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The Christmas shopping season is the key period for most retailers, and for online businesses, this means you need to have your SEO (search engine optimisation) up to speed, so potential customers can find your site easily via search engines.
Jim Stewart is the founder of Melbourne SEO firm StewArt Media, which has worked with thousands of Australian businesses. Here, he outlines 10 steps you can take now to ensure your website is discovered by customers when the peak Christmas shopping period comes around.
Google Trends will give you an idea of what keywords in your business niche will trend around Christmas. It is really useful in providing key phrases for the season. A lot of people recommend Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, but it doesn’t give you ideas for seasonality, so I prefer Google Trends, plus it also provides ideas of related searches.
It seems unbelievable, but many online retailers don’t use Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), and they are missing out. Many business owners are not set up on it or they just don’t look at it on a regular basis. However, it can really tell you everything about your website. Also, it is a great source of keyword research.
A lot of our clients peak over Christmas, and those businesses need to invest and ramp up their SEO campaigns from October. For online retailers, it is definitely worth throwing more at SEO around that time of the year. We have one client in the gifting business who saw an 8,000 per cent return on her SEO investment with us last year – her business is all about seasonality, so if you are like that, it is definitely worth thinking about investing in the next few months.
Don’t leave starting an SEO campaign any later than September – you need time for Google to get your website, to rank it and take in the tweaks and changes you have made. It all takes time – that is the biggest cost of SEO.
A major mistake I see a lot of retailers making is their handling of stock and discontinued stock. If something has been discontinued, lots of retailers just turn that page off. This creates a big messy site, because Google sees the site as being full of errors. It is much better to put on redirects to an equivalent product or category.
The same applies if something is out of stock – don’t switch the page off but, instead, show that it is currently out of stock and have a wish list or a way that people can sign up for an alert once it is back in stock. We’ve seen some retailers who have had millions of errors, because they switched pages off. If you have been guilty of doing this, start fixing it now, as it takes time to rectify.
You really need to ramp up your SEO efforts from October and that means focusing on content creation. Content is the foundation of SEO. Make sure you are doing a blog and create content that reaches out to the right audiences. Establish your authority through content. Remember that people’s search habits will change for Christmas and the festive season, so focus on gift giving, delivery times, essential information and images. If you are in a niche sector, you really need your products to look good but ensure that the file sizes aren’t too big.
Video is fantastic for retailers – even something simple like unboxing videos is great. These allow people to see exactly what is in the box and how it is packaged. I recommend people upload these types of videos to YouTube and also embed the video into their website.
All online retailers should already have done this but it is worth mentioning that you want to ensure your site is mobile-ready. Every year, Google brings out a report on mobile use around Thanksgiving [late November], and every year that tends to show that mobile search doubles each year.
If you are spending on a Google AdWords campaign in the run-up to Christmas and you focus on the local market, you definitely want your campaign switched off from Christmas Eve onwards. Outside of the Boxing Day selling frenzy, the period between Christmas and New Year in Australia generally quietens down. But if you are selling to the US, their winter is the busiest time of the year for online retail, so it could make sense to continue campaigns into the New Year.
It isn’t an SEO strategy, but something else we do is conversion rate optimisation (CRO). This can include things like including information about how you handle payments or sensitive information. Prominent use of secure transaction information will greatly increase sales. You can engender trust in online customers by placing the SecurePay logo on your website.
Sign up for SecurePay Online Payments, and you’ll be ready to accept payments faster than any bank.