The Last Second Guide to Holiday Marketing

Ian Lurie
Dude. Chill.

I saw a Christmas ad last week. Complete with one of those sanity-imploding ditties that make me want to scoop out my medulla. I won’t tell you the title. You’d share my curse and hum the stupid thing until mid-January.

It’s not even Halloween yet, people.

Hopefully, you aren’t responsible for this atrocity. And hopefully, if the holidays are a big sales season for you, you’ve already got your holiday strategy up and running.

If not, you’re at a disadvantage. But you can still get some easy wins:

Speed things up

A faster site makes more money. Do the easy stuff:

  1. Compress photos. Download all product images and other photographic art. If the image is larger than 200 pixels, compress them using JPG. Try around 80% compression. If it still looks good, increase compression as far as you can. If the result is a smaller file, upload back to your site. That reduces bandwidth usage and speeds things up.
  2. Compress line art and small images. Download all icons, patterns and smaller line art/photographic images. If they’re JPGs, convert them to PNG format. See if those are smaller. If they are, upload them again. Again, reduced bandwidth requirements.
  3. Put your code in order. CSS first, then javascript. If possible, put javascript at the end of the page. This improves page rendering.
  4. Remove unecessary pixels. If you use third party analytics tools, chat boxes, advertising platforms or anything else that requires you to paste in a javascript, chances are you’re placing pixels on visitors’ computers. That placement slows your site. Remove any you don’t use.

Those are the easy speed wins you can do between now and the entire week that used to be Black Friday without serious site testing or developer time. It’ll get harder if you have thousands of images. But if you have thousands of images, you should the resources to compress them, too.

My favorite tools for compression:

Photoshop (I don’t love it, but Fireworks is gone, so…)

You can also use Google Page Speed Insights to get compressed versions of bloated images.

Prep for e-mail

E-mail is still one of the most effective marketing mediums, if you use your house list—the people who’ve checked the ‘yes, send me more information’ box. Do the simple things to ensire you make the most of that list:

  1. Scrub the list. Find bounces and unsubscribes. Remove them. Don’t trust automated tools! Every now and then, you need to check yourself.
  2. Check if you’re blacklisted. Use mxtoolbox and check on Spamhaus. If you see a problem, reach out to the relevant party. Don’t argue—ask for help, do what they ask and move on.
  3. Set a schedule. Figure out when you’ll send what you’ll say. Don’t go nuts. And no, there’s no ‘go nuts’ magic number. Watch your unsubscribe rates. If you’re steadily losing subscribers, you’re probably trying to hard. Send fewer e-mails.
  4. Design the e-mails. Unless you have a proven design, get a professional to design the e-mails for you. It’s not that expensive. You can probably find someone to help you for a few hundred dollars. It’ll pay off.
  5. Build the list. If you haven’t already, place an offer on your site: “Sign up to receive holiday offers!” Offer enough context that people want to be on the list. You’re not Santa (or Harry Hanukkah). Explain the value.

Improve contrast

If your ‘buy now’ button blends in with the rest of the page, use a higher-contrast color. I know the branding concerns. If those trump everything else, so be it. But if revenue is the absolute number one priority, try a high-contrast button. We’ve seen conversion rates go up 20–30% by switching from blue-on-blue to orange-on-blue.

Tune up your PPC accounts

With PPC, the best quick-win is to make sure you’re not missing huge opportunities. Seems obvious, but be sure that if you do any pay per click marketing using Adwords, Bing or other networks, you do a little homework:

  1. Check your budget and spend. Consider whether you should increase for the holidays, or decrease and use the money elsewhere.
  2. Look for really poor performing ads. Even if you can’t measure conversion rate, you can find ads with terrible clickthru and place them in a separate group for easier management.

Even if you don’t run any PPC campaigns right now, see if you can:

  1. Add Product Listing Ads to the equation. PLAs are great selling tools, these days, and you can’t afford to ignore them. We have a free ebook on the subject, by the way. But be sure to check Google’s current info, too.
  2. Take advantage of new tools like Google Customer Match. I can’t list ’em all. Check Customer Match first, though. It lets you target ads to e-mail subscribers. It’s chock-full of nift.

Create landing pages

This one isn’t exactly an easy win, and you may not have time to do it. But if you can, create a few landing pages customized for any holiday offers. If you can, use a tool like Unbounce or Optimizely for testing.

This is more work, but if you can create these pages, then point e-mail and paid advertising at them you can figure out what works and adjust on the fly.

Think about paid social media

Yes, it’s hard to measure. Yes, it costs money. But paid social media remains an under-exploited channel. You can precisely target by psychographics and demographics, try little teeny spends and put offers right in front of idea customers.

Facebook’s been snooping for gift preferences since 2004. They can probably help you show relevant ads.

Just think about it, OK?

Get your passwords

Sounds trivial. But make sure you can log into your:

  • Social media accounts
  • Analytics software
  • E-mail marketing software
  • Site content management system
  • Pay-per-click accounts
  • Other advertising accounts

That’ll avoid the heartbreak of premature logout.

The endless list

I tried to stick with the easy stuff that you can whip into shape in the next couple of weeks. If you want to get crazy, look at stuff like:

  • Writing some holiday-focused content. Real content, not crap. Stuff that’ll help people get through the most stressful/most fun time of year. Then promote it using paid social media.
  • Set aside budget for targeted display advertising. The trendy term is ‘programmatic’ advertising right now, I believe. It’s hard to keep up with the buzzword freight train.
  • Hire your friendly neighborhood web consultant. Hey, I had to try, right?
Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. This is a timely article. If you’re only now planning a seasonal sales strategy, as a seller or affiliate then you’ve already missed the boat.
    As a writer I have been astonished to get work in from people wanting content around seasonal sales in DECEMBER! Boat. Has. Sailed.

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