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Areej discusses optimizing website architecture for seasonality in this issue of Whiteboard Friday. The focus is on when peak times occur in your business and strategic planning before, during and after those times.
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Hello everybody. I am Areey AbuAli. I’m the founder of Crawlina, an independent SEO consultancy, and today I’m here to talk to you all about optimizing website architecture for seasonality, with a focus on ecommerce websites.
What is seasonal SEO?
Seasonal SEO is a concept of increasing conversions during periods of heightened interest.
Well it could be one of many reasons. It could be event based. It could be time based. It could be a product. Some examples that come to mind when they are event based are for example Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. When it comes to a specific period of time, it may be because it’s the end of the year, January, or summer.
Then when it’s product-based, it’s usually about the concept of a new product launch, like the new iPhone, the new MacBook, or whatever.
The most important question you should ask
The question you always have to ask yourself when working on a new website is, “When are our peak times?” It’s very, very important to us not to assume you’re actually asking that during peak times, and in of our SEO strategy.
I like to break it down so that it’s the concept of what happens before climax, what happens during climax, and then what happens after climax, and that’s what we’re going to go through in turn now.
Before the climax
So let’s start before the climax. It’s about the idea of dividing everything into what we compare first, then what we plan to do, and then what happens when we go live.
So when we talk about benchmarking, the first question we usually ask is “how did you hit the last peak?” It’s important for us to take a step back to make sure we have benchmark data to understand what our traffic was like, how much our turnover was and how many leads came through, because in order for us to do that down the line you can assess and understand what happened during this peak period.
Forget the typical monthly reports. Top reporting tends to be very, very varied. It focuses on actual KPIs that matter to the business and compares them to that peak versus a previous peak period. The second question is, “What are the opportunities at this peak?” So for that upcoming peak, you’re usually expected to forecast how traffic and revenue will evolve.
We can do this based on current rankings based on seasonal search volume. Based on this, we can then determine our predicted traffic and revenue growth. It’s very important to communicate this in advance so that stakeholders can be involved and everyone knows what to expect and what’s next.
Then when it comes to the pre-season planning phase, this is usually where you spend most of your time.
Now it’s really very important that we don’t put it off until the last minute. This usually happens at least a quarter before the upcoming peak time. So the first thing you need to do is make sure you have all your reporting set up, and have the automated dashboards in place to curate that data as you work. Seasonal site updates, now it could be one of many things. Of course, the homepage will likely get some updates.
Your product landing pages, your PLPs, and your product detail pages — in many cases, some of these pages may have been forgotten for a while as they haven’t been touched since last season. Then of course we make sure how we link them internally. Well, your navigation is a hero in that regard, and it’s very, very important to us to ensure that we internally link our PLPs to our PDPs, and our supporting content assets and our supporting blog assets.
Then when it comes to the content updates you need to make, Evergreen is your friend. It’s very, very important for us to rely on pages that already have authority, rather than building new pages from scratch. In doing so, we need to make sure we don’t forget our meta tags and update the different dates depending on where we are in the year. But also stick with what worked before instead of trying to create something from scratch every time.
Technical controls are very important. With seasonal pages, depending on whether it’s an events page or a products page, there may be times when we forget something that’s blocked, unindexed, or uncrawlable. So make sure there is a plan in place beforehand so that all of these pages can be crawled and indexed by Google when you go online.
Finally, having an out-of-stock plan is really, really important. Let’s make sure we’re not just throwing up 404 pages when they’re temporarily out of stock, and make sure we actually have a plan and are working with different teams to make sure we know when something isn’t are more in stock and what needs to be done at that time.
Then, when it comes time to go live, you probably have your go-live checklist ready at that point, making sure everything is crawlable and indexable and that everything that needs to be in the navigation is in place to do so Your pages it can actually be found. Then just take a deep breath. At this point it’s really, really important. It’s usually been at least a month, two, or four, especially if it’s been a big seasonal page or period for you, to make sure you take a step back.
Most of the work is usually done before the climax.
During the climax
So in high season this can be an event that lasts a day. It could be something that lasts a week, or maybe the entire fourth quarter. So it depends very, very much on what specific peak period you are working on. But make sure you monitor your data while doing it, right? So the data benchmarking that we did up here is very, very important because at this point we know how we did last time.
So keep track of those numbers and know, “Have we reached our goal yet? Our forecast for an increase in sales: are we there or are we still quite behind?” Make sure you keep a constant eye on the tech. Will the lack of inventory soon become a problem? Should we make sure we make changes to some of our pages?
Are all our products live? Is everything crawlable? Is everything indexable? Also, make sure you keep stakeholders informed at all times. Especially if it’s a longer period than expected, don’t wait for them to come up to you and say, “Oh, did we hit our targets yet?” or “What do the numbers look like?” It is very, very important that some of our reporting reports that we originally had are really transparent and that stakeholders can access them very, very easily.
After the high season, it’s all about communication. You will probably get a lot of questions, and SEO is just one channel. Your organic traffic and sales are just one channel among many others. It will be very, very important for the company as a whole to communicate how it went, which channels did and which did not.
Regardless of whether it’s good news or bad news, it’s very, very important to be as transparent and open as possible about what the data looks like and what insights we draw from it. What I always encourage is creating a retrospective action plan. Now this is a meeting that will most likely be attended by many different stakeholders from different teams.
But the most important thing is to talk about what went well, what didn’t go so well and what actions we will take from it. There might be some things that went really well that we want to make sure we maintain in our next peak times. But there could also be other instances that were quite challenging, such as a miscommunication with the tech team, or an issue with a piece of content that wasn’t updated, or something along those lines.
With this we want to make sure we come up with a plan on how to prevent this from happening next time. This is also usually the best time to plan the next highlight and ask about any additional resources you may need. Let’s say next time you need a dedicated developer or you want more content resources, for example. This is usually the best time to provide a case study of what happened during that peak period, and we want to make sure we do an even better job next time.
So, yeah, I’m hoping that somehow it gives us an easy way to further develop SEO strategies, especially with a focus on seasonal peaks and how we can manage them for e-commerce or even other websites in general. Thank you for joining.
Video transcription from Speechpad.com