Holiday planning is predicted to happen earlier than ever this year. So what does this mean for your brand? Your online store must prepare for a historic holiday season. Making sure your brand reaches your target audience before your competition, will be crucial to ensure your product is their first choice when it comes time to purchase. 

Historically consumers start planning their holiday purchases in September, but people on Pinterest have started to search and save for the holidays back in April. April alone saw a 77% increase in holiday pinning from the previous year!

2021 has already been another crazy year and consumers are looking forward to the warm comfort of the holidays. Below we will break down a Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing timeline to help you prep for the earliest holiday season we are likely to see yet. 

July – October – Search Engine Optimization

SEO focuses on the long-term strategy of ranking high for relevant keywords. Unfortunately, there is not a secret trick to doubling your organic search traffic overnight. But, you can prepare now to optimize for keywords that are relevant year-round and specifically for holiday search traffic. 

There are three things you should be working on starting in or around July through the end of October to help best position you for holiday SEO success. 

  1. Monitor and Optimize Page Speed
  2. Identify Holiday Keywords
  3. Build Cyber Monday and Black Friday Landing Pages for Specific Keywords

Improving Site Speed

Regardless of the time of year, optimizing your site speed can reap quite a lot of rewards. Google has indicated a site’s speed is one of the strongest indicators they use when determining whether your page should rank for certain search queries. 

Slow loading times, high bounce rates, malfunctioning forms, and images that fail to load all indicate to Google search bots that your site is untrustworthy and that it will not provide a good experience for end-users. 

The first step to improving site speed includes an audit that focuses on: 

  • Website load speed for both mobile and desktop versions of your site. 
  • Mobile-friendliness Score 
  • Duplicate Content
  • Website Indexing Issues
  • Broken URLs
  • Pages Without SSL Certificate 
  • Orphaned Pages

All of these things contribute to a user’s experience with your website. Google prioritizes user experience; Google’s RankBrain takes all on-page interactions into account when they determine your pages rankings. 

How to Assess Site Performance?

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Enter the URL you would like to analyze. Once the system has scanned the page it will generate a report that identifies any issues within your code and will provide development recommendations. 
  • Google Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool: This tool offers a unique score on your site’s mobile-friendliness and mobile site speed. You will receive recommendations that you can use to improve your end user’s experience with your site. 
  • Screaming Frog: This tool allows you to dig deep into the contents of your website. It will identify any broken links, canonical issues, 404 errors, and more. This tool is beneficial for technical SEO audits. 
  • Index Coverage (Google Search Console): This tool will provide a report on any indexing errors that Google has identified. 

Identify Holiday Relevant Keywords

Keyword research is of high importance when it comes to holiday optimizations. Focusing your budget and efforts on transaction-focused keywords will help you reap the greater reward. This research can also clue you in on what keywords are highly competitive and will be hard to rank for. 

The best place to start when looking to identify holiday-relevant keywords is to look at historical data from your previous year. You can access this list within your Google Search Console. You can identify interesting keywords and you can see what items were searched more than others during this time period. 

After you have identified these keywords, you can load them into Google Keyword Planner to generate similar search queries to expand your optimization efforts. 

Once you have generated your lists, you will need to select keywords that your business can be competitive with. An overly competitive keyword may include “camping gear”; here you will be competing against carousel ads, large chain stores, and Amazon result pages. 

The more strategic move would be to focus on purchase-intent keywords. Focus on keywords that have relatively high search volumes, low competition, and high relevance to your business. An example may include “Lightweight Tent”. If you offer a unique product that solves a consumer’s problem, optimizing for this keyword will generate more revenue than optimizing for the main keyword “camping gear.”

A good rule of thumb to follow when building these keywords is to ask yourself, “What is the user’s intention when they search with this word?” This question will help you ascertain whether it is a research keyword or a purchase consideration keyword. 

Build Cyber Monday and Black Friday Landing Pages

Creating landing pages focused on the identified Black Friday and Cyber Monday search queries will help increase the likelihood that your website will rank well for this search query. 

Using the research you gathered from previous steps, you will likely have a list of potential holiday keywords to optimize for. End users will often combine keywords, “Brand Name” + “Product” + “Deal”. 

You can use Google Trends to identify which combinations are popular with your consumers. This knowledge can help you determine whether it would be beneficial to build a unique Black Friday or Cyber Monday webpage for each of the products that you plan to showcase. 

The time to build these landing pages is now. Do not wait until November. Creating pages ahead of time will allow you to have plenty of time to optimize the page and it will give search crawlers the time they need to scan and rank your site. 

When you do build your landing page, use a recurring URL. Think /collections/black-friday/, not /collections/black-friday-2021. You’re going to run Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions every year and you’ll find more SEO value by using the same page each year. In addition, this is a recommendation specifically from Google. It’s very simple. If you have pages from the past years, delete them and add 301-redirects to the new page.

After your page has been created, you can add it to your site’s XML sitemap and your website’s navigation. This is important because when you add the web page to your sitemap, you are providing a roadmap for site crawlers to find your pages and index them.

July – October – CRO Testing

Between the months of July and October, you should actively run several conversion rate optimization tests to help prepare you for the big holiday season. Conversion rate optimization tests help you adjust elements on your website and advertisements in order to best maximize your conversions. 

Consider the following tests:

Optimizing CTA’s

If you have frequent traffic to your site but are not seeing a strong conversion rate, then you may consider testing your CTA, or call to action. A CTA includes any invitation that encourages your visitor to take action (i.e. download a whitepaper, ebook, demo, purchase, etc.). 

There are three elements to focus on when you look to optimize your CTA. 

CTA Copy Optimization

Most CTA’s are fairly specific and straight to the point, such as “Click Here,” “Download Now,” or “Purchase.” If your CTA’s are fairly generalized, you may want to consider experimenting with more personalized copy. 

Another trick to consider is framing your CTA’s as a direct link to a benefit. If you were a dental software company and you offer a free ebook that describes how to best migrate to a new dental software, you can test your CTA copy. 

Originally you may consider to test “Download Now” and run a second test with a more personalized copy “Seamless Software Migration!” 

Incorporating copy that implies the customer is missing out if they don’t download your resource will typically perform stronger than general instruction. 

CTA Visual Optimization

While optimizing copy is important, it is critical your CTA is seen in the first place. Testing out colors and animations will help you assess what combinations attract the most customers. If you are just using simple hyperlinks, you will want to test out more stylized buttons or forms to draw more attention. 

CTA Placement Optimization

Your copy and color are important but the location of your CTA is also equally as important. Product pages with only one place to purchase are missing the opportunity to attract conversions at different stages of a customer’s shopping experience.

You do not want to overwhelm your user’s with several CTA’s, but you want to work to strike the right balance between being overwhelming and naturally convenient for your users to commit.

Optimize Headlines

Going beyond CTA’s, your headlines are an easy and efficient place to optimize next. Your CTA’s can help encourage users to purchase or demo your products, but your headlines can help attract future prospects and increase your potential sales revenue. 

Incorporate Numbers

Adding numbers directly to your headline can have a massive impact on your click-through rate. People love to know what they are going to get before they commit. By telling them you have 10 industry secrets, they are more willing to click and read because they have a clear idea what they are going to get out of their time. 

Numbers can also be used in the form of a year to entice users to click; People love to compare and read about the best and worst tricks of the trade each year.

Headline Length

According to a recent study, headlines that are approximately 7 words in length are considered to be ideal for optimal performance. They are not too long but provide enough information to entice a click. 

Opt for Simplicity

The best headlines are simple to read. They tell you what you need to know with little effort and make it easy to identify you will find the right information by clicking through to your site. 

Incentive headlines are a thing of the past, instead, opt for an informative headline that is straight to the point. 

Explore and test different variations in your headlines to find the proper message that attracts users to click through to your site. 

Optimize Social Proof Use

Another way to test for CRO optimizations is by testing different social proof statements in a variety of locations on your website. 

Social Proof statements include:

  • Product Reviews 
  • Testimonials
  • Total number of customers 
  • Total number of products sold

Social proof’s main purpose is to build trust with your online consumers by proving to them that your product is used and loved by a large community of happy customers. This trust is imperative to build from the start, because eliminating fears and overcoming objections helps to build loyal and lucrative customers. 

You may consider testing your homepage conversion rates by having your current homepage design act as a control and a second homepage designed with additional social proof edits as your variation. 

Social proof to include as the variation include:

  • Adding a carousel of customer testimonials
  • Highlighting products with sensational reviews
  • Incorporating statements like, “100,000 moisturizers sold last year!” or “Trusted by over 100,000 happy customers.”
  • Include a video highlighting a customer’s positive experience

September – November – Dialing In Paid Media Campaigns

September 1 – 18 – Building and Testing New Google and Paid Social Ads

For companies new to paid social or those who haven’t run big campaigns in the past, they should take the time to test and collect data from a month of consistently running ads. 

Identify which platforms are most effective for your brand to advertise on, and you can do this by testing different platforms within the month of collecting data. 

Google Ads

According to Net MarketShare, Google dominates with over 72% of users worldwide

When it comes to advertising, Google Ads enables you to reach segmented and specific audiences through keyword targeting. Google ads are also built to produce a high return on investments. According to Google studies Economic Impact Report, advertisers generate approximately $2 for every $1 spent. 

Ad Types to Test
  • Search Network Campaign
  • Display Network Campaign
  • Shopping Campaign
  • Video Campaign

Google Merchant Center

With Google ads, make during that you’re in your Merchant Center account and optimizing your data feed. Google allows you to not only pay for shopping ads, but you can also showcase your product using free listings across Google.

According to Google’s research, 78% of U.S. holiday shoppers say they will shop at stores that offer free shipping. Within your data feed in Merchant Center, you can highlight your shipping fulfillment options and holiday return windows. Customers will love to see “Get it by Dec 24” or “Free returns until Jan 31” to help set your business apart in your Google Ads and on organic listings.

Facebook Ads

Facebook advertising offers unbeatable targeting filters. Through data captured on your Facebook pixel, you will be able to create niche audiences and further target your desired audience by demographics, shopping behaviors, locations, events and you can even target your competitors audience members. 

Approximately 57% of consumers say social media influences their shopping behavior and of the 57% a staggering 44% said Facebook was the most influential platform. 

Ad Types to Test
  • Product Showcase Video Ads
  • Brand Awareness Video Ads
  • Single Image Photo Ad
  • Carousel Ad 
  • Dynamic Product Ads

September 21 – 25 – Launch new campaign builds

After you have run multiple advertising tests you will want to run new fully optimized campaigns as quickly as possible to get them through the learning phase. 

What is the learning phase? 

The learning phase refers to the period of time when an ad delivery system is capturing and optimizing delivery to your ideal target based on the data received through your pixel. During this phase, your ad set is exploring the best way to deliver your ad, who to deliver it to and where is the best place to show the ad. The learning phase occurs when you first build an ad or when you make significant edits to current ad sets. 

Ad sets that have completed the learning phase and have stabilized, typically see performance stabilize after they receive 50 optimizations or within a week’s time. 

Getting your ads through the learning stage is critical for your Black Friday/Cyber Monday success. A stable ad set that is optimized prior to the event will have a more effective holiday ad run. 

September 28 – October 2 – Finalize Black Friday Discounts and Creative

Confirm with your team the final details of the deal you will run. Clearly note which products and services that will be discounted and for how many days. Communicate the deal with your content team, ad specialists and influencers to ensure a single message is being communicated with your customers. 

October 5 – 9 – Strategy Creation

After you have confirmed with your internal team or marketing agency the final deal you are going to promote, you will need to document your overall campaign strategy. This document should contain who you are going to target, how you plan to communicate with your target audience (i.e. email drip campaigns, brand awareness campaigns, influencers, etc.), and the expected results you plan to see from your campaign efforts.

October 12 – 15 – Creative Build

After the deal has been communicated with your team, have your specialists begin to craft ad and copy creative. The sooner you can build and design your campaign the better, you will have more time to finesse your message before it is set live. 

Ensure your copywriters and ad specialists are building resources that complement each other. A more cohesive strategy will be more effective at building brand recognition prior to the sales event.

October 19 – 30 – Ad Budget Finalization

It is imperative your team understands their budget early on. This will allow them to analyze their accounts and determine which campaigns they can run with set daily budgets to get the most bang for their buck. Of course you can add and detract budget as time passes, but having your team prepared can help you prioritize the most effective campaigns. 

November 2 – 6 – Upload Campaigns

After the ads have been designed and their budgets have been finalized, your team will need to upload the approved campaigns into their respective ad platforms. This may sound early to do so, but uploading early on and reviewing the targeting settings will ensure all settings are appropriate and correct prior to the big day. 

November 9 – 13 – Stakeholder Review & Approval

After your ads have been updated and reviewed by your social team, the next step is to share the final settings with key stakeholders for the sign-off. Digital marketing agencies will share the ad designs and targeting settings with their clients for the final signature of approval, and internal marketing teams will get approval from upper management. 

November 16 – 18 – Updates & Finalization

If you follow this Black Friday marketing timeline, the week prior to Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have minimal stress. Your team should pull out the strategy you documented earlier in the year and do the final checks that all things are communicated and properly set up. 

October – November – Warm-Up Old & Current Customers With Email Marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are peak sales days for ecommerce stores, so it is extremely important to prepare early so you can exceed your revenue targets when the holidays hit. In late September and early October, it is crucial to start warming up your email contacts with information about the upcoming deals. 

Of course, we all know Black Friday and Cyber Monday lead to an overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox. So, it is important to find as many ways to stand out from the crowd. 

To help you prime your audience and get the most out of your peak revenue-generating time periods, we have provided some Black Friday email examples to help you maximize your earning potential. 

Sales Announcement 

A simple and easy-to-understand email can go a long way. Your reader wants to know immediately what’s in it for them when they open your email. Making your call to action and benefits clear will increase your conversion rates. 

Include your deal in the email subject line and make the call to action the first thing your end-user will see.

Animated Emails

A quirky email that incorporates movement can help your business stand out in the inbox. With a clear CTA at the top of the page and movement that draws your attention to the deal, your end 

Gift Emails

Sometimes a free gift can tip consumers to purchase or increase their average order value. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals can increase your daily sales volumes, but offering a free gift can entice your end-users to spend more.

Best-Selling Product Giveaway

Entice your end-users by hosting a giveaway of your best-selling product. Contests can inject excitement into your audience and can encourage more consumers to engage with your brand. 

It is important to highlight the offer at the top of the email and follow it up with a detailed description of the offer below.

Showcase Your Best Sellers 

Prime your audience with both a deal and a reminder of what your best-sellers are. Pairing your most lovable products with an exceptional deal is brilliant. Shoppers will be able to plan ahead of what items they would like to shop at your site. Knowing their dream shoes are on sale will help push them to make a purchase. 

As more and more shoppers are using digital channels to do their Holiday shopping it’s critical that you don’t become an after-thought purchase this holiday season. By taking ample time and following our digital marketing Black Friday timeline, you should position your business to be the go-to site for holiday shopping. 

Need help with preparing your Q4 campaigns? Schedule a consultation with us today and let’s see what we can do for your business! Not quite ready but curious what makes a good Stryde client, check out our ideal client description.

Originally published on July 9, 2020. Last updated on September 9, 2021.

Laurel is a member of the executive team at Stryde. She's been doing digital marketing for businesses for 10 years. Two years ago, she started set up her own ecommerce business selling baby gowns and knows the struggles of a small business owner. She loves talking about digital marketing, content, SEO, and conversion rate optimization.