For some, it might still be too early to mention the C word but many retailers will be pinning their hopes on a decent festive season in order to recuperate the revenues they lost during this rather tumultuous year.

If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place. Think of this as an early advent calendar… a few little seasonal SEO gifts to help you prepare your business for Christmas. And no, it’s not too late!

1. Google Analytics review

Use analytics to review your website’s performance last year. How did people reach your site, what did they do once they got there, and what products/areas of your site did particularly well? You might have some great blog posts that drove lots of traffic, or some product comparisons that you could quickly update and reshare on social media. Or if you got a lot of referral traffic from a third-party link (perhaps a Christmas gift guide), you could contact the site owner or journalist to ask if you can be included again this year.

2. Review meta

Depending on the size of your site, you might not have time to restructure your entire meta content (page title, description and headers) but you could pick an area or a range of products that you think might be well suited to the Christmas market (or contrary to that, an area that has historically been underperforming).

Whilst reviewing the meta, you should also check that the on-page content is reflective of the meta you’ve chosen and that it is backed up with sufficient blog content on the site too.

3. Target Christmas searches

We’ve all got ‘difficult’ people to buy for – those we don’t see very often, those who ‘have everything’ or people who’d ‘like a surprise’ and that’s when we resort to doing panic searches, such as ‘great technology present ideas for tricky teenagers’, and the like.

There’s a huge variety of these types of search terms, so it’s definitely worth doing some keyword research and finding out what search volumes are out there and who is already ranking for them. You might be able to find a niche phrase which has not yet been exploited and if you can rank for it, you can reach an audience who are already in buying mode.

4. Create categories

It can be time-consuming and sometimes a little daunting for people to search through a large number of products, even when filters are available. Therefore to help make potential customers’ Christmas shop more efficient, you could consider creating a ‘Christmas’ tab on your site. This can either simply be a range of Christmas gift ideas or subdivided by price or person.

5. Paid Search

If you haven’t tried PPC advertising before, Christmas is the obvious time to give it a whirl. Whilst it might be competitive at this time of year, the additional volume of shoppers often compensates. 

Don’t spread your resources too thinly here. Select a few key products or product types  – these could be products you really need to shift (think sell-by dates, or very on-trend items), or products with the biggest profit margins, unique products, or those with the broadest appeal.

To quote the old British Gas slogan, PPC is ‘easily off and on-able’, so should you need to, you can reach your target audience quickly but also keep a close eye on your spend. 

Unless you’re operating in a truly unique market, PPC can be expensive so it’s important to target appropriate keywords. Longer tail keywords can be less competitive and therefore less costly but that goes hand-in-hand with smaller volumes. 

6. Local SEO

Every Christmas, we’re encouraged to ‘shop local’ or ‘shop indie’ and this may be the case even more so this year with COVID-19 lockdowns impinging on our ability to travel. 

Buying local doesn’t necessarily mean buying in person – some shoppers will be looking for deliveries from local suppliers. To make sure you don’t miss out on your local market, ensure your Google My Business is up to date and contains all the correct contact information – in particular, your opening hours. 

7. Don’t rule out offline

Don’t rule out offline tactics in your Christmas marketing campaign. If you know where your target audience hangs out – then go get ‘em. If you know your local newspaper or industry publication has a great readership, think of a way to get your business in print. 

The same can be said about leaving flyers, marketing literature or product samples with complementary businesses or at an event. It’s entirely possible to increase site sessions via offline activity, even if there is no opportunity to generate referral or organic traffic. You could even think about offering a promo code to a select audience and creating a bespoke landing page to appeal to this group.

8. Top of the funnel searches

Some Christmas present purchases are quick and dirty – the ‘that’ll do’ type of buy – but others require more research. This might be because the person we’re buying for is more important to us or perhaps because the spend is higher, but in both of these instances, people will do more leg work before they part with their cash.

Try to be the company that provides this advice, explains the pros and cons, compares two of this season’s must-have head cams, tennis rackets, electric guitars etc.

Remember when we’re buying for others, it’s not always our areas of expertise, so being honest, informative and simplifying decisions can win shoppers over. Not only is research-stage content super useful for your customers, it’s also great for SEO and as social media fodder too.

9. Internal linking

If you’ve done the hard work and increased the number of visitors to your site, it can be disappointing if they bounce and leave the site without having seen any of your other magnificent content or products. Firstly, don’t be entirely disheartened – you may have provided exactly what the individual was looking for and they don’t need anything else. They will have left having had a very positive experience of your business.

However if you’d like people to hang around for longer, make sure you’re directing people to the next most relevant piece of content or product on your site. Internal linking is important here and a subtle way of enticing a user to click through to another page but don’t be afraid to use more brazen tactics such as ‘if you like this, you might also like…’ or links to contact us pages.

10. Optimise images

We know that page speed is a direct ranking factor, so first and foremost you need to ensure that your site’s images aren’t slowing things down and so this means making sure your images are compressed without reducing the quality.

But it also means making sure that your images are correctly tagged in order to be visible in Google image searches. Unless you’re giving vouchers this Christmas, present shopping is a very visual experience, so it’s important to make sure that your product images are optimised too. Google is getting better at recognising what’s in an image but you can help it along by adding alt text, title text and using a descriptive file name.

11. Out of stock

With a bit of luck, the demand for your products will align fairly well with the availability of your products. It’s obviously a good feeling for a product to sell well but being out of stock, particularly too early before Christmas, can leave shoppers disappointed.

Rather than leave your potential customers with that feeling, why not either redirect the page to something similar, or at least provide them with a consolatory pop-up letting them know when things will be next available: 

“Great choice. Unfortunately, other shoppers got here before you but we’re delighted to let you know that this item will be back in stock on XXX. If you’d like to share your email address with us, you’ll be first in the queue. In the meantime, you might be interested in XXXX instead and how about free shipping to compensate?”

12. Social signals

Social signals (likes, shares and overall visibility) does play a role in organic search ranking but more than that, it’s the pulse of a business. It shows customers that you’re alive and kicking and ready to help them. In addition, multiple surveys show that customers are increasingly prepared to make purchases directly from social media channels and it is used frequently as a research tool before buying.

In the midst of dealing with Christmas sales, don’t let this channel dip. Prepare your social strategy in advance so that it doesn’t need too much thinking about in the crazy build-up to the big day.

There you have it, twelve fairly straightforward SEO wins and we haven’t even touched on link building yet. It is entirely possible to build links between now and Christmas that can have a really big impact on your business, particularly on referral traffic. Generally, link building is a longer-term strategy but if you’ve already got an eye on Christmas 2021, now would be the time to start planning ahead.