow and link juice.

It can take weeks for new pages to appear in search query results across the major engines, time you can’t afford to waste during the holiday sales season. Optimizing placeholder pages early allows you to shortcut the process a bit. The sooner your site links to the pages, the sooner the search engines can crawl and index the pages.

Speaking of links, link-building is never out of season. Inbound links encompass the prevalent path to top positioning in all the major search engines. Improving the quantity and quality of inbound links is an essential element of successful SEO (define).

Prior to the holidays, it’s important to review opportunities for inbound links from existing partners that already contribute to your site’s search engine visibility. Business partners are far more likely to respond to requests for improving the anchor text used when linking to your site. After all, these partners tend to have a vested interest in your site’s performance.

During the holidays you should be actively seeking out new inbound linking opportunities. Adding a handful of highly relevant inbound links to a site, or specific pages within a site, can dramatically impact search referrals coming your way.

Be careful not to garner too many links at once (we’re talking in the thousands here, people) or your site’s performance may be negatively affected during the timeframe when you can least afford it. You don’t want your site flagged by Google for having too many new, irrelevant, off-topic inbound links.

Shortcuts are sometimes tempting, especially when the pressure to perform looms large on Q4 results. Avoid being enticed by short-term gains. Play the long game to optimize your site for season to come.

It can be challenging to get other sites to link to yours purely out of generosity. Remember to seek out novel opportunities for inbound links from new sources, like Web 2.0 social media sites.

If you already have a corporate blog or brand blog or know of specific fan blogs, augment the posting pace a bit. If you don’t normally post daily to the corporate or brand blog, the holiday sales season is a perfect time to start. Blogs appeal to the freshness factor so many search engines adore.

Blogging offers a great way to keep your products front of mind with potential consumers. If a fan blog is hot, feed the blogger insider tips on new deals, cool new products, even free samples. Just don’t try to buy them off for the sake of a link to your site. Bloggers will see right through attempts to manipulate their content, and you won’t attain desired results if you insult their intelligence or threaten their integrity.

If you don’t already have a blog, now would be a great time to start one. Depending on how quickly your blog garners links and where it’s hosted, you could see it getting picked up in the search engines and ranking well within weeks.

Between internal linking, adjusted inbound anchor text links, new inbound links, and blogging, you can continue to improve your site’s search engine visibility all through the holiday sales season.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Local in Denver, CO, September28, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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