The online holiday shopping season, which typically stretches from Halloween to Christmas Eve, has always been important for online retailers. In the age of COVID-19, holiday website traffic and online sales are poised to take on even greater significance. So it’s critical that online retailers begin planning now to make sure their sites are optimized and ready. Here’s an SEO holiday checklist to help you prepare:
1. Establish a Baseline
Examine things like organic search traffic and keyword rankings from your previous year’s SEO metrics to help establish a baseline against which to hold up the current year’s anticipated performance.
Studying this data will provide insight into things like the amount of traffic your site received from search engines, keyword performance, and page views.
Examine your previous year’s content, meta descriptions, and title tags to help you make decisions on what worked and what didn’t, and use that information to help create your current year’s holiday SEO plan.
Just remember that your numbers may be a little wonky from last year due to lockdowns and quarantines. Make sure you annotate your Google Analytics so you know what any big shifts in metrics meant for your business.
2. Develop a Marketing Strategy
Establishing a baseline helps you determine what you want to accomplish. Developing a marketing strategy determines how you plan on accomplishing it.
Be clear about your holiday marketing message, your products, promotional strategies, and the platforms you intend to use to get your message out.
The marketing strategy should include key performance indicators such as lead and conversion goals, how much traffic you want to get from each lead source, and more.
3. Create New Content and Refresh The Old
Use the information you glean from analyzing your previous year’s SEO metrics to update existing content and create new material.
Create holiday-themed landing pages, blog posts, and sales pages. Doing so will help provide keyword-rich pages for search engines. Conduct a thorough review of your site, and update product descriptions, sales pages, and pricing. Cleaning up outdated or duplicate content also ensures all the content on your site is both useful and provides a positive experience for website visitors.
4. Review Titles and Descriptions
Optimized titles and descriptions are always important for showing up in search results because they help Google and other search engines understand your content to better rank and categorize it.
Titles and descriptions provide clarity and help direct traffic to your site, all the more important during the holidays when potential buyers are seeking knowledge prior to purchasing. This is especially important with Google’s latest initiative to automate title generation in search results. They are changing the title tags to show the text they think best represents the page, so updating any outdated titles can help prevent that.
5. Build Quality Links
Link building—creating one-way backlinks to a website—helps improve search engine visibility. And because your search engine results ranking relies heavily on the links pointing to you, it’s important to establish relationships with reputable websites and platforms that will link back to your content.
Links from popular sites can increase traffic to your site and improve sales, particularly around the holiday shopping season when search traffic significantly increases. The key to getting more links is to produce link-worthy content that these sites can feel good about sending traffic to.
6. Manage Inventory
It’s crucial to stay on top of inventory levels during the holiday season and to make sure your website reflects those levels as accurately as possible. Out-of-stock items are inevitable, though, so make sure to establish a system so that when visitors find out-of-stock items or pages that no longer exist, they’re provided with alternate options. This entails customizing 404-error pages to include similar products or having out-of-stock product pages redirect to a similar product with a pop-up that explains that the original item is out of stock.
Supply chain issues have been a hallmark of the COVID e-commerce landscape. The key to keeping customers happy is to manage expectations. Don’t promote products that people can’t buy (nothing is more frustrating) and allow people to sign up for in-stock notifications and even buy things on backorder.
7. Optimize for Mobile
Pixel Union reports that 67% of consumers admit to “digital window shopping” for fun on their smartphones, with 77% of those making impulse purchases when they do. Optimizing your site speed for mobile not only improves user experience but may also lead to increased sales.
Customers who are faced with forms that are hard to read on a mobile phone, may get frustrated and leave your site, so, if you’re using forms, be sure to test them in advance. And, if you’re using a special holiday landing page, make sure it loads quickly so you don’t waste your website visitors’ time.
8. Test Your User Experience
Forms aren’t the only items on your site you’ll want to test prior to launch. Make sure to test all your buttons, particular CTAs, and your shopping cart. Click on your product pages, descriptions, and links, and make sure to address any glitches that could result in a bounce and loss of a sale.
You’ll also want to check your site speed to make sure users aren’t experiencing long page load times. This is especially important during the holidays when increased traffic can cause site outages. Consider upgrading your hosting if you expect big swings in traffic during this time. Ensuring a seamless user experience goes a long way in improving the way Google views and ranks your website.
9. Schedule Posts and Social Media Content in Advance
Downtime, hectic schedules, and other demands mean that you may have less access to your computer during the holidays than you normally would. To ensure content is posted while you’re away, schedule blog posts and other social media content in advance.
Most content management platforms have a scheduling feature, and sites like Hootsuite, Buffer, and SocialPilot offer content publishing scheduling options. Remember to check your site regularly, though, to ensure that your scheduled content has posted without a hitch.
10. Update Google My Business
When a customer searches for your business online, one of the first things they will see is your Google My Business listing — especially if you have a brick-and-mortar location. Make sure it’s up to date and includes your holiday hours, contact information, and photos. Providing clear, up-to-date information will help increase click-through and decrease bounce rates.
For most businesses, the holiday season is one of the most hectic and most important times of the year. Preparation is key, and by following this SEO holiday checklist, you can get ahead of the busy season and make it one of your most successful ever.
Need help getting ready for the holidays? Reach out for a customized SEO strategy.