First and foremost, I’d like to stress that this post need not necessarily solely relate to Christmas – just any busy period for your business. So if you’re big on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, get real busy over Valentine’s or Mother’s day or make a tonne of sales around Halloween, these tips will also be helpful for you.
Preparing this early for Christmas can also help you make more sales over Black Friday – a time when organised people are already starting to shop for the holidays.
Make sure your site is technically stable
Your customers are Christmas shopping: very few people take pleasure in this. They’ve left it until the last minute, they have no idea what to buy for aunt Harriet, they’re panic buying cheese pattern socks for dad, praying they’ll arrive on time. They’ve already lost the Christmas spirit and it’s not even happened yet. Sound familiar? The very least you can do is give them an easy online experience. What I’m looking for here is:
Be mobile friendly
If your site is not mobile responsive in 2018, you’re really late to the game. If Christmas is a big time for you, you’ll lose out on a huge amount of sales. In 2016, 42.3% of Christmas purchases in the UK occurred on a mobile device – this year that stat is likely to increase exponentially. So do yourself a favour and get that site sorted to get into the mobile-first index. Plus it means one thing less to do when you walk into the office in January. Once you’ve made the switch – here’s a guide on how to optimise for mobile.
Speedy site for people on-the-go
Make sure that your site speed score is high: using free tool Page Speed Insights can give you an indication of how fast your site is already and what you can do to speed it up. I’d recommend a page speed score of no less than 85/100 for all your page formats. Christmas shoppers are stressed out, they will not wait for your 2gb images to load, they’ll just go elsewhere – as would you.
Make sure your server can cope
Make sure your server can cope with the influx of seasonal traffic. If you’re getting 5 times the amount of traffic around Black Friday or Christmas, you really need to make sure that your server can cope with that demand and ensure that your site doesn’t crash. You could lose out on a load of sales – it’d be a shame to miss out on these by forgetting to preempt it.
Broken? Bin it!
Got loads of 404 pages and server errors on the site? Make sure they’re all fixed or 301 redirected so that people don’t think your site is broken and so that search engines don’t either (chances are they might not rank you as highly if they think your site isn’t technically sound).
Add structured data to your site. Structured data (or schema markup) is code that boosts your website’s SEO and allows your site to be more visible and useful to potential customers. Schema is essentially a SparkNotes version of the data on your website for search engines, to help them understand, crawl and index your pages. Without schema, a search engine will look at your site and think “Right, I think know what this data is saying.” Implement schema and a search engine will take a look at your site and say “No doubt about it, I know what this data means, it’ll be really useful for the people searching for x.“ Here’s how to add it to a site.
Google (and people, let’s be honest) prefer sites that are trusted and certified, that just makes sense. If HTTPS offers security to buyers and their data and puts you in Google’s good books, it’s a no-brainer. If you haven’t already made the switch, do it now. Here’s how to do it.
Make sure your UX is helpful to buyers.
I recently saw this on Reddit, and it really resonated with me:
If you’re aiming to make some sales, or simply trying to get into the Christmas spirit and be kind to people, please make sure that your site displays only absolutely essential pop-ups (GDPR). Navigating through this minefield is pretty frustrating at the best of times, let alone when stress-buying soap for your office’s Secret Santa.
Other UX tips for the holidays:
- I’d strongly recommend going through the buying process on your site, and ensuring that it is as easy, efficient and clean as it can possibly be: the fewer steps, logins, and barriers to purchasing gifts the better. The dream here is “buy as a guest”: no one wants to create 45 new accounts and passwords to online shops. Let people buy without signing up – you’re still getting their email address at the end of the day.
- Accept all forms of payment, including Paypal, so that people don’t have to enter their payment details into the site every time – the easier you make it for people, the more they’ll come back.
- You can even install Hotjar to see how people find using the site – some of the feedback could be invaluable – and could help to push for the changes you’ve been asking for all year.
- Make sure that your site conveys your USPs. People tend to be in a hurry so make sure to tell them they’ll receive their item in a day or two (and definitely make sure that they do), send them with gift receipts and cards or anything to make you stand out and be super helpful.
- I’d strongly recommend adding your business opening times over the festive period and a potential complaints department number on the site too. This can avoid a lot of customer frustration and avoid you coming back to a swathe of negative reviews in the New Year.
- Good user experience need not only be an online thing. If you can, when you send the item to the person in question, add in a little something for them: free wrapping paper, card, a little something for them like chocolates etc. – anything to make you stand out and really get into the spirit of giving. People always remember the personal touches.
So far, this is really just common sense: have a safe, working, easy to use website that search engines can understand. Sounds simple enough but you’d be surprised at how many online shops don’t even get this right. Don’t be that guy, fix it while you can. Now for the marketing bits!
SEO-HOHO: Keyword research, landing pages & content planning
First and foremost, I’d recommend looking at your best ranking pages. These will not need to be changed: they already rank – you may just want to add some jazzy Christmassy designs to them or change the content slightly to reflect the time of year, add your USPs etc.
Once this is done, turn to the products you most want to sell over the holidays: where are they ranking? If they’re on page 2 or 3, I’d recommend:
- Making sure you remove any cannibalising content on the site that may be affecting these. To do this, do a site command search (site:www.mysite.co.uk) with the search term relevant to that product. If you see that there are loads of pages trying to rank for the same term, parse all of the content and add it all to the main page you want to rank and redirect all the others to it with 301s).
- Make sure that the strongest and most authoritative pages on your site also link to these important product pages, as well as your email, social and advertising campaigns.
- Make sure your link building and digital PR efforts include links to these important products – too often companies mainly try to send links to the homepage of their site. This isn’t entirely necessary – if you write a good press release, article or advertisement for a third party publication, exclusive offer etc, you can link directly to that page to give it some more authority – authority which will last for much longer than just the Xmas period.
- Over the festive period, the people browsing your site are busier than ever and trying to cram in some online shopping on their lunch break or on the bus. Make sure to optimise your title tags and meta descriptions as well as you can for the user: the person buying a gift for a loved one. Make sure to add USPs and special offers in there – the descriptions will be a little different to what they usually are throughout the year.
You can also create Christmas specific landing pages that highlight exclusive offers, top selling products, competitions, an advent calendar of sales, FAQs on how to shop during the sales, videos, countdown clocks, social media buttons, limited offers, etc. Not only will these rank organically, but you can also send all your email, paid and social traffic to them.
Content-wise, it’s a really good idea to create guides on shopping for specific people on your site. Do some keyword research:
Or even more granular:
Depending on what you sell, there is a vast array of options open to you. If you know what people are most likely to buy and for whom over the Xmas period, or know of a better alternative that you offer, let them know. People always want help when it comes to buying gifts, as despite being busy, they do want people to like what they get for them.
These articles are great for social media and email marketing campaigns – remember to use all channels available to you, including paid media (especially remarketing) as the more best practice work you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
That covers the essentials but seems like quite enough to be getting on with for now. Good luck and I hope that this guide helps you throughout the festive period! If you need any help, get in touch with us.