It’s the most wonderful time of the year for publishers. By “wonderful” I mean “lucrative”. For many publishers, Black Friday and CyberMonday make more money that weekend than the rest of the year. Yes, you heard that right. Done right, Black Friday can be a big deal.
The thing with Black Friday is that success requires planning. That’s what this checklist is all about. If you take care of these things, you will (probably) have an exceptional season.
Help your readers out:
In the coming days before the holidays, your audience likely scours your site in desperation looking for that perfect gift. You don’t want to let them down, and you don’t want to miss a golden opportunity either.
Take the time to think about what your audience wants. Think about the parts of holiday shopping that sucks for them and figure out how you can help them with your articles. It’s a small exercise, but it will frame your holiday content in an empathetic way that will resonate strongly. And it actually feels good, too.
Look at what performed well last year.
They say, “history repeats itself” and here is an example of how to use this old adage to your advantage. The good news is that with analytics and affiliate data management software you can really dive deep into what performed well and why. This helps you make decisions of where to focus your efforts.
- Articles: Take a look at what did well last year, which articles made the most money? If you did something special, your audience is probably looking forward to you doing an updated version again this year. Halloween is really my favorite holiday, and every year I did a crazy five-part Halloween series. My readers would start asking about it in September!
- Retailers: Aside from the content, it’s always a good idea to look at which retailers did the best, and which retailers you made the most money from. This is a good indicator of which retailers your audience is most comfortable buying from, and that’s a big deal. How many times have you not bought something because your wallet was in the other room?
Gather all the deals you can.
The way to build a reputation for having the best holiday content is by getting deals readers can’t find anywhere else and/or getting really well-curated deals to help them find that perfect gift or that perfect thing that will get them through the holidays (One year I did a huge fondue dinner, and oh boy. I bought four cast iron fondue pots, 16 napkin rings, linen holiday napkins, etc. It would have surely helped to find a curated list of deals for holiday hostesses!)
- Reach out to your PR contacts: PRs are your friends. PR’s number one priority is to get coverage for their clients. You need the scoop on the hottest new products. This is a win-win situation for both of you. If you have a good relationship with PRs they may even refer you to their network, so be sure to ask if they know anyone!
- HARO: Help a Report Out is a service where if you have a special request (Interview a chef for the best fondue recipe?). They will blast this out to a huge database of PRs who can get the connection or information you need for your story. This is actually good for all year around, but during the holidays, it’s super helpful.
- Reach out to retailers: Going back to seeing which retailers performed the best last year. If you did particularly well, maybe they would be interested in doing a special partnership like a promotion or giveaway, or even increased commissions. Maybe they can give a special deal for your readers. It never hurts to ask!
Streamline your affiliate workflow.
Affiliates are notoriously tedious if you work across many networks. There are hundreds of affiliate networks and thousands of retailers. Keeping them all straight and having all the tools installed or tabs open can get tricky fast.
- Consolidate your link generating tools: Trackonomics has a Chrome extension that generates links across several networks. This link generator is super handy because it automatically loads the right network account for the retailer. You can also streamline your link tagging process with our customized subID fields. It might not sound like a massive deal, but it’s saved our clients hours upon hours of work.
Plan your editorial calendar.
Double your content for the weeks leading up to the holidays. You don’t need to make everything about Black Friday or the holidays for that matter, but the more content you have, the higher chance you have to make commissions. If you plan your editorial calendar, it will make things a lot easier; first, to set a content cadence so you don’t bombard your readers with five gift guides at once, and second, so you don’t have to think about it. Trust me, you’ll have a lot to think about without having to figure out what you’re writing about that day.
- Gift Guides: The first thing people think about when they say, “holiday content” are gift guides because everyone does them. But because everyone does them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The beauty of gift guides is they can be quirky, fun, or super straightforward and they will still help your readers. How many “Christmas gifts for Dad” have I read? I don’t know… not enough because I still need to get him something.
- How-tos: This is a content category that often gets overlooked but presents a HUGE opportunity for commissions. No one was born out of the womb knowing how to throw the best holiday party ever - ow to make your holiday dinner super special, how to decorate, how to prepare for holiday guests (think of all the airbeds, sheets and towels people have to buy), how to take family holiday photos that don’t suck. The possibilities are endless!
- Reviews: A lot of people make their big purchases during the Black Friday/CyberMonday sales. This is a great opportunity to let them know what is worth buying with reviews. That reminds me to look up reviews for fancy blenders, maybe there will be a deal.
- Sales Roundups: Maybe the best thing you can do is to let your readers know exactly where all the good sales are happening. Let them go down the rabbit hole on their own (while you make the commission.)
Do some website housekeeping.
Now for the sexy stuff. Your eyes may glaze over, and it may be tedious to do this, but it’s super important work.
- Conduct an SEO audit: This point could be its own 2000 word post. There is a lot to do. But you need to make sure your site is optimized for organic search for the holidays (and every day, but especially the holidays). But even doing basic things like, cleaning up your tagging structure, optimizing your meta-tags, making sure your images are tagged properly will help.
- Evergreen content optimized: Optimizing your entire site is a tall order, so focusing on the pages that make the most money are your best bet. Make sure they are updated, all the links are pointing to active product pages and all the images are on point.
- Fix broken links: Broken links amount to millions of dollars a month in lost revenue. Don’t let this happen to your site. If you don’t have handy tools like Link Scanner which scans and finds broken links (out-of-stocks and 404s) automatically, focus on the evergreen content. That will help, and when you’re ready, scan those links automatically.
- Check load time of your article pages: Have you ever ran a search online only to see the page take a long time to load? Holiday posts tend to be image and content heavy, that’s why you need to make sure to check the load time of your pages so your readers don’t bounce out before they can even see you worked so hard on. Google has a free load time checker that’s pretty intuitive.
This may seem like fluff, but the collateral will make your content stand out. People scan content these days, and beautiful design and imagery will peak their interest. To try to get this ahead of time will help you focus on content when it is needed most.
- Newsletters & Email Marketing: Newsletters can get pretty fancy these days, and you want to be sure your newsletter is up to par. There are loads of email newsletter html templates to pick from, but they take time to get just right. It’s worth getting your template customized so you can just plug your content and go.
- Get your imagery ready: So many times I have written a short, two hundred word blog post in a few minutes, only to spend HOURS trying to find an image that is “just right.” This might not be so hard for product articles, but for some of the more abstract pieces things get harder. Take the time to create a pool of images you might use, that way when the time comes, just drop the image in and go.
- Create templates: I’m a big advocate for structuring my content. Listicles always have an intro then head into the list. Reviews have an intro, a product description and then analysis. How-tos have an intro, materials needed if any, then go into the steps. The more you can format these article types ahead of time, the faster you can write your articles because you’re making fewer decisions. Just plug in your information, and write away.
Obviously, while this is an extensive list, there are many more things you can do for your website to prepare for Black Friday and CyberMonday. Would you like to learn more? Get in touch.