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Building A Realistic Holiday SEO Roadmap

Episode Overview

A successful holiday season is a process that starts far in advance for SEOs. This week Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, walks us through the five steps to executing a successful holiday campaign.

In today’s episode, Tyson walks us through how to build a roadmap for your holiday SEO campaigns.

Topics discussed:

  • How to turn your holiday research into action
  • Getting buy-in from your executive team
  • How to work with your cross-functional partners

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Benjamin: Welcome to Holiday Seasonality Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering the topic of how you can get ready for the holidays. Joining us again for Holiday Seasonality Week is Tyson Stockton who is Searchmetrics’ Director of Services.

And so far this week we’ve talked about how to conduct your strategic analysis to prepare for the holidays and today we’re going to continue our conversation about building out an effective roadmap and getting buy-in from your team. But before we hear from Tyson, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. And we’re happy to invite you, our loyal podcast listeners, to an upcoming AMA webinar workshop where Tyson Stockton, our Director of Services, will be answering all of your questions about seasonality.

So, come prepared with your website, your data, and any questions you have related to optimizing your content for the holiday season. And Tyson will answer your questions on our Webinar in real time. To join our seasonal AMA Webinar, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. Here’s the second installment of Holiday Seasonality Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services.

Tyson, welcome back to Holiday Seasonality Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson: Thanks Ben. I’m ready to get into the next topic here.

Benjamin: I feel like we need to mix in some holiday seasonality cheer. The problem is we’re recording this on July 2nd, so maybe we should be talking about 4th of July or can I just say Ho, Ho, Ho SEOs and and get it out of the way and let’s get down to business?

Tyson: That works as well.

Benjamin: Ho, Ho, Ho SEOs. Let’s go. Yesterday we talked about doing your research and just to recap, for those of you who may have missed the episode, you know Tyson walked us through the process of first looking at your historical performance and understanding what page types are impacting your business around the holiday season.

What are your most performant pages and working from a bottoms-up approach. Once you understand what pages are performing, you’re going to look at what your competitors are doing, see where they are dominant, where there’s opportunities to take some market share from them, and eventually you’re going to look and do keyword research just generally and understand where there is untapped opportunity.

Today we’re going to change our focus and talk a little bit more about building your roadmap and strategy. So Tyson, we’ve gone through, we’ve looked at our site, we’ve gone through and looked at our competitors. We looked at the overall landscape. We have a sense of what keywords we’re already targeting, which ones we can take from our competitors and what are someone that no one is focused on. How do we put that into an action plan? How do we build our strategy and our roadmap?

Tyson: Yeah, and I think really like this is one of the, in my opinion, one of the more interesting steps because this is going to be your chess game almost within the organization because now is at the point where you have to be realistic of the resource that you have, challenges that you’ve faced in the past, stakeholders that you need to be reliant on, and this is where you really need to kind of be realistic as far as what can be achieved and then take that into prioritizing what you’re trying to do. One of the things that I would recommend at this stage is before you kind of get into like, okay, this is what I want, is to do a little bit kind of similar in the last step of the looking back at last year, look at where you had success or where you had kind of shortcomings and what contributed to that.

Was it a timeline issue that you got caught up on other projects and you know the holiday rush, it was last minute? Was it more of, Yeah I had my planning and then it got deprioritized prioritize because other changes which the organization was putting in and did I run into code freeze blocks? And so really understanding like where your organizational limitations and strengths are because those are going to be the elements that then you want to take into your strategy and kind of combating the short comings. If it’s lack of resources or bandwidth from a development perspective, okay now I can make a change to my plan or my roadmap by implementing those items earlier. Or if you know that, hey, this one department is going to be super impacted in Q4, maybe there’s other ways to get additional help or additional teams that kind of help support, that’s going to make your chances of actually having an impact greater.

Benjamin: So first and foremost, you need to evaluate the amount of time and resources you have to dedicate to the holidays. And I’m assuming part of this is you have to look at the type of business you’re running and understand how important the holidays are for you. If you’re a media and publishing business, holidays might be the slowest time of the year and this might be something that you need some holiday content to fill the gap, but it’s not going to be make or break for your season.

If you’re a digital only eCommerce player, chances are Black Friday is the big day of the year for you. It could make or break your quarter, if not your year. So, understanding your business first and foremost is step one to building your roadmap. We’ve got tons of resources, Tyson. We got SEOs coming out of our ears. Engineers love working on SEO projects and the CEO is totally bought into whatever strategy we want. That’s how it works. Right?

Tyson: This sounds like a dream organization. Like let me know the company so I can have some conversations with them.

Benjamin: It’s Searchmetrics Inc, and you’re in charge of our content strategy. So go forth and let’s optimize for the holidays. But I’m making a joke here and understanding that you’re going to have some resource constraints. So how do you face the fact that you’re likely going to be working on the holidays when other people aren’t thinking about it and what can you do as you’re building your roadmap to make it actionable early, so you’re set up for success while other people are probably not thinking about the holidays?

Tyson: Yeah, and I think this is the real advantage to starting earlier because one, when it comes into the battle of resources, you’re getting a head start of building your business case. So you’ve already done your homework, you understand what the conversion rates were for your different sales pages, you know the kind of market opportunity by the keyword research. You then are able to say, “Well, if we’re able to capture X, Y, and Z or this kind of market share, then I can forecast X business impacts.”

The great thing about the eCommerce area is obviously your conversion rates are highly inflated during this time of year. You have a surge in search volume. So the opportunity’s there and it, in theory, should be one of the easier times to build a strong business case. And by getting that head start when you’re going into those kind of, let’s say battle ground meetings of fighting for resources, you’re coming prepared with a stronger business plan and kind of business impact of these initiatives to make the justification and make the fight of why they should be allocated towards these efforts.

So, if you’re doing your research in advance, you have a better case to understand what the performance is, which is going to help you get the resources you need. Talk to me about putting together the actual action plan, right? Once you are saying, “Okay look, we’re going to have enough resources to do what we want or we’re not and we’re going to have to modify our plan.” Eventually you have your resources, you’ve got to figure out what to go do and then how to start doing it. How do you prioritize in terms of what do you try to tackle first? Are you doing content production first? Are you doing site optimization, page development, technical optimization? How do you just think about what you need to accomplish first now that you are working with some time on your side?

Tyson: Yeah, I would… I’d typically focus first on the elements that are going to be very reliant on other teams, so that’s going to be creative assets. It’s also going to be if you’re looking at some functionality changes to the templates, those in particular would be kind of early items I would want to get on the roadmap, especially in the form of template changes to the page types. Like maybe you’re an organization that has typically two category pages but neither of them really fit what you want to do from a sale category page perspective. So, then if I need to put in those changes, I want to get those in now because especially in an eCommerce organization, you know you’re going to go into code freeze and you know you’re not going to have that window open kind of later in Q4, so those would be the changes that I would want to get in today.

Then I would also be kind of thinking like what are the guaranteed safe bets? And at this stage if you’re having the conversations internally, there’s a very good chance that all the kind of marketing promotional communication or offers may have not been established yet. So maybe the organization knows that you’re going to have a sale that’s going to start mid-November, but as far as what products are going to be on sale, what is the exact amounts of the sale, you may not have the details to actually create creatives, but you can start building out your buckets. And your safe ones are going to be a Black Friday, Cyber Monday page. So I’d say, okay, even though they kind of bleed together, it’s a slightly different searches forum, so I’m going… I know I need a Black Friday page, I know I’m going to need a Cyber Monday page.

I know I’m gonna want like a general kind of holiday buyers guide type page as well. Like those would be my starting points and then I might want to have kind of additional pages or buckets that are areas that haven’t been defined yet. But I know that marketing’s going to be deciding what that actual offer is.

It’s totally fine. And typically whenever there’s a marketing push for holiday, there’s going to be creative done. So it’s okay that that creative isn’t started yet, but knowing that you’re going to have this and having the kind of early conversation in the organization, then when the actual marketing teams sets the promotions, you’re getting your assets built at the exact same time as they’re building assets for the mailers or additional maybe even in-store kind of signage, stuff like that. You’re getting your assets built at that same time. So, the more that you’re able to draft off what other teams are working on is going to be obviously the kind of path of least resistance, but having kind of more of your buckets or your areas that are going to be filled in, that’s going to be beneficial at this stage in the game.

Benjamin: Okay. A lot of what we’re talking about is getting internal buy -in and making sure that your team is ready to do whatever engineering or content production, that they’re aware of what their responsibilities are going to be in advance. Walk me through the entire timeline. Let’s say you start in July, you’re doing your keyword research in August or having your leadership meetings. September, you’re going out and you’re talking to the teams about doing your content development. I’m batching these in months, is that the right timeframe?

Tyson: I think roughly that is about right. Like one thing that I would throw in on the early side for it too in this kind of roadmap strategy step is I’d also be looking for what are some executive sponsors that I can kind of lean on? And this is a little bit of an indirect play, but it’s like I want to know going into it kind of who are the members on the executive team that essentially numbers are going to roll up too?

So, if I am successful in creating a very strong holiday marketing plan, what are the executives that are going to look good essentially for this? And I’d start to have early conversations to kind of get them energized, but also as a little bit of a subtle reminder. So, then if they’re in different conversations and they’re talking and being brought in for more high level planning, you’re planting the seed in the back of their mind already that this is something that’s an opportunity for them, but also it’s something that’s already kind of in motion because that’s going to help just grease the wheel a little bit when you actually get into the more tactical levels.

I would say at this planning stage too, it’s a good idea to think of also iterations. You know that there’s going to be some stuff that you’re not going to get away with until later in the actual holiday push. So, maybe that’s the links on the home page. Maybe that’s like additional links to the pages. Maybe even in some cases it’s some creative stuff that just hasn’t been defined by marketing yet, but that’s how I’d be looking about it is like, in the roadmap, it’s not necessarily just buckets of okay, step one was defining what we need. Step two, building what we need. Step three, it goes out to market.

But having it built and then having maybe like three iterations of like linking pushes. So, it’s like my first one’s going to start in probably October. My next one is going to be kind of beginning of November. And then when season’s kind of like full swing and the real peak of actual Black Friday’s hitting, then I have another push of additional links that go out the week prior to the events. And so I think having that kind of like, I don’t know, sub-steps within some of these different initiatives is also good because it helps being realistic of what you’re actually going to get. And then it also shows the business that you’re thinking about it in a strategic way and that’s going to help both the users but also how much revenue impact you can have from your pages.

Benjamin: So just to recap, some of the things that we’re suggesting is A, when you’re building your roadmap and strategy, the key is to start early. It’s one of the reasons why we’re doing our seasonality month this month in July, is that this is something that you need to be thinking about months and months in advance.

If you’re starting your research phase in July, right? You’re going to be done halfway through July, let’s call it, say you’re done in August, you have a month to go sell that plan internally, get the resources that you need. In September, you’re starting to do your production. Now you have a couple of cycles to get your linking strategy done and deal with all of the last minute things that are just by nature going to happen during the holidays. You’re not going to know what items are for sale, so you can’t produce your collateral for them or your creative for them until when the holidays are upon us.

So start early. You’re going to have more time to do the holiday iteration and be able to optimize and evaluate what’s actually happening when you launch. Tyson, any last words on setting your roadmap and strategy?

Tyson: I think it’s repetitive but start early and there’s no harm in having early conversations with other stakeholders. It doesn’t have to be formal meetings. It could just be in passing in the halls and stuff like that, but you want to start to kind of give that foreshadowing to your other business partners of, hey, this is something that I’m already starting or getting prepped for, so then it comes as less as a surprise later on.

Benjamin: You mentioned earlier that you should go find the executive sponsor who’s going to be most impacted by the holidays. I think the key here is to go back over the holiday party photos from the previous year and see who was either dressed up as Santa Claus or had the most festive outfit. Go buddy up to him or her and ask them if they’re ready for the holidays and tell them that you can help them with their strategy in advance.

Tyson: Absolutely.

Benjamin: Okay. That wraps up this episode of Holiday Seasonality Week on the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet. His handle is Tyson_Stockton, T-Y-S-O-N_S-T-O-C-K-T-O-N. And if you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shap, BE-N-J-S-H-A-P.

If you’re interested in joining our upcoming holiday AMA where Tyson Stockton will walk you through how to solve your holiday seasonality problems, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to talk about doing your content production specific to the holiday season.

Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay? That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Tagged:
Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Director of Enterprise Services, Tyson manages the Enterprise Client Success team and SEO Consulting efforts at Searchmetrics. Tyson has worked with some of world’s largest enterprise websites including Fortune 500 and global eCommerce leaders. Prior to Searchmetrics, Tyson worked on the in-house side managing the SEO and SEM efforts of a collection of 14 sports specialty eCommerce companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

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