The internet has made it fairly easy for holiday shoppers to wait until the last minute to buy gifts. But if you’re an online retailer and depend heavily on holiday sales, procrastination is not an option.
Even if you own a brick-and-mortar business and don’t sell much online, most people conduct research online before they ever walk into your store. Therefore, it’s smart to prepare your website for the rush.
You may think the holidays don’t matter for your business, but they do. Nearly 20% of all sales happen during the holidays. As an online store owner with over a dozen e-commerce-only sites, I have noticed a sizable increase in sales starting in November.
Now is the time to get the ball rolling for the holidays. Here’s what you can do to get your website holiday-ready.
1. Create holiday content plans asap
Before they turn to the internet to buy, holiday shoppers turn to the internet for ideas. They might know a family member or friend who has an interest in what you sell, but it’s likely their knowledge stops there. Here are a few ways you can get started:
Create holiday shopper content for those at the top of the sales funnel. For example, for one of our brands, we created an infographic on how to save money for the holidays, which was pitched and leveraged for links and media opportunities.
Design visual content that answers broad questions about your product or service; which are likely to be asked by people who fall outside of your typical buyer profile.
Develop a holiday-themed logo.
If you outsource your content, send assignments to your freelancers as quickly as possible.
2. Tweak your search engine optimization
Online holiday shopping begins with a Google search. If the enticing new content you’ve created is buried in Google search abyss, no one will ever see it, and it’ll be worthless.
Identify holiday-specific keywords and phrases that sync with your new content. Remember, people aren’t shopping for “camping gear,” they’re shopping for “camping gear holiday gift ideas.” For our jewelry brand, we identify searches like “holiday proposals” and “holiday marriage proposals,” which we optimize early in the year.
Keep in mind, it’s incredibly difficult to target keywords based on data from last holiday season. In the case of holiday SEO, just go with your gut. What would you search for if the roles were reversed?
3. Tune-up your website
Load time and page speed have a big impact on your bottom line 365 days a year, but never more so than during a frantic holiday rush. A single second delay can trigger a 7% drop in conversions. For a retailer making $100,000 a day, that’s a loss of $2.5 million per year. But luckily, increasing page speed is a relatively quick and easy fix.
You also don’t want Google or your users to discover broken pages or links, as this could reduce your credibility. To scan your site for broken links and 404 errors, use tools like Screaming Frog.
Use Link Redirect Trace to ensure all of your 301 redirects are operating correctly, there are no unnecessary redirect loops, and you’re not sending Google or visitors to incorrect pages.
Also consider the performance of your web host. A cheap, shared hosting company during the holiday shopping season is almost never worth the associated savings. If you’re doing everything right, it’s likely you will see a big boost in holiday traffic. But if this increase in visitors results in crashes, slowdowns, or even worse, website downtime, then what have you gained by cutting costs?
If you truly can’t afford a few dollars — or a few hundred dollars — a month for the critical service of a VPS or dedicated server, consider tweaking your budget for better hosting for a few months until the start of the new year.
4. Focus on mobile
Holiday shoppers often start their search on a mobile device. Google considers your users’ mobile experience as important, and so should you.
Learn the difference between how content behaves on different devices, like tablets, smartphones, multimedia phones and feature phones. Test your sites’ mobile-friendliness on Mobile Test.me. Upgrade your website with responsive web design so it looks good on all devices. If your not mobile-friendly, you’re leaving money on the table.
5. Prepare your promo codes
During the holidays, there’s intense pressure for retailers to get promotional codes listed at the top of major coupon and discount directories. Directories want to offer the most valuable, useful coupons. For the holidays, up the stakes with extras like free shipping.
6. Review checkout security
As part of their “HTTPS everywhere” promotion, Google strives to make all websites more secure with the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, or the “green bar” URL strategy.
Not only does HTTPS make sites more secure during the critical holiday shopping season, but Google considers it an important search ranking signal. Better security at checkout doesn’t only benefit your customers: It also benefits you. A single security breach can impact your website and traffic for many holidays to come.
With 20% of all business being done in a just a few frantic, critical weeks and months of the year, the holiday season is crucial for every website owner, even if you do most of your business in a physical store. The holidays are right around the corner: Take the time to plan, prepare and prevail.
This article has been edited.
Marcela De Vivo is a marketing advisor at Mulligan Funding, a working capital lender for small to medium sized businesses.