The holiday season is underway, and unfortunately many of us have waited for the last minute to attend to our SEO for the season. SEO for the holiday season really is best done in August, September or October. But what if you didn’t get to it this year? Is it too late? Not necessarily. There are some things you can do.
Go get some blog links. Links from blogs, particularly prominent ones, are picked up and counted very quickly by the search engines. This is because of a concept we in the industry call “query deserves freshness” (or “QDF”). This is the notion that certain user queries deserve a response that places extra weight on newer content. For example, if some major world event occurs, people want to see the latest news very quickly. This drives the search engines to crawl news oriented sites—including blogs—very frequently. As a result, links from blog posts to your site tend to get processed very quickly. You can read more about this in a post I did a while back called The Temporal Nature of Link Building.
What’s the best way to get blog links (without cheating)? One way is to announce a new exciting set of offers and let a lot of bloggers know about it. Another way is to write relevant guest posts for third party blogs. If you can create content that is interesting and valuable there are many blogs that would be interested in taking it. But most of all, use your creativity to figure out how to get those links.
Make title and content changes on key pages. Provided you have a site that gets crawled with reasonable frequency, making changes to your title tags can be pretty effective. It can also be effective to make changes to on-page content, particularly if you do this in tandem with changes to the title tag that support the new content. What changes should you make? Check for seasonal keyword data using Google Trends or Google Insights for Search. See what keywords spike the most during the holiday season by looking at what was hot as this time last year.
You can also check Compete.com to see what keywords are providing the best results for your competition. You can get some great data here, particularly if you purchase an account upgrade. Other tools provide data similar to Compete, such as Hitwise, and comScore.
Eliminate duplicate content problems. This one is a bit more dependent on how authoritative the search engines believe your site to be. But, if you have significant amounts of duplicate content on your site, fixing this can bring a quick lift in traffic. Common scenarios for this include print pages, faceted navigation (alternate short orders for pages listing numerous products), content management system problems, or even not having a canonical redirect on your site.
Duplicate content hurts the indexation of pages on your site, because the search engines spend time crawling redundant pages that they will later simply filter out. In addition, the link equity on your site gets undervalued because the links pointing to those duplicate pages are simply wasted links from a ranking perspective. You can read more about fixing the duplicate content issue here.
Check for issues in your Webmaster tools accounts. Take advantage of the free insights available from both Google webmaster tools and Bing webmaster toolbox. Both of these tools can provide valuable information. Google will even put messages for you in your Webmaster Tools account to let you know of problems detected with your site. Pay attention to these reports and act on them!
Reclaim invalid links. Look at the 404 error reports in Webmaster Tools. This report can often be a gold mine. For most sites, you will see some pages reported as 404 errors that you are quite certain don’t exist on your site. When these are very similar to an actual page on your site it can be a clue that someone tried to link to you and implemented it incorrectly. For example, you have a page called index.shtml but the 404 report shows that the crawler tried to access index.html.
This is a sure sign that someone tried to link to your site but got the URL wrong. Short of asking the “offending” linker to repair the incorrect link, how can you fix these? Implement a 301 redirect from the broken link (index.html in my example) to the correct link (index.shtml). Presto, you have reclaimed a link.
Implement an XML Sitemaps file. This is particularly essential for industrial strength sites (sites with lots of pages). Crawling your site is a complex problem, and the search engines have a lot of the web to cover. In spite of the amazing resources they bring to bear, these resources are still limited. What this means is that they may not crawl your site fully, and may not even be aware of many pages on the site.
XML Sitemaps are a way to address this issue head on. They allow you to provide the search engines an inventory of all the pages on your site. This removes the chances of them missing a page, and, it also has been shown to increase depth of crawling and indexation for large sites. This is a relatively easy win too, and measurably improve your SEO effectiveness in the short term.
In an ideal world, you would have started your SEO efforts a bit earlier, but the implementing tactics above can have notable short term impact. Even still, you are running short on time, so get to it before you miss the whole season! And, if New Year’s or Valentine’s day are big for you, you might want to start creating some pages to get ready for those dates soon. With the longer time horizon you can consider creating custom pages focused specifically at those days. I should also note that the above list is a partial list, so if you have other ideas for short term SEO please provide them in the comments below. Happy Holidays everyone!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.