As a small to mid-sized pet store business owner, you’ve probably had this thought cross your mind more times than you can remember: How do I get more customers and increase sales?
Whether you’re in the works of starting your own company or have been in business for several years, that is one of the most important questions you should be asking yourself. Although it may be daunting knowing that you’re up against the pet ecommerce giants of the world such as Petco, Petsmart, and Pet Food Express, fear not, because you have several huge opportunities to take advantage of that will help you stand out from your competitors.
Just like any other business in today’s day and age, having a strong digital presence is not only recommended but required, in order to succeed and meet your goals. SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is one of the most powerful forms of marketing that you can leverage today and get your business in front of more eyes.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive and cover the following topics in more detail:
- Fundamentals of SEO: What is it, how does it work, why it’s important, and why it’s worth paying money for.
- On-Page SEO: Go over tactics to optimize your website, why user experience is something you can’t ignore, along with the best practices.
- Off-Page SEO: What is it, what are the most important tactics, best practices, and Do’s and Don’ts.
- Technical SEO: Regarded as one of the most difficult aspects of SEO, we’ll walk through the basics and make it easy-peasy for you to understand.
- Content and Blogging: Have you been told that blogging is useless? Well, think again because blogging is one of the most effective marketing strategies to bring in traffic to your site!
- Local: If you own a brick and mortar store, then this is a MUST to get found and increase foot traffic inside your shop.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Fundamentals of SEO: Learn the Basics
What is Search Engine Optimization?
We’re glad you asked! SEO is the process of optimizing your website to increase its visibility in search engines like Google and Bing so more users and potential customers can find your brand and products.
Without good search engine optimization practices in place, you will have a hard time ranking on the first page of Google, getting found by your target audience, and increasing your revenue.
How Does it Work?
Search engines including Google, Yahoo, and Bing have bots, which are sometimes also called spiders, that crawl publicly available web pages trying to understand what they’re about and then adding them to a massive index.
The index is similar to a gigantic library, in that it contains billions and billions of pages. Using hundreds of different ranking factors, crawlers will analyze each page and then determine which position the page should show up in search results when a searcher enters a query in Google.
Why It’s Important & Should I Pay Money for it?
Every single day, there are approximately 3 billion Google searches with the intent to find a product or service. If you want potential customers to know your pet store exists, then you want to ensure that you show up on the first page of Google. About 55% of users click on one of the first three organic search results. If you’re not at least on the first page, you risk not getting found by a vast majority of users, which as you probably already know, is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Unlike paid media, you cannot pay search engines money to improve your organic search rankings; instead, you will need to learn the foundations of all SEO aspects. While you can attempt to learn it on your own and try to implement them on your own, you may be better off hiring an SEO expert who can not only give you their findings and recommendations but also implement the organic tactics to help you reach your marketing goals for many years to come.
Ultimate Ways to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Pet Store
1) On-Page SEO
On-page SEO (also known as on-site SEO) – yep, you guessed it – is all about optimizing the content on web pages for humans and web crawlers.
Seems easy, right?
Well, there’s actually much more to it than it sounds. Here are some of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors that you should take into consideration with your site:
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Whenever you do a Google search, you’ve probably seen about 10 listings per search. The larger blue text is the title of the page or the title tag, and underneath the title tag is the meta description, which is a brief summary of what the page is about.
Both titles & metas are the only snippets of text that users will see when doing a google search, so they strongly influence how likely users are to click on your listing vs another listing.
Making sure you optimize your title tags and meta descriptions for every single page by including your target keywords, making sure you adhere to the character limit of 60 characters for the title tag and 160 characters for the meta description, and using persuasive copy will draw attention to your listing and help increase the number of clicks to your site.
SEO Friendly URLs
SEO-friendly URLs are URLs that are clear, to the point, & include keywords that describe what the page is about.
For example, the URL www.petstore.com/dogs/dog-food is succinct and clearly tells users that this page sells dog food On the other hand, a not-so-good URL would be www.petstore.com/dog-100-890 since it has random numbers that don’t provide much information or value to humans, or bots alike.
Content + Keywords
The written content and keywords included on a page determine what position it will rank for (your page copy). Content needs to be high quality, relevant, informative, and answer a searcher’s question instead of just trying to promote a certain product or service. In addition to written text, a high-quality page should include high-resolution graphics like photos and infographics.
User experience (UX) is essentially about how “friendly” or easy it is to use and navigate a website. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to UX:
- Having an aesthetically pleasing design or layout.
- Having a clear navigational menu that takes visitors to the right pages with the fewest clicks.
- Digestible content that is clear, readable, engaging, and persuasive.
- Page layout is done in a way that makes it easy to scan important information and quickly find specific sections.
- Page loads quickly on both mobile and desktop, and doesn’t have any usability issues such as broken links, buttons not working, or disappearing elements when hovering over them.
- Site is responsive to devices of all screen sizes so the content is still readable on both a large screen and a small handheld mobile device.
Additional reading: How To Sell Pet Products Online
2) Off-Page SEO
Even if you have the most perfect on-page SEO for your site, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to rank.
SEO is a long-term process that requires dedication and consistent, hard work over a long period of time before you can see actionable results. Additionally, there are so many factors at play that you simply cannot afford to rely on just one. It’s like expecting to build a puzzle with only the edge pieces, you need all of them to see the full picture.
Off-page SEO is the opposite of on-page SEO and refers to actions that are outside of your website and (sometimes) your control. The reason why off-page SEO is so important is that it affects how likely your pages and site are to rank. The better your off-page SEO is, the easier it will be for you to rank, while the worse your off-page SEO, the harder it will be to rank, which means fewer customers will be able to find you.
When it comes to improving off-page SEO, the focus is on building trustworthiness, relevance and the overall authority of your site.
The most popular method is by acquiring backlinks, which are links from external sites to your website. Each backlink is the equivalent of one positive vote, indicating to Google that the content is high quality and informative. Ideally, you will want to get backlinks for sites that are in the pet industry such as pet publications and other related stores that sell pet products. By pumping out high-quality content, the likelihood of other sites linking to you will also increase.
Domain authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score on a scale of 1-100, with 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest with the best chances of ranking well. It is not an official ranking factor, but rather is an indicator as to how well your site will do compared to other sites. When starting out with a brand new domain, you will begin with a DA of 1, but as you improve the quality and quantity of your backlink profile, your DA should rise with time.
Some best practices when it comes to improving your off-page SEO and boosting both the number of backlinks and your DA include:
- Creating a blog where you consistently post high quality, educational, and link-worthy content on a regular basis. Ideally, you should aim to post 1-2 blog posts a week that are long-form with a minimum of 800 words.
- Build resource pages that are helpful and informative. These can include videos, infographics, detailed guides for dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish and more.
- Be present on social media. Share updates, news, and the latest blog posts with prospective and existing customers.
- Get involved with your local community, do charitable work, and have in-person events to improve your PR work, which can in turn create further backlinks to your site.
3) Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a subcategory of SEO and it involves the not so intuitive and “behind-the-scenes” kind of work. It may not seem or be all that exciting, but you can bet that it is an important part of every marketing strategy because it ensures that your site can get properly crawled and indexed.
Some of the most important technical aspects that you should know about are:
Your Site’s Code
A poor user experience will not only frustrate your potential customers, but it may make it impossible for them to find what they’re looking for, or more importantly, add an item to their cart and complete their purchase.
A sitemap is a file that usually ends with .xml and similar to a directory, it is the place where you provide a list of all the pages and images on your website.
The sitemap is like a gold mine to search engines because they use it to properly crawl and index all of your pages. This is seemingly more important for large sites with thousands of pages. Even if your site is on the smaller side and contains say, only 10-40 pages, it’s still a good practice to have a sitemap that keeps track of all your content in one place.
Schema is a snippet of code that can be added to your site to feed important business details to search engines and help you show up in SERPs better because it makes your listing stand out more.
Out of all the listings in this screenshot, which one stands out most to you?
Probably the Amazon one listing for Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Dry Dog Food, right? Well, it’s not surprising, because at the very bottom of the Amazon listing are yellow stars, the 4.5 ratings, the total number of reviews, availability, and the price for the item.
Without having to click on the listing, you get all the important information in one go, and that can help push more and more users to click on that listing compared to the other ones. How do you get a SERP result like that? Schema!
If Google can’t index your site, then your content won’t rank.
Yes, that’s brutal and harsh to hear, but it’s the honest truth. Here are some terms to know:
Crawling: This is when crawlers “rummage” through your content and figure out what each page is about.
Indexing: After crawling the site, crawlers will index or add pages to their billions upon billions large library of pages. Ranking: Once a searcher types in a query like “buy dog food near me” Google will go through its list of indexed pages and pull a list of pages it thinks will be relevant to the user. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure your page is pulled and in one of the top positions.
Have you ever landed on a site that took what seemed like hours to load?
Page speed is how long it takes a website to load and has been an important ranking factor since 2010. File size, image size, code, and a site’s hosting all play a role in how fast or slow a site loads. Thus, a slow site will hurt you in the long run whereas a fast site that provides a pleasant user experience will increase your chances of ranking well.
Here are some best practices to improve page speed:
This is one of the easiest things to do and you don’t need a web developer to do this. If you have a WordPress site, then you can quickly install an image compressor plugin like WP Smush to automatically compress your images in your media library in a few seconds
Clean up Code
Most people start out with the most basic plan to save money; however, being on the cheapest plan will hurt your page speed because your site is on the same server as millions of other sites. Even if you compress all your images and clean up your code, a poor hosting plan could set you back. That’s why you should consider upgrading to a premium plan with faster load times.
4) Blogging and Content
One of the best and most popular marketing strategies is blogging.
Having a dedicated blog where you post educational, high-quality, and long-form blog posts on a monthly basis will not only establish yourself as an expert in the field but will also tremendously improve the number of keywords you rank for and bring in more high-quality organic traffic to your site. In addition to more keywords and traffic, creating high-quality blog posts means that you are more likely to get more backlinks from external sites, which will also help boost your domain authority and make it easier for your site to rank.
When it comes to pet store blogging, you should aim to target one primary keyword. Now, that’s not to say you can’t target other keywords. Instead, you should also target some secondary keywords, but the primary keyword will be the main focus so Google and users know what the content is about.
Additional reading: Pet Store Blogging 101: Tips, Ideas & Strategies
Local SEO is focused on optimizing your online presence to drive traffic to your website from a specific location or area. If you own a brick-and-mortar pet store with an actual physical location, you’re going to want to take advantage of local.
When searching for pet stores near a certain location in Google, a map will pop up and show you a list of all the pet stores near you in a listing on the left-hand side as well as on the map. By optimizing your Google My Business local listing, you can ensure that your business gets found.
With Google My Business (GMB), you can add your physical address, hours of operation, health & safety information, whether in-store pickup or curbside pickup is available, phone number, common Q&As, and popular times. Additionally, you can find real customer reviews here, which build trust and authority with potential customers and give them a reason to shop with you.
Let Intuitive Digital Help You With Your SEO!
With over 10 years of experience, Intuitive Digital is the leading B-corp-certified digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. Whether you need help understanding what SEO is or don’t have the time to do it yourself, our expert strategists can help you make sure your website is optimized and get more leads both online and at your physical store. Get a free consultation to see how we can help you by calling us at (503) 206-4988 or shooting us an email at email@example.com! We’re excited about the opportunity to help you exceed your business goals!