September brought the same seasonal local marketing trends we came to expect in a pre-pandemic world across restaurants, retailers, hospitality businesses, and other industries. These are just a few of the segments we focus on in our monthly analysis of enterprise brand local search data. In this post, we will examine the local consumer search behavior trends September 2022 presented.
This month, full-service restaurants bounced back from a 13.5% decrease in total searches in August to gain 14.5%. September also brought that segment a 31% increase in total search views and in fact, all verticals we track with the exception of hotels saw search views increase year-over-year (YoY). Clicks to call business locations are also down universally YoY, indicating that consumers may be more comfortable visiting brick and mortar locations than they were at this time last year and no longer need to call ahead for information.
These aggregate Google Business Profile (GBP) insights, collected from over 170,000 enterprise brand locations that use Rio SEO’s solutions for their local marketing needs, provide important industry-wide context and trends you can use to better understand your own locations’ GBP reporting.
Service businesses (defined as postal services, storage facilities, pest control, gyms, staffing agencies, and more for the purpose of this research) continued to see improvements in local search performance month-over-month in September, with increases similar to what we saw in August. The largest gains were in total listing views (20%) and total searches (10%). Total listing views were twice what we observed in August. Year-over-year figures also show an impressive lift, even more so than month-over-month (MoM), with total views up 67.2%, total searches up 36.2% and clicks for directions up 21%.
This aligns with what others are seeing in the personal care services segment on a global level. Sales in the global wax hair removal market, for example, are expected to rise considerably from 2022 to 2029. The market size of the Gym, Health & Fitness Clubs industry, another segment in service businesses, is expected to increase 4.2% in 2022.
It’s essential that service businesses meet searchers in their decision-making moments with accurate, up-to-date local listings information. Having a misplaced map pin or out-of-date hours of operation can negatively impact local customers’ experience, while failing to use attributes, photos, and local reviews to their full potential could be hindering a location’s ability to rank at all. Get our complete guide, Local Listings for Services Businesses [Ebook] for helpful tips and insights to get all of your service brand’s local listings in shape.
For the third month in a row, financial services businesses saw only nominal movement in MoM local search metrics. Searches and listing views increased 0.5% and 3.3% respectively, while all conversions measured decreased in small measures.
The greatest decrease this month was in clicks to website, which fell 5.3% from August. Compared to last September, financial services’ metrics faired slightly better. Clicks to call dropped 14.4%. However, this could be an indication that searchers are finding what they need in local listings to convert, as evidenced by the 10% YoY increase in clicks for directions.
One industry we monitor within the financial services vertical are mortgage lenders. Currently, the average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed is 7.24%, more than double its 3.22% level at the start of the year. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) expects we’ll see a lot of volatility through the remainder of 2022, given the impacts of both rising inflation and steps taken by the Federal Reserve to restrain it. The average cost of a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage has also surged to 6.47%, compared to 2.43% in early January. This may be a factor contributing to the slight increases and decreases we observed in September.
In times of economic uncertainty, the informational needs of consumers tend to increase. We witnessed this during COVID-19 lockdowns. As branches and service centers closed or switched to alternate service methods such as online appointments, clicks to website and phone calls spiked. Providing accurate, complete information in online listings and local pages and ensuring communication channels such as Google Messages and local reviews are actively monitored can help improve customer service and reduce the volume of calls.
Responding promptly to reviews – ideally, within 24 hours – is particularly important, given the impact reviews have on local search rankings.
The rebound in restaurant industry sales and traffic that began in August continued through September, according to BlackBox Intelligence. Increasing consumer confidence, particularly in upscale casual restaurants, drove a 5.3% increase in August. As far as local search performance metrics go, total restaurant listing views grew a whopping 31% MoM in September, with total searches making impressive gains as well at +14.5%.
As the restaurant industry continues to recover from pandemic-related business interruptions, we saw searches rise 31.7% this September compared to last. Even more impressive is the 74.3% gain in total views YoY. While total clicks were down from 2021, we see that the largest drop was in clicks to call – again, this highlights the heightened informational needs of consumers at that time and is no cause for concern today. All other conversion metrics rose in September on both a MoM and YoY basis.
When hungry diners are searching for restaurants like yours in their local area, what do they see in local search results? Restaurant listings can be fiercely competitive, and Google Business Profiles are a great way to help your locations stand out. Attributes enable you to proactively answer specific questions around accessibility features, menu options, pickup and delivery options, parking, atmosphere, and more. See Mastering GMB Attributes for Restaurant Brands to learn how to make the most of this optimization opportunity.
The quick-service restaurant segment did not fare as well as its FSR counterparts in September – at least not as far as local search performance goes. While total listing views were up 4.36% MoM, the remainder of metrics we track were down, with decreases ranging from -3% to -15%. Year-over-year QSR metrics fared slightly better, seeing growth in total listing views (+48%), total searches (+12%), and clicks for directions (+3%) when compared to September 2021.
BlackBox Intelligence shared an insightful analysis of online review sentiment recently and identified a negative trend in off-premises restaurant reviews for Q2 2022. Their report noted that, “…when comparing in-store against off-prem performance for Full-Service, net sentiment was a significant 64 points higher than its off-premises score.”
Brands cannot leave review monitoring up to individual locations to handle manually, or they run the risk of a very disparate experience for customers in different regions. Use a reputation management technology solution to monitor across multiple review platforms, triage reviews and assign for followup, and provide templated responses that can be customized at the local level.
Search interest for hospitality brands was near flat from August to September, as evidenced by a 0.06% increase in total search views and -1.7% drop in searches. Falling conversion rates (total clicks, down 6.4% MoM) are in line with seasonal trends as we come off the peak summer travel months. Clicks for driving directions are down 13.9% from September 2021.
Even so, the hotel industry’s recovery continues with occupancy for July and August up 3% over the same period in 2019. Group and business bookings are making a swift return, with 4.3 million group bookings already made for H1 2023.
Hospitality brands need to stay on top of the myriad places their listings may appear, ensuring that at each touchpoint, consumers have an easy path to either book through the platform or be directed to a local page where they can book or find more information. Last year, Google gave hotel business listings access to 100 additional hospitality-specific attributes that can be used for differentiating your listings from competitors and appealing to travelers with specific wants and needs. Optimized local pages, high quality photos, and content optimized for searches around special occasions and local events can all help drive local interest in competitive markets – you can learn more about those tactics here.
Most retail local search and conversion metrics were down in September 2022 when compared to August, with the exception of +5.3% more total views. All conversion metrics reflect this downturn, with clicks for directions dropping the furthest at -8.2%. Year-over-year metrics, however, showed more promise with total listing views up 36% and total searches up 5% for retailers.
Current consumer sales data is reflective of the impact of high inflation and rising interest rates. Although retail spending was up 8.2% from a year prior, there were no monthly gains; in fact, sales fell 0.4% when adjusted for inflation. Erik Lundh, principal economist at The Conference Board, said recently, “Looking ahead, we expect consumer spending growth to fall deeper into negative territory as the economy slips into recession.”
Retail brands should plan to incorporate offers, deals, and coupons into holiday marketing campaigns and can support individual locations by distributing these across all local pages and as Google Posts for each location. It’s important to have a strategy for removing Posts once they’re outdated in place, to avoid potential confusion and false advertising.
While total search views and total searches grew by 10.5% and 5.5%, respectively, conversion actions were lower in September than in the month before. Overall, total clicks fell 1%, with clicks to call and clicks to the website dropping and only clicks for directions increasing by less than 3%. Compared to September 2021, however, total search views were up over 41.9% last month, with total searches increasing by 13.7%.
Recent reports show that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital slowly waned over the month of September, beginning with 31,491 patients on September 1, 2022 and ending with 22,713 on September 30, 2022. Daily new COVID-19 cases varied throughout the month, with a peak of 123,988 new cases on September 7, 2022 and a low of 5,442 new cases on September 18, 2022.
Local listings management at scale is both a top priority and great challenge for enterprise brands in healthcare, where information accuracy is not only a customer experience issue but can be a regulatory and legal concern, as well. A clean local listings profile also helps improve search visibility and drive new patient discovery. While the prospect of identifying, verifying and optimizing potentially tens of thousands of listings across all locations is daunting, it’s never too late to clean up your brand’s local presence.
A combination of enterprise technology and local SEO expertise (for manual interventions, as needed) can help. In this case study, you can see how Providence Health and Services achieved a search engine accuracy lift of 42%, to more than 96%.
Last month, multi-family brands saw increases across the board in the local marketing performance metrics we measure. In September, multi-family brands saw noteworthy increases in metrics we study, such as a 17% increase in total views and an 8% increase in total searches. Year-over-year metrics were down, with the exception of total views (+3.6%) and clicks for driving directions (+0.2) when compared to September 2021. Clicks to call fell the most with a 39.7% drop.
The economic slowdown has impacted residential rents, as well, and in the multifamily segment we see that rents remained flat from August to September. A new report from Yardi states, “Asking rates stabilized at $1,718 for the month. Year-over-year rent growth slid more than a full percentage point for the third month in a row, bringing it below 10% for the first time since July 2021.” The sector’s outlook remains strong, the report says, because many prospective homebuyers who are priced out of the market turn to single-family rentals.
Photos, videos, and reviews are all essential elements of the online rental seeking journey, and multi-family residential brands can deliver on all three right in the search experience with optimized Google Business Profiles. You’ll find plenty of helpful tips and insights in A Complete Guide to the Google Business Profile Rebrand for Enterprise Brands.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months, and stay tuned next month for more in-depth local consumer search behavior insights.