Every online business, big and small, collides head-on with the annual festive period. Although, as Santa would attest, it’s not all in the delivery. A year’s worth of research, thought and brand strategy goes into the delivery of seasonal SEO, Christmassy keywords, and December deals.
It’s important, in this build-up to the holiday season, for businesses to decide on their strategy and how, exactly, they are going to seek to reinvent their brand to attract and retain customer attention as the years roll on, and competition grows.
Brand transformation in this period takes on many forms. Whether that be a visual overhaul in favour of a revamped seasonal aesthetic, a shift in tone, alternate SEO strategies, or focused campaigns.
For example, here at ICS-digital, we work with many different businesses that rely on seasonal trade throughout this time of year – and each year gets more ferociously competitive.
The plan of action
In the build-up to Christmas, brands are often keen to launch campaigns to grab attention, as well as a large share of sales.
Each individual brand, naturally, has competitors and, in most sectors, the challenge is to effectively pursue keyword rankings and visits from the same demographics that are being chased by rivals.
It’s extremely important for each brand to make the right choices way ahead of seasonal milestones like Christmas, to ensure that the site is focused on customer needs, mindful of the buying cycle and decision-making process at crucial points in the year.
Along with marketing trends, it is highly valuable to research, and listen to, your brand demographics. It goes without saying: if you can’t relate to your customer, present and future custom is lost.
Advertising companies Unruly and Tremor Video released findings this year, after surveying the British public, that revealed exactly what the everyday consumer wanted to see from Christmas 2020 advertising.
Interestingly, compared to the 47% in 2019, just 15% of people wanted to feel ‘informed’ by this year’s Christmas marketing. This comes paired with the 2020 findings that 47% wished to feel happy, and 44%, warm.
It is essential to not only adapt to the subjective wants of people, but also the unpredictable context and environment this year’s festive business season finds itself in. Anyone can deduce the differences between the public response pre and post-pandemic, so it’s now a matter of businesses cultivating their reaction.
Choices to make: Research and target
Here is where the decision lies – do you choose to play it safe, or takes some risks during key retail periods like Christmas, in an attempt to get a one-up on competitors and achieve a greater slice of the rewards?
Playing it safe entails pushing and ranking for your ‘biggest’, and most likely best-selling, products.
When creating content for an ambitious seasonal SEO strategy, practical keyword research – focusing on risk vs reward – is vital.
Where there are seasonal spikes in search volume, it’s important to get an idea of the value of that potential traffic before making sweeping changes. It’s also worth bearing in mind that pursuing less-competitive keywords can (pound for pound) bring more sales although this will have the obvious risk of missing out on the bigger rewards of top tier keywords.
Online retailers can be faced with their own Christmas conundrum here, particularly in highly commoditised sectors.
In sectors where rivals offer the same or similar products the key is applying understanding of customer intent to boost engagement with the brand, and at the same time optimising onsite content and acquiring topically-relevant links to confirm to search engines that their pages match up with search engine user queries.
Focusing on offers and discounting is a tempting route. However, the brands who invest in giving customers a reason to buy from them, in particular, while communicating to Google that they’re the most relevant result across various keyword clusters, is the more profitable approach over time.
For example, the retail goliath Amazon has recently crowned itself the ruler of seasonal sales, with CNBC reporting that Wall Street had predicted the company to take 42 cents of every dollar spent around the festive period. Which is unfathomable in itself.
An effective example of the power of keyword marketing, Amazon are known to rank highly for ‘Black Friday’ sales. Which, this year more than any, has proven to be a vital time for all businesses, big or small, as the news outlet also reported that Black Friday spending climbed a whopping 22%.
Amazon itself has gone a step further in this regard, creating their own day sales event in November, ‘Amazon Prime Day’, thus effectively branding a day of sales in their name, pushing their products and branded keywords to the fore.
This year, Prime Day sales were up 45.2% on 2019, with customers flocking to the online retailer due their famous one-day delivery VIP scheme, which is unknown and near-impossible territory for other companies to attempt to rival, due to the pure scale it demands.
Solidifying your brand
This leads us on to factoring your unique selling points into your content. Will the reason customers buy from you change over the festive period, in line with your seasonally-focused approach to SEO, content and keywords?
Or – will your USP remain the same, keeping up with your ‘playing it safe’ strategy, while confidently retaining that ‘secured’ revenue and customer base? I.e. the approach taken by some established brands with perhaps more to lose than gain by mixing things up.
John Lewis and partners provides an excellent example here, with a 2019 study by YouGov analysing the success of seasonal Christmas ads last year. The data clearly shows that, by JL regularly ‘playing it safe’ each year, they have consistently usurped competitors across multiple sectors when it comes to brand engagement.
By utilising their tried-and-tested sentimental Christmas ad strategy, complete with musical cover, that people have come to expect and anticipate, their indexed ad awareness score lurched forward by a massive 300% last year.
Behind the scenes: Optimise
With increased traffic finding its way to your site, there are many things that should go into your ‘Christmas Optimisation Checklist’ – as we’re calling it.
1) Site and page load speed:
Is your software optimised and ready to withstand extra traffic? If not, it could be worth considering changing your hosting service, or editing content and media to be shorter and more digestible.
2) Quality over quantity:
Similar to the previous point, it’s best to invest some time in ensuring that all the content you publish, across all domains, is of high quality. This means combining high-quality copy skills with up-to-date keyword research and SEO tactics for the period ahead.
3) Mobile optimisation:
Can your products and service be accessed via mobile? This could mean making sure your main site content is optimised for mobile sites, making sure all content can be seen and accessed on different devices. For modern businesses, this is a vital step to take, as search engines like Google now take a ‘mobile-first’ approach when it comes to search page rankings.
The right tools: Action
It may seem like a company needs a pretty big melting pot to combine all of this together. However, in reality, most, if not all businesses already have the tools they need to see through a successful holiday period.
The big challenge, really, is that brands have to curate a balance between finding new SEO tactics and ways to market themselves, and relying on the ‘traditional’, familiar ways of seasonal SEO.