This is the season for online sales. But if you aren’t prepared, the influx of traffic and onslaught of holiday shoppers can seem like a nightmare. Today’s savvy shoppers are looking for the best deals possible, and this time of year, how you both promote and protect your site makes a big difference.
Online shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if you go the extra mile to provide a smooth, secure shopping experience. Statistics show that 76% of frequent online shoppers will actually avoid making purchases from a blog site or mobile app again if they find it performs poorly.
So, what the secret? How can you position your blog or online store for success during the holidays? Strategists and established bloggers have a few pieces of valuable advice to share.
- Advertise Deals Early
The holidays are almost here, and if you haven’t already, experts say you should advertise your sales – now.
“Know how you’ll get the word out,” Kyla Roma, a blogger and profitability marketing strategist, said. “Your plans should cover social media, email marketing, website visitors and shop visitors – if you have a brick and mortar shop as well.”
Gather a list of current customer email addresses, update any “opt-in” messages on your website and social media pages, and promote, promote, promote! Provide incentive for all visitors to like, tag and share your holiday promotions for special deals, and brainstorm ways to repackage your existing products and services as seasonal gift offers.
- Write Targeted Posts in Advance
Positioning yourself for a successful season requires pre-planning. While you may feel like there isn’t enough time before Christmas and New Year’s to get everything done, you don’t want to put it off — after all, you’ll probably want to take a few days off to enjoy yourself during the holidays. “Marketers should have a calendar of campaigns ready to go right through the season and into New Year’s,” Christopher Byrne, CEO of Sensorpro, a marketing automation platform, said.
He also suggests researching online shopping trends to target your writing accordingly. “When a message is aligned with subscriber thinking, it resonates better, is more credible and feels trustworthy,” Byrne said. “E-commerce sites that include feedback and preference in their messaging get better results.”
If you have set up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics this can bring in some insightful data regarding the efficacy of your current content creation efforts. The best bet for engaging content is to get specific – when you think you’ve found a great niche topic, try to narrow it down one level further. As you write your posts, be aware that not all visitors will be ready to commit to a sale right away. Be ready with content that appeals to readers at all stages of the buying cycle, making sure to include review/comparison articles, buyer testimonials, and eye-catching video content.
- Communicate Availability
Readership is the cornerstone of a blogger’s life — the essential piece of the puzzle that makes your success possible. To that end, your die-hard fans may feel abandoned if you disappear without explanation. In addition to scheduling posts, consider checking in with your followers on social media to let them know your schedule. Even a brief, “Happy Holidays! Check back on January 3rd for a new post!” can help build anticipation.
If your business is sales, outline any delayed customer service responses or shipment notifications to avoid buyer’s remorse from your customers. Whatever strategy you choose, you know by now that communication is key.
The best part is, you can connect with your audience no matter where you are. Even if you’re traveling for the holidays, try going “Live” using Periscope to answer product questions or do a product demo from home. Pinterest is another great site for communicating directly with potential buyers. Because it lends itself so well to creating shopping wish lists, it isn’t surprising to learn that 93% of active “Pinners” say they use the site to plan out future purchases.
- Position Yourself for Passive Income
If you plan to step away from your blog or website during the holidays, it’s a good idea to establish passive sources of income in addition to producing content ahead of time. One way to do this is with affiliate marketing.
“One of the most common affiliate programs you’ll see bloggers using is Amazon Associates,” Abby Lawson, founder of Just a Girl and Her Blog, said in a post. “You can apply to their program, and if you’re accepted, you can generate an affiliate link for any product that they sell that you mention on your site. When people click your link and buy that product (or, in Amazon’s case, anything else on their site), you make a small commission. Eventually, those small payouts add up and can become a great revenue stream for your site.”
It’s important to keep in mind however that if an affiliate opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your reputation – and your band of loyal blog followers – is on the line, and if you begin promoting products you aren’t personally enthusiastic about (or using overly-aggressive SEO tactics) you may find yourself falling from search engine listings or alienating your audience.
- Anticipate Traffic Increases
So, you expect tons of site traffic during the holiday season. Great! But what happens if your hosting plan can’t support your popularity? It’s wise to think ahead to protect your blog from crashing due to heavy attention. “Make sure your site has the bandwidth to handle the influx of traffic,” Jason Parks, co-founder of DermWarehouse, an e-commerce dermatological product website, said. “There is nothing worse than your site crashing due to too many people wanting to learn more about your brand or make a purchase.” Contact your website host to ensure that your blog or store can handle seasonal traffic.
- Invest in Automation
If you are the sole contributor to your blog, it can be difficult to relinquish control and step away for a bit, but it might be a necessary — and potentially profitable — decision. According to Mariah Coz, professional blogger, business coach and founder of Femtrepreneur, automation is crucial to blogging success.
“Does your platform have the ability to automate your tasks?” Coz asked in a post. “For example, when someone signs up for this course, they get that email, and then an invitation to this forum. You want to make sure you can set up automation in your systems so you’re not doing that stuff yourself, or paying someone to do it (automate, then delegate).”
If you feel overloaded and are dreading the busy holiday season, it might be worth it to look into your options and learn how automation can help you streamline your business.
First, look into marketing automation software platforms. Different software solutions provide many different functions, with the ultimate goal of helping you better understand the behavior of your blog visitors and which links they are using. This data allows you to better target your customers, deploy messages in advance, and track metrics back to get better results.
During the holidays it makes sense to revisit your email lists, set up several easy, automated email marketing campaigns, and let the software get to work improving your bottom line while you take a much-needed break.
- Maintain Site Security
As you know, the holidays can be a very profitable time and you don’t want problems with your site to prevent any sales, even if you’re out for the holidays.
Your blog’s security is of utmost importance as you anticipate a flood of new shoppers in the weeks ahead. “The holiday season is not only a long-awaited time for online business, but for cyber criminals too,” Danyal Effendi, digital marketing manager for PureVPN, said. “Hackers start looking for opportunities. To avoid them, keep yourself protected with SSL Certificate and if you already have it, check its validity and expiration date. “
Additionally, consider these credit card tips to help you — and make sure you have alerts set up just in case something does go awry during the holidays so you can take the steps to address the problem immediately. All web retailers should use an up-to-date web encryption system and updated firewalls and antivirus software is in place.
Strong passwords for logins and layers of security on any blog contact forms is also crucial. Make sure your web hosting provider regularly checks for the presence of harmful software, malware, and other viruses – many security problems are simply the result of insecure coding or forgetful human error.
- Protect Your Personal Finances
There’s a fine line between blogging for fun and blogging as a business, but most agree you have crossed it once your site generates income. While it’s exciting to earn money by doing something you enjoy, it also presents a new question: How do I separate my personal and business expenses?
“If you haven’t already, you should be thinking now about how you can legally protect yourself and the valuable assets you have created,” John Corcoran, a lawyer and blogger for the California Law Report, said in an interview with Smart Passive Income, a personal finance blog.
“What successful bloggers usually don’t realize as they are building a following and watching their income grow each day is that along the way, they’ve built some major assets which need guarding and protection. The domain, the blog itself, the brand, even a Twitter account with substantial followers can all quickly become extremely valuable assets,” Corcoran said.
If your blog or online site is turning a profit, it’s a good idea to speak with a business attorney or accountant about how to protect and divide your personal and professional incomes. They can provide insight into how to structure your business to approach the financial side of blogging.
Managing your blog or online business can be challenging during this time of year, but there are ways to benefit from the seasonal market without sacrificing your personal time. Strategize now to lessen your stress level during the holidays and into the New Year.
Sarah Szczypinski is a journalist specializing in credit repair, student loans, budgeting and other personal finance topics for Credit.com. Her work is featured on MSN, GOBankingRates, The Huffington Post, Lexington Law and CreditRepair.com, among others. She lives in Seattle with her husband and son.