Holiday Search Planning For Local Businesses In 5 Easy Steps

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It’s almost October — which means that Q4 starts in a matter of days. Are you ready for the holidays?

While you may still have plenty of time to tackle your personal shopping list, your website is another matter entirely. Is it ready for shoppers? Have you created a holiday strategy yet?

If not, now’s the time to get started. The holiday shopping season is upon us, and shoppers will soon be hitting the stores and the internet in search of the perfect gift.

There are several things you need to do to optimize your site’s local listings before your customers start checking off their gift lists.

Step 1: Ensure Your Map & Directory Listing Information Is Correct

If shoppers can’t find you, they won’t buy from you.

Audit your Google Places Local, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, Twitter and any other social, map or directory listings you have and make sure your contact information and hours of operation are current.

If you’re changing your hours for the holidays, be sure to update these listings to reflect new the new holiday schedule.

Step 2: Devise A Drive-To-Retail Strategy (If That’s Your Goal)

Do you have a storefront? Are you trying to drive offline conversions? If so, you need to entice your online customer to get them to visit your store.

Offer free gift wrap or a special discount to online consumers that’s only good in store. This will help drive in-store traffic as well as help you track online-to-offline conversion.

If you have a business that sells a seasonal product, consider offering a trade-in option. For example, if a store sells kids coats, they could offer $20 off the purchase of a new coat when you donate an old coat to a child in need.

Coordinate something with a local charity and have a coat drop-off at your store. Promote the special event on your website and through your social media channels; encourage your fans and followers to share the information about the event.

Step 3: Implement Schema Markup On Your Website

Schema markup allows search engine spiders to index your information more easily.

For optimal results, you’ll want to mark up your location, store hours, events (such as the coat drive mentioned above) and any other applicable options for your business.

Step 4: Optimize Your Social Profiles And Reviews/Ratings

Yes, you probably already have a Yelp Business Page (if not, sign up now), but how optimized is your profile? Do you have information about your business, website, or photos of your store? If not, you’ll want to add those things so that your profile is more engaging.

You’ll also want to read through your reviews — are they positive or negative? What’s the overall sentiment? How current are they? Are there any negative reviews that warrant a response? Do you have three reviews or 20?

If you don’t have many reviews, or the reviews you have are old, you will want to encourage customer reviews. Ask your loyal customers to review you on these websites, and perhaps offer an incentive in exchange for a completed review.

If you have a lot of negative reviews, look for commonalities among them and see what you can do to address these problems. Resist the urge to get defensive — instead, figure out ways to improve your service.

Step 5: Craft A Content & Promotion Calendar – Determine Your Holiday Seasonal Messaging

Will you offer special deals for Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Do you have a loyalty program set up for your customers? If so, are there extra incentives you can offer the program members?

The easiest way to create the calendar is to start by filling in the holiday or promotion information you know. Choose whichever type of calendar you prefer and mark out October, November and December holidays. Add in information about school closures if your business involves kids.

If you’re going to offer specials for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make notes on the dates. (You don’t have to know what your promotion will be just yet — you can simply set a placeholder for now). If you’re going to be open additional hours right before the holiday, mark that down.

Once you have outlined the holidays and promotions you know you’ll run, take a look at the calendar and see if there is anything else you should include.

If you’re going to run the free gift wrap or discount coupon offers mentioned earlier, then decide on specific dates for those promotions. If you’re going to host a coat donation, then choose a set time period to hold the event. Enter all this information on your marketing calendar.

You now have a calendar complete with holiday and promotion information — all that’s left is to figure out how you’re going to promote your business.

Look at what you’ve mapped out and determine the best method of communication with your customers. Some promotions will be a good fit for email campaigns, while others might be better on Facebook or Twitter.

It’s important to know your audience on each channel and see how they engage. If you’re not sure what will work best, that’s okay — you can experiment this time and use the information to help with next year’s planning.

Final Thoughts

These five easy steps will help you craft a local strategy for your SEO program. Start now so you’re ready when the shoppers want to buy.

If you wait until the week before Thanksgiving, it will be too late, as Google needs time to register your changes and index your information. SEO isn’t instant; you have to work in advance. By planning ahead, you can have a successful holiday season.

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