Ready for Black Friday 2017? Here’s a 13-Step Checklist…

As trick-or-treaters head home with their can­dy, eyes inevitably turn to the remain­ing 2017 hol­i­days. And that, of course, includes the retail extrav­a­gan­za that is Black Fri­day. Mar­keters like­ly began their prepa­ra­tions long ago, but with about four weeks remain­ing (at...

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 5 comments

As trick-or-treaters head home with their can­dy, eyes inevitably turn to the remain­ing 2017 hol­i­days. And that, of course, includes the retail extrav­a­gan­za that is Black Fri­day.

Mar­keters like­ly began their prepa­ra­tions long ago, but with about four weeks remain­ing (at least as of pub­li­ca­tion), here’s a check­list – not of who’s been naughty or nice, but how to ensure your brand is opti­mized for Black Fri­day 2017.

Step 1: Start early.

Bran­don Chopp, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gist at fes­ti­val fash­ion brand iHeartRav­es, said he’s push­ing sales even ear­li­er with what he called Black Novem­ber, or sales the entire month.

Sales don’t start on Black Fri­day any­more as most com­pa­nies start ear­li­er to try to top each oth­er,” he said.

And Jason Bau­man, senior SEO asso­ciate at ecom­merce con­sult­ing and opti­miza­tion firm Trin­i­ty Insight, not­ed opti­miz­ing for Black Fri­day should ide­al­ly start months before the event.

But even if you’re a lit­tle late this year, just be sure to mark your 2018 cal­en­dars to give your­self plen­ty of time next year.

Step 2: Cover the SEO basics.

Like any mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy in this day and age, plan­ning is crit­i­cal to ensure vis­i­bil­i­ty while search vol­ume soars. (That’s in part why an ear­ly start is so help­ful.)

You’ll want to begin with the basics, dot­ting your Is and cross­ing your Ts with key­word research and con­tent.

Bradley Shaw of SEO Expert Brad Inc. rec­om­mend­ed using Google Key­word Plan­ner to find pop­u­lar hol­i­day key­words includ­ing “Black Fri­day + your prod­ucts” and to also include mod­i­fiers like “best” or “cheap­est” and then opti­miz­ing your tar­get pages for those terms.

By using key­word research to guide your con­tent, retail­ers can pro­vide val­ue to stressed shop­pers dur­ing the hol­i­days and stand out from the ‘SALE, SALE, SALE’ bar­rage online,” added Meg Hogan, chief strate­gist at mar­ket­ing agency Stun­ning Strat­e­gy.

Gabriel Shaoo­lian, founder of dig­i­tal agency Blue Foun­tain Media, agreed brands should cater to spe­cif­ic days by includ­ing key­words like “Black Fri­day” or “Cyber Mon­day” to help con­sumers eas­i­ly find your pro­mo­tions and prod­ucts.

Most mar­keters will look to do this, so it’s impor­tant to stay com­pet­i­tive,” he said.

In addi­tion, Shaoo­lian said to tar­get hol­i­day-spe­cif­ic key­words and prod­uct names, like, “Sam­sung TV Black Fri­day pro­mo­tion,” and cre­ate a land­ing page or sec­tion of your web­site specif­i­cal­ly for those items.

You’ll be able to draw author­i­ty for your main domain as well as attract con­sumers search­ing for a spe­cif­ic prod­uct,” he said. “The more detailed the search, the more like­ly the con­sumer will make a pur­chase.”

Bau­man agreed.

Every retail­er will try to opti­mize for Black Fri­day, but cus­tomers will search by the names of pop­u­lar gifts as well,” he added.

Step 3: Take shortcuts where possible.

But even if your key­word research wasn’t com­plet­ed by mid-Sep­tem­ber, Kevin Sides, CMO of eful­fill­ment ser­vices firm Ship­Monk, said brands can make up ground with direc­to­ry list­ings.

There are a lot of them and this is the time of year that you’ll want to try your best for inclu­sion,” he added.

Accord­ing to Luke Lynam, own­er and head of paid media at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Haystack Dig­i­tal, brands that used PPC in their 2016 strate­gies can also ana­lyze per­for­mance data to see if any trends pop out that will give them an addi­tion­al head­start this year.

We rec­om­mend mak­ing sure that all of your adverts are in place and approved [well ahead of time] – the last thing you need is to waste time with­in a peak peri­od wait­ing for Google to respond to your requests,” he added.

Step 4: Create plenty of useful content.

David Erick­son, vice pres­i­dent of online mar­ket­ing at Kar­wos­ki & Courage Pub­lic Rela­tions, sug­gest­ed cre­at­ing con­tent specif­i­cal­ly about what con­sumers will want to know about your brand’s plans for Black Fri­day, includ­ing spe­cials or deals, pro­mo­tions, hours of oper­a­tion and any­thing else they may want or need to know. Brands should opti­mize this, too, for the phrase “Black Fri­day 2017” fol­lowed by their com­pa­ny or brand name.

Step 5: Get into gift guides.

You can also cap­i­tal­ize on time­ly annu­al con­tent.

That’s accord­ing to Lin­da Par­ry Mur­phy, CEO of mar­ket­ing and PR firm Prod­uct Launch­ers, who sug­gest­ed sim­ply search­ing for 2016 gift guides to start and then reach­ing out to the reporters who cre­at­ed them.

Also, mon­i­tor HARO and oth­er online ser­vices that con­nect jour­nal­ists with experts and respond to their gift guide inquiries accord­ing­ly,” she said. “Anoth­er tip is to work with Ama­zon and sub­mit your prod­ucts for inclu­sion in [its] hol­i­day pro­mo­tions and make sure that your prod­uct pages include rel­e­vant key­words, i.e. 2017 Gift of the Year.”

For an addi­tion­al organ­ic boost, you can also devel­op an AdWords cam­paign that includes gift guide key­words, she added.

Shaoo­lian said to use con­tent like this that links back to your site – or spe­cif­ic prod­uct pages – to boost rank­ings as well.

Whether it’s hol­i­day-spe­cif­ic con­tent you can offer or even a prod­uct review that includes a link, this will be a key way to increase your sea­son­al SEO efforts,” he added.

Brands can also cre­ate their own gift guides or sec­tions, not­ed Stephanie Shar­low, chief edi­tor at design firm Design­Rush.

Step 6: Make sure Google has plenty of time to crawl your Black Friday pages.

Bau­man said that while brands may want to wait to reveal their Black Fri­day deals, their URLs should still be vis­i­ble to Google ear­ly.

This is because it can take time for Google’s crawlers to find and index a page, which means if you wait until Black Fri­day to pub­lish the page, it might not show up in search engines,” he said. “Treat the page as a land­ing page until you’re ready to show off your sales. Ask for a cus­tomer’s email and promise they’ll have first or exclu­sive access to some of the deals you’ll have.”

Step 7: Make sure your Black Friday title tags include the year.

When you are ready to pub­lish your deals, make sure the title tag includes the year, so con­sumers know they’re click­ing on the right link in search results, Bau­man said.

Erick­son agreed.

We know from Google Trends search data that peo­ple search for ‘Black Fri­day’ fol­lowed by the year to exclude irrel­e­vant con­tent from years past,” he said. “By opti­miz­ing for that phrase and includ­ing your com­pa­ny or brand name, you’ll have a greater chance of get­ting vis­i­bil­i­ty for Black Fri­day search­es specif­i­cal­ly for your busi­ness and avoid com­pet­ing with much larg­er retail­ers.”

Step 8: Don’t delete Black Friday pages after Black Friday.

And when Black Fri­day is over, don’t get rid of relat­ed pages, Bau­man said.

Over the course of the sea­son, you hope­ful­ly had web­sites link­ing to you and your deals shared on social media. If you delete the page, those links are lost,” he added. “Keep the page live, but change the copy. ‘Here’s what we offered in 2017, sign up now to be the first to know what we give in 2018!’”

That means when Black Fri­day comes around next year, brands can either use the exist­ing page or cre­ate a new one to redi­rect the pre­vi­ous year’s page.

This lets you keep the vis­i­bil­i­ty you earned last year instead of delet­ing it,” Bau­man said.

Step 9: Capitalize on tech improvements.

Mike Cata­nia, CTO of deals site Pro­mo­tion­Code, also rec­om­mend­ed installing an SSL cer­tifi­cate as Google has made it known this is yet anoth­er rank­ing sig­nal.

It’s an easy instal­la­tion for most sites, but it can take a month to get re-indexed, so it’s best to start now to be ready in Novem­ber,” he said.

Sites should also make sure they’re up to speed – lit­er­al­ly. Cata­nia rec­om­mend­ed using Think with Google’s mobile speed tool as a good start­ing place “since mobile and desk­top page load times are a well-known sig­nal of qual­i­ty.”

He added, “Black Fri­day gen­er­ates copi­ous amounts of dupli­cate con­tent, so stand­ing out from a tech­ni­cal stand­point can be eas­i­er than try­ing to carve [out] new con­tent in the next month.”

For his part, Stephen Gib­son, founder of cre­ative start­up blog, point­ed to fac­tors like loca­tion and mobile.

Incor­po­rat­ing opti­mized Black Fri­day land­ing pages that are loca­tion-spe­cif­ic, respon­sive, rich-card-enabled and AMP-pow­ered will be at the top of the search results,” he said.

Step 10: Take advantage of Google Shopping.

In addi­tion, Google Shop­ping has a more promi­nent place in the SERPs this year, which brands can use to their advan­tage.

Google Shop­ping results will now take up the right-hand side – where right-rail ads used to be – dur­ing most prod­uct search­es,” Lynam said. “This now pro­vides nine prime spots to get your prod­uct seen by con­sumers with much larg­er prod­uct images. As a result, some of our clients have seen Shop­ping sales increase by up to 130% year on year.”

The spike in inter­est means there will also be a spike in cost, so Lynam rec­om­mends bid­ding up by at least 25% dur­ing these peri­ods to retain posi­tions above the fold.

As it’s a bid­ding sys­tem, you will only ever need to pay a pen­ny over your clos­est com­peti­tor to keep that spot, so don’t wor­ry about being too bold,” he added.

Step 11: Don’t forget voice search.

Erick­son not­ed Black Fri­day search behav­ior has been pret­ty pre­dictable in recent years, but increas­ing depen­dence on voice-acti­vat­ed devices could mark a change in hol­i­day shop­ping behav­ior this year.

Mar­keters should put them­selves in the mind of their cus­tomer and envi­sion how they are like­ly to talk to their search-acti­vat­ed devices lead­ing up to and dur­ing Black Fri­day to get infor­ma­tion and answer ques­tions they may have,” he said.

Scott Colenutt, head of dig­i­tal at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Site Vis­i­bil­i­ty, agreed, say­ing he not only sus­pects voice-acti­vat­ed devices them­selves will sell well this hol­i­day sea­son, but this, in turn, will lead con­sumers to use said devices for research.

As part of your SEO con­tent strat­e­gy, you could start plan­ning your con­tent around the ques­tions that peo­ple are like­ly going to be…typing into search results or ask­ing their new home devices,” he added.

Step 12: Use remarketing to reach consumers not ready to buy on Black Friday.

In addi­tion, Colenutt said to start plan­ning out your remar­ket­ing lists.

The prod­ucts that are pop­u­lar dur­ing Black Fri­day are like­ly going to be pop­u­lar through­out the hol­i­day sea­son. For users that make pur­chas­es on Black Fri­day, you could per­haps use retar­get­ing for upsells dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son – think periph­er­als and acces­sories,” he said. “For users that didn’t pur­chase? Well, now you have an extend­ed peri­od of time to try and con­vert them. You could retar­get these users with deals, offers or maybe incor­po­rate a sense of urgency by high­light­ing stock lev­els or prod­uct pop­u­lar­i­ty.”

Step 13: Don’t forget fulfillment.

And, biased though he may be com­ing from a com­pa­ny that pro­vides eful­fill­ment ser­vices, Sides not­ed brands shouldn’t for­get ful­fill­ment of all the orders placed on a day like Black Fri­day.

When you’re look­ing at a 300%+ spike in sales, you may find your cur­rent ful­fill­ment sit­u­a­tion stressed,” he added.

Any back­log could be huge­ly detri­men­tal to user expe­ri­ence – espe­cial­ly in the age of Ama­zon Prime – so the abil­i­ty to ship on time as promised is an impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for Black Fri­day, too.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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