The dog days of summer are upon us and many people are looking forward
to the beginning of football season and the onset of autumn. As your
business settles into the third quarter of 2003 it's tempting to
believe that there is plenty of time left before you need to think
about your company's Christmas marketing campaign. After all, the
leaves haven't even begun to change colors yet, so there's plenty of
time left before you need to think about fourth quarter revenues.
While we may still be in August, I can guarantee that within the
next 4-6 weeks your local department stores will start showing signs
that they are preparing for the Christmas season. September has become
the month that many traditional "offline" businesses start
gearing up for Santa's visit and while an early start on your search
engine marketing efforts may not attract the jolly guy in the red
suit, there is a lot you can do now to ensure many other visitors
locate your website.
Avoid the last minute rush
Last year, I wrote an article entitled "Last Minute SEO
Christmas List" which was published in November. In that article
I looked at the different last-gasp SEO efforts your company could
make if it had not yet implemented a search engine campaign. With US
online sales for 2003 estimated to top $100 million (up from $73
million in 2002), let's not take any chances with our efforts and make
sure your website is ready now.
Rather than re-hashing the same general advice regarding search
engine marketing, let's take a look at some techniques you should be
thinking about if you want to ensure a Merry Christmas.
If you've added content, did you optimize it?
Chances are, you have added or will add new content or products to
satisfy your visitors over the Christmas period. While your older,
established pages have probably received attention; it can be
difficult to keep all your new pages optimized. Take time now to
review them to ensure that they at least have unique, keyword-rich
title and Meta tags.
Have you checked your keyword density?
Every page on your website should be focused around a theme. If you
don't know the theme or keywords a particular page of your website is
targeting, visit one of the many keyword density analyzers that are
freely available. A great one can be located at Search
Engine World. Simply tell this little "spider simulator"
which of your pages to check and it will analyze your content and let
you know which search terms are the most repeated on that page. Make
sure that you have between 3-5 search terms targeted on each page and
aim for density between 5-15% (depending on the number of total words
for that page).
Keep up to date with keyword trends
Have you checked the search frequencies for your targeted search
terms recently? It's amazing how quickly trends come and go. If you
have not reviewed your targeted search terms in the past 2-3 months,
now is the perfect time to go back and review the numbers. You should
not only use tools such as WordTracker, but also read publications for
your industry to help spot potential trends or search terms that might
develop between now and the end of the year. If you can identify a
potential keyword to target now, before it shows up on WordTracker,
you can help your business stay ahead of the competition.
Staying ahead of your competitors
Speaking of competition, have you checked the websites of your top
competitors recently? While making fine adjustments to your campaign
is great, they cannot be successfully accomplished without reviewing
the efforts of your biggest competitors. Which products are they
targeting; what press releases have they issued? Knowing your
competitors' movements will not only help you with your SEO efforts
but also prepare you for theirs.
Review your inbound links
How is that all-important inbound link campaign coming along?
Chances are, once you managed to get a couple of dozen websites to
link to your website, you took your foot off the gas. Don't get
complacent, especially if you want your website to be at the top of
the search engine results come Christmas. Techniques for linking have
been discussed exhaustively, so we wont go into much detail here.
However, make sure you regularly go back and review the websites that
are pointing to your company. "Are they still linking to
you?" is the biggest question. Are they using keywords in their
link to your website? If they are simply using the domain name as the
link, send them a polite email asking them to include your most
important search term in their link. If you are already linking back
to them, take the lead and make a similar change on your website
first. That way you can show them the type of format that you would
like them to use in return.
Improve usability of your site
Few search engine marketers cover usability when discussing
optimization. However, ensuring a visitor to your website not only
sticks around longer than a few seconds, but also buys from you goes
hand-in-hand with any SEO campaign. Make it easy for every visitor to
your website to navigate to your products or services page. Use every
opportunity to initiate a "call to action." If your biggest
seller happens to be the latest MP3 player, make sure there is a
prominent link or graphic to that page from your index. Also make sure
your website contains the important information most visitors are
looking for when deciding to make a purchase online. According to
eBrain Market Research, the features sought after by most consumers
90% Free Shipping
81% Discounts to Frequent Shoppers
77% Tracking on purchases
51% Received a High Rating from an independent source
Implementing an extensive search engine marketing campaign to
double the number of visitors to your website can take time and
effort. However, in some instances, it can be easier to make some
minor changes to the usability of your website to increase your
conversion rate. Doubling your traffic while doubling your conversion
rate can make for some great fourth quarter numbers.
Your wake-up call
Although space does not allow for a comprehensive outline of steps
to take to ensure your website is ready for Christmas, I hope that
this message serves as a wake-up call to everyone responsible for
marketing their company's website. While Christmas may well seem like
a long way off, search engine marketing contains a lot of research,
implementation and patience (as you wait for search engines to spider
and index your site). By starting your search engine campaign in
August, you hopefully won't need my last-minute articles come
Andy Beal is Vice President of Search Marketing
global leaders in professional search engine marketing. Highly respected as a
source of search engine marketing advice, Andy has had articles published
around the world and is a repeat speaker at Danny Sullivan's Search Engine
Strategies conferences. Clients include Alaska Air, Peopleclick, Jos. A. Bank
and NBC. You can reach Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org
and view his daily SEO blog at http://searchlowdown.blogspot.com.