Long live the local store!

Let me tell you a little story about local SEO:

Are you one of those people (like myself) who’s basically stopped shopping at the mall? Do you use department stores more like fitting rooms, and then do your actual transactions online? Shops in malls are expensive and I don’t particularly like stressed crowds of people and screaming kids.

For us guys, it’s rather easy to do clothes shopping online. Most e-commerce sites and Amazon deliver your stuff fast and cheap. Free delivery is often within in 2 days and includes free return if something doesn’t fit.

I am a signed up to many retail email lists so I can get frequent updates on sales. If I want something, I’m definitely not paying full price. Luckily, there seems to be a sale event every other week! This is handy for me because I do have “expensive taste.” I don’t shop at H&M or Old Navy.

But on the other hand, I am the type who is a sucker for a good deal. I go to Marshalls if I know I can get $10 Under Armour Tri-Blend Underwear for crossfit, and I am sure as hell not paying $250 for a pair of G-Star jeans.

So how do you get these deals?

One important factor is patience. Never act on impulse. (Although I am impulsive with smaller things that I want or need straight away.) The price will go down sooner rather than later.  What I do is that I hold off and I wait for a sale. I’ll eventually get that email for say, Nordstrom 50% off or for Flash Sales at JCrew etc. That’s how I end up paying $100 for $300 Cole Haan Oxford Shoes and $90 for a pair of $250 G-Star Jeans.

Needless to say, our waist-sizes change. Sometimes for the worse sometimes for the better! I prefer my clothes always on point in size. I like well fitting jeans and slim t-shirts. Size is something that differs with models and I personally tend to jump up and down from a 33 to 34 waist.

This is where the mall comes in. I go there to try on different brands, fits and sizes, to test a neck size, is it 16.5 or 17? Then I go home and order it cheaper somewhere online. I know that I’m not alone.

My point is that stores are not stores in the way they used to be and sometimes it doesn’t end well. For instance, most recently Sports Authority went out of business.

Case in point: My girlfriend power walks. She began complaining about pain in her feet from her workout. I have been a runner and also have had experience with injuries or sore feet. The first step I took was to go to a running/marathon store to talk to an expert in running shoes. The marathon shoe store let me take off my shoes and have me run on a treadmill to see the stance of my feet while I was running. From this recommended a pair of shoes for me with support in the right places and created a personal molded insole. (Luckily this has gotten slightly cheaper since 2002.)  I suggested to my girlfriend that she find a store that specializes in running shoes.

The problem was that we didn’t know of one close to where we live. She took to the classic Google search but was hard pressed to find anything. Google suggested shops in malls but mall stores sell shoes intended for the general public and not specifically for serious runners, or walkers in this case.

Not to be a sport shoe snob but employees at ShoeSource tend to know less about long-distance running shoes than an employee in a store that only sells equipment for marathon runners.

I live in a fairly affluent neighborhood in Miami where people not only have money but also the dedication to seek out specialty stores for their interests such as cigars, bikes and ridiculously expensive watches. You get the point. Most importantly they are willing to pay good money for what they want.

I think that it is possible for smaller stores and that local businesses to survive with the right niche for the people living in the neighborhood but I see too many businesses fail since they haven’t done market or demographic research.

I believe that in the future shops will have to be experts or specialize in a certain group of clients to succeed as a store (unless your name starts with Star and ends with Bucks and is every white girl’s heaven with their crappy, overpriced coffee).

I have been working with SEO marketing since 2005 and it’s been my bread and butter ever since. Over the last couple of years, I often get the question about how to rank high in Google for highly competitive Search terms. People do not realize this but if you are looking to repair your phone, you will not type in “iphone” in Google as a search term. The average Google search query is 5 words and might be more like “cheap Iphone glass replacement [LOCATION] ”

Google has a great feature called Google Businesses. (You know that little map and address that pops up when you Google “italian restaurant” for instance?).

To have a listing there and to be among the top 3 (referred to as the Snack Pack) gives your business substantial exposure and it’s free!

This type of website “optimization” is called local SEO and is A LOT easier than to rank for say “shoe repair Miami” and also much easier than regular SEO where we typically do keyword research, On-Site SEO, link building and ongoing blogging.

Local SEO is a thing that’s grown huge within the last few years, as Google has become more and more sophisticated (*cough* spying on exactly what you do, what you like and where you live). To take advantage of this there are a few tricks that you can follow or hire someone to help you with.

Back to the shoe store: We eventually did find a shop. I decided to speak with the manager to offer him some help. I gave him a few hints. Since his niche isn’t too competitive in our neighborhood, I managed to get him listed through some citation building within 24 hours.

Now I’m going to tell you what I told him:

Step 1: Verify your business in Google. This takes approximately 5 days. You receive a letter in the mail.

Step 2: Start getting citations (name of business, address and contact) on local directories.

Step 3: If you still aren’t in the top 3, ask happy customers to write Google reviews about their experience.

I gave these hints to the store owner since I was very pleased with his service and helpfulness. He was a small business owner and he did what he knew best: running. He is a former athlete. My girlfriend was very happy with the difference in her workouts even though I heard some complaining about design and color. Afterwards I received a letter from the store owner saying that he was very pleased to be ranking #2 in a Google search.

Another example is of a conversation that I had with Joseph, my local shoe repair man. He asked about my work, SEO, Google and how his business could benefit from SEO. He wanted to rank #1 for the term “shoes”. My answer was immediately: YOU CAN’T! AND YOU SHOULDN’T!

The first page in Google is totally dominated by big brands such as Nike, Asics and Caterpillar boots.

Typically, my suggestion is to let an SEO client take their time and figure out what makes their business unique. This is often referred to as finding Micro Niches. They’re keywords without too much competition and better converting to website visitors.

Another thing that I have incorporated is to make sure that the Local SEO is on spot. If you are a small/medium business who wants to optimize your potential then I suggest looking into Local SEO yourself. If you don’t have the time for that talk to somebody initiated.

Conclusion: I think that local stores will live since they have a unique value offering. I also think that malls have to realize the impact of e-commerce and adapt!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *