Every ecommerce merchant wants to make the most of the holiday shopping season, finding new customers and growing their sales to end the year on a high. However in order to do that, people need to actually find your store first. More than 50% of shoppers say they use Google to find new brands, and in one survey respondents cited search engines as the number one source for how they find out about new brands and products. That means the key to a successful holiday season all begins with search engine optimization.
We’re going to look at five ways you can optimize your store for Black Friday and beyond that will ensure your target audience discovers all you have to offer.
#1 - Review your SEO basics
First thing’s first - you need to check that your site is technically ready for shoppers. After all, if the page won’t load or they can’t easily navigate around your store then your carefully planned offers and promotions won’t be seen.
Start by analyzing your page speed throughout your store, paying close attention to key landing pages that customers will be the most likely to navigate through. These typically include your homepage, product pages, and catalog pages. You can check page speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which will flag up any major issues that you can fix ahead of BFCM. To optimize your page speed easily you can:
- Compress image file sizes. If you have a large catalog, you can do this using a bulk resizing app.
- Uninstall unnecessary apps. Review the apps you have installed in your store; look for any you don’t really make use of, or that you’ve stopped using in favor of another app. Uninstall and remove any leftover code that may linger and slow down your pages.
- Enable browser caching. This will make it so that elements of your pages are stored in the visitor’s browser so that the next time they visit or as they navigate through your site, the browser can load the page without sending a further HTTP request for the cached elements.
Next you want to review your site navigation, especially when it comes to internal linking on those key landing pages we talked about. Make sure that it’s as clear and easy as possible for visitors to navigate through your site from homepage to product page to catalog and back again. Include useful internal links to pages such as your FAQ and any additional product information that users may find useful.
You should also run a few key pages through Google’s Rich Results tool to ensure that your structured data markup is set up in a way that makes those pages eligible for rich results. Structured data tells Google additional information about your pages, and can make those pages more likely to feature as a rich snippet in SERPs. These rich snippets can be massively beneficial during BFCM especially, as they can help you link stand out from the crowd with reviews and availability info. If you aren't currently implementing structured data throughout your store, then apps like SEO Manager can help.
#2 - Work on seasonal content
Throughout BFCM and the holiday season especially, customers want content that’s seasonally relevant. Some are looking for gifts, some looking for a bargain for themselves, and others scouting out some new brands. Whatever the reason, you should create content that matches their intent.
- Gift guides - Target these at a more entry-level to your brand and products. Write with gift buyers in mind - what details might they want to know?
- BFCM promotion guides - These will be useful especially for those already familiar with your brand or your product niche.
- New product guides - These can go more in-depth into any seasonal products you have on offer, detailing any features that make them interesting or upcoming promotions.
- Seasonal ideas - These can be less product specific, and more general to target different audiences with different types of intent. For example “Top recipes to try this holiday season” or “Best sweaters to stay warm in winter”
You can also build out some of your content in such a way that you’ll be able to use it for promotion this year, but also target longer term SEO goals especially if your product catalog remains largely static. You can do this by creating gift guides and updating them for the following year, using topics that could also be considered evergreen. For example “Best gifts for espresso lovers” doesn’t necessarily have to be just for the holidays, and you can update it the following year to match current trends and catalog offering.
Seasonal content extends to the rest of your site too. Consider what content you’ll add to your homepage to draw attention to your seasonal offerings, and what temporary seasonal collections you may want to set up in your catalog.
#3 - Utilize landing pages
Seasonal landing pages provide your customers with an easy directory for your best products and promotions for the holidays. Especially for Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, these landing pages can ensure customers can snap up deals as quickly as possible without being disappointed clicking through products that aren’t included.
If you don’t already have a seasonal landing page, it’s time to make one! It can simply act as a holding page for now, and then you can populate it closer to BFCM with the collections and products that you’ll be including as part of your promotional period. This is extremely useful if you aren’t planning to offer every catalog product in your BFCM promotion, or if you want to highlight specific collections or products for the holidays. While it may seem too late to create a landing page for Black Friday, it may still appear in search results as seasonally relevant content for search users. It will also be there to gain link authority over the next year, so you can use it again the following Black Friday.
If you already have a seasonal page from last year, repurpose that page for this year. Make all the necessary updates to any mention of the previous year, and get it ready to populate closer to Black Friday. Don’t create a new landing page for this year as well as keeping the one from last year - in one study, only 5.7% of pages ranked in the top 10 within a year. Repurposing last year’s page will allow you to piggyback off the link authority it previously gained and has potentially been garnering over the past year.
#4 - Encourage and gather reviews
As we countdown to Black Friday and the holidays, it’s time to ramp up your efforts in gathering reviews for your store. They’re hugely important to customers, with 93% of consumers saying online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. They help to convince customers who maybe aren’t familiar with your brand that you’re worth buying from, and give them confidence in your store experience. Not only that, but they’re also important for your store’s SEO. As much as they build trust with customers, they also build trust with search engines. The more trust signals search engines pick up on, the more likely you’ll be to rank and the higher chance you have for brand discovery.
Encourage recent customers to leave reviews, as well as those in the weeks leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. You can do this using automated email flows, or review apps available through the Shopify App Store. Go a step further and use your review request as a check-in, letting customers know where they can go if they have an issue or any questions.
Display these reviews strategically throughout your store - your homepage, product pages, and catalog pages being the most important. If you have a BFCM landing page, include space for reviews here also. Stores which offer subscriptions should display reviews on landing pages for reviews, even better if you have a separate landing page for gift subscriptions where you can display testimonials from previous customers who purchased gifts.
Lastly, ensure you also target reviews that happen off-site. This will help to build your off-page SEO, and give customers an additional source of confidence for their decisions. After all, most customers are aware that store owners have the ability to delete negative reviews, but they can’t do this if it happens off-site. If your glowing on-site reviews match up with those on high authority sites like Trustpilot and Google, then this is an even stronger indication that your store is worthwhile. Again you can use segmentation so that some of your customers will be asked to leave a review on your store, and others on an external site.
#5 - Don’t forget local SEO
For many merchants, in-store shopping for Black Friday weekend and the holidays is big business. 61% of early holiday shoppers say a brand being local influences their purchasing decisions, therefore it’s important to keep local SEO in mind when optimizing for the holiday season.
You should consider both local SEO signals you can optimize for on-site, as well as off-site. Some off-site optimizations you can take care of include:
- Review and update your Google My Business profile
- Use community post updates to share news about BFCM offers in store
- Respond to reviews, especially those about your brick-and-mortar store
- Ensure your NAP (Name Address Phone number) is up-to-date across relevant directory site e.g. Yelp.
As for on-site, make sure to include local content such as a local landing page with store information. You should also make it clear if you offer any online-to-offline options, for example “buy online, pick-up in store” or in-store returns for online orders.
The holidays are a vital sales period for every merchant, and it would be a shame to miss out on all the potential customers who will love your brand simply because of a slow loading page or an out-of-date store address. Reviewing these SEO essentials now will put your store in a great position to make the most of the holiday shopping season beyond Black Friday.