The end-of-year holiday season is stressful. And whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, or Festivus, as a digital marketing professional, your day-to-day job doesn’t do much to reduce that stress.
I get it. It’s a lot. Despite it all, we must make good on the promises we’ve made to our teams and our customers. We’ve got quotas to hit and metrics to make. Because of this, every year around this time, Victorious receives a lot of requests for guidance on how best to improve organic search visibility to capture visitors looking to do their holiday shopping online.
The problem is that these Black Friday SEO requests tend to come three to six months too late. But as the old saying goes, “The best time to start is yesterday. The next best time is now.” So, if you’ve found yourself reading this article and feeling a little behind the eight ball, read on.
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1. Identify Link Acquisition Needs to Pinpoint Campaign Start Date
One of the more straightforward methods for determining when to launch your SEO holiday season prep is to uncover the number of Referring Domains (RDs) needed to have competitive parity with the sites you want to emulate. Once you have that number, you can work backward to land on a start date.
For example, according to SEMrush, the average number of RDs for the top five results for the query “black Friday clothing deals” is 51.
Now, let’s say that your link acquisition efforts — when firing on all cylinders — can net you 10 links a month to a specified URL. And for the sake of the example, let’s assume the URL is brand new with zero RDs.
From here, it’s a simple math problem. You take the average number of RDs for top-five results, subtract the current number of RDs of your target URL, and divide that by your monthly link acquisition rate. This is the number of months you need to achieve competitive parity.
An older version of this article was originally published on Search Engine Watch — Five SEO tips that capture holiday attention and boost sales.
So, for our example, we need to start 5.1 months before the holiday — in this case, Black Friday — to make sure we’ve met the off-site requirements of these specific search engine results pages (SERPs).
Even if you have less time than five months to your target holiday, it’s still worth implementing a link-building strategy to increase your page’s authority. You just won’t have time to attain competitive parity for referring domains.
Not all links are created equal. You may need more or less than the average based on the quality of the links you acquire However, I still recommend you start with the absolute count you arrived at above and adjust your efforts as time progresses.
2. Look at Last Year’s Google Search Console Clicks & Impressions
Before embarking on content creation, dive into your site’s Google Search Console data to glean insights into any previous Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and general holiday search queries that your site surfaced for last year.
1. Navigate to your site’s property within Google Search Console.
2. Click ‘Search Results’ in the left-hand navigation.
3. Click ‘Date’ to change the report’s time period.
4. Input a range of dates that covers the holidays you want to optimize for and click ‘Apply.’
5. Click ‘+’ to add a filter, and then select ‘Query.’
A box should pop up, allowing you to filter the results. Add a keyphrase like “black Friday” (or any other variants you’ve identified, for example, cyber Monday, Christmas, and the others) to surface queries containing that phrase. Click ‘Apply.’
Scroll down and check out the box beneath the graph to see the various search terms containing “black Friday” or whichever phrase you filtered results by.
Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords your site has shown up for in the past, reconcile those against the URLs on your site that are surfacing for those queries, and assess whether or not they adequately address the query’s intent. To do this, click on the query to see which URLs Google is serving for that search term.
You’re looking for ranking queries from the past that are served up from URLs that are fundamentally mismatched for search intent. For example, a site may have a general curling iron product page that Google has a history of surfacing for Black Friday-related queries.
Once you’ve got the list of URLs with intent mismatch, you can group the queries thematically and build out content based on those themes. And because Google has already shown it favors your site for those queries, you likely have some authority built up for them. As a result, building out pages dedicated specifically to those holiday-related themes may be quick wins.
3. Determine Content Needs
Next, let’s decipher your content needs. To do that, I use SurferSEO. SurferSEO allows you to find out the word count you need to strive towards, the mix of important and semantically-related keywords to include, and more.
After navigating to SurferSEO’s Content Editor, plug in the keyword you want to gather intel on, change the settings to your liking, and hit ‘Create Content Editor.’
At Victorious, we usually default to utilizing the ‘Mobile’ setting in the toggle shown above because it better represents what Google is looking for with mobile-first indexation.
Once the query is complete, click on it. On the right-hand side, you’ll see recommendations for your content.
Click on the gear at the top to enter the settings.
This section will allow you to choose which URLs you want to target. Competitive selection is very important. You need to make sure you’re selecting non-anomalous results. For example, in our results for “black Friday clothing deals,” Target is in the top five with a total word count of 38. A quick review of the URL in question shows that it’s very thin on content and most likely ranking due to the strength of the domain as a whole. Because of this, we won’t include the result in our list of competitors to review.
After you’ve chosen your top five competitors, SurferSEO will reset the recommended content guidelines, including total word count, the number of paragraphs, and more. While you can spend some time reviewing and modifying the settings available, we recommend making it easy on yourself and moving forward with their recommendations by clicking ‘Let’s go’ in the bottom right corner.
By this point, you should now have a word count range to target with your content, as well as insight into the individual words you should include to ensure competitive parity from the content perspective.
From there, it’s as simple as unleashing your writers on the prompt and guidelines provided.
4. Create Evergreen Holiday Landing Pages to Maximize Backlinks
When I asked the SEO team here at Victorious for their holiday SEO tips, I got a great scalable suggestion from our SEO Team Lead, Vlad Davniuk:
Create a singular Black Friday deals landing page for each holiday deal keyword theme you identify in your keyword research process.
For example, instead of creating a new page every year targeting things like “New Years 2022 deals,” “New Years 2023 deals”, etc., you should create a single “New Years [year] deals” page that you update every year based on a review of what search engines are rewarding content-wise around that query.
By maintaining one page that you update yearly, you open up the ability to accrue links year-over-year rather than needing to “reset” with each new year, ultimately saving you a lot of time and resources.
In treating these pages as a part of your core strategy — taking care not to neglect them but also not hyper-focus on them — you can avoid a lot of the stress you’d experience if you had to do this process every holiday season from the ground up. Approaching these pages as “evergreen” pages provides a template for you to work from, and templates are always time savers.
Still need convincing? Here’s how ASOS uses this tactic for their Black Friday landing page. Navigating to their “black Friday clothing deals” URL, you’ll see this:
However, a quick review of the screenshot captured just months ago by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows this:
If a $3.4B company such as ASOS is utilizing this tactic to maximize the visibility of their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot!
Quick tip: Don’t use the year in your URL. Otherwise, you end up dating your content. If you have a URL with a year in it, consider using a 301 redirect to send link equity to your new evergreen holiday URL.
5. Use Google Business Profile Promo Posts
Another tip from Victorious SEO Team Lead Vlad Davniuk involves using Google My Business posts. If your business has a local presence, your Google Business Profile can be an immediate source of capturing holiday attention through the use of posts promoting your holiday deals. See the example here (though unrelated to holiday deals specifically):
The only caveat is that your potential customer will need to be fairly far along in their purchase journey since the posts won’t surface unless they search specifically for your business.
Start Your Black Friday SEO ASAP
If the holidays took you by surprise last year, these tips should help you better prepare for this year and next. At the end of the day, prepping for the holidays organically is not unlike the approach you take now around “tangible” product launches. And it’s here that most people make a mistake. Don’t treat the pages you build to capture holiday attention and boost Black Friday sales temporally.Build your holiday pages as evergreen templates that you can update year after year.
As an SEO agency, Victorious can help you work this into your plans. The more you look at your holiday landing pages as a core aspect of your organic strategy, the easier it will be to plan, execute, and maintain a system around this in the future. Schedule a free SEO consultation to learn more.