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Conducting Seasonal Research For The Holidays

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 conduct your seasonal research.

Topics discussed:

  • How to evaluate your existing holiday assets
  • Ways to evaluate your industry & competition’s strategies
  • Finding untapped opportunities


Episode Transcript

Benjamin: Welcome to holiday seasonality week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we are going to publish an episode every day covering the topic of how you can get ready for the holidays. Joining us for holiday seasonality week is Tyson Stockton who is Searchmetrics’ is director of services and today we’re going to start off holiday seasonality week by talking about the strategic analysis you need to do prior to setting your holiday strategies. 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. So join our seasonal AMA webinar. Go to

Okay. Here comes the first installment of holiday seasonality week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Tyson. Welcome to holiday seasonality week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson: Thanks Ben. Glad to be back on talking about our favorite topic again this time a little earlier.

Benjamin: I was just about to say that this is the same topic we covered in our first podcast. So we must have been doing this for a year, but actually last year we did a holiday triage and we launched that content I believe in October and November, which was all about, hey, if you’re not prepared for the holidays and you didn’t start planning in advance, here’s what you can do to make up some ground. But the takeaway from this is the right way to manage the holidays is to start early and be prepared and be methodical.

So that’s what we’re going to do this week. And we’re going to start off by talking a little bit about the pre strategy research phase. Talk to me about your guidelines for thinking about seasonality and understanding where you fit in the competitive market.

Tyson: Yeah, and I mean as far as the timeline goes, this is really the time, especially when I was on the in house side that I always wish that I had started. So this is kind of like a refreshing starting point to it. The first thing that I would do as I’m to kind of carve out what the holiday strategy and kind of plan is, is I wanna kind of do a reevaluation or a postmortem of what happened last year. What was not just how my website or the website you’re working on performed. How did your competitors perform? Who won, who lost? What were some kind of changes during that time that happened? Thinking back on last holiday season, something that would kind of spark my interest with something that was kind of called out of REI’s take on it, of how they actually didn’t have like a Black Friday in stores, but how they’re able to kind of recapture that within their online sales and how, because of the PR kind of it of hey, we’re not having a Black Friday, increase their actual SEO performance. So those would be kind of things I would keep an eye out. Not necessarily saying, hey, REI is going to do the exact same thing again, but it’s more of, it’s an observation.

It was something that took place that maybe is something that I can take into beyond planning. And I know the REI example is a little bit of an extreme that something, you know, maybe your organization wouldn’t be wanting to kind of replicate in the same way. But I think those items are worth kind of noting. So not just internally what you did as an organization, but what is your competitors do and what did other people do in a similar space do last year.

Benjamin: So let’s actually talk a little bit about that and talk about last year you mentioned that REI took the strategy of the Anti Black Friday. Were there any other trends that you saw last holidays that stuck out in your mind?

Tyson: I think, I mean, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily like new to last year, but one of the websites that I think did have a pretty strong, especially Black Friday time period and holiday period in general was Walmart.

And that was a website that we spoke about kind of towards the end of last year. They weren’t necessarily doing something completely different, but it was more of a good example of reusing assets from previous years and equity that had been built up and established and previous times and then continuing that and further strengthening signals to it.

So you saw last year it was kind of an increase in SEO performance for Walmart in general, but it was kind of like the peaking at the right time where they’re able to capitalize on that increase in seasonal trends. So that was one that kind of stood out as far as winners of last year’s Black Friday. I don’t think that that’s one that’s necessarily like, hey, they implemented a completely unique strategy of what they did on previous years, but more of an example of how you can have a greater success by reusing existing URLs, assets, and kind of building off what you did from the previous year.

Benjamin: So the first thing you need to do is be a little reflective. And if you’ve been managing the same brand or if your brand has been around for a while and had a holiday strategy, you can look and you know, see what you did and see what the competitive set did from the previous year. Walk me through the strategy. What are some of the KPIs that you’re looking at to evaluate the previous year’s performance and strategy?

Tyson: Yeah, so the starting point that I would take is one I’d look at internally analytics sessions, conversions, any of those kind of like standard, what I think would typically described as more of like lagging KPIs. So once someone already got to the site, so I’d look at it’s specific Black Friday or if it’s kind of more holiday seasonal, general buying guides, I’d look at what the performance was of those URLs. So when did I see the peak in traffic, when did I see the fall off, what was kind of the overall performance of the URL compared to maybe previous years. And then from that I would, after I get kind of more of a solid understanding of how the website traffic performed. Then I’d move into looking at what were the actual rankings, so I’d take those same URLs. I would look for what keywords that they’re ranking on.

Tyson: So you could do this from either if you have like a project where you’re tracking keywords already attributed to those URLs. You could also do this from the URL details feature in the research cloud and by just plugging in the URL and looking at what key words or ranking. The reason why I’d take this as a second step is ultimately I’m looking at my goal is the traffic and conversions, but I want to understand what led into that. And then also when I understand like how the URLs were ranking, I can then also do more of an apples, apples comparison of what my competitor’s URLs are doing. So if I have a Black Friday kind of general sale page, I’m able to then take the Walmart Black Friday page or another competitors. I try to gauge and I’m able to look at what keywords were they ranking for and that’s already going to start to carve out potential new opportunities of keywords at someone else’s similar page was ranking for that. Maybe you weren’t.

Benjamin: What’s interesting to me is that your taking sort of a bottoms up approach where you’re looking at what your onsite performance was first and understanding what your most performed at page types are before you’re looking at competitors or doing your competitive research. Why are you taking that approach as opposed to a top down, hey, here’s what’s where there’s opportunity in the market?

Tyson: Yeah, and honestly you could go about it from either way. I think I prefer to go about it this way because I find that you can do some of your keyword research in the same step, in the same process. So for me, you’re actually going to save yourself a little bit of time by using these kind of little tips and tricks. I’m just plugging in URLs and looking at keywords. And now when I do the more like thorough keyword research, I’ve already done maybe 50, 75% of it. So then when I actually need to pull out additional keywords or see may be of new emerging topics that wasn’t around last year, that work should be significantly reduced by already starting with what happened from last year. There are going to be differences from one year to another, but a lot of it’s going to be consistent. And so that way you can just save yourself some time.

Benjamin: And I think one of the things that’s smart is by looking at what your performance pages are, right? Evaluating your business from previous performance. You’re de-risking, right? You’re mitigating your risk because you’re able to say, look, there’s a high probability of X, Y, and z pages being performant and driving revenue. And at the end of the day, that’s really what you’re optimizing for, right? It’s the business result. And so when you know you’re driving traffic to a healthy page, you’re gonna have better business results when you don’t know if a given page is going to perform because it’s new. There’s inherent risk there. So I appreciate the strategy of saying, hey, let’s take what works, let’s see if we can embellish it, let’s look at what our competitors are doing and then let’s try to get creative and see if we can add on top of that. Talk to me about how you evaluate what your competitors are doing, what you can beg, borrow, and steal from them. And then how do you add on top to try to capture new ground?

Yeah, and I think the first step is going to be understanding your competitors and knowing like do you have the same array of SKUs and product types because maybe they have additional pages that they had last year that you don’t have the products to support or it’s a category that you may not carry. So like that’s going to be kind of the first step. And then that way you can weed out keywords that they’re ranking for. They’re just not going to be relevant to your domain. But I think that’s like the biggest kind of initials step is understanding where your strengths are from a product and a brand perspective and then combining that with your keyword data. I think something else that I liked to do, and this can be done for both your own domain as well as your competitors, is conducting crawls to see how well the pages were linked.

A lot of times this is something that we talked about and kind of like the holiday triage is something that you could do as a last minute piece, but as far as how well these URLs are going to perform it in area that a lot of websites kind of miss or it’s a missed opportunity is they don’t link them well in the navigation on the sites. They’re not passing adequate kind of page authority to them. So understanding both how well it’s linked today by conducting a new kind of fresh crawl, as well as if you have it looking a pass crawl during the holiday time to see like from the new links that we added in what change did that have from like from the linking profile and then that’s something that you can also do on your competitors sites.

It gets a little more challenging with crawling a site like Amazon or understanding like all the links of the site might be a little limited just due to the size of the website, but especially if you have more niche competitors. I oftentimes like to run crawls on my competitor’s site, not just to see like what they’re doing well, but also kind of areas that maybe that are not doing well and if I notice that they’re not linking to particular pages strong, that could be an opportunity of maybe they’re not going to have the same strength of performance or they haven’t or you know, kind of like when they’re starting to make linking changes because you start to see the linking profile change for those select kind of destination URLs.

Benjamin: So in terms of your competitive research, you’re not only looking at what the overlap is in terms of your product pages, right? What are the SKUs that you have that overlap so you can figure out if they’re having better performance than you, is it because you’re actually competing or they have a wider set of products. But you’re also looking at some of their navigation and linking to understand how they’re passing the domain authority to the pages where you do overlap. Outside of looking at your direct competitors, how do you figure out where there is an opportunity that no one has covered yet? How do you do your keyword research to look for fresh territory?

Tyson: Yeah, and I think there’s a couple of different tools that you can use for that. I would, you know, as we mentioned, the kind of polling keywords from the given URLs and then using that to create and build a file of like, hey, these are keywords I want to target this here. And then from that list, I would start to look at maybe some gaps or some misses. And then that’s where I’d move into more of like a traditional keyword research tool. And for example like I was using the research cloud and search metrics. I would go to the keyword discovery section and I would enter in just like four phrases. So Black Friday and I wouldn’t necessarily have sale or like any specific adjective to it.

Benjamin: Modifier. Yeah.

Tyson: Yeah. And then I group it by search volume. So it’s going to group whatever modifier is in addition to Black Friday and it’s going to sort it by having the highest search volume.

Tyson: I’m going to search kind of scanning down that list and I might have them side by side from the keyword list that I’m building and all scan through that and then see are there any kind of modifiers or phrases that go onto Black Friday that I haven’t seen on my list yet. And are there any ones that are not also seeing on my competitors lists? And that’s going to be a way to kind of uncover new opportunities.

You could also take a similar approach, but do it from a business perspective of maybe this year you introduced a new category of products that you didn’t have in the past, maybe there’s opportunity and not to have a specific kind of sale holiday for an area that your business has expanded in. So also understanding what is changed within your organization from like a product offering standpoint and then making sure that you’re looking at those related keywords because obviously you’re not going to have any legacy kind of performance from that.

Benjamin: Okay, so just to recap, you know, the first thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to look internally at your performance and understanding what types of pages have been performing using your historical data. You’re going to take a look at what your competitors are doing and not only look at what products they’ve had that were performant, but also what their linking structure is and understand the priority and how they’re trying to funnel domain authority to their key holiday pages. And lastly, you’re going to use a keyword research tool. You know Searchmetrics has one, I’m sure that there are other ones that are out there but you’re really looking at head terms and looking at what the modifiers are for them and to see where there is an opportunity for a term that has lots of search volume which you may or may not already be targeting.

Yeah and I think two other just kind of quick points to that is once you have your keyword list, I’d also want to be looking at the intent of those keywords because it’s something that’s like very top funnel. Black Friday is going to have a lot of informational queries or a lot of informational URLs that will be ranking. That would be, I would view as like a plus. Especially like if you take your keyword list and then drop it into like the Searchmetrics project section, then you’re going to see what the intent of every single keyword from an informational, navigational, or transactional standpoint and that way the ones that are heavier on the transactional piece, I might kind of increase the priority of those because I know that they have a greater kind of potential to have like a business impact to sales if they know that it’s a lot of transactional ranking URLs in there and I know that my page is going to be more like a category page.

Tyson: I’m going to want to really go after those transactional terms.

Benjamin: Okay. Any last tips for how to do your pre holiday research to set you up for success?

I would also recommend looking at the page itself in inform of like on page optimization. I would look for kind of like the SEO 101 elements and then also I’d be looking at how relevant the content or copy was on the page. So whether you’re using the content experience or if you’re using like another content tool, looking at how competitive the content on the page is, because that’s going to be one of your steps when you get into actually like implementing changes and updating is you want to know how competitive and how strong your content was that was on the page from the previous year.

Benjamin: Okay. I think that’s great advice and it gives a lot for us to think about in terms of setting up our research and moving forward. In the rest of this week, we’re going to talk about how to take that research and put it into a plan and then actually launch and optimize it. So 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 underscore 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 BenJShap, B-E-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 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 morning to discuss how you can build out and get buy in for your holiday roadmap.

Benjamin: 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.

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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