The Essential Digital Marketing Strategy: Local Search Engine Optimization
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 [email protected].
TJX CEO Meyrowitz bullish on back half
Better than expected second quarter sales and profits at TJX Companies prompted CEO Carol Meyrowitz to strike an optimistic tone about the discount retailer’s future prospects.
The nation’s leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions said sales for the second quarter ended August 2 increased 7% to $6.9 billion and same store sales grew 3% on top of a prior year increase of 4%. Net income for the quarter was $518 million, or 73 cents a share, compared to $480 million, or 66 cents a share, the prior year. The sales were at the high end of the company’s plan and the earnings per share figure exceeded plan.
“Our customer traffic gained momentum throughout the quarter, and was positive in July. Further, we are pleased with our solid merchandise margins as well as the improved performance of our apparel businesses,” Meyrowitz said. “We are now raising our full year adjusted earnings per share guidance to reflect our above-plan second quarter results.”
In the third quarter, Meyrowitz said the company expects same store sales growth of 1% to 2% and earnings per share to range from 81 cents to 85 cents compared to a prior year figure of 75 cents adjusted to excluded an 11 cent a share non-recurring tax benefit. For the full year, the company expects same store sales growth of 1% to 2% and expects to earn between $3.10 and $3.18 a share on an adjusted basis compared to $2.83 the prior year.
“The third quarter is off to a solid start and we are excited about our opportunities for the second half of the year,” Meyrowitz said. “We entered the third quarter in an excellent inventory position and see plentiful opportunities for great brands in the marketplace. We are raising the bar on our marketing campaigns and gift-giving initiatives, which I believe are going to be even better than last year, and above all, we will be bringing consumers amazing values.”
Meyrowitz added that she is confident in the company’s ability to deliver another strong year as it continues on a path to exceeding annual sales of $40 billion. TJX ended last year with sales of $27.4 billion.
The company ended the recent quarter with a total of 3,279 stores, consisting of 1,090 T.J. Maxx stores, 956 Marshalls stores, 464 HomeGoods stores and four Sierra Trading Post stores in the U.S., and 354 stores in Canada and 410 stores in Europe.
Dick’s firing on most cyclinders
Dick’s Sporting Goods overcame weakness in its golf and hunting businesses to generate much better than expected second quarter same store sales and made further inroads in e-commerce.
The nation’s largest sporting goods retailer said second quarter same store sales increased 3.2%, far better than the decline of 1% to 3% the company had forecast. The comp increase was even stronger without a significant headwind from the company’s underperforming golf business. Same store sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods stores increased 4.1% while same store sales at Golf Galaxy locations declined 9.3%. Total company sales increased 10.3% to roughly $1.7 billion and were aided by the addition of new stores and an e-commerce penetration rate that increased to 6.3% of sales from 5.6% of sales the prior year.
"As anticipated, the golf and hunting businesses continued to experience negative comps. However, excluding these two categories, the remainder of the business delivered a 7.8% same store sales increase,” said Dick’s chairman and CEO Ed Stack. “We saw significant strength in several areas, including categories that have received more space within our stores, such as women's and youth athletic apparel. The headwinds in our hunting business continued in the second quarter. However, as we look at the entirety of our outdoor business, strength in other outdoor categories offset the declines in hunting, and our total outdoor comps were flat for the quarter.”
Profits declined to $69.5 million, or 57 cents a share, including a $20.4 million charge related to restructuring of the company’s golf business, compared to $84.2 million, or 67 cents a share, the prior year.
"We have consolidated our Golf Galaxy merchandising, marketing and store operations into Dick’s Sporting Goods. In addition, we have eliminated specific staff in our golf area within our Dick’s Sporting Goods stores,” Stack said. “These changes are necessitated by the current and expected trends in golf. We will invest these cost savings into other aspects of our store operations and into the growth areas of our business."
One of those areas is the company’s newest concept known as Field & Stream. One of the new outdoor stores was opened in the second quarter, but seven additional locations are planned for the third quarter. In addition, plans call for the opening of 24 new Dick’s stores in the third quarter as part of a full year plan to open 46 stores. One Golf Galaxy store is expected to open.
Looking ahead, Dick’s said it is cautiously optimistic about sales in the third and fourth quarter, forecasting same store sales growth of 1% to 3% for the third quarter and full year. However, to realize those sales, Dick’s said increased promotional activity to appeal to cautious consumers would pressure margins and advertising expenses and negatively impact earnings by four cents a share.
Dick’s ended the second quarter with 574 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores and 85 Golf Galaxy stores.