Sr. Internet Marketing Consultant, SEO
Gift Guides Best Practices for 2020
As the holiday season approaches, you may be considering publishing gift guides, a useful marketing strategy for e-commerce sites to help direct users to related products and ultimately boost revenue.
Given the quick-paced nature of this time of year, these types of guides are intended to help expedite the customer journey by making products more easily found by consumers. A well-executed gift guide should limit the number of clicks it takes a user to navigate to priority product pages and purchasing points, which also has benefits for how search engines’ crawlers understand the site.
It’s likely that more consumers than ever will turn to online shopping this holiday season, so the following SEO tips and best practices will help you determine whether or not your holiday gift guide strategy is optimized for success.
As with any holiday strategy, setting early deadlines is important. (Start executing now!)
- Holiday-specific content and metadata should be updated at least 30 days prior to the targeted holiday; SEO best practice suggests 2-3 months prior being optimal to allow the content to be indexed ahead of the holiday season. This includes changes to the gift guide landing pages as well as the home page and featured product or category pages. If possible, content can be refreshed closer to the approaching holiday to better target last-minute shoppers by incorporating verbiage such as, “gifts will arrive before December 25.”
- A post-holiday gift guide can be leveraged to capitalize on the large influx of online shoppers that continues at the end of December into January. This guide should focus on product pairings to encourage users to purchase complementary products to gifts they may have already received. A post-holiday gift guide can also help take advantage of online shoppers using gift cards.
Metadata & Content
Effectively connecting with your customers starts with a deep understanding of their behavior and interests. Then, once you understand your customers, you can start creating gift guides and other holiday content that is both highly relevant and easily found. These are a few specific tactics you can use to start connecting with your customers around the holiday season:
- Targeting long-tail keywords may be a more viable strategy, rather than highly-competitive, broad, high search volume keywords (e.g., “gift guides,” “gift ideas”).
- Identify appropriate audiences to shape content and metadata around and to help guide long-tail keyword targeting. Some examples include: relationships, demographics, and even hobbies.
- Gift guides should include content beyond simply image tiles. The guides should help sell the products by describing them and why they would make great gifts. This also helps crawlers better understand a gift guide page.
- Metadata should be optimized for both the gift guide landing pages and any other landing pages featured on or associated with the gift guides or larger holiday promotions. Incorporating holiday metadata across various, applicable sections of the site can help boost rankings and drive qualified traffic of holiday shoppers to the site.
Linking & Syndication Management
If you’re not doing so already, take some time to work on your site structure to optimize internal and external links, as they represent an opportunity to make your site more visible during this pivotal shopping period.
- Support your gift guide with other holiday-themed content, such as blog posts, home page features, holiday-specific products, etc.
- Internal links should be incorporated across the site to help users easily navigate back to gift guides from category, subcategory, and product pages. This can be accomplished by temporarily adding the main gift guide into the site’s main navigation, incorporating it into breadcrumbs, or featuring it in a promotional banner.
- Leverage external links, especially from partner sites, to help put the gift guide in front of different audiences and help build the guide’s page authority.
- Consider social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and email marketing techniques to accompany onsite gift guide strategy.
- Ensure the proper schema is being utilized across the site, especially for top revenue-driving categories during holiday. Industry experts found that voice search is especially popular for holiday shoppers in Q4, and emphasized capturing this traffic relied on properly-incorporated schema.
- An evergreen URL should be created for the main holiday gift guide page to allow the page to stay on the site year-round and gain authority.
Identifying opportunity audiences and product types to target when developing a strategy for gift guides is just one of the many ways Rise can help you. If you’re working on a gift guide, other holiday content, or just need some SEO expertise, don’t hesitate to reach out for more assistance from Rise.
Your Technical SEO Guide to Holiday Season
This year, marketers have seen an unprecedented shift in digital: target audiences exclusively communicating with you online, major eCommerce holidays such as Prime Day cancelled, and two impactful algorithm updates from Google.
It’s safe to say that more holiday shoppers than ever before will start their search online this year, and your SEO strategy needs to be in good shape to secure the SERP. Read on for technical SEO best practices this holiday season.
Developing Your Seasonal Pages from Performance Data
When creating new seasonal pages, evaluate your SEO opportunities to optimize by analyzing these indicators on existing pages:
- Search volume and competition
- Relevant keywords and their rankings
- Historical engagement metrics
- SERP relevance
Finding Your Keyword Sweet Spot
Having designated landing pages for seasonal content allows your brand to target seasonal keywords, rather than product keywords related to the season. Beware of targeting too broad or too specific:
- “Too Broad” Example: “Gifts for mom” (LMS 165,000) is a highly-competitive keyword with blog and article sites ranking well in search results.
- “Too Specific” Example: “Gift ideas for moms who enjoy reading” (0 LMS) does not present any SEO opportunity, as it does not experience any search volume.
- Appropriate Target Keyword Examples: keywords such as “Reading gifts for mom” (LMS 1,300) and “Book gifts for mom” (LMS 320) are more likely to potentially rank, and still experience a large amount of searches.
Maintenance of Seasonal Content
It is SEO best practice for seasonal product listing pages or blogs to be kept live on the site year-round to maintain page authority and rankings from one season to the next. We strongly recommend not deleting, redirecting, or temporarily redirecting seasonal pages after the holidays.
- If necessary, a “Coming Soon” message can be placed on seasonal pages when they are composed of products that are not available throughout the year.
- As long as the URL remains in the HTML sitemap, it is safe to remove seasonal pages from the site’s main navigation. It’s best to reincorporate them back into your nav about 2-3 months prior to the anticipated spike in seasonal traffic (now, if you haven’t yet!).
Internal Linking Management
It is important to leverage internal linking opportunities across the site to help drive traffic to seasonal pages when appropriate; this will also enhance crawlability and spread authority throughout your site.
- A successful internal linking strategy can help drive top-of-funnel traffic down the funnel towards conversion points.
- Seasonal category pages should be linked from the associated product and subcategory pages.
- Avoid sending mixed signals to your crawlers and users: don’t link to seasonal pages from irrelevant content on the site, and resist linking to multiple seasonal pages from a single product or subcategory page.
- Ensure anchor text for internal links sounds natural and contextual to the seasonal page to which it’s linked. For example, “explore our options” does not provide context and would not be optimal anchor text, whereas “Reading Gifts for Mom” could be optimal anchor text.
Metadata and on-page content should be refreshed prior to the seasonal page’s peak time.
- Any refreshes should be implemented at least 2-3 months prior to the season to ensure search engines have an ample amount of time to crawl the new version of the page and incorporate changes into updating their search result rankings.
- As mentioned above, if products on a seasonal page are time-dependent and not yet available, use a “Coming Soon” placeholder message to indicate to users and crawlers that the content and products will be updated and available shortly.
The following governance rules are specific to eCommerce sites’ XML sitemaps:
- Avoid redirect chains - when a URL refers to a URL that, itself, is already redirecting. Redirect chains can present issues for site speed, indexation, and user experience. 301-redirected URLs should be removed from the XML sitemap and the 301 redirect chains themselves should be reviewed periodically for optimization. 301 redirects should point old URLs to the correct destination in the most efficient way possible.
- Always keep recurring seasonal categories & pages (such as Back-to-School, Christmas, etc.) live in the XML sitemap, ensuring that they are not removed or redirected, in order to maintain the pages’ authority and avoid any “redirect chains.”
- Categories and pages that either no longer exist on the site or return no products (and will not contain any products again in the future) are considered Discontinued and should be removed from the XML sitemap. 301 redirect the URL to the most topically relevant category.
- Categories and pages that will only exist for a limited time should include the “unavailable_after” meta tag to set the date at which the category/product will expire. This will tell Google to stop indexing that respective category / product after that date. If the category / product will not return in the future, redirect the pages using the Discontinued Categories governance rule.
- Products that will continue to be offered but are not currently in stock should have implemented out-of-stock schema on the page and a clear out-of-stock label in the copy. Do not change the status code of the URL (redirecting is unnecessary). If a product is discontinued, refer to the Discontinued Categories governance rule.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re ready to help. Reach out to Rise to learn how our data-driven SEO team partners with clients for successful organic search performance, in and out of holiday season.
Best Practices | Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) and Curbside Pick Up
Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (“BOPIS”) and Curbside Pick Up options have become increasingly more important for retailers with physical locations. This unprecedented need has set many marketers scrambling to set up the digital infrastructure to accommodate the process. Read on for best practices to optimize your BOPIS/Curbside Pick Up pages.
Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) Best Practices
BOPIS is typically a more popular purchasing option in certain markets, such as suburban areas, where transportation is efficient and convenient. Customers that are already frequent shoppers or loyal to a specific brand/store are more likely to use the BOPIS options than new customers.
BOPIS is a desirable sale method for brands since it is the least expensive way of getting a product to a customer. It is common for stores to offer coupon codes for those that utilize BOPIS for future purchases to help sell users on this option. Walmart’s website setup for BOPIS is an exemplary model for how to optimize a site to effectively highlight and utilize the BOPIS option.
Best Practice #1: A unique landing page for BOPIS should exist on the site. This page should...
- Be easily found in the site’s main navigation.
- Clearly explain how BOPIS works, providing step-by-step instructions for the online portion of the process and pick-up of purchased items at a store.
- Be linked to from any category or product page that mentions the BOPIS option.
- Include relevant schema markup for how to take advantage of BOPIS.
- Be featured on the site and include special promotions (such as back-to-school, holiday, etc.) for popular BOPIS products or seasons.
Best Practice #2: Product or category pages that offer the BOPIS service should...
- Clearly identify which location is being inventoried and give customers an easy way of toggling between locations.
- Include special messaging to indicate that BOPIS is pending in-store inventory.
- Include relevant schema markup for in-store availability.
- Follow a consistent template for how BOPIS is displayed.
Best Practice #3: Local landing pages for physical stores should be optimized to include...
- Information about what BOPIS is or a link to the site’s main, unique BOPIS landing page.
- An option to browse product inventory based on that particular store’s availability.
- Proper schema markup and the completion of relevant fields in Google My Business.
Best Practice #4: Take additional BOPIS-related technical steps, such as...
- Verifying that the site and BOPIS filters, features, etc. are all mobile-friendly and accessible on all devices.
- Setting up analytics to track BOPIS conversions separately from regular online purchases.
- Leveraging other channels, such as paid search and affiliate, to help support and drive BOPIS traffic and sales.
Curbside Pickup Best Practices
One popular consumer response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to pick up online orders curbside without having to physically enter a store and with minimal interaction with employees. This time-sensitive trend presents temporary opportunity and necessity for your brand to leverage the site’s curbside pickup option.
Search popularity for “Curbside Pickup” steadily increased throughout the month of March, peaking at a high score of 100 by the end of the month (based on Google Trends data score from 0-100, with “100” being the most popular). Prior to March, search popularity for this term was consistently scoring less than 5.
With the curbside pickup option being relatively new, especially for retail companies, it is important to understand what type of information users are seeking when decision-making and placing orders.
General information that should be clearly covered about the curbside pickup option includes...
- What curbside pickup is and its purpose (focusing specifically on the COVID-19 considerations and minimal exposure to public space or employees)
- How to choose the curbside pickup option at checkout
- Answers to FAQs about who can pick up the order, timing of the order, special cases surrounding the option, etc.
Reach out to Rise for more information from our SEO experts on how to update your digital presence for optimized BOPIS and curbside pickup options.
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