How to Effectively Plan for and Manage Seasonality
Christmas and New Year are a distant memory, you’ve settled back into work and somehow made it through Dry January, and now you’re knee-deep in marketing plans for 2020. Sound familiar?
This is the same situation that many businesses and clients face at the start of any new calendar or financial year, and understandably, the last thing on your mind is implementing work for 6, or even 12 months from now. However, when it comes to SEO, you need to think a little differently about how you approach your strategy, in order to make the most of seasonal trends and generate real impact. The struggle of planning for seasonality is real, people.
Unlike our friends on the dark side (pay per click), we sadly can’t just turn on performance like a tap. As Organic Search Marketers we need to understand exactly when the peak periods of search will be, and ensure we’re in the right place, at the right time – exactly when the customer is ready to buy. This can mean planning well in advance, in order to deploy your strategy, and subsequent tactics with plenty of time for search engines to sit up and take notice.
Before we get started, let’s get down to brass-tacks. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs (who am I kidding? Of course you have) you’ll notice right from the outset that my blogs are laced with enough sarcastic undertones to take down a small group of political comedians – and this one is no different. Just a heads up.
What is seasonality?
No, I don’t mean whether it’s acceptable to wear bobble hats or flip flops in the office (never, by the way). Seasonality in the respect of digital marketing, is the predictable movement during a particular time frame.
Every business has some level of seasonality, whether you see a spike in traffic across the summer months, or if Christmas is your key trading period accounting for 95% of your annual revenue – your seasonality is there – you just need to identify it.
Identifying your seasonality
If you haven’t yet identified your seasonal trend (perhaps it’s not super obvious), a really quick way to do this is to take a look at your levels of organic traffic from Google Analytics by month, over as many years as you can get access too. Applying a simple conditional formatting colour scale in Excel, make the results pretty clear.
This particular client, sells cashmere. Mainly jumpers, cardigans, gloves, scarves etc., so it comes as no surprise that their key trading period are the winter months and in particular Christmas.
Identifying The Future
As well as understanding how your website has performed historically, it’s also pretty important to understand what the future could hold.
I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re already in a place where you’ve got some level of key phrase research completed – otherwise this blog post would be longer than a AGY47 queue for free beer.
So, the mistake, or oversight, which generally tends to occur when conducting key phrase research is that you often end up overlooking the seasonal trend of key phrase demand, in lieu of the average monthly search volume data provided by Google. I’m guilty of this sometimes, too.
Often, I’ll be researching a variety of key phrases, so naturally I’ll search for their volumes all at once. It’s only when you begin to look at the volume of individual key phrases does the seasonality tend to jump out at you.
We recently completed a project for a client whose website sells luxury hampers, and yes although they do hampers all year round, Christmas is quite clearly their key trading period. I mean, if you don’t get a Christmas hamper for someone, is it even Christmas?
When conducting key phrase research with Google’s Keyword Planner, it showed us that the average search volume over a 12 month period for ‘christmas hampers’ was 22,200.
In July? I seriously doubt that. The search volume for this particular term peaks in December (surprise, surprise) at 135,000. When viewing just this key phrase, it was pretty obvious, but had we been searching for 20 plus, then perhaps it wouldn’t have been so obvious.
As an SEO agency it’s crucial for us to identify key trends like this, and okay, I hear ya, ‘Christmas Hampers’ is a pretty obvious example, as highlighted in the Google Trends graph below, but if we hadn’t isolated the key phrase research by topic, then it might have gone unnoticed. Just sayin’.
However, the seasonality in the graph below is much more subtle, we can just about make out that the peaks are in January.
In this example, the term we’re analysing is ‘laser eye surgery’ and it just so happens that we conducted this research for a client of ours who we’d also conducted lengthy customer insights research, which showed that a great deal of people consider Laser Eye Surgery as they enter the New Year.
Y’know. the whole “New Year, New Me” thing.
Even without the customer insights research, a little digging in Google Trends would still have given us this information regarding seasonality.
So you’ve got some decent level of key phrase research, along with the seasonal trends of the associated search volume, matched up to the seasonal trend of your website, so it should be clear as to whether or not you’re achieving your full potential.
It could well be that your organic traffic trends are the same as those reported in Google trends, but look again, are you achieving the maximum potential?
When it comes to setting your objectives, look at the areas you’d expect to already be making an impact. Pages that are perhaps ranking but on pages 2 and 3 of Google. I usually find that this is a great start, the odds are that you might already have products/content/landing pages geared towards these but perhaps they aren’t performing optimally.
Secondary to those, look at areas you currently aren’t making any impact and your search visibility is low. Perhaps you have a range of products that you simply aren’t achieving any visibility for.
As my AGY47 colleagues will attest to, I’m all for a pessimistic outlook, and this instance is no different, but I would certainly recommend not aiming too high. Rather than finding 100 different products you aren’t gaining visibility for, look at product ranges, or ‘topics’ of products and really focus your efforts.
It might sound obvious but setting yourself some objectives, really does keep you on track. Setting very clear, smart objectives delivers real, valuable impact.
Planning For Your Seasonal Uplift
Timing is crucial. Once you know your seasonal trends and you’ve got yourself some objectives, you can plan and strategise accordingly to make the most of those key trading periods.
Many search marketers, including members of the AGY47 team disagree on how far in advance you need to start in order to achieve results. I on the other hand, would argue that this depends on the objective, the work required, the resource available – both internally and externally, and your site. However, although despite there not being a ‘one size fits all’ approach, I would certainly recommend 6 months in order to stand the best chance of succeeding.
So, what would a typical 6 month campaign look like? Well, you’re in luck! Because below I’ve outlined some steps we’d take at each monthly interval.
It’s worth pointing out that there are some steps on this plan that you may have already undertaken recently, but I’d recommend looking at some elements again with a focus on your seasonal objective. It might just change your priorities.
6 months before
This is going to be a top heavy month. There’s a lot of ground work to do, in order to fully establish the needs of your users and how you can deliver that.
Skimping at this stage is a little like drawing your house blueprints in crayon and wondering why it starts going wrong half way through.
KPR & Seasonal Analysis – As above, take a look at your products, your site, and your potential search traffic to really understand more about where the opportunities lie. Set yourself some clear objectives, and don’t overwhelm the objectives either.
By trying to achieve too much with a resource that’s limited (everyone’s resource is limited to a certain extent) the work will become saturated, and the results – poor.
Tech Audit – I’d like to think you’ve already completed a tech audit, and that you’re always chipping away at those pesky issues. But take a look again.
Are there any of those issues that could potentially change in priority? Are there any that are majorly hindering the search visibility of the website? Remember that if there are, then you can never expect too much from your website.
If you’ve never completed a tech audit or your site is certainly in need of a refreshed audit then please get in touch and see how AGY47 can support your technical development team.
Content Audit – By this point, you should have your objectives and know whether there is anything technically holding your site back, but what about your content? Now I know that often content audits are conducted site wide to find any weaknesses in their offering, but in this instance, look closely.
Is that content fit for purpose? Will it help you meet your objectives? Does it meet user intent? Can it be easily understood by Google? Is it optimised?
Go through your content with a fine toothed comb, and be brutal.
Link Audit – I certainly don’t want to diminish the value of links in this instance, but my experience in the areas of raising your organic search visibility for specific areas has shown that the authority of the link profile is passed down from the top level domain, so if you’ve got no backlinks, or very few, then this is certainly going to be an area of focus.
If your link profile is pretty strong, and you don’t have much visibility, then honestly it’s most likely down to your content, so start there. Not to mention, if you do need to build your backlink profile, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve any great level of success if you don’t have engaging and useful content.
5 & 4 Months before
Tech issues – work with your development agency, dev team, IT guy, html geek, whoever the hell you need to, to resolve those pesky technical issues that could well be holding back your site on a search visibility level.
Content – Based on your content audit, go and develop and optimise the content that’s required. Don’t skimp at this stage, and before deployment have a number of different people read it for sense and quality control.
3 Months Before
Deploy content – Woohoo, the exciting bit! Well, it is for us at least anyway. Developing your content with clear set objectives in mind, and aligning that to user intent, is actually way sexier than I’m making out.
As mentioned previously, getting your tone of voice right, along with the message and ensuring it’s optimised in the right way can be incredibly difficult, but if done correctly, can pay dividends for years. So when you’ve got it completed, deploying it, genuinely is exciting.
Long gone are the days when it used to take Google weeks or even months to fully recognise changes to a site and reflect this in their index. Now you’ll see the changes quickly, however bear in mind that if your building out a ‘hub’ of information, you won’t see the full impact of this until your content is all deployed and the internal linking structure is updated/amended accordingly.
Measurement – The important bit. This is the part of the strategy that we refer to as control, as it’s ensuring that your tactics are actually working as expected. Your measurement plan should reflect your objectives.
If you want to rank higher for certain key phrases then you’ll need to ensure you’re tracking that through some software, even Google Search Console. If you’re looking to increase the level of organic traffic to a set of pages, then ensure you benchmark your data, and annotate Google Analytics.
The possibilities are endless, but ensure that you check in with your measurement plan regularly. Is it working? If not, why not?
2 months before
At this stage, you should have everything implemented and if done correctly, it should now be indexed by Google. It’s at this stage, because you should have some data, albeit a small amount, about how the site is performing, how is the time to make the odd tweak here and there. Don’t go mad though, but perhaps a page, category, blog post isn’t doing quite as well, and you were torn between how to structure your content, now’s the time to try the other way.
1 month before
By this time, it’s anticipated that you would begin to see whether your campaign is having the impact you anticipated, as it’s likely to be building up to your busiest period, particularly if you identified your seasonality correctly.
Make sure to record any data you can at this stage, particularly from – Google Search Console – as this won’t be available after 90 days. It’ll come in handy when planning for next year.
The time has arrived for all of your hard work to come together. Launch your campaigns, publish any supporting blog posts or content, and focus your attention elsewhere, knowing your organic traffic and revenue figures will be climbing.
I hope this blog post has been useful to you in some way, whether it be how to approach identifying your seasonality or objectives, or simply a kick up the arse to get round to doing what you said you’d do 9 months ago.
Remember, if you’re reading this and thinking that this sounds useful, but it’s perhaps a little out of your depth or you simply don’t have time, then get in touch with AGY47 and see how we can help you maximise your potential during those key seasonal periods.
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