On November 24th, 2011, more than $52 million was spent on Cyber Monday. According to IBM’s Smarter Commerce division, the 2012 Cyber Monday was the largest online shopping day in history, posting a 30.3 percent increase over the same day in 2011. Last year, Black Friday sales topped $1 billion, which was up 26 percent from 2011.
This trend is poised to continue to skyrocket, making Black Friday and Cyber Monday vastly important for online retailers.
In 2013, we’ve seen several major changes in the SEO landscape, such as Google Hummingbird and updates to Google’s Penguin algorithm. In this article, I’ll discuss how to interpret these changes, and what you need to do to maximize sales and ROI on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond.
Step 1: Create Unique Landing Pages for Your Deals
Create a unique landing page for each of the specific groups of products that will be on sale. Make sure you do your keyword research to know exactly which keywords to focus on.
One example might be adding the keyword "Black Friday online" to the page’s title tag and header tags, to ensure your pages have a chance of being served up in search results for similar keyword queries.
This strategy follows my advice from "How to Get Ranked for All Your Niche’s Keywords," which I suggest you read if you’re unfamiliar with the basics of SEO, identifying keywords, and ranking for them.
Step 2: Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Next, make sure your website is mobile-ready, as a growing number of people are shopping from tablets and mobile phones. In fact, according to Morgan Stanley analysts, mobile will surpass desktop usage by 2015. Google has already spotted and adapted to this trend; that’s the main reason behind its rollout of the Google Hummingbird algorithm. For more information on why Google Hummingbird means mobile-friendliness is more important than ever, see my article "Google Hummingbird: A Mobile Content Marketing Strategy Just Became Essential".
A proper responsive design will make it easy for people to purchase products on your site, regardless of which device they use to do so. For more in-depth information on how to implement responsive design, see my article "Responsive Design & Mobile SEO: Best Practices for 2013".
If your site isn’t ready for mobile, some of your buyers will move on to a competitor whose site is ready for the mobile environment. In fact, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 61 percent of visitors who visit a site that isn’t mobile-friendly will move on to a competitor’s site.
Step 3: Check Your Existing Rankings, and Analyze Your Competitors
SEO professionals can give you a good idea of what keyword phrases buyers will focus on. One example might be "[product name] 2013 Black Friday sales". Here’s a great article that will help you identify your keywords: "E-commerce Holiday SEO Keyword Optimization: 6 Keys to Success".
Once you’ve identified the keywords for which you want to appear in search engine rankings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s time to analyze where you currently stand. My favorite rank checking tool is MySEOTool, but there are other options available as well, such as the Firefox Rank Checker plugin.
Once you have a good understanding of where you currently stand, look for "low-hanging fruit." Identify what pages on your website already rank in the top 2 or 3 pages of search results for your keywords. Those are going to be your best targets for SEO optimization, as they provide you the best chance of moving up to the first page, where you’ll achieve the visibility that allows you to capture that search traffic.
Take the rank checking process one step further and analyze which of your competitors are outranking you, and visit their websites to try to figure out why. Are they doing something better than you? At a glance, you can pretty quickly assess these elements:
- Is their website design better than mine?
- Is their website mobile-friendly?
- How often do they update their blog?
- How active are they in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter?
- What sort of content are they publishing? Is it text-based or visual-based?
- What’s the size of their audience? How many followers and Likes do they have?
By assessing these elements for each of your top competitors, you should be able to get a good idea of your own business’s strengths and weaknesses.
Step 4: Perform a Website Audit
Sometimes it’s the technical things that will hold your site back. There are several common major issues that I see holding clients’ websites back in the rankings:
- Poor on-site SEO elements (e.g., title tags, meta descriptions, etc.).
- Duplicate content across the site (or worse, across domains).
- Poor mobile-compatibility.
For an excellent resource on identifying and resolving onsite SEO errors, refer to this on-site SEO guide. Also, be sure to check your Google Webmaster Tools to see if it’s reporting any crawl errors.
Step 5: Optimize Your Website Speed
If your website loads slowly, it can adversely affect your organic search rankings as well as your users' experience. Research has shown that 25 percent of people will leave a site that takes more than four seconds to load. Here’s an excellent tool from Pingdom that will instantly tell you your website speed, and identify specific scripts or files that are slowing it down. Try to get your website load speed under 2 seconds.
Step 6: Test, Test, and Retest
Split (A/B) test your site to make sure usability is optimized. PPC campaigns can be a great way to find high-converting keywords that you should focus on for SEO.
Use analytics to figure out which keywords and pages are converting the best. Test different calls to action to see which ones convert the best for different types of traffic.
Step 7: Align Your Social Media Strategy with Your High-Margin Products
Consumers searching the Internet for special deals also turn to social media for their research. With more than 35 percent of Americans owning a smartphone, one-third owning a tablet, and 85 percent of Americans owning a mobile device, this means that sites like Twitter and Facebook are going to be vital sources of information.
This is because, according to MarketingCharts.com, 55 percent of social networking consumption occurs on a mobile device, and according to Adobe.com, 71 percent of people use mobile to access social media. Hashtags like #blackfriday and #cybermonday will be common. The hashtag #cybermonday was the most popular hashtag at 6.4 percent on Cyber Monday 2012. Be sure your social media staff knows how to use hashtags to join the conversation Twitter.
Typically, days before Black Friday, most major retailers have started their social media promotions in full force. This means you need to work out your social media marketing strategy well in advance to be prepared.
For in-depth help on building and executing a successful social media initiative to supplement your SEO campaign, see these articles:
- How to Execute a Successful Social Media Marketing Initiative
- The 5 Best Tools for Measuring Social Media Performance
- A Good Social Media Marketing IDEA: Identify, Deliver, Empower, Amplify
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. If your site isn’t ready, your competitors are going to enjoy the success that you should have been. It isn’t too late to prepare your website and optimize it for a profitable holiday season.
Image Credit: Vanderelbe.de/Flickr