Search Marketing

Search Engines & the Christmas Shopping Season

Planning the Christmas Shopping Season

It is that time of year again folks. As far as the calendar year is concerned, the sun has passed the yardarm and the winter holiday season is approaching faster than any of us think. In the world of search engine marketing, it is time to begin planning the all important online Christmas shopping season.

Christmas is the most competitive portion of the year for E-Commerce websites. Like their cousins in the brick and mortar retail industry, the ten to twelve weeks preceding the holidays tends to comprise an enormous portion of their annual incomes. In previous years, StepForth, like most other SEO and SEM firms was deluged with frantic calls from online retailers towards the beginning of December. While most SEO and SEM firms can achieve strong placements fairly quickly for clients, the Christmas shopping season tends to be our busiest time of the year as well. Due to the huge volumes of service requests from online retailers, many SEO or SEM firms have to turn potential clients away from mid-October until the end of December, thus leaving many good people (the E-Tailers) to fend for themselves against their competition on the search engines. As a common practice, we track the number of searches conducted under various keyword phrases each month.

As with past years, we are starting to see a constant rise in searches conducted under the phrase “Christmas Gifts”. According to the Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool, there were 34,828 searches for “Christmas Gifts” in June. That’s up from the 28,208 conducted in May and the 24,865 conducted in April. If search engine users continue to follow habits shown in previous years, we expect to see a figure approaching 55,000 searches for “Christmas Gifts” by the end of July of this year. (Please note, these numbers only represent searches conducted at Overture.Com. We tend to quote them as Overture is the only search tool that freely offers such accurate and timely information.) The middle of July is a smart time to research your SEO and SEM choices in order to make a decision on which vendor to contract before the middle of August.

Researching various SEO and SEM vendors is extremely important this year, perhaps more important than in previous years. Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about the poor clients of a Las Vegas spam-shop who found themselves banned en-mass by Google. The mass-banishment happened to literally thousands of websites in one almost instant sweep. Each of these sites had a fatal factor in common, the use of a highly unethical SEM vendor dedicated using to far-outdated SEO techniques. If many of the decision makers had taken the time to research the company they hired beforehand, they might still be enjoying strong placements and the corresponding strong sales. This year, we KNOW, without question, that Google is trying to clean up its listings and is targeting SEO tactics that violate its posted guidelines. If you take any advise from this week’s newsletter, this should be it… RESEARCH your vendors before purchasing services. If the events of the last month are not enough to make you think twice, perhaps the events of last Christmas season might.

The last seven weeks of 2003 were exceptionally difficult for many online retailers as Google introduced the infamous “Florida Update” in the middle of November. The Florida Update was an unfortunate attempt by Google to clean up its results through the introduction of a new ranking algorithm based on a more complex examination of incoming links. At the time, many speculated that the update was targeted at sectors that are heavily influenced by SEO tactics such as real estate, travel and accommodations, and smaller retailers. While the reasoning for the update in November was very different from the reasoning behind the mass-banning of clients from the Las Vegas spam-shop, the effect on individual businesses is exactly the same. By taking the time to research your SEO/SEM vendors, you will most likely avoid being de-listed from Google. This is especially pressing during the most important shopping season of the year as your goal should be to be seen at Google, not banned by them.

Jim Hedger is the SEO Manager at StepForth Search Engine Placement. Jim has over years 10 years of Internet experience as an entrepreneur and over 3 years as an Internet marketer.

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