There's no cute catch phrase like "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday" for the day after Halloween, but you know that as soon as the mini-chocolate bars go half price (and even a bit before), stores are "stocking" up with Christmas displays and promotions. How much more should you as an online retailer be preparing your website for seasonal SEO?
Rebecca Kelley from SEOmoz posted a great explanation on why you should start thinking about your Christmas SEO (and PPC) right now. And she gives some great insight on how to analyze search trends complete with charts and grapics using "Halloween costumes" as an example. And she throws in some great tips on how you can use the Keyword Discovery keyword research tool to find trend data.
Keyword Discovery runs about $500/year. But you can also get free search trends using Google Analytics' keyword research tool. Here's how:
1. Go to Google Keyword Tool (either from your Adwords account or using external access).
2. Enter in some keywords. Don't worry about being too specific, Google will give you some great suggestions if you check the "Add Synonyms" box. For this example, I just entered "christmas gifts" and "Christmas gift ideas."
3. When your results appear, you can select "Show Search Volume Trends" from the dropdown menu.
4. You can sort your results ascending or descending for any column just like in Excel by clicking on the headings in blue.
5. Make note of the range of data. The keyword tool by default will show you the past month's volume, but if you switch your range as in step 3, you lose the last couple months' data but you do see one year at a glance.
Scanning results for trends, you may discover that some seasonal keywords are searched year round, for example "corporate christmas gifts."
You can also sort by "Highest Volume Occurred In" from the same menu as "Show Search Volume Trends" and then click the table heading to sort ascending or descending. This can show you which keywords you should target well in advance. (Hint, hint SEO's, Valentine's Day is just around the corner!)
Google vs. Keyword Discovery
The Google Keyword Tool is easier to compare search volume at a glance than Keyword Discovery because you don't have to click on each individual keyword to view the trend data, and you also get an idea of your competition in Google Adwords. The drawback is that results are relative (no figures, just tiny green bars).
Keyword Discovery will show you absolute numbers (although in my experience comparing Keyword Discovery data to my Google Adwords keyword impressions data, KD's numbers are highly understated, but for comparing keywords one-to-another seeing some relative frequencies can be helpful). But remember, each year is different and past trends are not a totally reliable forecast on what will happen this year, so I wouldn't obsess too much about keyword X got 25 more searches last year than keyword Y.
So What Do I Do With This Data?
Export Keyword Lists
The biggest value in Google's keyword tool is its ability to generate keyword suggestions for you that you can analyze and apply to your organic optimization strategy or your pay-per-click campaigns. You can shortlist your keywords by simply clicking "Add," and export them to a .txt or .csv for further analysis or even instantly create an AdGroup.
Selecting Target Keyword Phrases
When selecting keywords to optimize your site pages for, you need to do a bit more digging than just what's popular and think about how competitive each keyword is. Unless you dominate your niche, you might want to shoot for keywords with a bit less search volume but with a lot less competition. You can gauge competition by performing an intitle:"keyword phrase" search to see how many pages are competing against you using the keyword in the title tag. This is a decent measure of competition because of the weight the title tag has on search relevance.
Your "low hanging fruit" opportunities are keywords with low intitle:"keyword phrase" results but healthy search volume.
(Compare number of results returned, e.g. Results 1 - 10 of about 29,700 for intitle:"christmas gift ideas").
Something like this means no pages are using the exact keyword phrase in the title tag:
But remember, just because no one's using the exact keyword phrase in their title, doesn't mean there's no competition at all from relevant sites, just you have a better chance of ranking well with less pages taking advantage of the title tag weight. Other pages on strong domains with variations of keywords in their title tags and on their website (and in incoming link anchor text) can still outrank you.
There's no disputing that trend data shows that searches for a seasonal keyword begin a few months ahead of every holiday, so if you haven't begun optimizing your site for Christmas yet, it's time to get going on it!