Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend is known to be one of the biggest sales opportunities across the world of ecommerce. Almost every retailer participates - whether that’s running a sale, or even promoting a sort of anti-Black Friday event donating to charity instead. With it being such a major event, that means the competition is higher than the rest of the year. Everyone is vying for the attention of customers.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday, or BFCM, is also one of the biggest acquisition opportunities for merchants. Sure, it’s great to bring in your long-term, loyal customers for another order over the weekend, but increasing acquisition will set you up for retention during the holiday season and into the new year.
And one of the ways customers discover brands? Through search engines - 49% say they specifically use Google to find new brands and products. It’s why SEO is such a big part of ecommerce - it’s a major channel for finding new customers. The only downside is that SEO takes time, and even with seasonal SEO it can be difficult to climb the rankings in time for major events throughout the year.
So how far in advance do you really need to prepare for BFCM SEO?
Why you should start prepping your Black Friday SEO early
Good things take time, and SEO is no different. It takes time to build a great strategy - you want to build a full picture of your goals, target audiences, keywords, content, and more. BFCM might be seasonal, but starting your strategy early means that you’ll get ahead of the competition when the season itself comes. The run up to Black Friday is also a really busy time for businesses, as they plan inventory, decide on promotions, and especially plan for how to manage increased traffic and order volume. Planning SEO in advance is something you can do now, meaning it won’t be on your plate as BFCM draws closer.
Planning early allows you to get a clear picture of what has resulted in past success, and what you want to do to make the most of the opportunity ahead. You’ll have a good idea of:
- Successes and areas for improvement from the previous year
- The kind of content you want to publish and when
- Keywords you want to target
- Your site’s current performance and ranking
Some adjustments you’ll need to make to your store to improve SEO will take longer than others. Posting a blog may only take a couple of weeks worth of preparation, but making major speed improvements or layout changes to improve user experience will take much longer. Doing all this prep work in advance means you have the time to plan, implement, measure, and adjust well ahead of time.
How to plan your BFCM SEO strategy in advance
#1 - Analyze last year’s data and set some key dates
Developing a great strategy starts with analyzing past successes and areas for improvement. To do this, you want to get a full picture of your store’s BFCM performance from the previous year. That includes both data directly related to your SEO, as well as other store related data. SEO data includes site traffic, traffic sources, landing page traffic, keywords, and so on. Store data may include conversion rates, and total and individual product sales figures from across the weekend.
Understanding site traffic and sales figures from the different days and times around Black Friday will give you an idea of when your customers start looking at your site for deals, when they typically buy them, and when they start to tail off. This then gives you some key areas to focus on. For those periods of high interest ahead of BFCM, you want content that will give them information about the weekend to come i.e. landing pages, buying guides, and temporary collections. For periods of high sales, you then know these are key times to focus on for keywords - what keywords did people use to find your store during these times? For periods of low sales, you can look at what you could do better - which pages didn’t perform, and why might that be? Look at keywords you ranked for, compared to those you wanted to rank for. Did you have enough content to suit search intent for those keywords? Which keywords did you rank for, that you didn’t expect to?
From here, you can start planning out some key dates for your strategy. At this stage it might be as simple as some loose deadlines for key tasks:
- Keyword research
- Content planning and research
- Content creation and scheduling
- When to start publishing content
- When to start optimizing for performance
- Implementing new apps or strategies
- Regular SEO reviews
#2 - Conduct seasonal keyword and backlink research
Understanding keywords and backlinks is essential to any SEO strategy, and especially ahead of Black Friday weekend. Special interest should be given to seasonal keywords. As it sounds, these are keywords which are relevant during a particular period of time but are largely irrelevant the rest of the year. For example, most people aren’t searching for Black Friday deals in March, and equally people aren’t searching for Mother’s Day gift ideas in November.
The best way to start is by looking at the seasonal keywords you targeted and ranked for the previous year. Perhaps you didn’t target any specific seasonal keywords, in which case it’s valuable to look at which you ranked for and the pages they most often led to. You can then explore some keywords you may want to rank for this year. Some keywords will have a qualifier that makes them only relevant to that year, for example “Apple Black Friday deals 2022” but not every query will have that qualifier so it’s important to consider those searches. The content you find for these keywords won’t necessarily be up to date or even live anymore, but it’s worthwhile to see what your target audience most often engaged with over the BFCM period.
You may also want to examine backlinks. Like keywords, these can be seasonal and especially during BFCM there are lots of sites publishing articles, guides and reviews in the run up to the weekend. Examine the kind of content published by high authority sites in your niche, and the sites they linked to. This can help you get ahead of your backlink strategy, scoping out potential sites and planning for how you want to approach earning backlinks ahead of time.
#3 - Plan blogs, landing pages, gift guides, and other site content
As with everything in ecommerce and SEO, content is king. Creating the right kind of content takes time, and so it’s helpful to consider your plans for Black Friday weekend in advance. Start by first looking at what on-site BFCM content you published last year. That includes blogs, landing pages, and any other site content directly related to Black Friday. This gives you a sort of inventory of what BFCM related content you already have on your site, as well as giving you an idea of what content worked and what didn’t. It may be that you had very little specific content, in which case you can explore options for adding more content this year to really boost your SEO.
Here are some types of content to consider:
Gift Guides - BFCM for many is the “official” start to the holiday shopping season. Surveys have shown that many customers start shopping for gifts as early as October, so posting gift guides after BFCM will only net you a limited amount of value. Instead, think of your gift guide strategy as a lead-in to BFCM, and plan some of the content around that.
BFCM Buying Guides - If they aren’t buying gifts, they’ll be hunting for deals for themselves. Give customers advance notice of some of the deals you’ll be running for BFCM with a buying guide. You can add in seasonal keywords, and allow it to gather authority in the weeks before Black Friday.
Landing pages - Did you have a BFCM landing page last year? Time to reuse and refresh it for the year ahead. This will have gained authority from the previous year, so it will be more valuable for your SEO strategy this year. For most of the year, it may just sit without any content of substance, but it will be there ready to be populated when your strategy truly kicks off. If you didn’t have a landing page last year, plan when you’ll create one and what content will be hosted there.
Get a rough plan together for your content, and set some deadlines. For example, all draft content will be written by x date, the first gift guide will be posted on y date, etc. This may be quite a loose schedule if you’re planning very early in the year, but having some kind of rough idea of when certain tasks should be completed will help add structure to your SEO efforts.
#4 - Audit your store’s technical optimization
Of course what is great content without a speedy, well-optimized site? Your store’s performance will be put to the test on BFCM weekend, but before that it needs to be technically up to speed to give it a boost in SERPs. That way, it will be more likely to rank during that time period when people are researching brands they want to shop with over BFCM. It’s good to audit your store’s technical performance a few months ahead of time, as this gives you plenty of scope to make improvements, monitor your metrics, and adjust as necessary.
The kind of optimizations you’ll want to dig into include:
- Page speed
- Mobile optimization
- Site architecture
- Structured data
- Meta titles/descriptions
You can also explore areas such as page layout changes, image updates, and app implementation. These can affect user experience and SEO, so are often just as important as things like page speed. They also typically take more time to both implement and see the impact of, so you don’t want to do this too close to BFCM.
Auditing, reviewing, and revising all of these issues ahead of time means you can monitor the changes to see if they have a positive or negative impact on your site. You’ll then be able to adjust, and monitor again. By the time Black Friday rolls around, your site will be SEO and customer ready.
#5 - Build your reviews for key products
Year-round, customers care about reviews - and so do search engines. In some studies, over 99% of customers say they read reviews, and 49% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. The best thing for your product page SEO is to build that social proof so that you have a consistent flow of recent, glowing reviews coming in to different sources. This will also be hugely beneficial to your store’s SEO as you transition from BFCM to holiday content.
Identify your key products that will be most important come BFCM. These may be bestsellers, or a select few that you know already will be part of a promotion. Start your review gathering strategy early, and this will allow the product itself to build up its ranking in the months before BFCM. That way when you start really pushing your seasonal SEO, it’ll already be in a strong position to rank.
Be sure to carry your strategy across on-page and off-page reviews. Search engines will always take on-site reviews with a dose of skepticism - after all, you can control how reviews appear on your site. Off-page refers to things like Google business reviews, and third party review sites like Trustpilot. You can’t control these and in the case of sites like Trustpilot, most of the time reviews come from verified customers. So if your site reviews align with your third party reviews, this is a strong indicator for search engines.
If you want to get ahead of the competition, then you need to plan ahead. Black Friday weekend is big for many merchants, and finding ways to stand out from the crowd can be challenging. Give your store a welcome boost in SERPs, and start planning your BFCM SEO strategy ahead of time.