If you own a brick and mortar business and believe that digital marketing has no place in your marketing strategy, it’s time to update your thinking.
Whether your company currently has an aggressive marketing department or relies mostly on word of mouth referrals, there’s room in your budget and strategy for search engine optimized (SEO) marketing.
In fact, even if you don’t offer any online services, investing time into a solid SEO marketing plan could be the most important thing you do for your business this year.
Not convinced? Here’s how local SEO for brick and mortar businesses can lead to an increase in-store traffic.
Local SEO Promotes Brand Visibility
If your business doesn’t have an optimized website, you could be missing out on more sales than you realize.
When shoppers are looking to make a local purchase, the first place they often go is a search engine.
According to a Google study, three out of four shoppers who find useful information online about local business are more likely to pay an in-person visit.
Inversely, one out of every four shoppers said that a lack of online information about a business would cause them to avoid shopping there altogether.
How can you make sure those customers walk through your door? SEO marketing.
Take the time to do keyword research to find out what your target audience is searching for. Since most online searches never even get to the second page of results, incorporating long-tail keywords in your web content is a great way to get local customers to visit your website, and subsequently your business.
Long-tail keywords are longer, more organic phrases used in web searches; for example, “SEO marketing services in Vermont” instead of just “SEO”. They make up an estimated 70 percent of search traffic, and have significantly higher conversion rates than shorter or “head” keywords.
You can strategically drop these phrases into your web copy, blog posts, and back-end meta descriptions to make sure you’re among the first businesses people see when searching for your specific niche.
Using location-based keywords in your SEO marketing is a proven way to boost sales for brick and mortar businesses. In 2011, Illinois eye care center The Hauser-Ross Eye Institute & Surgicenter decided to invest time and resources in their website SEO.
After doing keyword research, the team found that six out of their top ten keywords included a geographically specific word or phrase. This discovery, along with a few other SEO-related findings, resulted in a 333% increase in revenue, according to their year-by-year numbers.
When the goal is visibility of your brand within your target market, making SEO a priority on your business website can help get the job done.
Allows for Greater Control Over Your Marketing Dollars
With traditional marketing, you have little control over who sees your advertisement. You simply fork over the advertising fee, put your message out into the world, and hope for the best.
With SEO marketing, a brick and mortar business has options. You can choose to rely on keywords and content optimization alone, or you can choose to use pay-per-click advertising (like Google AdWords).
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements are the results at the top or bottom of search engine rankings marked “sponsored” or “ad”. The first three results here are an example from Google’s SERP when we search for “content marketing” (search engine results page):
With PPC advertising, you can choose exactly how to spend your marketing dollars. You can specify who your ad will reach based on factors like keywords, location, age, and interests.
If this is the route you choose to take for your business, every single view counts. When you pay to have your content appear in search engine results, you can be sure that every single person that sees it has been handpicked for maximum conversion potential.
If you own a commercial printing business in Georgia, you don’t want to shell out your hard-earned dollars so a stay-at-home mom in Minnesota can see your ad.
Targeting your pay-per-click audience is a great way to enhance the effectiveness of your local SEO for brick and mortar businesses by getting views from the people searching your keyword who are most likely to visit your business and make a purchase.
Extending and pinpointing your reach within your SEO efforts can go a long way in promoting the long-term sustainability of your business without hemorrhaging money — while staying up-to-date in the modern era of web marketing.
Local SEO Reaches Mobile Users
For the first time in the technology age, web users are accessing the internet on their mobile devices more consistently than on desktop devices.
When you perform a search on your mobile phone, Google will take the liberty of doing its own geotargeting to ensure the most relevant search results. That’s why, when you’re out and about, you can Google a phrase like “seafood restaurants near me” and find results that are nearby.
Studies have shown that a whopping 72% of shoppers will make a purchase within five miles of their location after performing a “near me” search. That’s bad news for some brick and mortar businesses that aren’t taking advantage of SEO.
If Google doesn’t know your storefront exists, you’ll be out of luck instead of ending up at the top of the SERP where you belong.
Your business can fight SERP invisibility with a little strategy on the backend of your website. Adding “near me” to your title tags, meta descriptions, and sprinkled in the text of your web copy can go a long way in connecting your site to those two important keywords.
Because of the prevalence of mobile in the shopping experience, it’s ultra-important to make sure your website is optimized for smartphone and tablet users.
Many brick and mortar businesses don’t bother updating their site because they assume it won’t play a major role in gaining foot traffic. However, Google heavily penalizes sites that don’t have a mobile-friendly interface, often preventing them from being seen at all.
An often underlooked aspect of local SEO that is particularly important when optimizing for mobile is your page loading speed. Lagging load times are a surefire way to make your potential customers run back to the safety of Google before they even get the chance to see your website.
Take a look at what research says will happen with just a single second delay:
The damage stacks up with every extra second your site takes to load. This is why Google recommends that each page on your website is optimized to load in one second or less.
Reducing bandwidth-eating components like bulky media files can drastically reduce the precious time it takes for your site to load.
Not sure how your site stacks up speed-wise? Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to help guide you on the right path.
Local SEO Can Help to Build Customer Trust
One of the most important factors in long-term sustainability is customer trust, and local SEO for brick and mortar businesses can go a long way in establishing it.
When a potential customer visits a business storefront for the first time, they have no way of gauging the quality of what the company is selling. You’ll be more likely to have the opportunity to plant seeds of trust before a client even enters your building with a batch of glowing testimonials from past satisfied customers.
88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as word of mouth recommendations. This is particularly important if your business is service-based, like a garage or a hair salon.
Adding a section for testimonials can give your business a measurable boost in conversions like it did for women’s clothing store FigLeaves. After adding reviews to their company website, FigLeaves enjoyed a 35 percent hike in converting web visitors into paying customers.
Including a section on your website for testimonials is also one of the most effective steps you can take towards organically increasing your SERP rankings. Client reviews are a natural way to add new content to your site regularly, which is an important part of keeping your site fresh in Google’s eyes.
Testimonials also often include long-tail keywords when discussing your services. This will optimize your web copy and keep your business on an upward trajectory to the top of the SERPs.
Google also appreciates reviews as a form of social proof that you’re offering relevant content and services. Social proof is essentially an outside endorsement that you are a source of value in your industry.
We don’t know the finer points of how Google’s closely-guarded algorithm takes social proof into account when assigning rankings, but any information your business can offer to verify its social worth could be of value in the long run.
Final Thoughts on Local SEO for Brick and Mortar Businesses
You put your blood, sweat, and tears into your business. Why should you have fewer opportunities to succeed just because your storefront is on the ground and not the cloud?
Local SEO can bridge that gap. Take the time to implement an SEO strategy for your business, and your new customers will be glad you did.
About the Author — Whitney Carroll McKinnon (@WhitneyMck529) is a freelance writer for hire with specialization in digital and content marketing. When not writing, she can be found at home with her fiancé and two young daughters, channeling her stress into cooking, cross stitching, and sociopolitical activism. To contact Whitney or inquire about her services, please visit her website at Cardinal Copy.