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How to improve search engine rankings to grow foot traffic

Placing well in search results can make the difference between getting traffic to your store and missing out on potential sales

Every day, thousands of searches for retail businesses take place on the internet, with the majority of them occurring on Google. And if a retailer’s stores aren’t on the first page of search results in the paid, organic and Google Maps sections, users are far less likely to find any of those locations when searching for stores.

Among mobile device users, 82% have reported trying a "near me" search on their devices, a number that rises 10 points among millennials, according to recent research from Uberall, a San Francisco-based location marketing solution provider. These findings suggest that a growing number of consumers are placing proximity as their top priority, and brand loyalty below it.

This is an especially big deal for grocers: When survey respondents were asked what they typically use "near me" searches for, 84% said food. Not everyone's searching for specific banner names: Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents said their "near me" searches are generic, such as "groceries near me."

Arguably even more convincing of the importance of proximity is that the 72% of consumers who perform a local search visit a store within five miles, Google has reported. This speaks to the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and better rankings in Google.

"Ranking better on Google really is an integrated approach to digital marketing" for grocers, notes Jonathan Camerata, sales executive with digital marketing and advertising service LocalIQ, a division of Tysons Corner, Va.-based media company Gannett Co. "It’s about the makeup of their website plus content on their website, as well as information about them across the web."

To better rank in Google and, in turn, drive incremental foot traffic, grocers should consider taking the following actions.

Having a website optimized for mobile devices is smart not just for ease of browsing, but also for helping Google’s bots do their job of analyzing its content.

Jonathan Obar, search and social manager with Chicago-based EnsembleIQ, a retail intelligence provider and parent of Canadian Grocer and Progressive Grocer, says as of 2017, 57% of all search engine traffic comes from mobile devices.

"That’s a huge opportunity to cater to consumers on the go," he points out, "and the first step to getting those mobile searchers through your doors is having a mobile-friendly website."

This year, Google rolled out its Mobile First algorithm, which means the engine now bases its rankings on the mobile version of websites. Before, sites were ranked based on desktop versions. This underscores the power and importance of a mobile strategy.

Whether you operate two or 20 locations in a given area, grocers need to ensure that information is live and up to date on each store if you want all of them to rank.

As a rule of thumb, when it comes to filling out store information on online directories (Yelp, Google My Business, Bing, Foursquare), remember "NAP" – name, address and phone number with area code. This information has to be identical to, and consistent with, the grocer’s website and all other listings. If there’s a discrepancy between listings, it can confuse Google’s bots.

For instance, if a store operate includes a postal code on one directory but not on another, Google’s bots might not see them as the same listed store.

Listings should also house a unique description and images of each store.

When titling stores in a website’s local pages or directory listings, grocers must include a town, neighbourhood or other indicator of the store’s specific location, whether in regard to one store in a smaller town or several within a larger city, explains Obar.

"The key is to be specific," he says.

Take Albertsons, for example. Though it's the third largest grocer in the United States, each store needs to be specifically labeled. So, if it has one store in a smaller town like Corinth, Texas, it should label the store something like "Corinth Albertsons." If a grocer has multiple locations in a big city, however, it should label each one after its respective neighbourhood.

Basically, when asking what to name it, ask yourself: If a local consumer searched for your store, how do you think he or she would label it?

In recent years, Google has been adding services that can help drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Grocers can now find options designed to increase foot traffic through such platforms as Google Maps and Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), the latter of which allows advertisers to sponsor specific keywords.

"Some of these offerings include coupons on the business listing, promoted pins and the ability to display local inventory," Obar observes. "You can even measure ROI by tracking store visits."

This article has been condensed from the original version, which appears at Click here to read the full story.

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