Maps app

According to research conducted by Google, 69% of shoppers use search engines when they want to figure out where to go. Even more important, 48% of purchasers were influenced by a relevant search. 

For retail marketers, it’s imperative that your stores appear on the search engine results page (SERP) when a potential customer searches for a relevant product or service. The modern SERP has three main territories that marketers need to own to maximize the search engine marketing opportunity. For marketers in the retail industry, it’s “location, location, location” all over again!

Territory 1: Google My Business

Before trying to tackle any other part of the SERP, you need to ensure you have your Google My Business (GMB) profile properly set up. GMB is a free tool that Google provides for business owners to manage their presence on the search engine and its ever-growing number of apps and SERP features. Considering that so much of retail marketing relies on a location-based strategy, getting this right in Google My Business should be your first priority. Google returns map results for most localized searches, and their map data is populated with the GMB data you provide.

Once you’ve claimed your GMB listing(s), make sure to get positive Google reviews. These not only tie right into your presence in Google’s results and map packs, but also have influence on your organic search engine rankings. The more positive reviews the better, as they not only represent positive consumer interactions, but also contain keywords that help Google place your business with consumer queries.

Territory 2: Organic Search Listings

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a field of study in and of itself. While mastering it and keeping up with the frequent search engine algorithm changes may not be something you can tack on to your already busy job as a retail marketer, there are some core concepts you can learn and apply to your website that will help with your overall search engine presence.

While search engine algorithms are extremely complex and intelligent, they cannot rank you for what your website does not speak of. The goal for search engines is to return the most relevant results for each user query. A large part of how they decide if your pages are relevant, is how specific they are to a topic. At the risk of oversimplifying, the more information you have about the products and services you sell, the more likely you are to show up when someone is searching. 

Almost half of Google searches are looking for local information. Consumers are either typing “geo modifiers” into their search queries (E.g.: “Sporting Goods Atlanta”), or depending on search engines returning localized results based on their current geographical location. Simply having the address of your corporate headquarters on your “Contact” page, or a list of locations doesn’t do much to assist on these localized searches. In combination with having your GMB information properly set, consider having a page for each of your locations that contains its address and other ways people may search for it (e.g. a broader city or region name if your location’s street address is a small town).

Territory 3: Paid Search Ads

The paid search ads sit atop of search engine results. Not only has Google increasingly become more pay-to-play, but it’s also becoming more top-heavy with ads that sit in the prime real estate that users see first in the results. The majority of retail-based searches are done on mobile devices, and when users conduct these searches, their entire screen is initially ads until they scroll further. In addition to this, Google is now showing ads in the first result on map packs, a microcosm of the search results as a whole.

Simply put: if you’re in a competitive industry and want traffic to your website in 2020, you need to do paid search.

Paid search advertising has a high level of complexity. It takes years for digital marketers to master the concepts and systems needed to maximize the opportunity. With that said, here are some tips for advertising retail stores using Google Ads:

  • Measure the return-on-ad-spend to ensure you’re achieving a positive return on your advertising investment. Optimize towards the keywords, devices, days of week, times of day, locations, and offers that prove to be most effective. 
  • Be smart about seasonality. Shift your budget to products or services that are more applicable to consumers in that moment. People buy tires when the weather turns bad, and lawn furniture when it’s warm and sunny. 
  • Utilize as many ad extensions as you can. Ad extensions make your ads stand out more to potential customers. The most important ad extensions are your location and phone extensions. Location extensions will assist in bringing people to your retail locations. This information will pull in from your GMB listing once you connect the two platforms together and will make your address clickable for easy navigation. 

Your presence on the search engine is key when a consumer starts their decision-making process. When executed correctly, all three of the territories on the SERP can work together to maximize the opportunity to drive foot traffic into your stores. If you’d like to learn more about owning the results on Google, download our extensive guide: The 3 Territories of the Search Engine Results Page That You Must Conquer as a Retailer.