5 Content Marketing Insights for the 2014 Holiday Season

|Alex Bennett

*This study looked at how Americans consumed holiday-related content from consumer product, retail, and electronics brands during the 2013 holiday season.

Summer is just underway, but for holiday marketers, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming holiday season.

Not sure where to where to start? We think a great place to start your holiday marketing planning is with the data from last season. We dove into our holiday content data from 2013 to discover key learnings for the season ahead.



 Holiday content consumption reached its highest peak on Cyber Monday, with 26% more clicks than the previous day and twice as many as the following day. It’s no coincidence that Cyber Monday also represents the heaviest online spending day of the 2013 season (and in history), at $1.735 billion in desktop online spending (source: ComScore).

We also saw spikes in holiday content consumption one week before Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas in 2013.

What’s particularly interesting about the 2013 data is the juxtaposition of marketers’ timing and reader behavior.  Marketers’ timing for content production was not necessarily aligned with when consumers actually read holiday-related content. As you can see in the chart below, brands offered the largest volume of new holiday content to consumers in early November; in fact, nearly half of the holiday stories promoted by brands in 2013 were released in the Outbrain network in the first half of November. However, audiences did not show a strong appetite for holiday content until later on in the month and again in early December.

For 2014, why not save some of that great content for later in the season when data shows holiday content consumption is likely to peak? Let this be a lesson for 2014: make sure you have fresh content to offer your audience when they want it most.



Consistent with our findings from the 2012 holiday season, we saw that a large proportion of holiday content was consumed on smartphones in 2013. Clicks to holiday content from smartphones  surpassed that of desktop computers at times. Specifically, Americans consumed more holiday content from their smartphones than from their computers on the last three weekends of November as well as on Christmas day.


 Not only did Americans tend to consume a greater volume of holiday content from their smartphones at certain times of the season, they were also much more likely to engage with holiday content from their smartphones over the course of the whole season. The average click-through rate on holiday content was 23% higher among smartphone users than desktop users. Tablets were the platform with the highest engagement during the 2013 season, with an average click-through rate 16% higher than smartphones and 42% higher than desktop computers.


When creating and marketing your holiday content, be sure to keep in mind that tablet users are a great target audience for it and that smartphones are the platform of choice for holiday content consumers during some of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.


Also consistent with our 2012 holiday content consumption findings, Americans were 12% more likely to click on holiday content over the weekend than during the week last year.


 Taken together with the above findings on smartphone usage, you can infer that weekends are an excellent opportunity to engage shoppers on-the-go with mobile-optimized content.


We also did an extensive analysis of the keywords and themes chosen by content marketers during last year’s holiday season. Food & drink, fashion and beauty were the most common themes to appear in last year’s content, specifically the keywords “recipe”,”style” and “skin”, respectively. Content marketers also frequently featured positive adjectives in headlines,  with the keyword “perfect” being a top choice. But which keywords and themes did consumers opt to engage with?

Outbrain data shows that consumers were most likely to engage with headlines related to beauty (42% higher CTR than the average for holiday content) or shopping (+21%) as well as headlines that promised visuals like photos or videos (+10%). Consumers were also more likely to engage with headlines specifically focused on Thanksgiving (+20%) than those dedicated to Christmas (-8%).



When it comes to particular keywords, “cocktail” was a winner amongst consumers, doubling the average engagement level for holiday content when featured in headlines, followed by “shop” (+84%), “skin” (+80%), and “tricks” (+35%). For visual holiday content, consumers preferred videos (+27%) to photos (-28%).


 As far as using resources wisely during the holidays, Americans (on average) seemed far more concerned with saving time than saving money, with keywords “quick”, “easy”, and “simple” trumping words like “budget”, “afford”, and “money.”


As you might expect, the specific keywords and topics that consumers were most interested in did not remain constant over the course of the holiday season. Some resonated more at the beginning of the season while others didn’t pique consumer interest until later on. A closer look at this data can help you sync the amplification of your content with the consumer’s mindset during the holiday season.

Throughout the month of November, consumers showed the most interest in beauty content (65% higher CTR than holiday content average), content that emphasized convenience (+22%) and content about holiday parties (12%). In late November –not surprisingly–consumers began to also show a strong interest in Christmas content (+21%), as well as content offering inspiration and tips for the holidays (+13%),specifically, “tricks” (+83%) and “ideas” (+20%), and content on home decor and crafts (+11%), specifically “decorating” (+23%).

By December, interest in beauty content began to wane and was actually lower than average in the second half of the month. Instead, consumers’ attention shifted to shopping-related headlines (+31%) and those that featured visuals (+39%). Specifically, consumers were drawn to “toys” (+36%) and “videos” (+50%).

Although consumers didn’t find food & drink content particularly appealing as whole, the word “cocktail” began attracting consumers by late November, reaching an 85% higher engagement level than average in the second half of December, making it the most engaging keyword amongst holiday headlines during those last two weeks of the holiday season. What’s interesting to note is that cocktails didn’t even appear to be on consumers’ radar back in early November when these headlines earned almost half the average holiday content CTR – a great example of how timing can be everything.



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Alex Bennett

Alex Bennett

Alex is a Business Intelligence Analyst at Outbrain, where she is responsible for extracting and delivering data-driven insights to content... Read more

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