A door to a brick-and-mortar shop with a sign that reads "open". The image represents bringing in new customers with SEO.

6 Benefits of SEO for Offline Stores

Why is SEO Needed for Offline Stores? 

Every business depends on sales to survive.  It’s a basic principle in practice, but what’s most important is knowing what sales efforts will bring you the greatest return on investment (ROI).  In this technology-reliant world, digital marketing is fast becoming the best way to secure sales, with 88% of consumers pre-researching their purchases online before making their final buy decision, either online or in-stores.

What about for your more traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses? Even offline companies need a digital presence to compete nowadays.  A recently published study called The Research Online Buy Offline (ROBO) Economy report found that 82% of smartphone users research a product online before making the purchase in-store.  Interestingly, nearly half of in-store purchases are made only after checking for reviews online.

Not convinced that SEO can help your offline brick-and-motor business?  Here are 6 reasons why SEO will translate to more in-store sales – backed by consumer research!

 

6 Benefits of SEO for Offline Stores

  1. SEO Boosts In-Store Sales

A recent study published by Bazaarvoice called The Research Online Buy Offline (ROBO) Economy report investigated the correlation between online marketing and in-store sales. The study found that online marketing efforts helped consumers in two key stages of the buyer’s journey: the consideration phase and the decision phase.  Through targeting these key stages, SEO efforts lead to more in-store customers and sales.

During the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey, consumers are already aware of what they want, but they are still deciding which exact product is right for them and which company they want to purchase it from. According to the ROBO study, 82% of smartphone users research a product with their phone before they make their final purchase in-store.  The ROBO study further found that 45% of consumers read reviews online before making a purchase.

How does this play into your SEO strategy? Firstly, a good SEO strategy will clearly list your products and services online with pictures and descriptions that will get consumers excited about your products. Secondly, a good SEO strategy will involve increasing the number of positive reviews you have online.  This will help build trust among shoppers who check out your business online before deciding to walk to your store’s physical location to make a purchase.

During the decision phase of the buyer’ journey, consumers are ready to convert into customers.  A good SEO strategy can help consumers in this stage to not only buy from you but to increase the amount they spend in your store.  The ROBO study found that nearly $5 is spent in-stores (by consumers who pre-researched the product or service online) for every dollar spent on online marketing.  This is nearly a 400% return on investment!

 

  1. SEO Brings in New Customers

Even though your business may not be online, your customers are.  And that’s a great way to let them know all about why they should come to visit your physical store.  In today’s world, there are over 4.2 billion people online globally.  Significantly, for every second that ticks by, 40,000 searches are happening simultaneously. This works out to 3.5 billion searches occurring every day.

If your SEO isn’t a priority, you miss out on all the local searches that people are making about the products or services you offer. Your customers are using search engines daily, and this makes it an ideal place to reach them.

Research abounds that consumers pre-research a product online before deciding to visit the store to make a purchase.  Having a store that is easy to find online can help pull in customers who were previously on-the-fence about walking through your doors.

If you are looking to break into a new market, your SEO strategy can help you target a new subgroup of your local population.  For example, if you are a clothing store that sells yoga clothes and you want to break into the swimsuit market as well, you could write content related to swimming and swimwear.  In this way, targeting new keywords can help you market new products to a new subset of your local population. Rather than simply pulling in one type of customer, your SEO can help you to reach a new demographic of people interesting in buying your products in-store.

A key benefit of SEO is that it pulls in quality traffic.  At its core, SEO is keyword based and by targeting very specific keywords you can target a very specific subset of the population. This can help you market to the people who are most interested in buying your products or services, in the city or region in which your brick-and-mortar store operates.

Because SEO involves writing highly specialize content for your target audience, it pulls in the subset of the population who is most likely to buy from your store. Due to the highly targeted approach of SEO, traffic generated by SEO is more likely to convert your online browsers into in-store customers.

 

  1. You Can Take Advantage of Customer Reviews

You can think of search engines as highly knowledgeable teachers.  They constantly scan the web to index bits of information to be pulled up when they get asked a question.  When a person enters a search query, the search engine will provide the most relevant knowledge at its disposal.

Now, you may be asking: how does a search engine rate the usefulness of different websites? Well, that depends on several factors – one of which is customer reviews.

Customers trust a company with strong online reviews. When it comes to buying in-store, customers are more likely to shop at a store with strong online reviews. Because search engines’ number one goal is providing more useful results, they will rank your website higher if you have many positive reviews. This means that your website is also more likely to appear in the first few search results when customers search for your products or services online – translating into more new customers. While star rating matters, Google also considers the content that customers write about you.  For example, a five-star review that includes words such as “best” and “fantastic” will do more for your website ranking than a simple five-star rating with no comment.

How can you use reviews to boost your SEO?  A good first step is to ask happy customers to review your business on Google or Yelp. If you have an email subscriber list, an easy way to get more reviews is to email your customers a link to where they can review your business online.  Provide an extra discount for reviewing your company and this method can help bring those same reviewers back into your store!

 

  1. SEO Helps Grow Your Business Locally

If your business is bound by a certain city or region, you can use local SEO to bring in the people who live in the same area that your business operates. Search engines, such as Google, consider the location (and IP address) of the person making a search query when recommending results.

Want to see a first-hand example of how this works? Open a google search and type “restaurants near me”.  Without even typing in the city, Google will automatically bring up restaurants that are not only in your city but also in the area closest to your present location.

By using local SEO you can help the customers near you to find you online before they even see your storefront.

How can you optimize your local SEO? One way it to make sure your store is consistently listed across all local directories.  If you move locations, it is important to update this across all listings, because the consistency of address plays into your website ranking.  For optimal local SEO, your name and phone number should also be consistent across all directories (as well as on your social media accounts and on your website).

Another way to boost local SEO is by gaining lots of positive reviews so that search engines will be more likely to recommend your business in search results when people in your area search for your products and services online.

Ultimately, a strong SEO strategy can help you grow locally by helping new clients to find you online.  This, in turn, will pull customers to visit your physical store when your website, social media, blogs, and ads get them excited about your brand.

 

  1. SEO is About Engaging Your Costumers

Physical stores need an online presence to stay relevant for their customers because virtually everyone is online.  To better engage with your customers, you should be online too!

An effective SEO strategy will involve an effective communication strategy on all platforms where people are talking about your business online. For best SEO results, you should have a plan for replying to all customer reviews and social media interactions when anyone mentions your store.

It is important to monitor online reviews of your business so that you can properly address either positive or negative reviews.  Giving a simple thank you for positive reviews can help build your brand’s likeability.  Responding effectively to negative comments can also limit the damage done by an unhappy customer. For negative reviews, try responding sympathetically and provide an email to discuss resolving it.  This will show your customers that you care about keeping them happy and will also play into how search engines rank your website.

Do you have any social media accounts set up?  Social media is a wonderful tool to reach your customers online. Social media and SEO have a mutually beneficial relationship.  If you share engaging content, you will earn more followers on social media. And when you share your content on social media, you will receive more website traffic, further improving your search rankings.

If you have a small or limited marketing team, you can still be active on social media.  You may simply have to start by focussing on only one or two social channels for the time being. When choosing a social channel, you should think about which one will bring you the most followers. If visual presentation is very important, Instagram could be a good way to go. If you are going to share a mix of blogs and pictures, Facebook or Twitter could be beneficial for you. When giving your site a ranking, search engines consider how active you are on social media.  The more likes, follows, and shares your content receives the higher your search rankings and SEO.

A good SEO strategy will help your customers to find you online, making it more likely for new customers to visit your physical store.  A strong SEO strategy will also ensure that your old customers remember you and return as loyal customers.  When you employ SEO techniques the number of new customers you receive from online searches will make this investment well worth it.

 

  1. SEO Gets Customers in the Buying Mindset

Even if a consumer walked by your store and found the storefront attractive, they may not immediately think to walk through the doors. Consumer research shows that it can take up to ten touch points before a customer makes a buy decision. Examples of touch points include them seeing your storefront, a billboard, or happening upon your website or social media profile online.  In short, each touch point is a moment when a consumer interacts with your business.  The more your audience sees your content online, the more likely they are to trust your brand. And the more trusting they are, the more likely they are to visit your brick-and-motor store to make a purchase.

When it comes to increasing your touch points, SEO can be particularly effective. With a strong SEO strategy, consumers will keep coming across your website online when they are searching for your products or for information about topics related to your business.

Constantly finding your company online will help people to become familiar with your brand.  The more your website pops up online, the more trusted you will become.  As people trust you more this will translate into more customers walking through your doors.

Using SEO tactics can help your product, service, and business to pop-up more online, turning your local store into a trusted, household name. After SEO helps familiarize your local community with your business, they will be much more likely to walk into your store to make a purchase.

How does this result in what businesses are spending on online marketing?  Today offline businesses are investing more and more on their digital presence, with SEO being a major priority of most businesses. By 2020 the amount spent on SEO (in the U.S. alone) is expected to increase to $80 Billion.

 

In summary, SEO is more than a paid marketing service.  It is an investment that keeps on giving.  You can view SEO as an intangible asset that brings long-term website traffic to you, resulting in more leads and more sales for your business. Although SEO is beneficial for offline and online stores alike, it offers several key benefits that brick-and-motor stores may find especially useful.  Firstly, a good SEO strategy can boost your in-store sales.  Secondly, SEO can bring in new customers who have never walked through your doors before.  Thirdly, SEO allows you to take advantage of customer reviews.  The fourth way that SEO can help your brick-and-motor store is by helping you grow your business locally. A firth wat that SEO can help your business is by allowing you to communicate more effectively with your customers online.  A final way that SEO will benefit your offline store is by getting customers in the ‘buying mindset’ so they feel they need to visit your store to make a purchase.

 

Become an SEO Expert with Lean Marketing

If you are looking to boost your website SEO, it is important to follow all SEO best practices for optimal results. Unsure where to begin with your SEO efforts? This article on the 6 Essential Lessons of SEO can help you get started.  Since SEO is constantly evolving, best practices change over time.  To stay up-to-date on the latest SEO best practices, subscribe to our eNewsletter or check back to our blog for the latest SEO tips and best practices.

Want an expert to handle your SEO strategy? Lean Marketing can help! With a well-rounded team of content writers, social media marketers, graphic designers, and website developers we can create the right SEO strategy to pull in your target customers.  Lean Marketing is a digital marketing agency based out of Edmonton, Alberta that serves small businesses in Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, and the greater Edmonton community.

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