The Real Goal of SEO: Location!
Business success is all about location, location, location!
So you have opened your store, purchased all the merchandise, bought fixtures, hired friendly staff and put a nice big sign up on your door with your logo and an open sign. But nobody shows up. What happened? Well it turns out that people just cannot find your store. You are on the side of a desolate road in the middle of nowhere.
In so many cases, the need to create a beautiful, well designed site trumps the need to build a site that can be found. While the design and usability of a site is certainly of paramount importance, the need to be found should be more so. Think of the first three rules of retail…location, location, location. The need to have traffic come to your location is arguably the most important factor of all.
Here are some ways to think about basic rules of SEO in terms of retail location.
Find the traffic – One of the first steps to determining a good location is to find out where the traffic is. In this case, we have Google’s External Keyword Tool to help us. Make a list of the most important keywords to your business and find those that have the right combination of high traffic and (relatively) low competition. Contrary to the belief in brick and mortar retail where you want to be near your competition, there are instances in search when it is better to steer clear of the most competitive keywords online.
Provide directions – Your store might be big, with lots of departments or may have interesting nooks and crannies. It is important to make sure that the search engines have a roadmap to your store in the form of a XML sitemap. Make sure your XML sitemap is an exact match of your site, down to the capitalization of the URLs. It is also important to monitor the indexation level of your XML sitemap to ensure that the search engines have an accurate snapshot of your store (do that with Google’s Webmaster Tools and Bing’s Webmaster Tools). If there are pages that are not indexed, it is very unlikely they will be seen in search results.
Make sure the sign says “open” – We Have seen so many cases where simple technical mistakes dramatically impact traffic. In one case, we saw one of our client’s competitors accidentally no index their entire site after a redesign, killing their ability to show up in search. It has been three months and they are still recovering.
In thinking about the online location of your business remember these three lessons; traffic, directions, open. Make sure your business is earning all it can be by getting basic search elements in place.
If you have questions about any of these elements – or more advanced search strategies let me know in the comments.