The main holiday shopping season is only two months away, with Black Friday sales now commonplace in the UK as well as the US. This means that it is the perfect time to refresh content, update SEO and optimise webpages to prepare commerce sites for a spike in traffic and consumption during November and December.
Increase visibility in free listings
Brands will be able to feature in Google’s Shopping search results with unpaid, organic listings for the first time this year after the tech giant opened up listings following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Google’s president of commerce Bill Ready, speaking at the time, said that the move would allow retailers to experience “free exposure to millions of people”.
Bing also made organic product listings available in August. The new options across both search engines give SEOs a “new layer” of optimisation options in product search. This is something that you should make use of during the busy festive period.
Product listings are not eligible automatically though. To ensure that yours are surfaced in Shopping results on Google and Bing, upload product feeds into the Merchant Center for both platforms.
Those who operate physical stores alongside a web outlet can opt into a feature called ‘Local surface across Google’ within the Google Merchant Center (GCM). This will then show your product availability across Google services, including search, Images, Maps and Lens.
Keep tabs on performance
The organic listings also offer basic tracking and reporting, though this is not as advanced as the analytics for paid campaigns. The Google Merchant Center shows click-throughs in a ‘Performance Report’, while Google Analytics tracks free listings clicks under the broad ‘google/organic’ traffic metric.
SEOs have noted that it can be difficult to ascertain the difference in results between traditional search and these shopping listings, but ZATO Marketing’s Kirk Williams has detailed a tagging process that allows you to track free Shopping traffic across Google. This involves adding UTM parameters within the ‘Feed Rules’ section of the GMC.
Refresh your content
Content is always king, especially during the holiday period when a higher volume of webcopy and blogs is required for campaigns. Ayima director Karen Bone recommends creating evergreen content that can be repositioned in the run-up to Christmas to inform customers and drive sales.
Content formats that would work well during this time include gift guides, product recommendations and how-tos. You can put this content front and centre in November and December, and then refer to it during the rest of the year via internal linking, before bringing it back out again for the next festive period.
Bone adds: “Allow that content to gain links and work for you each year, rather than removing it and starting fresh year over year.” This is great for driving higher ROI from content investment as evergreen materials will continue to push customers along the sales cycle well after the initial publication date.
Consider the demands of holiday consumers
Holiday-based queries will change slightly, both in the phrasing and the person who is conducting the search. Beanstalk CEO Dave Davies advises brands to accommodate the type of consumers who may not necessarily be looking for your product or service during other times of the year.
He notes: “Ask yourself, during the holidays, are the same people making the buying decisions? A good example is video games: During much of the year, the primary buyer will be the player, but during the holidays, the stats reveal it’s an extremely popular gift.”
For content creation, this means that you might have to come up with new copy and articles that can address the needs of people who are buying gifts or looking for a deal. You can also update content to achieve the same goal. Davies says that this sort of “shifting” content enables you to build on existing rankings.
To tailor content for these holiday buyers, you might need to focus on more basic questions about the product. Using the gaming example, Davies says that content about a new release would not make a “big pitch” but would instead cover details about the product such as its rating and what other people think about it.
This optimisation extends to headlines and descriptions. There should be an emphasis on yearly overviews and top lists for 2020 as these will educate people who are buying gifts. All of these changes can help to drive clicks and traffic.
Audit your website to flag issues
You also need a robust website to support sales during this crucial period of the year. In the run-up to the busier weeks, conduct a website-wide audit that will flag errors or issues that could prevent you from converting. These could manifest in an errant robot.txt file that could block an important page or a broken product URL. Even the most basic errors can hit visibility and sales.
You should also focus on users and, more specifically, delivering a fast-loading, intuitive and enjoyable experience for those who navigate to your website. This means taking another look at how you expect customers to move through your webpages.
While a standalone FAQs page can be very useful, for example, if it is related to a specific product category, it may be difficult to push them along and convert afterwards. Adding the FAQs section to the category page ensures that questions are answered at the right point and that visitors won’t get side-tracked.
Finally, you may want to stop site migrations at this time as they can throw off even the best-laid plans. While it is possible to do this seamlessly, you may run into problems that can lead to a drop-off in search visibility, which would undermine your holiday sales push. Delaying major projects until the new year is usually preferable.
With everything optimised and in place, you will have the peace of mind that your website and SEO strategies are running optimally, and that they will give you the best chance of maximising profits during one of the most important times of the year.