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How to Create a Holiday Content Strategy

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Between the eggnog, the turkey, and fruitcake cookies, you may be prepping to get stuffed full of holiday goodies and holiday spirit. But is your content calendar just as stuffed full of holiday-ready content ideas?

Without proper planning, your business’s holiday marketing may be about as effective as a lump of coal. It’s never too early to start planning your holiday content.

Whether it’s Black Friday or Christmas or New Year’s Eve, every holiday presents an opportunity to stand out from your competitors and grab some of that holiday traffic.

Having a content game plan even months in advance ensures that you won’t be stressing when the holidays come around.

Want to get a head start and create a content “advent” calendar of your own?

Here’s how to plan out all of your holiday marketing content while still having time to enjoy the festivities.

Anticipate the Trends

The holidays come around every year, so whether you have been in business for a while or are just starting out, it’s likely that you’re aware of some yearly trends. If not, it’s worth a Google search to pull up studies that have the stats from previous holiday seasons.

For example, one study found that mobile app usage and mobile shopping go up during the holidays – likely because people are trying to avoid the crowds and the inconvenience of making multiple shopping trips.

At the same time, marketing trends show that more consumers are on the prowl for deals during this time of year, trying to strike a bargain to save some cash.

What does this mean for your content strategy?

Well, by staying in tune with the trends, you can better anticipate what type of content will strike a chord with your audience.

  • Do you need more articles optimized for mobile search?
  • Need to launch some sweet discounts?
  • Are users searching for holiday gift guides?

With the numbers in front of you, you can create content that you know people will be looking for.

Ask Your Audience

Can’t find data regarding holiday trends in your industry? Ask your audience what they want.

Many marketers and content creators skip the market research step even when it comes to regular content planning, thinking that they already know what their target audience wants.

The truth is, the best way to know is to ask them directly.

Prior to creating your holiday content strategy, send your audience surveys regarding what kind of content they are hoping to see during the holidays.

They may not tell you outright, but you can brainstorm some of your own ideas based on their answers to questions like:

  • What’s your #1 concern going into this holiday season?
  • How are you planning for the holidays this year?
  • What are you most looking forward to during the holidays this year?
  • How could [your brand] help your holidays run smoother?
  • What’s your best holiday memory?

The list of questions can go on and on, but the goal is to get a better idea about their goals/concerns/struggles/interests going into the holidays. With this information, you can plan out content that is of interest to your audience.

Further, sharing a survey is a great opportunity to tell them, “Hey! Look out for our great holiday content coming out soon!”

Audit Your Existing Content

Before you create any new content, you need to audit your existing content to assess what you already have, what content could be updated, and what new content should be created.

If you have been in business for a while and have published holiday-related content before, it may be possible to update your content for the new season. Or, it may make sense to start from scratch.

Ultimately, it depends on whether the content is current enough to be relevant for the upcoming holidays and whether there is ample traffic potential.

For example, with holiday content, often users are looking for tips, gifts, news, and trends for the current year. They may be searching for “2019 holiday guide” or “best new years party ideas 2019”.

Your 2018 guides may be chock-full of last year’s keywords. The tips or products on the list could be outdated. You should decide whether you should optimize it for the current year, or write a completely new piece of content.

You should also factor in existing content for internal linking purposes to help drive traffic to additional pages on your website.

Activate Creative Content Planning

Once you have some past holiday data on-hand and some tip-offs from your existing audience, you can dive into the fun part of content planning.

Now’s your chance to think outside the box and brainstorm content ideas that are relevant to the holidays.

Keyword research is a great place to start.

You can play around with holiday-related terms and identify keywords that are work creating content around for your site.

If your marketing strategy involves search engine optimization, this is the way to go.

However, you may want to create content for other marketing channels as well. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and email marketing are all channels to consider.

  • What topics would really grab your audience’s attention on these platforms?
  • In what ways can you repurpose the content for wider circulation?
  • Are there any killer content ideas that you can think of that would stand out from the competition?

Have a brainstorming session and see what you can come up with.

Align Topics with Your Goals

Not every content idea is going to be gold.

After generating an exhaustive list of ideas, it’s time to narrow it down. It helps to start by identifying which content ideas most closely align with your business goals.

For instance, if your goal is to generate more organic traffic, sending gift boxes to Instagram influencers may not be the way to go.

Similarly, if you are hoping to create a buzz on social media, pouring all of your energy into a 30 Days of Holiday Deals email campaign likely won’t get you there.

Pick out the content ideas that:

  • Align with your existing business goals.
  • You know you can execute successfully.

Diving into new waters during the thick of the holiday season could result in a dire sink or swim situation for your content marketing.

Arrange Topics by Timeliness & Priority

On theme with the point above, your holiday content needs to “make sense” for your business.

In other words, it should strategic, planned out, purposeful, and on-brand. Simply creating content for the sake of being festive won’t do much for your marketing.

That’s why it’s recommended to also consider arranging your content in terms of timeliness and priority.

Not only should the content be ready for launch prior to the actual holiday, but if you are creating multiple pieces for a single holiday, the content should make sense in progression.

For example, a “Complete Guide to Getting More Holiday Traffic” would naturally come before the “Ultimate Guide to Converting Holiday Traffic into Leads”.

Assuming your audience will encounter multiple pieces of content from your brand, it’s best that your content is organized in a sensical and strategic way.

Add Seasonal Photos

The holidays are full of feelgood smells, sights, and sounds. Tap into that nostalgia and the holiday spirit by adding seasonal images to your content.

Images have been found to make content more engaging, and one of the best ways to snag some of that holiday traffic is to engage users with some festive, attention-grabbing images.

If your budget allows, ditch the stock photos and capture some high-quality images of your own.

Or, hire a graphic designer to make some on-season images for your blog posts, social media posts, and ad campaigns.

You can then repurpose this content across platforms, saving you time and money on your holiday content marketing.

Advertise Your Content Across Platforms

When it comes to content creation, I’m not a big fan of the “post and pray” method myself.

Why rely on one platform when you could generate traffic from multiple channels with a single piece of content?

Some platforms worth sharing your content on include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Your blog
  • YouTube
  • Email
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Paid ads
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Guest blogs

Map out a content plan and schedule that includes when and how you plan on posting your content across multiple platforms.

With tools like Buffer and Hootsuite, you can even write your captions and set the featured images in advance.

Simply schedule it out ahead of time and you won’t be scrambling to post content during the holidays.

Analyze Results

To truly make the most of your holiday content marketing, it’s best to monitor progress and adjust your content accordingly.

While it may be tempting to simply publish and put up your feet, it’s likely that readers will have questions, and inquiries will come flooding in.

You should be prepared to handle an influx of new leads and traffic.

On the other hand, you may find that your content doesn’t go viral and that you need to tweak things to give it a boost.

You or someone on your team should be available to respond to readers’ comments, fix technical issues, further optimize content, and put out any fires that may come up.

Information is power. Having the data at your fingertips will give you the power to make major improvements in your content and learn valuable content planning lessons for the future.

Apply Past Lessons to Future Content

If creating a holiday content strategy isn’t your first rodeo, it’s likely you have a few tips and tricks that you have picked up from previous years.

If so, it’s best to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Some risks just don’t pay off, especially when paired with the stress of the holidays.

On the other hand, maybe your content strategy has always gone off without a hitch, or you are diving into the world of holiday content planning for the very first time.

Even so, be sure to align your content with your business goals, create content that your audience is interested in, and add that special, festive touch for the holiday season.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita



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Restaurant app Tobiko goes old school by shunning user reviews

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You can think of Tobiko as a kind of anti-Yelp. Launched in 2018 by Rich Skrenta, the restaurant app relies on data and expert reviews (rather than user reviews) to deliver a kind of curated, foodie-insider experience.

A new Rich Skrenta project. Skrenta is a search veteran with several startups behind him. He was one of the founders of DMOZ, a pioneering web directory that was widely used. Most recently Skrenta was the CEO of human-aided search engine Blekko, whose technology was sold to IBM Watson in roughly 2015.

At the highest level, both DMOZ and Blekko sought to combine human editors and search technology. Tobiko is similar; it uses machine learning, crawling and third-party editorial content to offer restaurant recommendations.

Tobiko screenshots

Betting on expert opinion. Tobiko is also seeking to build a community, and user input will likely factor into recommendations at some point. However, what’s interesting is that Skrenta has shunned user reviews in favor of “trusted expert reviews” (read: critics).

Those expert reviews are represented by a range of publisher logos on profile pages that, when clicked, take the user to reviews or articles about the particular restaurant on those sites. Where available, users can also book reservations. And the app can be personalized by engaging a menu of preferences. (Yelp recently launched broad, site-wide personalization itself.)

While Skrenta is taking something of a philosophical stand in avoiding user reviews, his approach also made the app easier to launch because expert content on third-party sites already existed. Community content takes much longer to reach critical mass. However, Tobiko also could have presented or “summarized” user reviews from third-party sites as Google does in knowledge panels, with TripAdvisor or Facebook for example.

Tobiko is free and currently appears to have no ads. The company also offers a subscription-based option that has additional features.

Why we should care. It’s too early to tell whether Tobiko will succeed, but it provocatively bucks conventional wisdom about the importance of user reviews in the restaurant vertical (although reading lots of expert reviews can be burdensome). As they have gained importance, reviews have become somewhat less reliable, with review fraud on the rise. Last month, Google disclosed an algorithm change that has resulted in a sharp decrease in rich review results showing in Search.

Putting aside gamesmanship and fraud, reviews have brought transparency to online shopping but can also make purchase decisions more time-consuming. It would be inaccurate to say there’s widespread “review fatigue,” but there’s anecdotal evidence supporting the simplicity of expert reviews in some cases. Influencer marketing can be seen as an interesting hybrid between user and expert reviews, though it’s also susceptible to manipulation.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.



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3 Ways to Use XPaths with Large Site Audits

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When used creatively, XPaths can help improve the efficiency of auditing large websites. Consider this another tool in your SEO toolbelt.

There are endless types of information you can unlock with XPaths, which can be used in any category of online business.

Some popular ways to audit large sites with XPaths include:

In this guide, we’ll cover exactly how to perform these audits in detail.

What Are XPaths?

Simply put, XPath is a syntax that uses path expressions to navigate XML documents and identify specified elements.

This is used to find the exact location of any element on a page using the HTML DOM structure.

We can use XPaths to help extract bits of information such as H1 page titles, product descriptions on ecommerce sites, or really anything that’s available on a page.

While this may sound complex to many people, in practice, it’s actually quite easy!

How to Use XPaths in Screaming Frog

In this guide, we’ll be using Screaming Frog to scrape webpages.

Screaming Frog offers custom extraction methods, such as CSS selectors and XPaths.

It’s entirely possible to use other means to scrape webpages, such as Python. However, the Screaming Frog method requires far less coding knowledge.

(Note: I’m not in any way currently affiliated with Screaming Frog, but I highly recommend their software for web scraping.)

Step 1: Identify Your Data Point

Figure out what data point you want to extract.

For example, let’s pretend Search Engine Journal didn’t have author pages and you wanted to extract the author name for each article.

What you’ll do is:

  • Right-click on the author name.
  • Select Inspect.
  • In the dev tools elements panel, you will see your element already highlighted.
  • Right-click the highlighted HTML element and go to Copy and select Copy XPath.

2 copy xpath

At this point, your computer’s clipboard will have the desired XPath copied.

Step 2: Set up Custom Extraction

In this step, you will need to open Screaming Frog and set up the website you want to crawl. In this instance, I would enter the full Search Engine Journal URL.

  • Go to Configuration > Custom > Extraction

3 setup xpath extraction

  • This will bring up the Custom Extraction configuration window. There are a lot of options here, but if you’re looking to simply extract text, match your configuration to the screenshot below.

4 configure xpath extraction

Step 3: Run Crawl & Export

At this point, you should be all set to run your crawl. You’ll notice that your custom extraction is the second to last column on the right.

When analyzing crawls in bulk, it makes sense to export your crawl into an Excel format. This will allow you to apply a variety of filters, pivot tables, charts, and anything your heart desires.

3 Creative Ways XPaths Help Scale Your Audits

Now that we know how to run an XPath crawl, the possibilities are endless!

We have access to all of the answers, now we just need to find the right questions.

  • What are some aspects of your audit that could be automated?
  • Are there common elements in your content silos that can be extracted for auditing?
  • What are the most important elements on your pages?

The exact problems you’re trying to solve may vary by industry or site type. Below are some unique situations where XPaths can make your SEO life easier.

1. Using XPaths with Redirect Maps

Recently, I had to redesign a site that required a new URL structure. The former pages all had parameters as the URL slug instead of the page name.

This made creating a redirect map for hundreds of pages a complete nightmare!

So I thought to myself, “How can I easily identify each page at scale?”

After analyzing the various page templates, I came to the conclusion that the actual title of the page looked like an H1 but was actually just large paragraph text. This meant that I couldn’t just get the standard H1 data from Screaming Frog.

However, XPaths would allow me to copy the exact location for each page title and extract it in my web scraping report.

In this case I was able to extract the page title for all of the old URLs and match them with the new URLs through the VLOOKUP function in Excel. This automated most of the redirect map work for me.

With any automated work, you may have to perform some spot checking for accuracy.

2. Auditing Ecommerce Sites with XPaths

Auditing Ecommerce sites can be one of the more challenging types of SEO auditing. There are many more factors to consider, such as JavaScript rendering and other dynamic elements.

Sometimes, stakeholders will need product level audits on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes this covers just categories of products, but sometimes it may be the entire site.

Using the XPath extraction method we learned earlier in this article, we can extract all types of data including:

  • Product name
  • Product description
  • Price
  • Review data
  • Image URLs
  • Product Category
  • And much more

This can help identify products that may be lacking valuable information within your ecommerce site.

The cool thing about Screaming Frog is that you can extract multiple data points to stretch your audits even further.

3. Auditing Blogs with XPaths

This is a more common method for using XPaths. Screaming Frog allows you to set parameters to crawl specific subfolders of sites, such as blogs.

However, using XPaths, we can go beyond simple meta data and grab valuable insights to help identify content gap opportunities.

Categories & Tags

One of the most common ways SEO professionals use XPaths for blog auditing is scraping categories and tags.

This is important because it helps us group related blogs together, which can help us identify content cannibalization and gaps.

This is typically the first step in any blog audit.

Keywords

This step is a bit more Excel-focused and advanced. How this works, is you set up an XPath extraction to pull the body copy out of each blog.

Fair warning, this may drastically increase your crawl time.

Whenever you export this crawl into Excel, you will get all of the body text in one cell. I highly recommend that you disable text wrapping, or your spreadsheet will look terrifying.

Next, in the column to the right of your extracted body copy, enter the following formula:

=ISNUMBER(SEARCH("keyword",A1))

In this formula, A1 equals the cell of the body copy.

To scale your efforts, you can have your “keyword” equal the cell that contains your category or tag. However, you may consider adding multiple columns of keywords to get a more accurate and robust picture of your blogging performance.

This formula will present a TRUE/FALSE Boolean value. You can use this to quickly identify keyword opportunities and cannibalization in your blogs.

Author

We’ve already covered this example, but it’s worth noting that this is still an important element to pull from your articles.

When you blend your blog export data with performance data from Google Analytics and Search Console, you can start to determine which authors generate the best performance.

To do this, sort your blogs by author and start tracking average data sets including:

  • Impressions – Search Console
  • Clicks – Search Console
  • Sessions – Analytics
  • Bounce Rate – Analytics
  • Conversions – Analytics
  • Assisted Conversions – Analytics

Share Your Creative XPath Tips

Do you have some creative auditing methods that involve XPaths? Share this article on Twitter or tag me @seocounseling and let me know what I missed!

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, October 2019



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When parsing ‘Googlespeak’ is a distraction

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Over the almost 16-years of covering search, specifically what Googlers have said in terms of SEO and ranking topics, I have seen my share of contradictory statements. Google’s ranking algorithms are complex, and the way one Googler explains something might sound contradictory to how another Googler talks about it. In reality, they are typically talking about different things or nuances.

Some of it is semantics, some of it is being literal in how one person might explain something while another person speaks figuratively. Some of it is being technically correct versus trying to dumb something down for general practitioners or even non-search marketers to understand. Some of it is that the algorithm can change over the years, so what was true then has evolved.

Does it matter if something is or is not a ranking factor? It can be easy to get wrapped up in details that end up being distractions. Ultimately, SEOs, webmasters, site owners, publishers and those that produce web pages need to care more about providing the best possible web site and web page for the topic. You do not want to chase algorithms and racing after what is or is not a ranking factor. Google’s stated aim is to rank the most relevant results to keep users happy and coming back to the search engine. How Google does that changes over time. It releases core updates, smaller algorithm updates, index updates and more all the time.

For SEOs, the goal is to make sure your pages offer the most authoritative and relevant content for the given query and can be accessed by search crawlers.

When it is and is not a ranking factor. An example of Googlers seeming to contradict themselves popped this week.

Gary Illyes from Google said at Pubcon Thursday that content accuracy is a ranking factor. That raised eyebrows because in past Google has seemed to say content accuracy is not a ranking factor. Last month Google’s Danny Sullivan said, “Machines can’t tell the ‘accuracy’ of content. Our systems rely instead on signals we find align with relevancy of topic and authority.” One could interpret that to mean that if Google cannot tell the accuracy of content, that it would be unable to use accuracy as a ranking factor.

Upon closer look at the context of Illyes comments this week, it’s clear he’s getting at the second part of Sullivan’s comment about using signals to understand “relevancy of topic and authority.” SEO Marie Haynes captured more of the context of Illyes’ comment.

Illyes was talking about YMYL (your money, your life) content. He added that Google goes through “great lengths to surface reputable and trustworthy sources.”

He didn’t outright say Google’s systems are able to tell if a piece of content is factually accurate or not. He implied Google uses multiple signals, like signals that determine reputations and trustworthiness, as a way to infer accuracy.

So is content accuracy a ranking factor? Yes and no. It depends if you are being technical, literal, figurative or explanatory. When I covered the different messaging around content accuracy on my personal site, Sullivan pointed out the difference, he said on Twitter “We don’t know if content is accurate” but “we do look for signals we believe align with that.”

It’s the same with whether there is an E-A-T score. Illyes said there is no E-A-T score. That is correct, technically. But Google has numerous algorithms and ranking signals it uses to figure out E-A-T as an overall theme. Sullivan said on Twitter, “Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly. We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it. In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.”

You can see the dual point Sullivan is making here.

The minutiae. When you have people like me, who for almost 16 years, analyze and scrutinize every word, tweet, blog post or video that Google produces, it can be hard for a Google representative to always convey the exact clear message at every point. Sometimes it is important to step back, look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself, Why is this Googler saying this or not saying that?

Why we should care. It is important to look at long term goals, and as I said above, not chase the algorithm or specific ranking factors but focus on the ultimate goals of your business (money). Produce content and web pages that Google would be proud to rank at the top of the results for a given query and other sites will want to source and link to. And above all, do whatever you can to make the best possible site for users — beyond what your competitors produce.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.



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