Episode Overview: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of brick and mortar businesses to close, depriving them of the essential foot traffic that keeps them open. With physical locations closed, businesses must turn toward a powerful tool to take and continue operations online – SEO. Join host Ben as he chats with Searchmetrics’ SEO strategist and advisor Jordan Koene about how brick and mortar brands can quickly make up lost foot traffic online by utilizing the power of SEO.
- The first important step for a business transitioning the bulk of their operations online is to identify where the majority of their consumers are online right now, today.
- Establishing a marketplace listing (Amazon, Etsy, etc.) is crucial, but without differentiating your product or brand, your business will get easily lost among competitors.
- Refreshing or updating existing content is more important than pumping out new content, which can oversaturate your online presence.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Jordan Koene: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’ll be discussing how offline brick and mortar brands can make up the traffic they’ve lost through foot traffic online using SEO. Joining us again today is Jordan Koene, who’s an SEO strategist and advisor for Searchmetrics. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, SEO strategist and advisor for Searchmetrics.
Ben: Jordan, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Jordan: Hey Ben, how you doing?
Ben: Living the dream, buddy. I’m sitting at home with two kids running around. And you’re, what, in Wisconsin now? You picked up and left.
Jordan: I picked up and left. We moved the family to Wisconsin temporarily.
Ben: Times are rough, so you just went crying to mommy.
Jordan: That is correct. That is correct.
Ben: The coronavirus is affecting businesses large and small and obviously all of our lives. And we’re going to talk a little bit about how to make up for some of the impact that the Coronavirus has had. And we want to talk a little bit about how some of the businesses that are not necessarily digitally native can start thinking about how to move their content online. So, for you expert SEOs out there, if there’s anybody that you know that’s running a brick and mortar business, or someone that’s trying to get started, or if you’re just interested in thinking about how to get going from square one, this is the episode for you.
Ben: So Jordan, let’s use an example, a case study. I’m a brick and mortar business, I sell widgets, and I’ve been depending on foot traffic and people walking into my store, a boutique, for years. All of a sudden there’s no foot traffic, and I’m moving everything online. I’ve got an interesting, unique product, but I don’t really have any content to speak of. There’s services that are out there like Shopify and Squarespace and all the other ecommerce tools, but I don’t necessarily have content to get people to my website. How do I start making up for the loss in foot traffic with my new ecommerce store?
Jordan: Yeah, it’s a phenomenal question, and I think that the first area where you need to be focused is where are my consumers right now today. And so, just because there are a lot of fancy ways to get product online or services online, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be building up your own unique content set. A lot of consumers are performing searches today on other channels. Right? So, maybe if you’re in retail, how do I get my eBay or my Amazon store set up, or if I’m a local vendor or service provider, how do I update or maintain my local service profile on websites like Yelp or others to ensure that my content is being surfaced in places that consumers are still actively visiting and searching?
Ben: Yeah, so I’m going to restate what you said, but turn it upside down a little bit. The first thing you need to do is actually try to recapture the foot traffic that you would have had from your brick and mortar store by keeping your Google My Business and your Yelp listing active, but also figuring out a way to promote the digital component of your business there. There are ways to put in calls to action in your Yelp profile, in your Google business, show what your website is. Make sure that you have those and that you’re landing people on an experience that is relevant to introduce them to your brand.
Ben: So, you might have to be spending a little time optimizing your homepage and getting people to feel comfortable with your online experience outside of just going and recapturing your existing traffic. Jordan, you mentioned Amazon, eBay, look for boutiques, maybe Etsy is the right place for you. There are other places that are selling inventory, let’s call them the marketplaces, where you can start listing your inventory as well. Talk to me about optimizing your listings and your profiles on the marketplace pages.
Jordan: Yeah, so one of the things about marketplaces is that they have an incredible amount of authority. Right? So just by having that listing alone, you can generate a lot of awareness very quickly overnight without having to start a website from scratch. Right? Having to start from the bottom. Right? So essentially, the key components here to ensure your success is differentiation. So, in order to really generate traffic to your listing, you have to ensure that you’re providing something that is unique, that you have unique images, unique content, unique titles that differentiate yourself from other merchandise within the marketplace. Because one of the most challenging things for search engines, whether it be Google or even the search algorithm of these marketplaces, Amazon’s actual search algorithm, is how do I differentiate, how do I identify that this product is unique from everybody else’s on the marketplace.
Ben: So, there’s a point of differentiation that you need to figure out. You also have to do some targeting and thinking about what the demand is. When you’re thinking about finding that sweet spot for how you describe your business, your product, your services, what are the ways where you think about making sure that your listings are actually showing up for what people are searching for?
Jordan: Yeah, so the first thing is there’s obviously tools out there that can help you get some of this data. Both eBay and Amazon have seller tools that can help you in terms of the marketplaces. Google Trends is also a great tool or resource to help you make some judgment calls here. But personally, one of the things that I love to do is doing your market research within the marketplace. So, we actually recently worked on a project where we were doing apparel within the marketplace, and so figuring out how to launch a store for apparel within Amazon and eBay. And what we were analyzing was how are other providers, how are other sellers listing these items? At what price points are they listing? Do they always include Prime, for example, in Amazon? All these little features and capabilities, we analyze that data first before we went to the marketplace and listed anything so we kind of knew what we were dealing with, how to position the product to ensure that we were a little bit above the competition.
Ben: So we’ve mentioned, hey, look, recaptured your existing traffic, go to the market places, start listing your products in other places. When you’re looking at the marketplaces, that’s going to have an impact on your revenue model. Right? Amazon and eBay and Etsy, they’re all going to take a cut out of your profitability.
Ben: If you’re trying to just go direct and build your web presence, what are some of the ways that you advise people using the Shopifys of the world or the Squarespaces of the world who are creating their own website, probably on WordPress, can master SEO to start driving traffic in a short period of time to their new ecommerce offerings?
Jordan: One of the crazy things that we’re seeing really work well, especially for smaller and local businesses, is ensuring freshness. One of the very interesting data points that we’ve noticed is that restaurants or local service providers that have added content, updated content about their current state with the pandemic that’s going on, is when they update their personal websites, they see higher traffic, they see higher awareness. And so, the reality is that freshness is almost more relevant in times of crisis than actually trying to pump more and more and more content out there.
Jordan: And think about it from a restaurant standpoint. Is my restaurant open? Am I actually doing food delivery right now? If I am, what are the hours in which I’m willing or capable to operate in? These are all little updates that are actually changing in many cases in local cities across the United States very frequently. Sometimes week to week those policies are updated or changed. And so, freshness has become a really important factor right now for local and small businesses. And if you’re making those updates and using these platforms, using your Squarespace, using your Shopify experience to provide information and update consumers, Google is rewarding that right now.
Ben: So, when you say freshness, you’re talking about the availability of products or services. It’s funny because I thought that you would go the opposite place thinking about, hey, basic blocking and tackling. You need to have content on your pages when you’re talking about the product pages, right? You need to have your product descriptions. You need to have basic blocking and tackling before you think about, “Well, I need to be writing a blog, and I need to be positioning myself to be an influencer and have authority” is just being able to describe the basics. And you’re talking about, well, you need to make sure that people understand if your business is actually open.
Ben: Help me prioritize. There is the basic blocking tackling of setup of what are the words you’re putting on the pages for your products and services, sort of the bottom of funnel stuff. And then there’s top of the funnel homepage, which I’m assuming you’re going to include the freshness commentary.
Ben: Should you really be starting to think about freshness, or should you be in the setup starting to think about making sure that you have content on the page that’s relevant?
Jordan: Yeah, for someone who’s new, obviously just having a baseline of relevant content about who you are is absolutely critical. But for established businesses that already had an online footprint, it’s almost more important to have freshness become a key factor and indicator, even if you’re adding on new capabilities like selling products or connecting with delivery services within your website. So, a lot of websites recently have made massive adaptations to the way that they create experiences for consumers because of the state of the world. And so, that is something that is great, it’s a new capability, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to have that freshness factor on your homepage, to your point, Ben. You need to tell consumers, you need to tell users who visit your site what’s going on, what’s the state of the business today, are we operating or not.
Ben: So Jordan, I read the other day that Google was giving $800 million of advertising spend to try to help people be aware of what’s happening with the Coronavirus. Are they doing anything to support the local businesses or are they trying to provide visibility or any resources for people that are moving online and focusing on SEO?
Jordan: They are. There were some changes earlier in the month around how you can designate the status of your business so that you can actually set a status of, “Hey, we’re temporarily closed,” or “We’re only online. We’re only available online.” Google’s been actually very fast to move and adapt and provide markup language and other tools to ensure that local and small businesses can still successfully communicate with their consumers via their online websites and experiences. On top of that, to your point, Ben, we’re seeing that Google and other big companies are coming out to support business and to support the entrepreneurs that make up the predominant part of our society and economy. And I think that there’s a lot of ways for businesses to take advantage of that both federally, locally and through these private business programs.
Ben: Jordan, in my effort to support local businesses, I ordered a delivery from a local burrito place. And I guess really the last question that I have for you is do you have any advice for how to get burrito out of a button down shirt, and do you have a problem with people eating while recording podcasts?
Jordan: I do not recommend eating while recording podcasts. This is not an advised strategy as I’ve witnessed here on this episode. But more importantly, I think this goes into the interesting nature of how business is going to change very fast in America and what new groundwork is being laid for how we deal with business moving forward. Here in this example we have food delivery service coming to our local homes, and then right after that we need to get our clothing dry cleaned because we are incapable of eating it like a human being.
Jordan: And so, now we’ve got two services that are essentially being interacted with in a purely different way. Like before this would have been just thrown into the laundry pile and dealt with on the weekend when you brought your dry cleaning to the dry cleaners, but now it’s a totally different economy and process and how we go through these things. And so, it’s remarkable how quickly these things are changing. And small businesses who are going online to make themselves successful are going to have to find new tactics and strategies to connect with consumers, which means dry cleaners need to be putting coupons in burrito packages.
Ben: Jordan, your ability to bail me out of sticky situations when I lose focus and I’m not paying attention to what you’re saying on a podcast is unparalleled. I originally thought that we were going to cut that question and was making a joke. Gabriel, our editor, we should leave this whole thing in, but it’s because Jordan makes a good point is that while we … Obviously, I’m joking about spilling a burrito on my shirt. Yes, I was eating a burrito. Yes, the chewing was edited out. But Jordan’s point about being resourceful in a time of change is very important.
Ben: Look, I’m eating burritos while we actually record content because I only have a limited amount of time to produce the content because I got to go take care of my kids. There are small business owners everywhere that don’t know SEO and don’t know content and don’t know the internet. The livelihood of their businesses are all turning online. Jordan, are there any resources where people that are moving towards digital businesses that are thinking about content, that are thinking about SEO, need to know about so they can hit the ground running if they’re starting from square one? Where do the laymans go to understand the basic blocking and tackling what they can do to drive organic traffic?
Jordan: Yeah, there absolutely are. Many of the publishers and writers in the SEO space have produced great SEO 101 and beginner guides. Moz has one of the most well known beginner guides out there that also include the whiteboard sessions with Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz. We also have a variety of different beginner guides in 101s that were developed by Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal that I think would be great resources for people who are just getting started. And then the reality is that us here at Searchmetrics, we’ve actually done a great job of identifying content that can help consumers break into the space. So, our blog of resources is a great way to start. Also, just checking out the general data that’s available to you through Searchmetrics or other tools to ensure that you’re starting from a place that has demand, I think, is always a good way to figure out where to get started.
Ben: And as we think about the people that are listening to this podcast are probably not starting from square one. They’re advanced SEOs. That’s the reason why they’re listening to the Voices of Search podcast. What can the SEO community do to support local businesses and make sure that they’re helping not only the SEO industry, the marketing industry, but honestly industry in general, make it through this crisis?
Jordan: One of the things that I’m doing a lot of is just giving advice that’s really simple. So, if you’re an SEO or you’re a consultant and you’re still listening to this episode, think about what are the basics, going back to the basics and helping those friends and entrepreneurs and businesses just take that first leap, take that first step, because so many times that’s the hardest part. And it’s very difficult to have the clarity to focus and get something done when at lot of things are hitting you at once. Right?
Jordan: You’re worried about your business surviving, you’re worried about trying to adapt and change your business, you’re trying to learn a whole new set of skills to get something online. That can be a very fearful type of environment. But if you can create an environment where there’s clear focus and build a situation of gratitude wherein that focus can turn into some sort of action that can be done, very simple. Oftentimes it’s starting with writing what it is that your business is about, and then having someone from an SEO lens give feedback and critique. It’s a very simple thing to do. But starting with those basics, I think, is really the most important thing that an SEO can do to support local businesses and small businesses today.
Ben: It’s one of the things I love about this project, about working on the Voices of Search podcast is that we really have tried to develop a community and create a hub that SEOs can get together and create content that’s going to be valuable for all of us. And honestly, now is the time where we have to give back. And there’s lots of people that are running small businesses whose livelihoods now depend on some of the services that us SEOs and content marketers really depend on. And so, your advice is valuable, and also something that’s going to help us all get through this together.
Ben: So, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Shout out to La Cumbre Taqueria in San Mateo. And we’d love to continue this conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is jtkoene, J-T-K-O-E-N-E, or you could visit his website which is JordanKoene.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesOfSearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So, hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.