SEO for holiday shoppers

Here we are at the end of October and you’re realizing your SEO is not in shape for the holidays. Whether that’s because you are just now understanding that your SEO strategy isn’t going to yield the results you want before the holidays, or if you’ve just procrastinated – you’re looking for some techniques that will generate short-term wins.

Fortunately, they exist.

A couple of years ago I wrote a similar piece on last-minute SEO tips for the holidays. That left readers with about three weeks to make use of them.

This year we’re getting a slightly earlier start, so let’s dive in with 5 things you can do right now to get started on making more money during this peak time of year.

Titles and descriptions in the SERPs

I’m going to start with the only tip that I’ll be repeating from my previous article and that’s titles and descriptions. I’m repeating it for two reasons:

  1. It’s easily the most straight-forward thing you can do with tremendous impact.
  2. There have been changes in how to approach this.

Let’s consider a parent is out looking for a video game for his kids and encounters two titles and descriptions in the SERPs:

Title: Gamer-Rated Top 10 Video Games For Christmas 2018 |
Description: Gamer Empire enlists top video game enthusiasts to rate and rank this year’s top video games to make your Christmas gift buying easier.


Title: Best Video Games | Last Guardian, Titanfall 2, Pokemon Sun & Moon, Battlefield
Description: Best video games for Christmas including Last Guardian, Titalfall 2, Pokemon Such & Moon, Battlefield 1, Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Skyrim, PS4, xBox One

Which one am I likely to click? One tells me that I’m going to find what I’ve likely queried, the other is showing me a list of things I probably don’t recognize.

Look through the new Search Console and find the terms that your pages are ranking for and focus your titles and descriptions on improving the clickthroughs for those terms. Remember, you are not just optimizing for the person who wants what’s offered on your site, you’re optimizing for the people who would purchase it for them.

This year, we can very quickly test titles (and thankfully we have time) with Google Ads. With the expanded text ads now allowing three sets of 30 characters rather than two (and in the fall of 2016 it had just been increased from a single 25-character headline) and descriptions now increased from 80 to 90 characters, we can test versions a lot closer to what we would deploy organically.

Importance of featured snippets

Featured snippets give you the opportunity to jump the queue and launch yourself into the coveted position zero for a lot of the types of queries that holiday shoppers would use (remember – for this purchaser they often don’t know what they want so many of the queries will be exploratory).

Here’s what Tech Radar pulled off for one such phrase:

In my opinion, that featured snippet is more valuable than any #1.

If we consider some of the data regarding the growth in voice search, that will be a strong influencer as well. The folks at Stone Temple Consulting (now Perficient Digital) outlined the year-over-year data in voice search just after the holidays last year in this study. At its core, it revealed a much stronger willingness of people to use voice search, especially in public (read: on their phones).

Featured snippets essentially drive voice search but they are a bit different so I recommend reading this piece by Brian Ussery. There have been a few changes since it was written a year ago however the information and process are still valid.

Updating evergreen URL with new content

This advice pretty much works anytime but never more than when you’re in a scramble for rankings to attract visitors who may not necessarily buy from you for their own purposes.

Top lists of popular games/toys/books/etc. are always a winner. Staff Picks. Reviews and ratings. Guides.

Think not about what you sell or what the people who want to buy it would search for, think about who shops for that demographic, what questions they would have, how they would ask it and target that in your content.

If you do this annually, I’d recommend creating a URL something like:


Next year when you update it take the content from that location if you want to archive it and move it to something like:


And put your 2019 content at the old URL. You’re effectively creating an evergreen URL but keeping your archive. This will keep any link weight passing to the primary URL headed to your most current content.

Rank elsewhere and format correctly

If you want to rank for terms that are too competitive for your current site strength, find strong resources that can rank that accept guest articles. But be careful to review Google’s reminder about large-scale article campaigns.

  1. Make a shortlist of 3 or 4 sites that rank well within your niche and accept guest articles.
  2. Research exactly what type of content resonated with THEIR audience. Use your favorite backlink or social measurement tool to figure out what content on their site gets shared the most.
  3. Create content ideas and outlines around what will appeal to their audience that overlaps with what you want to rank for and your knowledge base.
  4. Read their guidelines incredibly carefully and pitch in the EXACT format requested.
  5. In your pitch, be concise. Editors have a tough, time-consuming job making people like me look good. Respect that and keep your pitch to the point but thorough and showing your knowledge of both the subject matter and their audience.

Rank during and post-holiday queries

We have several clients in travel and one of their biggest buying seasons is not before the holidays but rather, during them. It’s when family and friends get together and our analytics tells us how it plays out in many households.

Rather than searching for a “vacation rental Portland” they’re looking for “family reunion portland” or “8 bedroom vacation rental Portland.”

The searchers are looking not for a general type of place but are searching based on the end criteria (i.e., we need x bedrooms, or we want to host y event, etc.).

Couple this with the excitement and convenience of everyone being together, place a low barrier-to-entry on the site (a low non-refundable deposit in one case) and you’re set up to win.

The reason this ties to SEO is that the terms you’ll be targeting are often less competitive. Everyone wants to rent out their “vacation rental portland” but far less competition for the bedrooms, amenities, etc.

At the same time, you’ve got a bunch of folks with newly received gift cards and their searches will be very specific.

Where the parent might have looked for “best video games 2018,” the gift card holder will be searching queries like “black ops 4 price” or “black ops 4 ps4 cheap.”

The search volume isn’t what you’d see for just “black ops 4” but the terms are far easier to target, and the strategy works just as well if you rank already for the core terms and are just expanding to get the during-and-post holiday traffic you might have been missing out.

Focus on maximizing your strategy

The holidays are a time to pull up your socks and focus on the things you can do that will impact your results and maximize your earning from holiday shoppers and post-holiday spenders. Next year, promise yourself you’ll get an earlier start with SEO for the 2019 holidays.