Final SEO Check List For Christmas

Christmas ImageMany of our customers have seen increases in traffic and sales associated with Christmas already. However, the worst thing any online business owner can do is either take that traffic for granted or think there is no room for growth. To help you get the most value out of this period here are a few SEO tips:

Look over the specific sections of your site and not just the overall trend.
Over recent years Google has started to ‘penalise’ (algorithmically) specific sections of a site rather than the site as a whole. The good news is that you can continue to attract profitable traffic. The downside is that you may think things are going well, but core sections may be suffering.

One website we’re familiar with and remarkable increases in visibility and traffic to their product pages, for example, but when looking at their category pages they were hit significantly during the early part of October.

It is incredibly easy to establish if you have suffered a similar fate. Simply load up Google Analytics, change the segment to ‘organic’ (it’s one of the ‘system’ segments). Then go to ‘Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages. Just under the chart there will be a box where you can filter the results. The section that often suffers is that of product categories – so start off there and type in the folder name that contains your categories i.e. /collections/ and if you see anything like the chart below then you, obviously, have a problem:

Collections issue

The usual cause of this is that category pages have no valuable content (and sometimes no products). I would be wise to go through each of your category pages and establish if the products are relevant, if the content you have on the page is relevant and useful, the content covers a broad range of relevant phrases.

Another issue we often see is that retailers have too many category pages thinking that the more they have the more likely they are to rank for the target keywords. Often having fewer, stronger, more keyword richer, categories that have more detailed and useful information can perform better. Make sure that all the categories you have work hard for you.

Also have a look at your sitemap and make sure you’re not including any categories that have been created with the anticipation that they will be worked on in the future. Just because you don’t link to them within your website, it doesn’t mean that you’re not telling Google that they don’t exist in another way.

Another tip is to take your target keywords and search for your site’s title tags. You can do this by searching in Google using intitle:keyword. If more than three or four pages ( depending on the size of your website have them featured then you may be overcooking things and may want to use those title tags to target other, related keywords.

Use the same methodology for your product pages and blog posts or other information. They can too suffer.

Have a look at your bounce rates
Not only can you do this on your different sections where you can say on average your categories have an organic bounce rate of 90% then you would most definitely need to take a serious look at your pricing, messaging, design and relevance of target keywords. But also on an individual page basis.

Pull out a list of your organic landing pages and looking at the list which defaults to the most visited pages scan through and jot down any pages that have a bounce rate over 70% and work out how you can make them better. The same logic will apply to the collection pages. If your pricing is too high this will often cause an increased bounce rate. Also too if the product photography is poor, the product information too slight or if the sales messages (‘free delivery over £1000′) aren’t attractive.

Look at your conversion rates
Hopefully you would have Google’s ecommerce tracking set up. If you do visit the landing page list again with the Organic filter selected. Extend the list of pages as far to the maximum and export the list. When you have you can use fancy filters or rules. If you don’t have time for this then go down the top 20%-30% of landing pages and see if you have any that get a lot of traffic but convert to a sale far less than the others. With this page you will need to check the messaging, pricing etc. But also you may just get a lot of traffic to a page where people are just researching topics rather than looking to buy products. Often this will be blog posts where you have successfully targeted a keyword but people just aren’t looking to buy. If this is the case you may like to try adding a fantastic offer or just move onto other pages where you can make a financial difference.

Find Broken Links
There’s nothing worse than getting to New Year’s Eve and realising that your most popular page had a broken link to a product and you’ve sold none. Either use Google Webmaster Tools or the fantastic Screaming Frog to located broken links and fix them. Whilst you’re at it, you may like to check for 302 redirects and fix those too. If you’ve still got time on your hands then fix 301 redirects too.

Check Social Sharing
We’ve seen many sites load up social sharing plugins and they stop working. Test them on product, collection and blog pages. Consider Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graph whilst you’re at it. And definitely make sure you’re integrated with Google+, Pinterest etc.

Check duplicate, short or missing tags
If you’ve downloaded Screaming Frog you may like go one step further and run it to look at duplicated tags – most notably <title> tags. often it is so easy to use standard tags for products – but to stay clear of this – be as unique and useful as possible. Remember that often these are shown in the search engine results pages and are a large factor in encouraging a user to visit your website.

Also check to see if they too short. The <title> tag is a very important tag so make full use of it. You can often legitimately add your keywords in here as a proper sentence.

Use a similar logic to your Meta Description tags, make them useful and unique and remember they may also appear in the snippets in the search engine results pages.

Noindex and canonical
Far more often than we would like to say, many webmasters and developers erroneously noindex pages that you want the search engines to include in their results. So when you crawl make sure you get Screaming Frog to give you a list of all pages that have noindex added and make sure that they have been correctly implemented.

Generally make sure you have all internal search results noindexed.

The same can be said for canonical tags. Make sure they are pointing to the right place and be aware that if you are using http for part of your site and https for others that if you use relative links in places that you may have duplicate content and you will need to make sure you use the correct version in your canonical tags.

Keep an eye on your rankings
This is massively fraught with if’s and but’s as the search engine positions you see will undoubtedly be different from what others see. The crux of it is not to get caught up with individual rankings but their general trend. Advanced Web Ranking will give you a ‘Visibility’ score which you should monitor along with the individual keywords. This will give you a good gauge of your SEO performance. It should also help you spot significant changes in rankings of your site and that of your competitors’.

Check your links
Google last updated their algorithm related to ‘bad’ links in October 2014 and it is unlikely that they will do it again this year. However, that doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t take half a day to find and fix any bad links.

The flip-side of this is that you look at your competitors’ links and then try and obtain any valuable ones for yourself.

Segment your products into target audiences
Users search with intent. That’s to say they often use who they are buying for as a search term. For example they will use ‘buy a birthday present for an older brother’ or ‘ 4th anniversary presents for my wife; or even ‘Christmas presents for my pregnant wife’. With this in mind you can realistically promote your products relevant to those types of consumers within blog posts or possibly short-term (and well-crafted) product categories.

Often we get caught up in trying to rank for a few largely-searched-for keywords and not the massive variety of ‘long tail’ keywords that often convert exceptionally well – don’t neglect these.

Don’t just put extra SEO to high-searched-for keywords but prioritise the wider business need
If you have products that are particularly Christmas-focused then it makes sense to push those, but don’t lose sight of the rest of your products that may be Christmas-suitable and have short shelf-lives. Using SEO to shift those will help cash flow and reduce the risk of having redundant stock.

Also have a look at which products are unique to your website and promote them heavily. Customers buying those will often add other items into their basket too.

View how people engage with your website
Using Crazy Egg you can see how people engage with your website and just by making a few simple tweaks you can massively effect your sales performance.

The above forms a menu of ideas to increase your organic sales from search engine traffic. Each individual website will has unique challenges and requirements, but working through that check-list should at least provide food-for-thought. The potential revenues can be extreme at this time of year, so at least run a few of the reports mentioned.

Image used under Creative Commons License