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12 Tips to Help Spruce Up Your Website for the Holidays

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With the holiday season upon us, there are plenty of things to do as a soapmaker. Between prepping for craft shows, filling orders, and nailing holiday promotions, one big part of your marketing is probably collecting a little dust.

Despite website updates being one more thing to add to the pile and probably the last thing on your mind, it's important to get your website in tip-top shape for holiday shoppers. Don't stress: do what you can to spruce up your website for the holidays, and make a mental note of things you can rock in the future.

Prioritize what's important right now (filling orders you already have or ensuring new customers can place orders) and follow your plan. If you already have mega orders coming in, and are having a hard time keeping up on your turnaround times, come back to this when you can!

 It's time to spruce up your website for the holidays!

It's time to spruce up your website for the holidays!

Have the time to give your website a little TLC? Here's twelve tips to put into play on your website straight away:

1. Check the time machine & make sure you aren't hanging out in history.

Every holiday season, I make it a huge point to purchase handmade products for gifts, and I can't count the number of times I've walked away from a purchase because I wasn't sure if a maker was still... well, making. Outdated information on your website can totally kill buyer confidence.

If you have a blog, check to see when the last update was. If it was more than a couple months, pretty please slap up a blog post with a fresher date. If you need ideas for quick and easy blog posts, I've blogged up dozens of copy 'em and write 'em holiday blog post ideas.

If you have a homepage of graphics or a slider (rotating marketing images), give them a little pep in their step by updating them for the holidays. Mention the holiday season, gift-giving, stocking stuffers, or other upsell-worthy holiday promotions in one of the graphics to make it crystal clear that you are ready to do business this season.

If you have a page on your website for live events, check it over. I came across a soapmaker's website the other day who listed craft shows and festivals from 2013 on their upcoming events page, and I cringed. If you don't have upcoming events, make it clear that you don't have anything scheduled as of now, but to check back on a specific future date.

If you wholesale your products, make sure to update your page on your website that lists where your products can be bought. I can't imagine a customer would be too happy to make a trip to a supposed stockist for holiday shopping, only to find out that they don't have your products in stock. Make your list of stockists organized and easy to browse, and then check it twice to ensure it's up to date.

2. Make holiday shipping deadlines crystal clear.

Make it easy for your customers to understand shipping deadlines by using time based messaging in your marketing (Order XYZ as a stocking stuffer by *DATE* to brighten Christmas morning).

Consider updating product listings to have holiday shipping deadlines directly in full view. Or even link a blog post about your holiday shipping deadlines (Hey! See what I did there?) in your product listings or in your main navigation and customer service areas (like your contact page.)

 Manage your customer's expectations by making holiday shipping deadlines crystal clear!

Not only does this bring up buyer confidence and show that you are ready & willing to fill those holiday orders, but it helps communicate important dates that aren't flexible due to the nature of shipping.

3. Show-off any special holiday offers &/or discounts prominently.

Update your unique value proposition and marketing to reflect why it's better to shop online than deal with Black Friday carnage out in the real world. Shopping online will save your customers time and gas from traveling to and fro, and help them avoid long lines or full-up parking lots. Plus, they have the tools at their fingertips to find unique gifts online. Use those benefits to market your products for the holidays!

Consider offering free shipping for the holidays (either with a set purchase amount or as a whole), as it's a huge driver for customers to shop online during the holidays. December 15th is "Free Shipping Day," so you could pony up on that marketing bandwagon. Shipping tends to be equivalent to around a 15% discount on product purchases for bath and body companies, but consumers feel it's more valuable than an actual higher discount percentage, like 30% off.

If you offer gift wrapping or the inclusion of holiday gift cards/notes, let customers know. (Hey, another blog post idea!)

Whatever holiday promotions you decide to run (whether that's just reframing your marketing or actual discounts), make them prominent on your website by adding them to your navigation, featuring them on your home page using graphics, or by using other eye-catching features, like action bars or pop-ups and modal windows.

4. Make customer service a top notch accessory.

When most folks talk customer service, they forget about the part of customer service that isn't directly handled by a person on your team: the customer's experience using your website! Give your customers easy access while shopping by ensuring that your website uses a search function efficiently, and that they have varying options for browsing products to help them find the perfect gift while on the hunt. For instance, having various product category options such as "bar soaps" as well as "gifts for men" or "stocking stuffers under $20."

You also want to make sure that your policies (returns, payment options, shipping, etc.) are easy to find, and easy to understand. Don't hide those suckers, so the customer knows exactly what to expect. Consider adding a link to your policies or answering the most common questions directly on your contact page.

5. Check last year's stats to see where there is room for improvement.

If you use any form of statistics or analytics, such as Google Analytics, check last year's stats for successful marketing keywords to put into play this year. Use those analytics to learn from your prior successful marketing moves to repeat them, and what didn't work so hot so you don't do-over your mistakes.

Check your current statistics to see what high traffic landing pages are currently hanging out on your website. (A landing page is a page that a visitor enters your website directly through.) For instance, if you blog, you may have a popular blog post that nets a lot of traffic. Use those higher traffic landing pages to promote your holiday content - whether that's directly to your holiday promotions or a desire path. Here on Modern Soapmaking, a huge chunk of traffic comes to my website directly to my post about creating the best handmade soap recipes, and I use that post often to advertise promotions or push email subscriptions.

6. Consider implementing a desire path or holiday focal point on your website.

Try putting together a gift guide, holiday promotions page, or otherwise holiday themed page for your website. Use an easy to remember URL that also boosts SEO points, such as yoursite.com/holiday, and a page name or headline such as "Best Holiday Gifts for Yogis" or "Top Bath & Body Gifts for the Holidays." Include recommended products for specific gift giving events or relationships, holiday promotions, etc., on this page!

These holiday-centric pages tend to do particularly well when promoted because they offer a variety of products a shopper might be looking for, plus it offers an easy to share (via social media) one-stop access to your offerings. If you focus on promoting this page by adding it to your navigation, it shortens the number of clicks between your homepage and your product pages, which is a bonus for SEO and user friendliness.

7. Fix up the Captain Obvious mistakes.

If you've never checked your website over for broken links or major issues, now is the time! There are a ton of tools out there on the web that will search your website for you, including brokenlinkcheck.com. A broken link is a link on your website that goes to a dead end or an error page, which breaks the flow of a visitor. Using these tools will help you find them and then you can edit the link to correct it.

Use a service like User Testing to get feedback about your website's current state, and see what you can implement to fix it up.

8. Make sure you are mobile ready & blazin' fast.

A huge chunk of consumers who shop online do so via their smartphone or tablet. Every year, it becomes more and more important to ensure that your website is mobile responsive. A mobile responsive website adapts the layout to fit on various devices- from tablets to smartphones, and everything in between.

 Snag those mobile shoppers with a responsive website!

The speed of your website is also important to online shoppers, and you should do what you can to optimize the loading times of the pages on your website.

9. Go social with your products to boost your exposure.

If you don't have social sharing buttons or icons loaded up on your product pages already, see what you can do to add that feature! Making it quick and easy to share products via social media will allow customers to easily talk about your products, which is a total win-win for your holiday marketing.

What options you have available to you will depend on the software or tools you are using for e-commerce. If you use a Wordpress-based shopping cart, I highly recommend Easy Social Share Buttons - it's what I use here on Modern Soapmaking, and I love them. If you use another e-commerce solution, check for plugins or addons that add the functionality (some e-commerce platforms have them built in!)

10. Clean up your copy and put your best foot forward.

Double check the content on your website for spelling and grammatical errors. Lisa from Wunder Budder recently shared this hot tip with fellow indie bloggers that you can apply to any copy you need to proofread:

Read (really, just scan) the blog backwards, and misspelled words will stick out more than if you read it forwards.

If you currently are using copy and paste product descriptions where they are all similar, work on spiffying up your product descriptions to make them unique for each product. If you recycle too much of your product description, you could be smashing your SEO to pieces with duplicate content. Like everything else out there around SEO, there's plenty of duplicate content checkers, too!

11. Rock your mailing list during the holidays.

The holiday shopping season is the perfect opportunity to beef up your email subscribers. Consider offering a holiday card template, gift tag printable, or on-brand white paper (your favorite shortbread cookie recipe, ten tips to stay slim during the season, etc.) to bring in subscribers.

Take advantage of higher traffic that your website will see during the holidays to pull in email contacts so you can keep marketing to them all year-long, even if they don't pull the trigger for gift shopping. Try to make a sign-up form for your newsletter available on every page of your website, whether it's in the footer, sidebar, or a pop-up.

12. Try paying for a piece of the holiday traffic pie.

If you don't have a large established customer base already, the holiday season is the one time of year to capitalize on trying out paid advertising via social media. If you have a holiday desire path or gift guide setup as mentioned in tip #6, this is a great opportunity to put it to work!

Facebook advertising can be extremely successful, due to specific and niche targeting. I highly recommend Jon Loomer as a resource, as he really knows how to rock Facebook advertising campaigns. Instagram also released advertising options. There's also the handy dandy Google Shopping option, that may expose your products to more holiday shoppers this season!

Do you have other tips for fellow soapmakers to spruce up their website for the holiday season? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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