6 months to BFCM: What you can do now to boost your store’s SEO
Black Friday/Cyber Monday is one of the biggest shopping periods in the ecommerce calendar. In 2020, Shopify merchants alone generated over $5.1 Billion in sales over BFCM 2020 with triple digit growth in several international markets. It’s no wonder then that every year merchants spend weeks planning content, sales, and more to make sure they stand out among the competition when the time comes. However if you really want to get ahead then you need to start preparing far in advance.
May marks 6 months until BFCM, and believe it or not there are plenty of tasks your team can do now to ensure your store is Black Friday ready. Search Engine Optimization often takes a longer period of time to see significant returns in rankings, so starting your BFCM SEO preparations now will give your Shopify store the advantage it needs come November.
Review last year’s performance
Figuring out where to go forward with your BFCM plans is best started by looking back to what your store did the previous year. This will help you build an understanding of what went well and what could be improved for this year. Ask yourself some key questions:
- What were our top landing pages, and where did the traffic come from?
- What were our main sources of traffic across BFCM weekend?
- Which search terms led visitors to our store?
- What BFCM specific content did we have live? (landing pages, blog content etc.)
- What changes did we make to our store that may have influenced performance? (new apps, new content, changing architecture etc.)
- Which products were our bestsellers?
- Which keywords did we focus on? Do these correlate with traffic from BFCM?
The answers to these questions will build a picture of how your store performed SEO-wise throughout the previous year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday period.
Audit current site performance and content
Once you’ve reviewed the previous year, the next step is to audit your current store’s performance and content.
How does your store currently measure up against key performance metrics? Use Google’s Core Web Vitals as a starting point to see how key pages throughout your store are performing, and make note of any pages that aren’t quite meeting the mark.
Are your product pages packed with all the information customers need as well as target keywords? Take a long, critical look at your content on product pages to spot any gaps in information. Look too to how these pages are optimized - images, videos, meta titles and descriptions, URL etc.
Other Site Content
What other content do you host on your site as part of your SEO strategy? Blogs? Landing pages? Review these if you have them, analyzing what keywords and audiences they’re targeted towards as well as how much traffic they’re bringing to your store. Look to other high traffic landing pages, and review the content in relation to your SEO strategy.
Is your current site architecture straightforward for bots to crawl and visitors to use? Review what this currently looks like, highlighting any potential issues that could be fixed.
Do preliminary BFCM SEO research and prep
Starting your research and preparation early means that the pages you focus on will stand in better stead around the time that customers start doing research into BFCM deals.
Keywords and search terms
Look into what search terms were popular for your industry niche in the weeks leading up to Black Friday the previous year, as well as your store’s position on SERPs for these terms. Look at which of your competitors ranked higher, and what the content is like on those highly ranked pages. Be sure to consider user search intent when looking into these keywords and search terms; what long tail search terms might they use in the research phase of the customer journey? You can also use tools such as Google Trends to determine the seasonality of some keywords. This will help to identify some key search terms early on that you can start to plan for now.
Plan out your key landing pages
Having looked at your top landing pages for the previous year, you can then look at which pages currently see consistently high traffic in line with your existing SEO strategy and determine which pages on your store you’ll focus efforts on in the run up to BFCM. As well as focusing on existing pages, you should also plan out any BFCM specific landing pages ahead of time. You can use temporary 302 redirects to hide them from public view and optimize them in the background until you’re ready to fully launch them.
Make user experience a priority
Especially on BFCM, you want the user experience to be as great as it can be. Not only will you have returning customers looking for deals, you’ll also have new customers who won’t have made a purchase before, and you want to ensure your store’s experience is optimized for both. Returning customers get the level of service they expect, and new customers are blown away with how easy your store is to navigate and how convincing your product pages are.
Some areas you’ll want to focus on:
Having previously looked at your current site architecture, start to figure out changes you could make to make your site easier to navigate for users. The easier it is to navigate, the better it will be both for potential customers, and for search engine bots to crawl. The easier it is to crawl, the better it will fare with rankings.
Look at ways of optimizing your site for speed. This includes reviewing large pieces of content that affect loading time, tweaking page layout, and optimizing images.
Using the insights you gathered from your existing product pages, look at what you could improve related to the user experience. Building up better information that’s more relevant to your target audiences, making layout tweaks, optimizing images/videos, etc. Be sure to give descriptions a refresh to incorporate relevant keywords you’ve identified.
If you have any landing pages set up from previous BFCM sales, then repurpose these to help boost your SEO for this year. If for example you have it set up for 2019, set up a 301 redirect to a holding page for this year with a message letting people know that BFCM is coming later this year and recommending some best selling products or current offers in the meantime. You can then set these up with more content closer to BFCM when you have a better idea of what you’ll be offering, whilst also building up some authority throughout the rest of the year.
Apps and other changes to your store
Something to carefully consider at this stage ahead of BFCM is if you’re planning to integrate any new apps or add other site features to your store. These can affect the performance of pages on your site, so before you add a new app or feature you should look at the potential impact this may have on performance. If it’s a feature that will add to the customer experience, then look at other apps you have installed and features that you perhaps don’t make use of; removing these before moving forward with other plans. Making big changes like this to your store should be done at this stage, so as to lessen the potential impact closer to BFCM.
Prioritizing user experience as a key focus for your store will send positive signals to search engines, showing that your page speed meets their standards and that your content is relevant and useful to users. By the time the clock ticks down to Black Friday, your store will already be better favored by Google and thus more likely to appear in SERPs.
Start encouraging and incentivizing reviews
Product reviews help give your brand and products greater authority when it comes to search ranking. The more you can gather in advance of BFCM, the more they will help boost your store’s authority once potential customers start looking for brands and deals. Especially for customers who may not be familiar with your brand prior to Black Friday, reviews also help in convincing them to click “Checkout”. If you aren’t already, start incentivizing reviews - offer a small discount or perk to customers who leave reviews. You can even automate this process using your email marketing platform or a reviews app, meaning you can focus your time on other areas of your store’s SEO while the reviews trickle in.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion and marketing efforts always ramp up the closer the weekend gets. With increased competition and a growing ecommerce market, it’s even tougher now for merchants to stand out from the crowd. By planning your BFCM specific SEO plans in advance, you can set your store up for success and drive more traffic to your store through organic search to get your holiday sales off to a flying start.