This post was originally published on October 8th, 2015. We’ve updated it with several new checklist items for 2016.
With Black Friday coming up on November 25th and Cyber Monday following right on its heels, your holiday marketing is no doubt well underway. In all the chaos, it’s easy to overlook some of the small but impactful online marketing tactics you can use to boost sales on two of the biggest shopping days of the year. With that in mind, we’ve put together a marketing checklist of things to do in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.
o Update homepage for Black Friday.
Make sure anyone who lands on your homepage in the days leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday knows about the deals you’re going to offer. Add relevant banners and calls-to-action, change your home page header/hero image to highlight your Black Friday offers, and consider adding a countdown clock to build excitement. You may also want to create a banner that you can place at the top of all pages to remind shoppers about your deals.
o Simplify forms and checkout process.
Take some time before the holidays to go through your checkout process and identify steps where shoppers are likely to drop out. Eliminate unnecessary form fields and try to minimize the clicks it takes to complete a transaction.
o Compress and resize any images that are weighing down your pages.
Unnecessarily large images can slow down page load times, and online shoppers aren’t going to wait patiently for your site to load. Take some time before Black Friday to check images on your home page and most popular product pages, and either resize or compress high-resolution images.
o Test site to ensure all pages are mobile-friendly.
By now you likely know how important it is to have a website that looks good on mobile devices. Even if you think your site is fully responsive or adaptive to mobile, it’s worth testing individual pages—especially new ones you’re adding ahead of Black Friday. Enter page URLs into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test bar to determine if all pages meet Google’s criteria for mobile-friendly design.
o Set up live chat.
There are dozens of live chat systems available online, and you can easily set one up by adding a piece of HTML code to all the pages where you want the chat window to appear. If you don’t have a system in place yet, install one before your big holiday sales days so that potential customers can quickly get help from one of your team members.
o Craft emails to build anticipation for your sales.
Schedule your emails so that subscribers receive an initial announcement about your holiday sale, followed by several messages designed to build anticipation and keep you top of mind. Consider revealing some of the upcoming Black Friday sales prices on top-selling items, or send out a sales offer that is exclusive to email subscribers.
o A/B test subject lines.
Remember: before you can get readers to click on email links leading to great Black Friday deals, you have to convince them that opening your email is worth their time. Businesses flood their subscribers’ inboxes with promotional messages around the holidays (MailChimp delivered 1.2 billion emails last Black Friday), so you need to make sure your messages stand out. Be clear about the deals you’re offering in your subject line, and A/B test different subject line variations to see what gets the most engagement.
o Write copy for transactional emails.
Tailor order confirmations, abandoned cart notices, and other automated email messages to your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Consider adding copy about upcoming holiday sales to encourage visitors to shop with you again before the end of December.
o Write emails to remind shoppers that your sale is about to end.
Create a segmented list of email subscribers who haven’t purchased anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and send an email several hours before the end of sale, reminding them that there is limited time to take advantage of your discounts.
o Test email links.
Before running any of your holiday email campaigns, take a few minutes to make sure none of your email links are broken and that all links go to the appropriate landing page.
o Create landing pages that align with email CTAs.
It can be jarring for email subscribers to click on a call-to-action that takes them to a landing page with a completely different offer—and shoppers aren’t as likely to convert if the initial CTA and landing page don’t match. Check the copy in your email message and on the landing page to ensure it’s coherent.
o Make sure you’ve enabled ecommerce tracking.
If you sell products through your site, you should absolutely set up Ecommerce Tracking in Google Analytics (if you haven’t already). Ecommerce Tracking will give you more insights in your customers’ behavior patterns so that you can better tailor future sales to your audience. If you’re not sure how to set up Ecommerce Tracking, check out our step-by-step guide.
o Check page load times.
Go to the Site Speed tab in Google Analytics to check the load times of your web pages. On average, people will give a page three seconds to load before abandoning the site, so if you have pages with slower load times, you’ll need to fix them. If you’re not sure what’s causing the slow load time, have your marketing team perform an audit.
o Create landing pages for sales categories.
Include ‘Black Friday’ or other holiday-related keywords in your title tags, header tags, and content so that the landing page has a better chance of being served to web users who enter relevant search queries.
o Research long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords will have a lower search volume than more general Black Friday-related keywords, but they will also have less competition and are more likely to attract shoppers who are looking for your specific products or services.
o Pitch products to influencers who curate gift guides.
Backlinks from high-quality third-party sites are a ranking factor for SEO, so it’s always a good idea to make connections with bloggers and journalists in your industry who may be interested in sharing your content. Lots of sites begin publishing holiday gift guides in November and December, so try pitching some of your best gift products to relevant sites. In addition to the SEO-value of backlinks, having your products featured in gift guides can also help drive traffic to your site.
o Local brick-and-mortars: check your online listings.
If you own a brick-and-mortar as well as an online store, go through all the major online directories to make sure your address, phone number, and other important information are up-to-date. If you have not yet claimed your business on Google, do so now using Google My Business.
o Set up meeting with your PPC team.
Keyword bids will be high around Black Friday because this is one of the busiest shopping times of the year, so you need to get the most out of your budget by choosing the keywords that are most likely to lead to conversions for your business. Unless you are a PPC professional, you should meet with your PPC team to discuss strategies.
o Create PPC campaigns tailored to consumers who are researching before Black Friday.
Most Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers will be researching deals in advance so that they can get the products they want before they are out of stock. In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, tailor the copy in your PPC ads to your customers’ research phase.
o Prepare ads for several top sellers if you think you may run out of inventory.
Have you been promoting a particular product heavily? Is it possible that this product will be out of stock before the end of Black Friday? If so, write ad copy for several other top sellers so that you will have ads ready to go if you have to pull the ads for an out-of-stock item.
o Retarget web users who have already visited your site.
If you have a retargeting pixel set up on your site, start remarketing to customers who have previously browsed your site. This is a good way to stay top of mind and announce deals to people who may not be on your mailing list but who have shown interest in your products.
o Use day parting and bid scheduling to maximize your paid search budget.
Look at your historical data to see which times of day you’re likely to see the highest levels of traffic and conversions. Allocate more of your paid search budget to the top-converting hours of the day to maximize your ROI.
Social Media Marketing
o Use Facebook and Twitter remarketing.
Retargeting pixels on your website aren’t just for PPC ads—you can also use them to create ads for custom audiences on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook even lets you serve ads to Lookalike Audiences—that is, people who are similar to your existing customers and therefore likely to be interested in your products. If you’ve never done this before, talk to your online marketing team about creating targeted social media ads before Black Friday.
o Create exclusive offers for followers on social media.
Offering exclusive discounts is a great way to reward your followers on social media—and to encourage those followers to recommend your social profiles to their friends and family.
o Put together holiday gift guides and share on social sites.
Use a design template site like Canva or Piktochart to create visually-appealing gift guides in different categories (e.g. ‘Stocking Stuffers’, ‘Gifts for Grillmasters’, etc.), and share those guides on your social channels. If you have a following on Pinterest, keep in mind that you can now create buyable pins that integrate with Magento, Bigcommerce, and IBM Websphere.
o Use relevant holiday hashtags.
Do some research into hashtags that are being used around Black Friday and think about how they pertain to your sale. You can, of course, use tags like #blackfriday and #cybermonday, but keep in mind that everyone else will be doing this as well. To stand out and get customers excited for your sale, consider using additional hashtags related to your store name and location. Let social media users know they can get updates on your sale (or maybe even get entered into a contest) by using your business-specific hashtag.
o Make sure at least one team member can monitor Twitter on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
If you have an active presence on Twitter, you should assign at least one team member to monitor this social site for mentions. If customers are tweeting at you because they have a question or complaint related to your sales, you’ll want to be able to respond quickly.
Having trouble with any of the action items above? We’d be happy to help you check all the boxes on your holiday marketing to-do list. Contact us to get started.