Fact: to many businesses, the holiday season represents the biggest selling time of the year.

And for retailers, it can represent 20% - 30% of their annual sales in the span of about four weeks.

No surprise that a lot of eCommerce companies begin preparations for the holiday season early. Most of the planning starts with their merchandising strategy, then promotional cadence with the optimization of the offers and deals competitively, then their advertising plans, and updating the stock, etc. 

However, at some point, online retailers should focus their attention to preparing their online visibility for this important season.

We will cover the steps to prepare and ensure a boost in your holiday online visibility this year.

#1. Create the Holiday Content Now

No matter what products you sell - fashion, beauty, hiking equipment, music… - you need content if you want to drive holiday shoppers to your site. From landing pages, deals pages to blog posts suggesting top gifts content, all of this allows you to attract, and then convert visitors on your site.

(Note, in this sense, I understand conversions as both sales [in a case of visitors arriving on a landing page] and pushing them to specific product pages [for customers who discover your site through a blog post, for example.)

But why is creating this content important to do right now, in the summer months?

The reason is actually quite simple - the earlier you publish it, the faster Google and other search engines will index it, and start ranking your pages in search. To further increase the chances of search engines picking it up, include those pages in your sitemap right away too.

And finally, interlink these pages from other authoritative pages on the site closer to the holiday season.

(Now, if you are worried about revealing exclusive deals on those pages too soon, add the deal information to the page later. You can still maintain the rest of the copy. This way, even if a customer stumbles on a page, they won’t learn about your upcoming promotions.)

But you’ll have enough content there to engage them (and for the search engines to rank it).

#2. Improve Your Site’s Speed

I’m sure you’ve heard this before: A single second delay in page load time can reduce your conversions by 7%. (Source)

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Not to mention the effect slow loading pages would have on your SEO.

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And so, ensure that your site loads fast, and no specific, technical issues prevent customers from accessing it quickly. Luckily, assessing and improving your page’s load time is actually quite simple. For example, seoClarity’s Page Speed can help you analyze your page load time and identify issues that you must fix to make it load even faster.

#3. Get Your Site Ready for the Mobile-First Index

Although the Google’s new index won’t go live before the holiday season, you should optimize the site for it nonetheless. Why? Because so many holiday shoppers will access it on their smartphones.

Here is some data to back it up (via Emarketer):

“Mobile commerce continued to expand in 2016. comScore Inc. estimated that US holiday season retail ecommerce sales on its platform increased 44% last year, accounting for 21% of total ecommerce for Q4 2016. Other providers reported an even higher mobile share of sales.”

In our earlier post, Mitul Gandhi, seoClarity’s Co-Founder and Chief Architect, shared a list of ways to prepare for the mobile-first index, and to ensure you're site's prepared, it's important implement these recommendations soon.

#4. Integrate SEO and SEM Campaigns

I admit, Adwords and SEO folk often work in discord. But with your biggest sales of the year at stake, it’s a good idea to get them to bury the hatchet and coordinate SEO and paid advertising campaigns during the holiday season.

Luckily, doing so is actually not as difficult as it may seem:

For a start, get both teams to share the list of keywords they plan to target. Of course, for the most part, both lists will include many similar phrases. At the same time, each team might have identified incredible keyword opportunities that would allow the opportunity to drive even more relevant traffic as well for both channels - paid and organic.

Coordinate and share keyword targets, and work together to optimize relevant landing pages and other important site pages. Coordination on the promotional strategies to target these phrases also will benefit both channels. The more traffic directed through organic, gives SEM opportunity to drive incremental traffic.

Next, create landing pages both teams could use.

Landing pages are the backbone of both SEO and SEM strategies. However, often each team uses their own assets to attract and convert new customers. But given the huge overlap in keywords and targets during the holiday season, it makes sense to get both teams to work off the same set of landing pages. Showcase hot selling items, and brainstorm value-added content for specific products to drive attention for both channels. 

These pages would contain content your SEO team optimized for relevant keywords but also, be constructed by the Adwords team in a way to entice more direct conversions from SEM ads and increase the quality score for these pages. 

And finally…

#5. Optimize for Your Brand or Amazon Will!

Amazon’s dominance of the eCommerce market is quite scary, isn’t it?

According to eMarketer:

“According to one study, 38% of US retail Ecommerce sales during the 2016 holiday season took place on Amazon, with the percentage increasing as the season progressed.” (Source)

And so, how can you battle such dominance?

  • Boost Your Local Presence

For a start, ensure your Google My Business listings are up-to-date, featuring the most relevant information about your locations. Post your holiday opening hours to the feed, to let local customers know when they’d be able to avail of your upcoming deals and promotions in real-time or even as a sneak peak.

Google recently launched a Google post feature for local listings. You can take advantage of this option and link to those holiday landing pages too.

  • Offer free shipping to cut off dates

I agree with Operation ROI here (note that the emphasis in bold is mine):

“Offering free shipping all year-round will likely not boost your bottom line. But by offering it as a special feature when consumers are most motivated (any holiday season), you’ll likely be satisfied with your return on investment.

So, work out how you could offer to deliver goods to customers free of charge during the holiday season. And then, offer it only around the cut off dates, to instill a sense of urgency enticing them to act.

  • Promote gift cards for a gift and currency usage after the holidays

Finally, if your store offers gift cards (or better yet, accepts Amazon gift cards), then entice customers to use them after the holidays. Why after? To strengthen their connection with your brand, and also, increase retention. Because you know, increasing retention by just 5% could actually boost your profits by anything from 25% to a staggering 95% (source).

Closing Thoughts

With nearly a half of online stores making approx. 30% of their sales during the holiday season, it’s crucial that your products and content are visible in search. And hopefully, after reading this post, you know exactly what to do to boost your holiday visibility online. All that’s left is to watch the traffic roll-in while you're leaving cookies for Santa and realizing the boost in rankings. 

Good luck!