7 tips to start preparing! • Yoast

It still feels a bit like summer outside, but here we are telling you to get ready for the biggest sales of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And, not to forget the Christmas and Thanksgiving shopping season. What’s up with that? Well, it’s never early enough to start planning for the most beautiful time of the year. So, if you have an online shop, please start thinking about the holiday shopping season already!

Ranking in Google isn’t something you do overnight, and that is why it’s never too early to start. Remember, the end of the year is approaching rapidly. Don’t forget, Black Friday (26 November) and Cyber Monday (28 November) are kicking off this year’s holiday shopping season. You can set up a lot of content for all occasions. Here, we’ll go over some things you can do to get prepared!

Pro tip

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. So it’s time to make sure you’re ready to make the most of it and get those sales! To help you prepare, our CCO Thijs de Valk held a free workshop on optimizing your product pages for SEO and conversion. Watch the replay here!

As with everything in 2021, the holiday shopping season is going to be different. The past year, we’ve seen COVID-19 spread across the planet, and — while it looks better in a lot of places — it might still take some time for things to return to ‘normal’. People are concerned about the future. Many have lost their jobs. As such, it’s hard to predict what will happen exactly, making it hard to plan for.

Microsoft shared some insights on what it expects customers to focus on during Black Friday 2021:

  1. Shoppers will start early this year.
  2. Alternative payments and delivery methods will be in demand.
  3. Sustainability will be a trend.
  4. Advertising competition will be high.

The volume of shoppers purchasing online this year will be high. There are plenty of opportunities for businesses to gain new customers and audiences during this vital time. By ensuring that you’re highlighting the right messages at the right time in the right places, you’ll be ahead of the pack when shoppers are ready to buy.

Stephanie Worley

Online is where its at

While shops are open in most places, most of your audience will be content with shopping online. Last year, online shopping reached new heights — and that trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. So, prepare for a holidays shopping season that’ll be an online event for many.

This year, there’s a big chance that most retailers will continue to offer the best deals online. There’s a perfect reason for this; of course, shops want to prevent vast gatherings of people hunting for that one exclusive deal. Of course, in-store or curbside pick-up will prove popular.

So, if you don’t need to have people come to your store on a specific day, why not extend the online deals for a few days? Don’t be surprised when the holiday shopping season starts well before Black Friday and keeps going for weeks. This makes sense because if you want to get those people to your stores, spreading these over a more extended period would be good.

If anything, keep in mind that shoppers will do most of their shopping — or preparations for that — online. In any case, it isn’t getting any easier!

Start preparing in time

Bear in mind that it takes a while for content to rank. So, take that into account. A safe amount of time that’s often suggested is 45 days. Of course, you can always start preparing earlier, but to keep up with the competition, try to get your content in gear at least 45 days ahead. Dive into the data you amassed during previous Black Friday events and see if you can come up with improvements to make. Once you’re on track, your schedule could look like this:

  1. 45 Days in advance: Post your promotion to your website calendar and post a save-the-date post on social media and in your email newsletter).
  2. 7 Days in advance: Post an upcoming events/promotions post to social media, and via email. Try to encourage other (small) businesses to share it with their followers.
  3. 1 Day in advance: Post a reminder event post on social media.

Keeping these steps and time frames in mind is a good rule of thumb, but we think you can do a lot more in setting up new pages and renewing old ones. Let’s look at a few practical tips.

1. Set up holiday season gift pages

First, we need to consider what category or particular landing pages make sense for the upcoming holidays. You can always set up pages like ‘Best gifts for fathers/girls/teens’, ‘Newest deals for your 6/10/12-year-old’, ‘Best mom/friend/grandparents discounts’ or even think along the lines of ‘Top 10 gifts for outdoor/skiing/parasailing enthusiasts’ and ‘Top 3 deals for stay-at-home moms/dads/etcetera’. To name a few.

Make sure these gift landing– or category pages, the page title, and the meta description fit the upcoming holiday season. You can re-use these gift pages for Valentine’s Day and your summer sale. Find (old) content that fits the holidays, rewrite titles and meta descriptions to match the upcoming season, and chances are you won’t have to do that much work to get them up to date. Be sure to write proper product descriptions and make sure to improve the product images. Learn how to write great product descriptions using our product-specific analysis in WooCommerce SEO.

To increase the chances of your gift pages to rank, boost their internal linking structure. You can also link the previous all-year holiday season pages, such as specific Christmas landing pages (‘Top 7/10/25 gifts for under the Christmas tree’) to boost these when the time has come. That could be around the 45-day mark, but we wouldn’t mind stretching that to 60 days. There has to be enough time for Google and other search engines to follow your links and find your specific holiday season landing pages in time.

Social media like Twitter and Pinterest — though this is technically a visual search engine — can play a massive role in the success of your (online) holiday sale. Take Pinterest, for instance. Raise your hand if you or your spouse has a Pinterest wish list? Many people have that. If you manage to get the right products on people’s wish lists, that can positively impact your sales.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to share your holiday season gifts pages on Facebook and Instagram as well. In the previous section, we’ve mentioned the top 10 lists. We all know these still work pretty well on social media.

Similarly, we’d recommend setting up holiday gift guides and sharing these. Create an excellent overview for all kinds of gifts for many people. ELLE has a page like that, and so do more companies.

Last but not least, don’t forget your email marketing! For many companies, newsletters provide a steady stream of income. Be sure to plan a good campaign for your newsletters.

Read more: Social media optimization with Yoast SEO »

3. Introduce new products

The holiday season is an excellent time to pitch new products. If you know of potential best-sellers for the upcoming holiday season, be sure to start writing content about these products now. Think about how tech sites write about concept iPhones, features that Apple might add, and things like that. The more you write about new products upfront, the more likely the sales pages for these products will rank when it matters. You should link all pages you made in advance to that one main page you’ll set up when the product is released and available to buy. Treat that page like cornerstone content.

4. Add structured data to your product pages

When adding or changing your product pages to fit the season, don’t forget to optimize them. Check, for instance, whether you’ve added structured data to your product pages. Because rich results for products in the search results, showing ratings and prices, can give you an edge over your competitor. Our WooCommerce SEO plugin or Local SEO plugin can help you do this.

Keep reading: Structure data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide »

5. Re-use content

There’s no shame in serving old wine in a new bottle. If you have a Black Friday guide for 2020, feel free to re-use that in 2021. Update the year, and update details like popular brands and popular products for that year. If the slug of your URL is /black-friday-guide-2020/, change that to /black-friday-guide-2021/ around August next year and redirect the old URL to the new one. No need to create a new page. It would be a waste of nice inbound links not to re-use that old URL. Of course, this is even easier if you don’t include the year in the URL, so /black-friday-guide/ is an excellent slug as well.

In the months before the holiday season, you could even simply repost popular posts from last year (a bit adjusted or updated if needed) on social media. Valentine’s Day might even become Secret Santa. Cyber Monday might match daddy’s favorites for Christmas. These are probably small adjustments; perhaps just adding ‘this Christmas’ to a meta description or title will do.

Read on: Should I update or delete old content? »

6. Optimize for speed and mobile

It’s a good idea to check and optimize your website for speed and mobile. These are recommendations you’ll get from an SEO blog or consultant, every day, all day. Mobile, site speed, and user experience, in general, are becoming more important every year (or day, for that matter). When preparing your website for the holiday season, this is a good time as any to re-check your mobile website and site speed and update or improve these, if possible. As a start, look at Google’s new Core Web Vitals and use these to improve your site. Here are five ways to boost your Core Web Vitals scores.

Keep on reading: How to check site speed »

7. Create a measurement plan

All set? Don’t forget to make a measurement plan so you can analyze your success. Write down all your plans and think about how to track all your actions. This is key if you want to know what to focus on next year. For detailed instructions on how to analyze your Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas shopping, read our post with 5 tips to measure your holiday sales success.

And when the holiday season is over?

How to handle the product pages of holiday gift sets after the holidays are over? Even if the gift set or product was a great success, and you want to offer it again next year, it’ll take a while for the page to be relevant again. So, what’s the best way to deal with these pages in the meantime?

Watch Joost’s answer to that in this video!

Conclusion on holiday season SEO

In short, now’s the time to buckle down and start writing holiday gift pages and content on new products. And to begin planning your social media promotion and analytics. You can never start too early when your online business depends on the holiday season. Be prepared; begin now!

Read more: eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide »

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