Getting E-Commerce Sites Ready for Christmas

We're officially into autumn now, and it's the time of year when people begin to seriously think about Christmas.

That means it's also time to get e-commerce sites ready for the Christmas rush - change your colour scheme if it's seasonal (even if you just switch to a snow-capped logo on your festive pages), think about special offers and discounts, and keyword your product descriptions for Christmas.

It's not just because I'm a copywriter that I think that last point is rather important - in the run-up to Christmas, there are unique SEO opportunities that you just don't get at other times of year, and you're gonna need the right keywords on your e-commerce site if you're going to capitalise on those.

Consider the below graph of Google Trends data for 2010:

There are two interesting features here - firstly, it's pretty clear that September is when searches for Christmas gifts/presents really start to pick up, before climbing rapidly in October and November.

The second thing to notice - and important for your SEO strategy - is that 'Christmas gifts' gets roughly half as many searches again, when compared with the more traditional 'Christmas presents'.

Riding the Christmas buy-cycle

The graph above is of just one year, but check the Google Trends data for yourself and you'll see the pattern repeats in the run-up to Christmas each time the festive season comes around.

So, where are we up to on this year's Christmas buy-cycle? Data for 2011 so far is below:

It's pretty clear that we're already up and running - search queries for 'Christmas gifts' are at ten times their full-year average, while 'Christmas presents' is scoring half as many queries so far.

Look to the horizon

Remember, e-commerce is subject to some unusual influences, compared with real-world retail:

Firstly, people like to research products online ahead of time. So while you're basking in the inevitable early-autumn heat wave that always catches everyone off guard (despite happening every single year), it's not ludicrous to already be keywording for Christmas-related traffic.

Secondly, e-commerce is, in principle, instantaneous. People know that, when it comes to the right time to place their order, they'll almost certainly be able to find a particular product online - which is why the peak is so high and so defined. There's little reason to order early - the current searches are more likely to be from would-be shoppers doing their groundwork by seeing what's out there.

Thirdly, the instantaneous nature of e-commerce is undermined once those products make it into the real world and need to be shipped. The lag this introduces is responsible for the rapid tail-off that occurs during December itself. Again, this makes the October-November peak period the essential time for e-commerce operators to maximise their exposure in consumers' search results.
Is your e-commerce site ready for Christmas? Give some thought to your strategy and how it can be applied to your web presence ahead of any real-world retail outlets you might have, and make sure those search users are funnelled down your virtual chimney this festive season.