The traditional logic around Christmas SEO goes something like this:
Christmas search demand patterns are like this:
- SEO takes 3-6 months to take effect.
- Ergo, to be on the safe side, SEO for Christmas keywords should start in July.
Sadly these days this is not really the case. The main fallacy in the above logic is that SEO always takes this long to take effect. It's a view based on an old fashioned approach to SEO when slowly building up authority by acquiring links consistently from July onwards was the name of the game, freshness was an unheard of concept and social media and blogging was in its infancy. Today, freshness is usually the focus of at least 3 or 4 Google algorithm updates every month, which shows us just how important it is. It means that search engines are much more reactive to what we as marketers do, and as a result "slow and steady wins the race" isn't always true anymore.
This was rammed home to me a couple of years ago when we were approached by a company wanting to rank for "world cup shirts" about 3 weeks before the 2010 World Cup. Utilising digital PR distribution the campaign we executed for them pushed them into the top 3 results on Google in less than a week (in the absence of any further freshness signals this is actually a ranking spot they still hold to this day).
It's true that when you sit down to plan out all the activity you will need to do in the lead up to Christmas it will end up spreading across 6 months. Also, several key milestones remain the same and probably always will, such as the need to alter site structure before and after Christmas in order to increase (and then decrease) the importance of Christmas pages in your site. But as the example we put together this year shows (available in a different day of the Christmas advent calendar) much more of this time should be dedicated to monitoring, analysis, and strategy, and integrating SEO activity with Social Media and Paid Search.
With all this in mind, here are Greenlight's top five tips for a successful SEO Christmas.
1. Above all, the thing to be taking care of right now is your website. Last year mobile search demand at Christmas really took off, so if your site isn't easily mobile accessible you could be missing out on a lot of valuable traffic. On top of that are numerous other tweaks - utilising Schema.org formatting to gain rich snippets in the search results, optimising load speeds and so on.
2. Use the same target pages every year. Although historical link equity isn't as important as it used to be, it's still senseless to start from scratch every year with a new set of pages, and I've personally seen more than one retailer suffer as a result of such a policy. Once Christmas is over, demote the pages so they aren't as visible to users, but keep them linked from somewhere like an HTML sitemap.
3. Plan an integrated social and SEO campaign for December, and support this with digital PR distribution. Executed properly this can be the key decider of who ranks during the all-important peak in search activity.
4. Don't neglect Google Merchant Center. Google is currently trialling a paid version of product search in Google.com so this is likely to be the last year in which you can take advantage of product search traffic without paying for it.
5. Closely monitor your competitor's activities. They are one of the best ways to inform your own strategy and campaigns