Say "Bah Humbug" to Holiday Marketing Stress

I've been reading blogs and articles about gearing up for holiday marketing. They don't even have the Halloween candy out in the stores... Do we really need to start thinking about things like Hanukkah or Christmas? The short answer is yes, and the long answer is yes – if you'd like your search terms to be ranking during the holidays and have some semblance of a stress-free winter season.

Planning Ahead for the Holidays

I was talking to some clients recently about holiday marketing. They were surprised I was bringing this up so soon. They own a small bed and breakfast in California, and they start getting quite busy before Thanksgiving and throughout Christmas. They're not necessarily "booked full," but life is hectic during the holidays. They've never been really happy with Web site performance during this time period. The traffic from their holiday specials doesn't seem to materialize in time to do them any good.

I had to be honest – they weren't paying attention early enough in the year. If you're going to be busy, you need to plan ahead to ensure great traffic and rankings at the right time. This is true any time of the year – holidays, summer, and fall. If you depend on a seasonal spike in traffic, you must plan ahead.

Using the Right Data

Search Engine rankings don't happen overnight, and being proactive can help your holiday terms and specials rank during the holidays – not after. Start in September, and make sure you've optimized some of your text, page titles, and headers based on keyword research you did last Christmas.

Here's the kicker – most keyword research tools will show data from the last 30-90 days. You're not going to see accurate holiday shopping keyword data from July and August numbers. Data from your last holiday season is probably a lot closer to what's going to happen this holiday season.

I can hear you out there: "Yeah, yeah – its still too early – I'll think about it in November." Sure, you can think about it in November, do things in a rush at the last minute, and you'll see no return on your valuable time and design investment. It needs to happen now, not later.

Don't worry – there's hope. I put together a timeline for ensuring your holiday specials are well thought out, marketed, ranking, and profitable, come Christmas.

Your 2007 Holiday Timeline

September

  • Craft some text for your holiday specials. Take your time doing this. Have the gals over, drink some wine, and work on some cute and witty titles for your specials. Guys: Do some guy things – beer, hockey, barbecue? (I'm reaching, I have no idea what guy things are.) Come up with three options and ask everyone you know which one they would buy. Once you're happy with the offerings and your text, get it to your Webmaster.

  • Make sure your supply chain can accommodate your specials. There's nothing worse than having time sensitive orders you can't fulfill.

October

  • Put the specials up on your Web site, make them pretty and appealing – link from your homepage or feature specials on the homepage. Make sure you have great optimization on these pages. Page titles, meta descriptions, heading tags, etc., are important here. Get your keywords naturally into your text, of course.

  • Design an email marketing blast to go out to everyone in your database. If you're really prepared, you've collected these from every online buyer you've had over the last year (or five), and you have a wide base of possible customers that want to be exposed to your holiday specials.

  • Put the email blasts on your Web site. (Yes, before you send them out to your email list – it's okay, I promise.) Email blasts are news, so put them on your Web site or blog, go visit some other blogs or forums, and talk about what you're offering, then add the link to your email signature. Optimize this new content and get the search engines looking into what's going on ahead of time. If you're putting this up in early October, those pages should be indexed and ranking by Christmas.

  • Send out the first blast – you probably won't get many buyers yet, you're just planting the seed with this e-mail campaign.

  • Write three more email marketing blasts to capitalize on shoppers in early November, Thanksgiving week, and the week before the last possible day you can ship your product to reach customers prior to the holiday.

November

  • This is when your hard work in September and October will pay off. Send out the emails you prepared for early November and Thanksgiving week. If you have a great email marketing team, send copy to them in October with instructions on when to send. You're going to be busy and won't have time to think about it then, so have it done and ready to go.
  • Visit (or have friends visit) some social networking sites. Find out where people are talking about holiday shopping and online shopping, letting them know you've got specials and packages. A link from these sites will always help.

December

  • Home stretch time: Send out your last email blast and then take advantage of last-minute shoppers by offering them "one click" buying from the homepage. Feature a description of your special, a "buy it now" link straight to the credit card form, and it's done. Don't worry about shipping; procrastinators know last minute shipping is expensive, and they've learned to deal with it.

  • Tip: One thing I look for when I've procrastinated is the lovely phrase, "free shipping." I'm just dumb enough to pay a bit more for a product if the shipping is free. Wrap some shipping cost into the product price, and give the impression of a discount along with the "package deal" you're already offering.
Have a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Plan ahead. Get content on your site early to rank for the holiday season. This time of year is extremely competitive, and if you have a strategy that makes it easy to execute when you're busy, the holidays won't seem so hectic. Give it a try, jump on board with those early holiday revelers, and hopefully, your holidays will be merry and stress free.

Season's Greetings!
PS: I can't wait for snow!