April brought with it the promise of spring and this year, also dramatically reduced restrictions across much of North America as vaccines have become more widely available. Continuously evolving pandemic-related conditions have influenced consumer behavior in search since the crisis first struck early in 2020. In this post, we will cover search behavior trends April 2021 presented.
In our Local Consumer Search Behavior Trends series, we’ve shared aggregate local search data from the GMB performance of over 200,000 locations across 7 broad verticals each month.
As you’ll see below, April has been less tumultuous than in previous months. Gains and losses in total views and searches, clicks, and specific local conversions were less dramatic, with double-digit changes in just a few categories.
Here’s how consumer behavior trended in local search in April 2021:
Business services brands continued to build on a strong month of March when performance in all metrics was up 20% to 30% over February. April’s gains were lower but still trending in the right direction for enterprise brands in IT, consulting, SaaS, and other professional services.
Clicks to call and clicks to website saw the greatest growth in April at +8% and +8.9%, respectively.
Business services weren’t hit by Coronavirus as hard as some other verticals; in fact, our research found that clicks for driving directions in business services actually grew 188% in the first 6 months of the pandemic. Continue to build on your brand’s strength and win greater positioning to bump down competitors in local search by applying SEO best practices, building your local reviews profile, and automating repetitive SEO tactics to improve your efficiency at scale.
Average local search performance metrics for mortgage brokerages, investment firms, banks, and other types of financial services brands are down slightly from March. However, it’s worth noting that local search interest and conversions had spiked then due to the hot housing market and the extended moratorium on foreclosures.
What we’re seeing in April’s data could indicate more of a correction to more seasonal norms than an actual decline in search interest. The pandemic and associated job losses have personal finance top of mind for many. Update GMB profiles across the organization to demonstrate which offices or agents offer online booking, virtual appointments, drive-thru banking services, etc.
Sit Down Restaurants
March was a massive month for sit-down restaurants as warm weather brought more outdoor dining options and spring break travel drove increases in sales. Local search metrics were up across the board, up to +42.4% as was the case with clicks for driving directions.
Again, April’s figures indicate a settling of those skyrocketing March numbers more than a loss in search interest in dining out. In fact, total local search views, searches, and clicks to website in April built on those already large gains the month prior.
This is a good time to ensure that GMB attributes are up to date for all locations across the brand. Help prospective diners easily identify which locations offer dine-in, curbside pickup, takeout, and other restaurant-specific services and features. As of May 13-15, a Morning Consult survey found 64% of all adults said they feel comfortable going to a restaurant, a new record high for the activity since the pandemic, including similar shares of people across generations.
Quick Service Restaurants
Quick service restaurants also continued to build on March’s strong local search performance, with all metrics measured up for the month of April. Total local search views grew +39.7 in March and gained another +4.7% this past month. Clicks to call restaurant locations rebounded with a +7.4% increase in April that more than made up for the -2.8% drop in March.
Clicks for driving directions have grown more than 40% over the past two months, underscoring the importance of having accurate and up-to-date hours of operation, map pins, address information, and exterior photos for all quick service restaurant locations. When customers are looking for their next meal and searching on the go, it’s a quick conversion, and having the right information in GMB to get them in the doors is imperative. Work on your brand’s local reviews strategy to provide valuable input for potential customers and positive search signals for all of your locations.
Slight losses in the month-over-month local search metrics in the hotels and hospitality sector reflect March’s strong performance (again impacted by March Break travel). Total local search volume and views spiked at more than +40% in March, and it’s a testament to consumers’ increasing interest in post-pandemic travel that interest fell just -1.7% and -2.0% for these key metrics in April.
Clicks for driving directions stayed nearly the same as in March, while clicks to call dropped less than a single percentage point. Overall, these figures demonstrate continued strength in the hotel sector, which had seen three consecutive months of growth in this metric to March. See our guide on Local SEO Best Practices for Hotels to ensure your brand is capitalizing on all opportunities in local search throughout this period of recovery.
Retail brands had also experienced over 20% growth in nearly all local search metrics measured in March. Though the first two months of the year trended downward due to the post-holiday slump, increases in clicks to call and clicks for driving directions in April demonstrate that shoppers are ready to get back into brick-and-mortar stores.
Losses in other metrics are relatively minor compared to the gains in March. Total views, for example, dropped -5.3% in April but that comes on the back of a 22.2% gain in March. Use retail attributes in GMB to help searchers instantly recognize what service options and amenities are available, which store locations are accessible, what products are available, and more.
Local search metrics in healthcare fell by single digits for all but clicks for driving directions. Searches for vaccine clinics and the return to in-person appointments in many regions had driven double-digit increases in March so again, this appears to be more a correction than a new shift in behavior.
Healthcare brands should use all GMB attributes available to this category to proactively provide information in local search results that will help searchers make a decision. Make sure that insurance availability is listed for each location, as well.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months: