Holiday SEO: Last Minute Tips for Ecommerce Sites [2013 Edition]

It’s better late than never! Check out this yearly updated post from our SEO manager, Nathan Joynt, about last-minute SEO improvements you still can make before the big season arrives.

November 2013 SEO to-do list

I know you’ve done this already, but revisit 2012’s data again – this time through the lens of SEO. Have you clearly established your SEO goals for the 2013 holiday season? What numbers did you hit last year and what is realistic for this year? Knowing that your ability to understand top performing keywords this year is likely clouded by term (not provided) you can at least look back at 2012’s data for direction in 2013.

  • If you haven’t done so already and have the time and resources, create a Holiday Gift Guide (or Holiday Gift Ideas) section/category for your site. This could even be a subcategory of your current categories. Include products that make perfect holiday gifts and/or any products you’re discounting/promoting for the holidays. Make sure you add copy that explains why these are great holiday gifts and for who. This works especially well for getting unique, hard-to-optimize-for products out in front of your site visitors. In terms of SEO this does a couple of things:
    • Gets your deeper content and product detail pages closer to the home page so the search engine spiders can crawl and index the updated content
    • Helps guide your current site traffic to holiday-specific areas and encourages them to purchase – hopefully increasing sales
  • Perform keyword research to identify any relevant holiday-specific search terms for your market e.g. holiday gifts for kids, kids Christmas gifts, unique holiday gifts for kids, etc. Weave these keywords into your new/updated holiday copy on your product pages and category pages.
  • Update title tags and meta descriptions to include any holiday promotions. Perhaps a product is 20% off for the holidays only. This information will display in the search results:

  • Perhaps you are offering free shipping for the holidays. Put this into your homepage title tag and meta description. Again, this will display in the search results:

  • It may be too late to expect improvements in rankings for keywords and product pages too far from Google’s first page, but what about the “page 2 performers” i.e. category and product pages ranking on page 2 of Google search results? What else can you optimize to get those listings up onto the first page of Google before Black Friday and Cyber Monday? This may require you to update the category and/or product copy on these pages or feature them on the homepage to drive additional awareness and to get the search engine crawlers to index this updated copy quickly.
  • While you are looking over last year’s data, what else can you apply this year to improve on last year? Visit your top landing pages. What made them so popular in 2012 and in the time leading up to this present holiday season? What are your current most popular product pages? If you cannot run specials on them, can you add links to your holiday sale items from these pages? What else can you do to funnel current organic traffic to your holiday sale page(s) to maximize your revenue?
  • Send out an email encouraging previous customers to review past purchases. If you can, offer them an incentive to do so, like 5% off their next purchase. On-page customer reviews add much-needed user generated content (UGC) that can help increase sales. UGC can help you rank for additional long-tail keywords you do not target in your on-page strategy. This type of fresh content helps your products maintain relevance with search engines and helps you earn rich snippet displays in search results.
  • Identify and follow/friend 25 top influencers in your industry and work on networking your brand to them. This is a bit more time-consuming and you may not see a lot of results before the holidays, but you can still benefit by getting these users to visit your site and perhaps “like” a specific product or tweet about your holiday promotion, etc… The best place to start is by using a service like Followerwonk. Read this for additional help with influencer outreach. Symbiotic relationships are key here. You want to tap into their network to find new opportunities to promote your brand and they can tap into yours.
  • If you have a blog, write a post about your Holiday Gift Guide. Link to all your individual products featured and add a giveaway to one lucky reader who shares the post, links to it, etc. Use a service like Rafflecopter to manage the giveaway and choose a winner. Spend some time promoting the giveaway through your newsletters and social channels. Get the top influencers you’ve befriended in your industry to help promote the giveaway. You can even promote it on your home page.
  • Write a guest blog post. Playing off my fake online store above, The 10 Best Unique Gifts for Kids, I would do some research to find other gifts besides my own and write a unique, thoughtful post. Do include your product as one of the gifts and link to your product within the post. Submit your guest post through something like Blogger Link Up or to one of your new influencers you’ve befriended to publish on their site. You’ll benefit by getting at least one new link to your site, traffic from the publisher’s site and promotion through their social networks. Is this strategy something you can keep doing weekly? Understand you’ll need to write unique articles with original content – never, ever publish duplicate content.
  • Can you write and pitch an article to a major publication in your industry? This isn’t so much to push a particular product as much as it’s to demonstrate your thought leadership. As an example, http://www.realsimple.com/ may be interested in publishing my article about How to Choose Safe Gifts for Children. If I wrote an article for them I may be able to benefit from the traffic they receive on their homepage and blog. Not only this, I’ll also be targeting my desired market and could see a boost in links and social signals.
  • Add your product(s) to Amazon and Ebay. Even if it’s just during the holiday season.
  • Check your Google Webmaster Tools for any crawl errors to fix. Review the “Health” of your site in general through GWT. Fix any 404 errors. Review your crawl stats to understand how many pages are crawled per day and how much time is spent downloading pages. Is there anything suspicious about your crawl stats? Check your index status to understand how much of your content is indexed. Are there any gotchas here? Remember, if Google isn’t crawling your site effectively you can’t maximize indexation, meaning you can’t maximize rankings.
  • Research your ranking competition for some fresh ideas too. What do they seem to be doing right to rank well this holiday season for your most important terms? You don’t want to just copy their techniques, but you can learn from their initiatives to fuel your own ideas.

This is bigger than just SEO

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these actions can help you improve user experience, SEO and promote your ecommerce site at the most important time of year. I would love to hear from you. In your experience, what seems to resonate well during the holidays? Leave your comment below.

About 

Nathan Joynt is the Marketing SEO Manager at Volusion, with over 8 years of professional search engine optimization, content marketing and website information architecture experience. He has helped many large and small ecommerce businesses maximize their organic search potential including several Internet Retailer top 500 companies. Nathan has a degree in music, likes to make up songs and thinks he could be a rock star, but most people agree - he's better at his day job. Have an SEO question for Nathan? Reach out on Twitter with #VolusionSEO

15 Responses to “Holiday SEO: Last Minute Tips for Ecommerce Sites [2013 Edition]”

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  4. Maria

    Hi Nathan! I am a relative newbie to SEO so these last min tips are a HUGE help! Thank you

    UC4 Ltd

    Reply
  5. Sue

    Thanks Nathan for the tips, there’s a few I’ve done, but a few I hadn’t thought of…there’s always something new to do with SEO!

    http://www.somethinspecial.com

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Thank you, Sue! Always happy to help and I hope you have a successful selling season.

      Regards,
      Nathan

      Reply
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  7. carushka

    I will be re-photographing my entire line in the next 10 days. Bigger, brighter, one backdrop, professional model, hair and make-up and professional photographer. Almost all my customers write testimonials. Help me to get more new traffic! And some old ones that don’t know where I am? Thanks

    Reply
  8. Brenda

    Very timely – I was glad to read I did two things in your article today – submitted a sitemap and created a Holiday Gift Guide… Now to work on all of the other tips! I really like your tip on the 25 friends/followers-that is really a great idea for anytime!

    http://www.gentlebath.com

    Reply
  9. Roslyn Collings

    Thank you – Some great tips here that I will definitely be following up. Just one question though – everything I’ve read on the topic seems to frown on the practice of incentivising customers reviews with discounts etc. Interesting that you should be encouraging it!

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Thanks Roslyn. The practice of incentivising reviews can be controversial. Some will find is most useful in moderation, perhaps only for certain products and at a specific time of year when they are looking for a competitive edge. BTW, love the banner on your home page! 😉

      Reply
  10. James

    Thanks for the very helpful tip for the holidays. I’ll give it a try and see how it helps. Hope it increases sales for the holiday.
    http://www.concessionequipmentdepot.com

    Reply
  11. Brett Borders

    A really excellent article with marketing & SEO tips for the competitive holiday e-commerce season – many I had not thought of before.

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Thanks Brett. As you know, the list could go on-and-on. It’s very important to benchmark and build on this stuff year after year.

      Reply

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