It’s late-December. The holiday season is well and truly upon us. Everyone and their uncle is searching for gifts, festive homewares, restaurants – the list goes on. There’s no doubt that we’re in the middle of a spending frenzy. So everyone seems to be asking the same question: are you using SEO to make the most the biggest ecommerce opportunity of the year? Thankfully, it’s not too late to get in on some last-minute holiday SEO action.

When should you start holiday SEO?

At this time of year there are so many articles on this subject. It won’t take much research for you to discover that the earlier you start your holiday SEO efforts, the better. We’re not disagreeing with that per se, but we are here to argue that all is not lost for 2018. Besides, the more you do now, the more you’ll benefit in years to come, so it’s certainly not time to give up yet.

We’ve pulled together five things you can do now to help you cash-in on the festive season. There will be a prize at the end for anyone who spots our main take-away before the end of the post.*

*There won’t actually be a prize, but you can be particularly proud of yourself and your SEO knowledge, so that’s something.

Seasonal keywords

Oh we do love a good keyword in the SEO industry. They seem to be the root of all of our activities, and for good reason. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our first piece of advice is to research seasonal keywords and optimise for them.

Get onto your favourite keyword planning tool, as you normally would, but also use Google Trends to see what’s a hit this festive season. You might be surprised what trends are associated with the holidays each year, so don’t be fooled into just using what seems obvious. It will also pay for you to look at your Google Analytics data for last year’s festive season; what worked? What didn’t? Why? Learn from your efforts in the past and build on them.

Reuse, repurpose, recycle

Specifically, we’re talking about re-optimising the content you’ve used in previous years. It doesn’t matter what state it’s in. Even if it was thin content, and even if the page has been taken down, you can still get some benefits from re-publishing it at the same URL and then updating it.

Once you’ve done the legwork this year, it’s worth keeping the seasonally-relevant pages live. When the season is over just remove internal links and navigation to that content so that it’s ready and waiting for when the time rolls around again next year.

Smash your content

As with any niche, your content is the signpost to users that you are relevant to the thing they’re looking for. So it should come as no surprise that having focused and relevant content is essential. You’ve got your keywords, go forth and build landing pages!

If you’re short on time or resources, user-generated content is great for this. People love a holiday-related contest, so invite your customers to share stories, pictures or ideas, and soon you’ll have a ton of content for your site. This will build authority beautifully and provide a URL that can be reused in years to come, with very little effort.

All that being said, you’ve got to remember your brand identity and tone of voice. Authenticity is for life, not just for Christmas. Tie your festive content into your overarching messaging so that it feels comfortable to your users. By all means create separate pages and sections for your seasonal content, just make sure it’s in-keeping with your product, brand and image.

Is anyone spotting a pattern yet? Do these tips sound a little familiar?

Build Links

Surprise, surprise, links to your seasonal content are a vital part of your holiday SEO campaign. Have fun with this, go hard on cross-promotions, and make content that will hit the spot on social. The more your content strikes a chord with your customers, the more shareable it is. If you can make it work with your brand, families, babies and animals always seem to capture people’s emotions.

People shop on mobile

I mean, this is obvious to anyone in the industry. Duh, of course people are using their mobiles to browse, research and buy presents. But at this time in the cycle, it’s more important than ever. When a customer is out for festive drinks and they suddenly realise they forgot Auntie Mabel’s present, you want to be the site they land on. So, optimise for speed and mobile, and you’ll be as thrilled as Auntie Mabel come Christmas day.

The main take-away

So who spotted it? That’s right, the same principles of general SEO apply to holiday SEO. Who’da thunk it? A holiday SEO campaign is really no different to any other SEO campaign, but the beauty of it is that it will be useful year in, year out. The work that you do now is groundwork for many years to come. All that’s left is to measure the success of what you do and improve on it next year, and the year after, and the year after that… you get the picture.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Have you heard the buzz around HTTP/2? It’s been coming out of the woodwork in the last few months and last week, UnGagged speaker Tom Anthony published a really useful overview of what HTTP/2 could mean for SEOs.

If you haven’t been keeping tabs, HTTP/2 started out life as a Google research project. The intention was to address the latency issues inherent in the way that browsers request website data from servers. Annoyingly, data can’t travel faster than the speed of light (bummer) and so the distance between the request and the server can cause delays for the user. HTTP/2 (which was known as SPDY while it was still a Google research project) addresses this issue.

How? Through multiplexing. With HTTP/2, multiple browser requests can share the same connection to the server. This prevents data requests from stacking up (the way they do with HTTP/1.1) which will in turn speed up your site load-times. Amazing!

That’s great, but how does HTTP/2 affect SEO?

It all comes down to site speed. We know that site speed is one of the many factors that Google considers when it calculates the rankings. So anything that helps improve your site speed could also have a positive impact on your SERPs.

As Tom mentioned in his blog post, using HTTP/2 demonstrates to Google that you’re trying to speed up the experience for users when they visit your site. Chrome supports HTTP/2, which means that usage data is already being factored into measuring site speed as a ranking factor. Shifting to HTTP/2 can shave up to 2.5 seconds off your load time and that’s something that Google definitely won’t ignore.

Google’s Gary Iylles and John Mueller have both said that Googlebot isn’t crawling HTTP/2 but that it doesn’t actually matter. In this instance, it’s not Googlebot we’re trying to impress. In Tom’s words: “Googlebot won’t benefit, but Google will notice.”

Ok, so what’s the catch with HTTP/2?

Well so far, there doesn’t seem to be one. I know that’s going to be tough for the SEO industry to accept, because we prove our salt by being critical and untrusting of everything. But it’s true. There’s no migration required for HTTP/2 because the server does all the work, responses are the same format, status codes are the same, and servers will default to HTTP/1.1 if necessary.

The only caveat is that you need to be careful if you’re going to be implementing server push. If it’s not done correctly, users will be given files their browser has already cached when they move from page to page within your site. It could slow down the user experience and undo any good that HTTP/2 could be doing.

So yes, HTTP/2 needs to be implemented properly, and requires collaboration with whoever looks after your servers. If you have a CDN, you’re in luck because they can do all the work for you, and as CDN’s already reduce some of the latency, HTTP/2 is going to double your results with very little effort. But even if you don’t have a CDN, there’s little to no dev work involved to get HTTP/2 up and running.

As long as your site has already been migrated to HTTPS, there is no reason to delay rolling out HTTP/2. If you’re still on HTTP, this is yet another reason why you should be getting your site moved over – HTTP/2 won’t function on non-secured sites, and you do not want to miss out on these site speed benefits.

Have you noticed that content marketing specialists have a habit of spouting the same old things? If you’ve attended any content marketing training or read any articles online, you’ll know they focus on hero content. They talk about the flashy stuff that makes headlines. But that content is also really expensive and takes six months and six figures to produce. It’s the kind of thing that only full-time content marketers (usually agency-side) can afford to work on.

For anyone who does content marketing as part of their role, alongside other responsibilities, it can be pretty demoralising. We listen to these very clever, very talented people who are trying to inspire us. But instead we feel overwhelmed, demotivated and directionless. We don’t all have that kind of time or money at our disposal, so does that mean our content marketing efforts any less valuable?

No, it doesn’t, and I’m going to prove it to you.

More than one type of content

If you’ve done any research into the field of content marketing you’ve no doubt come across the concept of hero, hub and help content. Help content is sometimes referred to as hygiene content, but I find that a little bit gross and the sentiment is essentially the same.

  • Hub content is the vital but unsexy content (policies, contact info, store locators etc)
  • Help content enables you to do something (how-to guides, FAQs, purchasing pages etc)
  • Hero content is the amazing stuff that inspires people and cements them as an ambassador of your brand for life! (Well, that’s the theory anyway.)

Hero content gets all the glory. It’s the stuff that will get the credit after a successful campaign, and in its wake, hub and help content is always left languishing, under-appreciated and forgotten about. We’ve all done it. It’s easy to be distracted by shiny infographics and clever interactive games. You can’t help but think “I wish I came up with that” and dream of the bonuses those content marketers must be rolling in. No-one wants to be known for strong hub and help content when they could be the masters behind amazing hero content!

But let me tell you, hero content is not the be-all and end-all of content marketing and we need to make sure that we remember that in our content strategies.

Hub and help content to the rescue!

While we’re getting distracted by whizzy (and expensive) functionality or astounding (and expensive) insights from survey results, we overlook the role that other content types play. You could be forgiven for having hub and help content because you feel you should. We’ve all thought things like ‘we’re legally required to have a returns policy’ or ‘Google likes a Contact page’. But these everyday pieces of content are so much more than the sum of their parts.

Think about it. If an ecommerce site didn’t have strong product pages, how would prospective customers research and buy anything? What’s the point in showing off your brand in a piece of hero content if your tone of voice disappears without a trace on your hub and help pages? We all know that we need hub and help content (the clue is in the name, after all) but we don’t always give them the attention and the credit they’re due.

How long would it take to create a successful piece of hero content? A few months? You could spend a few weeks on optimising your hub and help pages, and the return would be so much more valuable. And this leads us to one of the stickiest parts of content marketing. Content success is hard to measure. It’s another reason hero content gets so much glory.

Content ROI

You can easily track how many backlinks a piece of hero content earns, monitor the traffic that outreach has created, and analyse how your SERPs improve. It’s not so easy to see if a blog post resulted in a newsletter sign-up, or if a product description directly made a sale. That kind of thinking isn’t going to help anyone and we need to break the cycle. Content plays a massive part in digital marketing, but people become disinterested in work that doesn’t correlate to a direct financial result. It’s not impossible to calculate ROI for content if you’re clever about it, but to do it, we’ve got to understand that all types of content have a role to play.

It all comes down to looking at your data and really reading into it. You know how important it is to analyse your reports conscientiously. Take a leaf out of CRO’s book and follow your users’ journeys. See what your visitors are reading and what they are clicking. I’m willing to wager that hub and help content will be what guides customers to make purchases, no matter how much you spent on hero content.

When Heroes go rogue

We’ve all seen successful content marketing campaigns that have gone viral. But for every clever and insightful hipster index, there’s a hundred well-intentioned but utterly forgettable content campaigns that miss the mark. That’s the real problem with hero content.

The success stories would have you believe that coming up with hero content is a sure thing. You just need three magic ingredients:

  1. ‘ideation’ (excuse me while I vomit)
  2. a ton of data
  3. a clever visualisation

Put them all together and you just can’t fail! Right? Right?!? That’s how they make it seem. But that’s not the case. They aren’t telling you about the other essential element, the thing which is more important than anything else.


Yup. Sucks, but it’s true. Viral content is lucky content. It’s got to strike a chord with society, and land at the right moment for the journalist, and align beautifully with the client’s product, and, and, and. If your stars don’t align perfectly, you’re just shouting into the abyss.

And ok, that’s not going to ruin your brand’s reputation or damage your SEO, but it’s wasted a lot of time, effort and budget for little-to-no return. Which means that your colleagues and your business will lose faith in content marketing because it’s expensive and it doesn’t always work.

But hub and help content marketing does always work. It provides opportunities for optimisation, allows you to engage with your audience, and gives you a platform to build your brand identity. So it’s time for us all to stop being so dismissive of this content. There are interesting and exciting things we could all be doing with it.

Sing for the Unsung Heroes

Hub and help pages are the unsung heroes of content marketing. They are your workhorses, despite the fact that you often forget to feed them. Rethink spending that butt load of time and money on a flashy campaign that might disappear without doing anything of real value. Instead turn your attentions to the evergreen and blog content that you shoved up a year ago and haven’t touched since.

Is it still on brand and on mission? Is there a better way to say what’s being said? Can you add extra features to your product pages? Do you have access to data that could enlighten audiences or improve a customer journey?

Give it some real thought, and you’re sure to find that those pages, the ones that work hard for you everyday, could really benefit from a bit of attention. Go on, show them some love.

If you’re sick of hearing the same old things about content marketing, get yourself a ticket to UnGagged and find out what the other specialists aren’t telling you.