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Black Friday & Cyber Monday in Search

[text_output]Black Friday has long been an important day for US retailers, traditionally marking the day they move “into the black” as the holiday shopping season kicks off post-Thanksgiving. Moreover, such is the importance of e-commerce to this festival of consumerism, for the last decade there has been a digital-only spin-off too: Cyber Monday.

Online revenues from this long weekend continue to grow unabated and Cyber Monday is projected to exceed last year’s $2.5 billion by at least 11%. Anyone who has seen the utter mania that grips what may be otherwise normal civilians as they grapple for a cut-price low-end LED TV will understand the appeal of perusing bargains from the comfort of home instead.

A certain sense of “Black Friday fatigue” has therefore set in with the offline experience and the digital economy stands to profit. The figures bear this out, too. A look at Google Trends shows that search interest is increasing every year:[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8322″ alt=”google trends black friday” href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]If we add to this the fact that SEO took 20.9% of online orders over the 2014 holiday season and paid search 16.4%, it becomes pretty clear that brands need to get search right over this crucial period.

So, what makes a successful holiday season search strategy?

Preparation:

Planning ahead is critical, as landing pages can take time to accrue SEO authority. As a result, the most successful sites will research keyword trends, monitor competitor activity very closely and adapt content for the pre-launch, launch and post-launch phases. Sites that falter will be those that launch pages late or do not dedicate separate sections to both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Optimisation:

Remember to implement the SEO basics: optimize site speed and use audience research to dictate title tags, meta descriptions and content. Social media monitoring can also be a very effective resource to understand conversation topics and ensure coverage via the right hash tags.

User Experience:

Don’t over-do the optimization, though! With so much competition out there for sales, the foremost concern should be providing a user-friendly experience on-site, across devices. Test different versions of category and product pages, prioritize those that perform best and experiment with copy variations in advance of the big weekend. Another important consideration should be the purchase process: work with CRO to find the smoothest way to carry customers through to purchase.

Mobile-Friendliness:

Many of Google’s recent updates have given prevalence to the Mobile experience, and responsive design has become the norm for the vast majority of sites in 2015.  Analyze the cross-device behavior of your users, assess which are Mobile- or Desktop-heavy in terms of traffic and sales, and create content accordingly.

Also worthy of attention is the link between the website and the offline presence of many retailers. Smart retailers have already implemented Google’s local inventory Ads and most likely have a unified view of stock between store and online.

Integration:

Consumers will use a variety of resources to research the best offers. As such, including reviews and integrating social media promotions within the on-site experience can be very beneficial. With 165,000 monthly searches in the US for ‘black Friday ads’, it is also a good idea to include video assets within landing pages. After all, there is significant evidence that video aids conversion. PPC messaging should always be on point to deliver a seamless experience from ad to on-site landing pages and products.

In addition, historical PPC data can be used to find the best-performing products and shape site architecture.

So who’s getting it right (or wrong) in 2015?

Amazon

Organic rank for ‘black Friday deals’: 3

Organic rank for ‘cyber Monday’ deals: 2[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8323″ alt=”Amazon” href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]Amazon’s effort matches a lot of the criteria outlined above. Separate Black Friday and Cyber Monday pages are well optimized without hampering the user experience. In addition, early deals have been launched – this will obviously help with sales, and it ensures that the page has more value than being merely a holding page until after Thanksgiving.

Site speed on Mobile and Desktop are good and the Black Friday promotions are highlighted across social media, so all in all Amazon looks well prepared to reap the rewards of next weekend’s increased demand.

PPC wise they are obviously all over their brand terms but are actually appearing for very little in terms of generic searches. We fully expect Amazon to ramp up proceedings the closer we get to the 27th. However, we did find one little beauty appearing for ‘Black Friday Electronics’;[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8324″ alt=”balk firday” href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]

SEO Score: 8.5/10

Walmart

Organic rank for ‘black friday deals’: 1

Organic rank for ‘cyber monday’ deals: 2[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8325″ alt=”wallmart” href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]

Walmart has done a great job of maintaining the same pages throughout the year and this is reflected in the steady, strong visibility of the Black Friday page (data taken from SEMRush):

[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8326″ alt=”wallmart2″ href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]The page is image heavy and intelligently incorporates the company’s video ad, showing that attention has clearly been paid to search trends.

The rankings success Walmart has had makes it difficult to find fault; but if we’re being picky, the block of keyword-rich text (to put it diplomatically) at the bottom of the landing pages is a somewhat archaic tactic:[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8327″ alt=”wallmart3″ href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]Nonetheless, Walmart’s approach does show a more nuanced appreciation of the ways shoppers search for holiday season deals and they have the highest SEO visibility of their competitor set.

SEO Score: 9/10

Macy’s

Organic rank for ‘black Friday deals’: N/A

Organic rank for ‘cyber Monday’ deals: 17[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8328″ alt=”macys” href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Macy’s from an SEO perspective. The holiday season landing pages are not linked to from the main navigation and page load speeds are significantly slower than other retail sites. In addition, there is no canonical version of the Black Friday URL, so content duplication creates confusion within Google’s index.

In terms of the Mobile experience, the pages are considered ‘Mobile-friendly’, but this is how they appear to both users and Google:[/text_output][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”8329″ alt=”macys2″ href=”” title=”” info_content=”” lightbox_caption=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]This requires a further click to get through to the Mobile site; and given the importance of a seamless user journey at this peak time, even a small drop-off rate from this inconvenience will impact on Macy’s revenues.

The accumulation of issues outlined above means that visibility is low for Macy’s and due to the nature of SEO, even fixing these shortcomings now would be too late to maximize traffic from next weekend.

SEO Score: 3/10

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