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    EXPERT COLUMN: The Essential Consumer-acquisition Strategy

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    New research shows that 97 percent or more of consumers search online before making a local purchase. Therefore, it’s important for marketers to consider local search, especially for grocers that rely almost exclusively on local consumers. Local search has been, and will continue to be, an important resource for marketers to reach their customers.

    Sixty-four percent of local customers use online search engines and directories as their main way to find local business. Local SEO increases in-store sales by putting a business’ website, name and address in front of consumers at the moment they’re looking to make a purchase. Local SEO success can be broken down into three main categories: on-page SEO, local directory syndication and consumer reviews.

    On-page Optimization: Avoiding iFrame Location Finders

    On-page SEO accounts for almost 20 percent of the factors that influence local search ranking. Many businesses are underestimating the power of on-page optimization as part of their local and overall digital marketing strategies. In order to be successful and indexed by search engines, sites need to be optimized with detailed and accurate business contact and location information.

    Here are two examples of what grocers should avoid doing. First, when a location finder is housed within an iFrame, it is impossible for search engines to index local content. The other thing to avoid is a content management platform where all stores are listed by city or zip code. The most effective way to use on-page SEO for local search purposes is to give each location its own dedicated landing page. By adding dedicated local pages — each with a unique URL — search engines can crawl the content, which raises a brand’s visibility to get customers in the door more often.

    Search Engine and Directory Listings

    Local directory citations are a simple, effective way to improve your local search ranking. Citations are mentions of your business across directories. The more places your citation appears on the web, the more credibility is given to your business by the search engines. Some of the bigger providers include YellowBook, Yelp and CitySearch.

    Google, Yahoo and Bing all have their own versions of local listings, with similar search engine result visibility. Search engine listings must be wholly accurate to be effective, which means having addresses, business categories and descriptions that are consistent. If they’re not, it could negatively affect a grocer’s search ranking. When a grocer creates and maintains search engine and directory listings, such as Fry’s in the example below, it will help them show up in local search results and increase foot traffic.

    Consumer Reviews

    Search Engine Watch reports that 85 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Businesses with positive consumer reviews for things like helpful service, stocked items and low prices help entice shoppers to pick that store instead of a competitor. On the other hand, a negative review can not only affect your overall rating, but also cause you to lose traffic and a potential conversion.

    Grocers cannot force consumers to write positive reviews, but they can encourage reviews through in-store communication. (Google can sometimes negatively rank brands that actively seek for reviews through links directly to sites like Yelp). Having an active social media presence is one way to allow customers to share what they like, why they like it and encourage their friends to go there as well. Social media can also work as a way to control negative feedback.

    Stay Competitive with Local SEO

    Local SEO improves a brand’s search results and helps keep them at the top of rankings when shoppers are looking to decide where to spend their money. Remember every local SEO strategy must include:

    • On-page optimization
    • Search engine and directory listings
    • Consumer reviews

    By combining these strategies, grocers can make sure their locations are found during moment-of-interest connections—or at the very moment when a consumer is searching and ready to make a purchase—which ultimately will increase traffic to their locations. When combined with paid advertising and social media marketing, any grocer will see a huge benefit to putting time and effort into local SEO.

    Thomas Stern is SVP of client services for ZOG Digital, a leading search and social marketing company.
     

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