For any old-hand in retail it should not be any surprise that the Christmas mania kicks-off mid-summer, product ranges are being decided upon and ordered, packaging is being finalised and merchandising and marketing are starting to be discussed. That’s why they are so sick of Christmas by 1st December! The London based Christmas in July event reflects this business cycle. The event’s primary purpose is to allow retailers to run press launches to the media for coverage in the run up to Christmas. As an eCommerce focused agency it is logical that several ThoughtShift clients were involved in this event whilst back in the office we were working hard on their Christmas Digital Marketing Strategies.
In order to have top of the search results visibility for your brand via either SEO or PPC the work needs to start at least 3 months prior to the point where potential customers are looking to buy your products. An effective eCommerce digital marketing strategy for Christmas will be comprised of at least 3 approaches:
Gaining top of the Search Results visibility may be “quicker” via Paid Search than Organic Search but in order to get that visibility at the lowest possible price a lot of work needs to happen in advance
It doesn’t matter if your business sells 10 products or 10,000 in July/August the Product Managers should be working closely with the Marketing team to identify those products which:
- Will be on-trend at Christmas
- Have a high margin and can be heavily discounted as required (e.g. over Black Friday and post-Christmas)
- Are brand entry-point products and could potentially be loss-leaders
- Are key for brand positioning/market authority
The marketing team can then devise marketing campaigns which will effectively market these products as is suitable. This can then be translated into digital marketing activity.
We are seeing a growing emphasis on brand and product reviews as a purchase decision making factor in the UK. Have you got reviews for your brand and products? If you haven’t then devise a strategy to gain reviews now so you have some come November. Not sure if it’s worth it? Have a read of my blog post explaining why product reviews are worth getting.
If you have already got reviews make sure you are making the most of them! Are they easy to find on the page? Are you promoting your brand reviews from Feefo/TrustPilot etc. across your site? Do you have Reviews Rich Snippets pulling into the Organic Search Results? What about in Google Shopping and Paid Search ads? Get it set up!! A discount incentive for leaving a review of a key Christmas product will not only drive sales of that product to new customers, it will encourage people to come back and buy something else from you.
In an ideal world, your category strategy will involve several elements, how many will depend on your budget. It may include multiple iterations of “Christmas Gifts For …” and also key product categories that house several of the key products but are permanent product category pages, not seasonal pages.
Ensuring there are seasonal and non-seasonal category page focuses allows both Paid Search and Organic Search activity to start almost immediately and to be varied from August to December. Optimisation and promotion of non-seasonal pages can start over the summer and the promotion of the seasonal pages can take over in October. Just because in retail we are working hard on Christmas in July and even the media are talking to us about Christmas then it doesn’t mean bloggers or media publications are going to publish content (and links) about Christmas in August.
Beyond the importance of brand visibility for the key products identified above with appropriate media budgets your brand approach to Christmas should consider:
- Competitor strategy – who do you always want to be seen alongside? Who do you always want to be above? Why should customers choose you as opposed to these competitors? What can you do to entice them to buy from you?
- Discount strategy – Black Friday: when, how long for, which products, how much discount? Any other flash sales? Why would you run them? At what point do you introduce a sale to stimulate sales and drive revenue?
- Non-converting keyword strategy – which keywords are relevant for your brand and important for customers to associate with you even though they are unlikely to result in a direct, measurable conversion? How much are you willing to pay for that visibility? Will it drive store footfall? Will it lead to more refined searches that can trigger a conversion? Are you running remarketing of any kind?
Christmas eCommerce Search Engine Marketing Considerations
Across all these three approaches an integrated strategy for your Email Marketing, Social Media, SEO, PPC, Digital PR and Affiliates will ensure a strong brand position and drive cumulative revenue growth. Below are some important considerations for Organic Search and Paid Search:
For eCommerce SEO onsite optimisation of product and category pages needs to be in place by September at the latest, even if all the products are not available to buy online yet. Christmas landing pages should be Live on your site year-round even if they are not in the main navigation. This includes content and technical optimisation. The same goes for your Black Friday landing page. You don’t want to populate the category with the products on offer until you are ready to launch your Black Friday sale, but you should have the page there and optimised as early as possible. Read Christopher’s 3 Black Friday SEO Trends That You Can’t Ignore for some great insights on what to optimise the page for.
Digital PR activity should also be starting in August/September arranging online coverage of the products for closer to Christmas. Offsite promotion/linkbuilding at a product level should not start until the product is in stock and available to buy online. However, considerable research can take place in advance ready for speedy implementation once the stock is in place.
As explained in the Category section above offsite promotion of seasonal pages should not commence before October, although coverage should be arranged prior to this. However, active offsite promotion of key product categories should begin as soon as those key categories have been selected. This will ensure brand visibility and traffic in the research phase of your customers’ buying process, which we identified as being very important in our Black Friday 2016 UK Analysis. You will also be building the authority of permanent category pages so those higher rankings will be there after Christmas when people are shopping for other reasons.
Gaining top of the Search Results visibility may be “quicker” via Paid Search than Organic Search but in order to get that visibility at the lowest possible price a lot of work needs to happen in advance.
Building campaigns and ad copy in advance can help you react quickly to any changes that may come your way
A Google Shopping campaign has got to be central to an eCommerce PPC strategy, so ensuring that your website has a stable, compliant feed into your Google Merchant Centre is essential. If you only run Paid Search/Google Shopping intermittently then making sure that your feed is compliant with any changes that Google may have made to the guidelines in advance could make the difference between selling hundreds of products in the early Christmas Shopping period or being extremely stressed! Effectively structuring and optimising your Google Shopping campaigns in AdWords prior to the peak shopping period will also help build the Quality Score and Relevancy of your campaigns, thereby increasing the likelihood of your products showing for the most relevant search queries. Identifying and building a comprehensive list of negatives which includes non-relevant or non-converting search queries in advance of peak search volumes can save you considerable budget. This takes preparation!
From a Category and Brand perspective building campaigns and testing ad copy in advance of the peak buying period can help your brand to win the click from competitors even if you choose a position 2 or 3 bid strategy, to stretch your media budget further. Building a strong Quality Score for ads prior to peak will also reduce your CPCs so when new sites enter the auction you will be paying less per click than them even though your CPCs will go up.
From a Brand perspective building campaigns and ad copy in advance enables you to react quickly to market changes or business decisions. For example, as an agency running AdWords campaigns we require clients to sign-off ad copy before it goes Live so when the last-minute decision is made to run a sale weekend or free delivery promotion there can be delays in our team being available to create the ad copy, send it for sign-off and then upload the ads to Google which then have to be approved by Google before going Live. If we know that it is likely that over the Christmas period it is probable that there will be special promotional periods then the ad copy can be written and signed-off so when the decision is made all that needs to be tweaked are the % discount and date range and it can be put Live with minimal delay.
Running successful remarketing campaigns over the peak purchasing period requires the building of remarketing lists in advance. When this needs to start depends on the volume of traffic to your site but by at least the end of October in order to build a sizeable list prior to Black Friday.
If you want to find out how ThoughtShift could whip up your Christmas 2017 Search Engine Marketing Strategy, get in touch soon! You can also, follow my contributions to the blog to find out more about digital marketing news and trends, or sign up to the ThoughtShift Guest List, our monthly email, to keep up-to-date on all our blogposts, guides and events.