Last-minute SEO for the holidays

Put off your 2016 holiday SEO strategy until now? While it may be too late to capture those big-budget keywords, columnist Dave Davies shows that there are still some tactics you can use to gain some SEO traction this holiday season.


So, you’ve procrastinated until mid-November, and now you’re struggling to figure out how it’s possible to boost your organic search traffic for the holidays. While this is probably the ideal time to be planning for your 2017 holiday SEO strategy, right now I’m going to cover some tips for ranking for 2016.

The core criterion of any activity you’ll be undertaking at this point is simple: it needs to focus on the quick-win areas.

We’re not going to be talking about any big link-building strategies, as those are not going to pay off quickly enough without a massive push. No, we’re going to focus on are the dotting of the “i”s and crossing of the “t”s that can yield results quickly.

To be frank, these tactics alone are generally not going to propel you to the top of page one for the big keyword terms; you’ll just have to work on those for 2017. These tips tend to aid more in ranking for local terms and long-tail phrases. This is the last minute, and as any last-minute shopper knows, sometimes you must take what you can get and plan to get shopping a bit earlier next year.

Before we get started, I want to give a hat tip to fellow Search Engine Land author Lydia Jorden, who published a piece last week titled, “Holiday optimization tips for remaining competitive in the SERP.” It contained some good advice and sparked my thoughts on what else I would do if I needed to get some traffic and hadn’t gotten to it earlier. Now, let’s dive in!

Google My Business

I shouldn’t have to list this one, and hopefully, you’ve already got this squared away — but if you are a business with a brick-and-mortar presence, it is essential to create, verify and optimize your Google My Business page.

While this is absolutely critical for local SEO, it has big benefits for businesses of any type. I got into the why of this in a previous article, but to review, here are the core two benefits:

  1. It reinforces to Google that you are a company and that you are verified at a location. This confirms you have a physical presence and are assumed to be more legitimate than entities without one.

  2. A search for your brand is more likely to produce a Knowledge Graph result that includes information from your Google My Business listing. If this doesn’t seem important, imagine a search for your brand that includes competitors’ AdWords ads.  The Knowledge Graph will aid in drawing the eye away from that and toward you, the company they started the query for.

Doing a proper Google My Business page generally takes only a couple of hours, but get started now. In order to be verified, Google will send a postcard to your location, and you’ll need to enter a code from the postcard in order to take advantage of all the features Google My Business has to offer. Once requested, the card often arrives in just a few days — but it can take longer, so get this done today.

If you don’t yet have a verified Google My Business listing, you can remedy this at

Optimize titles & descriptions

Titles impact search rankings directly; descriptions do not. That said, what do they both impact? If you said “click-throughs,” then you’re right. (I mention this so you don’t take the faster route of optimizing your titles only.)

So take the time to go through your titles and descriptions to make sure they are optimized for SEO and for click-through rates. That means they contain your keywords but are written in a way that appeals to the searcher and draws them onto the page.

Let’s look at a quick example before we move on. Consider this scenario: You’re a parent looking to find the latest and greatest video game for your teenager for the holidays. Which is the more appealing of the following two examples?

Title: Gamer-Rated Top 10 Video Games For Christmas 2016 |
Description: Gamer Empire enlists top video game enthusiasts to rate and rank this year’s top video games to make your Christmas gift buying easier.


Title: Best Video Games | Last Guardian, Titanfall 2, Pokemon Sun & Moon, Battlefield …
Description: Best video games for Christmas including Last Guardian, Titalfall 2, Pokemon Such & Moon, Battlefield 1, Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Skyrim, PS4, xBox One …

The first title is geared to attracting the target buyer (the parent with little clue on what to buy) and also focuses on the keywords the page should rank for. There would be individual pages for each of the games and consoles, of course, but this landing page would be about the best video game gifts for Christmas 2016.

That’s a win on both fronts. The page would rank better via more focused keyword use, and the click-throughs would likely be higher, as the title and description are written to focus on communicating the solution to the searcher, rather than just a keyword list.

Reverse keyword focus

When Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate, do you suppose he was thinking to himself, “I hope I hit a single?” Of course not. But a single, as Jon Lester proved for the Cubs, can be what makes for a win.

Where general keyword research might begin with the top-tier phrases, we’re now looking at about five weeks to maximize your impact over the holidays. Assuming you’re reading this because you’ve procrastinated and are now frantically trying to make the most of the holidays, it’s time to build from the ground up, and by that I mean start looking at the keywords toward the bottom of the list.

With five weeks left, if you’re not ranking for “shoes,” if you play your cards right, you might rank for “ecco shoes Portland,” or perhaps even “shoes Portland” (Obviously, you can substitute your city for Portland.)

The point is, rather than going for the biggest phrases and failing, focus on the lower-hanging fruit with less competition, and get the traffic you can. If there’s a specific niche, brand or value-add you offer, then figure out what keywords match with it and focus there. It may not be glamorous, but it’ll pay the bills and perhaps help fund your efforts to rank for the bigger terms in 2017.


If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Speaking of the term, “shoes Portland,” let’s take a look at that top 10.

Yelp ranking for portland shoes on Google

What we need to be interested in here is the #1 ranking site: Yelp. The key here is that it’s possible to rank not just on Google, but also on sites like Yelp. Fortunately, Yelp’s algorithms aren’t as sophisticated as Google’s and don’t include aspects like links (though they do consider reviews).

If you find sites like Yelp ranking in the top 10, claim your listing (or get one if you don’t have one) and optimize it. If that doesn’t work, you can also consider paid advertising, which is generally far cheaper on sites like Yelp than via the AdWords system.

Content optimization

I’m saving this one for last, though I shouldn’t have to say it at all. Review your content and current rankings. Where you find you have unoptimized content, you obviously need to remedy it. Santa isn’t the only one checking his list twice.

This stage generally involves making a list of all your pages (or at least all your potential organic landing pages) and going over them to ensure that they’re properly optimized to target keywords you have a chance of attaining in such a short period of time.

You also want to be reviewing your current rankings (Search Console is a great place to start) and focusing on phrases that rank low on the first page or high on the second, as those terms will likely be the easiest to get into the clickable positions.

There’s a good piece by Dan Bagby from earlier this year on some quick content wins. He discusses some mid-range strategies like fast link acquisition; however there’s not enough time for that now, so the focus needs to be on the on-site strategies. You can read his post here and focus on the first four of his five points. The fifth is valid and good advice; it just won’t likely provide the benefits you need with this little time.

The road to 2017

While the next few weeks will be hectic in your SEO efforts, as well as for your business, it’s in January that the real work begins.

Where now we can only focus on the Band-Aid strategies that’ll maximize what we can for this year, a major goal needs to be ensuring that come next November we’re discussing how to maximize the conversions on our wonderfully ranking site, as opposed to how to get it ranking at all.


[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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