How Search Engines Can Help Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Compete in the Digital Marketplace

E-commerce has changed the retail landscape irreversibly, creating intense competition for traditional mom-and-pop footwear stores. But by taking a page from the digital players, storeowners can help level the playing field. And the first step is through savvy online strategies, according to Steve Ryan, founder and CEO of Rytech LLC, a digital marketing consultancy.

At the National Shoe Retailers Association conference in Las Vegas today, Ryan offered executives actionable steps to boost their results on search engines, which he noted are vitally important in the consumer world these days. “There are about 167 billion searches online per month, and 93 percent of online experiences originate with a search,” he said.

The tactic with the most immediate results is PPC (or pay-per-click) advertising on search engines, which places a company’s website at the top of a results page for a fee. Ryan advised that PPC is most beneficial for retailers that are new, have new offerings, want immediate results from a sale or promotion, or are dealing with brutal competition.

Before laying out the cash, though, he suggests that stores spend time researching the costs: for instance, the fee per click, the click-through rate and the cost per conversion. And retailers should also examine their own website, to make sure they are advertising landing pages that are most worthwhile for shoppers.

But, Ryan said, “if you are trying to just raise awareness for your business, then paid advertising won’t be as valuable. It’s best to use it for companies with e-commerce.”

Instead, a useful strategy for awareness-building is search engine optimization to improve organic online traffic.  While Ryan emphasized that SEO is a long-term commitment — “expect a six- to 12-month lag before you see results” — it is budget-friendly and has lasting effects.

One easy step to improve a site’s organic search is to build more backlinks, or hyperlinks to and from other websites, which help build your domain credibility and give search engines a vote of confidence. Another step is to flesh out the meta titles for each page on your site. “Make sure you are optimizing with the right key words,” suggested Ryan.

Finally, blog posts on a website can help boost search results because they establish a company’s authority on a subject and generate more backlinks if other sites link to your post. However, quality matters, said Ryan. “One great article is better than 10 so-so ones,” he said. “If you don’t have content as part of your online strategy, include it at least in a small fashion, even if it’s just one good post per month.”

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