In the world of SEO, we talk often about technical issues and how to resolve them. We look at content strategy, keyword research, backlinks, and PR.
But one thing that we don’t talk about enough is seasonal SEO – specifically its impact, and how to leverage it to improve marketing performance.
A solid understanding of seasonal SEO is essential for building a winning SEO strategy, getting insights from your performance data, and providing accurate reports to your clients.
In this column, you’ll find actionable tips and real-world examples to help you navigate seasonal trends and put them to work for your SEO strategy.
What Is Seasonal SEO & Why Is It Important?
Seasonal SEO is the way your website performance and business is impacted by external predictable annual events such as Christmas, Easter, summer, winter, etc.
Understanding seasonal SEO is important because:
- Generally, we need to utilize it for the benefit of our business.
- It helps in planning and deciding which SEO projects to execute and when.
- It helps us navigate marketing in “low season.”
- It can affect our data, reporting, and how we make decisions that take into consideration the impact of seasonality on SEO metrics like clicks, impressions, and rankings.
Having a more detailed and deeper understanding of the impact of seasonality on SEO will help you make better business and marketing decisions.
Do You Need To Think About Seasonality If You’re A B2B Business?
I can hear some people saying, “My client(s) are B2B, so events like Christmas, Halloween, etc. don’t really have much of an impact on us.”
This is mostly true. If you’re a SaaS client in the financial industry, you probably aren’t thinking about how seasonality can impact your business.
But here’s an example of when seasonality can interfere with your B2B data.
Your B2B client performs a website migration in November and follows all the SEO guidelines you have shared with them.
They still see their website take a deep fall in December.
Is this because of the migration or perhaps seasonality?
The performance dip can be the natural impact of the migration process and it’ll just need some time to recover.
But when adding seasonality to the equation, we do understand that this dip has been slightly magnified as the result of the “low season” most B2B businesses go through in December.
So you may see a deeper drop than what you would expect for the migration.
In this situation, understanding and taking seasonality into account can help you communicate to the clients what to expect and also evaluate the performance of the migration process in a balanced way without panicking.
How To Navigate Seasonality In SEO
1. Start Yesterday
The best time to start looking into analyzing the impact of seasonality on the performance of a business is yesterday. And the second-best time is now.
Asking about seasonality is one of the client onboarding questions I always ask, regardless of what type of business this is.
It may sound basic, but sometimes you’d get the information you didn’t expect.
If you’re working on an annual or six-month SEO plan, this is the right time to look into the upcoming seasons that you should integrate into your plan.
It usually takes three to six months to start seeing the impact of any SEO efforts.
So if you’d like to rank for “Black Friday” terms or “Back to School,” plan this four to six months ahead to give your content a chance to be indexed, and settle in SERPs.
When the time comes, you’re not working from scratch but fine-tuning and building on existing assets.
2. Know Your Hills And Valleys
Here are some more places you can start looking into the seasonality of your business:
- Google Search Console.
- Google Analytics.
- Google Trends.
- SEMrush and other third-party tools that allow you to compare your performance against competitors.
- Online reports about industry trends.
Google Search Console is where any SEO expert should ideally live, and when analyzing seasonality, it’s the best place to start.
Try to map your performance data for the last 12 months against seasons. If you find unexplained dips or peaks, look to match that with the current season (summer, weekend, information from your client, etc.).
You may also want to look at the month-over-month change for the past 16 months to understand the expected percentage change for each season.
Here are a few things you need to take into consideration when analyzing GSC performance data for seasonality:
Look at the data with and without brand search terms.
You can filter out brand search terms using the custom regex in the query filter. Just list all different variations of the brand name of your business separating them with a pipe “|”.
Look at how other B2B or B2C (whichever is more relevant) clients performed in the same time period.
If you work in an agency and have access to different properties, this is particularly helpful.
See whether the dips and peaks are common across them. Personally, I see a drop in performance in most B2B clients in December.
Important Tip: GSC will only show you data for the last 16 months.
Always back up your data so you can save your historic data for future reference.
Be aware of other marketing activities.
An increase and decrease in the overall performance due to the increase and decrease of brand keywords search volume may not be directly related to your SEO efforts but rather the impact of the marketing campaigns of other marketing channels (like Facebook or LinkedIn Ads).
Filtering them out can help you remove the noise and have a clearer picture of seasonality and SEO.
Semrush offers a “Traffic Analysis” tool that allows you to compare your website performance against a few of your competitors over time.
Here’s the traffic analysis graph showing the performance of zara.com against hm.com for the last six months:
From the graph, you can pull any number of insights.
For example, you can see that for both websites, there’s a peak in November.
This is something you may want to take into consideration while reporting. This increase in organic traffic, while a positive thing, will not continue at the same level for the month after. Keep that in mind when doing your November and December reports.
You may want to highlight this; otherwise, you’ll be reporting temporary seasonal highs as an overall improvement in organic performance in November, and then in December, you’ll be reporting what may be your average or even above-average performance as a monthly drop.
The Wheel Of Seasonality
One more thing that can help you know how your business will be impacted by seasonality throughout the year is this diagram by VennDigital.co.uk.
The diagram gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of seasonality for four major industries: Automotive, Retail, Travel & Finance.
Your business probably falls under one of those categories, and by studying this diagram, you can have a better understanding of seasonality and why your data is the way it is.
4. Talk To Business Stakeholders
There are two things that need to be done when it comes to the impact of seasonality on your SEO plan.
First things first, talk to your stakeholders.
Don’t wait till a low season arrives and then discuss the reporting and why many of your metrics went down. Do that early on.
This helps all parties stay on the same page and reduces reporting stress when drops happen.
If you know that your B2B business will likely experience a low season in December, start this discussion in October or November.
You may want to:
- Prepare a simple deck outlining the different seasonal trends and their impact on the business performance. Adding supporting data from tools like Google trends can definitely help. Below you can see, that even for a technical term like “PDF” there’s still some seasonality over time.
- Provide an action plan if needed for each major trend impacting seasonality.
- Always leave a footnote for monthly reporting when relevant and explain the results.
5. The How
Now, let’s talk about the actual SEO work.
You’ve read all of this and now you’re asking yourself, what should I do?
Here are 10 seasonal SEO tips to add to your arsenal:
- Start with analyzing your current content assets and see if any existing seasonal content needs a refresh.
- Make sure you have a category page for each season that is relevant to your business; for example, pages for Black Friday, Christmas, Back to School, etc.
- For each of those category pages, you can have as many child pages as needed targeting long-tail search queries. Your Christmas page may link to other pages for Christmas Trees, Christmas Gifts, etc.
- Ideally, the URL can be homepage.com/christmas/christmas-trees.
- Use breadcrumbs similarly to Home > Christmas > Christmas Trees
- For seasonal pages, don’t use the date or year in the URL.
- Don’t use date or year in the title or H1, unless you plan on annually updating them.
- Link to the seasonal pages from the header and the footer, at least 30 days earlier to the season.
- Once the season is over, remove the links from the header and footer. Do not delete the page, but instead, you can update it with a relevant message to your customers and provide links to other valuable pages on your website.
- Last but not least, plan your backlinks acquisition ahead of time too. Build backlinks in advance, to give Google enough time to capture the value of your content.
One great example of how you can adapt your website to seasonality is how some travel agencies update their footer links according to what destinations are popular at a specific season, in addition to their consistent list of overall top destinations.
A Final Note On The Impact Of Seasonality On SERPs
We cannot discuss seasonality in SEO without discussing the great research done by Tom Capper, at Distilled who noticed that “SERPs change when they become high volume”.
Tom tracked the behavior of SERPs for the keyword term [mothers day flowers] over the period of two weeks before Mother’s Day and how this impacted the top results in Google.
From the graph below, we can tell that as we approach day 0 (Mother’s Day) while the search volume for “mothers day flowers” is increasing, rankings have changed for many of the top results for that term.
This is one of the most powerful graphs showing how impactful seasonality can be on the performance of a website in SERPs.
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Featured Image: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock