At the time of writing this article, Christmas is just eight weeks away. Many stores have their Christmas displays in place, television advertisements are already featuring festive themes and the shopping malls are busily hiring Santa in preparation for the busiest time of the year. Yet despite all the efforts of traditional “brick and mortar” retailers to boost Christmas sales, a recent Reuters report predicted that online sales will grow by 35% year-on-year to $16.8 billion in the fourth quarter and that retail website sales will kick into gear by December 2nd.

That leaves just five weeks to ensure that your website shares in a piece of that $16.8 billion in online sales. If your company hasn’t already made plans to make the most of this years predicted, recording breaking Internet growth, then it may be too late. Most of your competitors have already implemented some kind of search engine strategy and are one step ahead. So what can you do?

Too late for Christmas?

From now until the week before Christmas, you will no doubt see many articles with last minute suggestions for increasing search engine traffic. However, in order to achieve top search engine placement for the Christmas season, you really should have started your campaign many weeks ago. Anything that you attempt now must be implemented with pin-point accuracy and lightning speed if you are to beat the sound of sleigh bells and enjoy increased Christmas sales. For those of you up to the challenge, I have compiled a check-list of things you can do to help increase your website traffic.

1. Are you using paid inclusions?

The typical search engine can take up to six weeks to spider a website and then display it in a fresh index. With this in mind, make sure any new pages you create or optimize, are submitted to the main paid inclusion services. Paid inclusion allows you to buy your way into a search engine and subsequently see your website indexed at a much faster rate, typically within 2-7 days. While this does not offer any promises of better search engine rankings or more traffic, it does allow you to ensure that all of those Christmas specials you’re running are picked up by the search engines now and not sometime in January.

Paid inclusion is rapidly becoming a popular service with many search engines. It allows a website owner to obtain faster indexing, while providing a new revenue stream for the search engines themselves. While there are many options, the main paid inclusion services to consider are:

Positiontech - one of the first, and best, paid inclusion services. Their service allows you to add your most important pages to both Inktomi and AlltheWeb/Lycos partners.

InfoSpider - they have the monopoly on AltaVista’s paid inclusion program. While AltaVista is struggling to return to it’s glory days as one of the best search engines, it is still worth paying the fee to have your most important pages included for Christmas.

Ineedhits - the first company to partner up with Ask Jeeves. Their paid inclusion service is quick and affordable. Within a week, you should see your pages on and

2. Have you updated your content?

I’m sure you have all read that websites that update regularly are likely to attract search engine spiders on a more frequent basis. If your website content has remained the same since Santa last climbed down the chimney, it’s time for a change. Update your site to ensure that your most popular or best-priced products are easy to find from the index page. Add all of your "Christmas specials" and new products. If you have time, go one step further and create new pages that target the items or services that give your company the best profit margins. Two or three highly targeted pages should be on every website owners Christmas list!

3. Custom "404-error" page.

Check with your website host or Webmaster and make sure you have implemented a custom 404 error page. If you’re going to add new products and pages for Christmas, you’ll increase the chances of a visitor stumbling on a page that no longer exists or has been moved. Customized 404 pages are always a good idea, but at this time of the year you can use them to show your Christmas specials. In addition, you can add links to other important pages on your website so that both Christmas shoppers and search engine spiders can navigate their way through the rest of your content.

4. Meta tags - yes you should update them!

While many SEOs believe that Meta tags have lost their value over the years, I believe they can still offer some benefit if you are looking for last minute Christmas traffic. I know, I know; you’ve read many articles that insist that Meta tags are just not worth bothering with anymore, but let me ask you a simple question. How long does it take to change the Meta tags on a page? Weeks? Days? Hours? No, of course not, in just a few minutes you can change the Meta tags on a page to be more targeted and efficient. Compared to building links or changing the content on a page, changing your Meta tags is a piece of (Christmas) cake. And when I say Meta tags, I don’t just mean the “keywords” tag. Meta tags include the “Title” and “Description” tags as well. Forget using dozens of keywords in your Meta tags and be more selective. Focus on the most important keywords for that page. Remember, less is more.

No time to waste.

That should keep you busy. By no means is it an exhaustive list of changes you should make to increase search engine rankings and traffic for Christmas, but it is certainly enough to keep you busy over the next few weeks. And remember, nearly every single website can benefit from the increased traffic this time of the year. While Christmas has obvious benefits for retail websites, most other industries see increased website traffic during the fourth quarter. If you have already implemented an SEO campaign this year, the above fine-tuning should ensure that you have a very merry Christmas.
October 31, 2002

Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal has provided online marketing advice to thousands of companies including, Motorola, NBC, Lowes and Quicken Loans and is a trusted resource for The Washington Post, LA Times, Dow Jones, NPR and CNBC. Andy provides consulting services on search engine optimization, business blogging and online reputation management. Read his blog and request a free consultation at Marketing Pilgrim.

Search Engine Guide > Andy Beal > Last Minute SEO Christmas List