Last-minute Christmas buying guides: 6 best practice tips

01 Dec 2016

Last-minute Christmas buying guides: 6 best practice tips

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and for retailers, it’s also the season to focus all efforts on capitalising on the surge in online gift-buying in the lead-up to Christmas.

With UK shoppers predicted to part with £77.56 billion this season – £20.97 billion of which will be spent online; up 12.9% from 2015 – it’s absolutely critical that ecommerce retailers are geared up to capture as much festive traffic as possible.

One effective tactic for capturing consumers at the ‘research and discovery’ phase of their purchase journey is to create helpful buying guides that narrow down the sea of available choices and recommend the most relevant products for the shopper’s needs.

As pointed out in a recent article from CIO, producing guides that target specific persona-related queries (e.g. ‘Top 10 gifts for dad’) or budget-related searches (e.g. ‘Sporty gifts for under £50’) is a great way to attract organic traffic from long-tail searches – at a point where the consumer has a clear intent to buy, and simply needs help finding the right product.

To ensure festive buying guides are as visible and effective at driving sales as possible, here are our 6 best practice tips.

For visibility in search

1. Boost relevancy

It’s been nearly five years since the advent of Google’s ‘Knowledge Graph’, and since then the search engine has made continued strides away from a keyword-based approach to identifying content relevancy, and towards analysing more complex factors like context and intent.

So, what does this mean for ecommerce and buying guides specifically? To help ensure your guides are surfaced in search results:

Avoid robotic keyword repetition and instead focus on using natural language and phrasing that your target buyers might type into a search. For example: ‘dad gifts UK’ = bad, ‘funny Christmas gifts for dads’ = better.
When crafting the copy, use vocabulary and word variations or synonyms that are closely related to the topic you’re addressing.

In most cases, this should happen naturally – if your guide is talking about gifts for dads, for example, you would expect it to contain synonyms like ‘presents’ and ‘father’, or related words like ‘Christmas’ or ‘novelty’. These are useful markers of relevancy for Google.

2. …but don’t forget the SEO basics

One critical element of content pages on ecommerce websites that often gets forgotten is the metadata, particularly when new pages are added that aren’t associated with a core product range or campaign. Although SEO has undoubtedly become much more sophisticated in recent years, it’s still important that pages are properly optimised with:

A meta description (between 150 and 160 characters)
A meta title (approx. 50-55 characters)
A H1 tag (no longer than a short sentence)
Alt text for images (short and to-the-point)

These are basic but crucial page elements that will help search engines identify your content as relevant to users’ queries.

For conversions

3. Make it shoppable!

A buying guide won’t achieve its ultimate goal – driving conversions and sales – unless it’s designed with the purchase journey in mind.

The natural next step for a customer after reading a buying guide is to click through to either a specific product page, or to a relevant category or sub-category page to browse the product range.

With that in mind, make sure that buying guides always contain a mixture of relevant links to products, category pages or other useful guide content, to nudge them closer to purchase. A buying guide with no shoppable links is the ecommerce equivalent of a dead end.

This winter coat guide from Selfridges (see below) is a great example of integrating shoppable links with content:


For engagement

4. Make it visual

Buying guides are most effective when they’re punctuated with images – or even video – to bring the copy to life.

If you’re recommending a particular product, include images or video to accompany the text. According to research from Internet Retailer and MarketingSherpa, viewers spend 100% more time on pages with video, and are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video.

5. …but offer substance as well as style

It goes without saying that guide content should provide useful insight for customers, pointing them in the direction of relevantinfographic_crop products, inspiring them with great ideas and ultimately helping them to make a purchase decision.

Buying guides therefore aren’t just a generic category page or a product gallery – they should offer a good level of depth and detail, with a view to genuinely answering the customer’s question.

This is particularly important when it comes to more considered purchases like technology and gadgets – a popular choice for Christmas, and an area where 79% of consumers would find it helpful to read a buying guide before adding to basket.

6. Break it up

Although this rule applies to most content for web, in buying guides – when shoppers may be in last-minute panic buying mode – it’s particularly important to make sure text is easy to parse at a glance, on both desktop and mobile devices.

For best results, keep sentences short and punchy, break copy up into digestible sections with prominent sub-headings, and use bullet or numbered lists where appropriate.

Want to find out how your guide content matches up against best practice? Visit our Quill Quality Score page to learn more about our ecommerce benchmarking and request a bespoke evaluation of your website.

Lauren Johnson-Ginn @ Quill ContentHead of Marketing Communications at Quill, passionate about all things content and digital.

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