On the main street of a quiet town in the suburbs of Boston, tucked between a convenience store and a hair salon, there is a little shop—without any marketing team, SEO strategy, or real social media presence—called Johnny D’s.
Inside, the small space is lined with shelves overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables from surrounding farms. The checkout is a single counter with a mechanical register, cash only. And though most of Johnny’s products go for just a few dollars, his shop continues to do well because, as everybody in town will tell you, it’s the only place to go for produce.
Of course, every brand can’t be like Johnny’s. Some businesses just don’t carry the same inherent allure, or offer products that are appealing to such a broad swath of people. Others aren’t even common enough to talk about in everyday conversation. For brands like these, do local audiences matter at all?
Whether your consumer was born and raised in your area or is only visiting for the day, search has made it possible for anyone within walking/biking/driving distance of your store to become a potential lead, waiting to be turned into a buyer or lifelong customer. But in the same way your storefront competes with its neighbors for visibility, marketers now have to compete online to ensure their brands are the first to appear in search when it comes to curious local buyers. Is attracting locals to your business really worth the struggle?
Before you can dive into improving the digital visibility of your store (or stores) with local SEO, you’ll likely have to answer the dreaded question: what’s the expected return on investment?
Actually, demonstrating the value of local visibility online is pretty easy, so long as you’re able to do two things: determine a reasonable projection for the lifetime value of any given conversion, and segment out the portion of that value that comes from a storefront location (assuming people enter a store at some point in their lifetime as a customer).
Visibility for a storefront in your SEO strategy doesn’t just affect the number of people who come through your door—it plays a part in a symbiotic relationship for driving visibility and sales online. Customers looking to buy something online may be more likely to click to your website if Google returns images, location, and store info about one of your storefronts (making your brand considerably more visible on search engine results pages), while customers who arrive in your store due to a location-specific search might be convinced to buy something from your company online in the future. Determining value, as such, is just a matter of understanding when it is that people enter the store. If their first conversion after seeing a locale-based promotion happens in a store, then that customer’s whole lifetime value can be attributed toward ROI, while an eventual sale in store following digital purchasing might only contribute the revenue that was made in-store. In either case, there is a lot of room for return.
So the practice is valuable—great. But how do you actually make your brand’s storefronts visible?
Local SEO Guide’s ranking study from this year revealed that many of the factors that apply for traditional SEO strategy—clear and valuable content, keywords, and so on—still very much apply for local visibility. However, unlike traditional search, there is also a number of special services and tools that can help improve your local SEO ranking (and often your broader SEO as well).
Ultimately, the key to keeping your brand visible—both online and off—comes back to that small produce shop in a suburb of Boston. Johnny D’s has no website, no SEO strategy, no campaigning. But every person who walks into that shop is immediately struck by an experience that they can’t find anywhere else that sells produce. Good SEO can drive traffic, but your brand’s ability to retain people with powerful stories will always act as the perfect support to keep attracting additional visitors, generating reviews, and powering sales. And what better way to help your audience enter into your story than to build them a space and open the door?