A retail expert offers five top tips for search engine optimisation.
It’s easy to get caught up with chasing ‘likes’ and marketing through social media, but don’t forget the pulling power of web searches or underestimate the importance of search engine optimisation (SEO).
Francesca Nicasio, a retail expert and content strategist at point-of-sale software provider Vend, quotes some astonishing figures from Roy Morgan Research: during a four-week period in 2016, seventeen million Australians aged over 14 searched for something on Google, with two million using each of Bing and Yahoo.
Whether it’s looking up answers to random questions, or entering more retail-centric queries such as “nearest toy store” or “handbags”, consumers still turn to search giants to find answers, according to Nicasio.
“If your stores aren’t showing up in search results for relevant queries, you’re missing out on tons of online traffic. But you could also be missing out on foot traffic too. SEO isn’t just for online retailers. Even if you have a limited online presence and primarily do business through a brick-and-mortar shop, you can still leverage the power of search engines to put your store on the map and drive traffic to your location,” she says.
So it makes sense to take steps to ensure your business shows up in relevant searches. SEO is sometimes seen as a dark art practised by mages, but there are some simple steps you can take to improve your business's standing in search results.
Here are Nicasio's top five tips for retailers – or any business chasing new customers.
Set up a Google listing
“Create a Google listing for your retail business and make sure it's optimised. To do that you need to submit your business via Google My Business. Once you've filled out the form and agreed to the terms of service you'll be able to verify your business on Google Maps and Search. Then you'll be able to add information about your store, such as locations, contact details, opening hours, reviews and visual content like photos and videos to make it more engaging,” Nicasio says.
“After this, you might like to consider Posts. This feature lets you share timely 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.”
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. Depending on your target customers this might include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and marketplaces such as Ebay or Etsy.
“It's important to 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 search engines (and your customers) and this could hurt your rankings.”
Obtain high quality links
“An important element of any type of SEO is obtaining high quality links back to your site. A link back to your site is like a vote of confidence in the eyes of search engines and helps improve results. So how can you can you earn those high-quality links?
“You might consider holding an event in store and reach out to local journalists or bloggers to find out if they are interested in writing about it. It can also help to get industry influencers involved who may talk about an interesting and entertaining event they attended or free product or giveaways they enjoyed,” Nicasio says.
We would add that conversely, malicious rivals or others can harm your search standing by arranging large numbers of poor-quality backlinks (see Are your SEO efforts being sabotaged?).
Hone your keywords
“The likely words customers will use to search for the products or services you offer are called keywords. Using the right keywords in your web content and site tags will improve your ranking in search results.
“But there's only one way to find the right keywords and that's to research your customers and your competition. Ask your customers in-store how they found you and glean insights into the keywords you need to use to boost your rankings.”
Develop interesting and relevant content
“If you want more customers to visit your website and consider making a purchase, you'll need to make sure you offer engaging content. Content means everything from product information, to videos and testimonials.
“The photos on your website or social pages should also be appealing and descriptive. And the more that people like your content the more others will see it. For example, the more views or shares you receive on Facebook, the more Facebook will boost it up to others who fit a similar consumer profile. The key to making the most of your digital content is to ensure it's relevant to your target customers and discoverable by search engines.”
We would add that it's not just about social media and shares – search engines, especially Google, favour quality, unique content.