Is Your Website Ready for the 2014 Holiday Season?

How Your Business Can Leverage The Increase In Web Activity This Holiday Season To Increase Sales

October 2014


Consumers’ expectations around their holiday purchasing experiences are changing rapidly. In 2013, a spike in Internet traffic on Cyber Monday resulted in roughly 900 million visits to over 2,000 websites. This was a 16 percent increase in sales from 2012. Even the consumers who made purchases at brick-and-mortar businesses still expect to interact with those businesses online. Seventy-one percent of shoppers last holiday season expected to view in-store inventory online, and 50 percent expected to have the ability to buy online and pick up in-store. Consumers also want to be able to use their phones to shop products from and within stores.

What does this mean for your business website, and how can your business, regardless of industry, benefit from the spike in Internet searching during the 2014 holiday season? Let’s take a look.

Winter Clean-Up

Why wait until spring to deep clean your website? According to Lorraine Ball, founder of Roundpeg, an Indianapolis-based digital marketing strategy agency, you have to start with the absolute basics, like updating your website’s operating system so you can ensure that your site’s load time won’t slow down because more people are accessing it than usual. Also, check with your Internet provider about your site’s load time and find out if and how that can be improved from their end. “Just like you would do routine service on any other piece of equipment, you definitely want to have that service check on your website before going into the holiday rush,” says Ball.

Simple SEO

While you are cleaning up your site, the next component you should look at is maximizing your search. Google made a number of changes to their search algorithm this year and those changes actually favor small, local businesses. “Google’s updates earlier this year really give small businesses the upper hand if the businesses clean up their websites and give Google the right information,” says Ball.

If you are not an SEO expert, or are even unsure of what SEO means, there are a few very simple steps you can take to make sure your website pops up at the top of the page when potential customers are doing related searches. The most important thing is to clean up your contact information across your online presence. That means standardizing your business name, address, phone number, email, and other contact information on every page of your website, your Google+ page, Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. For example, your address cannot appear as 250 3rd Street in one place and 250 Third St. somewhere else. The information must be exact for Google to recognize that all these pages are from the same business and to boost your ranking.

While more and more people are searching for local businesses online, giving each page of your website an accurate name is critical. “Rolling into the holiday season, make sure your pages are titled correctly and that you have information about your specialized services on your website,” says Ball. “If you are a local catering company that offers a special menu for New Year’s Eve parties, don’t just have a page that says, ‘dinner party catering.’ Create a blog post that talks about the five foods you should always serve at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, or, the six mistakes a hostess makes when planning a New Year’s Eve party. In the old days, you used to be able to just use the same keyword over and over again. Google and its robots are smarter than that now, so you need a greater volume of content about the search term in lots of different places other than sales-oriented pages.”

With more and more people searching the Internet on smartphones with voice command tools, the search terms people use have changed. “Suddenly we don’t do searches that say ‘carpet cleaner Indianapolis,’ ”says Ball. “We say things like ‘Siri, who can I call to clean my carpet?’ Suddenly, we are doing searches in natural language, both by voice and by typing.”

Creating web pages with relevant names can help your website adjust to this change. For example, create a series of blog posts around some frequently asked questions your business gets this time of year. While that same carpet cleaning business may have an FAQ page with information about stains, that business can improve its page ranking by posting a blog about preventing chocolate stains or the five most stubborn carpet stains.

For Sales in 2015

If your business experiences an increase in sales and web traffic volume, create a strategy for capturing email addresses from these holiday visitors. “For small businesses, one of the most important strategies you can have is some sort of offer on your website that encourages people to give you their email addresses so that you can send them regular emails during the holiday season and beyond,” says Ball. “Those offers can be anything from coupons to free buying guide downloads. I work with some small food manufacturers, and in exchange for providing an email address, people receive their newsletter containing two new recipes each week.”

Once you have a way to stay in touch with customers and prospects all year, you will stay top of mind for the next time they are in the market for your product or service.

But you have to have those things in place, because if you know your traffic is going to spike during the holidays, this is your best shot. You’re moving up to the big leagues for six or eight weeks. Make sure you’re ready to play.

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