How Brands Should Approach & Analyze Holiday SEO Efforts in 2020

November 10, 2020

The Holiday season is set to look fairly different than in years past, with consumers acclimated to their new lifestyles amid the continued health crisis.

As marketers, we’ve helped our brands stay as nimble as possible so they can alter strategies to account for new challenges, emerging trends and shifting behavior. As we approach the “big 5” Holiday weekend – which will be more dominated by online than ever before – there are few certainties brands can rely on this year. The value of being flexible and utilizing data to make timely decisions is what will set successful brands apart from others who aren’t quick enough to shift. With the next two months being a pivotal time for many brands, we want to ensure your approach to SEO helps you achieve your goals, and that you’re leveraging data early on in the holiday season to pinpoint trends you can take further advantage of.

Tips to maximize performance

1. Determine when holiday-specific content should go live 

Outside of this year, marketers would typically be looking at seasonality patterns within search data to understand when interest for holiday-specific searches starts to peak and preparing to have that content indexed before those peak points. But this year, with more people shopping online and the pandemic still a threat, major retailers are encouraging shoppers to start their holiday shopping season earlier. To avoid missing out on early search interest, brands should follow suit and look to have holiday-specific content live well before Black Friday.

2. Target today’s search rankings

In 2020, Google has given more search real estate to SERP features like Featured Snippets, People Also Ask (PAA) questions, video results, free Google Shopping placements and several others. The increased need to target these features is apparent when looking at Share of Voice for clients. Your holiday SEO strategy can target these listing types by understanding the terms that are generating these features for your brand and competitors, and how you can update existing content or build new content to improve relevancy for them.

3. Target new indicators of positive user experience

Earlier this year, Google announced it would be reevaluating user experience and naming several new ranking factors that will be added to its algorithm. Through the rest of the year, your SEO strategy should emphasize opportunities that align with these new ranking factors, including mobile-friendliness and page load time, to make improvements to how users experience the content on your website.

4. Adapt content based on early COVID-19 learnings –

  • Incorporate relevant products that have seen an increase in demand through COVID-19 within your gift guides and other forms of editorial content. For instance, health and wellness, home learning, loungewear apparel and home furnishings are product categories that have spiked during the last year, and they’ll likely maintain popularity during the holiday months.
  • If your business has seen a decrease in brand search demand, look to prioritize top of the funnel content that can aid in driving stronger awareness this holiday season.
  • Feature messaging on-site that conveys when users need to order by to receive their product in time. Pay close attention to this during Holiday 2020, especially given challenges across the board with timely shipping due to the huge influx in online orders over the last several months.  With consumers staying at home and engaging more with video content, you can leverage research to inform video topics and expand on the content being offered on any landing pages on your website where videos exist.
  • Utilize Google Local Posts to reach consumers within Google search results by featuring messaging around holiday promotions and other timely announcements.

5. Use the early holiday season data to inform adjustments.

In a year as unpredictable as 2020, look to early learnings to evaluate if your brand has seen success with tactics implemented for the holiday season. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, gain an understanding of what is working and where improvements can be made. That way, as you head into December, adjustments can be made to benefit your brand in the short-term and you can gather valuable insights for future holiday seasons.

Some areas you should be tracking and analyzing:

  • KPI performance– During key dates (i.e. Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and over the holiday season, compare the KPIs important to your brand to what was seen last year.
  • Brand search demand – How does brand search interest compare YoY? If you’ve noticed declines in brand search interest, prioritize relevant non-branded opportunities that can drive increased awareness.
  • High performing products/categories – What products and categories are in high demand and has your brand experienced unexpected shifts in shopping behavior? If so, provide greater visibility to this content within the experience through internal linking and editorial content.
  • Keyword trends – Based on keywords that have seen growth in clicks and impressions, determine how content can better leverage this language.
  • High intent keywords – With long-tail keywords typically showing greater intent, highlight keywords that have seen growth and find relevant locations within your site’s content to feature these terms.
  • Branded SOV – Have competitors and affiliate sites taken visibility away from your brand?
  • Store-level and region-specific data – For brands with a heavy local presence and understanding pandemic restrictions will differ by state/city, assess traffic differences YoY for store locator pages and local listings.
  • Editorial value – For any new gift guides or editorial content that’s geared towards the holidays, how has it contributed to driving traffic and revenue for your brand? Are there other touch points within a user’s shopping journey that editorial can help address?
  • Title adjustments – Assuming changes are being made to titles to highlight language related to deals, shipping, or “last minute” gift options, how has it positively/negatively impacted CTR? Are we seeing the results we anticipated seeing? What other language would be valuable to surface within page titles?
  • Full-retail vs clearance – If offering both full-retail products and sale-oriented products within the same experience, have your users’ preference shifted towards one? If your brand is experiencing a significant shift, are there any quick wins to drive more users to that area?
  • Authority accrual – Given the importance of launching holiday-specific content earlier this year and being able to repurpose content from last year, show the relationship between authority-related metrics and traffic to highlight its impact on performance.

Leading up to the holidays, your brand should already understand what shifts have occurred in your users’ shopping behavior and search interest, and account for those trends. Being able to anticipate and react to what your users are looking for will be what drives success within SEO this holiday season. For brands implementing code freezes or other constraints that would prevent using data to make short-term updates, plan to use these insights for upcoming holidays like President’s Day and Valentine’s Day or for building out your brand’s 2021 holiday strategy.

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