Table of Contents
Prepping for the holiday season takes a lot of work, but the health of your digital presence is essential to maximize sales to local customers, whether they’re online, Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS), curbside, or in-store. In this article, we’ll delve into several aspects of optimizing your digital presence, including your local listing, location page optimization, top ranking factors and other SEO considerations for your website.
Last August, 2022 I spoke as a panelist at RioSEO’s webinar for Mastering Local Holiday Marketing: Top Strategies For Seasonal Success in 2022, providing these and other tips, which is now available on-demand.
Local Business Statistics to Inform Your 2023 Holiday Strategy
- 2022 holiday sales: Retail sales in the United States during the 2022 holiday season grew 5.3% year-over-year to $936.3 billion.
- Ecommerce: Ecommerce sales during the 2022 holiday season grew 12% year-over-year to $236 billion.
- In-store sales: In-store sales during the 2022 holiday season grew 5.9% year-over-year to $699.3 billion.
- Projections for 2023: The NRF is forecasting retail sales to grow between 4% and 6% in 2023. This would be below the 5.3% growth rate in 2022, but still above the pre-pandemic average annual retail sales growth rate of 3.6%.
Some of the key local business trends that are expected to move local services and drive retail sales in 2023 include:
- The rise of omnichannel retail: Consumers are increasingly shopping across channels, and retailers that can provide a seamless shopping experience will be at an advantage.
- The growth of e-commerce: E-commerce is expected to continue to grow in 2023, and retailers need to have a strong online presence in order to compete.
- The importance of customer experience: Retailers need to focus on providing a great customer experience in order to win and retain customers.
Setting Up and Managing a Black Friday Deals Page
If you’re one of the many companies looking to avoid the big (c)rush after Thanksgiving and extend the holiday savings by a couple of weeks or to the entire month of November, there are a few things you’ll want to put in place.
Your website needs to be ready for the increase in mobile searches and search demand for Black Friday and deals queries. Looking at search results over the last five years of Google Trends data, the search behavior has been fairly consistent.
Search demand for local listings for keywords “Black Friday deals” dramatically rises in the last week of October; however, for the last two years, search demand has started to increase in mid-October. So, what does this mean for your website? If you don’t yet have a Black Friday deals page, consider publishing one at the beginning of October to give it at least a couple of weeks to get indexed and for search engines to have enough time to understand the internal links on your site to this new page.
Most companies can’t or don’t want to publish their Black Friday deals that early, so consider publishing an upcoming/placeholder page to get it indexed. You can start to promote your Black Friday deals page on social media early to start building interest and include a newsletter/announcement form to collect email addresses or phone numbers so you can reach out to customers when the deals go live.
Use an Evergreen URL Strategy
If you have a Black Friday page from previous years, consider an evergreen URL strategy. Because you will probably have Black Friday deals every year, you want to manage this page carefully. Avoid publishing a new page on a new URL each year because each new page means starting from scratch from an SEO perspective, and you’ll be missing out on all the prior links that have been built to prior pages.
The last thing you want is Google surfacing a prior year’s deals page because it has a wealth of external links, but when landing on the page, deals are out of date or unavailable, content is missing, or links and images are broken. I’ve seen this happen!
I recommend maintaining a URL and updating the content as needed, so all the links from prior years continue to be consolidated to a single URL. If you have prior pages that include the year in the URL, then redirect those to a new evergreen URL and stay with that URL going forward.
Vanity URLs and Redirects
If you use a vanity URL, make sure the page uses a 302 redirect to maintain the vanity URL in the same search- engine results. If it does a 301 redirect to the new page, then the vanity URL will be replaced with the page it redirects to. This means that any inbound links have a higher likelihood of going to the landing page instead of being pointed to the vanity URL. In this scenario, we always want to consolidate links to a single URL rather than spread them out across multiple pages.
Ideally, you should avoid redirects to make sure that all incoming links point to a single URL and accumulate over the years.
Updating Your Google Business Profile
Recently, Google has introduced a feature that allows owners to update their business profile from within the search results, circumventing the need to use the Google Business Profiles manager. There are many small businesses that don’t regularly log into Google Business Profiles, let alone keep their information updated, so Google is trying to make this easier. This shows that Google understands there’s still a lot of missing company information out there, and after reading this post, you might find some opportunities to update your own company’s listing.
It’s critical to ensure your profile is accurate and up to date because when I look at the Google Insights data across our client base, I see that on average only about 5 percent of the views a profile receives will result in an action–a phone call, request for directions, or website visit.
This implies that approximately 95 percent of people viewing your company on Google will only use the information they find there to research your company and decide whether to visit your store. Consider your own searching habits: how many times have you clicked on one of those actions on the profiles of local business listings you’ve found on Google Maps?
Below is a list of things you need to update or add to your profile:
Local Business Contact Details
- Ensure the hours of operation and contact info are 100 percent correct.
- Make sure you’ve added any holiday closures in the special hours section
- Take advantage of all the relevant attributes, even if they don’t yet show up in the listing. (You never know when they will start showing up in a future update, or how Google may use them to personalize recommendations.)
- Feel free to use UTM or other tracking parameters on the website URL to track activity in your web analytics software in order to build more reporting insights on pre- and post-visit activity.
- Add any another available links, such as an Appointment Link. Note that depending upon your type of business, different options will be available
- Make sure your profile photo is current, represents your business properly and has curbside appeal.
- Include multiple external photos taken from the directions people will travel from.
- Add fresh interior photos to show off your product selection.
- Audit customer-submitted photos and remove any that are irrelevant or could harm the image of your store.
- Hire a professional photographer who can make your store look amazing. They can also make various in-post edits to remove distractions. Be sure to account for this in your marketing budget on an annual basis.
If you need to update your profile photo, be sure to read my other blog post on how to optimize your Google Business Profile photo, which contains more detailed tips on lighting, composition, and how to avoid distractions as well as some example photos.
You can add some products to your profile that will appear in your profile in local searches and search results pages, however, be aware that this is a static list and needs to be added manually to each profile. There is no ability to upload a feed or automate this. Hey Google: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could flag products in our merchant feed to appear here? For most retail operations, this will be too much to manage, especially as pricing and availability changes often, so you may need to pick some stable and high priority products to be shown here.
Consider making your business description relevant for the holiday season. Once the holiday shopping season is over, you can revert it to your evergreen description. Include the major departments and shopping categories and how people can get notified of the latest deals. Think of it as marketing copy instead of a corporate “about us” statement.
Keep your local audience well updated by taking advantage of Google posts to promote your holiday specials. They’re now positioned way below the fold, so they don’t get as much activity as they used to, but they are still worth using for the holiday shopping season.
Google Ratings and Reviews
Check your local community or business online for reviews and respond to the negative ones. People feel reassured if a company representative is reaching out publicly to resolve any issues. Check out our post on the dos and don’ts of responding to online reviews here.
Start generating positive ratings and Google reviews now. Because ratings are one of the primary ranking factors for Google Maps, they will help when demand surges later. Ideally, we recommend trying to get a rating of four stars or above. But don’t game the system to get a five-star rating; it can look awfully suspicious to potential customers, and Google can easily detect people trying to game ratings and reviews.
Questions and Answers
Add Q&As to explain how your company handles holiday schedules, pricing, availability, shipping, delivery, returns, etc. These can be added proactively to head off some of those common sales and customer service questions.
Updating Your Store’s Location Page for Local Search Results
Your store’s location page is another key element to your next local search marketing SEO strategy and will generally receive traffic from three main sources:
- Your Google Business Profile
- Organic results
- Your website’s store locator/search function
In each case, people mainly want to verify contact information and hours of operation, but you can add more value to this page, as it very often represents that person’s localized experience with your company. Below is a list of items you want to update or add to optimize this page for search to make it relevant and helpful for local searches.
Contact Info Essentials
- Ensure core contact info is 100 percent correct and consistent with your Google Business Profile.
- Include a link back to your profile on Google Maps.
- If your location is remote and you know people often have difficulty finding it, consider adding the latitude and longitude.
- List hours and holiday closures in an easy-to-read format. The best practice is to list each day of the week with the corresponding hours. Other enhancements might include using CSS to highlight the current day to make it even easier for people to find.
- If you need to add hours for other departments, like a customer service department, make sure those are also accurate and kept up to date.
- Ensure the location page includes relevant and accurate schema markup, as this helps the search engines better understand the important content on the page.
- The location page must be mobile friendly; there are rarely any exceptions to this.
- Ensure that the page loads quickly for mobile devices. If someone is on a mobile connection, they will have very little patience if they must wait for your page to load.
- If you’re on a cloud service, temporarily increase server resources to prevent the site from slowing down from sudden traffic spikes. You cannot afford for your site to become unbearably slow or unavailable.
- Regularly test your location pages’ uptime and functionality:
- Use uptime monitoring software and make sure someone sees the alerts.
- Test to ensure email sign-up forms work.
- Test to ensure all navigation and body copy links work.
- Test to ensure the site search works.
- Test to ensure all on-page interactions work properly.
- As well as updating the Google Business Profiles photo, make sure the store photos on the location page are also updated.
- Make sure the critical contact information is above the fold; that giant hero image or scrolling banner is best avoided on location pages.
- Add the holiday promotions and, if possible, make them relevant to the store/region.
- If you have a separate specials landing page, link to that. Use the location page to showcase some examples, then link to the specials landing page so people can see the full list.
- Add text/SMS or email sign-up functionality so customers can be notified when new deals are published.
- Add an FAQ section. You can leverage your customer service team to get an idea of the most frequently asked questions; they will be delighted to have customers’ questions answered online and to reduce call volume. If you add this content, use FAQ schema markup, which might also enhance your organic listing.
- Link to recent and relevant blog posts. If you use WordPress, this can potentially be automated by having a code module on the location page that ingests and filters your blog’s RSS feed.
- If you use social channels to promote specials, give that prominence on the page. Provide supporting messaging. Don’t just add the social icon—give them a reason to follow you.
- Add content to support the brands and product categories that are being promoted to support non-brand traffic—and preferably localize it. You probably don’t want to promote winter coats for your Arizona store.
- If you have multiple locations within a region, add links to other stores nearby. People travel to see friends and family during the holidays, so knowing there are other stores nearby is also helpful.
- Consider including friendly directions, for example, “Take Exit 3 from I-270, and we’re the first driveway on the left.” Be sure to include other helpful tips, such as local construction or rerouting.
- Consider mentioning amenities such as free parking, wheelchair-accessible parking, or curbside delivery to mirror some of the attributes in the Google profile.
- Consider adding affiliations and discounts such as military and veteran discounts.
- If you have a charity donation/contribution, be sure to also mention that, as it has been shown to increase sales/conversions.
- Google has a store visits report in Google Analytics, but if you’re not part of that program, consider using store-specific coupons and tracking redemptions rates. This will require working with multiple teams to integrate into your Point-of-Sale system and other marketing technology systems, but this can provide additional reporting insights and help increase customer lists.
Local SEO Considerations
SEO practitioners need to prepare for the inevitable code freezes that will happen during these high-demand time periods, so they need to get all their recommendations approved and submitted in time. Content and web developers will likely be facing a large number of updates from other departments during this time, so be prepared to prioritize, justify your recommendations, and, if necessary, compromise. If the perfect solution takes too many resources to implement, maybe an alternative that gets you 80 percent of the way there is optimal for the business.
Other Platforms to Consider for Local SEO
The bulk of this article has mainly focused on Google Business Profiles, which power the Knowledge Panel and Google Maps. But don’t ignore other platforms like Apple and Bing Maps. Although these platforms don’t offer quite as many features and capabilities as Google, they should be updated with at least the essential NAPW info (Name, Address, Phone, and Website) and business hours. Your business is also going to be listed on many other business directories, and sites, such as Facebook, Yelp, Citypages, Yellowpages, and hundreds of others, and ideally, you will want all these sites to have the correct and up-to-date information. Be aware that not all of the platforms have direct API connectivity into these sites, and many will require you to log in and manually edit the information.
If you have multiple locations, don’t underestimate the time it will take to update all the platforms. If you already use a location management platform, be aware that as much as we love these services for their direct API connectivity and automation features, your overall local search performance and business digital presence usually needs a lot more hand-holding than what these services can provide alone. Vizion offers Local SEO Services for chains and franchises, and Local Listing Management services that complements these platforms by providing the strategy and insights to increase your local digital presence.
Additional Successful Local SEO Strategy Tips
- Make sure your Google Business Profile listing is optimized for voice search. More and more people are using voice search to find businesses, so it’s important to make sure your Google Business Profile listing is optimized for this. This means using natural language keywords in your title, description, and other fields.
- Create a holiday-specific Google Business Profile campaign. Google Business Profile campaigns allow you to promote your business to people who are searching for businesses like yours in your area. You can create a campaign that targets specific keywords, such as “Christmas shopping near me” or “holiday deals.”
- Use social media to promote your holiday sales and specials. Social media is a great way to reach people who are interested in your business and who are likely to be searching for local businesses during the holidays. Make sure to post about your holiday sales and specials on your social media channels, and encourage people to share your posts with their friends and family.
- Track your results and make adjustments as needed. It’s important to track your results so that you can see what’s working and what’s not. Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic and see how people are finding your business. You can also use Google Business Profile Insights to track your Google Business Profile listing performance.
I hope these tips help you improve your local SEO and attract more customers during the holiday season!
In addition to the tips above, here are some other things to keep in mind:
- The holiday season is a competitive time, so it’s important to stand out from the competition. Make sure your website and Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) listing are well-designed and informative, and that your content is engaging and relevant.
- Be responsive to customer inquiries. People are more likely to do business with businesses that are responsive to their inquiries. Make sure you answer customer calls and emails promptly, and that you resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.
- Provide excellent customer service. This is the most important thing you can do to attract and retain customers. Make sure your employees are friendly and helpful, and that they go the extra mile to make sure customers are satisfied.
By following these tips, you can improve your local SEO and attract more customers during the holiday season.
At Vizion Interactive, we have the expertise, experience, and enthusiasm to get results and keep clients happy! Learn more about how our Local Listing Management services and Franchise SEO can increase sales and boost your ROI. But don’t just take our word for it, check out what our clients have to say, along with our case studies.