Traditionally, Black Friday represents the point around which advertisers spend the most significant portions of their budgets to capitalise on the beginning of the holiday shopping season. An increase in competition yields higher earnings for digital publishers, and this year will be the same: November 29 marks the end of one of the year’s most important weeks for publishers’ consumer revenue.
Generally, publishers are advised to increase the amount of content you publish in the days leading up to Black Friday. It’s not as if everything you publish has to be directly related to the holidays, but an editorial calendar planned with a ‘content cadence’ (that is, arranged in such a way that publishers don’t bombard their readers with, say, gift guides) ensures you still publish the same amount of high-quality editorial. As such, valuable users don’t become alienated by the publication they love.
Black Friday has proliferated to such an extent that it’s defined as much by the days which immediately precede it as its specific 24-hours. There’s Christmas, and there’s Christmas Eve. As such, as well as publishing more coverage earlier in the week, brands are announcing big deals further in advance of Black Friday. In 2018, BuzzFeed, which maintains several hundred gift guides, increased its total number by 15%. Future’s editorial teams work in shifts to ensure that deal coverage doesn’t stop for the entirety of the Black Friday week.
Here are some Black Friday-centric types of content you could experiment with in the run-up to the big day:
Gift guides: Black Friday takes place at the end of November to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, so the gift guide gets a nod. Naturally, it’s one of the most commonly published types of holiday content, but it’s beauty is its flexibility. Your gift guide can be as safe or as niche, surreal and head-turning as you like. Let the nature of the gifts be guided by the focus of your publication, and please, be more specific than ‘Gift Ideas for Mum’. Some publishers have begun using their own ad inventory to promote commerce initiatives that include branded gift guides. Here’s a great example of a gift guide that caters perfectly to a niche reader.
How-tos: the how-to is often overlooked in favour of click-focused gift guides, but they present an invaluable opportunity for content that remains evergreen every holiday season. At some stage, everyone needs to know how to baste a turkey, how to make mince pies or how to house more guests than you have beds.
Reviews: naturally, many Christmas shoppers make their biggest purchases during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. As such, it’s a good idea to have product reviews in place on your publication’s site in advance of the date, if applicable.
To maximise your chances of capitalising on Black Friday this year, conduct an SEO audit of your site. At no time of the year is this more vital than the end of November through to December. Even fundamental SEO work like optimising your meta tags, ensuring your images are properly alt-tagged and tidying your tagging framework will lend a hand. Make sure your evergreen articles are up-to-date for this year, with all links pointing to active product pages. Fix your broken links – they could cost you the revenue this process works towards. Trackonomics’ Link Scanner tool identifies broken links automatically.
For large publications, commerce content is often produced by separate editorial teams and hidden in relevant sections of publishers’ sites. Lately, more publications are displaying it loud and proud. In 2018, CNN unveiled a stopwatch-style ticker on its homepage displaying the time left until Black Friday deals by Underscored (CNN’s own online shopping guide) expired.
The Black Friday SEO best-in-show rosette goes to Ziff Davis. In 2017, they purchased the domain BlackFriday.com, refurbished it then stuffed it to the gills with links to their properties, including PCMag and Mashable. They also hosted ‘ad scans’ on large outlets including Amazon – that is, roundups of Black Friday deals they offer, compiled into a singular list.
Black Friday’s approach means it’s open season on affiliate links for publishers. Whether you work for a powerhouse publication or a niche title, affiliate deals can be a good revenue stream with a mix of revenue drivers. Every time a visitor follows an affiliate link you have included in editorial, you’re rewarded with a commission on sales. Below, you’ll find a list of some popular affiliate networks available to publishers.
Rakuten is an affiliate marketing kingpin; as of the start of 2019, it had facilitated over 110 million orders worldwide. As a network they market brands such as Clarins, Farfetch and Whistles.
Trackonomics provides a user-friendly affiliate marketing service, consolidating all data into one dashboard to save reporting time. Its service includes alerts for expired links, and ‘click-to-sale attribution’, which reveals how individual pieces of content perform. Publishers they work with include BuzzFeed and Condé Nast, who are able to link to the likes of Uber, ASOS and more.
eBay Partner Network
eBay carries 1.4 billion listings, with 183 million buyers in 190 markets. Their landing pages tend to drive high conversions which helps their affiliate program remain successful. Be aware, however, that eBay’s percentage commission is smaller than some competitors and publishers are only paid monthly.
Amazon Affiliate Program
Amazon’s affiliate marketing program is undeniably the largest out there; to most, it’s considered the industry standard, and a benchmark to which competitors are compared. Its interface is very intuitive and as they carry so much it’s easy to find the right product to include in a piece. Consider this, though: because most products sold on Amazon are physical goods, publishers will have few options to refer sales that generate a recurring monthly income.
Founded in Germany in 2000, AWIN (formerly Affiliate Window) today boasts a network of over 100,000 affiliate publishers and 15,500 active advertisers from across all sectors, including Emirates, Etsy, Ted Baker and Hewlett-Packard. In 2018, AWIN’s affiliates earned £556m.
AWIN pays out twice a month and offer real-time reports, heavy vetting of publishers and advertisers, an intuitive dashboard with plenty of plugin options and solid customer service, with 900 members of staff in 15 offices around the globe.
There are many other networks and retailers that offer affiliate deals – if you cater to a specific niche, it’s definitely worth entering search terms in Google followed by ‘affiliate’ to uncover those best suited to you.
Black Friday falls on November 29 this year. On the surface, it seems sure to be one of the most stressful and competitive periods in the digital publishing calendar as countless publications clamour for clicks. We hope this article makes clear that with the right affiliate network on your side, you can capitalise upon the start of the holiday shopping season in various creative ways, without compromising your reputation or editorial schedule. With some patience, publishers can reap Black Friday’s rewards on a yearly basis.