As fall draws to a close, visions of the holiday shopping season are dancing in the heads of retail business owners everywhere. While there are many details to attend to, from putting up the decorations to making sure there is enough staff to handle the crowds, it’s important to also pay attention to store location optimization. Well-optimized store locator pages are valuable assets that help move users along the buyer’s journey from browsing online to making in-store purchases. According to Google, 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
Last year, Google introduced their “Special Hours” feature in Google My Business (GMB). This feature gives businesses the ability to define operating hours on a day-by-day basis so that they can easily promote holiday schedules that are different from their normal business hours. Now is the time to start collecting these hours from retail partners and loading them into the related GMB profiles. This way, as store schedules change from consistent year-round hours to extended holiday shopping hours, customers will be able to easily find these changes via the Knowledge Panel (KP) listings for branded queries (particularly on mobile devices) and visit the store at their convenience:
Another reason to start collecting holiday hours now is so that you can start loading these dates into your store locator pages. A 2016 Bright Local study found that business hours were the second most important piece of information for all ages groups between 18 and 55+, second only to lists of products and services. This finding clearly indicates that posting unique holiday hours on the store locator pages is just as important as posting to GMB profiles for local marketers who hope to get users to cross the online-to-offline conversion bridge.
An additional on-page factor for store hours is getting the correct schema coding in place for special business hours and events. Ensuring that you have the correct schema code in place for business hours helps you communicate the correct hours to the search engines more effectively and accurately and also helps reduce automated updates to Google Profiles. On the user side, the correct schema code makes it easier for your customers to find retail locations that have the item they want to purchase.
Image From Search Engine Land
Double Check Canonical Tagging
Many SEO professionals have had the unfortunate experience of looking at their client data and seeing a massive drop in traffic only to discover that the dev team made what they thought would be a minor coding change without consulting SEO about possible consequences. Scenarios like this often crop up around locator pages that use canonical tagging. Canonical tags are HTML elements that help to reduce duplicate and near-duplicate content by telling search engines which page is the favored or original version. While helpful in many situations, incorrect use of these tags can result in unintentionally excluding some pages from the index.
So, this time of year is a good time to do some review work on your locator pages. Double check that canonical tagging is set correctly. Make certain if the locator is using URL parameters for tracking that the canonical tags are set to the correct targets whether the correct target is self-referencing or referencing to a non-parameter URL. Also, be certain that none of your canonical tags point to a 404 error page or to a blank landing page, a problem that will not help at all with holiday traffic.
Accurate Address Data Key to In-Store Conversions
Just as important for location pages and their users, make sure the NAP (Name Address Phone Number) data is not only correct, but also listed above the fold of the page on both mobile and desktop. This step is important for two reasons. First, placing the NAP data above the fold tells the search engine that this is important information because search engines give more weight to content that is higher on the page. Second, and possibly more important, this prominent placement makes it very easy for users to see if the store page they landed on is their best option or if they should use the locator search to find a better location.
Drive In-store Conversions with Driving Directions
With stores getting ready to offer a variety of holiday sales and promotions, now is the time to plan out how to best display these offers to retail shoppers on locator pages. An important step is to plan out how and where on the page to place important calls to action. If the primary on-page goal is to drive users to stores, consider changing the default “Driving Directions” anchor text link to something like “Get Me To This Store” or “How do I get there?“ in order to create a more personal experience for your users. Another method of converting online viewers into in-store purchasers is to include local driving directions on store locator pages. Consider taking some time now to include basic travel instructions from freeway access, major intersection references, or even mass transit line access. This kind of detailed information, along with creating unique and relevant local content, will help guide users to the store and strengthen your local plan substantially.