As quarantine restrictions ease, and retailers get back to opening their brick and mortar shops, many business owners are concerned about the retail landscape they are coming back to. A combination of stringent local regulations and rapid eCommerce growth over the year so far has sent waves of uncertainty through the world of physical retail. According to a recent survey, 29% of the 400 businesses polled planned to close their physical stores for good and focus only on online channels. Another 14% planned some downsizing of their operational stores. While this is tragic for the retail world at large, I have seen many of our eCommerce clients become stronger during this uncertain time. It puts me in mind of the Aesops’ fable about the grasshopper who played away the summer on his fiddle while the ants gathered food. The businesses that have spent time investing in eCommerce channels, specifically eCommerce marketing, are finding that they not only have a secure outlet for sales but also that they are seeing growth, while others are downsizing.
One shining example is our long time SEO marketing client Kids N Cribs. Kids N Cribs is a multi-generational retailer of baby and children’s furniture Pleasant Hill, California. Their furniture showroom had always been the flagship of their business. Back in October of 2018, they started to invest more in their website to try to bring that channel up to parity with their brick and mortar sales. “At the time the showroom was bringing in more revenue than the site,” said Mike Marini, owner of Kids N Cribs. “But the website was slowly inchin’ up towards the store.” Mike and his wife had a decision to make at the time, invest in an additional employee for the brick and mortar or spend that budget promoting the website. “Instead of spending money on another employee to sit here and babysit furniture on days we don’t wanna work, we can put that money into something we know is gonna give us a return,” Mike said. The intervening year and a half have proven the wisdom of that choice over and over again. Not only has the SEO marketing grown the website’s revenue by leaps and bounds, but it provided a much need life raft while the showroom had to be closed. “For us, it saved our business during COVID,” Mike told me. “So whatever we’ve spent over the last year and a half has been well worth it.”
Back in the fall of 2018, we didn’t actually jump into the SEO campaign proper right away. We had to lay the correct groundwork to start from. Kids N Cribs was moving from WooCommerce to BigCommerce and we wanted to make sure that the SEO value they had built over the years would carry over with them. We did a comprehensive 301 redirect as well as provided Google Search Console support. These are two services we strongly recommend to any of our clients who change eCommerce platforms. 301 redirects are, essentially, leaving a forwarding address for Google. When you change platforms, even when you keep the same domain, the structure of your URLs will change slightly. As part of a redirect, we submit the structure of these URLs to Google to let them know that these pages are the ones they had ranked in the past, they just have a slightly different structure now. Even if a 301 redirect is executed perfectly, errors may still pop up that could limit the redirect’s effectiveness. That’s why we also include Google Search Console support with these projects. We check the client’s Google Search Console account for the next month after the redirect is completed. Any errors that Google runs into while trying to crawl the new site will be logged here so we can identify them and fix them before they have a chance to do any lasting damage to the client’s domain authority.
Next, it was time to start the campaign in earnest. In SEO marketing, we like to take a topic or a set of topics that the client would like to increase their profile on Google for and begin building their authority for search terms related to those topics. In the case of Kids N Cribs, they had always been popular for baby furniture but felt they could be grabbing a larger share of the market for Kids Furniture. When creating their keyword list we set out to defend and improve some of their rankings for the best converting baby furniture terms, while spending the majority of our keywords focusing on creating content, optimizing the site, and generally getting Google to trust Kids N Cribs more for kids furniture related terms.
Since starting the campaign, we have seen Kids N Cribs begin to rank for at least 16 terms they were previously unranked for. We have also seen them come onto the first page of Google for 10 terms where they were previously ranked on the back pages. Their average keyword ranking has moved up from page 6 to page 3.
They have also grown to consistently outrank their listed competitors for average positions.
Over the last year and a half, we had seen Kids N Cribs traffic and conversions from Google Search slowly building, as is normal for any SEO campaign. This kind of authority takes time to build, and the effect of SEO activities is cumulative. The more trust you’ve built in the past the more you can build in the future. We really started to notice the biggest difference starting in March of 2020 when, like almost all retail stores across the country, the Kids N Cribs showroom in Pleasant Hill had to shut its doors. “We knew the website was part of our income but we didn’t know how big a piece until the store was shut down,” Mike told me.
When we compare the site’s numbers from March – June 2020 to the 3 months directly preceding it, the difference is astonishing. Google organic search traffic more than doubled over that period. While conversions and revenue from organic search almost tripled, rising by 187% and 181% respectively.
“We saw drastic increases in daily traffic and the sales were substantially better as well,” Mike told me. “That’s when the website started going bonkers. That’s when we realized the website was going to be able to keep us alive.”
It became clear to both of us that shoppers who would have otherwise bought their furniture in person were migrating online when their options were limited. Kids N Cribs just happened to have spent the past year working diligently on being one of the names those shoppers would see first when they got online. “I definitely think everything we did over the past year and a half put our website in a good position,” Mike told me. “And then it all came down to timing. It was almost like a perfect storm.”
These past few weeks the Kids N Cribs showroom is getting back to business, albeit at reduced hours. Mike and his wife are cutting down to 4 days a week, fewer hours per day. But now that they’ve been through the worst, and come out stronger on the other side, they’re not as concerned about cutting hours at the brick and mortar store. “If we can just keep the online pumping,” Mike said, “that’ll change how many days and how many hours we’ll need to be in the store.” When I asked him what he would tell other business owners in his position Mike told me, “I don’t think retail will ever be what it was before. It’s well worth the investment to have a good website. Anybody can put a site online. Getting that website found is the bigger challenge.”
If you’re thinking that it’s time to finally get serious about promoting the online arm of your retail business, 1Digital Agency has SEO marketing professionals that can help. We create digital marketing campaigns that are laser targeted and custom-tailored for your marketing goals. The best way to protect your business in the future, is to invest in making it stronger today.
- Joe Chilson
- June 30, 2020