How Brands Can Leverage Search During the Holidays

Holidays mean serious business for companies. Budgets are placed well in advance and plans are made months before initiative launches. It’s that time of the year when brands are stepping over each other to promote discounts or new products to capture that nice holiday consumer demand spike.

It’s an all-out war for consumers’ attention. So how can brands stand out in search? Enter time-sensitive search queries. These are user searches where timing is of the essence, and search engines have figured it out. You’ll find that question isn’t about standing out, but being ubiquitous!

A Father’s Day SERP Analysis


Let’s analyze the query “Father’s Day” over a period of time*.h

*The exact query used was’s+day&pws=0&gl=us

Pre-Father’s Day Search Results

As user intent evolves, so do search query results. Months before Father’s Day, Google knew you were just searching for general information on Father’s Day.

A Knowledge Graph answer box result was on top, followed by the most relevant Google News results, highest ranking organic results, and top-ranking Google image search results on the same query.

A screenshot of the search “Father’s Day” on June 3, 2014

A screenshot of the search “Father’s Day” on June 3, 2014

Note that this case study began two weeks before Father’s Day, when the media had already started buzzing about the upcoming holiday. See President’s Day for a SERP that displays Knowledge Graph and Google Image results, but does not pull from Google News.

Father’s Day Search Results

If you were searching for “Father’s Day” on the day of, there’s a good chance you’re looking for gifts, since Father’s Day is a gift giving holiday. Google gets that. Advertisers also get that. Check out “Black Friday” towards the last Friday of November and you’ll get what I mean.

You can expect ads, informational content on the top fold, and content poised for those with commercial intent on the bottom fold. That’s right. Search engine results pages evolve over time for time-sensitive queries.

Fathers Day SERP2

A screengrab of the search result for “Father’s Day” on June15, 2014

It’s worth noting that secured a first page position through leveraging their subject authority and creating content that met user needs, and’s Father’s Day Gifts landing page made the cut as well.

Post Father’s Day Search Results

What if you’re searching for “Father’s Day” after the fact? By this point advertisers had stopped their holiday PPC campaigns, but did you catch the in-depth articles about Father’s Day on the bottom fold?

Fathers Day SERP Day of

“Father’s Day” on June 18, 2014


Note that the top 4 organic listings for this query hadn’t  changed throughout the whole case study period, but the positioning and elements of different search verticals (i.e., Google AdWords, Google News, and Google Image Search results) had changed.

Quick Summary of Holiday Search Case Study

The search engine results page of a time-sensitive holiday search will often incorporate:

  • Knowledge Graph
  • 7–10 blue links from different websites (see Thanksgiving for a 7-link result)
  • Universal Search Results (does not count towards the 7–10 links):
    • Google News
    • Google Images
    • In some cases, Google Video results (See Columbus Day for an example)
    • In-depth Articles
    • Related Search
    • Google AdWords on the side (most common) or on the top and side.
    • Personalized search results (Google+ comments and links) if the user is logged into Google and uses G+

With so many methods and approaches to show up on the first page of a time-sensitive search, brands can dominate the holiday conversation when there’s an integrated search marketing strategy in place to win in each vertical.

How to Leverage Time-Sensitive Search for Your Brand

Coordinating an integrated search marketing strategy for the holidays is no easy task. To get started you should:

  • Ask your SEO/PR team how to maximize Google News exposure or be eligible for in-depth Articles.
  • Ask your paid media team about the time-sensitive keywords they’ll be targeting during the holidays.
  • Ask your SEO months in advance about the type of content they’ll need to win in traditional search, Google image search, or video search results for a Universal Search Result.
  • Ask your social media team what holiday content will get the most shares on Google+

Mark your calendars for Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! Catalyze your marketing efforts with your newfound time-sensitive search knowledge.

Bonus Tips: Does Bing Understand Time-Sensitive Search Queries?

Yes, but the SERP changes are much less dramatic*. You can expect the following search features to show up on a time-sensitive search:

  • Bing News
  • Bing Image Search
  • Bing Related Searches
  • Bing Ads
  • Bing Snapshot – Bing’s version of Knowledge Graph
  • Bing Board (Beta) – Editorially curated content from a set list of quality bloggers

*Please note that this study was done prior to the Bing Catapult update which happened on June 18, 2014. 

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