In SEO, we often talk about evergreen content; that which is relevant year-round and isn’t tied to a specific date or period of time. This ensures that your site is set up for the long-game of SEO, where it can take as long as 2 years for content to rank. However, that poses a very important challenge - what about Black Friday/Cyber Monday? One of the biggest shopping events of the year only happens over a specific period, and the deals and circumstances change every year.
So what can we do to optimize for BFCM?
Search intent and seasonality
Search intent is one of the most important aspects of SEO - it tells us the purpose behind a search. Instead of focussing just on the words a person entered, we look to understand why they were searching for that string of keywords in the first place. There are many different reasons why someone might conduct a search, however we can generally group them into four main categories:
Navigational - The user is trying to navigate to a specific page, i.e. “Reddit login” or “Wikipedia”
Informational - The user is looking for information of a specific topic, i.e. “Who is the CEO of Google?” or “landmarks to visit in NYC”
Commercial Research/Investigative - The user is researching a potential purchase, i.e. “Apple vs PC”, “Best site to buy camera bags”.
Transactional - The user is looking to make a purchase, e.g. “buy houseplants online” or “chunky knit blanket buy”
The intent behind the search influences the kind of results the user wants to see, and therefore the types of pages that search engines will rank. For example, if a user searches for “hi-top sneakers buy” and Google shows results for Wikipedia articles about sneakers, then this isn’t satisfying the user’s intent. Google uses AI technology such as RankBrain and BERT to attempt to better understand and interpret the nuances of language, allowing the search engine to contextualize keywords and better understand intent.
Now let’s talk about how seasonality plays a role in search intent. While there’s an emphasis on playing the long game with SEO and creating evergreen content with a view to it ranking months or even years down the line, seasonality is a big part of how people use search engines. Search intent can be influenced by the time of year, recent events, and current trends. If there’s an ongoing election cycle, then a user searching “Election news” wants to see current trending news and information about that election, not one that happened 4 years ago. The same applies to Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the holidays - it’s seasonal, current, and relevant for a short period of time.
Therefore when it comes to these one-off or short-term seasonal events, merchants of course want potential customers to find their store’s BFCM and holiday related promotions. Search engines too understand the effect of seasonality on search intent, so in order to rank during these crucial key sales periods, merchants should adapt their SEO strategy to suit seasonal search intent.
How to adapt your SEO strategy for seasonal search intent
We’re going to focus specifically on Black Friday/Cyber Monday and holiday seasonal search intent, however the following advice can be adapted to suit most situations where you may want to focus on seasonality.
Identify and understand your audiences
Your customers during BFCM and the holiday season will likely look a little different to how they do throughout the rest of the year. People around this time are typically looking not just for themselves, but also for gifts for other people. Therefore before you start adapting your strategy, you need to first consider what your audiences look like and what they’ll be interested in.
Start by reviewing your store data. You want to build a picture of who is typically making a purchase around BFCM, so you can better tailor your content and strategy. Start by looking at one-off purchases vs returning customers; how many of your customers were new to your store last year, and how many were repeat customers? Then look at other data such as average order value and products sold; which products sold best with which audiences? How much did each spend? This will help you determine which products and at what price point your audiences are most likely to purchase. For example, one-off customers who purchased for the first time during BFCM may have been interested in your lower priced items, as they wanted to try your brand.
Build out profiles for your audiences, for example:
- First-time customers who understand your product category, and are purchasing for themselves
- First-time customers who do not understand your product category, and are purchasing for someone else
- First-time customers who understand your product category, and are purchasing for themselves
- Returning customers who are purchasing for themselves
From here, you can start to consider what kind of intent each audience is likely to have and what kind of seasonal long-tail keywords they may use that will lead them to your brand. You can also begin to consider what sort of seasonal content may appeal to them and what kind of information they’d be looking for.
Consider seasonal keyword modifiers
Keyword modifiers are words which can change the intent and interpretation of a search term. For example, if the root keyword is “Coffee” then using modifiers can change the meaning entirely, “Coffee reviews” versus “Buy coffee near me”. The intent changes with the modifier, in this example it changes from the user intending to find reviews for coffee to looking for a shop nearby to go to. Here are some common intent based modifiers:
- Informational - Where, what, who, how
- Commercial Research - Reviews, best, top, compared to
- Transactional - Shop, buy, online, buy online
- Local - near, near me, in [city]
Adapting your strategy to suit seasonal search intent requires you to instead look at BFCM and holiday related modifiers. That means adding on some of the following terms to your existing target keywords:
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- Black Friday Deals
- Cyber Monday Deals
For example if you sell canvas backpacks, then one of your target keywords might now change to “canvas backpacks black friday deals”, or “[brand name] black friday”. Consider how these modifiers may impact the kind of content that users will want to see.
Create seasonal content that satisfies intent
Once you’ve got a clear idea of who is searching and what they’re searching for, you can start to create a plan for seasonal content. Unlike evergreen content, this content is going to focus on very specific topics with seasonality at its core.
The primary type of seasonal content around the holidays will likely focus on gifting and gift ideas. Create gift guides for those audiences who are looking for ideas and may not be familiar with your brand or products. This will also target seasonal long-tail keywords where someone may be searching, for example, “gifts for football fans” or “best gifts for new parents”. Consider the kind of information that the target audience reading them will want to know, and link them to other areas of your store that will help them and drive them toward a purchase i.e. product pages, BFCM promotion landing pages, FAQ. Remember to write from a position of the reader not knowing much about your products, so that they aren’t put off with complicated or branded language they may not understand.
Equally, you don’t want to ignore your regular customers or those who will be making a purchase for themselves - more than half of those intending to shop during BFCM plan to buy something for themselves. For these customers, you can create seasonal landing pages and blogs for your Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. With these you can write from a perspective of deeper knowledge of your products and product category as the customers in this audience will already be familiar with them. Talk about popular products, complementary products, details of your BFCM promotions and when they start and end. The benefit here is that customers who aren’t familiar with your products will still be able to use this content as it’ll detail when they’ll be able to get the best deals.
Ensure reviews are prominently displayed
Regardless of whether your customers are new or returning, they’re going to want to see some social proof before they purchase. 93% of consumers say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions, and 94% say poor reviews have convinced them to avoid a business altogether. Reviews are a great year-round asset to have for your store’s SEO, but especially during the holiday season. They demonstrate to both users and search engines that your store is trustworthy and high quality, satisfying users on a consistent basis.
Display your reviews on landing pages which represent key touch points throughout the customer journey. These will typically be your homepage, product pages, and catalog. There are a few ways you can choose to showcase your reviews:
Star ratings - these should be displayed on your catalog and product pages under each product header. This is a quick, visual way to convey the quality of the products to customers.
Testimonials from authoritative sources - If you’ve been featured in articles or reviews, then use quotes from these as testimonials on your homepage and, if appropriate, in product descriptions
Review snippets - As well as testimonials, taking quotes from reviews from customers can also be very effective. Rather than coming from a professional writer, these will instead come from real customers and can add additional credibility.
- Full reviews - On your product pages, make it easy for customers to see your star rating, then scroll down to read full reviews. These are great for that page’s SEO, and gives potential customers the additional detail they need before making a purchase.
Displaying these reviews so prominently will not only be beneficial as a method of demonstrating trust and quality, but it will also mean potential customers who want that social proof won’t go off-site in search of it. If they do, there’s a chance they may not return having been distracted by looking for reviews or they may find a competitor in the process.
You should also pay close attention to your reviews and rating on Google. If Google, for example, shows a low rated store for a search term it’s unlikely that users will trust it enough to visit it and therefore it isn’t a quality or relevant result for that term. Therefore it’s important to respond to any negative reviews, offering explanations and resolutions to issues so that potential customers can see not only the background information of the review but also that you are proactive with customer care.
Bonus - Optimize for local
Black Friday/Cyber Monday isn’t just online, plenty of people still hit the high street to snap up a deal. Therefore it’s important to keep on top of local SEO so that you don’t miss out on customers who are looking for an in-store experience. Perhaps they’re using modifiers such as “near me” or their city name, for example rather than just “Allbirds Black Friday” they may search “Allbirds Black Friday near me”. You can optimize your store’s local SEO in a couple of ways:
Ensure your Google My Business listing is kept up to date
If you offer in-store pick-up, make sure this is clear on key landing pages i.e. BFCM landing page, product pages and checkout
Write a blog about what deals you’ll be running in-store, along with opening times and any other details local customers may want to know
- Include a section in your FAQ about BFCM in-store purchases/collections
If you aren’t already, optimizing for local traffic is a big win for your store’s SEO especially around these key shopping periods like Black Friday and the holidays. It also goes a long way in facilitating multichannel and omnichannel experiences, whereby customers can use both your site and physical store for a more fluid research and purchasing journey.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday is a huge opportunity not just to make sales, but to bring in new customers to engage with. By optimizing for seasonality, you’ll give them the information they need to discover your brand and then also to make an informed purchase. It also allows you to target those audiences most interested in your products as well as foster trust in that relationship from the very beginning.