How COVID-19 Transformed the Local Search Landscape

A Whitepaper from Rio SEO | May 2021

An In-Depth Analysis of Google My Business Insights Trends in 2020

COVID-19 shook the global economy, and local search metrics reflect that impact right down to the individual store level. As the pandemic began to affect North America in early 2020, we saw an immediate impact on 400 global enterprise organizations with more than 200,000+ brand locations we monitor.

In this guide, we will share aggregate Google My Business (GMB) performance metrics to help enterprise brands understand the consumer behavior and local search conversion trends that shaped the local business environment throughout the pandemic and into the start of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a rollercoaster effect on local search behavior in 2020 as shifting public health recommendations, stay-at-home orders, and COVID-19 rates of infection collectively impacted consumer behavior.Click To Tweet

Below we’ll share a few key takeaways we saw by vertical. Download the full report for more in-depth exploration and analysis of our local search data by vertical.

How COVID-19 Transformed the Local Search Landscape
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Study Methodology

Dataset

We analyzed local search behavior from more than 200,000+ brand locations across 400 global enterprise organizations.

Timeframe

Results were analyzed from February 2020 through December 2020

Verticals

For the purposes of this study, we categorized locations and their data into six primary verticals, which include: financial services, business services, restaurants, retail, hospitality, and healthcare.

Metrics

Local searches, views, and conversion actions, including:

  • Local organic search volume
  • Local search (Map Pack) views
  • Total clicks on Map Pack listings
  • Clicks to Call
  • Clicks to Website
  • Clicks for Driving Directions

2020 Enterprise GMB Search, Views & Conversion Trends

Total searches, views, clicks, and local search conversion actions (clicks to call, clicks to website, and clicks for driving directions) shed light on how and when consumer anxieties, lockdown measuring, social distancing, and caseloads impacted brands at the local level throughout the year.

All verticals experienced a substantial dip in total views from February until April 2020. While all metrics reflected it, the greatest decline was in total views. May and June 2020 brought a rapid recovery across most verticals as the initial lockdown eased and by Q4 2020, the percentage of growth/decline in many verticals became more cohesive, seeming to move together across metrics.

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Explore Search Trends by Vertical

2020 Rio SEO Financial Services Local Search Views

Financial Services

Search views for the financial services vertical were strong in early 2020, prior to COVID-19 reaching the US. We saw a large decline in views from March until May and although this metric has steadily risen since, it is not back to pre-COVID figures.

Total searches and clicks have been on the same rebound trajectory but have surpassed January 2020 numbers. 

The financial services industry saw a large decline in views in 2020 and although this metric has steadily risen since, it is not back to pre-COVID figures.Click To Tweet

Business Services

The business services sector as a whole was hit hard by the global pandemic and has continued to struggle since. What started as a strong year in terms of views plummeted in March, only beginning to regain traction in June.

Local searches and views took a huge hit in March and April 2020. They began to rebound in May, which helped the business services vertical end 2020 strongly, with greater clicks and searches than at the start of the year.

The business services sector as a whole was hit hard by the global pandemic and has continued to struggle since, only beginning to regain traction in June 2020.Click To Tweet
2020 Rio SEO Business Services Local Search Views
2020 Rio SEO Sit-Down Restaurants Local Search Views

Sit-Down Restaurants

Without question, sit-down restaurants were among those hardest hit by the fallout from COVID-19. In many states, public health regulations forced restaurants to pivot to delivery and takeout only, which aligns with the decrease in search behavior. 

As a result, views and clicks were down all of 2020. Only clicks to phone calls and clicks to website metrics have surpassed pre-COVID metrics. 

Without question, sit-down restaurants were among those hardest hit by the fallout from COVID-19, with many having to pivot to delivery and takeout only, which aligns with the decrease in search behavior.Click To Tweet

Quick-Service Restaurants

Like their sit-down counterparts, quick-service restaurants were hit hard by COVID-19. Total views took a sharp decline in March before making a comeback in June and then holding steady. Searches have been on the rise since August.

Quick-service restaurants were hit hard by COVID-19, with total views taking a sharp decline in March before making a comeback in June 2020 and then holding steady.Click To Tweet
2020 Rio SEO Quick-Service Restaurants Local Search Views
2020 Rio SEO Retail Local Search Views

Retail

In the same vein as the restaurants and business services sectors, retailers were initially hit hard by COVID-19. Overall, retail showed the most consistent performance in 2020, with limited drops and gains in many metrics. 

Retailers were initially hit hard by COVID-19; however, retail showed the most consistent performance overall in 2020, with limited drops and gains in many metrics.Click To Tweet

Hospitality

Perhaps one of the industries hit hardest at the onset of the pandemic was the hospitality industry, which relies heavily on travel and tourism for their revenue. When non-essential travel was condemned for much of early 2020, we saw significant dips in views, searches, and clicks—across every metric measured in this report.

The hospitality industry was perhaps one of the hardest hit at the onset of the pandemic due to warnings against travel and tourism.Click To Tweet
2020 Rio SEO Hospitality Local Search Views
2020 Rio SEO Healthcare Local Search Views

 Healthcare

The healthcare industry, to no surprise, had one of the strongest years in terms of local marketing metrics. As fear swept the globe, searchers were eager to find more information regarding the COVID-19 virus and where they could be treated. In turn, healthcare didn’t see the dramatic declines in views, searches, clicks, and conversions that other verticals experienced. 

The healthcare industry had one of its strongest years in terms of local marketing metrics as searchers were eager to find more information regarding the COVID-19 virus and where they could be treated.Click To Tweet

Key Takeaways

Without question, COVID-19 had a massive impact on the local search landscape in 2020. Across the over 200,000 locations in all verticals that Rio SEO tracks, local searches were volatile, with initial drops, recovery, more volatility, and a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels.

Many searchers were seeking more information related to where they could get a COVID-19 test and if an appointment is required to get a COVID-19 test. More recently, many are curious to know where they can get the COVID-19 vaccine, if eligible.

The verticals that were able to pivot to respond to the uncertain economic climate weathered the pandemic storm better, but no sector was left untouched and unaffected.

We continue to publish ongoing search data for all of the aforementioned industries on a monthly basis on our local marketing blog. Visit our COVID-19 resources page and subscribe to receive the latest research, resources, events, and news from Rio SEO’s team of enterprise local marketing and search experts.

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