I recently had a conversation with a jeweler who was worried about the declining foot traffic in their store. Some months ago they hired an SEO agency to work on their website and at the same time the foot traffic to their store started to increase. Then the foot traffic to their retail store started to decline shortly after they stopped paying for the SEO agency.
The assumption was that the SEO agency was the only factor in increasing their foot traffic. It would be every SEO professional's dream to hear a client attribute their work directly to the amount of foot traffic a retail store receives, but the truth is that there's no real way to measure that.
When first hired, the typical SEO professional will evaluate a website to make sure every page includes a page title and a meta description. They should also make sure the website doesn't have large technology problems that might be impeding Google's ability to read the site.
The next step for an SEO pro is to look at the details provided in Google Webmaster Tools
and correct any of the errors listed there.
The initial SEO tune-up process on every website is about the same, and I wrote about 7 basic SEO techniques
a few months ago that you can refer back to. Those 7 techniques should be reviewed and fixed if there are issues.
You can't assume that your website is ranking the best that it could, unless you've had someone perform a basic SEO review. I've seen far too many websites launched without proper page titles and meta descriptions. This type of SEO work is usually not part of the customary setup provide by a website programmer or designer.
Assuming Google hasn't applied a Penguin, Panda, or manual penalty to your website, you should see an increase in your organic website visitors as soon as you apply the basic SEO fixes to your website. However, an increase in website traffic will not directly translate to increase foot traffic to your retail store. The foot traffic is only going to happen when website visitors find something compelling on your website.
When foot traffic declines, you need to go back and figure out what is different now than what it was back then. I would want you to look at the changes you've made to your marketing strategy, specifically the number of emails sent, social media posts, blog posts, direct mail, and other traditional marketing. If your approach hasn't changed, then look at the message you are sending because you might not be targeting the correct customers any more.
A decline in foot traffic will have more to do with your overall brand identity and your marketing plan, and less to do with the actions of your SEO professional.
On the other hand, once your SEO pro completes the initial tune-up of your website you should make sure to follow their recommendations and guidelines for any future content you add to the site and changes you make. The most important thing is to maintain your page titles and meta descriptions. The next most important thing is to make sure the headlines on every page match the page titles. They should be near matching, or exact matching when possible.
There are a lot of SEO agencies that claim they do website optimization for you every month. I'm always leery of these claims because the agency will say they are doing the same process over and over again each month, but the truth is that there is a finite amount of work for every website. Once completed, and because of how fast Google works now, it should only take a few months to see the benefit in search results.
Also, once that basic work is completed you need to start planning for more aggressive approaches to SEO. This would include blogging, social media engagements, usability tracking, and a website redesign to bring the site up to current Google recommended guidelines. Each of those aggressive approaches will take months of additional work and they are usually much more expensive than any simple SEO tune-up process.
In conclusion, don't hire an SEO agency that offers a specific set of services every month. It's better to have a quick SEO tune-up performed so you can correct issues, then establish a process to continually build content on your website to attract more organic visitors.
Although there's no perfect way to measure the amount of foot traffic you get in your store against the visitor traffic to you website, they are certainly related. SEO of your website is only one small piece of your overall marketing. Please don't rely on it as your only form of marketing; otherwise you'll put yourself out of business shortly after the next Google update.