The “Buy Local” movement has been around for a few years now, and it’s not slowing down. We see advertisers creating entire campaigns around supporting local, the advent of Small Business Saturday aims to support local businesses, and 82 million consumers opted for local food in 2015.
The ever-innovative and forward-thinking Google has also latched onto this trend, serving users more localized content than ever. This is affecting retail brands across the globe, and it’s also changing the SEO game. Here are a few ways retailers with a physical presence can capitalize on the benefits of local search.
Claim Your Business Listing
Perhaps the most straightforward step into local SEO is with your business listing. Yet, less than half of businesses have claimed their business listing in Google.
Even if your business is already there, claiming it allows you to control which information is displayed, as well as make sure the information is up-to-date and accurate. Google has a guide on how to add or claim your Google My Business listing — and it’s an essential first step to capitalizing on local SEO.
List Your Business on Other Search Engines
Though most searches happen on Google, there are other ways in which consumers are finding local retailers to shop with:
Bing Places for Business: Nearly one-third of searches in 2015 were conducted on Bing — a surprising figure considering Google’s dominance in the digital world. Bing Places for Business works very similar to how Google My Business works, allowing retailers to keep the information updated. Bing also integrates data from Yelp in its search results.
Yelp Business Page: Speaking of Yelp, this review site/app is also a search engine consumers use to find local businesses and read reviews about them. It’s free to claim your business listing, so you can add necessary information such as store hours and location(s). According to Yelp, businesses that claim the Yelp Business Page see an average annual incremental revenue of $8,000. Yelp has a support guide that shows you how to claim and list your business.
Yahoo Local Basic Listings: The third most-used search engine, Yahoo, also has a feature for businesses. They’ve partnered with Yext, which allows you to first conduct a search to see how your business is listed, and then claim or update it accordingly. Yahoo also integrates with Localworks, which allows you to control your business listing in multiple locations.
Solicit Customer Reviews
Notice how many of the examples above have business listings and customer reviews? Google has made a major push to collect more reviews to Google My Business listings, and Yelp has built its entire platform on reviews. Studies have shown how important customer reviews are in the buying process — 97 percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 85 percent value reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
Customer reviews associated with your business listings not only play to the customer, but they can also increase your visibility in local search. Google even preaches this itself: “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
Optimize Your Website
Though you may want to drive foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar locations with local search tactics, it’s essential to make sure your web traffic has a good user experience, too. Google consistently makes changes to algorithms to better serve the user — not the business — so ensuring a this positive digital experience is crucial to preserving your rankings in local search.
Many consumers use mobile devices to search for local retailers — and they’re arguably more primed to buy than a desktop user. 50 percent of consumers will visit a store within one day of a local search on their phone. And in 2013, 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches resulted in an offline purchase.
If your site isn’t optimized to deliver a mobile experience, Google will prioritize your competitors who do.
Optimize Your Site Content for the Local User
Though ecommerce may be a major part of your retail business, if your site is only geared towards that, you could be missing out on local search opportunities. Retailers should make it easy for users who are trying to find stores to visit — add photos of your storefront, clearly list your location(s) and store hours, and make it easy for users to contact you via email or a phone call. (Click-to-call functionality will also serve those mobile users.)
Share Product Availability to Local Searchers
Google allows retailers to sync inventory data with paid ads. This shows searchers which products you have available in-store, so they can save themselves the trip if you’re out-of-stock.
It’s crucial to make sure the information is up-to-date — imagine a consumer’s displeasure after being told a specific product is available at your store and visiting your location only to learn that this was inaccurate. Luckily, smart inventory management software solutions can automate this process for you, syncing stock data from your IMS to your local inventory ads.
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