Tracy Kilcoyne

You’re probably sick of everyone talking about the holidays by now.

However, marketers that put a content strategy in place to capitalize on this time of year reap the benefits. Consumers are turning to the web to research everything from holiday advertising strategies to gift ideas in niche industries. In fact, eighty percent of shoppers will research online before making a purchase this season, and online search is the go-to source for more than one-third of Americans.

I’m working with a number of clients on holiday-inspired content marketing campaigns for the season, and their success can be your success, too. Here are a few tips to help make the most of your content strategy.

1. Plan ahead

You will want to post DURING the holiday season, so it’s best to plan holiday content early and publish various media consistently. Fifty-four percent of consumers start holiday shopping before Black Friday and 31 percent do the majority of their shopping in the first half of December.

Plan ahead for holiday headlinesYou should stay ahead of the shopping curve so you’ll have an arsenal of content when the heavy buying period hits. In October, I worked with a client in the promotional products industry to establish a holiday content calendar, which allowed us to publish at least one seasonal article per week through the end of the year. We also added two holiday-related keywords to the company’s core keyword strategy to attract traffic searching for holiday products and Christmas cards. Throughout the month of November, holiday-related content made up five of the top 10 blogs bringing traffic to the website. The same client saw a similar trend in 2011, with their top non-branded keywords bringing Small Business Saturday traffic to the site in Q4.

By planning out a content calendar ahead of time, we were able to strategically publish seasonal articles that brought in targeted traffic, and traffic typically translates into more sales. The hyper-relevance of the topics to holiday shopping and brand products – as well as the keywords (such as holiday business gifts) – inspired meaningful transactions on the site.

2. Be flexible

We have all heard the saying about your best laid plans, which is why it’s important to be flexible in your holiday content strategy. Companies must have the editorial resource and a flexible editorial brief to take advantage of trends that become hot during the holiday moment. Those trends can be key opportunities to bring in traffic.

Whether it’s the latest piece of technology from Apple or the new (and improved?) Furby, it can be difficult to predict what will be a hit each holiday season. This fall, Gangnam Style became YouTube’s most watched video with more than 1 billion views and many companies took advantage of its fame. Around Halloween time, sky blue tuxedo jackets began popping up in Halloween stores and Etsy shops, as the Korean pop star became one of the most popular costumes of the year. If these brands had set-in-stone content plans, they would have missed the chance to hit the PSY buzz.

Gangnam style

In order to drive traffic to your site and improve engagement, you need to be flexible and willing to adjust your content strategy, especially around holidays when seasonal trends take hold.

3. Think beyond the winter season

You may think of the holiday season as only the period between Thanksgiving and New Years, but there are many other holidays throughout the year that you can take advantage of to bring in search traffic.

In a gift giving industry, smaller holidays may give your site a surprising boost, and it’s important to know which “off the radar” holidays might be important to your audience. I always research the niche events or seasons that clients can use to reach targeted audiences. For one Brafton client, the blog article that generated the most pageviews for 2012 (thus far) is an article about customized gifts for International Nurses Day in May, with one about National Teachers Day not far behind. Eighty-eight percent of those who viewed the Nurses Day-relevant products entered the site through the blog article, and “nurses day gifts” and “nurses day 2012 gifts” were two of the client’s top organic traffic generating keywords of Q2.

Nurses day hot holiday searches

In fact, “nurses day” generates over 40,000 Google searches on average per month, with the vast majority of the searches occurring the first week of May. By focusing content on this keyword in late April, this company was able to capitalize on that traffic and bring in targeted visitors.

Though the holidays are often a busy time as everyone wraps up 2012, they also bring about a great opportunity for content marketers to mix up their regular content strategies and capitalize on seasonal searches.