Content marketing ideas for Christmas 2012 – with free webinar video!

ClickThrough Marketing has invested heavily in content this year: hiring three qualified journalists and a creative writer to form an in-house team focussed on producing top-quality content. We were ahead of the game, as the SEO industry has suddenly turned to content marketing in the past few months as the next Big Thing in online marketing. We like to share our expertise, and, as part of the ClickThrough Marketing Digital Academy, content manager Ali Harris has produced a free video webinar about producing clever content for Christmas. Here, you can watch our free video of the Christmas content marketing webinar, and read Ali’s notes below.

 

Content marketing is the latest buzzword in SEO – and just in time for Christmas, too, when it’s really important to get all your on-site and off-site content in order, for both shoppers, and Google. Essentially, Clever Christmas content will help you attract traffic, gain new customers, and boost conversions. But what is clever content marketing?

Online PR Tips for Christmas

First, let’s establish the basics: what is online PR? Is it public relations? Or press relations?

Well, it’s both.

Whereas traditional PR forced you to focus on newspapers with tight editorial guidelines, the Internet has empowered a new generation of citizen journalists: whether they’re bloggers, influencers in social media, or simply running online news sites, there are opportunities now to produce niche, targeted press releases to help increase visibility, cement keyword associations, and build quality backlinks for SEO.

Old media remains powerful for SEO, of course. The BBC, for instance, has huge Page Rank value, but if you’re a small business in a small town, or a medium-sized business in a medium-sized city, or even a huge national business but with an otherwise ‘unsexy’ news product, is the BBC going to run your story and backlink to your site?

It depends, of course: but it’s not always a gamble worth taking. Especially as online PR presents so many different – and easy – opportunities for exposure, if you get your content right.

Online PR is about forgetting the boundaries of traditional media and doing things a different way.

New media can help you, a bit like old PR did, but without the need for nationally-important stories. Niche blogs get you in front of the customers that matter: ones who are interested in your products. A page lead in a national newspaper lasts 24 hours and isn’t necessarily going to reach your target audience: good online PR will last for weeks, will boost your rankings, visibility and keyword association.

Take some time to think about clever PR angles for Christmas.

Annual round-ups and Top Ten lists are incredibly popular PR material.

Here’s a list of generic PR ideas for Christmas.

  • Top Ten for 2012 round-ups – Which of your products sold best? What was the most popular deal? Were there any odd trends or unusual happenings?
    Do any of these products happen to be in the Christmas sale or available through any deals? What about in the new year?
    Use PR to create interest, and advertise your Christmas offering.
  • 2013 Trends – Predicting the future makes great PR. Top Ten Predictions for 2013… What’s going to be hot (and how much are you selling it for?!).
  • If all else fails, predictions don’t actually have to be true: nor should they be lies, but you can afford to push the envelope with a little bit of hyperbole… much like journalists do.
  • Charity giveaways – A staple news source, even better for online PR, because your positive association lasts. So, doing something good for a charity? Even just a local charity? Get it out there in a press release, backlink to the charity (they’ll thank you), ask for a backlink back, host the release on your own site, and share the good news via social media profiles.
  • Doing a Christmas competition? That’s enough for online PR: you can backlink on a product category, keyword or even something generic, like “Christmas sale” or “gift”
  • What about New Year deals or discounts?  You can highlight these before Christmas too.

How to Use Facebook & Twitter to Drive Sales

Social media followers are already engaged with your brand and are, usually, quite loyal. If they’ve made the effort to follow or like you, then reward them: before you focus on new customers, where possible. Think about exclusive offers and discounts for social media followers – and tell them they’re getting the deal early. This helps to build your brand relationship and could result in shares which lead to new traffic.

Engage your followers. Ask them questions. Not constantly, but enough to get people thinking. Keep your brand in their mind. Give them opportunity to vent as well as praise (although avoid turning your Timeline into a complaints page). When talking about what are you doing ask why your followers should care and be sure to tell them, and do it succinctly: “Today only! Our cheapest-ever on THIS THING YOU REALLY WANT! Grab it now! <Product landing page link>

Do you sell beautiful products – clothing? Home items? Something unusual? Get high-res images, including close-ups, and fill your captions with information. For practical products, create videos to explain how to use them or demonstrate their capabilities. Encourage customers to create their own videos and upload them to Facebook – be sure to set a theme to keep the videos positive.
Reward shares, and be sure to include a call to action or sales text in the caption of an image you want shared! It’s easy to encourage shares with competitions/freebies – just make sure they’re relevant to your social media fans.

Help people. Can you give them any advice – regardless of whether it’s specific to your products or services? What about help with gift wrapping? What are your Christmas opening hours? When is Christmas closing? What about delivery information.

Delivery info is an interesting one actually: are you prepared for bad weather? Can you reassure customers who buy from you, that their gifts will arrive in time? And, if the recipient doesn’t want the item, can they return it and get a refund? Until when? January? That’d be great!

Also, what are your competitors doing? Out-do them! What do you better, or cheaper? Tell people. Price comparison sites are well-used for a reason: cut out the middle man and do the comparison for your customers. Reassure them they you’re less expensive, or higher quality, and keep them engaged.

Tag your images. If you’ve got a product that’s ideal as a Christmas gift: be sure to tag its image as such. People use Google Image search, especially for creative home ideas, or for luxury comparison etc, and if you don’t get your image tags right, your lovely pictures may not turn up in Image searches.

Engage in the spirit of the season: Provoke discussion. An update like “All I Want For Christmas Is…” will get a lot of responses: some of which may help inform your marketing plan.

See both sides: Don’t avoid bah humbugs. Statuses like “I hate Christmas because… “ can work equally well: people like to vent, and you get crucial information on what your customers dislike, so you can avoid it.

Whatever you do, do not forcefeed updates down the throats of your followers. It’ll dilute the message or, at worst, lead to annoyance and unfollowing. Don’t push your luck: you’ve already convinced social media fans to buy once, you don’t need to do a hard sell again.

Be clever with your sales content on social media: “Looking for a gift for a football fan? Our Gift Ideas Generator could help!” Correctly tag products by interest or hobby as well as by category, and let customers search by interest. This can really help with more unusual present ideas: people like finding unusual presents. So if you are guiding people to great gifts, they’re likely to tell others how brilliant their experience was. Get your fans to become your “marketing legs” – just don’t push them to run for you.

Encourage repeat visits. Make people come back to your feed or profile. Daily social media deals can help – you can even limit the number of redemptions by stopping the promotion once it’s been reclaimed as many times as your total number of social media followers.

What about a social media advent calendar with great, shareable images, or unusual “On This Day” facts that people can share?

Vouchers are great for last minute panic buyers and the truly indecisive shopper. They can also be a great way to promote engagement in 2013: highlight a January voucher offer early, get visits in January in anticipation of the deal.

Share information: When are you selling until? Up til December 23/24/25? When’s your last delivery date?

Remember to schedule updates at Christmas to advertise if you’re still open: remember to cancel them if things go wrong and something changes.

Of course, this relies on your existing customers – ones you know are interested in your products.

What about searchers not even logged into social media?

Pinterest. Flickr. Tumblr. Blogger. YouTube. These all have good rankings if you have good content. How do yours rank? Not well?

With quality content you don’t need to get in people’s faces: the Internet has a habit of sharing the best stuff, no matter how niche.

It may not go viral in the 50m views on YouTube sense: but what if it connects with 25 new customers who come and spend £200 each on a beautiful XYZ from your site?

Are you on FB or Twitter or Pinterest, personally? My news feed is full of an awful lot of pics of new clothes, clothes people want, shoes, nice bedrooms, nice cars. There are lots of shares and comments on them, too, as people say “I want those too!”

How to Connect With Online Shoppers

There are several ways to engage with shoppers: through your own on-site content, through paid search ads, and through outreach.

These are all slightly different Internet marketing disciplines in 2012, as Google search engine updates have put a huge focus on high-quality content.

Panda looks for poor, irrelevant content and penalises it. Penguin checks your link profiles – and downranks sites with ‘unnatural’ backlinks. The AdWords policy update makes it imperative to have high-quality AdText and clear, relevant landing pages: no more sending Christmas sales traffic to generic landing pages. The EU Cookie Law requires ‘informed consent’ to drop cookies on customers.

Before attempting to connect with shoppers, you need to decide which shoppers to target. Seems obvious: but how much do you really know about your customers’ search behaviour?

Time for some big questions:

Who is your audience? Where’s your audience (at home, on the move, stuck somewhere?!)

Do you sell products, or services?

Are you going after PPC traffic, organic traffic, or social media visibility?

PPC can be a really good way to connect with Christmas shoppers. Mobile search volumes are rising rapidly: but mobile keyword CPCs are almost half the price of their laptop/desktop equivalents.

So, who shops online? Women!

“Gifts for him” gets more search volume, locally and globally, than “gifts for her” AND “gifts for women” combined!

So, incentivise shoppers: give them treats or gifts for shopping with you.

Be clever, too: one option could be to optimise for “Gifts for him” but then add a caveat: “Gifts for him to buy for wife/girlfriend/children.” Be sure to keep share and email buttons nearby, so if a discerning female shopper comes across this, they can send it straight to their useless male counterpart with a direct: “This is what I want, Dave. Not chocolates.”

There is a very tight peak window for Christmas gift and Christmas searches. For “Christmas gifts”, it’s usually the first working week in December, and this window has become shorter since 2007, when peaks lasted a fortnight. Get it right and be sure to have your quality content online before December, and you should be able to ride this peak.

It’s worth getting an idea of the money being spent, too: in the UK, Christmas Day and Boxing Day get huge amounts of sales traffic as people look to burn their cash on treats – especially digital gifts like tablets or smartphones.

Be sure to plan for after the Christmas panic to ensure strong sales performance lasts into January.

And always think contingency: will you cope if it snows for a week solid?

Finally, remember that not everyone likes Christmas. So what about a Scrooge’s area? Or something which focusses on other timely religious celebrations? Don’t be myopic.

If you’re providing services, then be sure to give your customers all the info they need for Christmas. Are you putting on extra staff? Opening for longer? Offering emergency call-outs? Offering advice via a hotline? If you’re using social media, is a human there to interact if a customer asks a question? Again, what if it snows: will you help people to cope in bad weather?

As long as you stay focussed on content that is useful and relevant, there’s no such thing as providing too much information online.

Tips for using Niche Keywords & Product Descriptions

It’s really important to think about your niche: it could be any USP, really – from being slightly more expensive but offering a better-quality service, to being dirt cheap, to opening late, to offering bulk discounts.

When it comes to products, be sure to set up a dedicated “Christmas” area on your site. This will help with SEO and consumer behaviour. Make this additional to your normal product pages.

Be sure to tag products as “Gifts” or “For Christmas” – and do the same with any product images.

Always include brand names, as these are powerful in search, but also include categories too.

Offers bundle deals or joined-up promotions to boost basket sizes, whilst “Gift Ideas” can really help – either as similar products, or as a search option. “Gifts for football fans”, “Gifts for movie buffs”. As long as you get your descriptive keywords right, on-site search could do a lot of work for you.

Word clouds were popular a while back, they’ve made a resurgence. Link to popular product keywords – people will have a look. It also helps improve you on-page keywords and associations.

Upsell gifts at the basket: consumers have already committed their trust to buy your products – now offer them the very best quality products you have, at more expensive prices, and increase your basket sizes without having to offer deals or discounts.

Always focus on your USPs, too: these help build trust. Are you prepared? Are there extra staff on hand to help? Is there a Livechat, and when is it open?

Competitor analysis is also crucial: what keywords are competitors targeting? What are they using as AdTExt? Discover this, use it and improve on it: improve your quality score, decrease your click costs, and make your rivals work harder (our PPC High Score service offers in-depth competitor analysis for up to three months, so you can truly make a sound and strategic attempt to thoroughly conquer your market).

Google Shopping is another important factor: are your products listed? Are they correctly keyworded? Shopping searches saw a two-week peak for “Christmas gifts” in 2011 – between December 4 and 17. Use this to drive lots of extra traffic to your site.

How to Identify Over-Optimisation Traps

There are more traps this year than ever before, thanks to the AdWords update, and the Penguin and Panda algorithm tweaks. I’ve linked to more information on these above: be sure to read up to understand what you can, and can’t do, in Google’s eyes.

Certainly, in online content marketing terms, don’t just splat a load of Christmas-focussed twaddle on your site in the hope it’ll help you rank. This could hide more genuine pages, or disengage consumers if the page isn’t highly informative or relevant. Don’t gamble with your quality. Invest in the best content possible and it will survive any search engine updates and continue to serve your site into the future.

Also, it’s worth checking your Christmas keyword association? Google your brand name and Christmas. How does the first page of results look? Anything unexpected or negative? Anything relatively useless in the sales cycle? Plan, and work to get rid of it: it’s blocking your good work elsewhere.

And by that, I mean, your brand name and Christmas keywords in search, like “OURBRAND Christmas” – or “OURBRAND Christmas offers”, or “Christmas deals?”

To avoid the traps, always think practical, and always, always THINK QUALITY.

People share stuff they think is good, or interesting, or unusual, and Google rewards originality and relevancy, as well as interest in your content. Don’t cut corners.

You can be really creative and make some amazing Christmas content that Google and customers to will love.

Here’s just a few ideas:

Gift-wrapping advice – complete with videos or illustrated ‘How To’s
What about tree tips? Money-saving tips? Recipe ideas? Booze to try? Advice on lighting?

What about popular gifts from 2011? Or Christmas deal price comparisons against your rivals?

This all makes great content, that talks about Christmas, but remains totally relevant to your brand, business, customers and Google.

How to Write Content About Christmas Discounts & Offers

Focus on your customers: discount items they want to buy, don’t just slap a one-size-fits-all price reduction across your whole site – it smacks of desperation and doesn’t talk to your customers on their level.

Discounts are not enough. What about free delivery? Late delivery? In-store pick-up? How can customers trust you if your prices are so low? What about free gifts for ordering X amount of presents? Or eVouchers for last-minute panic buyers?

Good retailers keep their offers clear and bright on every page: be proud of your products, services and prices, and use every opportunity to keep customers informed of your offerings.

In line with this, it’s imperative to reassure customers. What’s your refunds and returns policy? How long does it last? How strict is it? It’s worth making the return period longer to make gift-buying online less risky.

Christmas Content Marketing Summary 

This is all just advice. Experimenting is vital to find what works for your business. Don’t expect the same things to work at Christmas: consumer behaviour is massively different and often, buying a present means dipping into a strange new brand to find something you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in, on behalf of someone else. Make this journey as easy as possible for new customers: or face losing sales to competitors.

Obviously, it’d be impossible to cover every area of content marketing for Christmas without getting too in-depth into retail or service provision. But our experts are on-hand to discuss individual business needs on every area of Internet marketing, including SEO, product descriptions, blogs, press releases, paid search, competitor analysis and online PR. If you’re curious about how our expertise can help your business, call us on 0808 252 7880.

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About the author:

Alistair Harris is ClickThrough’s head of content. A double-award-winning senior journalist, Ali holds both the NCTJ and NCE qualifications and has more than ten years of experience in traditional press and PR. He has worked in digital marketing and SEO for the past three years and is passionate, enthusiastic and committed to quality.