Over the past year, businesses across all industries have had to change the way in which they operate. From communicating shifts in-store hours, temporary closures, updates to your safety protocols, and more, consumers are now expecting businesses to share accurate information and they’re turning to a business’s local listings and local pages to find this information. Local marketing trends shifted dramatically, evolving to meet the new normal.
Technology also evolved quickly to accommodate the shifts in consumer behavior and to enable businesses to effectively convey updates. Nearly every search and discovery tool pushed a number of new features and enhancements.
Many of the changes, to both technology and consumer purchasing habits, are powering the future of local marketing. In a recent webinar, a panel of industry experts discussed the five local marketing trends to watch for in 2021, to better equip local marketers with the information they need to start the new year off right.
Let’s dive into what Lauren Abramson, Account Director at Rio SEO, Doug Gargaro, Account Director at Rio SEO, and Ryan Weber, Director of Client Success had to share.
Google Will Continue to Dominate Search, Discovery, and Conversions
Google, a powerhouse in local search, continued to showcase its dominance over the past year by releasing a number of new features and functionality to simplify the customer journey. A few of those local SEO changes our panel brought to our attention during the webinar included:
- Google Posts restriction lifted for chains: Chains may now submit Google Posts in bulk.
- COVID-19 Post Type: An opportunity for businesses to share more detailed and timely updates regarding their safety protocols. A business can also link to their COVID-19 landing page to share additional information.
- Health & safety attributes: New health and safety attributes were added early September to better equip searchers with the information they’re actively seeking when trying to understand how a business currently operates. These new attributes include: Appointment required, Mask required, Temperature check required, Staff wear masks, Staff get temperature checks
- Secondary hours: More businesses began to take advantage of secondary hours to share information regarding their special hours for at-risk customers.
- Online care links: Virtual appointments became more prominent in 2020 as consumers continue to avoid in-person contact.
- Social distancing attributes: Brands enabled social distancing attributes to communicate their operations. Some examples of these attributes include curbside pickup, outdoor dining, takeout, and contactless delivery.
User Experience Will Remain a Priority
Sticking with the topic of Google, we’ve seen Google position itself as the transactional layer across a variety of industries. Recently, Google enabled the ability for retailers to add a “Place an order” link in their GMB listings to prompt users to make a purchase without the need to visit a product page. Another example of this is restaurant brands having the ability to add a reservation and place an order link on their listings.
Google will continue to focus on user experience in the new year by encouraging fewer clicks and quicker conversions. While it may seem counterintuitive to have customers convert prior to reaching your website, our panel reminded us that this will likely positively impact businesses.
Agility Will Lead to Success in Times of Uncertainty
Over the past year, the need to be agile and ready to adapt to change has proven to be essential to overcome unexpected challenges. With the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have been tasked with the need to pivot their marketing efforts quickly and at a moment’s notice. But what exactly does an ideal agile, responsive marketing strategy look like in practice?
When reflecting on Rio SEO’s on clients and how they’ve become more nimble than ever this year, we’ve seen their teams taking a more proactive approach to identify team member’s strengths, challenging themselves to make changes quickly, and pushing for prompt approvals to better accommodate their customers.
Consumers Will Turn to Local Pages for Information
To rank in the Search Engine Results Pages and engage consumers, our expert panel agrees businesses must look beyond standard, template-based content. It’s no longer enough to switch out just the city name on your local landing pages. Ideally, if a brand had the capacity to craft custom, long-form content for each market and each individual location, this would lead to a winning local content marketing strategy. If this is not possible, our experts recommend brands start with updating the following pieces of content to better differentiate individual locations:
- Zip code
- Neighborhoods in that area
- Name of business park/shopping center the location is in
- Cross streets
- Driving directions to get to that location
- Store-level or regional promotions
Contactless Service Options Are Here to Stay
While curbside pickup once was mostly an option for busy consumers on the go, it has now become almost common practice for shoppers to expect a contactless pickup experience from retailers. What’s more, delivery in the restaurant vertical grew tremendously. In fact, the pandemic has more than doubled food-delivery apps’ profits. Pharmacy retailers were also quick to jump on the contactless service trend with prescription drop-offs to avoid contact with those who may be sick in-store.
Contactless services that emerged in 2020 are here to stay in 2021, according to our panel.
Mobile Usage Will Thrive and Become More Prevalent Than Before
In March of 2021, businesses will see Google’s mobile-first index update, a long-awaited update that has been years in the making. To prepare for this transition, it’s crucial for brands to invest in a natively mobile-compliant web presence.
As consumers continue to rely on mobile for their needs—whether searching for a business or consuming content, usability and performance are key. Being able to consume the content on that device that’s efficient and performance of it so it’s quick. It’s important to note desktop presence will be completely ignored with the Google Algorithm update.
Good Page Experience Will Be Rewarded
Google continues to prioritize the user experience and rewards brands who follow search trends by appearing higher in the SERPs. In May 2021, a Google page experience update will go into effect. In the update, Google will highlight search results that have an optimal page experience.
Our panel agrees, fast and effective on-page information will be rewarded. To accomplish this our panel recommends:
- Have the most relevant content on the page above the fold
- Add Schema Markup to your page
- Following Google’s Core Web Vitals
- Answering questions as clearly and concisely as possible
2021 Local KPIs Will Shift From 2020 KPIs
41% of Americans have tried a new shopping method since March 1, 2020, according to a recent survey. 75% of those respondents said they intended to continue to use those services post-COVID.
To say COVID impacted local marketing metrics this year would be an understatement. The pandemic completely derailed the metrics brands were focusing on at the beginning of the year and shifted their focus to other metrics that once held less importance. For example, retailers shifted their focus from in-store visits to looking at their e-commerce metrics.
Across all verticals with our own clients, Rio SEO has seen our own clients switch their focus from map views and clicks to driving to directions to reviewing search views, clicks to call, and clicks to website performance.