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How SEO and SEM can Strengthen your Digital Store Brand Identity

Have you ever searched for something on the internet and found yourself looking at an entry on the 4th or 5th page? Me neither, who has the time?

There are several tasks a business can do to increase their websites rankings so they don’t end up in this position. Some of these tasks are free, meaning you won’t get a bill from a search engine while other tasks will cost you. The free tasks will take 3-6 months to see results, and depending on your technical comfort level, might end up getting farmed out anyway. If you choose the paid route results will be more immediate.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The process of affecting the online visibility of a website in a web search engine’s unpaid results.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM): The process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. Also referred to as “Paid Search”.

Common SEO task list: Most important; make sure your website is mobile friendly. Ask your web designer if your content is optimized with page titles, descriptions, keywords and ADA compliant. Look out for irregularities on monthly reports about your sites traffic. Do a search for your store and see what your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings are and what the entry looks like. Does the first sentence make sense? Keep in mind you can run free online tests on your own website’s url to see for yourself. Just do a search for one of the terms used in this paragraph and put “test” at the end. Make sure to claim and verify all of your locations on “Google my Business”.

Review and audit the content on every page of your website. Avoid repeating content on several pages. Audit your site’s content 1-2 times a year, especially in October so you’re ready for the holidays. Here are a few questions to ask yourself during your audit: Are my store hours and locations up to date? Have I added or discontinued any services to my store? Have I added or discontinued any product groups in my inventory? Have I changed companies for any of my store services? Do my photos include employees not working with us anymore? Do I have an up to date photo of my store front location/s? Are my party tray prices up to date? Have any of my promos expired? Are you partnering with other websites with links going to your website? Do they still work? Do you have current website links on all of your social media accounts? Have you asked any other websites to link to yours? Do you have any add on features to your website like a blog, video, podcast or email newsletter that you haven’t updated in over a month? If you don’t post updates using these services make sure to cancel and delete any links. Do you have any customer comments or questions that haven’t been addressed on your social media accounts?

SEM has grown with the amount of consumers researching and shopping for products online.

Common SEM task list: There are a few bits of information about your customers you might want to look up before you start. This can help you decide what kind of special you want to offer, and what kind of information you want your customers to learn about your business. If you have a rewards card, you can reach out to our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Specialist and ask for customer reports with data that can help you decide. A few basic customer reports would include: age, zip code, trip frequency, basket size, product selection and lost customers. You can also ask your customers what websites or Blogs they like to visit for information about food. The Food Network,  Cooking Light and The Pioneer Woman might be mentioned.

Use this data to decide what kind of offer or offers to use on your ads. For example, what if you want to focus on attracting new customers? With your store branding, include some bullet points about your store offerings and a link which takes you to a landing page where they can sign up for your email club and get an introductory offer bounce back email. Be careful when you entice your customer with an offer and make sure to follow through. Bait and switch offers can have a negative effect on your website ranking if people click on your ad then abandon your website immediately.

Types of SEM activities:

  • Paid search ads
  • Paid search advertising
  • PPC (pay-per-click)
  • PPC (pay-per-call) – some ads, particularly those served to mobile search users, may be charged by the number of clicks that resulted in a direct call from a smartphone.
  • CPC (cost-per-click)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)
  • SMM (social media marketing)

Most search ads are sold on a CPC/PPC basis, but some advertising options may also be sold on a CPM basis.

The most popular paid search platform is “Google Ads”. This is where you determine your key words or search phrase as well as the amount you are willing to spend (per click and/or per day). Keywords are constantly changing especially since the introduction of voice commands where questions are asked verbally. Text searches vs. voice searches can conjure up a whole new set of words. SEM can help you identify the most effective keywords and phrases to drive traffic to your site. Subsequently, you can use these keywords in SEO by peppering your website with them.

The advantages of SEM over SEO? You only pay for impressions that result in visitors to your website. SEM results are also immediate.

When working on your stores digital marketing budget it’s best to invest some time and money in both SEO and SEM. Both processes overlap and often complement each other in many ways to increase traffic to your website. If you are just starting out and have had a website for a year or more, it might pay off to start off with some SEO tasks because it takes more time to increase your website’s ranking, then start putting together your SEM campaign. If you have a new website it makes more sense to start up a PPC campaign then follow through with your SEO.

Why do I work at AWG? “It’s hard to find a native Kansan who doesn’t have family living in a small town community... and I am no exception. My family tree is full of farmers who have helped put food on our tables for over 100 years. So when I hear of a small town’s only grocery store closing down it hits home. Even though I now live in a big city, I like to know through my work I can help keep small independent grocery stores stay open for future generations to enjoy.” -Sharlyn