The Online Food Retail Boom: How to Take Advantage of Search Volumes

The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for so many of us. However, new consumer behaviours have led to new opportunities for business growth.

As a leading digital marketing agency in Devon, we’ve seen first-hand how businesses have adapted to the new challenges faced over the last year or so. This article shines a light on the online food retail sector and provides advice for small businesses wanting to increase their website visitors.

How Has COVID affected Food Shopping?

The impact of COVID can be seen in almost all areas of our lives. However, its influence is particularly noticeable in the grocery shopping sector.

With everyone told to stay at home during the pandemic, it’s unsurprising that demand for online food retailers skyrocketed to all-time highs. What’s perhaps more surprising, however, is that general demand for food and drink also increased.

According to research by Public Health England, total sales volume for food and drink in the first half of 2020 was more than 11% up on the same period a year before.

The week before the lockdown was formally announced when stockpiling was at its most intense, year-on-year sales for the sector were up over 43%.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a considerable increase in the amount of disposable income available to some groups. With fewer opportunities for holidays and days (or nights) out, people found more money to spend in other areas, such as food and drink.

Alcohol has seen the highest year-on-year increase in sales, at 27.6%. Home cooking (over 23%), frozen meats (19.1%), savoury snacks (18.8%) and frozen confectionery (17.8%) saw the next biggest increases.

The impact of COVID on food shopping can also be seen across different demographics. Young families (with children below the age of four) and working adults without children both saw an over 20% increase in sales.

Tesco red neon supermarket sign

How Big is the Online Food Market in the UK?

While the whole food retail industry has benefited from increased demand, most growth has been in the online sector.

Despite supermarkets staying open during the pandemic and lockdowns, people flocked to online alternatives in their droves. In April 2020, worldwide Google searches for “food delivery” reached an all-time high, and despite declining since, they remain notably above pre-pandemic levels.

With more money to spend on food and increased time for some, there was also increased demand for local groceries. COVID shone a spotlight on the fragility of global supply chains, and a growing sense of community encouraged people to make more conscious decisions regarding their food shopping habits.

Food box schemes were a particular benefactor of this trend. According to a report by Food Foundation, sales doubled from March to mid-April 2020, while for smaller companies, the increase was even more significant (134%). 3.5 million boxes of fresh produce were delivered in six weeks.

Organic subscription boxes are just one example of the online food retail boom. With an increasing priority on food quality and where it comes from, there is a fantastic chance for even more online food retailers to grow their businesses.

The Importance of SEO for Grocery Stores

If you run an online food retail website and want to increase your sales long-term, you need to know about search engine optimisation (SEO).

As the name suggests, SEO is all about optimising your website for search engines. More than half of all website traffic comes from search engines, and most consumer journeys start with a search, so having your website appear at the top can make all the difference!

How to Improve Your Online Food Retail Store’s SEO

Search engine optimisation can sound like a big, technical exercise, and there is certainly value in a professional approach. However, you can do some fundamental things straight away to help improve where your website appears on search engines.

One of the most important things to consider is the headings you use on your website. These must always be realistic and truthful considering the page’s contents, but by tweaking them to fit standard search terms, you can increase your chances of appearing high on sites like Google.

You can also change the meta titles and descriptions of your pages. These will appear on Google when searched, and by including key terms, you can increase your chances of ranking highly.

Oriental supermarket search on Google
One of our clients appears in position one for a range of oriental supermarket terms, helping it to reach thousands of users every month!

How to Find Online Shopping Keywords

As you may have realised, you need to know what keywords to target to improve your website’s ranking and SEO performance.

A keyword is simply a selection of words that are commonly searched for on Google. For example, someone who enjoys painting might google “red paint” or “canvas paper” when purchasing supplies.

One of the most important steps you can take is finding what keywords will work for your site. To do this, you need to know what your target audience is typing into search engines when looking for your products.

There are many ways to go about finding this information. Here at Ducard, we use professional tools and software to find the optimum keywords, but there are some widely available methods to get you started.

Google Search

A good starting point is performing some searches of your own. Start typing in common words and phrases and see what features such as Google’s autofill, related searches and “people also ask for” deliver.

Chrome Plugins

There are various SEO-related plugins available for Google Chrome that can help you find related keywords and look at other websites’ SEO performance. Good examples to try are Keywords Everywhere and SEO Quake.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

If you have a paid ad (or PPC) campaign on Google, you will have access to their Keyword Planner, which provides statistics on search volumes around specific terms. This feature is a great way to discover what people are searching for and how many use different terms.

Competitor Sites

If you’re unsure where to start with your SEO, one of the best techniques is to look at what your competition is doing and adapt. Do some searches and see what websites frequently appear near the top and what terms they’re using in their page headings.

However, it’s worth noting that finding potential keywords is only half of the job. The next step is understanding what keywords will work best for you. You’ll need to consider your website’s authority compared to competitors to find the keywords that provide realistic opportunities to rank.

You’re not going to beat Amazon or Tesco for generic terms, so you need to find longer, more specific phrases which provide a window of opportunity for your business.

Here at Ducard, we’ve worked with online food retailers throughout the pandemic, helping them to reach their audiences online. If you want to see how we can help increase the traffic on your website through professional SEO, why not contact our team today?

Get in touch with Ducard today