December is not like any other month of the year for websites. Christmas makes everyone behave a bit weird from about the middle of November onwards. As digital marketing is all about getting people to do things, this odd behaviour has a knock-on effect.
To help you navigate this weird time of year, here is a quick digital marketing checklist for December. It will help you to navigate what you should and shouldn’t do (and be expecting) in December. Managing expectations is always a good idea, even when those expectations are your own!
[Please note: I update and share this article every year, and every year people get mad that I’m talking about Christmas so early. But now is the time to prepare. If you sell things then you really should have started at least a month ago]
1. If you are selling things, don’t wait until December to put them on sale
If you want to sell more over the Christmas period, you should start preparing your sales in October at the latest. By deciding on your sales strategy with plenty of time for the holiday season, it will work much better.
Why October? Well, you need to start this early because Black Friday is on the fourth Friday in November. Having both these sales events so close together means you have a lot to prepare, and starting in October is the only way you’ll do it without going slightly mad.
Think of it this way – Black Friday now lasts for a week or more and Christmas for all of December. This means you must be ready to go directly into Christmas sale mode after a week of intense Black Friday sales. You have almost no time in between to prepare.
So while Christmas shouldn’t start in October for the public, it should definitely start (internally) in October for eCommerce websites.
This is my favourite Christmas song
2. Create more fun content than usual
There is something about Christmas that is so all-consuming and distracting to many people, that it’s not worth trying to fight it. Many people mentally check out from work on the first of December, so your normal content marketing strategy just won’t work. While you can simply christmasify all your output, I find this approach a bit too cynical for most brands.
This doesn’t mean you have to ignore the holiday madness that is going on all around you. People are distracted – so give them distractions! If you have fun content to share then do so now. Quizzes, games, fun images, whatever. There is holiday cheer to spare at this time of year, and you should add to it in your small way so people like you and what you do more.
This will likely go double this year with the extra craziness that has been going on. People will want Christmas to be extra special so give them what they want!
This is my favourite Christmas song about a movie
3. Don’t advertise – as ad prices go up
Unless you are marketing Christmas-related products or sales, then you should probably stop advertising for the month of December. Christmas is a retail bonanza, so absolutely anyone selling anything will be buying up ad space. This drives the prices right up.
If you are simply advertising to get more likes on Facebook or running your regular newsletter sign-up advert, or anything at all which isn’t Christmas related then stop. Long-term ad campaigns should be paused for the holidays to save money. After Christmas there will be a real lull in advertising, so switch your long-term ads back on then to pick up the slack.
This is my favourite Christmas song to sing with friends
4. Expect ads on your site to pay you more
As more advertisers spend more money in December, you should expect to earn more money from ads on your site. Many Ad Networks will be out there looking for more ad inventory to sell too, so don’t be surprised if you get approached to try a new ad network at this time of year. You should only switch if you’re not happy with your current ad network – but if you’re not happy make sure you do the switch in plenty of time to let your new ad network’s algorithm get used to your site.
There is a lot of money floating around in the ad world in December, and more than usual of it could be yours for the taking.
This is my favourite Christmas song from a TV show
5. Expect your traffic to drop
Unfortunately, while you can expect the amount of money you receive per ad to increase, the total amount of traffic to your site is likely to drop. For some sites, December is a great month, but for most…not so much. This is not only because people become distracted from the beginning of December, but also because there are far fewer people online in the period between Christmas and New Year than usual.
People go to parties, go on holiday, see their friends and family… and check their phones less. It’s a good time for everything except website traffic.
If you are running a fun entertainment-type site, then you will possibly see an increase in traffic as increased free time means more random internet surfing for some. For all other types of sites, it’s very likely that your traffic will decrease.
If you are doing any sort of financial planning around December, then a drop of between 10%-25% in traffic (from November) is not unreasonable.
This is my favourite modern Christmas song
6. Don’t overdo Christmas, but don’t ignore it either
Remember that Christmas is a big opportunity for increasing sales, but it’s not an opportunity for you alone. Every site that is selling something is trying to cash in, and it can become an arms race to see who can be the most Christmassy.
In digital marketing, you should never forget that the effort you put in should be less than what you get out. While putting in the extra effort to make Christmas special for your family is a wonderful thing, working yourself ragged during the holiday period is probably not worth it.
If you put in too much effort (by adding a Santa animation to your sales page for example), then it can get a bit overbearing for many people. At the same time if you do nothing to acknowledge Christmas then people might get randomly offended too.
Every year there are faux outrages over Christmas advertising. Starbucks never seems to get it right according to many people, despite never-failing to cash in on the holiday season with a Christmassy cup. The supermarket Tesco in the UK was falsely accused of trying to ignore Christmas one year, however the branch I visit still had a self-service till automatically telling me Merry Christmas until October the next year.
For some people no matter what you do, it won’t be enough. It’s not worth trying to please those people as you never will be able to. Instead, try to focus on the people who just want nice things in December.
This is my favourite classic Christmas song
7. Don’t expect to work all month at full speed
Whether you are working on your own or have a staff, your output is going to be reduced in December. People take holidays, get distracted easily, and generally just aren’t as efficient.
That’s fine. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Plan tasks for the end of the year which are fun and low effort. There is always stuff to be done which doesn’t require as much attention and effort, and this is the time to do it. Overworking your staff, or yourself is not fun in December.
A good example of lower-effort work can include making a content calendar for next year. Coming up with first drafts of ad copy is always better when you’re in a good mood too, and holiday cheer can provide that in spades. Anything fun(ish) which requires a positive outlook on life is probably a good plan.
Christmas is a great time to mentally refresh. Don’t waste it!
This is my favourite song to end Christmas
8. Bonus Tip: Keep Christmas in your heart, the whole year through
It’s what Santa wants.