Home Depot’s Everhart: Why Local Matters In Search More Than Ever
Major enterprises must ensure that their local locations are listed and mapped accurately — or lose out to smaller retailers in search results.
Local is dominating search engine results pages, but with Google limiting mapped place results to a “three-pack” display, marketers need to do more with their SEO in order to be instantly visible — and visitable — for searchers.
As Erin Everhart, SEO Manager at Home Depot, stressed in her talk at last week’s Napa Summit, this requires a heightened awareness of map consistency. A business must ensure that information is consistent across every single place that a listing appears, and that it is optimized for keywords related to local searches — a particular challenge for enterprises with hundreds of locations.
“‘Home Depot’ is different than ‘The Home Depot,’ for example,” Everhart said. “That matters. Only one address and only one phone number can be attached to each physical location.”
Following the session, Everhart broke down her views on local strategy in 2016 — and how tying in-store foot traffic to online search expands marketers’ possibilities.
GeoMarketing: You discussed how important it is to think of SEO within a local context. How are you seeing local SEO drive foot traffic and influence sales in an offline capacity?
Erin Everhart: People search for products online, but that’s not the only place they’re going to buy, of course. Think of huge beds, appliances, things people would not want to pay that online shipping for… and then, obviously, all the times they’re searching for information [or directions] to get to a place.
They’re still looking to go into that physical location. This is why being online matters: Say you’re Best Buy. Someone searches for digital cameras, and if the local Best Buy is not there for [that keyword] of digital cameras, the searcher is not even going to think to go to the nearest Best Buy to get digital cameras, right?
There’s that online to offline connection right there there, and that connection is what you always have to be cognizant of. It’s very, very top of funnel. Talking about the “funnel” is tired, but it’s very research driven and it’s impactful. That’s just a constant thing that [brands] have to be thinking about.
So, essentially, people want to go places. They’re searching in order to enable their lives: to find an answer or a place in the most seamless way, and then go out and do something.
Right, and everything is localized now, at some point. Especially when it comes to your mobile phone. Everyone is looking for what’s going to be the closest thing near me, like restaurants, or coffee shops — ‘near me’ searches have grown so much. These people are not looking to transact online. They still need to be there if you’re looking for a ‘fast-food restaurant near me.’
Those mobile searches are huge. Mobile is over 50 percent of most sites’ traffic now.
Let’s talk about the goals at Home Depot more specifically. Knowing that mobile comprises that much of the traffic, what are the big plays, both online and in-store, that you’re thinking about this year?
Attribution, to start. Anytime that we can try to find out what our online behaviors are doing for traffic, that’s huge. We are a large e-commerce store, but the majority of our sales are still coming from in-store. We have to think about how all of the interconnected retail that we’re talking about is actually affecting consumers’ lives.
As far as beacons, I think they have huge potential for retargeting, more than just to provide a one-time deal, right? Home Depot is already an everyday low price guaranteer. Rather than those one-time deals, we want to be able to tag people and see what they’re searching for when they’re in the store. We want to be able to know when they’re in our store, so that we can know that they’re looking for tools, because then we can retarget and provide them with more content from there.
There are actually 10x more conversions on mobile when including store visits in search ads. [Retargeting] audiences based on who has been in the store and when is a huge opportunity.
It’s really not just deals that people are seeking when they walk into a store [or when they search.] Are there product reviews that relate to the specific drill they’re searching for? It’s so interesting how, yes, money is still a driving factor in terms of purchasing decisions, but it’s so much more than money: it’s what other supporting content can I get to my users to help them make that purchasing decision.
Lastly, what are your top three takeaways for other enterprises who are looking to do SEO at a local level and drive traffic? For those locations, what are the most important things?
The biggest thing that you have to think about when it comes to local is your map consistency. I think that that’s one, two, and three, if we’re going to be completely honest. It also counts to remove duplicates pages, and to have really strong authoritative individual pages for each of your stores.