So here it is... Merry Christmas?!

It's Chriiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!!!!!

OK yes, I know the 'winterval' is not yet upon us, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be starting your marketing campaigns now.

As I've pointed out in the past, the Christmas 'buy cycle' is a laggardy one, and you need to factor in lead times for:
  • shoppers' travel plans home for Christmas (1 week)
  • delivery/collection (at least 1-2 weeks, maybe 4 weeks or more)
  • shoppers' browsing (1-2 weeks)
  • your own restocking delays (typically 2-4 weeks)
  • organic SEO efforts to take effect (anything from 0 days to 4-6 weeks)
Read that list from bottom to top, and you have your run-up to Christmas in chronological order, but add up all of the delays and you've got a lag time of around three months on any online marketing you choose to carry out for Christmas.

Factor into this the simple fact that you don't want your campaigns to come to fruition on Christmas Day itself, and that your initial marketing efforts are likely to need to be spread out over 4-6 weeks in their own right, and you soon find yourself in the middle of summer, planning your Christmas campaign.

Or you should do, if you want it to be successful...

Riding the Buy Cycle

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at this Google Trends chart of searches for 'Christmas gifts' and 'Christmas presents' over the past few years...

Not surprisingly, the drop-off after Christmas is precipitous, and search volumes remain very low for the first half of each year.

But volumes start to rise exponentially in August, roughly doubling in each subsequent month until Christmas arrives, and there's no trend like a rising trend if you're trying to make money.

Early Adopters

Does anyone seriously start their Christmas marketing campaigns in August? Erm... well, yes they do, actually.

In fact, my local pub had Santa hats on its ale pumps in July, along with a 'Book now for Christmas' hoarding and leaflets on the tables.

Yes, really.
You might think this is too early - and when the landlord started singing Christmas songs on the karaoke (I'm not joking) it did get to be a bit too much - but when they're booked up for Christmas while the other bars and pubs are cutting prices, it will be worth it.

It's not just bricks-and-mortar businesses that are getting on their Buy Cycles early this year:

Beth is a 'safe pair of hands' when it comes to marketing copy, so it's good to see her clients are already putting her talents to work on their Christmas campaigns.

And she has her own valuable insight on how to build up towards Christmas without being quite so obvious as wearing Santa hats in July - her post 'The C Word' is well deserving of a read for more evidence-based reasons why you should start early, and how best to go about it.

Beat the Crowd

So what are the best options for organic SEO campaigns in the run-up to Christmas 2014?

Looking at the Google Trends data again, it's clear that worldwide, people prefer the term 'Christmas gifts' to 'Christmas presents', but in the UK the two are on roughly equal terms over the years - so include both of them as primary keywords in your on-page text content.

In the UK, the past decade has seen a clear shift away from mass-market shop-bought gifts, towards more independent, artisan and even home-made presents.

An outcome of the turbulent economy and people's desire to save spending money? Or a return to traditional values of 'It's the thought that counts', rather than a materialistic consumer market?

Either way, it's worth focusing on the bespoke or hand-crafted elements of your products wherever possible, to tap into this clear breakout trend.

Beyond that, the old rules apply - 'top Christmas gifts', 'gifts for men', 'gifts for Christmas' and 'gifts for her' are all rising trends at the time of writing, so get your copywriter working now on your Christmas Gift Guide, and make sure it's distributed to your email subscribers and posted on your website well before November arrives.