Before the days of Facebook Ads and targeted digital marketing campaigns, the entrepreneurs of the world relied heavily on advertising their products and services through billboards, flyers and word of mouth exchanges. Once the World Wide Web launched on the public domain in 1993, a myriad of changes in the marketing industry followed shortly after; including the use of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.
As part of our study on the effects of SEO on businesses in Northeast Ohio, we travelled to three local independent bookstores in Kent, Hudson and Akron to see whether or not SEO plays a part in their business operations – and to determine if acquiring an SEO optimization technique would help improve their sales and customer reviews.
Reading Between the Lines of Google Reviews
In order to determine the effects of SEO, the first consideration that had to be made was deciding which three bookstores to study.
Typing “independent bookstores near me” into Google, however, delivered about 21,100,000 results. Focusing on the Ranked Results from Google that appeared at the top of the page instead of choosing at random provides more conclusive and factual results. Google’s ranking systems are designed to sort through hundreds of billions of webpages and other content in a Search Index to present the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second, making them reliable for broad searches such as this one.
The next step involved selecting three of the top-rated bookstores from the results. From highest to lowest, the ranking results were: Last Exit Books in Kent, The Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson and Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Akron. Selecting stores from three different cities allowed for more data with a wider reach.
After selecting the bookstores, it was time to research each one. One of the key differences discovered was that some of the shops sold used books while others exclusively sold new ones. In order to remedy this, and accurately compare pricing, K6 visited each store with the intention of purchasing the same book, or as close to it as possible, at each location.
Due to his status, it is nearly impossible to enter a bookstore and not immediately find a book by William Shakespeare, which is why a Folger Shakespeare Library paperback of one of his works was chosen from each shop.
1) Last Exit Books – Google Rating: 4.8/5 (435 Reviews)
The perfect hangout for students from Kent State University to visit on the weekends, Last Exit Books is an independent bookstore in downtown Kent, located next to Acorn Alley. They buy and sell used and new books, DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs and vinyl records. In addition to being an event space for local authors, they offer a coffee house in the front complete with quiet tables for studying and a bookshelf wall for customers to read while they sip their espresso.
Last Exit doesn’t have a website of their own, with all of their business information being advertised on Kent’s Main Street Page and through social media. While they are ranked on Google Reviews 4.8/5 stars with over 400 reviews—an impressive feat for an independent bookstore with no official site—they don’t have regular content output or SEO to consistently boost their brand and drive new business their way.
Here is the book purchased from Last Exit Books:
- Purchased: The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
- Condition: Used
- Price: $2.98 before tax
Find Last Exit Books Here:
Main Street Kent: https://www.mainstreetkent.org/last-exit-books-coffee-house/
2) The Learned Owl Book Shop – Google Rating: 4.8/5 (198 Reviews)
A charming and small independent bookstore, The Learned Owl Book Shop was established on historic Main Street in Hudson in 1968. With over 50 years of experience in the bookselling industry, this shop has become a favorite to those who call Hudson home. In addition to being an event space for local authors almost every Saturday, The Learned Owl has a small selection of vinyl, stationary, greeting cards and more.
They do no currently have an SEO specialist or digital marketing company in their pocket, but a major percentage of The Learned Owl’s sales come in through their website. They update the site frequently, with featured items such as a staff picks page, event announcements and newsletter sign up. Workers at the Owl also post regularly across social media, helping to drive traffic through the website and in-store. The owner, Kate Schlademan, also regularly checks and responds to reviews to encourage good customer relations.
Here is the book purchased from The Learned Owl:
- Purchased: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Condition: New
- Price: $6.99 before tax
Find the Learned Owl Book Shop Here:
3) Elizabeth’s Bookshop – Google Rating: 5/5 (14 Reviews)
Elizabeth’s Bookshop is a pop-up shop located in Akron. It is a Black-owned bookstore, coffee shop and literacy center that highlights, promotes and honors the work of writers of color, LGBTQ+, disabled and other marginalized authors who are often excluded from traditional cultural, social and academic conversations. They are linked to Bookshop.org for a more extensive selection (i.e., Shakespeare) but the store itself carries an exclusive and limited collection of ever-rotating Black and QTBIPOC titles.
According to Elizabeth’s Bookshop manager Jillian Smith, the website is run in New York City by The Loveland Group LLC., a family of ventures, dedicated to investment in Black & QTBIPOC culture, opportunity, healing and life-long learning. K6 was unable to confirm whether or not SEO is used for their website, but it still remains a possibility.
Here are the books purchased from Elizabeth’s Bookshop:
- Purchased: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (in-store) and Othello by William Shakespeare (bookshop.org)
- Condition: New
- Price: Bluest Eye $14.95, Othello $6.43 before tax
Find Elizabeth’s Bookshop Here:
Local Marketing with SEO
While these stores may not currently use SEO, they are the top-rated independent bookstores in the Northeast Ohio area because they keep up with their online presence. Through replying to Google Reviews, consistently posting on social media and updating their websites weekly, these businesses have managed to keep independent bookstores alive in a time when e-books and downloads are taking over the world.
All three bookstores could benefit from a Digital Marketing Team and implementing SEO as well. By creating staff pages, putting out blog posts and boosting their existing content with specialized keyword phrases, these bookstores could find themselves with an increase in sales and foot traffic in no time.
K6 Digital Marketing Inc. provides Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search, Social Media Marketing, Web Design and more to companies located both in the Cleveland area and across the U.S. With over 20 years of experience in the digital marketing industry, K6 helps boost traffic and expand businesses with ease.
Contact us for more information or to get started today.