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5 Tips to Get Your Website Ready for the Holidays

5 Tips to Get Your Website Ready for the Holidays
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In recent years, the U.S. retail industry has averaged more than three trillion dollars during the holiday season, which is nearly 20 percent of total annual sales. With more and more consumers turning to their desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices when it comes time for holiday shopping, it’s important that you are prepared for the influx of website traffic.

Not only do you want to make sure your website is ready for the spike in visitors, but you also want to deliver a pleasant user experience, which will help achieve a high conversion rate and strong holiday revenue. Here are a few tips that will help you get your website ready before the hectic holiday season.

1. Optimize your website’s load time.

It’s very simple - if your website load time is lagging your visitors will become annoyed, and they will click the back button and find another option. With a large percentage of website traffic coming from mobile devices these days - customers in a hurry -- you want to make sure you immediately serve up the content they are seeking as soon as they click-through.

You can quickly assess your load time by running your website’s URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool as well as GTmetrix. While these will kick back an overall speed score, more importantly, it will provide you with suggestions to drastically improve your load time. If you aren’t tech-savvy, pass on the suggestions to your website developer.

2. Limit your risk of website down time.

It blows my mind when one of the companies I work with through my consulting agency has $5 monthly hosting and a million-dollar business. Cheap, shared-hosting can be potentially dangerous since you are sharing a server with hundreds of websites -- a bad neighbor can cause down time.

While a dedicated server can cost more than $200 a month, you have to weigh that cost against what being offline during the holiday rush could mean for your business. For some, but not all, the increased cost of a dedicated server is money well spent, considering how much holiday revenue would be lost if the website went down.

Related: 11 Big Changes to the Internet From the Past Decade

3. Get your holiday coupon codes ready, and build your promotion strategy early.

The holiday season means special deals, as businesses try to out-do one another, and capture a larger percentage of that holiday revenue pie.

“We see an increase in store submissions months before the holidays, as everyone from retail giants to smaller local businesses are eager to get their holiday coupon codes on the Internet,” Davide Baù, CEO of Plus Voucher Code, said.

Getting your coupon codes listed on major coupon directories is a great strategy, but you should also find ways to leverage their appeal to convert more of your traffic to complete a purchase before leaving your website. Consider using an exit-intent popup to present your abandoning traffic an offer. It could be an instant discount code, or something like free shipping, to entice them to stick around and complete a purchase.

For an example of how an exit-intent popup works, visit my company’s website, surf around a bit, and then try to leave - you will be greeted by an exit popup that presents you with an offer to join our VIP newsletter.

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4. Ensure your visitors can easily contact you on all device types.

During the holidays, a much larger percentage of your visitors have buyer-intent, making it very important that you enable them to contact you quickly and effortlessly. Make sure that anyone visiting your website, regardless of what type of device they are using, can immediately locate a means to contact you.

Make your contact menu item impossible to miss, along with your phone number, and if applicable, your address. Live-chat is also a great contact option, as many people don’t like using their phones to talk - as ridiculous as that may sound. This option allows your visitors to get answer to questions without leaving your website, which often translates into more conversions and revenue.

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5. Instill trust so your visitors are confident entering payment and billing information.

Many websites have been switching over to Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), after Google announced that it was now a search ranking signal. There are plenty of benefits that go beyond SEO, including providing a safe environment for the personal information of your visitors.

As consumers become more Internet savvy, they are beginning to look for HTTPS, or “the green bar,” as some refer to it. I believe it’s the complexity of switching over, rather than the cost (you can get an extended validation SSL certificate for less than $100), that keeps many websites from switching over. You can get more information on the process here, but most business owners will want to consult with their website developer to let them handle the switch.