Pulling off successful holiday promotions can be a daunting task without proper planning. It’s too late to incorporate Cupid into your marketing for this year, but there are plenty of holidays coming up in the next few months.
With enough preparation, you can develop a relationship with your audience well before the season, nurture that relationship during the holiday, and maintain contact with your audience long after the relationship is over.
While the 9 tips below focus on Valentine’s Day as an example, all of these ideas can be used for for attracting visitors during any holiday or seasonal promotion.
1. Get to know your audience
You need to know your target audience’s demographics and psychographics. In other words, not only do you need to know who you will be targeting but you need to understand their motivations. Demographics such as the age, gender, and income play a role in your plan. Psychographics such as interests, opinions, attitudes and values also play a very large role in seasonal planning.
A person searching for candles in June likely has different motivations than someone searching for candles in February. Understanding this distinction will help you during your keyword research later in this guide.
2. Identify your courtship window
Seasonal marketing includes knowing the target window for your audience. This is not always easy to determine. For example in the travel space, people will plan for vacations months in advance so the ideal target window is counter-intuitive. Summer plans are made during the winter and SEO preparation needs to be planned accordingly.
For example, the target window for Valentine’s Day is January 15 – February 14, but preparation needs to begin well before that.
3. Know their needs and wants
Listening to your audience’s wants is easy since you already have some of this information…
Analyzing your previous year’s analytics will give you insights on pages that did well and keywords that brought traffic into your website during your courtship window.
Using the sites analytics, you can scale content creation around the best performing content and queries using the optimal keywords.
Below is a screen shot of the organic keywords from Google Analytics that brought in traffic to a small flower shop during the window of January 14th – February 15th, 2011:
And here is a screen shot of the paid keywords during this same time period:
Below are the top landing pages during the same time period as last year. You can analyze this section to see what content worked and which pages didn’t. You can also analyze the pages with high bounce rates to see if those pages can be reworked for better conversion. You may also find you have a page that converts well but received little traffic. How valuable would it be to drive traffic to those pages this year?
Another technique is to check Google Trends for hot topics. You can use keywords from the analytics above, keywords from previous research, or if you are lucky, you will have a related trending topic among the hot searches. These searches are updated by Google on a daily basis.
In the screen cap below we have “chocolate covered strawberries” as one of the Hot Searches of the day. If you owned a flower shop, this would be a great product to feature on the homepage bundled with flowers or sold separately.
Researching further, you’ll see the sudden influx of searches for “chocolate covered strawberries” began in January.
You should also check for this keyword during the same time period last year to see when the uptick started and how long it lasted. This is vital information for your planning purposes.
Tip: You can increase your PPC for this keyword during this time period to maximize traffic to your website.
You can dig even deeper into your research by using Google Insights, which allows you to compare search volume across regions, categories and time frames. This tool is perfect for seeing seasonality.
Doing a Google Insights search for “chocolate covered strawberries” in the United States for 2011 shows that January to February is the main period of the year where the interest is the highest. Insights can also display News headlines from the same time frame; a great tool for finding content ideas around seasonal times.
4. Make yourself presentable
Optimizing your site for conversion includes placing relevant, seasonal content on the homepage. Running tools like ClickTale or CrazyEgg can help you understand a user’s path so that “call-to-action” areas can be placed where the majority of users land and click through. Making yourself presentable in this sense will optimize your homepage to reap as much benefit as possible from your efforts.
Below we have a screen capture of the 1-800-Flowers site in November. They optimized their site by placing relevant, seasonal content on the homepage with a matching holiday color scheme.
Below is the same site in January. Again, they put their most relevant, seasonal content on the front page. They updated the color scheme and navigation. There is an optimized landing page specific for Valentine’s Day that’s been added to the website’s header.
Additional SEO updates:
Update titles and descriptions with seasonal keywords. Optimize your meta tags to emphasize your current promotion.
Add some rich snippets. Rich snippets are pieces of microdata about the content on your website that help Google pull useful information about your site into the search results. These can be reviews, address information, ratings, etc. Below is an example provided by Google
5. Be social
With social signals becoming an increasing significant part of ranking, a seasonal SEO plan would not be complete without a social component.
Adding in social planning has two benefits. The first being that seasonal content can potentially increase the chances of that content appearing in the search results during seasonal times with the freshness update. With this signal, new content can temporarily be at the top of the search engine if it is relevant to the user’s QDF query.
No one knows the exact algorithm, but Google determines QDF by major spikes in Google searches for the phrase, how many times the phrase is mentioned on blogs and in the news. Also, because of Google’s “Caffeine” search index update they are able to crawl and index new content much faster than before. Google’s goal here is to serve the most relevant and freshest content, which is prime territory for seasonal content and promotions.
The second benefit from social is sending targeted traffic to your website. Fans, Friends, and Followers on your social networks have already shown an interest in you so it pays off to engage them during the holidays. Cross promotion to your other profiles is also best done while you already have their attention.
For example, here’s a tweet promoting a Giveaway taking place on Facebook:
— Giveaway Connection (@giveawayconnect) February 10, 2012
Offer discounts through Google+, Facebook and Twitter. With Facebook, creating new posts and running promotions that garner engagement and sharing are one of the key components of leveraging Edgerank. Also, as the amount of circles for Google + that you’re in grow bigger, your promotions, incentives and seasonal discounts can have more reach in the personalized search results. For more seasonal ideas for social profiles, check out our huge list from the Christmas season… many of these ideas can be used for any holiday.
It also helps to have a large and engaged social following who shares the new content that you are producing. Include seasonal terms in Twitter tweets, articles and Facebook posts to help take advantage of QDF.
Tip: Don’t offer the same incentives to all your social networks- each audience is different. Have one offer on one network and cross promote a different offer on the other. Using custom bit.ly links and custom tailoring messages on each individual network can allow you to track clicks and see which copy version is gaining the most interest leading up to the holiday so you can optimize for next year.
6. Don’t forget your exes
In other words, leverage past customers & existing relationships through email marketing.
Right before a major holiday is a great time to reach out to customers that you’ve done business with in the past. The email should be relevant and provide an incentive or offer value. These emails should contain links to all social profiles and should link to the homepage, as well as the seasonal target pages. This can help increase traffic and awareness to the site from customers that are already interested in your business- which can increase shareability and reach to friends and family.
Optimized signatures should include written out urls to your homepage and social profiles.
Internet Marketing Analyst | BlueGlass Interactive, Inc.
555-555-5555 | email@example.com | http://www.blueglass.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tduthil | LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/tduthil
The body of your email should contain links to the relevant content sections of your website that apply to the current season. Driving traffic to these pages can encourage users to link to internal pages which can help strengthen your site structure as a whole.
7. Spruce things up
If you have a 2009 Guide to Romantic Dating that gained a good amount of backlinks and engagement during seasonal times, it’s prime content to be updated and shared for the current year.
Making significant changes to this existing content can help Google view it as an updated page. Creating fairly significant updates within a page are one of Google’s Fresh Factors, so updating the content and promotional strategy to gain new backlinks and engagement to this page can breathe life into ‘outdated’ content.
Updates to make:
- Be sure to update the title so it’s relevant to the content changes, yet still keyword/topic focused.
- Make significant updates to the content- not just a few sentences- but keep to the core topic.
- Be sure any links within the content are still functional and don’t lead to 404 error pages, which can happen in older pieces of content that aren’t updated regularly.
8. Work on your issues
Before your big season starts is the best test to find and work on your site issues. Hopefully, you already have Google Webmaster Tools connected to your website. This is a great resource in finding out what issues are holding back your website, which should be addressed before any seasonal or holiday promotions occur for peak performance. This should be monitored on an ongoing basis, regardless.
Top Priority Issues to Find & Fix:
- Broken links
- Crawl errors
- Missing titles & descriptions
- Duplicate titles & descriptions
One other issue to work on is site speed. Slow sites cause frustration and high bounce rates, which can be detrimental to your site. It’s important to test and optimize your site speed often.
Tools for testing site speed:
9. Relationship Building
You’ve taken the time to get to know your audience. You know the keywords to use and you have new and existing pages that you need to promote. Now it’s time for relationship building. We will do this by link building.
Seasonal SEO is time sensitive so you need to begin this portion of the plan early enough to allow new pages to get indexed and for promotions to gain traction. It’s also about getting the most out of your efforts in a specified time period.
Here are the recommended link building tactics for holiday SEO:
- Blogger outreach – Ask a prominent blogger in your space to review your content, product or service and link back to your site
- Guest posting – Offer to contribute to relevant websites and have a promotion specifically for that audience. Be sure to have a link in your byline
- Press Releases – Optimized press releases can contain links to content on your site, embedded video, and links to your social profiles
- Internal linking – Link from your high ranking pages to the relevant seasonal pages for a PR boost. This includes pages from your homepage and links from relevant internal pages.
While this guide was tailored for Valentine’s Day, the principles can be applied to any holiday season for any website with seasonality. Some of the sections reference product websites, but the same concepts can be applied to content sites. The idea is to identify the needs of your audience early, nurture the relationship, and satisfy the visitor with relevant content, products, or services when they do visit. Keep in touch afterwards, because around the same time next year, they will come looking for you again.
How are you using seasonal marketing to attract visitors?