How search volume and conversion actions are trending can help give your own Google My Business (GMB) performance statistics much-needed context. It can also guide your future local marketing efforts. Throughout the pandemic, local businesses have been impacted in myriad ways by public health regulations, COVID-19 outbreaks, and constant shifts in consumer behavior. Search behavior trends September presented were no different.
That’s why we’ve been analyzing local consumer search behavior across the over 200,000 GMB accounts we monitor for enterprise clients across the U.S.
These insights can help you understand whether the rise and fall you’re seeing in your own GMB insights is part of a wider trend – or if perhaps there is something going on in a specific location that needs looking into. Here’s what we learned and the consumer search behavior trends we saw in September.
Service businesses figures remain down, similar figures to what we saw from July to August. Salons, gyms, and home services brands continue to be heavily impacted by lockdown orders. While mask mandates vary by state and county, for those that require masks at gyms, this can add a level of inconvenience and frustration for gym-goers who find it uncomfortable to wear a mask during high-intensity exercise and may lead to less in-person gym attendance.
Additionally, with many still recovering from a financially taxing 2020, discretionary spending is down compared to earlier this year.
Financial services metrics were down slightly across the board month-over-month, although the year-over-year recovery in total views and total searches is up significantly.
Year-over-year declines in calls and website clicks are to be expected. They were elevated last year as clients called or clicked through to gain deeper information on closures, online banking options, ATM drive-thru options, and COVID-related information.
Sit-down restaurants figures were down slightly in September from August. Seated dining in restaurants in the U.S. was down 17% from 2019 as of September 22, 2021, which aligns with the lower GMB figures we see here.
Seasonality also plays a factor in restaurant sales. Warmer months tend to attract more tourism and outdoor dining. September marked the end of summer, kids going back to school, and cooler weather for some cities.
Additionally some cities, such as Los Angeles and New York City, now require vaccination records to be shown prior to entering a restaurant, which may add a level of comfort for indoor diners in major cities. Total views and total searches surged in September, suggesting that searchers are becoming more comfortable with dining indoors.
Quick Service Restaurants
Quick service restaurants figures were down for the second month in a row, which aligns with the seasonality trend we saw with sit-down restaurants.
However, local search metrics for this category continue to recover from 2020. Online and physical visits to fast-casual restaurants in the year ending August 2021 were up 8% over 2020, and are anticipated to continue to recover after a tough year.
Summer end also marked the end of peak travel season, resulting in drops across all GMB metrics for the hotel industry. This aligns with reports estimating gross operating profit for U.S. hotels coming in lower in August than in July.
Year-over-year, however, the hotel industry is seeing significant improvements across all metrics as more than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and feels more at ease traveling. Additionally, TSA checkpoints saw 56% more travelers on September 30, 2021, as compared to the same day a year earlier, indicating that travel continues to rebound.
Seasonal declines in September fall in line with previous years. The height of back-to-school shopping has ended and the industry generally experiences a lull before holiday shopping begins. This holds true even in pre-pandemic years.
We anticipate month-over-month figures for retailers to rise each month into the holiday season, as holiday retail sales are expected to increase 7-9% and e-commerce holiday sales projected to grow 11% to 15%, compared to the 2020 holiday season.
Healthcare views, searches, and conversions were down slightly compared to August 2021. With COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise across the United States, many are opting for telehealth options or only visiting physicians in person when absolutely necessary, to avoid potential exposure.
COVID-19 cases are up significantly in September 2021 compared to September 2020, which is why year-over-year metrics may be up.
Multi-Family is up over September of last year, even as the unemployment rate fell by 0.4% point to 4.8% in September (the number of unemployed individuals fell by 710,000 to 7.7 million). Both figures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. As more people find employment, year-over-year multi-family metrics overall are unsurprisingly up.
Google Trends data suggests more people move in August than during any other month of the year, which accounts for the declines in month-over-month metrics. Additionally, apartment searches peak in July, before tapering off in the final three months of the year.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months: