Two trillion. That’s the minimum number of searches that Google handles per year. It’s a huge number (obviously), and it practically guarantees that your customers are using Google on a regular basis.
Whether it’s looking up answers to random questions like “Do penguins have knees?” to more entering more retail-centric queries such as “nearest toy store” or “designer handbags,” consumers everywhere are turning to the search giant to find answers.
That’s why if you’re not showing up in search results for relevant queries, you’re missing out on tons of online and offline traffic.
Contrary to what some might think, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t just for online businesses. Even if you have a limited online presence and primarily do business through a brick-and-mortar store, you can still leverage Google to put your shop on the map and drive traffic to your location.
Keep reading to discover the steps you should take to ensure that your store shows up for queries relevant to your business.
Make your business more attractive to local shoppers
Want your business to show up when people conduct local searches on Google (e.g. “clothing boutique near me” or “gift shop in Toronto)? Get listed on online directories.
Here are the steps and best practices you should follow to optimize your listings.
Set up a Google listing
Create a Google listing for your store and make sure it’s optimized. To do that you need to:
Step 1 – Get listed on Google My Business (GMB)
Head to google.com/business/ to submit your business. Doing this is as easy as clicking the “Start Now” button, filling out the form on the next page, and agreeing to Google’s Terms of Service.
Step 2 – Verify your business
Once you’ve added or claimed your listing, you’ll need to verify your business to be able to manage it on Google Maps, Search, and other properties. There are a number of ways to verify your business. These include:
- Postcard verification
- Phone verification (available for select businesses)
- Email verification (available for select businesses)
- Instant business listing verification (available for select businesses)
- Bulk verification (available for businesses with 10+ locations)
Check out this helpful video to learn more about the verification process:
Step 3 – Add more details about your business
Once you’ve verified your business, you’ll be able to edit your listing and include as much information as you can about your store. Wesley Bradley, Vend’s resident SEO expert, says that retailers should have the following in their listing:
- Name, address and phone number (Important: Ensure that these details are identical to what’s listed on your site and any other listings.)
- Accurate business hours
- Lots of reviews
- Lots of visual content including recent photos, and if possible, a virtual tour of your store.
It takes a bit of extra time, but doing this will make your listing more attractive and, as a result, drive more traffic to your location and website.
Consider the example below. Which listing do you think gets more traffic: the one on the left, which contains detailed info, reviews, and lots of photos? Or the plain listing on the right? As far as appearances go, we’re willing to bet that the company on the left gets more business.
Optional but highly recommended: Take advantage of Posts
If you’re all set up on GMB, you might want to check out Posts. According to Google, this feature lets you “share timely, relevant updates right on Google Search and Maps to help your business stand out to potential customers.” Plus, you can add calls to action such as “Learn more,” “Reserve,” “Sign up,” “Buy” or “Get offer” depending on your Post.
Google’s blog says that Posts allow you to:
- Share daily specials or current promotions that encourage new and existing customers to take advantage of your offers.
- Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location.
- Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.
- Choose one of the available options to connect with your customers directly from your Google listing: give them a one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product from your website.
You can take advantage of the feature right now by heading to http://business.google.com/post.
Get listed on other directories
Your Google My Business listing is undoubtedly significant, but it’s not the only one you should pay attention to. You should establish a presence on other business directories and social networks, as they can also influence your rankings.
Here’s a handy list to start with:
Also, note that there are a lot more directories on the web, so do some research and see which ones are worth submitting to. And be sure to follow these best practices to further optimize your listings:
Ensure accuracy and consistency across all sites – The information you submit should match the details on your website, and should be the same for all your listings. Inaccurate and inconsistent information confuses Google (and your customers) and this could hurt your rankings.
Be as detailed as possible – We talked about this when we discussed GMB above, but it’s worth mentioning again. Remember, the richer and more detailed your business listing is, the better it will perform.
Obtain high quality links
“A major element of any type of SEO is obtaining high quality links back to your site,” says Wesley. “A link back to your site from another website is like a vote of confidence in the eyes of Google.”
So how can you can you earn those high quality links? Wes suggests the following:
Hold an event
Running events is a good way to connect with your community, while creating linking opportunities at the same time. The media loves covering events, so reach out to local newspapers and bloggers in your location or niche to see if they would be willing to talk about it.
One retailer that did a great job at this is Rebecca Minkoff, with its Los Angeles event earlier this year. Rebecca Minkoff had a lot of interesting things going on (wine tasting, fashion show, live performances) and because of this, the media and blogosphere covered the event heavily.
Now, hosting an event at the same scale may not be feasible for your business, but you can pick up a thing or two from Rebecca Minkoff’s playbook. For one thing, make sure your event is genuinely interesting and entertaining.
It also helps to get industry influeners involved. Rebecca Minkoff invited fashion experts to its event, and this helped it gain traction and media attention.
Sponsor a local event
You could also consider sponsoring events, says Wes. He recommends checking out Meetup.com or similar sites to find events that you can support. The organizers will likely be thrilled to have you on board, and they will be more than happy to link to your site on the event page, on their social pages, or even their website.
Here’s an example of how you can put this to work. Let’s say you’re a retailer who sells cookware. Why not head to Meetup.com and search for food and drink meetups in your vicinity? Go through the results, find an event that resonates with your brand, and get in touch with the organizers.
Create locally relevant content
Writing local-centric content such as “10 best cafes in [city name]” can also boost your local search rankings, adds Wesley. He recommends investing the time to write these content pieces, and after you publish, “share it with the people you linked to and see if they will share it on their social profiles or link back to it.”
Selling online? Here’s how to boost your site’s rankings
Next up, we’ll discuss how you can drive more traffic to your site and get people looking at the products you’re selling online.
Below are some of Wesley’s top tips:
1. Optimize your page titles
When writing your page titles, Wesley recommends including what the product is, what it’s key attributes are (e.g. color, type), and then adding an enticing call to action such as “buy now” or “free shipping.”
But be mindful of length. As Wes notes, you need to “limit the number of characters to 60. Otherwise, it might not show up on Google.”
Here’s another tip: when it comes to the titles of your product pages, you’ll want to give customers an at-a-glance description of an item, so be sure to include need-to-know attributes in your title.
These attributes will vary depending on the product. For example, if you’re selling laptops, then the “need-to-know” aspects could include the screen size, model, and brand. If you’re selling pants, then you’ll want to include attributes like material, color, style, or length.
2. Write unique product descriptions
“Don’t just copy and paste from other retailers or the supplier,” warns Wesley. For best results, come up with unique product descriptions with a splash of creativity. Take the time to think of who would buy the item and write the description using language that would engage your target customers.
Have a look at Fab.com’s product descriptions. Each item comes with thoughtfully written copy that’s descriptive and oozing with personality.
Optimize your page headings
According to Wes, your page headings “should be descriptive and include your target keywords that potential customers are using to find your products.” So do some research on the search queries that people enter when looking for your merchandise, then include those words in your headings.
Optimize your images
Like product descriptions, the images on your site should be unique, says Wesley. Invest in some great imagery on your site so you can have unique, eye-catching product photos.
Once you have your images, Wes says you can optimize them for search by incorporating keywords into the image alt tags.
Make SEO easier with the right tools
Arming yourself with the right tools can improve the efficiency of your SEO efforts. Below are some of the tools that Wes recommends:
Google Search Console – This tool “allows you to see what keywords people are using to find your website,” says Wes. Such information is useful especially if you’re looking to “create better content for those keywords and rank higher.”
“You can also use Google Search Console to find out if you have any site errors or if you’ve been penalized by Google.”
A good keyword ranking tool like serps.com – “Upload the keywords you want to rank for and check in on your progress. Don’t expect the changes you make to yield results overnight, though. SEO is a long-term investment.”
Google Analytics – “Google Analytics can give you tons of insights into where your traffic is coming from and how much you’re getting (i.e. is it increasing or going down). You can also find out what your most popular pages are — and in turn, figure out how you can increase their rankings or even their conversion rate.”
Planning to outsource your SEO?
SEO can take a lot of time, which is why many retailers opt to outsource it instead. If you’re planning to go this route, be sure to choose your vendor wisely.
“A word of warning if you’re looking to hire an SEO agency or freelancer: If they guarantee results or promise things like ‘number 1 ranking in 30 days or less,’ I would be extremely suspicious. Someone making those types of promises is likely using methods that will cause your site to be penalized by Google,” he says.
“Be sure to shop around and get quotes from at least 3 or 4 agencies — preferably local if possible. How much will it cost? For basic but quality website optimization, you’ll be looking at a minimum spend of $1,000 a month for at least 6 months.”
Do you invest in SEO? How is it working out for you? Let us know in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.