E-Commerce SEO

Seasonal SEO: How to Optimize Your E-Commerce Site

By The Botify Team

If you’re an in-house SEO, you’ve probably felt the pain of being left off meeting invites for big e-commerce initiatives, especially during the holiday season. In many large organizations, SEO is viewed as a “passive” channel of marketing due to the pull nature of the channel, in contrast to a traditional outreach channel like email or paid media.

The reality, however, is that SEOs need to have a seat at the campaign planning table if organizations want to have a successful e-commerce strategy, especially when demand is at an all time high.

This holiday shopping season, don’t be left out in the cold! We’re here to help you generate ideas on how to improve your e-commerce SEO just in time to turn your online visitors into satisfied customers.

Here’s how e-commerce SEOs handle seasonality and what you can do to be an e-commerce hero.

  • What is seasonal SEO
  • Perform seasonal keyword research
  • Ensure CRO efforts don’t interfere with indexation
  • Make sure your canonical tags are set up correctly
  • Check indexation/faceted navigation
  • Have a plan for out-of-stock products

What is Seasonal SEO?

Seasonal SEO focuses on driving conversions during a limited period of time to take advantage of increased interest in different products and services.

Seasonal SEO helps organizations boost their product sales at the most important times, making it an essential strategy for e-commerce success. While SEOs may not be able to control when products reach their peak interest, they can ensure that those products appear at the top of search results or at least show up at all.

So what are the things you can do to ensure you ride the wave of customer interest to e-commerce success?

Do Seasonal Keyword Research Ahead of Time

Looking at some of the most important keywords for your products year over year will help you anticipate search trends in advance, allowing you to launch your site improvements in time for the seasonal high points.

You can typically find when different products or services are at their seasonal peak by looking at most keyword planners or in Google Trends

In Botify’s RealKeywords, you can track seasonality for the keywords and keyword groups that matter most to your business, getting a clear picture of year over year interest.

One really fun example to look at is the keyword “card games.” When do you think the most people would be looking for card games? 

Take a look at this Google Trends report without looking at the dates.

Over the last five years, you can see a season spike right around Thanksgiving and interest continuing through the holiday season. This makes sense as families are crowded around kitchen tables across the nation, sharing stories and playing games that connect generations.

What then, caused a second season spike this year? 

COVID-19, when families were stuck at home.

Once you are able to dive into this kind of data, you are able to better understand how best to connect customer intent with your business goals. In this case, a seller of board games or card games would be wise to update and create new content regularly before the holidays.

When considering seasonal SEO, you want to do the legwork of getting your page to rank well ahead of time. Getting a page to rank well usually takes time and effort, so you will need to start implementing your strategy at least a month or so in advance. 

You can get more tips on how to make a superior content and keyword strategy here.

Ensure Your CRO Efforts Support SEO

In a world where testing is a way of life for most e-commerce sites, conversion rate optimization testing is essential during peak interest seasons. When you are driving more traffic to your e-commerce store, your tests will hit statistical significance faster, allowing your organization to pivot to winning tests faster.

These improvements, however, don’t come without a couple of risks that a savvy SEO can help identify. 

If your organization is running redirect tests, make sure you are following Google’s Guidelines on redirect testing, namely, setting up a canonical tag correctly. The last thing you (or your stakeholders) want is for your important e-commerce pages to be removed from Google’s index at the height of the sales season. 

Like most SEOs or webmasters you are probably thinking “that would never happen to me,” but it very well can. It happens daily to hundreds of online retailers. 

Ensure your canonical tags are set up correctly

Large e-commerce sites have lots of technical issues that other sites don’t have, particularly with their product pages. Many e-commerce sites have similar or duplicate categories on their site that lead to duplicated content. For example: 

botifystore.com/mens-clothes/jeans/

botifystore.com/jeans/mens-jeans/

So why is this a problem? When search engines are indexing pages, they can get confused as to which page is the right answer for a user’s search.

If that’s confusing, think about it this way: the more pages you have that are duplicated across your site, the more likely the value of each page is to decrease in the eyes of search engines. 

The right way to resolve this problem is to have a single category page that retains all of the authority on the site. SEOs and webmasters do this by using canonical tags.

So in our example, you would want to choose one variation of the url (usually the one with the best backlinks) and make sure the canonical tag is placed in the <head> section of your other page, pointing to the primary page as the best answer for the search engine to serve up for a user.

If you need more help understanding canonical tags, check out our quick  guide to canonical tags.

Check indexation/faceted navigation

If you manage a large e-commerce site, you are probably familiar with faceted navigation: a system of navigation that helps users find the exact products they’re looking for through filtering options like size type, features etc. 

Faceted navigation can be great for users, but it can be a nightmare for SEO if you aren’t diligent.

Some of the problems that faceted navigation can cause include:

  • Diluted external and internal link equity
  • Crawl budget problems from too many combinations of URLs
  • Keyword cannibalization 

To get the most out of your seasonal SEO, you will want to audit your site for faceted navigation SEO issues. We recommend using Botify’s Advanced Segmentation and the SiteCrawler which allows enterprise SEO teams to evaluate their e-comm site just like a search engine to see how a bot interacts with their site. 

This is especially important during the height of consumer interest in products, because crawl traps prohibit search engines from quickly finding and indexing your new products during peak seasons. Don’t miss out on new sales because your faceted navigation is hard for search engines to understand.

Have a plan for out-of-stock products

Lastly, is there anything worse than shopping for a gift for yourself or a loved one only to find that product is out of stock? Or worse, the product has completely been removed from the site?

While selling out of a product is a good problem to have for most e-commerce stores, it is a terrible experience for users. 

Before you remove the product page or hit that dreaded “out of stock” setting, you want to make sure you have a plan on how to make the most of the traffic that gets to that page.

Every time you remove a page or a product, you create the potential for a black hole for your customers, one that will either see them bounce from your site, or worse, go to your competitor looking for something similar. This leads to a loss in potential revenue for your business.

In order to combat this, you will want a game plan for your out of stock products. Here are some ticks on how to retain a product’s value, even when it is out of stock.

  1. Do not 404 the page: The worst thing you could do is 404 a page. Not only are you removing a page from Google’s index, you are throwing away whatever link equity that page had built up over time. Instead, communicate that the product is out of stock and offer alternative, similar products for a user to choose from.
  2. Remove internal links to the page: Until the product is back in stock, you will want to make sure you are not promoting that particular product on your homepage or on other pages on your site. Instead, find similar products users can buy. Once that product becomes available again, heavily promote it again on the site.
  3. Use social and display retargeting: This isn’t necessarily an SEO tip as much as an effective e-commerce tip, but once a product is back in stock, you can use social and display ads to retarget to people who visited that page to announce that the product is back in stock. This almost serves as an abandoned cart remarketing tactic.
  1. Redirect permanently removed products: If a product is permanently removed from your inventory and won’t be making a comeback, redirect the page to a similar product. This ensures that you are passing over link equity to the new page for ranking purposes and you are helping your referral traffic find a product that can meet their needs.

Crush this Holiday Sales Season

At Botify, we know that the holiday season is a stressful one for any e-commerce team. We want to help you crush your revenue goals by getting the actionable insights you need to dominate the SERPs from our enterprise SEO tools.

We help large enterprise sites just like yours succeed by helping them identify

  • Crawl budget problems
  • Canonical tag errors
  • Keyword cannibalization 
  • Sitespeed auditing
  • And more!

Learn more about how our enterprise SEO platform can help you reach your seasonal sales goals.

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