Expert Column: Trick to Boosting Local Rankings Grocers are Missing

By Thomas Stern, senior VP at ZOG Digital

Marketing the multitude of products that a grocery store can provide prospective customers is a complex task.  Food basics along a seafood market, a butcher, a bakery, an organic fruits and vegetable market, a florist and a pharmacy can include thousands of products and appeal to dozens of prospective customer demographic groups. It’s important for grocery marketers to adjust their digital strategies to fully express what they are offering, especially allowing local searchers to discover what’s available nearby.

Local SEO is essential for grocers because of its ability to directly impact consumers. Some 97 percent or more of consumers search online before making a local purchase, and businesses that increase visibility through local SEO can funnel more of that traffic into their stores. A survey done by marketing Sherpa in 2013 found 54 percent of marketers surveyed said that local search optimization positively impacted their businesses.

Two of the biggest components of local SEO success are website structure and direction citations. When combined, these two strategies have the ability to illicit a massive effect on local search engine visibility. To maximize local search benefits, grocery marketers should adjust in two ways. First, consider how each location provides unique offerings and create localized content to speak to the products and services within the primary store departments. Second, select categories and digital citations that accurately reflect what’s inside the store so that directory users will see the store’s information in a wider array of places, increasing the chances of being found.

Build Off a Solid Foundation

For most local businesses, on-page optimization starts with building and maintaining dedicated landing pages for each individual location. For grocers, because of their unique ability to house many different types of businesses under a single roof, one page for each location isn’t enough.

Grocers should build a page for each department of each location to highlight what each location offers to customers. Each department page should feature unique information about hours of operation, specials and the products being offered. Search engines will index each page separately, allowing each department to stand out instead of being lumped together.

Grocers should ensure that each department stands out to search engines because of the variety of search terms people use that could lead to a grocery store. On Bing in March, while more than 18,000 people searched for “grocery store,” there were a combined 90,000 additional searches for “bakery,” “pharmacy” and “seafood.” This is an example of the local search opportunity available for grocers who break out departments to showcase each offering separately, which in turn should lead to more in-store consumers buying the products they find online. 

Expanding Visibility With Directory Categories

Almost half of people in the U.S. use online directories to find businesses before purchasing local goods or services according to research by BIA/Kelsey. Digital directories, like the physical yellow pages of the past, work by organizing businesses into categories, which help users break down the multitude of available options. The difference is, digital directories allow businesses to fall under multiple categories and choose which categories to be listed under.

Top citation sources for grocers like YP, Yelp, Superpages and Yellowbook all allow for businesses to provide multiple business categories. This is an opportunity that many grocers are simply missing.

Take a look at how Whole Foods lists itself in one digital directory. You can see that it includes the basic categories like grocery store and supermarket and also lists some additional options like fruit and vegetable market. But Whole Foods could take that idea and run with it even farther. Most Whole Foods locations sell nutritional supplements, fresh seafood and have an on-site meat counter. These are all categories that are available on directories that, if searched today, wouldn’t show Whole Foods as a result. 


Every day, millions of searches are done specifically for local businesses, and businesses like grocers who rank highly are more likely to catch the attention, and the business, of those searchers. Grocers have the opportunity to dramatically increase business by incorporating a local SEO strategy that includes the optimization of dedicated location pages and directory management into their marketing efforts. 

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