This morning I was watching the Today Show, and saw an interesting segment about snagging Black Friday deals, and it got me thinking about how consumers will be using a combination of the online and in-store shopping to help them find the best deals this year. So how can SEO help get you more sales?
First consider this:
This year, 46% of retail sales will be influenced by the web – but more than 90% of total retail transactions will occur in-store, from small neighborhood boutiques to national chains.
- Mobile Marketing from In-Store: A Potential Game Changer, eMarketer, June 2010
When you couple that with the fact that 20% of Google’s search volume is Local (April, 2010), you can see that optimizing for local search should be a vital part of any online marketing strategy. Keep in mind that a traditional SEO is different from local SEO, because instead of optimizing websites you are optimizing locations.
Have brick and mortar stores? Get that information on the web!
This really is the most important step in making sure your store locations are seen. Knowing that more and more consumers will locate your store not only online this year, it’s well worth the short time it takes to make sure you have an updated and accurate information in a variety of local listing platforms.
- Be consistent. Be sure your name, address and phone number are the exact same in every listing.
- Claim your listing. Make sure another company hasn’t taken your location, and make sure you clean up duplicate listings.
- Be there. You MUST have a physical location in the city being searched if you are going to show up.
- Optimize your store pages. Include the address in the HTML of your store page, and if possible, create a page for each individual location.
- Get Listed. Make sure you have a verified listing with all the big players like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, etc.
Google Places is where you need to start to get your business listed on Google. If you have a physical address – sign up! Start by answering all of the company questions, and getting your business verified. From there you can start to add extras like videos and images.
You can also take advantage of the offers tab where you can add promotions to your map listings, and customers can print them off and bring them in. You still have time to get this information uploaded before this weekend, so take advantage of it, and try to get a leg up on the competition.
Set up a Google Merchant Center.
You have to have a Google account (like Gmail) to create a Google Merchant Center. Once you have created a Merchant Center you will be able to upload a data feed of your products, view performance reports about your products on the dashboard, and add additional information to assist your customers like tax and shipping rates.
Before uploading your data feed, you need to be aware of the strict policies:
- All of your links must go to active pages that are actually about your items. No pop ups or redirects allowed!
- You must be able to purchase all products being shown. If they aren’t in stock, don’t put them in your data feed. In the end you want to remember that your customers will be looking for the best deals, especially over the holidays, so why make them mad by showing a product you won’t be able to sell them?
- You get one listing per product, and content must be unique for each item. Your descriptions must be void of promotional text, and should be kept to a concise description of the product you are selling.
- Upload only products with fixed prices. If you require a membership or are a paid club, you unfortunately can’t upload your products. Bulk products are allowed, but you need to show the total price and the minimum order amount.
Visit the official page of policies for the Google Product Search for more information.
So once you have verified that you will be able to comply with the policies, you can submit your data feed. For the record, Google defines a data feed as:
A data feed is a file made up from a grouping of attributes that define each one of your products in a unique way that allows customers to search and find your items.
Your data feed will need to include the six required attributes, and can also include any number of the recommended attributes that Google allows. The feed can be uploaded in either an XML or a text file.
Sign up for Local Product Availability.
Local product availability is the newest feature from Google that was released last week that allows shoppers to not only see product information, but also find store locations that have that item in stock.
So I admit – I’m not the biggest shopper, and I’ve never once woken up early on black Friday to take advantage of the hottest deals. However, this year I’ve got my sights set on a stand mixer, and I have to confess that if I were to find the right price, I would scoop it up, even if that means racing to a store before dawn. So once I saw that stores were ramping up their sales even earlier this year, I started doing a little research:
As you can see I’m being shown results with images AND links for nearby stores. Though I’m a fan of the red one, I decided that the price of the mixer on the right was better, so I clicked on the nearby stores link, and was taken to a map that shows me 10 locations that carry this item, as well as their inventory levels:
I’m sure you can see by now why I’m confident that local product availability will be so important to retailers, especially during the upcoming shopping season.
So if you aren’t one of the 70 retailers that were included in the initial roll out, how can you join in? It’s simple. Just fill out this form and give Google some information about your store(s). You must also apply for a second Merchant Center account that will be used specifically for your local availability. Your site will be reviewed, and after it has been qualified you will be given a new Merchant Center account within three business days.
A few things to note: local availability is only viewable on desktops right now, and is currently only available in the US.
I hope that this has motivated you to get all of your brick and mortar stores on the web and working for you. Good luck this holiday season – I’m off to find my stand mixer!