SEO is important. You get that. You know it’ll bring customers to your store.
But you also have no idea how it actually works.
It’s one of those internet marketing things that can seem a bit made-up – and it often sounds a bit too good to be true. In our beginners’ guide, we’re going to explain how to use SEO in your retail marketing strategies in plain English.
SEO for retail marketing strategies
What is SEO?
Put simply, SEO is anything you do to your website to make it appear higher up in search results. The thinking is that when people make a search, they’ll click on the first few results on the first page. If you’re not appearing on page one or two, you’ll either need to pay for ads to appear there or lose out to competitors.
SEO, in longhand, stands for Search Engine Optimization, i.e. optimizing your site so that it appears higher in search engines like Google or Bing.
Do you need SEO?
Most likely. If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out as more and more potential customers are making searches online before they go into a store or buy a product online.
If you do have a website, not investing in SEO is a big mistake. It’s a bit like throwing a party and not telling anyone about it. You’ll still have the party, but no one will turn up. Ultimately, SEO is another tactic for retail marketing strategies to help get more people into your store.
How do you do SEO?
There’s no simple answer to this question. The first thing to know is that Google has an algorithm that determines which websites rank higher in search results. This is a complicated formula with many factors that tells Google which searches are most relevant.
Think of it like this: if you made a search and the wrong answer came up, you’d stop using Google, so the company has developed a complicated ranking algorithm to figure out which results are the most relevant for the searches that people make.
Over time, SEO has changed a lot. A decade ago, it was very easy to get a website page to rank well because you could cheat. Old SEO tactics included adding the word you want to rank for (for example, ‘convenience store Michigan’) to your website over and over again, and changing the color to white.
Visitors to your site wouldn’t know it was there, but Google would and it’d think, “oh okay this website is for a convenience store in Michigan” and you’d appear at the top of searches.
Over time, the algorithm has changed to prioritize three main things: content (articles and the copy on your website), backlinks (any links you have from other websites to your website) and on-site SEO (anything you do on your actual website).
SEO retail marketing strategies
A backlink is a link from another site to yours. Every site on Google has a score called domain authority – this essentially means how much it’s trusted by Google. Popular, well-used sites have a better domain authority while new sites start at 0. Wikipedia, for example, has a domain authority of 81. USA.gov is 92.
A link from a site with a high domain authority is great for your SEO. It’s almost like a recommendation from one website directly to Google. It’s them saying, “yes, you can trust that this website is good and does what it says.”
Earning backlinks is a very good tactic for getting your store to rank higher, but it’s difficult as many websites (especially the big ones) are cautious about who they link to as they want Google to keep trusting them.
2. On-site SEO
SEO broadly falls into two categories: onsite and offsite. Onsite is anything you can do to your site yourself. Offsite is everything else (driving traffic from social media or getting backlinks). At its most basic, onsite SEO is about identifying keywords customers might use to search for you or your products and making sure that they’re on your website.
A keyword is something someone might type into search engines to find you. If you’re a bookstore in Connecticut, it’d be phrases like “bookstore Connecticut”, or “buy books Connecticut”.
Let’s look at Pointy retailer, Urban Nature Store, which has an e-commerce website.
The basic areas of importance for onsite SEO are:
- The URL (the link).
- The title tag.
- The content of the page itself.
An ideal URL will have a relevant keyword featured in it. Urban Nature Store is a nature store – and that’s reflected both in the URL and actual store name.
The title tag
The title tag is found in the code of your website, so you may need to ask your web team to help with this. Every page on your site should have a relevant title tag that says what the page is for and what your website does. Title tags are 50-60 characters long.
You can see any website’s title tags by hovering over the page tab in your browser. Urban Nature Store’s looks like this:
You can see that they’ve very clearly stated what they are/sell in the title tag.
The content on the page itself
If you browse Urban Nature’s store, you can immediately see who they are and what they sell. The products all have relevant descriptions; the site is easy to use; and the company even have a blog – but more on that in a second.
3. Content/blogging for your retail marketing strategies
Content marketing is a reasonably new marketing term that means creating content (blogs, videos, articles, images) on your website that your target customer might like to read. It doesn’t work for every store, but it can work really well if you’re prepared to put the time in.
DIY experts, Wickes, makes useful how-to videos. It isn’t about selling to the customer; instead, Wickes features guides on everything from varnishing to putting up a fence. The idea is that if someone is searching for advice on how to do these things, they may be looking to buy tools or equipment – most of which Wickes sells.
Outdoor clothing brand, Patagonia, has the right idea too. It writes longform articles about all things travel, adventure, and the outdoors. Many of its articles, especially those around the environment, have been shared thousands of times on social media and clocked up thousands of reads.
9 quick SEO wins for retail marketing strategies
Quick SEO wins include:
✅ Make sure your site doesn’t have any broken links. This is bad both for people visiting your website and how Google ranks websites in search.
✅ Invest in a tool like Pointy, which gets your in-store products online and findable in a catalog of your products.
✅ Go through your website and optimize what you already have. Remember, the point is to make sure Google knows what your website does.
✅ Get your local results up to scratch. Set-up Google My Business and add your business to local directory listings.
✅ Don’t just copy and paste your product descriptions. Most stores copy and paste the descriptions from the manufacturers. If you have a manageable number of products, write product descriptions yourself – or choose your top 100 products and do it for them.
✅ Start a blog – but only if you mean it. Creating content can do wonders for your SEO, but you’re going to have to take it seriously.
✅ Ask someone who has never used your site to try it out. Take note of any issues they have and fix it. It’ll keep actual customers on your website for longer, which helps your SEO.
For more retail marketing strategy quick wins, check out our free guide on creating retail marketing that actually works.