We have partnered up with Brian Dean to provide top tips on how to optimize your SEO for Black Friday.
After five failed businesses, Brian started a blog in the personal finance space in 2012 which did very well. Brian is now an internationally recognized SEO expert and has founded Backlinko to teach all of his marketing secrets through his blog and newsletter. Brian is also one of the co-founders of Exploding Topics, a great tool to discover topics, companies, or products that are growing rapidly right now.
Here are Brian Dean’s answers to our questions which include actionable tips to help publishers improve their Black Friday SEO.
What type of content performs best when covering Black Friday?
Because we’re talking about SEO, it’s all about finding things that people are going to be searching for in November before Black Friday.
In my opinion, the best content type for SEO is the list review post.
You have to find specific brands that have Black Friday deals on products that you promote. Fortunately, almost every brand does.
Then, you can go back and update your older list review posts for Black Friday and you don’t have to create a new page just for Black Friday.
So let’s say you have a ‘Top 10 curling irons’ article, you can go back to it, check all 10 curling iron products you mention to make sure they have Black Friday deals and update them with the new prices and deals. Then you’re good to go, just republish it as a new page.
This approach is the best of both worlds for publishers because Google wants new content so you might get a freshness boost, but they also like older pages too.
I have learned this from the investing site The Motley Fool. They have hundreds of pages (‘Best Tech Stocks’, ‘Best Finance Stocks’, etc…) that they just update all the time instead of publishing new content.
They just update these pages every month, and this method has the best of both worlds because it’s fresh, but it is also old content on pages that have authority already versus a new page that has no authority.
What you don’t want is having one page on your site for ‘instant pot deals on Black Friday’ for example and then one other page just on ‘instant pots’. You should use the page you have already for ‘instant pots’ and turn it into ‘instant pot deals on Black Friday’ for a week during Black Friday and then switch back.
The SEO software company, Ahrefs, did a study and found that the average first page ranking in Google is 18 months old. So it can definitely take a long time to rank.
The best strategy is doing a mix of updating old content and publishing new content on topics that you haven’t covered yet.
Also, make sure the URLs of your articles don’t have the year or date in it (eg: ‘Instant Pots 2020’) so that you don’t need to change them each year.
What products will be big this year for Black Friday?
One of the biggest niches right now is Home & Cooking: People still aren’t comfortable going out to eat, they’re tired of using food delivery apps, and want to start to cook better meals at home.
Popular products in that category include Air Fryers and Instant Pots which are growing like crazy. There are tons of different models and brands for these products. Even though the Air Fryer isn’t that new, if you look at search volume growth, it’s been huge this year.
So if you’re in the Home niche or Cooking niche, any high-tech products in that space are doing really well.
The other thing that is going to be big is subscription boxes. Of course, it’s more of a Christmas gift but a lot of them have Black Friday deals and they almost all have affiliate programs. Almost all of them rely on affiliate marketing to drive sales actually. I also saw a statistic that said that 10% of people in the UK have a subscription box service.
The third category that comes to mind is Home and Garden. Anything related to house plants (pots, gardening equipment, plants themselves, plant delivery services, etc…). This is one of the biggest categories right now as people are buying a lot more house plants for their homes. So if you can, get in on that niche in any way possible as it’s going to be blowing up as Black Friday comes around.
For publishers who are a bit late preparing for Black Friday, what are the fastest ways of getting results with SEO in a competitive space?
The number one thing would be to find untapped topics and keywords that people aren’t searching for.
Because if you’re in a competitive space, you don’t want to go head to head with those other big publishers. Not to say that you don’t have a chance, but it’s going to be very difficult. Especially with Black Friday coming up so soon, it’s going to be hard to go from 0 to ranking above them in 3 months. It’s totally possible over the long term but we’re talking about Black Friday this year.
If you want to prepare for next year, one of the best ways is to start publishing content now about product categories that are a little more evergreen so that you don’t have to time the trend. That’s what I would do to prepare for next year.
For this year, prioritize finding untapped product categories and really go niche with the stuff you’re covering.
Most publishers will cover big categories like ‘Best Subscription Boxes’, ‘Best Instant Pots’, ‘Best Shoes’, ‘Best Clothing Brands’, ‘Best Laptops’, etc, for Black Friday deals. These are just brutally competitive Black Friday keywords, so what you want to do is niche down into little sub-niches that people are not searching for as much, which means they won’t be as competitive.
The best way to find these is by looking at new products because they haven’t had enough time to become competitive yet. So instead of competing against 1000 publishers, you might only be competing against 50, 20, or even 10.
To give you an example, ‘The Best Laptop Black Friday Deals’ is going to be a brutally competitive topic, but ‘The Best Gaming Laptops with a 17-inch screen’ is going to be a lot less competitive. It’s similar to the long-tail keyword approach, but you want to be focusing on trending keywords that are growing consistently as more and more people start searching for them.
What is the best time to publish articles for them to rank during Black Friday?
It depends. As you’ve said, some publishers will hold off from mentioning Black Friday or Christmas until they are only 3 months away, which is not a bad strategy as they’re going for the freshness approach and Google loves fresh content.
On the other hand, if you are a Google News approved publisher, that changes everything because you do want to hold off and wait until around Black Friday when people are going to be searching for it. Google News is a totally different algorithm that focuses on freshness. You definitely want to be focusing on trending products and long-tail keywords because there’s going to be other publishers competing in Google News.
And the important part is not Google News because no one is going to go on Google News and search for ‘Best Hair Dryers for Black Friday’, but those Google News posts can appear in the main search results, and they often do. Actually, the more people write about a certain product, the more likely your Google News optimized articles will show in the main search (Web) results.
So if you are a Google News approved publisher, it does make sense to hold off and wait in that sense.
But on the other hand, you’re really risking it because let’s say you’re doing a Hair Dryer list article like ‘Best Hair Dryer Deals for Black Friday’ and you publish it on Thursday or Friday, it shows up on Google News but for some reason, you’re not ranking on the Web results.
In that case, there’s no way for people to see it as everyone searches for these products on Google’s Web results.
That’s why I think it’s always better, when in doubt, for publishers to rank in the traditional search results. They do move around a lot but they are a lot more static compared to Google News where you can appear for 5 hours and then totally disappear.
If you rank as number 1 in Google search results, you’re going to rank for a while. That’s why I like to recommend going back to your older articles and updating those for Black Friday rather than trying to time it perfectly.
What is the best way to find easy-to-rank-for keywords and content gaps for Black Friday content?
You can use Google Trends to discover things by searching for a keyword category and then scroll down to see their ‘related searches’ suggestions. The problem is that those tend to be very closely related to the keyword category you typed in.
For example, if you search ‘Wireless Headphones’, you’ll just see close variations of that product. You’ll sometimes find something different but usually, you’ll just see things you already know.
That’s the reason why we created Exploding Topics: you want to find something that’s trending, you don’t know what it is yet, so you need something to help you discover it.
The feature that is the most useful is the Category filter. If you only want to see products for example, we have a whole category for that, and there is another category just for e-commerce.
Combined, those two categories have 1,000 topics, which is plenty, and they are all trending up.
Based on the learnings you have on recent Google algorithm updates, what should publishers be doing differently this year?
The easy answer is to just say nothing because the problem with algorithm updates is that Google never comes out and says ‘this is exactly what we’ve done’. That’s because they are constantly making updates and they use AI to run and improve the algorithm.
SEO best practices haven’t really changed, especially over the last year. In fact, outside of updates, I’ve seen the algorithm change less over the last couple of years than in past years.
When a site drops in rankings, it’s not necessarily because they did something bad but probably because other sites got a boost.
In my opinion, the number 1 thing you should do whenever an update happens is to look at your older content and make sure you don’t have pages that are weighing your site down. This is called content pruning.
If you have thousands of pages on your site that no one is visiting or reading (also called Zombi pages), you can easily delete those pages, combine them or redirect them to other relevant pages on your site.
For me, that’s one of the number 1 things you can do to recover from an update and just get better rankings overall.
Should publishers build a section on their site dedicated to Black Friday? How would you proceed to implement it?
It’s not really for SEO. If you want to do it for user experience so that you can direct people visiting your homepage to all your Black Friday content, then I think it’s totally fine.
It will help your SEO a little bit as you’ll have that link on your homepage that will send authority to that section and, by extension, to all the pages in it too.
It’s not easy to set up though as you have to re-categorize all your existing content under that label and somehow create a page that’s just a feed of those posts.
It’s not impossible, but not all publishers will have a technical team ready and available to set that up. If you’re just publishing Black Friday content for the next two weeks, you can just redirect people to your blog feed where they can find all your Black Friday content easily.
To recap, what are the top two things publishers should focus on to prepare for Black Friday this year?
Number One: If you have an existing piece of content on your site about a certain topic, definitely just update it for Black Friday and publish it as a new post. Then after Black Friday is over, switch it back to how it was.
Number Two: Find trending topics that aren’t big yet, that way you can get traffic without having too much competition.
Also, go after longer-tail keywords for products and categories.
These days, instead of searching for just ‘laptop deals’, you might be searching for specific products such as ‘gaming laptop deals’ or ‘tablet laptop deals’. Long-tail keywords like these might get 5% of the total searches around laptops, but that will still represent a lot of people.
Also, the buyer intent with these keywords tends to be stronger as consumers have a good idea of what they need to buy, and they are more likely to buy after clicking on your article.