The holidays are upon us!
Okay, they’re still a few months away…but if you’re an SEO (and especially if you work in ecommerce) you need to be thinking about the holidays now.
To earn more customers from your website you need to attract more visitors. And if you want to bring in more visitors from organic search, you need to rank your pages higher in the search results.
Unfortunately, ranking improvements typically don’t come overnight.
To enjoy the benefits of search visibility during the holiday season, you need to start optimizing now.
And the best place to start is with your content.
Optimizing Existing Content
Do you have existing seasonal content from previous holidays?
If so, updating and repurposing this content could be your most cost-efficient option to earn search visibility in the upcoming months.
To best demonstrate the strategies I’ll be sharing in this post, I’m using a real-world example of a business that is heavily influenced by seasonality.
My running example throughout the post is Hickory Farms. (Full disclosure: while I have no affiliation with Hickory Farms, I do think their snacks are delicious.)
Let’s see if Hickory Farms has any old content that could be updated and optimized for this year’s holiday season.
Searching through the company’s blog, I found that they have a Thanksgiving gift guide and a 2018 Holiday Gift Guide.
Both pages could be leveraged to bring in qualified organic traffic during the holidays, but we need to investigate further to determine if they’re worth updating.
The first thing you should do when analyzing organic search opportunity is to review the current search results. There is a lot you can learn from examining the SERPs, including:
- Difficulty and competition: Are there big brand names plastered all over Page 1? Are the ranking pages high-quality in terms of content and design? If yes, it’s fair to assume it will be difficult to rank for these keywords.
- Formatting best practices: Look for common trends among the ranking pages, as these are likely contributing factors to why those pages rank. For example, if you see multiple results with video, you should strongly consider adding video content to your page.
- Searcher intent: Most importantly, the ranking pages will give you insight into searcher intent and what types of pages people are searching for. Are all the top results definitional content? Do you see multiple review pages? Analyze the results to better understand what searchers want.
A quick review of [holiday gift guide] indicates tough sledding for Hickory Farms to rank their page among some massive sites and brands:
However, [Thanksgiving gift guide] appears to be more promising:
While there are still some recognizable brands here, there are also pages ranking from lesser-known sites. That is encouraging for Hickory Farms.
Furthermore, the brand’s page is currently ranking on Page 3:
Because their page is already ranking on Page 3 for this query, Hickory Farms faces less of an uphill battle to reach page one by the holidays.
We should also analyze the opportunity based on search volume to get an idea for potential traffic.
According to SEMrush, [thanksgiving gift guide] only has a monthly search volume of 30. However, we need to consider all the associated keywords as well.
It’s easy to see how these smaller volumes can quickly add up to a large number on aggregate.
In fact, [Thanksgiving gift guide] isn’t the head term here. The main term would be [Thanksgiving gifts] which has a substantially larger monthly search volume:
And what do you know? Hickory Farms’ page is ranking on Page 3 for that query as well.
Now that we’ve confirmed this is a worthwhile opportunity, it’s time to analyze Hickory Farms’ page to see which updates and optimizations can be made.
Immediately it’s clear that there is some on-page optimization that can be done.
Not only does “Thanksgiving Gifts” only appear in a couple of H2s, but the page doesn’t have an H1.
It would be an easy fix to:
- Add an H1 along the lines of “Thanksgiving Gift Ideas”.
- Include the same keywords in more H2s and H3s to help Google further associate the page with the topic and likely improve rankings.
Going back to the page one results again, we can get more ideas for how to improve Hickory Farms’ page.
For example, adding a bulleted list of gift ideas could be beneficial and potentially help Hickory Farms nab a featured snippet:
And below the featured snippet we can see a “People also ask” box which provides ideas for new sections Hickory Farms could add to their page:
These tweaks should get Hickory Farms’ page heading in the right direction. That said, link building will still likely be needed to push them to Page 1.
While it will be difficult to convince site owners to link to Thanksgiving content out of season, by starting promotion early, Hickory Farms can have agreements in place with site owners who might want to share the content with their audiences closer to November.
Having these “verbal agreements” in place will drastically improve link building success as it circumvents the main problem with contacting people during the holidays – people are often on vacation and unresponsive.
This is a low-investment opportunity (in terms of content creation resources) that Hickory Farms could start executing now to potentially enjoy Page 1 rankings. It could bring qualified traffic during November when people are searching for Thanksgiving gift ideas.
Creating Seasonal Content
Updating existing pages may not be enough to take full advantage of the holiday season for your business. In these cases, you should also consider creating new season-specific pages.
Content creation should always start with keyword research and creating seasonal content is no different.
However, seasonality adds an extra wrinkle and you need to be mindful of past (and current) trends to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords.
For example, using the free tool Google Trends, Hickory Farms could compare the queries [thanksgiving gift basket] and [holiday gift basket]:
This quick comparison shows that while there is some interest for [holiday gift basket] around November – and that interest is lower than the interest for [thanksgiving gift basket] – the interest for [holiday gift basket] peaks during December.
This is helpful information as Hickory Farms can adjust their keyword strategy and focus accordingly.
With the holiday season approaching, Hickory Farms should identify a content gap they could fill relatively easily to potentially earn significant organic traffic.
To find this opportunity, I’ll use one of my favorite keyword research tools, Ahrefs.
Ahrefs makes keyword analysis easy, as I can plug in Hickory Farms’ URL and navigate over to the “Organic Keywords” section to view all the keywords that Hickory Farms has a page ranking in the top 100 for.
As I analyze these keywords, I’m looking for the intersection of three metrics:
- High search volume.
- Low keyword difficulty.
- Ranking positions near Page 1 or 2 for Hickory Farms.
A term that quickly jumps out is [Christmas gift baskets]:
This key phrase checks all the boxes:
- Sizable search volume: 7,200
- Low difficulty: 11 (out of 100)
- Decent rankings for Hickory Farms: position 11
Hickory Farms’ product page for Christmas gifts is ranking on Page 2 currently, but there could be an opportunity for Hickory Farms to create a new page and push for Page 1 rankings.
Diving in further with Ahrefs, I can see the opportunity to create informational content around [Christmas gift baskets] materialize.
Ahrefs shows other phrases that contain the keyword, related questions, and other terms that the current ranking pages also rank for:
This is extremely powerful information for a content creator as it provides a blueprint for a new page.
Questions like “how to make cheap Christmas gift baskets” and “what to put in Christmas gift baskets” would be perfect sub-headers and sections of a potential guide.
Clicking the “View all” tab under the “Having same terms” section gives us more insight into related topics to cover within our hypothetical page:
There seems to be a fair amount of opportunity here for Hickory Farms to create an informational page that could rank for a variety of terms. However, there is still one more check we should make.
While Ahrefs signals low difficulty across the board, I always like to review the current ranking pages to truly understand the competition.
Let’s pull out one of the questions we saw earlier and look at the corresponding SERP. Here is a snapshot of the results for [what to put in Christmas baskets]:
Country Living is a prominent brand, but outside of that result and the Pinterest pins, I’m not seeing any brand names that stick out:
This supports Ahrefs’ assessment of low-difficulty. Further analysis of the individual pages reveals some are slideshow results:
Or a simple list of links:
Or full of ads:
Although some of these pages have decent information, none of them are truly outstanding results for someone searching for more information on Christmas gift baskets.
There is a real opportunity here for Hickory Farms to create something that is best-in-class.
By creating an in-depth guide that addresses these informational queries, Hickory Farms can gain visibility during the holiday season and earn organic traffic for the top of their marketing funnel.
Furthermore, if they promote this page for inbound links – and properly internally link to their Christmas gifts page – Hickory Farms could simultaneously improve rankings for the commercial terms their product pages serve.
Since Hickory Farms’ Christmas gifts page is already on Page 2, support from an informational page could be enough to bump it onto Page 1 of the search results.
By starting this process now, Hickory Farms could create and update their pages to begin promotion and link acquisition that will pay dividends by the time the holidays roll around.
Over to You
If the holiday season is important to your bottom line, the time to start planning your SEO content is now!
Consider following these tips so you can appear in search when interest in your products and services is highest!
Want even more tips? Check out Search Engine Journal’s ebook: A Complete Guide to Holiday Marketing
- SEO for the Holidays: 2019 Edition
- Holiday SEO & Marketing Strategy: Win More Traffic, Rankings & Sales
- You Need This 2019 Marketing Calendar & Free Templates!
All screenshots taken by author, August 2019