Remember Labor Day? In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), that’s the last day for kicking your holiday SEO into high gear and it’s already a couple weeks past—but don’t worry. There’s still time to play catch up and get your website ready for the holidays. Don’t listen to the Eeyores of marketing departments or your in-house SEO guru. It’s feasible (but challenging) to come up with a complete SEO strategy for the 2014 holidays, but it’s going to take extreme savviness and perhaps bringing in a ringer (in the form of an outsourced SEO expert).
There’s a reason the holidays seem to pop up early online (not to mention in stores): It’s never too early to start your holiday preparations. How visible your website is during the autumn plays a crucial role in many company’s annual financials and drives (or sinks) the bottom line. Is it too late to get the website visibility you need to achieve your goals? Not necessarily, especially since website visibility can be reached with a number of tactics.
All Eyes on You
The broad term “website visibility” encompasses any legal tactic to get more people (hopefully customers) looking at your website. There are two main options: Organic and paid. For organic, that’s determined by the quality of your website factors and how they relate to a search engine’s algorithm, eventually resulting in where you rank in the SERP (search engine result pages). Alternative “organic” options may include articles, interviews, social media, and events, but for the most part “organic” infers “search.”
Paid encompasses nearly any approach besides organic that requires a payment. Think Google AdWords, affiliates, AdSense, or syndication. If you’re willing to pay for a visit, there are options aplenty. Obviously you’ll get more website visibility (after all, you’re paying for it) but as a rule of thumb organic approaches achieve better conversions. Think of paid as the accessory to organic strategies—and always make sure you’re following legal, Google penalty-free paid methods.
Organic isn’t just good for you when it comes to your diet. Search isn’t the only option, especially this far after Labor Day when you should be thigh-deep in white hat holiday strategies. Right now, you can’t safely work on organic SEO in order to boost a site to the cream of competitive SERPs. There are “aggressive visibility methods,” but that can bring you a Google penalty which you’ll be cleaning up well after the New Year (in other words, don’t do it).
Instead, create a plan of action for year-round visibility starting now. Ideally, you have an annual plan that just needs a few tweaks for the holiday search terms. Focus on authority, reputation, and branding non-stop. Start thinking about next year’s holidays while still playing catch up for 2014. Kick things off with a site audit so you know where you stand, legal shortcuts for quick improvements, and any algorithm updates you haven’t made yet.
Check to see if there are any easy to implement long-tail keywords that are a match for you. They’ll be less competitive (and in turn require less effort), but that means you can set your sights on more long-tails. The ROI is pretty high given user intent, and you won’t spend as much. Finally, don’t forget about outreach of the non-paid variety, like a blogger offering a freebie guest blog or a local networking event. Create viral content, share it, get seen, and do the legwork.
Paid options should be a last effort for those on a budget, but they can drum up quick results. Consider paid search ads, social media ads, and affiliate options. Just don’t bust the budget—you, like your customers, need a little holiday cushion, too.