The Coronavirus pandemic has caused such a massive shift in consumer behavior that brands are not only rethinking their marketing budget, but in many cases their entire strategy. The local marketing keywords you may already be using to describe your services aren’t necessarily the terms consumers think to use when they need to find a product or service today.
Although “ecommerce” is a term commonly used in business circles to describe online buying and selling, for example, searches on this particular term are only slightly up. Consumers are searching with keywords and phrases that speak more directly to their needs, such as “online ordering,” “buy online,” and “order online pickup”, as evidenced in the Google Trends insights below:
Some breakout terms are almost entirely new, such as “contactless pickup.” However, “contactless payment” was an already-emerging technology that has now rapidly gained traction in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These shifts in consumer behavior will likely continue as the majority of Americans will still socially distance despite businesses being reopened. In fact, most American’s recently polled are not in favor of reopening businesses. Given these trends, it is imperative for brands not only to adhere but also communicate social distancing protocol. This includes updates to local webpage content and Google My Business listings optimization.
When it comes to social distancing messaging. it is essential to explore how other common keyword terms are trending in specific industries. It is important to note that this is not a comparison of one keyword’s volume against another and that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to local optimization. We hope these insights may inspire you as you rethink your brand’s local SEO strategy and perhaps undertake new keyword research of your own.
Retail shoppers searching for online shopping, open stores
All manner of online shopping and home delivery searches understandably spiked during the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown. Going forward, retail brands need to make sure that location store hours across the chain are accurate as consumers are once again on the lookout for nearby open, in-store shopping options.
If you are also offering options such as online shopping and home delivery, make sure the language in your GMB description, Local Pages, social media profiles, and other online properties reflects this. Google is making it a priority to highlight attributes such as in-store pickup and same-day delivery, so make sure these are being applied in GMB.
Restaurant discovery has plunged
The restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit, with more than 8 million US restaurant employees laid off or furloughed and an estimated $80 billion in sales lost as of the end of April. The dropoff in “dine-in” searches was a natural consequence of sheltering in place requirements, although we are beginning to see greater consumer interest again.
Now, as we collectively look to Phase One of reopening America, search terms your brand would have coveted prior to COVID-19 simply aren’t top of mind for consumers. “Top restaurant,” “restaurant ratings,” and “best restaurant” were all common terms people used to discover and evaluate new dining options.
While we will see some recovery there as reopening continues, it is more important than ever that brands connect at the local level to their existing customer base:
- Make sure restaurant hours, menus, and ordering phone numbers or URLs are accurate for all locations.
- Use the “contactless delivery” and other relevant attributes in GMB to help customers understand how they can enjoy your offerings once again.
- Optimize Local Page SEO elements (title, meta description tag, H1 tags) to reflect social distancing messaging such as “delivery” or “takeout.”
- Use your social networks, Google Posts, and email list to keep customers up to date on your food safety, safe service, and social distancing practices.
Finance terms reflective of consumer needs
Finance, insurance, and banking brands will want to shift their focus on using keyword terms and language that mirrors consumer needs as the pandemic evolves. An initial spike in searches for “financial help” is waning and “bank appointment” is rebounding as reopening begins.
Similar to how restaurant industries have seen large spikes in traffic for “take-out” and “delivery,” the financial sector has seen a surge in “drive-thru ATM” and “virtual bank” searches. Create Google Posts and blog content, and update Local Pages with information about assistance that may be available to those experiencing unemployment and in need of financial help. Also, revisit the optimization on your local pages and update SEO elements to include relevant phrases such as “drive-thru” or “virtual” to improve the user experience and organic rankings for surging keyword phrases.
Keep in mind that finance is a regulated industry as far as Google is concerned, and Post content cannot mention specific financial products. However, your locations can share Posts about booking virtual appointments, services available via telephone banking, how your brand is keeping employees and customers safe, etc.
Hospitality consumers are forward-thinking
Hospitality brands have an opportunity to stay top of mind by tapping into the collective wanderlust of consumers kept sheltering in place. “Booking 2021” initially spiked as mass travel cancellations kicked in this March, then fell off. However, that forward-looking trend has rebounded, indicating that consumers are already looking at their options for next year. Interest in summer travel and travel after COVID are on the minds of consumers, as well.
Hospitality brands might use this downturn to double down on content, both getting ahead of the game with local content and publishing regularly to build your local audiences. Local owners can be replenishing your stock of location photos and videos, which can be scheduled to publish to GMB, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other relevant networks in the coming months.
‘Telemedicine’ has become part of the healthcare consumers’ vocabulary
Searches for “hospital near me” and “doctor near me” have dropped but not fallen off entirely. Both “telehealth” and “telemedicine” spiked recently, although it is interesting to note that telemedicine is now in far wider use than it was at the beginning of this year. Healthcare brands that offer either or some combination of both services should be sure to use the appropriate term and also offer some longer-form content, perhaps linking to Local Pages for a more detailed description of what the service entails.
Consumers have also increasingly searched the term “symptom checker,” perhaps in relation to COVID-19 or as an alternative to visiting a healthcare provider during this time of crisis. Make good use of Local Pages, GMB attributes, Google Posts, and social media content to help patients understand the availability of real-world and telehealth or telemedicine services.
Evolving consumer behavior will continue to challenge brand marketers as America reopens for business.
While we do not know quite what the weeks and months ahead may hold, one thing is certain: brands need to be on their real-time listening game more than ever before. Some organizations are even setting up a task force dedicated to proactively planning how the brand will pivot and stay ahead of rapidly changing market conditions.
In any case, ensure that your local SEO data is front and center as you work to understand how to meet the needs of customers impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Read Opening Up America: Expert Local Marketing Guidance For Enterprise Brands
- Grab your seat now for our next local marketing expert webinar
- Take advantage of a free local search audit and discover new opportunities to improve your brand’s online visibility and local search rankings.
Note: in the above illustrations for retail, finance, restaurant, hospitality, and healthcare keywords, the y-axis represents search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time for that search term only. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A value of 0 means there was not enough search data. This representation is designed to show the trajectory of each individual term and should not be mistaken for a comparison between the search volume of terms.