Learn why Google needs to be a part of your marketing strategy; learn how SEO, SEM and Google My Business can boost your sales
This month, I worked with specialty food marketing expert Allison Ball on her Food Wiz Biz podcast to discuss making Google a part of a food marketing strategy. You listen to to the full podcast episode below:
There are several reasons Google is important to food businesses, whether large or small. Let’s start with some fast statistics and insights that I’ve learned over the last decade working in digital marketing. First, no matter what industry I’ve worked in, the three most important digital marketing channels are: email, SEO, and SEM (paid search ads). The fourth is local referral and word-of-mouth but we’ll talk about those later. These always bring the best results – new customers and revenue (yes, cash money).
Contrary to what many food brands believe, organic social, paid social, and in-personal events aren’t the best drives of new customers or new wholesale accounts. They are effective, but cost more in terms of money and time to convert people to shoppers compared to digital channels. I believe all channels are important, but email, SEO and SEM are the three most successful channels I’ve seen my client have the best success with.
Why is Google important for food businesses?
SEO is directly related to unpaid efforts and SEM is related to paid efforts focused on Google, given the fact that Google is the largest and most used search engine in the U.S. (75 percent of the market share). On any given day, Google processes over 3.5 billion searches. That’s a massive amount of people looking to acquire information, goods and services. These people could be searching for information, they may want to learn how to do something, they could be looking to buy something and/or find something they want to get locally.
Unlike social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, where people are in a passive state of discovery, people searching online are in an active state of discovery. It’s that state of active intent that offers a company a greater chance of being discovered by someone, and thus a greater chance of converting that person into a customer at a low cost (sometimes FREE).
It’s why it’s so important food companies have a better-than-average understanding of how Google search works, how to use the tools Google offers their businesses, and how to utilize those features.
When it comes to SEO, what are four things all food businesses need to consider in order to achieve quality search rankings?
SEO is something that every business needs. Every page, blog post or product page on your business website needs to be optimized for search. SEO isn’t what it was back in the early 2000’s, there are continual changes to algorithm changes and each algorithm change is something I consider more complex and dynamic because it’s based on the behavior of consumersearch (thank you artificial intelligence and machine learning).
Google does two major core algorithm updates each year. They also do smaller, but impactful updates throughout the year as well. In fact, we’re sitting in the middle of one that they announced a month ago and is now being rolled out, so you better be ready. When it comes to SEO, the three things food businesses need to consider are:
- Your site has to be searchable and discoverable: First, it’s important that your site actually be optimized, meaning your pages, posts and products should have basic things like page title, headlines, meta descriptions, and keywords (built into your page content). Your site should also be crawlable and discoverable. You’d be surprised how many websites don’t have titles, headlines, descriptions or aren’t even searchable/discoverable.
- Your site needs original content: Content is extremely important when it comes to search ranking and being found. Content isn’t only blog posts and articles – it includes copy and content on your website pages, product pages, etc. When it comes to Google and content, you want to vary the lengths of your content. For example, for blog posts or articles some should be short and topic specific and some should be long, like guides. When it comes to types of content, you want to vary that too. You can use written copy, but you can also use images, infographics, video and audio. Even if you don’t have a professional team to make them, there are tools like Canva, Vimeo, Buzzsprout, and Libsyn that can help you make different forms of content. Video and audio really are the next frontier as people’s learning styles for certain things, especially when it comes to food, is highly visual and hands-on. Video also offers you lots of search value because you can optimize videos for YouTube search (yes, it’s a search engine too) and also generate links (which is something else you need).
- You need people to link to your website: Any company needs links. Google uses links to your website (and its content) to rank your importance, authority and credibility. The more credibility and authority you have, the higher your search rankings become. Ranking is all about visibility. So when you want to generate links, you need to think about why someone would link to something on your website (like a food blogger or magazine writing a review about your product) and/or why a piece of content would be shared and/or linked to by someone else (hello recipes).
- You need to think mobile first: You need to think about how your site works on mobile devices. A few years ago when mobile search became larger than desktop search, Google implemented mobile indexing which prioritizes sites that load fast, are easy to use, have a fluid user experience, and put high quality, relevant content first. Given the fact that 72% of food and beverage websites and 68% of health websites are primarily accessed via mobile devices, it’s not something you can overlook.
There are many other things to consider when it comes to properly optimizing your site (it’s pretty advanced) so I recommend checking out Neil Patel, Moz, Search Engine Journal, and Google’s Webmaster blog to learn more. Stay on top of core algorithm changes. I also can’t stress enough that when it comes to content, you want to get creative. It will have a large, faster impact than doing what everyone else is doing. Lastly, remember that SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes time to build credibility and results, but once your foundation is laid, you’ll start to see quantifiable benefits and you can scale your efforts based on your results.
Why is Google My Business important for food businesses?
A company’s My Business account is how they manage their brand presence across Google –– and it’s FREE to use. My Business gives companies the ability to manage their hours of operation, their website, integrate delivery options, manage customer reviews, enhance mobile Google Search features and generate driving directions from Google Maps.
Many food brands overlook the importance of Google My Business reviews. The more reviews you have, the more credible your company looks to potential customers. Reviews improve your search rankings by helping search engine algorithms understand what you are and what you offer. They also increase the visibility as Google deems your business as more relevant to searches people are conducting online. You want to encourage your customers to write reviews. Ask you customers to make their reviews as descriptive as possible.
Note: You can’t pay or incentivize people to leave reviews, they result in penalties and/or deletion.
Depending on the type of business you run, you can connect other services you use to help take online orders, host virtual tours, and you can create seasonal posts about what’s happening online or in-person that get indexed in search results. If you add photos to your listing, those appear in location searches and on reviews. Depending on your e-commerce platform, you can even add your inventory to a product page for display purposes and/or enabling purchasing.
Google has hundreds of partnerships (Shopify, Square, ZenChef and more) with companies to connect your software/platforms to your Google My Business page in order to expand your channels more seamlessly. You can also get pretty creative with integrations (there are currently over 2,000 integrations that range from something as simple as posting your Instagram to your Google My Business Page or you can do something advanced like integrating your SMS Text Messaging program if it makes sense and/or you have one).
In general, clients who use Google My Business (as part of their overall SEO/SEM marketing strategy) regularly and consistently see a 15% average increase in in-person visits and sales and/or online purchases. If you don’t have a Google my business page, set one up, verify your company, edit your business information and start using the features regularly so you can help customers find your products.
How can food businesses use Google for product discovery?
Google’s product discovery is one of it’s most slept on features (and yes, it’s one of their features that needs more focus and love). When it comes to making your products discoverable, you have a few options. If you use an e-commerce platform like BigCommerce, Wix, Go Daddy, Magento, PrestaShop, or Shopify, you can set-up a product feed from your ecommerce platform pretty easily. They are by far the easiest way to do anything with product search in Google for businesses that do the majority of their own marketing.
If you don’t have a built-in integration, you can also set-up an account in Google Merchant Center if you’re eligible and then link it to your My Business account. You can also set-up a local product feed, which links to items available at physical locations. You’ll add your local product feeds to a Local ad campaign, which uses these feeds to show ads based on your product inventories at each of your locations. Keep in mind that you’ll need a Google My Business account before you can create a local product feed. If you don’t have any experience with product feeds and discovery, I suggest hiring someone with the expertise to do this for you and having them manage it for you and/or provide instruction on how it works so you can take it over.
Why is Google Analytics important for food businesses?
We could do an entire series on Google Analytics! The short and simple answer is that you need data. You need to know how people are finding your website and products. You need to know the search (keyword) terms they are using, you need to know the devices they’re searching on, you need to know what states or countries they are from. Google Analytics provides all that.
Once you become more advanced, you can set up tracking and e-commerce goals to see how those searches translate into product sales and/or new customer inquiries. Google Analytics is free, like most of Google’s tools. So make sure you have it set up in addition to any data your e-commerce platform may provide.
What are some of the more futuristic considerations that food businesses may want to start thinking of?
I think it’s important to reiterate the importance of local search. It’s why we went so deep into the free tools that Google offers to food businesses. 88% of people use their phone on any given day to find stores, restaurants or local businesses to get what they want. Optimizing your website and owning reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp are pretty low hanging fruit to being discovered in your local area. You want to capitalize on the 900% increase in “near me” or “close by” type searches, don’t you? Once you’ve mastered a certain geographic region, it’s pretty easy to expand outwards from that.
Another important consideration is the impact of voice search. Back in 2016, only about 20% were using Alexa and Siri to find information. Today, it’s almost 30% and is predicted to continue to grow. Most voice search customers are under the age of 34, but three out four of them made a purchase from their search (that’s 75%, and as its use becomes more common, the demographics will boarden).
Just think about it, When someone is shopping on Amazon and says, “Hey Alexa, what’s the best brand of gluten-free soy sauce?” or someone asks Siri to “Find a local market that sells specialty food,” you really want to be on that recommendation list. You will need content on your website that enables your business or products to be found. Yes, that means there’s even another consideration in your SEO and content strategy, how people naturally use language!
As I said, SEO isn’t about repetitively stuffing keywords and kicking it like it’s 2000 anymore. It’s far more dynamic and complex. But don’t worry, we’re far from AI taking over the world Terminator style.
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