The Christmas period can make or break a retailer’s financial year, so it’s important to get your online marketing strategy right. But in 2013, that means doing more than buying a few links and hiding behind some keyword heavy text.

At Hit Search, we’ve worked with hundreds of online retailers, from diverse industry sectors. No matter what they’re selling, we’ll be using three digital marketing strategies in particular, to boost the visibility of their brand this Christmas and draw relevant traffic back to the site.

Of course, getting prospective customers to your site is one thing, but once they’re there you’ll need to make the buying process as simple and organic as possible. That means fewer keywords, more calls to action.
Following these tips could transform your Christmas campaign, from the planning phase right through to the execution. Because one thing’s for sure: a retread of last year’s campaign won’t do.

1)Attribution Modelling
This is arguably the most important development in the digital marketing industry this year. The concept has been around for a lot longer, but it’s never been simpler to implement.
We’re currently enduring the most turbulent conditions in the history of search marketing and it isn’t possible to rely upon a single marketing channel, such as SEO, PPC or Social Media. Attribution modelling is the study of the relationships between them all.
A single retail sale can be influenced by multiple channels. The customer might have visited your online store, directly, to make a purchase; but they could have made multiple visits to the site from other sources before doing so.

They might have originally discovered your site through a non-brand search, and revisited the site through a paid link to take a closer look at a particular product.

Without these channels the sale would not have taken place. So, the seller couldn’t rely on brand awareness alone to drive this direct traffic.

Attribution modelling allows brands to study the most common journeys that their customers make. Using this information, they can divide their marketing budget, and their work time, between each channel accordingly.

Better yet, the theory doesn’t only have to be used to compare sources in general. It can be used to optimise each individual strategy. Attribution modelling can be used to see how each PPC keyword is influencing another.

Our work in the field of attribution modelling landed us a nomination for the MI Awards 2013, in the Best B2C category. It allowed us to revamp our entire reporting infrastructure and improve the fortunes of ad campaigns that were already generating revenue.

It pays to do your homework in the run up to Christmas, to ensure you squeeze every penny of revenue from your festive ad spend.

2)Content Marketing
Let’s start by spreading some Christmas cheer through the search industry: SEO isn’t dead.
The landscape of search marketing has changed dramatically, but ethical SEO is still alive and kicking. Because it’s always really been about great content, long before someone coined the term Content Marketing.

It’s a phrase which has generated plenty of buzz this year, after Google bricked up a number of short cuts to high ranking positions. It’s no longer possible to build massive, but low strength, link profiles and take the top spot. Google wants to connect users to the most useful information. If you want to rank highly, you have to provide it.

Content marketing is the process of sharing information with your target demographic in ways which are relevant to your brand but as engaging as possible. It’s about educating, editorialising or simply entertaining your audience; and reaching out to them in the online communities they inhabit.

The Three E’s can be thought of as three stages in a sales funnel which starts by capturing the widest pool of interested readers and filtering down to the most driven buyers.

• Entertainment – It starts with getting your brand out there and this is accomplished by raising some smiles. Light, or entertaining, content might have less substance but it maximises the chance that web users will share content with their peers.

• Editorial – Shoppers need to develop a relationship of trust with a brand before they splash the cash; and they put their trust in experts. By presenting your perspective on a hot topic in the industry, you position yourself as an authority figure; and hopefully their future store of choice.

• Education – This is where we speak to the customers with the greatest potential to engage with the brand: the ones who have a need that you can fill. Educational content could be fashion tips, How-To’s, recipes or legal advice; useful information which solves their problems and highlights your product range.
We were finally getting to grips with Google Panda and Penguin, when the search engine introduced a different beast: Google Hummingbird.

Its aim is to improve the search experience by making results more relevant to long tail keywords and full queries. Rather than simply matching the keywords from a search to the text-based content on a webpage, Google is returning the results which are most relevant to the user’s need.

SEO’s not dead. It’s different. It’s no longer just about keywords on the page. It’s about being the most helpful and relevant website.
It’s about better quality content; no matter what you call it.

3)Conversion Rate Optimisation
Once Christmas shoppers have arrived at your site, the hard work is just beginning. Is your site optimised to make the buying process as simple and successful as possible?

To answer that question, you’ll need a better understanding of current conversion rates. Site wide, and category level, conversion rates are the two most important signifiers to study.
Online stores should have a site wide conversion rate of 2.5% to 3.5%. If your site doesn’t, this has to be top of your Christmas list.

Your site wide conversion rate will give you an overall impression of the success of your site in the build up to the festive sales period. Studying your category level conversion rates will allow you to point out any holes or areas for improvement throughout the site.
Three of the most common quick fixes to boost CRO are as follows:

• Adding a ‘Guest Checkout’ option and monitoring for an increase in sales.

• Allowing shoppers to input different billing and delivery addresses if this is not already possible.

• Change the colour of your ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Checkout’ buttons to make them stand out as much as possible from the rest of the site.
Whether you’re testing these three areas to begin with, or trialling other ways to improve the user experience on your site, it is important to test each aspect separately. Otherwise, it will be difficult to analyse which CRO changes have been most successful on the site.

Trial each amendment for one week, as this should provide enough data to analyse the site wide conversion rate before and after. If it changes for the better, you’re onto a winner. If it doesn't, it’s time to head back to square one and try something else.

Published on: 3:09PM on 30th October 2013