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Digital marketing: Retailers sharpen search optimization strategies

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It should come as no surprise that today’s consumers start their purchasing journey online. Many use search engines, social media, company websites, review platforms and online advertisements to obtain more information about products—or retailers, for that matter—so they are better positioned to make a purchasing decision long before they enter the store.

To get noticed flooring dealers must have an online presence—and a strong one at that.

While creating and running a digital marketing program takes time, it is absolutely worth it, say those who are successful at it. For dealers who might lack the time or knowledge to successfully run a digital marketing campaign, there are options available, including help from digital marketing companies.

Following are several tried-and-true techniques that successful dealers have employed in their respective digital marketing campaigns.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.30 AMKelley DeCesaro, digital brand strategist
Star Lumber, Wichita, Kan.
“We continue to work on our SEO and SEM strategies, backed by quality website content and helpful online tools for our customers. We find we get the most lead generation from our PPC plan because we can direct them to a landing page that fits their project needs and prompts them to make an in-store appointment. Customers engage with us and hear our brand voice through social media. Social media is also a great way to push out information about our sales and services. Most of our social interactions are gained through our lighter, human-interest posts, but those interactions boost our profile presence, making it more likely for our customer to see our promotional posts. We utilize boosted posts and ads on social sites to increase our digital presence.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.35 AMMeaghan Karn, director of marketing
Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Digital marketing is essential in today’s business. We know customers are beginning the search online so we work very hard to make sure we are there when they are ready to buy. We use a combination of all the digital marketing methods—pay-per-click, SEO, social media, email, remarketing, etc. Each customer is at a different part of her journey and each one of those methods allows us to offer information about our products and services that are tailored to her needs.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.41 AMKevin Rose, president and owner
Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.
“Digital marketing is very important and becoming more significant on a daily basis as even the 50-plus generation is moving to digital. We have hired professionals who know the market to teach us and direct our funds to the appropriate areas. We focus on SEO, pay-per-click, etc.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.47 AMMary Ann Gore, office manager
Bridgeport Carpets, Alpharetta, Ga.
“Digital marketing is very important to us. When customers are ready to purchase, they generally use either a computer or smart phone for their research. It’s helpful if they can just pull up our website and determine whether we have the item. We utilize a digital agency to handle our website. It specializes in online marketing, so we are able to just focus on customers. We also have a Facebook page. The avenues we typically utilize for digital marketing are website, pay-per-click, social media and email.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.53 AMAdam Joss, co-owner
The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md.
“Digital marketing is critical to our business. It is how people are researching and shopping today. Specifically for big-ticket items, people are researching online before they go shopping in the store or contact the store. If you’re not contacting people online you’re losing the game before you even start. Websites, pay-per-click, SEO, email marketing and social media are all important. We also use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.59 AMNick Freadreacea, president
The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky.
“There is a plethora of options available, and the media outlets are driving people to their online presence. When we meet with reps for TV or radio, all they want to talk about is their online options for advertising. We are not that tech savvy but we have been trying new ideas for the past several years. We recently revamped our website and are consistently changing keywords to keep up with the changes that Google makes. It is an ongoing process to tweak their algorithms on what moves a site up the page.

“We also have pages on Facebook and Twitter; we were a Pro on Houzz for several years and just began an Instagram account. We also ran with Angie’s List for a couple of years, but that did not bring us viable clients as most were interested in labor only or strictly the lowest price. There is a fine balance as to what is ‘image’ on a social media site and what actually drives a consumer to your store for a purchase.”

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SEO: How to boost search rankings to generate traffic

August 31/September 7; Volume 30/Number 6

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 4.52.15 PMSearch engine optimization, commonly known as SEO, has become increasingly important as consumers look to Google, Bing and other search engines to assist in online shopping research. With the number of consumers conducting Internet research before buying—the percentage is steadily rising to 100%—it is imperative for businesses to improve their search rankings to reach these shoppers.

For those just becoming familiar with Internet search, SEO is the process that helps a website’s visibility, maximizing the number of visitors to the site by ensuring it appears high on the list of results generated by a search engine.

Big boxes like Lumber Liquidators and Lowe’s may seem to have a leg up because of inbound links (links connecting one page to another), a large amount of content and a significant customer base, but thankfully SEO has progressed over time and is no longer dependent on volume. What is paramount today is which site is most relevant to the user.

“Websites that appear on the first page for Google targeted keyword terms receive the majority of the search traffic,” explained John Weller, vice president of marketing for Floor Force, which specializes in website development and online marketing for flooring retailers. “None of the search engines will give you a good ranking just because you have launched a great website. It takes continuous editing and adding of relevant content to your website….”

A listing on the first page of Google is the goal for most businesses, but it is often difficult to maintain this status due to continuing developments in the marketplace and ongoing Internet efforts. “The No. 1 thing is the recognition that [search] changes every week—really every day,” said Jay Flynn, vice president, sales and marketing, Creating Your Space, an online marketing program for flooring retailers. “It’s not just that the search engines are changing algorithms, but your competition is also changing what they do every day, so you have to react to everything that’s going on in your marketplace. SEO is still by far the leading source of consumers going to a website.”

Flooring America offers its members the G1 program, which helps rankings on Google’s first page, therefore generating more local leads. The group provides organic and paid search initiatives that help member microsites managed by Flooring America get positioned on page one of Google search results.

For retailers working without a group or online marketing company, some simple strategies can be implemented in order to gain an edge over the competition. According to Entrepreneur magazine’s article “5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Giants in SEO,” these techniques can easily be integrated into any dealer’s businesses.

1.Specialize in a niche. Focusing on keywords that reflect a store’s areas of expertise help create greater visibility to customers who are specific with their searches (usually reflecting they are ready to buy).

2.Engage in a long-tail keyword strategy. Long-tail keywords are extended phrases Google looks for, such as “the perfect carpet for kids and pets.” Ranking highly for long-tail keywords is easier than ranking high for shorter keywords. While long-tail keywords may bring in less traffic, they end up being more valuable for small, specialized businesses.

3.Leverage locality for optimization. Targeting a local audience is becoming increasingly important, and ultimately helps smaller businesses beat competition (even larger stores). Retailers should focus on gaining local reviews on sites such as Yelp, getting involved in community events and generating hyper-local content based on what is trending in a specific area (“wood-look tile in South Florida”).

4.Personalize social engagement. The more followers a business has on social media, and the more frequent and relevant the posts on these platforms, the higher the Google ranking. Being small and personalized gives an edge of a closer relationship with consumers.

5.Become a recognized, authoritative content publisher. Quality and consistency are keys to this strategy. Each piece of content published—blogs, videos, webinars, etc.—helps maximize a business’ ROI. Dealers that remain consistent with a content schedule become reliable experts.

Mohawk is one manufacturer that puts much time and effort into SEO, both for the company itself and its dealer partners. Overall, Mohawk stresses long-tail keywords and social media strategies, but it has also developed programs and practices for retailers that focus on online content, mobile website optimization and social interaction on a broader basis.

Fresh content on the web is important, and is delivered to consumers via company websites and digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Mohawk “constantly pushes out fresh content for retailers to use,” the company said. Integrated into that content are the keywords that will help in search ranking. “It’s important to not just talk about product; consumers want to know about care tips, trends, [interior design], etc., as well as general flooring content.”

Mobile website optimization has become paramount as Google has started to penalize sites that have not been optimized for mobile devices. Mobile-friendly pages are ranked higher in Google search than those that are not. According to Mohawk, 94% of U.S. smartphone users search for localized information on their phones. Neighborhood flooring stores should do everything they can to become responsive (formatted for desktop and mobile) to stay high in specialized searches.

Social interaction on all channels also helps boost SEO. It is now more important than ever before for retailers to connect, but it is key to create a “web of connections.” A dealer’s site should provide links to its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., to provide more exposure.

When approaching SEO and improving search engine rankings (particularly on Google), Weller encourages dealers to remember the following:

  • Google rewards websites that frequently add quality, thematic content.
  • Google frequently changes its algorithms to keep website owners on their toes, providing newer updated results each time a user searches.
  • SEO that is done directly on a website (onsite optimization) contributes to approximately 40% of where Google will rank a site. Offsite SEO such as directory listings, thematic back links and social media sharing can now attribute up to 60% of a Google ranking.
  • Spending time and money to add SEO to a poorly structured website is not likely to produce better results.
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What is SEO and why is it critical to your retail flooring business?

Volume 26/Number 17; January 7/14, 2013

By John Weller Jr.

Most flooring retailers today are aware of the immediate need to have a great website and how it keeps their retail flooring stores relevant to today’s consumers. What seems to be less understood is the importance of ongoing SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or Internet marketing, to drive high-quality traffic to a high-quality website.

Fact No. 1: Having a great website without ongoing Internet marketing is the same as having a great showroom without ongoing advertising. Continue reading What is SEO and why is it critical to your retail flooring business?