The past few months have brought massive change to the local marketing landscape. Temporary store closures, regulatory and public health requirements, changes to hours of operation and staffing, GMB updates, and more have wreaked havoc with local business communications and operations.
In order to help brands understand how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted consumer behavior, we analyzed search data for nearly 200,000 U.S. business locations over a ten-week period from February 24 to April 27, 2020. Everything we’ve learned about consumer behavior through this longer-term, sustained crisis can be incorporated as a best practice into your local marketing strategy going forward.
Overall, we found that local searches decreased by 27.3% during the Coronavirus lockdown, with the lowest search volume during the study period the week of March 16, 2020. This was the week after the President declared the pandemic a national emergency.
Krystal Taing, Director of Local Strategy, Marshall Nyman, Account Director, and Ryan Weber, Director of Client Success, shared more key findings from our study with participants. You can access the webinar on-demand here, or download the GMB Insights Study: Navigating Local Search in Times of Crisis whitepaper here.
Here are their best practices for managing local listings in times of crisis:
- Be prepared for changes in the types of searches local customers conduct as their needs change. Are they looking for pickup options? Do they want to know about your sanitization routines? Are you displaying special hours? Update your local listings—especially your GMB profile—and your local pages to provide this information.
A lot of times what that means making the necessary updates to your Google My Business listings and your other local listings across other publishers. Google primarly has put an immense amount of effort into enabling new attributes, adding new fields, and allowing you to communicate unique services all within your GMB listing. – Ryan Weber
- Use text and GMB attributes to provide information on alternative fulfillment methods such as curbside pickup, local delivery, and telehealth.
- Gather your consumer behavior insights and apply a strategy to their questions as early in the funnel as you possibly can. This means updating your Google My Business listings, and also syndicating that information to your other local listings across publishers, directories, and networks.
- Leverage your local pages to distribute in-depth information at the brand level and regionally. The spread of COVID-19 and consumer response has been different across the country and in different regions and cities. Brands need to have the ability to reach consumers in all markets instantly with key messaging, and the flexibility to tailor the message for individual locations, cities, or regions.
Beyond your listings, you should also be leveraging your individual location pages. Whether you’re publishing updates on how your organization as a whole is responding to COVID-19 or how you’re responding at the individual market or regional level—because we know the spread has been different across the country and in different regions, different cities, the regulations on reopening are different. So you need to have that flexibility at the individual location level or at the city, or regional level as well. – Ryan Weber
- Use structured data (including the new special announcement schema) to more easily surface the answers consumers need and to enhance your visibility in search with snippets and other search features.
- Incorporate product inventory on your local landing pages. Help consumers identify which locations have the specific product they’re looking for in stock, then provide information about your alternative fulfillment methods.
- Recognize that the way you do business can change overnight. Make sure you have the technology, team members, and strategy in place to pivot quickly so you can focus on new service and fulfillment methods as needed, and make that information readily accessible to customers
The interesting thing we did see was search views went up, despite the pandemic. People are looking for information about brands and are going to their listings to find out more. While businesses were trying to navigate how they would operate during Coronavirus, people are saying, “Hey, I go to this business. Normally, I know they’re open late, but maybe they’re not anymore. I need to check their hours of operation or maybe they have new policies in place. – Marshall Nyman
- Be prepared to adjust your local reviews response strategy. You may need to escalate different types of complaints or increase resources to match review volume. It might make sense to push reviewers to a first-party site rather than a third-party for a time. Be prepared to evaluate and act quickly.
I think businesses need to really focus on the contactless services available such as curbside delivery, take-out, and e-commerce, and making their business very accessible to customers. I believe the businesses that really focus on those areas are the ones that are going to be able to get back to where they were as quick as possible. – Marshall Nyman
Want to learn more? Check out the full, on-demand webinar video. As always, if you have any questions we encourage you to reach out to a member of the Rio SEO team. We’re here to help.