9 Ways to Prepare Your Site for Holiday Traffic Spikes

Online shoppers spent more than $2.7 billion on Black Friday last year, an increase of 14 percent over 2014 sales figures. When combined with Thanksgiving e-commerce sales, web shoppers poured $4.45 billion into the United States economy — and 40 percent of the total sales came from deep discounts on limited-time or -product sales.

Year-over-year figures continue to improve, so there is a lot riding on your website performance. Now is the time to prepare your site for holiday traffic spikes. If you’re not sure where to start, the following tips will help you claim your piece of the holiday pie.

1. Get Ready for the Influx of Traffic

Start with the basics. Make sure your web hosting service can handle the potential spike in traffic. If you’re using a shared hosting service, talk to your provider to make sure your site won’t slow down if another company starts pulling in massive volume. Slow load times can destroy your sales potential.

2. Optimize for Mobile Customers

People now spend more time on the internet on a mobile device than on a desktop computer (51 percent versus 42 percent), so if you’re not optimizing for mobile users, you’re just driving potential customers to your competitors. In fact, not having a mobile-optimized site is like closing your store for one full day every week. How are you going to capitalize on those limited offerings if you can’t reach the on-the-move crowd?

3. Resize Your Graphics

Beautiful images get high marks from web visitors, but if they aren’t properly sized, they could literally slow down sales when every second counts (47 percent of visitors will leave in 2 seconds if a web page doesn’t load). You should at least resize the images on your main pages, like Home, About, and Seasonal Content. Remember that the image size shouldn’t be larger than the upload container. If your business website doesn’t have automatic resizing tools, check out jpegmini.com or compressor.io

4. Simplify Your Page Fonts

Yes, unique fonts can be very attractive, but simplicity often makes for a better user experience. While one or two custom fonts won’t be an issue, make sure you limit non-standard fonts. Filament Group put out a handy guide to using custom fonts responsibly, and one of their suggestions is to use cookies to track whether the custom fonts are already downloaded and in the browser’s cache. According to Zach, “If they are, [you can] show the custom fonts right off the bat to avoid any swapping native fonts for custom fonts.” For those who prefer a less technical explanation, check out this article on choosing the right fonts for good user experience.

5. Display Credibility & Security

If someone is going to spend their money and input credit card information on an e-commerce site, they want to know that they can trust the seller. Use trust badges to your advantage. For example, Zappos lists their site security performance icons in the lower right hand corner. You’ll see that they use SSL certificates for secure shopping and they’re recognized as a STELLA Service Elite website. Online shoppers also want to find the little green lock icon in the upper left on the browser bar.

6. Get Social

Get your content curation in motion now — not two days before Black Friday — and be sure to post about upcoming sales on the homepage of your site plus all your social platforms to get visitors excited. Use automated social media tools to ensure that you reach targeted audiences when they’re most likely to be online looking for a deal. Consider venturing into the If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) Twitter triggers to drive flash sales. Focus on social sites with the biggest revenue potential. For example, Facebook dominates when it comes to social media driving purchases online (85 percent of all social sales come through Facebook).

7. Clearly Post Your Return Policy

This one really doesn’t need any further explanation. Consumers want to capitalize on the sales without worrying that they will be stuck with something that doesn’t fit their needs. Make your return policy simple, clear, and easy to find.

8. Focus on Keywords

Review your online assets now to make sure that your keywords will work for you during the holiday season. Some great keyword research tools are Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, and HitTail, and once you have a list of your best keywords and phrases, you can use them not only to optimize your website, but also to ideate blog post ideas.

Focus on updating product descriptions and homepage content, and use your keywords in headings, primary content, alt text, URLs, and page titles. Alt text is vital if you have videos or photos on your site because it improves their “crawlability.” One of Google’s ranking factors is “Create great alt text,” because search engines look at the words in alt texts to figure out what the image is about and, specifically, what the content that the photo accompanies is about. So make sure the alt text ties into your keyword strategy.

In terms of doing holiday keyword research, here are a few tips to get started. Take a look at which keywords drove the most sales (not just traffic) to your site last year and use them on your website, product descriptions, and ad copy. Use the keywords tools listed here and search for key holiday words and phrases like “best gifts,” “Christmas presents,” and “gifts for husband/mom,” and use them along with your own targeted keywords. Create blog posts that are of value to your target audience and sprinkle your relevant keywords in them. And finally, create targeted SEO and PPC strategies.

9. Update Your Fulfillment Policies

Omni Channel predicted that one of the biggest consumer expectations in 2016 would be more options for shipping and fulfillment. Consumers want a flexible order management portfolio that includes options to get at-home delivery, store pickup, and same-day service. Share fulfillment options via a link in the shopping cart or provide an FAQ shipping and returns page that answers these questions. Ask yourself, “Can my customers find an answer to their problem in less than 20 seconds?” If not, rework your navigation for easier access.

If you nail these nine tips, you’ll be ready for the surge in website visitors when Black Friday rolls around. And if you’re not sure whether your web hosting service is the best-fit for this holiday season, reach out to Bluehost to discuss options today (before the frenzy begins).

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