You’ve probably heard about the importance of Search Engine Optimization, but what is the best way to optimize your online presence for the holiday shopping season?  Where are customers researching your business?  And where are other businesses optimizing for their customers?

In preparation for the 2011 Holiday Season, MarketingSherpa recently released the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report, a study that analyzed customer buying patterns during the weekend of Black Friday.

The study not only found that 67 percent of consumers did research online before making a purchase, but also that companies that strategically implemented formal processes for SEO convert 150 percent more leads than companies with no such processes in place.

So where are these customers researching you, and how should you optimize for them?

The most popular online location customers go to find holiday shopping information is your company’s website.  Online-only retailers were the second-most-visited websites, and search engines came in a close third.

Where else are customers doing research?

  • Store Websites – 44%
  • Online-Only Retailers – 36%
  • Search Engines – 33%
  • Shopping-related emails – 20%
  • Online Auction Websites – 19%
  • Brand Manufacturer Websites – 17%
  • Shopping Comparison Websites – 17%
  • Coupon Websites – 15%
  • Social Networking Websites – 12%
  • Blogs and Message Boards – 11%
  • Online Review Websites – 10%
  • General Consumer Websites – 9%
  • Magazine Websites – 6%
  • Video Sharing Websites – 6%
  • News websites – 5%
  • TV Programming Websites – 5%

The study also analyzed how most businesses were spending their SEO dollars.  This section found that the most popular area was keyword/phrase research, with 93 percent of businesses leveraging this tactic.  Title tags and meta description tags both tied for second, with 81 percent of companies doing each.   And URL structuring was the third-most-used tactic by businesses, with 67 percent of business engaging on this tactic.

How else are businesses optimizing themselves?

  • Keyword/Phrase Research – 93%
  • Title tags – 81%
  • Meta description tags – 81%
  • URL Structuring – 67%
  • Internal Linking – 65%
  • Content Creation – 60%
  • External Link Building – 59%
  • Social Media Integration – 54%
  • Blogging – 53%
  • SEO Landing Pages – 51%
  • Competitor Benchmarking – 49%
  • XML Sitemap – 46%
  • Image/Video/Asset Optimization – 41%

The takeaway from this study: “Good content creates buzz and attracts links.[… ]When pages have strong customer-oriented language, good layouts and clear call-to-actions, there is a greater likelihood of ‘click through’ than ‘click back.”

Sarah Jordan

Sarah Jordan

Sarah Jordan is the VP of Marketing for PaySimple, the leading provider of service commerce solutions for SMBs. At PaySimple, Sarah leads the company's brand, acquisition, lifecycle, and product marketing strategies, and has been an integral player in growing the company from a fledgling startup to a leading SaaS platform, serving over 15,000 businesses across the country. She loves live music, being outside, great food, and hanging out with her husband, little boy, and dog.

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