Start capitalizing on seasonal URLs & content

How to leverage your seasonal campaigns for this year, and next year

No need to start promoting season-specific pages from scratch, year after year. There are several ways to prolong the value of seasonal URLs and content. So stop scrapping those pages you worked so hard on.

While you finalize your marketing campaigns for Mothers Day, July 4, and every other holiday, season, or recurring campaign-worthy event, consider this: The advantage to natural search is that you can and should leverage those very campaigns that you ran last time around.

I want to first remind you that URLs are a bedrock of SEO. The URL is the first thing the search engine reads before hitting the content of a page. The URI, the part that comes after the domain name, helps relay to the search engine what the page is about, which is why we try to make it ‘pretty.’ You want to make it as easy as possible for Google to infer the content of a page by its URL.

http://mysite.com/122/ddsss/q=23df44rq is not a pretty URL.
http://mysite.com/products/service-name.html is better.

Given the importance of URLs, it’s a shame to ‘throw away’ so many of them once their content becomes less relevant. Especially if it WILL become relevant again, like a page about the best Christmas side dishes, or back-to-school sales. Seasonal URLs like these should be saved and nurtured, for their potential to win organic traffic in the years to come only increases.

The season comes, the season goes…

Seasonal content is usually written to pick up on trendy search queries from a given period. It differs from content that is relevant only around the time it’s published, like current events or a fashion trend, and “evergreen” content – content that’s relevant over long periods of time.

Seasonal content like “The top ten trends of 2015” or “Christmas recipes for 2015” are usually published under www.example.com/top-10-trends-2015/ or www.example.com/christmas-recipes-2015/. Companies work hard to push that content to both search engines and social media. But once the season passes, the page either paid off or it didn’t, and either way it is no longer relevant. All that effort into building backlinks, social signals, and press is gone.

Fortunately, that conventional thinking is wrong! There is in fact a way to build up that power season after season.

Seasonal links should be treated similarly to ‘hub’ pages – informational pages about something or someone that appears in the news now and again, like http://www.forbes.com/profile/donald-trump/ or just about any Wikipedia page. They are continually built upon, with new or updated content, and their value to the search engine (and social networks) remains, if not increases, with time.

But the URL stays

There are a bunch of simple tricks that don’t require developers, and that will let you reap the benefits from a page you’ve worked hard on, in the long term. When you’ve got good content, you don’t want to just throw it away.

First things first: simply remove the date from the URL from the get-go. Simplify it to www.example.com/top-10-trends/ or www.example.com/christmas-specials/ and you’re left with a page with a history of backlinks and social signals that can help with next year’s push to rank for those same trending keywords. You can keep the page all year round; just remove the links pointing to it so it doesn’t clutter your internal linking. It will orphan the page for a period of time, but in our experience, once you return the internal linking and refresh the content, search engines take a new liking to the page.

If the ship has sailed on that opportunity, however, and you have existing URLs that include the year, you can consolidate into a new page (without the date), move the content over, and 301 redirect to the new page.

NOTE: Social signals do associate directly to the URL so if you change or redirect it, you lose your social power for the original page. The social networks do read the redirects, but most do not ‘pass’ the social attributes like ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ to the new URL. So if you have /page-A/ with 100 Facebook likes, then change URL to /page-A-1/ the social counter will show “0”. By keeping the URL year after year you retain those attributes.

Not just the URL matters

One might argue that the year is needed in the URL for the content to rank well. It does help, but we think long-term, and keeping a page for years to come is worth it. Fortunately, there are other useful tricks:

Update the content

If the content becomes completely irrelevant, like a list of products no longer offered, then list new products. If the content is old but could be interesting to users, like trends of previous years that could make a good comparison, then consider finding a way to have all the content remain on the page. It could be done using tabs, although Google discounts content hidden behind tabs, or by placing the old content below the newer content and offering jump links for navigating internally on the page.

Include the year in the H1 and content

We know many people include the year in their searches, which means you should include it in your meta titles, H1s and other on-page elements where applicable. “Best hotel deals summer 2014″ will give you a better chance at ranking for those searches than the same title without the year.

Set internal links live a few weeks before the season officially starts

That will give Google’s spiders the time they need to crawl and re-index the pages you’ll want to push. These should include header and/or footer links, and links from generic product page to the seasonal product pages. Just remember to remove the internal links once the season ends to avoid ‘wasting’ PageRank.

Keep the page(s) live

Do not set the server responses for these pages to 404 or 500, or even 301 redirect them to other pages. Keep them live throughout the year. Anyway, your visitors won’t reach them once you remove the corresponding internal links. To keep them relevant though for the small amount of organic traffic they may receive, listing related products is usually a good solution.

Do your keyword research

We’re big advocates of the long-tail keyword, especially for those of you trying to out-rank the ‘Amazon.com’s’ of your industry. For example, a bigger – and more feasible – opportunity may lie with the query “special Mothers day gifts for women 60+,” than its short-tail version “Mothers day gifts” or even “Mothers day gifts for women.” Also note which interchangeable words garner more searches, e.g. “gifts” versus “presents”.

Seasonal content is great for social media and SEO. Companies invest time and money into getting it maximum exposure over a usually short period of time. Start building and maintaining your URLs in a way in which you can harness that power year after year.

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