Content strategy for Christmas and the New Year.

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Whether you’re decking the halls, or trying to pretend it won’t happen this year, Christmas is fast approaching. For marketers of all kinds, it’s a topic that’s impossible to avoid if you want your content to appear timely and relevant to your readers.

But if you want to cash in on the Christmas rush, you can’t wait until the turkey’s in the oven to start publishing festive content on your website. Not only that, but you need to be equally ready to move quickly once it’s all over, in order to get your website ready for the new year.

A website that’s still Christmassy by January is sadder than an empty tin of Quality Street.

Content strategy is a matter of careful planning at the best of times, even if you factor in the ability to respond quickly to developing trends in your traffic and customer base. Christmas is probably the fastest-moving time of year, particularly for retailers carrying festive products or gifts.

Within the world of ecommerce, there are unavoidable delays due to your distance from your customer. While you can do plenty to overcome this with next-day or same-day delivery (particularly of virtual services, rather than physical goods), it’s still worth thinking about whether your customers might be leaving 28 days for delivery when they place their orders. That shows just how early your Christmas content needs to be live.

There’s no more important time of year than Christmas to take this into account, as even last-minute shoppers will be keen to avoid disappointment, and many people will think of the Royal Mail ‘last date’ for sending cards and parcels as being the cut-off point for online orders too.

Effective content strategy can overcome this – either by explaining that private delivery firms are used for guaranteed receipt in time for Christmas, or simply by making sure orders are placed well ahead of the cut-off dates.

Know Your Trends

First, know when people buy. A Christmas 2012 poll by ICM Research for Retail Week found the following:

– 5% of people had finished their Christmas shopping by the end of September;

– 12% more expected to have finished by the end of October;

– 36% expected to complete their shopping in November;

– 28% planned to finish in the first half of December;

– 9% would leave it until the last minute, and shop in the final weeks before Christmas.

That leaves 8% of people with no clear idea of their shopping schedule, and 3% who were not intending to do any specific Christmas shopping at all – proving that, even at Christmas, you can’t please everyone.

A good content strategy, then, might reasonably target these groups separately, with early-bird offers for those September-October shoppers, a mass-market approach to the November rush, and last-minute gift ideas for December laggards.

Know Your Keywords

It’s important in any search-focused content strategy to know which terms are likely to perform best for your site and generally. For instance, Google Trends data consistently shows that more people in the UK search for ‘Christmas gifts’ than ‘Christmas presents’.

Long-tail keyword knowledge can help you to reach even more relevant customers too – for instance, Google Trends shows that while ‘gifts for men’ is a fairly popular query, its female equivalent is not ‘gifts for women’, but the less direct ‘gifts for her’.

Analyse and test keywords throughout the festive period to ensure your content and your paid search content are delivering the most customers they can.

The Perfect Year

Learn to view the New Year period not as the end of one year, or as the beginning of the next, but as a joined-up stage in your content strategy.

In particular, make sure you recognise all of the different possibilities for winning customers out of your festive search audience.

These could include:

– shoppers with Christmas gift money (or gift vouchers, where relevant) to spend

– shoppers keen to make the most of January sales

shoppers already planning ahead for next Christmas (a small but legitimate niche audience)

– revellers keen to keep the party spirit alive into the new year

– committed New Year’s Resolution-makers (especially in traditional markets like gym membership)

Depending on your niche, you might have further specific opportunities that are worth targeting. Analyse last year’s click and sales information carefully to see what will work well for you.

Reaching Your Audience

Finally, while your Christmas content strategy is likely to be dominated by product descriptions, special offers and posts about the best Christmas gift ideas, you’ll probably want to change things slightly as you move into the New Year.

If you’re targeting New Year’s Resolution-makers, make your updates motivational, or write how-to articles to take the stress and planning out of maintaining a resolution for as long as possible.

One of the most important watchwords to keep in mind is simply ‘mood’. For most people the festive season is a time of celebration. If your content strategy is able to tap into that, and keep the feeling alive for as long as possible after New Year’s Eve, there’s a lot of positivity around that you can benefit from quite cheaply.

Author: Shaad Hamid

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