Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on November 29th, 2010

Seven Holiday Marketing Tips for E-Commerce Websites

gift box coming out of monitor

Today is Cyber Monday, the busiest shopping day on the Internet. People are flocking to search engines and salivating over today's deals like it's turkey time all over again. But just because you run an e-commerce site doesn't guarantee instant success on this day of dollar slinging deals and credit card-wielding web searchers. If your e-commerce site isn't bringing in the benjamins like you were hoping for, you may want to re-evaluate the marketing strategies you employed. Need some tips to help your holiday season become a bit more merry?

Check out these Seven Holiday Marketing Tips for E-Commerce Websites:

improve site speed1. Improve Your Site Speed Throughout the holiday season, e-commerce sites experience millions, if not billions, of pageviews a day. If your e-commerce site is getting pounded by traffic, or anticipates a surge of online business in the near future, it is essential that your website and landing pages load lightning fast. Otherwise, you could have an abnormally high bounce rate. In concern of SEO, site speed can be a tie-breaker for two very similar sites competing for the same search spot in the rankings. Google has mentioned they do use it in consideration of a tie-breaker, but no one outside of Palo Alto can be for certain how they implement it into their algorithm. Here is a “guestimation” of it can affect your SEO and conversion rate:

  • Crawling Efficiency: When a Googlebot crawls a site and performs its site speed tests, content needs to be served without any unnecessary delays and without any server errors. Slow loading times slow down the crawling speed of the spiders when pages are served too slowly, which influences indexing and page rankings.
  • User Response: Like I mentioned before, a slow loading page will increase the bounce rate of your site. People shop online because they want the convenience and efficiency of e-commerce. If they aren’t getting a quick checkout on your site, most folks will hit the back button and, most likely, click on your competitor’s site. The more people click the back button off your site and on to another site, the more likely you will find your site ranked much lower than the competitor’s site in the near future. If you run a Drupal website, there are a few things you can do to speed up your site. Look into modules that offer additional options for caching like: Advanced cache, ApacheBench, Authenticated User Page Caching (Authcache), Block Cache Alter, Boost, Cache browser, Cache Router, JavaScript Aggregator, and Memcache.

Here are a few other options for improving site speed:

  • If you’re using a hosting company, ask to move to a faster server or switch companies
  • Upgrade your server
  • Upgrade your bandwidth
  • Deploy Drupal to multiple servers
  • Use PHP-level caching systems like Zend Platform

2. Delete Your Duplicate Content two isn't always better than one with content Most e-commerce sites are guilty of duplicate content, or having multiple versions of product pages, and a large percentage of those guilty don’t even though they are doing it. Pay very close attention to the product page’s URLs, as this is where duplicate content usually sneaks in. You can normally find duplicate content with site: and inurl: search operators. Each product page should have a unique, authoritative URL. If your product page shares a URL with another product page, or the same page show up twice on your site under two different URLs, you are shooting yourself in the proverbial SEO foot. You are essentially competing against yourself in search rankings with the same content, but two different presentations of it. We, in the business, call this page dilution. It is not uncommon to find sites with dozens of product page duplicates. Google will not know which is the original and which are the duplicates, so it will index them all at a lower ranking.

To find duplicate content product URLs, do a few quick searches in Google: inurl:productID intitle:"my product name"

If and when you find duplicate content pages, you have a few options for moving forward:

  • Canonical Tags: Something relatively new to the world of SEO, but yet canonical tags have an old soul. Use canonical tags to relate duplicate pages with the unique, authoritative URL, and Google will understand that all roads lead to the original.
  • 301 Redirects: 301 redirects duplicate content to the authoritative versions, allowing Google to know which page is the top dog for search rankings. This option, however, requires a little extra elbow grease than canonical tags and may be very difficult to execute for certain e-commerce sites that sort products by season, style or special promotion.

customized holiday landing page3. Optimize and Customize Your Landing Pages If you are offering special products by season, style or special promotion, customized and optimized landing pages for these products need to created. I know, you have already done that, right? Did you conduct new keyword research for long-tailed keyword terms that may be popular for your product? No?! 

Tis the season for people to get search happy and they will go to great lengths to find exactly what they want, which means the most descriptive and detailed search queries known to Google. Use your intuition and knowledge of last year’s holiday season to find the right keywords for your holiday landing pages. Once you have the right words chosen, use them in page titles, header tags, headlines, on-page copy, and in the meta tags.

you might like this tag4. Provide “Like This” Recommendations Increase every customer’s checkout cart size with a “like this” recommendation feature while users browse and purchase from your site. If you don’t already offer this feature, it needs to be on your holiday wish list immediately.  In terms of SEO, you need to be careful how this features is coded on your site. Search engines aren’t best friends with javascript, Googlebot does crawl it, but Bing and Yahoo! have yet to learn how to read it. You will also want to ensure that your “like this” recommendations is making use of the correct product page URLs and not creating its own URL variety as its being generated. If you make that mistake, it’s back to tip #2 again.


track with google custom search5. Add a Search Box to Your Site  Bring search to your website! Provide incredibly fast and relevant search results on your site. Heck, you can even include more than one website, or concentrate on specific web pages. Make it so easy for your users to find what they are looking for, that they would be more inclined to buy more stuff. If you run Drupal 5 or 6, this functionality is already built in. If you aren’t on Drupal (shame on you), then check out Google custom search feature, where you can create your own custom search engine.

christmas sweater search engine results6. Run a Holiday-Focused PPC/Mobile Campaign  If you want your e-commerce site to swim in customers during this holiday season, implement a smart and efficient PPC/mobile advertising campaign. Focus on your holiday deals, special promotions, and sales that have the customized, optimized landing pages you just created for the holidays. Point those PPC/mobile ads to those landing pages and focus on the keyword terms you optimized for on the landing pages. This time of year will see more people than ever before pay attention and take advantage of PPC ads that pop up in their browser searches. For more on this tip, check out my blog post from last week: 6 Search Engine Advertising Strategies for the Holiday Season.

7. Track Your Results with Google Analytics holiday business analytics online “Deck the halls with tracks of data!” Set up your analytics so that your search reports show you the search term alongside the corresponding entry page. You can then determine the bounce rate of that term and page combination. This will help you find where your campaign needs to be improved. This data can also show any major faux pas, such as what organic traffic terms are bringing visitors to the wrong pages. This can be a huge kink in your holiday campaign and one you want to get worked out as soon as possible, or avoid all together. Analytics can be a Santa’s sleigh of presents for e-commerce sites that work hard for their search marketing results. Solid data is the tail that wags the dog, but can’t be gathered overnight. After you’ve set up your analytics to track the right data, you’ll need to correctly analyze said data so that you can tweak, change, or validate the marketing moves you made with your website.