This month, our analysis of local search trends across over 200,000 U.S. business locations’ Google My Business accounts shows marked increases in search interest in every vertical over February. While there is certainly some seasonality at play, the larger trends of vaccination rollout and economic recovery are driving the strong results you’ll see below. In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the local consumer search behavior trends March presented.
Sit-down restaurants, in particular, saw growth in every metric now that more locations are able to offer in-person dining (both indoor and outdoor). Local search interest in quick-service restaurants grew in every metric, with the exception of phone calls, as consumers are more comfortable gathering again in their local communities.
Gains in retail searches, views, clicks, and conversion metrics are likely due to spring break shopping and the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on in-store shopping. We expect that increased stimulus money in local economies is also driving the recovery in retail.
Now, let’s dive deeper into each of the seven verticals we study on a monthly basis. Here is what’s happening in each of the verticals studied:
Interest in business services picked up significantly in March. This vertical saw some of the largest increases across all metrics, particularly clicks to websites which rose 30% over the month prior.
Consumers are clearly engaging and interacting with business services which necessitate accurate, up-to-date business information on local listings.
Decreased search interest in February reversed as March brought about gains for every local search metric. Financial services consumers are searching, viewing, and taking action as financial strain begins to lift for some.
This could be in part because the unemployment rate was down to 6% in March 2021 from its high of 17.3% in April 2020.
It’s worth noting that financial services include the mortgage sector. We expect that housing market conditions (high demand, low-interest rates, high sale turnarounds, low inventory, etc.) are driving growth here, as well. The extension of the moratorium on foreclosures and rental evictions (and a new program being discussed to allow borrowers to potentially do loan modifications to 40 years) is undoubtedly bolstering the market, as well. The decreased likelihood of defaults (which could otherwise spark a correction in the market) is also fueling demand.
Sit Down Restaurants
As we anticipated in last month’s local consumer search behavior trend’s update, the sit-down restaurant industry finally saw some much-needed improvement across all local marketing metrics.
This industry was hit hardest of all the verticals we’ve monitored. Many had to entirely change their business model to include off-premise-dining, alcohol and food-to-go, paperless menu options, and more to make up for lost sales.
Quick-service restaurants have been highly impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well. The effects of forced closures and disinterest in dining-in at restaurants lingered into the new year.
However, in March, quick-service restaurant metrics recovered dramatically and our clients saw double-digit increases across nearly every metric.
Interest in the hotel industry continued to rise in March for the third month in a row. As more individuals become fully vaccinated, this likely increases their comfort in traveling again and staying in hotels.
Hotels also benefited from both spring break and a general increase in travel demand due to vaccinations as well as declining COVID cases.
After a tough start to the year in January and February, the retail industry saw large upticks in every metric in March. The continued popularity of social commerce, influencer marketing, online shopping, and same-day delivery trends may have contributed to these positive figures.
Month-over-month increases in website clicks have also elevated compared to previous months, which could indicate consumers looking for deeper information about store status, pickup options, and offerings.
Healthcare metrics continue to gain traction, seeing double-digit surges across every metric. These increases are likely attributed to the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more readily available in some states and searchers seeking additional information related to where they can get the vaccine.
Those who put off regular medical checkups or elective procedures may be returning to physicians’ offices, hospitals, and clinics in person as COVID vaccinations increase, as well.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months: