Why SEO Matters for Specialty Retailers
Today, independent retailers aren’t just competing with other owner-operated shops in town. Online retailers of all sizes are trying to take a piece of the gift industry pie, and it is up to shops to stay relevant in an increasingly diverse landscape. One way retailers can gain new customers or regain those they’ve lost to the online giants is through ensuring their websites are up to date for search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO is a buzzword throughout business. It feels complicated, but it can be easier to comply than it may seem. SEO helps websites improve their search page ranking. This means that if the rules are followed, they will help your website move higher on the search results page, giving a much higher likelihood that your website will appear alongside other online retailers as well as your brick-and-mortar competition.
And that’s important for a few key reasons.
If you haven’t updated your website in a while, it might look outdated. If there aren’t recent posts, an updated copyright to show the current year or if the contact information, store hours and pictures of the interior are out of date, people will notice — and potential customers may think you are out of business.
This is especially important as the millennial generation becomes one of the most important shopping demographics both now and in years to come. As these tech-savvy shoppers start to make more money later in their careers, it will be increasingly important to capture them digitally through your website and search results. Plus, by keeping your digital identity strong, you’ll have an easier time reaching future generations.
Updated SEO enables more detail — hours, a photo of your shop, and key sections of your website — to appear with Google search results. Since Google has 88% of the search engine market share in North America, it is imperative that your results on Google search look great. The best part is that Bing and Yahoo, which have all but 1% of the remainder of the market share, generally follow most of the Google recommendations as well.
Google search recently changed its algorithm to help local businesses appear in results over national chains that may or may not have a brick-and-mortar store in your community. This means that while competition is less fierce from those big box stores or big chains, independent retailers need to work extra hard to capture the web traffic from both locals and visitors in the area, and visibility is important for people to find you.
A well-thought-out social media strategy is important. Social platforms that direct traffic to your website also help improve your Google rankings. According to eMarketer, 90.4% of millennials, 77.5% of Generation X and 48.2% of baby boomers are active social media users, making social media a portion of your advertising and marketing campaign that can’t be ignored. And you don’t necessarily need to be a web designer to fix some of the issues that might be putting you on the third or fourth page of a search.
The bottom line is that independent retailers can’t afford to neglect the latest SEO recommendation from Google.
HOW TO MAKE SEO WORK FOR YOU:
1. Stop keyword stuffing. A decade ago, the habit of including search terms (like boutique, gift store, names of merchandise, the store’s city) both as a list on the homepage and within the code was all the rage. We used to have to tell Google what we were about via listing keywords. However, that’s something that actually will “downrank” your website in results. Downranking is just what it sounds like — it lowers your position on the search results and might push you to later pages — and it’s exactly the opposite of what your business needs.
2. Connect your social media. You’re already doing a great job showing off your merchandise and your store’s personality on social media. If you haven’t already, add links to your social media on each page of your website.
3. Tell your story on your homepage. Google uses computer programs called “spiders” to read what you have on your website. From the text on your homepage, Google will figure out what your company does, if it is a gift shop, and what type of gifts you sell. It will learn where you are, your store’s contact information and other important details that can appear in search results. Aim for 300 words on your homepage to tell your shop’s story. Any pages with longer content should aim for at least 500 words.
4. Add your location and phone number to every page. Mobile currently accounts for over half of web searches, so make sure people can find your phone number and click on it to call you. Many shops are including hours in the webpage footer so that they are visible no matter what page visitors are looking at.
5. Update your website on a regular basis. Update images of inventory and displays, and talk about upcoming sales or events that are happening.
6. Consider adding a blog. Google can do a better job of placing your website in front of the right potential customers if you offer more details about what is happening at your store. A blog is a great place to do this. You can write about new amazing products you started carrying, events, ideas on the top gifts for kids or any other demographic you serve. It is a great place to share announcements, too, such as employee of the month or new partnerships with other local businesses. The blog can be personal (to the store) and share the store’s style and vibe.
7. Include great photography. Luckily, mobile devices are being equipped with excellent cameras that are perfect for the type of photography used in web and social media. When you’re ready to take a photo of a display or product, here are a few things to keep in mind. Think about how a shot should look before you take it. Focus on the items you’d like to showcase. Frame it well by keeping the camera square. Any images you use have the potential to show up not only with your store’s search result, but also in the Google Images results. When you upload the photos to your website, you will have a chance to describe them in what are known as “tags.” These are important fields that shouldn’t be overlooked, so be sure to describe your product with them!
One thing to note: While we live in a world of instant gratification, modifying your website to adhere to best SEO practice can take time. Once you begin applying these tactics and improvements to your website, it can take up to three months for the search results to reflect the work being done. The takeaway? It’s never too early to begin working on improving your website!
THE GOOGLE CHALLENGE: HOW ONE COMPANY CONTROLS NORTH AMERICAN WEB DESIGN
Google is so ubiquitous that the company name has become a verb in our everyday speech. It’s so important that other search engines have all but fallen by the wayside. So why aren’t we following their recommendations for website updates to work in hand with their algorithm changes?
That’s a great question. The bigger the chain, the bigger the budget for marketing and web design. However, independent shops can still keep up on many of the changes Google requires — as long as the store owners are paying attention to what experts recommend. If your website hasn’t been updated in a couple years, more changes will be required to ensure your website ends up in a respectable location in Google search results pages.
Depending on the framework on which your website is built and maintained, the changes could be simple or complex. They might require a designer to do some of the modifications, but others might be something gift shop owners can change; after all, the content — the part that visitors see — is nearly as important as the background that designers use.
SmartSolutions and Gift Shop are passionate about utilizing the power of communication to help you tell your company’s story. Our team of expert marketers brings unique perspectives and diverse experiences together to provide a one-stop, full-service marketing solution to help businesses thrive. Learn more at https:// smartsolutions.media. SmartSolutions is a subsidiary of Great American Media Services, publisher of Gift Shop.