Website Holiday Prep: 7 Things You Need to Do to Get Your Website Ready for Black Friday and Beyond

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Do you ever feel that spring is a time for cleaning, and the fall is a time for nestling in and settling down with a good book?

Just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year, nature makes us want to be less busy when we really need to be more.

The promise of cha-chings excites you as much as the ringing of silver bells, you need to make sure your website is set up to deliver.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the major end-of-year holiday shopping season are fast-approaching, so I’ve prepared this post to guide you through your holiday website optimization.

Here are some things you *must* do to make sure your website is ready to handle the traffic and deliver the goods, *aka your beautiful products*, in time for the holidays.

Here’s what to do first:

1 | Do a Basic Website Audit

A website audit is less scary than it sounds. It’s a lot better than a tax audit. (Or, so I’ve heard. I don’t want to personally find out!)

Basically, you’ll be taking an inventory of what you have on your site, what seems to be working, and what needs fixing. The smaller your site is, the easier this is.

If you’re pressed for time, you could just perform some general tasks, or work towards a specific goal, for example, improving your checkout experience. There are content audits, SEO audits, conversion audits, and more.

SEO and Website Usability Audits

Any basic website usability audit should include:

  • Broken link check

  • Page speed tests

  • SEO / keyword report

  • Analytics overview

Free Audit Tools

If you’re already set up with Google Analytics and you know how to use it, you can find enough information to make educated guesses about which pages need work. However, I prefer Neil Patel's free SEO tool because it helps visualize your data really clearly.

 
If you just want a basic site over, this free website auditor will do the trick.

If you just want a basic site over, this free website auditor will do the trick.

 

Unfortunately, all free tools will only give you an overview, or will limit the number of pages that they crawl. To do a thorough audit, you’ll have to go with a paid plan on any site auditor.

Paid Audit Tools

I use SEOmator because I don’t have to subscribe to an expensive monthly plan for features that I just use occasionally. If you’re a bigger business, you may prefer something like Raven Tools or SEM Rush, two industry-leaders.

You should also be sure to check your user analytics software (or install it!). Hotjar has a free plan to help you see how people interact with your site .

Content Audits: Text + Photo Inventory

Content audits help you take stock of the images and written words that you have on your site, and assess whether they’re helping or hurting your goals.

I keep track of all my published content within a Google Spreadsheet that contains info such a page and post titles, keywords, links, publication date, and URL. This helps me when I plan new content.

Also, if I add new offerings in the future, or change platforms again, I will know where to find my content. I can also go through and add more affiliate links or spruce up my posts for better-performing keywords.

If you do have time to perform both a general website and a content audit, I highly recommend it. You will know what’s working or not, and where to focus your efforts towards getting more sales and conversions.

2 | Revisit Your Customer Journey

This sounds more complicated than it is. Taking the insights that you’ve hopefully discovered form *above audits*, you’ll have a better idea what words and what doesn’t.

Does your homepage have a high bounce rate (over 30%)? No good. You might need catchier graphics, more entry points into your store, or more text that calls out to your ideal customers.

Do you score low for your target keywords? Maybe you need to spruce up your product and collection descriptions, or check the SEO meta data of your pages.

Do you have a new featured line of products that you want to highlight for the holidays? Rearrange your store and put these up front, or create a landing page specifically for your new collection. Then you can run targeted ads leading to these pages.

3 | Get Your Store In Line

If you’re just focusing on promotions, it’s easy to overlook the back-end of your store. Everything’s been working so far, right?

Now’s the time to make sure your inventory is up to date, your vendors are listed correctly, and that you have enough stock to take on the holiday rush (*fingers crossed*).

You might even want to contact some of your vendors and see whether they have anything new that’s going to help you sell more. Or, if you’re supplying all your own products, reach out to others and see if they’ll stock your items.

It might be a fine time to send out a holiday gift guide or your line sheets to see if you can get a few more customers this season!

4 | Pay Special Attention to Product Pages

Product pages are the most important pages on your website. Why? Because that’s where the sale happens… or doesn’t.

The problem is that a lot of shop owners using a free theme or slightly modified theme don’t get all the goodness that a few customizations can bring.

With Shopify, you can simply plug in apps to bulk up your pages.If you’re using Squarespace Commerce, you can also set up abandoned cart recovery (which you can only get through Shopify’s “Shopify” plan).

Make sure you have all the key elements of a high-converting product page to help your buyers make that decision then and there. Here are some powerful influencers you can include:

  • Use seasonal photos

  • Include videos where possible

  • Include reviews and ratings

  • Answer people’s main questions and doubts

  • Show main benefits and uniqueness in descriptions

  • Increase average order value with related products and upsells

You can download my Standout Product Pages checklist for more tips and ideas to increase your product page conversions.

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5 | Capture More Email Addresses with Notifications and Pop-Ups

Also, if you find that people are bouncing in particular locations, you could use a plugin to create an exit intent pop-up. This can be specific to pages or to your whole site. A program like Privy gives you advanced options to control the design of your pop-ups and when they show.

Notifications (Don’t wait for the conversion opportunity)

Since you’ll likely have more traffic around the holidays, don’t waste time waiting to get people on your list. Give them opportunities… without being too pushy.

I personally don’t like push notifications, but I’m used to newsletter and exit intent pop-ups now. Your site visitors might like them if you offer a special discount in exchange for their email.

You can also control the timing of pop-ups to be less-intrusive. Squarespace’s new(ish) marketing pop-up feature lets you control whether the pop-up appears on a timer or on scroll. Since I can’t control this separately for the mobile version, I set my timer to appear on scroll.

I also can set a delay (daily or weekly) in which the pop-up won’t show to a visitor again. I set my delay to 1 week, for example, so in case someone missed it the first time, they’ll see it next time to read a new post.

You should be using some kind of email capture, too. Why? Studies show that about 98% of first-time website visitors don’t buy. (Privy)

Have you ever looked at your analytics and wondered where are all those mysterious site visitors coming from and why don’t they by? Have you set up Google goals to track and conversion activity?

Since your website traffic will probably spike during the holiday season (if you’re doing your marketing right, or if this is a big sales season for you), take this opportunity to get more people engaged.

Then, re-engage your visitors through email and on social media.

6 | Be Clear with Your Shipping

Nobody likes to see the cost of their order skyrocket on checkout.

One way to lessen this effect is to offer carrier calculated shipping rates, which are available on all Shopify and Squarespace Commerce plans. These will give you real-time shipping rates based on product/packaging weight.

Shopify Shopify displays discounted shipping rates based on their relationship with USPS and Canada Post. At this time, Squarespace only offer calculated carrier rates for shipments within the United States.

Along with having accurate shipping rates, you should also be very clear about delivery times. Post offices are busy places during the holiday,s and no one wants to find out that their package was lost at the last minute!

Packhelp, a UK custom packaging and shipping service, has a great article on holiday shipping deadlines. (Packhelp is a bit like Packlane in the U.S.)

In short, be sure to plan ahead and let your customers know when they need to place an order for it to arrive on time.

Finally, if you can budget for it and still have time, you might want to change up your packaging to delight your shoppers. Nothing says “extra special” like the small details.

 
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7 | Work on Your Graphics

Half of the holiday excitement is generated by the buildup.

Help your site visitors get in the holiday mindset by decking your site in new imagery in key places, like on your homepage or even on product landing pages.

Take your own product photos using special backdrops, and create new banners, ads, and collection graphics to draw attention and show that your store is very up-to-date.

Find new, trendy graphics at Creative Market. Or, use Canva's free templates to create your own.

Wrapping It Up

Whatever small steps you take towards making your website better can have a big impact on your sales.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed with all the info, get out your free Holiday Marketing Planner and choose 1 key activity per week, or 2 per month to focus on.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more tips about dressing up your business for a merrier end-of-year. So check back soon!