The number of stores taking to the internet is mushrooming by the day.
And for good reason.
For customers its good news. They get to choose from plenty of stores and with most online stores offering home delivery and free shipping— they might not even have to step out of the house.
For store-owners the news is even better.
Online stores for brick and mortar businesses aren’t always very complicated. Some might be single page sites— a placeholder.
Others offer more functionality and convenience— like a dedicated ordering system. The latter is preferable if you really want to take advantage of the opportunity.
We’re witnessing a seismic shift. Mom and pop stores are slowly opening up to the idea of transferring their presence online.
However, most remain clueless regarding the advantages of doing that.
First off, it opens up additional revenue channels for barely an investment. Imagine the cost of buying up real estate or renting land for a store and all the furnishings therein and compare costs with starting a website for the store.
Let’s consider the benefits one-by-one.
Add more revenue streams
Let’s say you sell a $25 product in a physical store. Imagine that product has a thousand searches per month. If you start ranking for that term with that many searches per month and a 10% conversion rate you stand to get at least $1000- $2000 in extra revenue from one product.
When I recently talked to a dentist serving his local area he said that most of his leads were people who found him by word-of-mouth.
He doesn’t have a website and never had one in the past. There are no portfolio or professional profiles that describe his service.
Guess what—He’s missing on dozens of new leads that could have come his way.
Having a site is supremely useful because it gives customers additional channels to find you.
This in turn adds to the revenue stream.
If something were to happen to the local area, say a factory shutting down causing the local populace to migrate elsewhere, effectively shutting down shop for you, you could still bank on the reviews garnered earlier and re-position yourselves in a different geography.
An online presence is helpful in other subtle ways too.
Discover hidden opportunities
A study conducted by The Intelligence Group (TIG) found that 72% of the consumers between the ages 18-34 search for product prices and options online prior to visiting a mall or store.
In that group almost 66% would check prices on their phones before making any purchase.
With an online store you provide an anchor point for millennials to help conduct their due diligence.
These are consumers who wouldn’t step into your store unless you’ve an online presence. And with the turn of the decade even more millennials would enter the consumer market.
Get where your customers are
In countries like the US with nearly 100% internet penetration a large proportion of the population is online.
At least on mobile.
And mobile is where most local searches take place. Voice searches make up 20% of those searches and near me searches are ever on the rise.
With businesses appearing on local results for every query, it’s a need of the hour to have an online presence. Complaints and questions can be easily tackled online.
Local SEO increases the probability of high intent users finding you.
There are also other opportunities to be had from SEO. Once a website starts ranking or becomes popular on third-party sites like Yelp, it’d start sending a lot of organic traffic.
Once they’re on your site, offer other means of engaging them.
There are plenty of opportunities.
Like email marketing.
One you can get them to an email list you could send uniquely built coupons and discount codes for the store which they can either print or use to order online.
There are other ways of engagement like— telling customers about contests and egging them to participate in competitions like say raffles which would increase engagement and probably increase footfall.
You can craft email offers depending on what kind of products witness the most movement in your store. It’s also possible to segment emails by purchase history and broad tastes.
This helps you deliver the right marketing message at the opportune time yielding rich dividends for you.
That’s all good.
But when you go about trying to carve a spot you should know how to rank on Google local.
Which signals matter the most for ranking?
Search Engine Land named the following signals as being the most important for local SEO.
Meta tags and descriptions
With most local searches happening on mobile there’s only little work to be done to start ranking for those terms.
Because as a local business, you’re already relevant to the geography. And that kind of relevancy is the most important factor in ranking local sites barring everything else.
Your site should automatically start showing up for people nearby conducting near me searches.
The remaining thing is beefing up the site with enough on page signals to make it more topical and climb up the rankings ladder.
What are they?
Include the following quite clearly:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Header tags
- Page content
The NAP should be consistent everywhere. Not only do customers find a business with different citations at different directories untrustworthy, Google too doesn’t bother to rank such a site.
There are scores of directories where you could submit the NAP. Make use of those.
If there are multiple locations indicate those locations in the description box.
Not every store has multiple outlets and if you are dedicated to serving one location only one address would suffice.
Page titles should aptly mention the service you offer, location and also include the brand name.
Just like on page signals, off page signals are another side of the coin. Off page signals like links are in many cases essential to move the needle on ranking.
It’s also entirely possible to capture the local pack without any links. Google My Business profile, citations and proper descriptions as stated above are generally enough to get your site displaying on the local pack.
But with local ranking becoming difficult with each passing day you might want to beef up the link profile.
A local site can best get links from blogs and community sites in the locality.
You could also sponsor a scholarship and ask local universities and schools nearby to link to your scholarship page or mention your site and get valuable links for little investment.
My Business signals
Some of the details overlap with the description of your business on your website as seen above but optimizing your My Business Page is essential.
First things first. Get started by creating your business page. Put the business in the category that it fits to.
Don’t forget to include a good cover photo
Create description that gives succulent details— pretty much everything that a stranger needs to know to do business with you.
Add other details like store timings and off days.
If possible, add a virtual tour— which is a collection of photographs depicting the insides and outside of your store. These are getting really popular these days.
Whenever reviews come streaming in don’t forget to reply to them. This makes anyone viewing the page feel confident that the business is responsive and cares about customers.
Reviews probably play the most important role in ranking local businesses.
Higher the number of positive reviews, higher the chances of featuring in the top 3 spots on Google local packs.
Local SEO Guide conducted a study analysing over 200 factors for 100,000 businesses.
They found that businesses with a good number of reviews on the Google business page ranks well in local packs.
The sheer quantity of reviews, number of review stars and actual content inside the review all matter when it comes to rankings.
We’ve already seen the benefits of including the locality in your description.
The study found that, reviews that mention the name of a city have higher rankings in corresponding city.
Local seo is an extremely powerful tactic that can help you get more customers and increase the bottomline.
Do it right and you have a great ROI on your hands.
Brick and mortar stores can really benefit a lot from using a local SEO strategy that begins with having a site and then optimizing it further to include functionality that customers want.
Home delivery and other customer centric strategies can offer more return for the money invested into the channels.
These strategies when properly applied can lift your local business and give it wings.