10 Tips To Prepare Your Website For The Holidays

Prepare Your Website For The Holidays

Your website is no different than a traditional brick and mortar store when it comes to business hours and the holidays. There's nothing more frustrating than driving to your local store, only to find out they are closed for the holidays or on a revised holiday hours. Because of this, it's important to inform your viewers of what to expect in terms of service, response times and delivery details for those who sell goods online. Below are 10 tips to consider as we enter the holiday season which will prepare your website for the holiday season and keep your viewers informed if there are any changes to your regular services.

1. Communicate Any Changes Ahead Of Time

Make sure you have a solid communication plan ahead of the holiday season. December 1st is perhaps a good date to consider a newsletter mail out. Inform your users of any store hour changes, closures, delivery deadlines, response time changes and any other detail specific to your business. This is also a great opportunity to include promotional information such as deals, coupons or seasonal products.

We always recommend clients repurpose their newsletter for their website either in the form of a blog or a news item. That way, it's always easily accessible in the event the email newsletter gets deleted or misplaced. Pushing this content to your social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter will ensure you maximize the visibility of your content across various platforms.

2. Update Your Website's Special Hours

As soon as your store, business or website's special hours come into effect, ensure you update your operating hours across your website. It's always a great idea to place your hours on your footer and on your contact page as these are the most common "go to" places users navigate to view this information. Adding a modal box (or pop up window) on your website's landing page is a more direct way to ensure your viewers get informed and see any changes. At OMIS Web Design, we always keep the functionality for a modal on our website and re-use it for news, features, promotions etc. This saves on design and development time and makes it easier to push information news on an as needed basis.

3. Update Third Party Website Details

Be aware that some of your users and customers may only visit you through social media sites or third party sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and other directory sites. Websites like Facebook and Yelp display business hours on your company profile so ensure there is consistency between the information on your website and on your third party sites.

One important third party site to consider is your Google My Business and/or your Bing Places profile. Store hours are an integral part of the search algorithm and are prominently displayed on a search that displays your website. Store hours are also integrated into many navigation apps like Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps to show if your location is open or closed.

4. Inform Customers Of Shipping Deadlines

For online shopping websites where goods are being delivered, ensure you post clear deadlines for shipments to arrive before Christmas. Many carriers such as Canada Post, FedEx and UPS will most likely notify you of these deadlines so ensure you communicate these to your customers. Also consider adding upgraded "next day" or "3 day" delivery options for those last minute shoppers.

As an added bonus, it's a good idea to include any information related to refunds, returns and exchanges as these might also affect delivery times in the event an order needs to be re-shipped.

5. Christmas Mail Outs & Gifting

The holidays are a perfect opportunity to show customer appreciation. A personalized postcard thanking your customers and wishing them Happy Holidays is an easy and affordable way to show appreciation, stand above your competitors and act as a subtle reminder of your services. This can also be achieved through a newsletter mail out or a funny JibJab greeting. As mentioned above, ensure these are delivered in a timely manner ahead of the holidays!

For special or high value clients, consider allocating some of your marketing budget towards a gift or an invitation to a special event such as a concert or a sporting event. This can also be a great opportunity to further improve the business relationship and discuss future projects. Keep in mind certain companies and government agencies may have a gifting policy in place that prevents staff from accepting gifts throughout the holiday season.

6. Ensure Your Have Adequate Web Hosting Resources

Certain businesses, especially in the retail sector, see a tremendous increase in traffic during the holiday season. For newer businesses, this can be the first indication of how well their web hosting platform is configured. Many of our clients see an 80% to 200% traffic increase during the weeks leading up to Christmas and this additional traffic load can lead to crashes, slow downs and your website not operating properly. For websites hosted on shared hosting providers like GoDaddy, HostPapa and HostMonster, other websites hosted on the same server as yours can also cause issues on your website, even if your website is not a retail oriented or seasonal in nature.

It's always a good idea to contact your hosting provider and discuss various traffic scenarios and how they could affect your website's performance. This is also a good opportunity to review your website's backup plan in the event of a crash or security breach that forces you to revert to a previous version of your working website.

7. Boost Your Website's Traffic With New Content Or A Promotion

For those websites that aren't retail oriented, it's common to see a severe drop in traffic during the holiday season. This is perfectly OK and isn't something to be concerned about. Generally speaking, people are focused on shopping, family and travelling and less focused on their usual business operations. Services like dentists, fitness studios, and financial services can use the holiday season to attract more visitors. This can be done by offering promotions, adding new content to the website or finding other ways to engage with users in the form of a contest, polls and/or by adding frequent updates to social media sites. The year end is also a great opportunity to refresh or update "expired" content on your website. Look for outdated blogs or simply refresh the content/images throughout your website and image portfolio. This content refresh will also trigger search engines to recrawl your website and potentially increase your website's ranking (which could lead to higher visibility and an increase in traffic)

Doing an online advertising campaign with Google Ads or Facebook Ads can also help mitigate the drop in traffic during the holiday period and help attract new customers. We recommend doing some keyword research by visiting competitor websites and targeting these keywords within your paid ad campaigns.

8. Delay Major Updates Until The New Year

If your website relies heavily on holiday traffic, put off any major website updates, redesigns and/or functionality changes until the new year. There is always the chance of delays, bugs and other design/development issues that can cause outages and downtime and, as mentioned in the previous tip, your web or graphic designer may not be available to fix these issues. Most businesses that see a surge in website traffic during the holiday season usually see a drop in traffic once the new year rolls around (especially online retailers). This is a great opportunity to implement a new website redesign or implement new functionality to your website.

9. Monitor Your Website's Traffic

One of the most overlooked aspects of website management is traffic monitoring with the use of a service like Google Analytics. Analytics helps you keep track of important user-related information such as views per day, content popularity, devices used to access your website and traffic sources as well as hundreds of various metrics. For websites that see an increase in traffic during the holidays such as online stores, getting to know your users during this period can greatly help shape the content and layout of your website. For example, if you notice a large majority of your users access your website through a mobile device, consider simplifying the navigation and ensure your website is mobile friendly. If you're users are visiting from a different country, consider adding a "choose your language" flag for that country to help users better understand your content.

10. Decorate Your Website!

There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to decorate your home and... your website! Most coffee shops offer a holiday cup and certain radio stations throw in a holiday tune here and there as a way to stay festive and generate buzz. This can be done in a very subtle way by adding a Santa hat to your logo, adding a secondary color of red to your style sheet or even changing a background image with a more festive one. Not only will this put a smile on your viewer's face but also it will also improve your search engine rankings! As part of search engine algorithms, your website's update date plays a big role in how well you rank in search engines. Google, Bing and Yahoo always want to deliver the most current websites to ensure no outdated content is shown to users.

Happy Holidays from the folks at OMIS Web Design!

Posted by Carlos Vilchez
Carlos Vilchez - Barrie Website Designer
Carlos Vilchez is a web consultant for OMIS.ca - Online Media & Internet Solutions - A web design, development and host service provider in Barrie, Ontario. He's been tinkering with html and coding websites ever since the days of 14.4k dial-up, paying $2.25/minute for an internet connection. For nearly 2 decades, OMIS.ca has been providing small to medium sized businesses in Barrie and the surrounding areas with affordable web design, hosting solutions and a wide assortment of web-related services.