It’s time to start preparing for the most wonderful time of the year!
For many publishers, Q4 (October–December) is one of the best seasons.
Pageviews go up, advertisers spend more on ads, and there’s a general sense of merriment in the air.
But to really capitalize on all that Q4 has to offer, you have to start thinking about your content strategy for the end of the year in Q3 (July–September). Publish early and give your content plenty of time to move up in Google search rankings — and keep optimizing your seasonal content as you get closer to the actual holidays.
Plus, planning in advance gives you more time to partake in the fun!
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Q4 2021 Overview
This holiday season, people are especially likely to want to celebrate with all their friends and family in person after stay-at-home efforts in 2020.
Expect people to throw themselves into holiday parties and entertaining and holiday travel plans, as well as feel a bit less cautious about spending money.
Need some festive inspiration? We got you covered!
In today’s post, we’ll be digging into Q4 by month:
- 🎃 October: Top fall recipes, Halloween trends, advocacy opportunities
- 🦃 November: Veterans Day, all things Thanksgiving, and major deal events
- 🎄 December: The holiday season, Hanukkah, Christmas, and gift guides
And at the end of the post, you’ll find four steps to prep for Q4 content trends early so you can sit back and enjoy the holiday season when it arrives!
Seven trends to cover this October:
- The fall recipe frenzy
- Leaving home for Homecoming
- Fall travel and adventures
- Hybrid Halloween celebrations
- Look to cultural moments for Halloween costume content
- Indigenous People’s Day
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month
1. The fall recipe frenzy
October not only kicks off Q4 but the start of everything pumpkin spice and cider-flavored!
There’s lots of delicious baking going on in your readers’ kitchens, so let’s look at some favorite fall recipes for inspiration.
Top recipe searches from fall 2020:
- Pumpkin seed recipes
- Caramel apple recipes
- Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
- Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting
How many things can you put pumpkin spice in? We stopped counting! Some of the most-searched-for pumpkin spice recipes:
- Pumpkin spice latte (of course!)
- Pumpkin spice muffins and cupcakes
- Pumpkin spice cookies
- Pumpkin spice martini
- Pumpkin spice pancakes
Top fall favorites for pies:
- Pumpkin pie
- Dutch apple pie
- Easy apple pie
- Triple berry pie
- Pecan pie
Popular soup searches in October:
- Pumpkin soup
- Butternut squash soup
- Potato soup
- Chicken noodle soup
- Vegetable soup
Overall, warm foods are in. Some of the top recipe searches in October:
- Chicken pot pie
- Chili con carne
- Green bean casserole
- White chicken chili
- Chicken stew
This is a good starting point for your fall recipe creations, but as some of the most creative people in the business, we’re excited to see what amazing fall recipes you come up with!
Hot tip: Make sure to keep an eye on what’s trending on TikTok (and other social media platforms) so you can quickly adopt the latest kitchen favorites.
2. Leaving home for Homecoming
After over a year of halting normal school activities, Homecoming football games and dances should be back on school calendars across the US!
Students will be extra excited to partake in these events and you can help make these evenings memorable with ideas for:
- Affordable dresses and tuxes
- Finger foods and age-appropriate beverages
- Cool trends happening this year
Also, knowing that TikTok is very trendy with the younger generations, think about creative TikTok video ideas that parents and kids might be able to jump on to commemorate this event.
3. Fall travel and adventures
As the weather cools off and the leaves turn colors, fall is a popular time to adventure.
People are especially excited to get back out in the world as pandemic restrictions wind down, spontaneously making plans and quickly filling up their calendars.
Share ideas for fall trips for families, couples, and individuals:
- Fall road trips
- National park trip ideas
- Fall foliage drives and leaf-peeping destinations
- Disney destinations and events
- Warmer beach trip destinations
- International travel (pending COVID-19 restrictions being lifted)
- Fall RV and camping ideas
4. Hybrid Halloween celebrations
Halloween: Sunday, October 31, 2021
Halloween 2020 was an unusual holiday — people adjusted or canceled their trick-or-treating plans, skipped festive destinations, and stuck closer to home.
This year, we may see people extra excited to get back into the spooky spirit and celebrate in person.
But keep in mind there are more remote workers this year, as well as many offices adopting a hybrid digital + in-person approach, so continue to think about digital ideas for holiday office parties and friend group gatherings:
- Zoom backgrounds
- Online games and activities
- Gifs and memes to share
According to the NRF, here’s how people planned to celebrate Halloween last year:
Of those celebrating, here’s what they planned to purchase for Halloween:
- 96% planned to buy candy
- 75% planned to buy decorations
- 65% planned to buy costumes
- 40% planned to buy greeting cards
In 2020, a lot of people took part in trunk-or-treating and came up with new ways to distribute candy to trick-or-treaters from a distance, including preparing individual candy packets in advance.
Even as the world opens up, some of these trends may stick around. Kids are some of the last groups to get vaccinated and parents may continue to take precautions.
The most popular Halloween recipe searches in 2020:
- Halloween candy (obviously!)
- Halloween cookies
- Halloween cupcakes
- Cake designs
- Halloween stuffed peppers
- Dirt cake
- Popcorn ideas
- Rice crispy treats
- Halloween gingerbread house
- Halloween charcuterie board
Most popular Halloween activities:
- Scary movie favorites and marathon recommendations
- Halloween stories for kids
- Games (like Bingo)
- Halloween and fall-themed events (like haunted houses, Boo at the Zoo, Frightfest)
- Pumpkin patches to visit
- Pumpkin carving and painting ideas
- Halloween crafts
Top Halloween party searches:
- Halloween songs and playlists
- Punch and cocktail recipes
- Appetizers (veggie trays)
- Games and trivia
5. Look to cultural moments for costume content
Lots of people enjoy costumes that reflect the cultural moment, so make sure to keep up with what’s trending this year! What will the Tiger King of 2021 be? Keep an eye on popular movies, TV shows, music, politics, and social media.
People are also looking for face and body painting ideas as well as easy Halloween makeup and festive nail inspiration.
Top 2020 Halloween costume searches:
- Last minute costumes
- Quick costumes
- Homemade costume ideas
- Baby costumes
- Couple costumes
Most-searched-for costumes in 2020:
- Harley Quinn
Share your favorite costume ideas for everyone (including pets) — we can’t wait to see what you come up with!
6. Indigenous People’s Day
Monday, October 11, 2021 is Indigenous People’s Day in the US. Help your readers celebrate and honor Native people.
- Events your readers can attend
- Educational resources
- Information on how to support indigenous communities
- Actions your readers can take in their own local and state communities
7. Breast Cancer Awareness month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month — a time when people focus on learning about the disease, sharing their stories, fundraising for research and support organizations, and promoting screenings.
Use your platform to amplify the cause with resources, events people can participate in, tips on getting checked out, etc.
Some top Google searches:
- How to check for breast cancer
- Breast cancer facts
- Breast cancer symptoms
- Breast cancer screening
- Breast cancer ribbon
- Breast cancer events
- Breast cancer in men
- Breast cancer quotes
Five trends to cover this November:
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving food and recipes (hint: start early!)
- Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving celebrations
- Holiday deal season and shopping trends
- Giving Tuesday
1. Veterans Day
Veterans Day: Thursday, November 11, 2021
Where Memorial Day pays tribute to military members who have died, Veterans Day honors all American veterans and recognizes the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.
People are seeking out:
- Ways to honor those that have served
- Discounts and freebies for veterans
- Veterans Day images and messages they can reshare
2. Thanksgiving food and recipes (hint: start early!)
Canadian Thanksgiving: Monday, October 11, 2021
American Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 25, 2021
Canadian Thanksgiving is six weeks earlier than American Thanksgiving, so if you’re basing your content promotion schedule off of the end of November, you may be missing out on valuable traffic!
If you have Canadian readers (check both your site’s Google Analytics and social media demographics!), start promoting your Thanksgiving content well before October 11!
Turkey is typically the star of the show for Thanksgiving recipe traffic, but don’t forget the supporting cast as well. Here’s what we’re seeing in the data…
2020’s most popular turkey recipe searches:
- Turkey brine
- Turkey gravy
- Turkey stuffing
- Turkey soup recipe
Popular turkey cooking queries:
- How to cook a turkey
- How long to cook a turkey
- Oven temperature to cook a turkey
- Thawing a turkey
- Best way to cook a turkey
- How to brine a turkey
- How to fry a turkey
- How to smoke a turkey
- How to make gravy from the drippings
Top side dish recipe searches from 2020:
- Cranberry relish/sauce
- Green bean casserole
- Ham glaze
- Best stuffing recipe
- Gravy recipe
- Mac and cheese
- Corn casserole
People seek out all the different ways to make potatoes:
- Sweet potato casserole
- Candied yams
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet potato hash
- Potato salad
- Baked potatoes
- Potato soup
- Sweet potato fries
- Microwave potato
And when people use adjectives in their Thanksgiving recipe searches, these are their favorites:
- Make ahead
Favorite Thanksgiving pies and desserts:
- Pumpkin pie
- Apple pie
- Pecan pie
- Sweet potato pie
- Pie crust
- Sweet potato pound cake
Searches for “leftovers” spike the day after Thanksgiving and linger for a few days after:
Popular Google searches for Thanksgiving leftovers:
- Leftover turkey recipes
- Turkey leftover soup
- Leftover mashed potatoes
- Leftover stuffing recipes
- Turkey pot pie
- Potato pancakes
- Leftover pumpkin pie filling
- Thanksgiving leftover breakfast
- Leftover turkey sandwich
3. Thanksgiving & Friendsgiving celebrations
Expect your readers to be extra excited to reconvene with friends and family this year for traditional Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving celebrations.
Keep the “friendsgiving” keyword in mind as you share ideas for food, decorations, activities, and other holiday traditions.
Popular Thanksgiving decorating searches:
- Thanksgiving table settings
- Table runners and tablecloths
- Napkins and napkin holders
- Wreath ideas
Top Thanksgiving activities and pastimes:
- Watching and playing football
- Learning about the history of Thanksgiving
- Sharing Thanksgiving wishes and blessings
- Kids crafts
- Thanksgiving quotes and memes to share
- Re-watching the Friends (TV show) Thanksgiving episodes
4. Holiday deal season and shopping trends
Black Friday: Friday, November 26, 2021
Small Business Saturday: Saturday, November 27, 2021
Cyber Monday: Monday, November 29, 2021
‘Tis the season for sales and shopping! Almost all major retailers participate in one or all of the holiday deals days.
Cyber Monday sees the highest revenue of the three deal days and 7-11 pm PST are the “golden hours of retail” where people spend the most money.
Top-selling product categories for all three days:
- Tech gadgets
- Kids toys
- Video games
A few trends we anticipate seeing when it comes to deals this year…
Revenge shopping: As we mentioned before, experts predict a “revenge shopping” trend in 2021. Consumers are excited to get back out there, enjoy their lives again, and resume celebrating the holidays with loved ones — they may even plan on buying more gifts than in years past.
Earlier-than-normal sales: In 2020, retailers kicked off sales earlier than usual to help people stay safe and offset shipping delays. Although the world is opening back up, we may see the early sales trend continue this year — be prepared to share deals as they come out!
Lots of shoppers like to get their purchasing done in early November, buying computers, electronics, toys, appliances, and sporting goods before Thanksgiving. Start sharing deals in October to capture the attention of those go-getters!
Online shopping continues: Also due to stay-at-home efforts, online shopping saw a huge increase in 2020 — in fact, 44% more consumers shopped online-only in 2020 compared to 2019 and online sales for Black Friday increased by 21% compared to the year before.
You can expect many people will still make a lot of purchases online again this year — it’s both convenient and safety-conscious!
5. Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday: Tuesday, November 30, 2021
With the holiday shopping done, it’s time to give back on Giving Tuesday!
Giving Tuesday 2020 broke records for Charity Navigator, with a 34% increase in donations compared to 2019 — and the organization GivingTuesday reports that over 33 million adults participated last year.
Make it easy for your readers to donate to a great cause by giving them information about different organizations and charities, and share guides for how to get out and give back in their communities!
Five trends to cover this December:
- The holiday season is back in full swing
- Holiday gift guides
- Hanukkah celebrations
- Favorite Christmas recipes
- Christmas celebrations
1. The holiday season is back in full swing
From office gatherings to ugly sweater parties — your readers will need your entertaining help and suggestions for holiday parties!
Popular holiday party searches:
- Holiday office parties
- Holiday party invitations
- Holiday party theme ideas
- Food and drink recipes for party
- Party games
- Ugly sweater ideas
- Holiday movie parties
- Virtual party ideas
Popular holiday and winter decor searches:
- Hanging branch
- Winter porch decor
- Outdoor decor
- Fireplace decor
- Christmas decor ideas
- Hanukkah decor ideas
2. Holiday gift guides
After a year of societal and economic uncertainty, expect your readers to be ready to spend money once again on friends and family. And they’ll want your help to figure out the best gifts for the special people in their lives.
In 2020, people were looking for gift guides for these recipients (in order of search frequency):
- Men and women
- Mom and dad
- Grandma and grandpa
- Sister and brother
Popular gift idea searches:
- White elephant gifts
- Amazon gifts
- Gift baskets
- Gift cards
- Secret Santa gifts
- Christmas stocking gifts
- Inexpensive gifts
3. Hanukkah celebrations
Hanukkah: Sunday, November 28, 2021–Monday, December 6, 2021
In Q4, the Jewish community gears up for the 8 days and nights of Hanukkah. Some of the most popular Hanukkah searches:
- Hanukkah blessings and prayers
- Hanukkah candles and menorah
- Hanukkah candle lighting
- How to say Happy Hanukkah in Hebrew
- Hanukkah song
Hanukkah food and desserts are two very popular search queries. These are the most-searched-for Hanukkah recipes from the last several years:
- Latkes (potato pancake)
- Matzo ball soup
- Sufganiyot (jelly donuts)
- Challah bread
- Hanukkah Cookies
4. Favorite Christmas recipes
Last year, while people were scaling back their Christmas celebrations they were also refining their new cooking skills. Help people show off their hard-earned culinary chops this year for their in-person celebrations!
For some inspiration, let’s look at the top searches for recipes last Christmas by course and category.
Top Christmas main courses:
- Prime rib
- Beef tenderloin
- Ham — honey baked, glazed, crockpot
Top Christmas side courses:
- Yorkshire pudding
- Sweet potato casserole
- Green bean casserole
- Mashed potatoes
- Sausage gravy
- Brussel sprouts (with bacon)
- Cranberry sauce
- Scalloped potatoes
- Au jus
- Roasted vegetables
- Bacon wrapped asparagus
- Broccoli salad
Top Christmas appetizers:
- Deviled eggs
- Baked Brie with jam
- Cranberry jalapeno dip
- Charcuterie board
Top Christmas breakfasts:
- French toast
- Breakfast casserole
- Overnight cinnamon rolls
- Oven bacon
Top Christmas desserts:
- Pecan pie
- Apple pie
- Lemon meringue pie
- Figgy pudding
- Cherry pie
Top Christmas drinks:
- Hot buttered rum
- Christmas punch (alcohol and non-alcoholic versions)
- Cranberry margarita
- Hot chocolate
- Espresso martini
- Chocolate martini
Top Christmas cookies:
- Sugar cookies
- Chocolate crinkle cookies
- Candy cane cookies
- Gingerbread cookies
- Buckeye cookies
- Butter cookies
- Peanut butter cookies
- Chocolate chip cookies
5. Christmas celebrations
Driving to see Christmas lights, attending holiday concerts, and enjoying Christmas parties once again will be all the sweeter this year!
Some of the most popular Christmas activities:
- Making Christmas cards
- Ornament/gift exchanges
- Ugly sweater contests
- Christmas shopping
- Cookie decorating
- Elf on the shelf ideas
- Christmas playlists
- Christmas trivia and games
- Christmas movie marathons
Crafts and DIY gifts meet several needs for your readers — they’re a great way to save money on decorations and gifts, and they also provide fun things for kids and families to do together.
Some of the top craft/DIY searches last year:
- Christmas ornament crafts
- DIY Christmas decorations
- DIY snowflake and popcorn garland
- Snow globe crafts
- Sewing and knitting templates for gifts
- Cricut ideas
- Mug gift crafts
- DIY gift baskets
From lights to trees to ornaments, there are lots of things to decorate and make merry around the home and garden! Some of the most popular decorating topics:
- Christmas tree inspiration
- Christmas wreath designs
- Poinsettia and Christmas cactus care
- Outdoor Christmas lights
- Christmas table setting and napkin folds
- Christmas fireplace decor
Do this: four steps to prep for Q4 content trends!
Step 1: Take stock and brainstorm
Time to pull up your site and take stock of your existing Q4 seasonal content. Which of the topics in this post do you cover on your site, if any?
Make a list of your existing seasonal content.
Now, what’s missing? You know your readers — what topics would they appreciate on your site? Which of the trends in this post inspire you? How can you put your own personal spin and brand on these seasonal trends?
Add fresh ideas to your seasonal content list.
Step 2: Look for the best opportunities
First, dig into your Google Analytics data (try the Content Drilldown view) for October–December 2020. Which seasonal content was most popular during these months?
Make a note next to that content on your list.
If you have a big list of existing seasonal content, now’s a great time to do a mini performance audit. Use these tips to identify which posts are your best opportunities based on both pageviews and earning potential — and also find out if any pieces are ready for retirement.
Make a note next to the highest-priority seasonal content you want to polish up.
Next, do some keyword research for your new content ideas — which ones will have the biggest bang for your buck in terms of search volume and the ability to rank for various keywords?
Make a note next to the ideas that you’re most excited about AND that have the best chance for success.
Step 3: Prioritize, plan, and publish
Now, you should have a shortlist of your top priorities for seasonal content to update and seasonal content to create.
Schedule out the needed time on your calendar to update existing posts and publish new ones — plan to have the bulk of your work done by the end of July, giving you a head start on Google search interest!
Then get writing! Have your own little Christmas in July celebration as you publish your festive posts!
Need a great tool to organize your content projects? Check out the AdThrive community’s five favorite content planning tools!
Step 4: Promote
It never hurts to get a head start on the holidays! Last year, we saw readers searching for holiday content earlier than ever, even starting in the summer.
While you don’t have to promote all your seasonal content quite that early, take advantage of any free time to schedule out when and where you want to promote it.
Then, sit back and reap the benefits!
Want even more holiday content inspiration?
Check out our holiday content library:
- The twelve insights of Christmas
- The internet’s cookies: chocolate chip, sugar, and third-party
- Big picture consumer takeaways from the 2020 AdThrive Holiday Study
- Top trend highlights from the 2020 AdThrive Holiday Study: celebrations, shopping, food, decorating, and travel
- The holiday psyche: 5 holiday personas that inform how people will celebrate, shop, and consume content this year
- Trending topics and SEO strategies for 2020 holiday content