If your business sees an uptick (or downturn) in revenue annually during particular times of the year, you experience seasonality. While some seasonal event impact is trivial, other businesses see a large percentage of annual revenue coming from just a few months.
This is why it’s so important to spend time optimizing all steps of the conversion funnel.
Whether you’re preparing for Black Friday, Valentine's Day,Singles Day or any other timeline, following the strategies detailed below will help you maximize performance and mitigate risks associated with increased attention on your brand.
Search engine optimization, much like conversion rate optimization (CRO), is generally a long-haul effort. Further complicating the matter is that digital marketing tactics only serving search engines (and not the humans reading your words), can leave your brand with a sloppy pile of disconnected content.
What is a brand to do when it comes to SEO and seasonal opportunities? The answer lies in longer-term planning and metrics benchmarking.
Long-term SEO & content planning
A powerful asset for long-term marketing planning is an editorial calendar. If you’ve never made one, keep it simple. Open a spreadsheet, add the columns you see below and you have an editorial calendar. You can add more information like business objectives and project status as you grow in complexity--but this is a great starting point.
Keyword research and campaign planning:
- Use an SEO research tool (we use SEMRush) to find related keywords and top-ranking content for your core topic
- Analyze competitor content (include top companies and upcoming competitors)
- Follow the steps laid out in: "6 steps to planning highly-effective seasonal marketing campaigns”.
Measurement & benchmarking
As an online business, don’t be afraid to simplify the SEO metrics that you monitor. Ultimately, your team needs to be able to make confident, informed decisions.
Here are a few performance metrics to monitor before, during and after your seasonal marketing strategies run:
Leads/sales: Setting goals for conversions in Google Analytics will allow you to see which pieces of content are resulting in the most leads, sales and signups—your chosen desired action. Find which content topics and web page layouts lead to more conversions and replicate this approach in future content.
Organic traffic: This simple measurement is one area where numbers don’t lie. More traffic equals more attention on your brand and more potential customers. Keep an eye on pages/session and time on page to ensure the increase in traffic maintains your quality expectations.
Number of ranked keywords: Are you appearing in search results for important keywords? Increasing the number of keywords you rank for, even on page four of the SERP, is positive.
If you’re at the point of having hundreds of rankings, seasonal campaigns should emphasize your top 20-50 keywords. These are the ones that have the highest chance of making it to the first page.
At Lucky Orange, we're fortunate enough to use a variety of tools for our SEO research needs. For example, SEMrush's platform allows you to run a variety of research exercises around keywords, content marketing strategy, target markets and much more.
Check out their complete guide to keyword research in 2020.
No website is perfect. This is why we recommend performing a website traffic audit prior to your busy season. Paying attention to the foundational aspects of your site will give all those extra seasonal visitors the best possible first impression.
And even the smallest of changes can increase add to carts on an e-commerce site or really any other marketing goal.
Optimize images and descriptions
Our friends at Shopify put together a list of image optimization tips. Improving simple elements like alt attributes and image size can have positive effects on both user experience and SEO.
Improve system page experience
Don’t forget to make the more mundane pages on your site match the appeal of your content sections. Take time to evaluate visitor recordings and dynamic heatmaps that involve your search results and 404 pages. Don’t forget to consider the mobile experience if mobile traffic makes up even a small percentage of visitors.
Content ROT analysis
All too often, content is created just to sit on a website and collect dust. With a ROT analysis, you're looking for redundant, outdated and trivial content within your blog and other sections of your site. The result of this effort is a list of content to remove entirely, update or combine.
Doing a ROT analysis allows you to provide website visitors with content that's meaningful and organized—and that creates a sense of urgency to purchase. It also reduces a search engine’s confusion when considering your content as answers to search queries.
Perform this analysis once per year, well in advance of your busy season.
Example: Three blog posts about the same topic with little differentiation
Action: Combine the information into one post, delete the old posts and set 301 redirects for the URLs no longer in use.
Example: A blog post sharing a signup link for an event three years ago or a post with a headline using outdated data.
Action: Determine if the information in the post would be relevant if you update. Consider making the content more evergreen to avoid the need for updating.
Example: Blog posts about awards your company received several years ago.
Action: Either delete or seek to improve by adding data sources and tying this award to a current strategic goal.
The goal of A/B split testing is to compare versions of assets and experiences to determine which version results in increasing conversions. So, is testing during your busy season a bad idea? As long as you run the right tests, no.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the consumer mindset is likely different during the busy season. Whether they feel more pressure to buy or are seeking a “great deal” to make a purchase, your analysis needs to consider seasonal variables.
While we recommend you test constantly, this should be prioritized behind other tasks if your personnel has limited time. Getting the core of your site and content in order needs to happen prior to testing, which itself requires a good amount of planning, development and execution.
Evergreen A/B testing ideas
Move your form to the other side of the fold
Turn your form into a two-step experience, asking for only one field first
Modify form body and button color
Change field placeholder text to be more engaging
Offer a "welcome back" popup with a discount for return visitors
Use IP address tracking to offer region-specific content or offers
Offer related articles based on which articles a visitor reads
Add a secondary CTA towards the bottom of your web page to drive marketing leads (MQLs)
Test longer, more descriptive CTAs
Add icons or arrows to CTAs to encourage action
Test subject line variations including personalization using subscriber's name
Trigger emails based on action with previous messages (opens, clicks)
Change sender name to a real name "Sean @ Lucky Orange" vs "Lucky Orange Support"
Polls and research
Do your potential customers value free shipping, product variations or customization the most? Are they struggling to find answers to their questions or get through your checkout process?
Polling can help you find answers to these difficult questions by asking the visitors themselves. Even simple, one-question polls will help you prioritize your store layout.
Based on a response to your poll, you can send the visitor in one direction or another with intelligent segmentation. Polls also allow you to cross-check your assumptions.
Try this four-question series:
What are you trying to accomplish today?Example answers: See if products or services are available, compare costs, find answers to my questions
Have you been able to accomplish this yet?Example answers: Not yet, no, yes
If no, what seems to be the issue?Example answers: Site is too confusing, product not available, haven’t gotten there yet, not sure
What could we do to improve our website?Example answers: We recommend leaving this question open for comments
TRY IT: Pair A/B test variations with polls to better understand the reaction to your test options. Is that hot pink CTA button pleasing to the eyes or should you have left it as-is?
Live chat auto invite
With Lucky Orange, you can set automatic chat invitations for visitors who fall into certain behavior categories. This feature allows you to create a highly-segmented chat program that can scale up during your busy season and keep your chat operators focused on the conversations that mean the most.
Use cases for automatic live chat invites:
A visitor sits on your checkout page for more than average time without action
A visitor comes from a high-value traffic source
A visitor visited your site twice before and is looking at your pricing page
Consider offering a simple question such as: “Is there anything we can help you with today?” You can also provide help documentation, a promo code or a comment to make the checkout process simpler. Get creative and always remember that you’re chatting with a human on the other end.
If you’re reading this as a first-year small business owner and wondering where to begin, here’s your section. We know the anticipation of your first busy season can be equally exciting and terrifying, so here’s what we recommend.
This is particularly valuable if you’re unclear about your seasonality timeline.
Google trends is a powerful, free tool that shows you search volume for any keyword over a selected time period. You can compare keywords against one another and see a geographic breakdown of the search location. Type in your brand's primary keywords and phrases to see when they're searched the most throughout the year.
Here’s what it looks like for the main topic of this blog post, "seasonal marketing":
Head to the Facebook Ad Library, enter a competitor’s name or a relevant keyword and see their ads over time. Check out their blog and see if there are any variations throughout the year when they talk about certain topics.
Are there any announcements on their social or other marketing channels or a promotion that they’ve repeated at the same point each year?
Keep in mind a brand can “make up” a busy season around activities with a lot of attention.
Focus on what you can control. If you’re unable to hire new employees to field customer service calls or increase Google Adwords bids, don't fret. You can still build organic social media communities, create high-value content for important keywords and deliver an exceptional customer experience to those who find your brand.
All the effort you put into seasonal campaigns should also set you up for success after things become quiet. There are a handful of things you can do during this time to make success more likely in future busy seasons.
Build an email list
While you can obtain 3rd-party email lists, the segments that generally perform the best are those built through trust and actual visitor interest in your brand. This is done in two ways.
First, by opting-in new customers to email communications (newsletter, customer retention, lifetime value increase, referrals). Doing this during a busy season will quickly increase the number of people seeing your regular content pieces.
Second, collecting email addresses via a content download or newsletter signup. This option will help you build a list of marketing-qualified leads, MQLs. Offering the option to provide an email will help you catch the interest of website visitors who aren't quite ready to purchase. In terms of the conversion funnel, this expands your reach up further into the funnel.
Build a social media following
Growing an engaged social media community can have huge returns. Those who choose to follow your company on social media will be a mix of customers and those considering your business as an option to meet their needs.
Being a part of the conversation around key industry topics during the busy season will help people find your social accounts. Regularly posting valuable content will increase the likelihood of them following you and moving further into your funnel.
Set up tracking for return visitors
In every busy season, there will be a percentage of site visitors who are “just-looking”. Depending on the industry, these visitors may or may not have to make a purchase by the end of the season.
Regardless, being able to serve return visitors customized experiences can help convert those who come back to research further.
Lucky Orange recognizes return visitors so you can provide live chat, segment recordings to watch user behavior or offer a poll to determine what brought them back to the site.
Prepare customer loyalty campaigns
Customer loyalty efforts vary greatly by industry but should always focus on reinforcing the initial purchase as the right decision. Providing engaging content, customer service check-ins and loyalty discounts will encourage customers to become long-term advocates.
Prepare these campaigns in advance of your busy season so you can retain as many customers as possible. This rule of thumb also applies to campaigns focused on key performance indicators like increasing lifetime value or net profit margin.
6 steps to planning a highly successful seasonal marketing campaign
How to document your conversion funnel (with industry examples)
(Ebook) Surveys: Choosing the right questions for your audience
6 tips to prepare your website for the holiday traffic spike
Conversion optimization takes different shapes throughout the year. As a marketer, business owner, developer or designer, it’s your job to account for seasonal business factors.
Collect great benchmark data, plan far in advance and run appropriate tests for each part of the season.