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Building and Assessing a SEO Holiday Keyword List

Episode Overview: Santa is always making his list and checking it twice, and Searchmetrics is following suit with our holiday triage mode checklist to help keep SEOs on track during a hectic holiday season. Join Ben and Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton as they kickoff Holiday Triage Mode week reviewing the first step – building and assessing your holiday keyword list.


  • The best place to start is quickly pulling data on past holiday performance and review it, spending no more than 20 minutes in analysis, to get a sense of where your current efforts stand now.
  • A domain level view of past performance, including reviewing competitors and their performance metrics, will highlight gaps in performance providing clear targets to improve.
  • After setting benchmarks and targets to accomplish, the next step is move to keyword analysis and identify what you need to win, creating a column, or complete keyword list.


Ben:                 Welcome to Holiday Triage 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 holiday season as it quickly approaches. But before we get started, 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.

To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, for the holiday season, we have put together a complimentary holiday triage checklist to understand how you can assess, prioritize, optimize, build and measure for the holidays, go to

Okay. Joining us again for Holiday Triage week for the second year in a row is Tyson Stockton who is Searchmetrics’ director of services. Outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson and I are going to talk about how you can assess the current state of your holiday roadmap and understand where you are and how you can get where you want to be. Here’s the first installment of Holiday Triage week with Tyson Stockton Searchmetrics’ director of services.

Tyson, ho, ho, ho, SEOs, it’s the holiday season, it’s time for Holiday Triage week again.

Tyson:              It’s that time of year.

Ben:                 It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Tyson:              I know, especially probably for the e-commerce people out there.

Ben:                 I think for the e-commerce people, it might not be the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the most stressful time of the year. Hopefully for everyone else, we’re not too stressed going into the holidays, but this week is all about holiday triage. If you’re a little behind, if you’ve been focused on just your regular SEO optimizations and all of a sudden the holidays are sneaking up on you, we’re here to help.

Tyson, what’s the first thing you need to do when you’re running behind the holidays and need to quickly scamper like reindeer feet coming through the snow so you can make your holiday SEO impactful?

Tyson:              Yeah, so, I mean, the starting point for the last minute triaged mode SEOs if you will, is, is not going to be that different than if you were starting earlier on, but you’re obviously going to have to drastically cut down and speed up on a few steps. So, I would still say that your starting point is going to be to take a quick look back at past performance. I mean, this is something that, assuming you’re kind of savvy on the technology stack that you’re using the GA system or analytics SEO software like this should be something that you should be able to pull within, let’s say like 20 minutes really, we’re not talking typically in a huge volume of pages most often and hopefully people’s heard a repetitive nature of not starting fresh and having new URLs every season.

So with all that said, you should be able to pull this information relatively quickly and that’s what’s going to help set your foundation of what needs to be done.

Ben:                 Understanding where you are is half the battle now there’s the idea of seeing the performance of your previous pages, putting together your keyword lists, evaluating your previous performance. Walk me through some of the things when you’re talking about doing your analysis from a practical standpoint, you got 20 minutes to go, think about what you did last year and set your benchmarks. Walk me through your strategy there.

Tyson:              Yeah, so I mean I would kind of run down the typical like e-commerce funnel where for someone to look at the wide domain as a whole just to get a feel or context or a refresher of what the site was doing at the time. Like was it pacing up or going up in an upward trajectory?

Was it on a downward decline? So let me put some context around the performance. Then I’m going to be looking at the pages specific to the holiday times. So if we’re talking black Friday, what was the overall numbers for our black Friday pages or page? And then I’m also going to look at competitors. This is where it’s going to highlight or fill in the gaps of where you either maybe didn’t perform last year and you’re going to see who is capturing that because that’s going to be the area that you’re wanting to expand or take back or you know where you’re going to want to compete more.

Ben:                 So you’re essentially doing a domain level look back to understand what was happening last year and how each brand performed.

Tyson:              Yeah, I like, I like to start with that because I think it’s helpful. One, it doesn’t take very long at all, like just dropping in a domain and the research cloud and seeing how they’ve been pacing for the last year.

You know even sometimes two is super quick and easy, but it gives you a little bit of a reminder or a refreshment, with your own domain is probably top of mind, easy to recall, but you might have different competitors that you’re not as familiar with like, well I don’t know if they were going down or going up around this time last year because that obviously is going to play into how those domains are performing. I think it will also, is worth kind of like noting the difference between sale pages, whether it’s Black Friday page or you know, a specific sale that’s going on during the season. And also, just like the tide rising on all search volumes and e-commerce. So I think it’s important to look at your targeted specific event type pages. But then also like don’t forget to just look at the site as a whole because in e-commerce, you know search lines on them.

Not every single category, but most categories are all high and kind of like the November, December, and even into January timeframe.

Ben:                 So once you’ve gone through and done your historical look back and you’re benchmarking yourself against some of your competitors, what’s the next step?

Tyson:              I would say, and this is probably where you’re going to, I guess in some ways I would say cut some corners. It sounds like a negative in that standpoint, but you only have so much time, so you are going to have to prioritize that.

Ben:                 This is where you’re going to become more efficient.

Tyson:              Right. That’s a much better way of saying it. Cut corners, be more efficient. You’re going to be more streamlined in your approach here.

Ben:                 Aerodynamic.

Tyson:              Exactly. Exactly.

Ben:                 So, you go when you do a little audit, right? You’re going to look back historically to understand what you and your competitors were doing going into the holiday and how those strategies performed.

Once you have a sense of, you know, the historical context of what’s happening in your industry for holiday, what do you do with that? How do you continue to assess the lay of the land and figure out what your strategy should be?

Tyson:              Yeah, so the next point is you’re going to move into kind of like a keyword level. So you’re going to look specifically of the type of keywords that you want or you need to win for during the season or during the event. And you’re going to also look at those pages and made sure that those pages, you know, you look at the conversion rate of last year, make sure that the page, or like the experience is going to be sound from a conversion rate perspective because once you get the users to that page, you want to make sure you’re capitalizing on it.

So I think those are the two big next steps is going from basically the funnel of domain URL keywords. Where are you currently ranking on those keywords? Even if it’s, you know, two weeks prior to like black Friday or if it’s going into a new year’s Eve site sale, look at where you’re ranking. Even if it’s a month ahead of time, Google and search engines are still going to be ranking those URLs even though less people are searching it. And then you’re going to kind of know how much or what you have to kind of achieve to actually make an impact from those efforts.

Ben:                 So talk to me a little bit, once you’ve done your keyword analysis, how do you think about mapping your historical performance and the keywords that you’re targeting to specific pages? And do you think about the technical side of what’s happening on your website or is this all just really like content and page structure?

Tyson:              Yeah, and I think, I mean this is going to be the area is that again, you’re going to have to be kind of like efficient of how far down the rabbit hole you go. Because something like a technical audit, you can’t ignore it altogether. Like you actually definitely need to know that you don’t have any major holes or gaps that are going to limit your performance, but you’re probably not going to have a two week runtime to do like a exhausted audit. So it’s like in the audit area, you’re wanting to make sure that these pages are index, you’re wanting to make sure that there’s links going to them. You want to make sure there’s nothing horribly wrong from the team perspective. And then also they don’t have things like different types of Javascript that’s making the content not readable by bots and things like that.

So it’s like you want to do the basic necessities of “Will a search engine reach this age, crawl it understanding in 10 and do I have a chance of succeeding?” And that’s really what you’re looking for in that technical audit. And in the mapping, you’re really just kind of creating the list of target pages that you’re going to be working with later. So the keyword level, you’re taking that into the URLs and that essentially is your, your list or your pool of pages to work with. And then the audit is also kind of a sanity check that, “Hey, I don’t have any large glaring errors that are going to limit the performance when I go to actually make changes to those pages that I just identified.”

Ben:                 So. let me just recap the first thing to do when you’re going through your holiday triage, if you’re late to the game, you want to assess your existing performance with a couple of steps that you want to go through.

Our first, you have to just do the historical look back. You have to understand what happened previously, what assets you have, who your competition is, and what strategies they’ve implemented to make sure that you understand what has or hasn’t worked in the past. Once you’ve done your historical look back, you’re going to go and you’re going to check your column, a keyword list, and figure out what you’re targeting. You’re going to look back and set some performance benchmarks to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Then you’re going to map to specific pages to figure out what you need to change to try to reach your goals. And last but not least, you’re going to do a quick technical audit to make sure that nothing is stopping the pages that you’re trying to optimize to be able to be reached and consumed by Google. Tyson. Anything else you need to do to assess your domains?

Current state, getting ready for the holidays?

Tyson:              No, I think that’s, I mean that fully encompases it and I know that sounds like a lot for the first step, but I think the point that I’d emphasize here is we’re not skipping any of these steps. We’re just kind of streamlining or not going as maybe deeper, far as we would have if we had more time. So it’s, it’s important not to skip these steps, but we also have to be mindful of time. So you’re going to have to be basically doing kind of like the minimum each of these categories, make sure they are keeping pace.

Ben:                 Okay. That wraps up this episode of the voices of search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton. Searchmetrics is director of services. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is, Tyson underscore Stockton or if you have general questions about the show. If you’re interested in being a guest on the voices of search podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shap B. E. N. J. S. H. A. P if you’re interested in learning about how do you search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights specifically around the holiday season, we’ve put together any holiday triage checklist for you.

Go to to download the document and if you liked 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 to discuss more of our holiday triage checklist, talking about what you should prioritize to turn your holidays from naughty to nice.

All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Vice President of Client and Account Management, 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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