By Andrew Schneider, ZOG Digital
Four-in-five consumers are turning to search engines to find information about local businesses, products and services. Those local searchers are turning into customers at a high rate. Eighteen percent of local searches on a smartphone lead to a purchase within a day, compared to just 7% of non-local searches. Local searchers are also converting quickly, with 50% of people who make local searches on a phone and 34% of tablet and desktop searchers visiting a store visiting a store within a day.
This information, which comes from a new research from Google titled “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior,” should make it clear that consumers are going online before making purchasing decisions.
The best way to capture more local searchers is to raise the visibility on search engines. The difference between being ranked first and third on a local search can be staggering. Fifty-three percent of searchers click on the first organic result, with 25% going to the second and third results. Retailers should strive to not just be on the first page of local search engine results, but at the top of the page, because that is where searchers are looking and clicking.
The way to improve visibility on search engines and generate higher local search rankings is through the process of local search engine optimization (SEO). Any effective local SEO effort is based on using the following multiple strategies concurrently:
Website design: The importance of dedicated landing pages
Creating dedicated landing pages for each location of a chain store is the first step in any comprehensive local SEO strategy. On-page factors, such as having an easily indexed and clearly focused landing page, accounts for 20% of the factors that impact local search rankings. One thing that stores do now, but should be avoided, is the use of third-party iframe mapping programs, such as the examples below, which can hide information from search engines. If search engines can’t find each page, and understand the information being displayed on the page, then the information won’t show up in local search results. Retailers that add dedicated local pages, which should include a unique URL, will have a leg up on local competition that ignores this strategy.
Create locally centric content
The goal for each store should be to create content that appeals directly to local searchers. According to the white paper from Google, there are specific pieces of information that local searchers are looking for. Retailers can take advantage of this information by making sure that information is available, updated and prominently displaying the information on the dedicated landing pages.
According to Google’s research, local searchers are specifically looking for business hours, directions to the closest store, and the availability of specific products at a local store. Simply making this information easily available can help improve local search rankings by connecting directly with the desires of consumers.
Directory syndication and search engine listings
Digital directories and search engine listings are two more foundational ways for chain stores to increase the visibility of locations by making the information available. Digital directories work as citations for each location, with search engines counting each citation individually and using them to check the accuracy of the information and credibility of the business. For example, a store that is listed in several major digital directories theoretically will be ranked above a similar store that lacks a digital directory strategy. Some of the bigger providers include YellowBook, Yelp and CitySearch. There are also smaller, more niche directories that stores should research and request to be listed in.
Search engine listings work similarly to directories, but because they’re directly managed by search individual search engine, many believe these listings carry more weight in local search results. The key is to create a search engine listing for each location separately and to make sure each listing is consistent with other listings, the information provided to digital directories and what’s available on the company website. If the information is different, even slightly, between multiple sources, search engines may consider it unreliable and not feature it on search results.
Consumers trust reviews and comments from other consumers more than marketing materials and advertising that come directly from chain stores. Eighty-five percent of consumers will look at reviews before buying something at a local business. These facts show why retailers should give consumers the options to leave reviews for both stores and products and read reviews. Some places stores can actively allow and seek consumer reviews are search engine listings, the company website or 3rd party sites like Yelp. Negative reviews are a common concern for retailers, but they can be turned into positive when responded to quickly, public and when the issues are remedied in a manner that is acceptable manner.
Chain retailers have an active audience to target on search engines. With 80% of consumers turning to websites like Google before making a local purchase, creating high visibility on local searches can turn into massive amounts of new potential customers over time. Retailers have the opportunity to gain an advantage of the competition with the use of local SEO tactics such as dedicated local landing pages, locally centric content, directory syndication and consumer reviews.
Andrew Schneider is a marketing specialist for ZOG Digital, an independent digital marketing company that specializes in local SEO (linked), search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid advertising, and design and development. He can be reached at Andrew.Schneider@zogdigital.com.