Holiday SEO in July: How To Avoid Google’s Naughty List This Holiday Season

Is your store’s SEO naughty or nice? Read on to see how you can keep your online business on Google’s good side when preparing for the holiday season.


He sees you when you’re sleeping… He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good… so be good for goodness sake. 

Google is a little like Santa.

Like Santa, Google seeks to reward good behavior with shiny gifts like online visibility, search traffic and (hopefully) organic revenue. But, if you’re bad, Google leaves you with the equivalent of coal in your holiday sales stocking.

It’s true.  Google is always watching your website’s activities and gauging whether you’re being naughty or nice. Luckily, our Volusion SEO elves are working hard year round, and they’ve put together a few pre-holiday season SEO tips to help you avoid the dreaded naughty list.


Stop Being Naughty Right NOW!

First and foremost, if you want to see strong organic search results this holiday season, you need to stop naughty behavior and start incorporating nice SEO tactics today – though, yesterday would have been even better. Waiting until November simply won’t cut it. Google is looking for long-term consistency and, as you’ve probably heard, SEO results take time. Search engines don’t instantly reward optimization, even if it is beautifully executed.

Want serious organic traction by the holiday shopping season? You have to start earning that traction now.

Santa a crying boy
Like Santa, Google has the ability to make you very happy or very upset. It depends on whether your SEO campaign is naughty or nice.


What is naughty and nice SEO? 

Nice SEO – Anything that provides value to the target market is generally good.

Naughty SEO – Anything that is manipulative, inauthentic or just plain lazy is probably bad.


Need specifics?  Here’s a quick naughty and nice list.

Nice SEO

  • Properly optimized on-page content and tags that are distinct from other pages’ content and tags
  • Unique content that’s truly helpful to your target audience
  • Natural links from respected sites that point back to your site or blog
  • Mentions on respected websites and in social media
  • A consistently updated blog that shares useful information
  • A social presence that brings value to its audience
  • User generated content such as reviews
  • Rich markup such as schema
  • An active Google+ author account that’s synced up with your blog
  • Clean site architecture that’s easily crawled and navigated


Naughty SEO

  • Irregular and inauthentic link building campaigns that result in sudden large numbers of low quality links
  • Purchased links on low quality link farms*
  • Dated link building tactics such as spammed blog comments and spinning content
  • “Spammy” or over-optimized tags and content, stuffed with keywords
  • Poor quality on-page content that offers little if any value to your target market
  • Sporadic involvement in the online ecosystem, such as social media
  • Excessive footer links that are clearly present for the search engines alone
  • Utilizing the same keyword anchor text across all backlinks
  • Linking externally to just one page on your site

* You can certainly purchase advertising on reputable sites if you believe the ads will drive authentic human traffic to your store, but buying links on low quality sites to simply add the link to your profile is a bad behavior.  It’s also very easy for the search engines to identify.


As you can see, SEO tactics that make the Nice SEO List involve genuine strategy and thoughtful engagement with the online ecosystem. On the other side, Naughty SEO tactics involve shortcuts or “tricks” intended to fool the search engines – they don’t provide value or improve the search results.


Start being nice today!

Here are four highly effective Nice SEO tactics that are definitely worth your time and energy.  Your increased holiday search engine traffic will make all the effort worthwhile.


1.  Get your on-page optimization squared away

First things first, tackle your on-page optimization. Ideally, you want every revenue-generating page to be optimized, but that’s not always possible, so start with your most important pages. Use Google Analytics to identify your top performing landing pages. This almost universally includes the homepage and your core category / subcategory pages, as well as any top selling product pages.

Once you have identified your critical pages, perform keyword research for each page. Assign each page a set of 3 to 5 highly relevant terms that have high search volume and relatively low competition. A diverse set of keywords that incorporates a variety of synonyms is optimal.

Next, ensure that on-page HTML content and the Title tag naturally incorporate these words. Craft a compelling Meta description that will entice click-through.

Here is an example of a search result.


Nice SEO Tip: Take the time to give all your major landing pages unique Meta tags crafted specifically for that page.

Naughty SEO Warning: Don’t skip this step. Yes, on-page optimization can be tedious, but it needs to be done. It’s the cost of doing business online and will be critical to your holiday organic performance.


2.  Reviews

Reviews are conversion gold. A small collection of authentic reviews will close countless deals time and time again. Don’t worry if a few reviews are less than positive… a negative review here and there can add to your reviews’ authenticity and effectiveness. Reviews also enhance your page’s keyword relevancy. They signal to Google what users are saying about your products and what terms are being used to describe them.

Starting in 2012, search engines began placing a higher premium on reviews, incorporating reviews into search results and algorithm ranking. The Volusion platform naturally “marks up” your store reviews with Schema, creating a rich search engine result as shown here.


Those stars instantly build trust and will certainly entice humans to click through to your site, increasing organic traffic; and once the searcher reaches your product, the reviews will propel conversion.


Google is also showing preference to off-site reviews, especially on Google+. For these reasons, your Nice SEO campaign should include an ethical review strategy. Facilitate and encourage authentic reviews both on and off-site.

Nice SEO Tip: Start a targeted email campaign that simply follows up with clients after the purchase. Thank them for their business and ask them to review the product and/or your company. Make this process as easy as possible for the customer by providing links to the review areas. You can also entice reviews with discounts or coupons.  For example, “Review us on Google+ for 10% off your next order!”

Naughty SEO Warning:  Don’t buy reviews. Purchased reviews are obvious to both humans and search engines.


3.  Develop a content strategy

Content is still a critical element of a successful SEO campaign. A blog is a fantastic tool for creating a content-rich site. When you consistently update your web presence with quality content, it attracts potential customers at different stages in the purchase process, increases your site’s perceived authority, and enhances your keyword relevancy. You can keep your blog on a subdomain or even create a content library directly on your store.

Nice SEO Tip: Start your blog today and post blogs regularly. Understand your target market and speak to their interests. Plan your posts to coincide with seasonal themes. Ensure your content is genuinely interesting and informative; not sales copy. Explore possible blog topics using keyword research and helpful tools like Quora. Link back to your website when relevant, using descriptive anchor text. Tie your blog to a Google Author profile using rel=author.

Naughty SEO Warning: Don’t borrow (i.e. plagiarize) content from elsewhere or publish unedited, poorly crafted content or content of no value.


4.  Build up your social media presence

Nearly all search marketing experts agree: social media activity is an increasingly influential variable in search engine algorithms. Ignore social media at your own peril or create an engaged community and win.

Search engines use three factors when deciding on a search result – relevancy, authority and engagement.  Social Media touches all three. The search engines can crawl posts to better understand topical relevance. The virtual crowds that form around your brand communicate your degree of website authority and expertise in the industry. Your interactions with others signal engagement and investment in the community. The result? SEO magic.

Start by identifying the social media channels that are the best fit for your business. While Google+ hasn’t become a huge social media player in terms of membership, it’s recommended that you include it in your social media strategy because Google is biased. Posts on Google+ work similarly to those on Facebook so it tends to be an intuitive medium that is easy to incorporate even if the crowds aren’t there.

Next, optimize your social profiles and include links back your site. This not only makes a great first impression, but it also makes it easy for the customer to shop when they’re ready to buy. Add social share buttons to your website and blog. Encourage people to connect. Posts should be conversation oriented and facilitate a dialogue. Include relevant keywords in the post when appropriate and natural, but don’t force it. Monitor which social media posts are the most popular with your following. Learn from your successes and failures. Update your profiles on a daily basis with valuable posts. A post a day or every other day is adequate for applications like Facebook. On other platforms, such as Twitter, you can post with much higher frequency.

Nice SEO Tip: Think of social media as an extension of your content strategy. Use your social channels to not only share your content, but also the content of others, including news stories, editorials, reports and photos that are of interest to your target audience. Provide your audience with value, ask lots of questions and authentically listen to answers.

Naughty SEO Warning: Don’t buy Likes or Twitter Followers.  You can, however, use advertising to attract new fans legitimately. Don’t spam your social followers by e-yelling at them to buy your products.


Bonus tip: Don’t wait to craft a holiday promotion strategy

Want to be really ahead of the game? Start planning your holiday promotions now.  Consider crafting gift oriented landing pages ahead of the season, giving search engines time to crawl and index the content. For example, you could have pages such as “Best Gifts for Dad” or “Unique Gifts for Cat Lovers.”  If you plan on offering coupons or promotions, prepare your promotional banners ahead of time and create a strategy for communicating these promotions through social media, email campaigns, advertising, etc. When the holiday season rolls around, you’ll be prepared (and much less stressed)!


Are you worried that you’ve been a little naughty and need advice on getting back into Google’s good graces?  Share with us in the comments and our SEO elves will do their best to help!  Or, if you have tips of your own that we didn’t cover – we’d love for you to share those too!

Happy selling!
-Alison Garrison, Volusion


Looking for some help preparing for the holiday season? Volusion offers a wide variety of ecommerce marketing services. Our in-house team of SEO experts specialize exclusively in ecommerce marketing and the Volusion platform, and we have a stellar design team who can create Nice-list worthy landing pages or other promotional graphics. Take advantage of our industry know-how and jumpstart your online success today!


Alison Garrison is Volusion’s SEO Group Manager, overseeing a team of passionate SEO and social media experts. Armed with a Liberal Arts degree from Kenyon College and an MBA from SMU, Alison has optimized more sites than she can count. When she isn’t obsessing over search marketing, you can find her with Hilly Bean, Olive & Lamar (her dog and two cats), reading SciFi or exploring the beautiful city of Austin with her husband.

10 Responses to “Holiday SEO in July: How To Avoid Google’s Naughty List This Holiday Season”

  1. Maria

    Hi Alison. I still see so many sites use footer links- do you think if your site already has them then you should remove them all or leave the old ones and simply stop putting any more on?

    UC4 Ltd

    • Alison Garrison

      Hello Maria,

      I do not recommend removing all your footer links if the links are genuinely helpful to human visitors. When used correctly, footer links can serve as a useful secondary navigation and import the website experience. In fact, Volusion uses footer links on our primary website. I simply want to warn against the gratuitous use of footer links for the purpose of influencing the search engines. This is an old-school SEO tactic that no longer works. When footer links are over-abundant (or over optimized for certain keywords), it can be a signal to the search engines that the website is trying to be manipulative.

      What constitutes “over abundant”? There is no clear set rule, but I suspect you will know it when you see it. It will “feel” forced and typically looks a little ridiculous.

      All the best!

  2. tash

    Alison – did you also describe how to put an image next to your google search results ? I saw it in an article from your team ..

    any help would b e appreciated thanks

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi, Tash. You can find the article on setting up Google Authorship here. Let us know how it goes! And please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions. 😀

  3. Sarah

    After plunging into the SEO world only recently, this is one of the most constructive SEO guides I’ve seen, especially concerning Google’s recent shifts towards Social. Many posts/blogs/etc. still point beginners like me to guides written in 2010, 2011 or 2012 and with the algorithms changing all the time it can be frustrating to know where to start.

    Another note: my company ( is thinking about adding subdomains for each brick-and-mortar store location (we have 6). Any tips for optimizing each subdomain for local searches?

    • Alison Garrison

      Hello Sarah! Thank you for your kind feedback! Welcome to the wild world of SEO. It’s both exciting and infuriating! There is always something new.

      I’m glad you asked about the impact of local searches. Local SEO definitely has increasing importance as blended results become more of the norm. I spoke with our team of local SEO specialists and here are their recommendations:
      We recommend not creating separate subdomains for each location. That would take more work than it’s worth and can muddy the user experience. Instead, create an separate landing pages for each location. We noticed that you currently have a page that lists the locations together. We believe you’ll get more traction from giving each location its own page. Add a little on-page content about the location and what makes it special. Perhaps create a category called “Store Locations” and assign these location landing pages to it. To help people find your store, embed a Google map for each location on its page. (Be sure each of your locations has a Google Maps listing for it, too!)

      At the end of the day, Google is much more likely to display your Google Places profile in the blended search results for location-oriented queries. Make sure you craft and optimize a Places page for each location. Use the location’s landing page as the URL on its Google Places page rather than your homepage URL. This will get you the best online exposure and provide end users the experience they desire.

      The Volusion SEO team will be hosting an SEO Webinar in September that dives into Local even further. Be sure to tune in!

  4. Sue

    Thanks Allison, all good tips. Since I’ve been with Volusion since 2007, every holiday season has been better than the last!

    • Alison Garrison

      So glad to hear that, Sue! According to emarketer, retail ecommerce is set to steadily grow over the next four years (at the least). Here’s to you receiving a (bigger) piece of that pie every year!

  5. Alex

    Naughty webmasters deserve the lumps of coal Google gives them!

    • Alison Garrison

      So true, Alex! Those naughty tactics may have worked in 2011, but 2013 is a whole new story.


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