Surviving the Bitter Holiday Code Freeze

For many retailers, the holidays are the season of not messing up. Many large retailers go into a code freeze, where no new development on the website is allowed to launch.

The idea is to prevent any errors that keep visitors from buying during the peak shopping season. For a lot of projects, including search engine optimization (SEO), it can be a major issue if there are changes that should be made.

The irony is that it’s the peak season to keep errors down, but it’s also the peak season to have the best website possible with driving traffic. While there’s a lot that can’t be done during a code freeze, there’s still plenty to keep busy.

Here are a number of SEO items to consider:


Just because the site is in code freeze doesn’t mean you can’t do anything on the site. If you can find any SEO-related items that would qualify as an “error,” you might be able to get a bug request processed. For example, does the non-www site bring up a dead page?


Anyone involved in online production may be a candidate for SEO training during downtime. That could be SEO basics, keyword research, or how to look at your SEO analytics data.


It’s also a chance to start planning and building big projects for the next year with developers. Many developers dive into large projects and many others are budgeted for, so it can be a good time to ensure everything is started with SEO in mind.


Another place where changes can be made during a code freeze may be content. New content can be anything your visitors will want to read, and also opens up new keyword opportunities. Keep posting to the company blog or update a holiday gift guide, for example.


Any link building efforts underway can still keep moving forward, as well as building relationships with partner sites. Find out the marketing campaign coming up for the year and see where links could be driven from those.


While the e-commerce site may be a block of ice, your other online properties might be available to work on. That could include social sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or even a brand microsite. Update the content and look to drive more fans with those sites if possible.

The code freeze is often the least busy time for some, so it can be a good time to talk to them and see what can be done. Look into what you can do to make sure your SEO campaign doesn’t hit the pause button for several weeks.

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