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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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Digital marketing: Multiple ways to engage with consumers online

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.19.38 AMThe marketing landscape continues to change, especially as more shoppers utilize online media. To capture the attention of these consumers retailers are strengthening their presence online through digital marketing.

So, what constitutes digital marketing? According to Marketo, a leader in marketing automation software, digital marketing refers to “advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps.”

While most retailers today have a digital marketing strategy that touches on a few of these channels, not all are aware of the different aspects of digital marketing.

Following are brief descriptions of some of the more common types of digital marketing.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
According to WordStream, PPC accounts for 64.6% of ad clicks. This type of digital advertising usually refers to the “sponsored result” on a search engine results page. It is flexible, visible and can be tailored to specific audiences. What’s more, a retailer only pays for the ad when it is clicked on.

Re-targeting
This aspect of digital marketing utilizes marketing automation tools to track how customers engage with a brand across multiple channels. Once that information is collected, retargeting allows the retailers to serve those customers personalized ads across multiple channels.

Search engine optimization (SEO)
According to Marketo, 67% of all clicks are from the first five listings on a results page. In addition, 71% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. When retailers use SEO they have the ability to increase the rank of their websites in online search results and site traffic by using popular words and phrases. In order for a website to increase its rank it must have valuable and engaging content, be well constructed, easy to use and have credibility.

Social media marketing
Many consumers are using social media to discover and research different brands. To run a successful social media campaign, experts say retailers should weave social elements into every aspect of their marketing. One of the keys to social media is the opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing. This allows content to be seen by a larger audience which could increase engagement. Some common social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Email marketing
According to Marketo, a successful email campaign must be engaging, informative and entertaining. It should also satisfy the following core attributes: trustworthy, relevant, conversational, strategic and be coordinated across channels.

Mobile marketing
Similar to social media, this channel has multiple options including SMS, MMS and in-app marketing. As consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices, it is crucial for retailers to participate in this channel. For consistency, mobile marketing should be coordinated across all digital platforms.

Marketing automation
This integral platform allows retailers to tie all of their digital marketing together. In addition to streamlining and automating marketing tasks, marketing automation also measures the results and ROI of a digital marketing campaign.

Many of these digital channels can be strengthened with a concrete content marketing strategy. Great content can aid SEO, social media, emails and paid search ads by inspiring and educating potential consumers.

Overall, retailers have a ton of digital marketing options available to them. Furthermore, there are a significant number of companies willing to assist retailers with digital strategies. With all these channels and resources available, now is the time to develop and execute an effective digital marketing program.

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Guest column: Adapting to survive in today’s changing world

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Vinnie Virga

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-20-42-pmOnce upon a time it was easy to be successful at marketing to consumers. You ran a great ad in the Sunday paper, came up with a really creative radio or TV spot, opened your doors and voila, it rained business.

The key to succeeding in today’s media-saturated world is a little different. In the past, if you did a good job, the customer told a couple of their friends and you got referrals. Conversely, if there was a problem you had the ability to work one on one with that customer to rectify any issues. Nowadays, if customers are unhappy they tell the world. More than ever, retailers need to understand demographics, segmenting and targeting and how to market on the web. At the same time, you need to be politically, gender, faith and race sensitive. These weren’t even thoughts you had to consider in the past.

Currently, if you don’t understand the alphabet soup of SEO, PPC, along with GeoFencing, GeoTargeting, re-targeting, brand positioning, e-commerce, visualization, social media, Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp, review aggregation and, of course, Google you’re not going to make it.

All these things need to be part of your brand’s strategy in some shape or form. You should know which to do vs. what you should avoid as well as how much to invest. If you don’t you’re already a dinosaur and your remaining time in the retail world may be limited.

Add to this mix the upside-down funnel of investment many retailers currently employ. This is where their first investment is in traditional media and their last investment entails money they free up or the leftovers toward the bottom of the funnel that they invest in digital. Even worse, as soon as things get a little tough some yank the digital investment altogether. Throw some competitors into the digital mix (i.e., Home Depot and Lowes) as well as Amazon, Wal-Mart and Wayfair.

If you run a small business, especially retail, you’ll find your world is changing at a faster rate each day. The only way to survive is by constantly adapting to keep pace with evolving consumers shopping habits. I know that you just want to sell products, but it’s just not that easy anymore.

So where do you start? It all starts with your web and social media presence. You need to begin by building—in layers—a well-devised digital strategy. Your website needs lots of hooks—basically bread crumbs that invite the customer to begin sharing data with you—in return for information that will help them. Throughout your site there should be easy ways for browsers to raise their hand and ask for service. Be sure to offer a digital product catalog with pictures of product that can be placed into a room scene so the customer can get an idea of what they will look like in their home.

Next you need to list your website so it shows up in online directories. Your phone number (which should be text enabled) and your business email on all the major directories. Ideally, you want a YEXT service, but if you are going to attempt to do this yourself you can get a free listing on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo Local, YP.com, Superpages, Merchant Circle, White pages and more.

Finally, be prepared to consistently monitor, adjust and tweak your online marketing strategy.

 

Vinnie Virga is managing partner and president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet and Floors & More buying group. His experience includes management of various CCA Global Partner retail groups, including Flooring America, and he is credited for developing a major flooring footprint in New England.

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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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Shaw Web Studio enhances website offerings

Dalton – Shaw Web Studio (SWS), Shaw Floors’ comprehensive retailer website program, in alignment with leading online marketing company Creating Your Space, has rolled out a premier SEO package featuring guaranteed search engine ranking presence. This new package makes it possible for flooring retailers across the nation and Canada to secure coveted online ranking space that encourages millions of consumers to start their buying process at a local flooring retailer.

“This is real performance, and we’re proud to provide it to our retailers,” said Misty Hodge, digital marketing manager. “The fact that we’re now offering guaranteed top ranking to flooring retailers, together with all our other industry-leading assets and technologies, truly allows them to have a strong presence everywhere the consumer shops.” Continue reading Shaw Web Studio enhances website offerings

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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?

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How to rank higher on the search engines

by Josh Hoffman

I am often asked, “What can I do on my own to improve my rankings on the search engines?” The answer, quite simply, is organic search engine optimization (SEO). Organic SEO is the process you go through to obtain a natural placement ranking on search engines, hopefully page one.  Continue reading How to rank higher on the search engines

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Creating Your Space expands online marketing

SAUSALITO, CALIF.—How does a leading custom website provider to the flooring industry drive more leads for its dealers? Creating Your Space (CYS) is showing how with the launch of its expanded online marketing services. Continue reading Creating Your Space expands online marketing