This winter, I enjoyed time on the road engaging firsthand with many home furnishings retailers. At the FMG Symposium, Top 100 retailers talked strategy, while Las Vegas Market buzzed with energy. Casual furniture retailers at the ICFA Educational Conference networked with one another. The stories of the current retail market have a consistent thread, regardless of the many differences among individual retailers. What became apparent from these conversations is that retailers need to look at their customer journey holistically to keep up with dynamic shoppers.
One question I heard often was how to attract new customers. While I am a firm believer in testing advertising and diversifying your marketing mix, a digital presence today is of the utmost importance. One of the best areas a retailer can invest in is their website and digital marketing strategy. Sometimes that’s a financial investment, but often it’s a time commitment to keep up with strong SEO practices. It’s nothing new that the first place customers go to research retail establishments is Google. What is always changing, however, is how to stay at the top of Google rankings. Here are 5 key SEO trends for 2019:
- Mobile 1st – Google’s Mobile 1st Index is critical to optimize around. Do you know what percentage of your website traffic occurs on a phone or tablet? First, check your site with “Think with Google’s Test My Site.” Every second it takes your site to load on a phone, a percentage of your hard-earned traffic bounces off your site. This tool not only provides a benchmark site speed but also provides tactical suggestions to enhance your website.
- Featured Snippets – When a user searches for a question on Google, answer boxes give prominence to the chosen result on a Search Engine Results Page. While this might be appreciated as a user of the internet, as a business it poses a challenge. Now we have to be number 1 in rankings and we must earn the Featured Snippet. This is especially important because this is the answer often read by Alexa, Siri, and Google Home during a voice search. When a challenge arises, the best thing to do is break it down into smaller steps. Audit live SERP results of your top keywords and see what Featured Snippets are available for you to earn. Next, write content to help you gain the coveted box for your most important keywords.
- Schema Mark Up- Google continues to fine-tune how it learns about your business. Using Schema Mark Up is a great way to easily feed Google the data it wants. Hosting a promotional event or looking to highlight strong product reviews? Tell Google explicitly through mark up code they can easily showcase in their search results.
- Local Search Results – Local search gives every business a chance to lead in their own markets. The information available in your Google business sidebar is growing in both the level of detail, available information types, and imagery available to the customer. Make sure to optimize the content seen here because it’s often the cover your book is judged by. Further, Google is surveying customers to populate this information, therefore ensuring a good customer experience will promote positive reviews of your public profile later.
- Unique Content Marketing – One of the challenges retailers face is how to differentiate their site when they sell products available elsewhere in the market. In other words, how do you communicate to Google that your site is worth a top spot and how do you convince customers to purchase from you? It’s important to add content to your site that isn’t about the products and that is unique to your business only. From a local perspective, focus on pages that instill a sense of community, showcase design work you’ve done in your local market, and discuss charitable initiatives. Determine an educational piece you can create a following with.
Digital marketing is a key step to winning over new customers and building a holistic customer journey. SEO is a constant learning experience. I recommend reviewing further advice from the experts at Moz’s in their 14 SEO Predictions for 2019, a worthwhile read for any retailer.
Written by Caitlin Jascewsky. Caitlin writes STORIS’ educational content and manages STORIS.com, focusing on how retailers can use technology to enhance their customer experience. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Caitlin worked in retail for 7 years before joining STORIS.