Prediction: Any day now, you’re going to walk into a retail store and see Christmas products for sale. I know it’s only August. I know the holidays are more than four months away. But that won’t stop your favorite store from getting a jump on the shopping season.
And it shouldn’t stop you from preparing your web site for an influx of holiday shoppers. According to recent ShopLocal survey of 2,000 adult shoppers, 33% have already started holiday shopping!
So, if you’re an online retailer and you haven’t started thinking about the holidays, what are you waiting for? Here are some tips and ideas to help you grab a slice of the holiday shopping pie.
Do your keyword research. Are there any holiday-related keywords you should optimize for? Paid users of Keyword Discovery can see historical trends going back one year, which may help identify changes in searcher behavior during the holidays. Google Trends, which is free, can provide similar data, but without exact numbers.
Take care of your on-site SEO. If you’re looking for a quick checklist or two, try this list of 21 things to do and this list of 20 things to avoid. Do this step quickly, since any on-page efforts you make now may not reap benefits for a couple months.
Update your content with holiday shoppers in mind. As the holidays approach, your generic home page text can be replaced with more specific material for shoppers. But be sure to still use keyword-rich copy that search engine spiders like.
Give shoppers what they want right away. Most holiday shopping is done for someone else. So, help shoppers locate gifts from your home page; don’t make them have to search for gift ideas. Give them shipping information, such as costs and delivery times, right away. Let them know what your return/refund policy is. Answer their questions before they have to ask … or before they decide to leave for the next site.
Appeal to a holiday shopper’s budget. Many shoppers have something like this in mind when they arrive on your site: “I need to get a gift for my niece and I don’t want to spend more than $25.” Help online shoppers find gifts for different budgets; have a page for “Gifts under $25″, another for “Gifts under $50″, etc.
Gift cards and gift certificates are hot, hot, hot. If you’re not offering gift cards and certificates, you might miss a lot of sales. That’s especially true as the holiday shipping deadlines approach and shoppers are scrambling to finish their shopping lists. Speaking of which…
Be as detailed as you can about shipping deadlines. 33% of adults may have already started shopping, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be finished well in advance of the holidays. Tell last-minute shoppers how late they can order and still get your widget underneath their tree. And remember that Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated in December.
If it’s appropriate, dress up your site design in a holiday theme. This tells holiday shoppers that they’re welcome at your site and you’re ready for them. (This one’s probably best done closer to the holidays; sometime after Halloween would work.)
If you’re upgrading your web site to get ready for the holidays, let your web developer know now. Back in my days as a designer/developer, our phone started ringing off the hook right after Labor Day. Your designer may have the same experience, so if you wait until the last minute, it might be too late!
One last thought: You can be sure that your big competitors have been putting together holiday plans for a few months now. As a small retailer, it’s okay if you haven’t started that early. But it’s not okay to wait much longer. It’s only August, but preparing now is the key to a happy holiday shopping season.
Matt McGee is the SEO Manager for Marchex, Inc., a search and media company offering search marketing services through its TrafficLeader subsidiary. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.