Christmas In August: Tips For Holiday Marketing
Got your back-to-school marketing campaign all wrapped up? Good, now you can start on your Christmas campaign.
Yes, I said Christmas campaign. Yes, it is only August. Hey, you got time to lean, you got time to. . .preen your holiday season marketing plan.
Yeah, I know. Sometimes corny’s all I got. Bygones.
So, we know that shoppers start Christmas bargain hunting before they’ve even taken the Halloween ghosts off the front door. But if you wait until October to reach those early birds, it’s not just too late to reach them, but it maybe too late to reach online procrastinators and beat competitors, too.
In 2005, you needed an estimated four months to work your way up the search rankings. Since then, competition’s gotten fiercer and Google’s gotten tougher. But, Google has also gotten faster in terms of how long it takes to index and rank new content, and there are a lot more channels to exploit. So it’s not so much about how long it takes (but strategy always takes time), but also about how well you target customers and provide relevancy to their needs.
The rest of this article will be divided into two sections: New things to consider this year in advance of the holiday season when preparing your campaign; and things to remember every season.
The New School
Get a clue with Google Insights: Google recently announced the availability of Google Insights, which allows online marketers to access to some nice data. In addition to stats like search volume for keywords, and rising keyword popularity, Google’s new tool lets you analyze keyword trends for specific time periods and break them down by region—i.e., you can see popular variations of "Hanukkah candles" keyed from Alabama between October and December.
DoubleClick on content network enhancements: It’s hard not to be Google-centric when it comes to online marketing, but reality is reality. That said, last week’s rollout of advertiser-friendly enhancements to Google’s content network have generated some buzz, especially because of the availability of "frequency capping." Frequency capping allows advertisers to control the number of times a single user sees a particular ad. If it didn’t convert the first three times with somebody, then chances are it’s never going to. They’ve also added frequency reporting, which shows how many people saw an ad, and how many times they saw it, and view-through conversions, which shows how many people visited a site after seeing an ad. Try to book banner ads now so you can squeeze out late-comers.
Get your landing pages ready. Remember to think like a searcher and be aware of where they might land after clicking a result or an ad. If they’re searching for a specific camera, it makes their life easier if, when they click, they actually land on a page featuring that camera. Nothing’s more annoying than having to search on a search engine and then search again on a website. Landing pages should be highly specific and should be easy to navigate to a sale. You can make these landing pages part of a microsite instead of making huge changes to your main site. Don’t forget to include discounts and coupons.
Link building, as always. There’s no surer way to gain relevancy in Google than to attain quality inbound links. Even better if you can start grabbing links anchored by specific keywords. A link anchored by "cool socks" in August, could be incredibly valuable by November. Maybe there’s an online store for "cool shoes" somewhere that wouldn’t mind swapping links, eh?
Content, content, content, forever. Content becomes especially important during the holiday shopping season. Not only will great content bolster your natural keywords, but it really helps customers make decisions and form trust. If we go back to the camera example, a good idea is to write up overviews of all the great new digital cameras coming to market, their stats, their user reviews, and don’t forget price. Make your camera page so that the customer never has to leave your site to get all the information they need, and once they have it they can just click the Buy button. Great content also earns those ever-important inbound links.
Shipping isn’t free, but it should look that way. An offer of free shipping is the single element most likely to close a sale. Customers want it, and they expect it. They at least expect that, if you’re able to undercut everybody else’s price—especially the price at a local store—that the shipping cost doesn’t make it so the cheap price doesn’t matter anymore. Say you’re camera is $200, and that’s $25 cheaper than anybody else, but shipping and tax make it $230, you’re not going to stand out among merchants because the end result isn’t any different. If a person’s impatience and anxiety is stronger than their laziness, they’ll likely just run to the local shop instead of worrying about the camera actually making it to their doorstep in tact.
Make it easy to buy and make it easy to tell other people about the deal. Nobody likes a complicated checkout. Keep the checkout process to a few steps. Interestingly, though, people tend to distrust checkouts that are too easy, because they fear a scam. Just think about what makes you most comfortable when buying online and replicate that experience. Also, harness the power of viral marketing by giving customers the opportunity to tell people they know about the great deal they got. Why not, on the product page and during the checkout stage, add a button that says something like "Tell a friend about this great deal," and provide a way for them to spread the word. Again, nothing complicated or spammy. If you provide the subject line or text "check it out" or something similarly vague and ingenuous, it is likely to be ignored. Keep it simple, straightforward, and personable, something like "Yoursite.com has a good deal on cameras."
Location, location, location. If you have a physical presence, take advantage of online mapping and other local services. It may be hard to stand out in that big sea of online commerce, but it’s easy to stand out in your hometown. Make sure you target location-specific angles to help people just around the corner find you.