Black Friday-related content can drive web traffic and help boost sales, a study from affiliate marketer Skimlinks finds.

Retailers often start designing, buying and planning for the holiday season early in the year, but they may also want to consider getting a jump start on content as well.

Holiday-related content that could appear in buyers’ guides or product previews and reviews should already be in the works if retailers want it to perform well and help drive site traffic and sales on Black Friday, says Alicia Navarro, CEO and co-founder of affiliate marketing firm Skimlinks. The vendor’s affiliate link management tool automatically turns online product references in blogs, community posting sites or other published content into affiliate links that drive traffic to retailer sites. The company released its Holiday 2017 eCommerce Report this week, which looked at publishers, but the lessons can also apply to retailers creating their own content.

“We found that 40% of our top 25 publishers’ affiliate revenue came from content that was more than 60 days old,” Navarro said. When it comes to the holiday season, content that appears sooner rather than later can reach a bigger audience over a longer period of time, and “it’s not just about creating an article the week before Black Friday and that being it,” she says.

Search engines like Google can value articles that are as much as two months old, according to the study, with some sites featuring Black Friday content even three months before the late November date, which this year falls on Nov. 24. Consumers look for holiday content well before the Friday after Thanksgiving: In 2016, clicks to Black Friday-related articles began spiking the second week of October. A retailer that already has content published can capture that traffic.

However, sites that push content on social media may benefit from fresher articles during the holiday season, Skimlinks says. Likewise, retailers’ deals usually are kept under wraps until the week before Black Friday, so content that showcases discounts and savings opportunities needs to be written closer to the date.

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Either way, web traffic through these links generally doesn’t really take off until Black Friday, where both visitors and clicks to buy surge about three times over normal traffic levels, nearing 5 million clicks globally, Skimlinks says in the report. Cyber Monday delivers another spike to about 3.5 million clicks, with a quick fall-off afterward. However, throughout the holiday period, retailers can expect a 32% increase in traffic derived from commerce-related content compared with the rest of the year, and conversions increase by almost 25%, according to the report.

Retailers may have a hard time getting traditional publishers to use commerce-related content, or “comtent” as Navarro calls it, because it may seem to break the once-hard line between editorial and advertising parts of a publication. However, Navarro says that line is still bright and there is room for alternative content.

For publishing sites, commerce-related content is editorially driven and on topics that readers enjoy, Navarro says. “Sponsored content makes [publishers] a lot of money but over a short time frame and it quickly becomes almost nothing. ‘Comtent’ earns less, but it has a very long lifetime. We have publishers whose top-grossing pieces are content they wrote three, four or five years ago.”

For retailers, the benefits of creating Black Friday and holiday-focused content that can appear on blogs and other sites are clear, because customers arrive at retailers’ sites from trusted publisher sites prepared to buy, Navarro says. Retailers this year should expect more big-ticket items to be sold via commerce-related content during the holiday season, and average order values are projected to increase by $46 in that period, according to the Skimlinks study.

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