As with anything to do with your store, planning ahead is important. Knowing which products you’ll develop and when they’ll launch, plotting out when different marketing campaigns will start and end, making updates to your store’s design and functionality.
That forward planning is also important for your SEO, especially when it comes to seasonality.
Why it’s important to have a holiday calendar for SEO
It’s obvious why planning around holidays is important for elements of your business like fulfillment and inventory, but having a holiday plan for seasonal SEO is a little less obvious. In SEO, we want to get ahead as much as possible so we can strategically plan for what kind of content we can add to a store to help it rank in search results. It can take a while to rank for content, which is why we usually create evergreen content - it will outlast any trends that ecommerce and the internet are prone to. However seasonal SEO works a little differently.
Search intent plays a big role in search engine optimization, and figuring out how to satisfy it is key. There are different types of intent such as researching, informational, navigational, and purchasing, and these all help search engines and ecommerce merchants to determine what kind of content users are looking for. The more relevant the content, the better the user experience, and the more likely the user is to continue using the search engine in the future. Therefore if a user searches for “best coffee subscriptions”, Google might show them comparison articles, or coffee subscription sites with good reviews and relevant content. Equally if a user searches for “best Valentine’s Day gifts for boyfriends”, they’ll expect to find suggestions relevant to Valentine’s Day. If they instead get results for the best gifts for Father’s Day, that’s not relevant to their search intent.
Seasonal search intent is just as important to satisfy, but it requires a slightly different approach. Rather than planning to post content months in advance with the hopes of ranking many months or even years later, we want to post content that’s relevant and topical at just the right time that it’ll rank when users start searching for that particular holiday. The best way to ensure you find that right time is by having a holiday calendar marked out with the holidays you want to target and when you’ll post SEO-led content in order to rank for that holiday. This allows you to then start planning the content itself much earlier, allowing you to be strategic rather than reactionary. This ultimately will lead to better content that will stand a better chance of ranking for seasonal search terms.
How to pick the right dates
Between religious and cultural holidays, national days, shopping events like Black Friday, and more, it can be difficult to decide which you’ll actually add to your calendar for SEO. Not every holiday involves gifting, and not every date makes sense to run a promotion. Therefore you need to also strategically decide which holidays will make the most sense to create content for.
Look at your products and audience personas
The best way to determine which dates you want to target for seasonal SEO is to look at the products you sell, and your audience personas. Not every holiday and significant date is going to be relevant to your products and audience, so it’s important to start here. For example if you sell primarily aimed at women, then you may not find it valuable to create content around what to buy for Father’s Day. Or perhaps your target audience is typically less interested in novelty national days, so there isn’t as much value in creating SEO-led content around those.
Using audience personas is also valuable for each holiday and promotional date you choose to add to your SEO content calendar. Each will have slightly different personas, looking for different types of content. For example over Black Friday weekend, there will be people looking for deals or gift buyers who may be new to your brand so you need to create SEO content that speaks to them. For each date, consider who your content is going to appeal to, and what information they’re looking and most interested in.
Analyze previous promotional activity
A good way to determine which dates are most valuable to add to your SEO content calendar is by analyzing data from previous years. Look at the last 2 to 3 years of store data, along with when you ran promotional campaigns and which dates those campaigns centered around. Which were the most successful? These are a good place to start when planning SEO content, as they’re tried and tested dates with a proven track record you can further capitalize on with some carefully curated content.
Look also at sales around dates you didn’t necessarily run promotional campaigns for, but are considering as part of your content calendar. Could additional SEO effort boost discoverability around those dates and translate to sales? For example if you don’t normally promote Father’s Day as a gifting holiday, but you notice that the last two years there has been an increase in sales in the run up to it, you may want to consider adding in some SEO-led content such a gift guide blog to attract more sales this year even if you don’t run a full promotional campaign.
Finally, look to your competitors - are there promotional periods they’ve run in the past which you haven’t? This could be an indication that you may want to also target these dates. You can then set up content this year to test its success, and compare data from last year to see if this is a date worth adding to your calendar in the long-term.
Through a combination of proven sales periods and testing the waters with some new holidays you want to target, you’ll fill out your seasonal SEO content calendar in no time.
Think about international development
While there are many different holidays, not every single one will be relevant to every market around the world. In fact, some of the holidays celebrated in markets you want to sell into may not be the same as the market you’re based in.
If you’re planning to scale internationally, look into which holidays and other dates matter in those regions you wish to sell into. You should also research the etiquette around those dates - it may be that some involve gifting, whereas others don’t and therefore it isn’t worth lining up SEO activity to draw attention to your store as an option. Consider which dates may not be relevant to your international customers, especially if you have a separate storefront for each market. If you have a UK storefront and a US storefront, then you wouldn’t promote a Labor Day sale in the UK and equally you wouldn’t promote Boxing Day sales in the US.
Decide on the type of promotional activity
Every date in your calendar will have a different promotional activity related to it. Not every date needs to have a gift guide, or a discount promotion, or a landing page. Therefore you need to decide how SEO fits into your wider sales strategy.
If you want to promote your store as a good option for people looking for Mother’s Day gifts, then you may want to publish a couple of gift guides, but not run a discount promotion. It all depends on what works best for your business strategy, and what customers expect. When it comes to Mother’s Day, they’re looking for ideas, but on Black Friday they’re looking for deals and discounts.
Equally, you need to look at previous years to determine how much that holiday is worth to your business. You want to give more attention and effort to those which are most worthwhile. Therefore you need to tailor the SEO activities to the holiday, expectations, and overall sales strategy.
3 key SEO activities to include as part of your seasonal strategy
Find seasonal keywords
The way in which you choose keywords for your long-term SEO strategy versus your seasonal strategy are slightly different. We mentioned earlier that there are different audience personas for different holidays, and they come with their own search intent that will only apply during that seasonal period.
The first step is in identifying how your existing target keywords can be modified using keyword qualifiers. Niche keywords may not be searched as much by users, but more general keywords alongside seasonal modifiers may be. For example, if one of your target keywords is “pet-friendly house plants”, then seasonally this might adapt to “pet-friendly house plants Black Friday deals” for BFCM, or “house plant gifts for moms” for Mother’s Day. Think about the seasonal modifiers for each holiday, and the keywords you already target that could feasibly fit into that holiday.
Next, consider what more general long-tail keywords users may search for to find your brand as they research stores for gifts over different holidays. That might be as simple as “gifts for dads” on Father’s Day, or more complex long-tail keywords like “best gifts for dads who like woodworking”. When you identify these phrases, look at when these typically start to pick up on Google Trends to identify the sweet spot to start posting content that targets them.
It isn’t feasible to have seasonal content throughout your site at all times, after all you can’t have Christmas content in the middle of June. This is especially true if you’re looking to target a holiday, but you don’t plan to update your site’s content until closer to the time. Ideally, you want to start targeting search intent as soon as users start looking for content. For Valentine’s Day, this might be as early as mid-January but you wouldn’t want everything on your store focused on V-Day for that entire period. What you can do is start to publish blogs.
OhhDeer’s blog targets different types of gifts along with the holiday the gifts are for.
Blogs target search intent, and throughout key seasonal periods these are especially helpful for seasonal SEO. As soon as users start looking for gift ideas or even just inspiration for a specific holiday, you’ll have recent and relevant content ready for them. Have a mix of blogs that target keywords for that specific holiday or promotional period, as well as more general keywords around the target audience. Let’s use the Valentine’s Day example again; you want to create content like “Best Valentine’s Gifts for Boyfriends” as it’s specifically about the day you’re targeting. You then should also create articles like “Most romantic gifts for boyfriends” - it’s not specific to Valentine’s, but it’ll still be in that pool of topics people may be searching for.
The above article from Homesick could target any gifting related holidays, but was published in December therefore it’ll target Christmas shoppers at the time of publication and then other year-round shoppers later.
Those blog articles which are less specific to a date or promotion can continue to target search intent in the longer-term and act as pseudo evergreen content. You may write a gift guide or advice article on buying gifts for mothers close to Mother’s Day, but people need gift ideas for their moms year-round for birthdays and other special occasions. Therefore that blog content you wrote for Mother’s Day for “Best gift ideas for moms” will continue to interest users and gather authority and ranking over time. Equally, you may write a “Top cocktails for the holiday season” in November, and while it won’t be relevant after December that year it will be relevant again in November the following year and pick up traffic again. Once you write these articles, make note to keep these updated throughout the year to refresh them and ensure you don’t mention any products that are no longer available or make reference to specific dates.
When you really want to do some focused seasonal SEO targeting, landing pages are a great asset to have. The best part of a landing page is the fact that if you plan to do a similar promotion in future years, you can essentially repurpose the original landing page you created so that you don’t lose any page authority gained when it was first launched.
For example, if you do Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend sales every year, then you should create a landing page which hosts all your deals in one convenient location. You can then link to this from other blogs, as well as marketing materials like social media and email campaigns. Especially including some of your seasonal target keywords, you can gain more SEO traction. If it’s around the holidays, those might be “Best outdoor sports gifts under $50” or “Gifts for dad”.
These landing pages throughout the rest of the year can be taken out of your primary navigation while you wait for the promotional period to roll around again at which point you can refresh the content and update the products included. In the meantime you can include links to other pages which customers may find useful, or even links to previous gift guides if they're already looking for ideas for a specific holiday. If it's a BFCM landing page, then include a "you may be interested in" collection of items currently on sale or clearance so they don't leave the page disappointed.
Planning for your SEO around key promotional periods is just as important as looking at your inventory and deciding on discounts. By having a calendar ready with relevant SEO activities for each, you’ll be able to better plan your content and have it be optimized ready for search users as soon as they think to start looking for ideas.