Is your e-commerce site ready for Black Friday?

Black Friday is nearing, but is your website ready for the influx in traffic? Before I get started on how to ensure your site is ready for Black Friday, I wanted to set the scene and tell you what happened last year and what is predicted to happen this year.

What happened last year?

2015 Black Friday Stats

What’s predicted to happen this year?


It’s not only the shoppers that are fighting for the products; retailers are fighting for sales.

Luckily for you I have put together a list of tips that can act as a handy check list to make sure your site is ready for the cyber rush that is Black Friday.

Create a dedicated Black Friday landing page

Based on last years’ findings, the top 20 keywords last year (excluding retailers) were targeted towards phrases including the term ‘Black Friday’. Needless to say this emphasises the importance of having a dedicated landing page to feature your Black Friday deals.

This is because customers tend to carry out research on big sales events like this prior to the event to see what deals retailers are offering so they know exactly what to buy on the big day.

What to include on your black Friday landing page:

  • Date the sale starts
  • Countdown clock & timer
  • Invitation to register for email alerts
  • Collection and delivery methods
  • Returns policy
  • Price promises

If your Black Friday page isn’t live yet, get it live ASAP and added to your XML sitemap so Google has time to crawl and index the site and get your page ranking in Google.

Get your homepage ready

Your homepage is the hub for displaying all your offers, and guide visitors around your site to the pages they need. The homepage should feature the key offers and departments so visitors can quickly navigate to the products.

You will also need to rethink your navigation and include a temporary link to your Black Friday page so shoppers can easily find your Black Friday page.

Prepare your site

Page Speed

Optimising your page speed time is now more important than ever. Thousands of shoppers will visit websites on one day which is great but can your site handle the sudden influx of traffic? Speed is of the essence; visitors not only want to grab a bargain, they want to shop with a retailer that provides a good experience, meaning they don’t want to be waiting for pages to load.

There are a number of tools you can use, like Load Impact to check your server capacity, and Google’s PageSpeed tool to check your page load times. Focus on the pages that receive the highest levels of traffic and your key conversion pages as these are the ones likely to be visited.

Queuing system

Like you would in a shop, it’s gracious to notify shoppers if there will be delays, and apologise for the inconvenience. Last year, a number of e-commerce sites displayed notifications to inform shoppers that there was a huge demand and they were going to be placed in a queue. This is a good way to reduce overload, and improve user experience.

Optimise for mobile

In 2014, 60% of traffic on Black Friday came from mobile devices and this is expected to continue to increase this year. Due to the nature of the sale, visitors need to act quick, therefore your site needs to work seamlessly. Make sure your website can be viewed easily on a mobile device and people can check out quickly on a mobile device.

There are a few simple checks you can take to ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices:

  • Optimise your page speed
  • Don’t block CSS, Javascript or images
  • Don’t use flash; instead use HTML5
  • Avoid using pop-ups during this busy time
  • Increase the size of your buttons

Rectify broken URLs

No one wants to land on a broken page at the best of times, more so when they are in a hurry and want to grab a bargain. Broken pages not only provide a bad user experience, they are also a profit eater.

Now is a good time to crawl your website using tools like Screaming Frog to identify any broken pages that might contain a product that is on offer. These could be caused by changing a URL but not setting up a redirect, but they are still referenced either on the site or on an external domain.

I am not suggesting you fix them all at once, prioritise the pages based on the visits the page receives and if they are a top performing landing page.

Once you’ve identified these you can redirect the page to the suitable replacement and mark them as fixed in Search Console so Google knows they are fixed.

A/B test your site

Tweaking the language used or changing images or graphics and testing the effect both designs have is a great way to see how your customers respond.

Doing this each year will help you understand your audience better and the way they behave on Black Friday.

It is important to remember that shoppers browsing and decision making habits will be affected by the fact that there is added pressure on to find the product and check out as quickly as possible before someone else snatches the deal.

Know Your Keywords

Now is a great tme to reach out to those customers looking for special buys on Christmas gifts and Christmas related merchandise like furniture and appliances to make their holiday season special.

It’s useful to do some keyword research for some of your main landing pages to drive seasonal traffic. Shoppers might be searching for seasonal and discount related terms like Christmas gifts, black Friday deals, special discounts, sale – those kind of terms.

Making small tweaks to the wording and keywords you are targeting on your best selling product pages can have a good impact on your rankings and help to increase click through rate.

Once you have confirmed the keywords you should be targeting it’s time to review the current meta data and optimise your meta titles and descriptions so they are geared towards the seasonal and special offer terms.

Speed Up Your Checkout Process

Time is of the essence; visitors need to add items to their basket and check out quickly before these items go.

The registration process needs to be drawn back for this day so shoppers can purchase quickly. If you haven’t already done so, consider offering the option to check out as a guest to help speed up the checkout process and reduce cart abandonment rates.

Keep Features Simple and Call to Actions Clear

Use simple and short language that will catch the attention of those customers that scan the page for words that appeal to them. Phrases like ‘grab a bargain now’, and ‘hurry – limited stock’, are great to catch the eyes of shoppers and entice them into making a quick decision.

People will be in a hurry, so it is great opportunity to take advantage of this and guide an undecided visitor into making a purchase.

Another great way to do this is to display the stock levels on the product pages so visitors know how many products are left. If they don’t buy the item now they might miss the opportunity.

Create Interactive Graphics

Create eye catching images that get your offers noticed. You don’t need to be a designer to creative simple but effective banners. These graphics can be created for free on tools like Canva, which allows you to quickly create a template, or use one provided.

You can use these graphics to build anticipation before Black Friday to get customers excited and tease them with what’s to come. There are four key touch points that you can create graphics for; I have listed these below:

  1. Prior to Black Friday to give them a peek at what will be on offer
  2. The day to announce that the sale has started
  3. During Black Friday to promote your products that are on offer
  4. After the event to update people on returns policies and delivery dates

Raise Awareness and Spread the Word

There are various journalists and bloggers that will want to know about the deals you have to offer so they can share them with their audience. Have key information to hand with high quality imagery.

Optimise Images

Optimising your images is just as important as your landing pages. Some users may look for products through Google Images so you are missing out on traffic if your alt tags aren’t optimised to reflect Black Friday related terms.

Create Abandoned Cart Emails

Shopping on Black Friday tends to be a little crazy and as a result visitors tend to be frantic in their purchase behaviour.

A study last year revealed that the average cart abandonment rate in 2014 on Black Friday was a whopping 65%. To help reduce the rate you can send abandoned cart emails that gently remind the visitor that they have left items in their basket that are waiting for them when they are ready to purchase.

Combining great copy with images of the product will help to rekindle the positive emotions that the shopper felt when they first looked at the product.

Ramp Up Your PPC Campaigns

PPC is a great way to draw attention to your offers and create a sense of urgency. Preparation is key when it comes to getting your ads ready. There are a number of steps and tweaks you can make to get ready.

  1. Increase budgets and bids
  2. Tailor campaigns for mobile users
  3. Re-write ads so they contain ‘Black Friday’ phrases
  4. Schedule campaigns at your busiest times
  5. Dedicated PPC landing pages
  6. Update your ad extensions
  7. Create a remarking campaign

For more information on how to get your PPC account ready for Black Friday check out my colleague Lizzie’s blog post for all the top tips.

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