What comes to mind when you think of the fading days of summer? For those in brand marketing or SEO, the answer might be (or should be) Q4 and holiday planning.
Although temperatures continue to linger in the upper half of the thermometer, it’s never too early to begin setting your SEO campaigns up for success amid an ever-crowded holiday shopping field.
These are the trends shaping the 2023 season – with best practices for search-optimized content marketing, technical SEO and more.
Understanding the 2023 holiday landscape
Start strategizing by researching and understanding the consumer trends shaping the 2023 holiday landscape, especially as they relate to your customer and product.
You might need to expand your definition of the “holiday season” altogether. On average, 21% of consumers complete their seasonal gift purchases by mid-October, according to Google.
With major retailers rolling out Black Friday and Christmas campaigns as early as the September and October timeframe, it’s even more vital to keep up.
Other expected trends and consumer behaviors include:
As virtual and augmented reality continue to stake their foothold on interactive shopping experiences, consumers are also discovering new products with Google’s Search Generative Experience (alongside shopping ads) and via conversational AI like Bard and ChatGPT.
Chatbots have also been integrated natively within ecommerce websites.
Buy now, pay later
“Buy now, pay later” purchases accounted for 7% of all online orders in 2022 and are expected to rise amid the overall lagging economic performance.
While overall spending will likely grow, consumers still note their cost consciousness.
Similarly, discounts continue to drive sales for merchants, especially around the holiday window.
Armed with an increasing amount of information from online and in-person opportunities, shoppers have indicated a willingness to wait for the best deal.
You’ve likely heard this before, but mobile traffic typically accounts for nearly half (if not more) of all online sales.
Don’t overlook the importance of optimizing your pages for the best mobile experience to maximize your conversions.
Keyword research for the holidays
As is always the case with all keyword research, the goal is finding queries, topics and terms with relatively large volume but highly targeted user intent.
Remember that consumers might be looking for general category information or seeking out a specific product depending on their keyword, and tailor your content accordingly.
Up to 70% of people would rather get information about a company or learn something from an article or blog post than a traditional advertisement. This is where long-tail keywords come in.
Don’t underestimate their importance: they get 1.76x more clicks in organic SERPs. For informative blog posts and in-depth guides, target users who are searching for specific phrases, such as “best tech gifts for kids under $50.”
These terms might have lower search volumes, but their specificity makes them easier to rank for and convert exceptionally well.
Short-tail keywords come into play for your product landing pages, targeting users in the buying phase.
With the most competition and volume within this space, save these terms for your site’s highly optimized and highest-impact pages.
Plan your strategy with competitive and consumer analysis
Take a data-centric approach to your holiday content strategy. While the season is an annual occurrence, a successful strategy demands more than recycling old, stagnant content.
Begin by harnessing Google Trends to gain insights into emerging product trends and shifts in consumer interests.
Next, look inward and analyze your website’s data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Identify:
- The pages that experienced the highest traffic during the previous holiday season.
- The channels and search queries that were most effective in driving traffic.
It’s important to remain aware of any emerging trends within the geographic areas you serve and the product categories in which you compete.
Uncovering potential breakout product or service categories with social listening tools or Google Business insights.
Finally, use SEO tools to assess how your competitors might craft their own strategy.
- Analyze their keyword strategy and content quality. How relevant are they to those with similar products, audiences or markets?
- Pay attention to their backlink profile, site user experience (UX), and keyword targeting.
These insights will assist in formulating a dynamic strategy unique from the competition.
Holiday SEO content: Planning, creation and optimization
While the holiday season is a great time for implementing refreshed strategies, it’s not the time to be caught flat-footed or behind schedule.
An effective content calendar:
- Ensures all stakeholders know their assigned roles.
- Brings structure and clarity to campaigns across diverse platforms.
- Maintains brand consistency across all creative and audience-facing materials.
The holiday season is both a marathon and a sprint.
November and December seemingly blur into one continuous period of shopping and promotions. That said, consumer behavior actually follows a pattern dictated by major holidays and retail pushes like:
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Then the lead-up to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.
Each of these occasions presents distinct opportunities to create content and drive traffic.
When it comes to the style and topics of your content, originality is the name of the game. Keep the following best practices in mind:
Promotions and sales
Align your content with holiday promotions and discounts, ensuring that every piece of content supports your overarching sales strategy.
A deep understanding of what the holidays signify to your audience is paramount. Tailor your content to resonate with their emotional and practical needs during this festive period.
Brand building and storytelling
Consider the most enduring holiday content. In many cases, it leaves you with warm and nostalgic emotions.
If your brand actively engages in charitable endeavors, the holiday season offers an ideal platform to amplify and communicate your philanthropic efforts.
Showcasing your business’s underlying values provides a valuable opportunity to cultivate brand trust and customer loyalty in the season of giving.
Timing is everything. Release your content strategically, ensuring that it complements your broader marketing initiatives.
Gift guides and catalogs should go live well ahead of the holiday shopping frenzy.
Dig deeper: Your guide to seasonal content marketing
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Technical optimizations for seasonal success
Here is where the importance of actively preparing your SEO strategy early comes into play. It can take eight weeks (or more) to index a page, and even longer for that page to rank.
Depending on the trending products within your product vertical and your keyword targeting strategy around specific holidays, you might have a series of dedicated landing pages you hope to perform.
These pages can be prepared well in advance, and a temporary 302 redirect can be employed to conceal them until needed.
This approach provides ample time for holiday preparations and allows search engine crawlers to index the site thoroughly.
However, ensuring that any newly created landing pages are promptly added to your XML sitemap, and navigation is essential for seamless accessibility.
Make sure your seasonal URLs are evergreen (i.e., “
/new-years-deals” instead of “
/2023-new-years-deals”) so your pages can build authority over time and maintain any backlinks.
Request Google to recrawl the page after any refresh and update title tags, headers and copy as necessary.
To maximize visibility and engagement during this high-stakes season, also consider these techniques:
Go beyond exact-match keywords and employ semantic SEO.
This entails using related keywords, synonyms, and contextually relevant terms, which signal to search engines that your content is comprehensive and valuable.
Implement schema markup on your seasonal product pages and blog posts to maximize your chance of appearing in rich snippets and boosting click-through rates.
Encourage user-generated content such as reviews, comments, and testimonials to add credibility to your offerings.
With mobile browsing becoming the preferred platform for holiday shoppers, optimization in these areas is not just a checkbox but a necessity.
To ensure your holiday content thrives in the mobile arena, follow these basics at a minimum:
- Responsive design: Ensure your website is responsive, automatically adjusting to different screen sizes and devices.
- Page speed: Optimize page speed for mobile users. Compress images, minimize code, and leverage browser caching to reduce load times.
- Mobile-friendly content: Craft content that is easily digestible on mobile devices. Break content into concise sections, use legible fonts, and ensure clickable elements are appropriately spaced for touch navigation.
Testing and measuring SEO success
Although the fall and winter months are quickly approaching, it’s not too late to analyze user behavior via A/B and conversion rate optimization (CRO) testing.
Different page layout combinations or language variations might prove more compelling and lead to a higher conversion rate.
Data-driven decisions will make all the difference for your holiday SEO campaigns. Identify the KPIs that matter most for your strategy, including organic traffic, conversion rates, revenue generated, click-through rates, and bounce rates.
Recognize the importance of adaptability in your holiday SEO strategy. Stay vigilant for emerging trends and shifts in consumer behavior, and be prepared to pivot your strategy accordingly via continuous monitoring and real-time adjustments.
If you are concurrently running paid holiday advertising campaigns, insights there can serve as early indicators for how you might want to tweak your SEO-focused content.
A successful season of SEO
If you only take away one conclusion from this piece, let it be this one: the time to start preparing your holiday SEO strategy is now.
The seasonal landscape is no longer limited to the November-December timeframe. Prepare early and understand evolving consumer behaviors.
As you develop your holiday strategies and content, remember the following:
- 2023 holiday season trends indicate early shopping, generative AI, “buy now, pay later” purchases, and the continued importance of discounts.
- Mobile optimization is critical, with mobile traffic accounting for a significant portion of online sales.
- Balance long-tail and short-tail keywords based on user intent for effective SEO.
- Plan your content calendar meticulously to align with holiday events and promotions, focusing on originality and relevance.
- A/B test messaging and use conversion rate optimization (CRO) to refine your user experience.
- Flexibility and real-time adjustments in your strategy are vital to staying competitive in the ever-evolving holiday landscape.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.