While SEO is neither novel nor new, it ceaselessly amazes me how few sites fully leverage the opportunity to drive traffic and sales through search. Most often, it’s not for lack of trying, but rather for lack of resources. Merchants and marketers at either end of the spectrum – SEO superstars or lightweights – will find an idea worth undertaking this holiday season.
As search supports mobile activity as well, it continues to be essential to overall site performance. In a Google study last Q4 2011, 77% of shoppers said online research impacts which type of gift they buy, so it’s important forboth offline and online sales that your site captures as much of the search traffic pie for your industry or niche.
As with all SEO initiatives, you’ll want to start with three parts analytics and one part keyword research, add a dash of creativity and stir.
Dig into SEO-lytics
The best strategy starts from a place of reference – begin by reviewing your Q4 2011 web analytics, paid search reports, and top on site searches with conversions for keyword star performers. You are looking for high volume, high converting terms.
Next, you’ll want to perform a keyword research to support any new holiday content, categories or products. This can be done well ahead of Q4 – there’s no time like the present.
Gift ideas help capture window searchers
Potential customers are eagerly looking for ideas on what to buy. Last year, Google found that 67% of shoppers planned to shop for gift ideas during the holiday season.
This means you’ll want to leverage SEO best practices to bring in traffic for your ecommerce website’s gift guides. Let product sales data inform featured items in this year’s guide. Review top search trends from holiday 2011 using Google Insights for Search for curation inspiration.
For example, if your site sells kitchen goods, consider a “Top Gifts for Chefs” or “Top Gifts for Foodies” guide. Bring your research to the table as you collaborate and plan for the 2012 holidays with marketing. Finally, you can find keyword volumes for any given term and gather ideas on related searches with the Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool.
Collaborate with marketing on gifts by price pages
If you plan to offer gifts by price categories or guides, be sure to leverage the SEO attributes and include holiday keywords. Gifts by price categories are easy to merchandise and can provide value all year long.
Williams Sonoma, for example, features a “Gifts Under $50″ category. This category is optimized for the term “Gifts under $50″ in the title tag, URL, and meta description.
Reviews and video
It’s become common knowledge that reviews help boost conversion on product detail pages. However, they also help support long tail search, with the potential to increase traffic.
Since the holidays are such a heavy sales time, why not solicit reviews from customers well ahead of time by conducting an email campaign in September and October. This will allow enough time for reviews to start generating. Ask your vendor if your review content is exposed to search engines. This will help your site overall in the long-term, not just for Christmas.
Video is also great support for both product conversion and SEO. By integrating product demonstrations into the product detail pages, both Living Direct (9% increase in time on site) and Zappos (77,000 visit/month increase) have seen a positive conversion and traffic boost.
Video creation can of course be a larger level of effort, but many retailers already have product videos at their disposal. These may be currently housed on YouTube, Vimeo, or another marketing channel, waiting to be repurposed on your PDPs. You can also start small and focus on only the top 10 to 20 selling products.
Don’t forget your core SEO best practices
Update existing site meta descriptions and title tags with holiday copy and offers. GAP for example, adds their free shipping offer to title tags for many pages. Small tweaks can help increase click-through-rates, so why not try it?
You will also definitely want to develop these attributes for holiday content and categories, but also for any new products being added during this timeframe. In the example above left you can see Martha Stewart’s “Christmas Gifts for Her” page includes holiday keywords in all the SEO attributes. If possible, I would recommend putting these pages live as early as possible, so they can be crawled and start to gain value.
Amanda Massello is Demandware Retail Practice’s resident subject matter expert in search engine optimization.