We didn’t start the year anticipating the number of updates to technology that would come, however, the global pandemic significantly altered the consumer landscape and the way in which buyers purchase and businesses sell. To account for shifts in consumer behavior, technology evolved rapidly and often quicker than local marketers were prepared for. Throughout the year, we’ve kept up with the latest local marketing and SEO updates, both related to COVID-19 and those that were bound to happen regardless of the pandemic. In this post, we will take a look at the top 10 local marketing blog posts we published this year. 

Google’s New Ranking Algorithm: What to Expect in 2021

Perhaps one of the biggest announcements to come from Google this year was their new ranking algorithm, which is expected to go into effect in 2021. Although having an optimal page experience may seem as though it should be common practice, Google will soon proactively reward those businesses who have a good page experience and penalize those that don’t. To help developers and brands better prepare for this change, Google put together this comprehensive documentation

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Businesses May Now Respond to Google Reviews Again After Temporary Hiatus

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, nearly every business across the globe was affected. Even the most renowned businesses encountered changes to their operations, and Google was not exempt from this. At the start of the pandemic, Google was operating with a limited support staff, which in turn led to a delay in Google reviews being approved. Businesses across all industries no longer had new reviews and could not respond to reviews for a period of time. What’s more, no one knew for certain when businesses would be able to respond to Google reviews again. It was a slower process for some industries, but as of mid-July, reviews across every vertical were back and businesses could respond to reviews once again.

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What’s New With Google: Review Attributes, Top-Rated Labels, Hotel Attributes

Over the course of the year, Google released a number of new features to help businesses better communicate the services they were offering and for consumers to better determine if they’d be interested in purchasing from a business. A few of those features we called out in early June were new review attributes for both positive and negative reviews, top-rated verbiage appearing on local listings, and new attributes released specifically for hotels. Additionally, hotels are now able to add how many restaurants they have on their hotel property to better showcase their dining options for their guests.

Top-rated label without citytop-rated label with city included

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Local SEO Tips for Restaurant & Grocery Brands During COVID-19

Two industries that were heavily impacted by the pandemic were restaurants and grocery brands. Restaurants in many parts of the country, in fact, continue to remain temporarily closed or only available for takeout. Customers also became fearful of entering crowded grocery stores for their food needs. 

To help restaurant and grocery brands better highlight terms consumers are actively searching for amid the pandemic, we researched the popular terminology associated with foodservice brands and best practices for updating local listings and local pages to reflect this language. For example, Google reported a 285% increase in the term “take-out” over just a three-week period in March, signifying consumers were looking for options where they could avoid face-to-face interaction.

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Advanced Schema Strategies for Local SEO

Advanced schema powers local SEO and enables your brand to be seen in the moments that matter most. However, without the right strategies and tactics in place, your content won’t be surfaced in the Search Engine Results Pages. 

In an effort to help brands better understand what Schema Markup is and how it can benefit you in search, we developed this blog post. In the blog, we also discuss how structured data impacts search results, the importance of structured data for local, three different structured variations that local marketers should use. 

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4 Ways Enterprise Brands Can Engage with Customers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As uncertainty loomed the first few months of the pandemic and a multitude of questions was raised regarding safety practices, store closures, and social distancing practices, businesses had to react quickly to address their customers’ concerns. Staying in alignment with many of our most popular blogs of 2020, local marketers were eager to learn ways in which they could effectively engage with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, we discussed the importance of monitoring your online reviews to mine for common themes, putting a solid review response strategy in place, updating your local landing pages to reflect any new updates to operations or store offerings, answering customer’s concerns via Google Q&A, and sharing timely updates via Google My Business (GMB).

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Expert Tips For Closing Branch Locations in Google My Business

Local marketing updates due to the COVID-19 may have made many of our top ten blog posts of the year, however, our readers were also eager to find out more information regarding best practices for GMB. As financial services brands began to consolidate and close their locations over the year, they were interested in learning how to do this correctly within GMB. 

In this post, we shared how financial services brands can effectively and accurately close a single location, close multiple locations, report a location as permanently closed, merge locations, and leverage their local pages to communicate updates to their locations.

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Crisis-Proof Your Local Listings: How to Stand Out During Unforeseen Events

Whether an unexpected weather event occurs, a pandemic sweeps the globe, or your business needs to close for a few days for cleaning, it’s critical to update your local listings to reflect these changes. What’s more, you must be prepared to do this at a moment’s notice. This year was a prime example of needing to pivot every aspect of your business quickly to keep your customers up-to-date. 

Businesses had to consider if the following fields needed to be updated on their local listings:

  • Hours: Did your location adjust your regular hours of operation? If yes, update your hours on your local listings to reflect this.
  • Phone number: Do you need to update your phone number if your location is closed? Who will be answering customers’ concerns when you’re closed?
  • Business Description: Closing temporarily? Update your business description to reflect this or any extra precautions you’re taking, such as sanitation procedures during COVID-19.
  • Google Posts: Leverage Google Posts to communicate special offers, updates, and links to resources.

The rise of etail - curbside pickup and delivery example

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GMB Partner Links and Food Ordering Updates For Restaurant Brands

The shift to online and mobile food ordering skyrocketed over the past year. In fact, the online food delivery segment is projected to reach 26.527 million in revenue by the end of 2020, up 20% from the year prior. 

Previously, businesses in both the restaurant and service industry were unable to control which third-party menu links were displayed in their profile. COVID-19, however, revealed the need for brands to be able to have this control, especially for brands that have their own delivery services available. Rather than having third-party partner links appear before the brand’s own link, brands now regained control of which links display first.

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3 Important Local Marketing Tips for Restaurant Brands Reopening Locations

At the beginning of May, stay-at-home orders began to lift, enabling restaurant brands to migrate from a delivery-only service model to indoor/outdoor dining once again. Yet, the notice to reopen came almost as quickly and unexpectedly as the notice to close. Restaurant brands were once again scrambling to update their local listings and local pages across all their locations to reflect their reopening. 

In an effort to help restaurant brands effectively and strategically communicate reopening their locations, we shared three important local marketing tips. These tips included updating their local listings and pages across the brand, communicating safety information on your website, local pages, and in Google Posts, and monitoring and responding to customer reviews. 

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The year may be coming to a close but our commitment to providing you timely local updates, industry trends, and best practices for local marketing success will continue in 2021 and beyond. Be sure to check our blog and resources often to stay up-to-date, or attend one of our monthly webinars to hear from other industry experts.