Covid is Changing Search. Here’s How to Respond

Advertisers, brands, and agencies are scrambling to deliver the highly tailored, localized search experiences that Covid-era consumers are increasingly looking for. In fact, 61% of marketers in a recent Forrester study said that improving the efficacy of their local marketing is a high priority for 2021.

So, how can advertisers and marketers navigate this evolving, more localized search landscape and get it right? Here are a few key items to keep in mind.

AWS Launches a Google Maps Rival

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers AWS launching Location Service, a Google Maps competitor, Mood Media being acquired by Vector Capital, Starbucks partnering with Pokemon Go in Asia, Bayern Munich using AR to connect with fans, and Gimbal being sued for patent infringement.

Why More Brands Are Asking for Local Search Data

Google search ad traffic has dropped across all devices, with mobile taking the biggest hit. Mobile traffic has been down an average of 24% since the pandemic began in February. Brands have been adjusting their digital strategies to account for the shift, including changing up their search ads with enhanced location targeting and more relevant keywords.

But achieving that high level of optimization requires a type of local search data that isn’t easily accessible through Google alone. That’s created a hole in the marketplace that the intelligence platform Adthena is looking to fill.

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The Most Important Local Search Updates of 2020

This has been the most active year in the history of local search when it comes to the introduction of new features. Google recently announced that it had made nearly 250 updates to Google Maps since the start of the pandemic, and just about every other local publisher, including Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, and even Apple Maps, has been busy.

As we near the end of this unusual year, I thought it would be useful to take stock of these changes and note the ones that are the most significant.

Street Fight’s November Theme: Google’s World

Google’s World is shorthand for the fully fleshed-out concept: “It’s Google’s world… we’re all just living in it.” The main thrust is that Google’s search dominance gives it enormous control in impacting the fate of businesses everywhere who rely on search for traffic and customer acquisition.

Google’s ongoing updates to the search algorithm, ranking factors, and SERPs continue to have ripple effects on marketers everywhere. It’s becoming more challenging to follow the moving target of SEO effectiveness. This game has its own set of rules when it comes to local search.

Social Media is Not Enough: 3 Reasons Why Websites are a Must for Businesses

During the Covid era, the value of a website has increased exponentially. According to a recent survey, 82% of US small business owners find their website to be an essential part of their businesses’ success, and 54% reported a boost in website traffic since the beginning of quarantines.

Whether you’re a small business owner or someone with an idea, developing a website as your home base is beneficial to growing your customer base and online brand. Here’s why.

Connecting the Dots on Google’s Visual Road Map

Google continues to double down on visual search and navigation. Its latest move came last week with updates to its Live View visual navigation to help users identify and qualify local businesses. This follows soon after its Earth Cloud Anchors that will let users create digital content on physical places.

Both developments tell us something about what may well be the future of local search: augmented reality-enhanced visuals.

Identifying Content Opportunities from SEO Keyword Trends During Covid-19

Keywords that were optimized to improve inbound sales aren’t doing their job because people are no longer inputting those search terms. Does that mean that your product or service isn’t needed? No, absolutely not. Your brand’s content is needed. But the keyword trends that you had been relying on have changed.

To be able to once again reach your audience, you need to study search trends as they stand now and determine how you can create content around those terms.

How To Get More Positive Google Business Reviews and Improve Your Google Rankings

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Google reviews can make or break your customer acquisition and retention efforts, and secondly, what you can do to encourage more customers to write the sort of reviews that keep the almighty Google algorithm happy.

Making Local Content Work for Retailers

Customers expect businesses to answer their questions and meet their demands in one easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate-to location. They want to know what a store carries, where the store is located, and if they can easily buy a product online instead. Increasingly, especially since the advent of Covid-19, they also want to know if they have access to services like curbside pickup or what safety provisions a business provides. This is why, now more than ever, marketers need to leverage local content strategies to our advantage.

Location Weekly: Education Apps Sell Location Data

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers InMarket acquiring NinthDecimal, Google Chrome announcing Orion WiFi, Burger King unveiling a COVID-friendly restaurant design, and education apps selling location data.

Triangulating Apple Maps: The Tech Angle

Apple surprised the local search world last month when it announced local business reviews in Maps. Similar to its other search-based efforts, Apple formerly relied on partners like Yelp for local listings and reviews. But now, as part of its broader data-driven Maps overhaul, it will phase in original content.

Much has been written about this within the local search publishing world and analyst corps, including my colleague Stephanie Miles’ article on how brands can prepare for Apple Maps reviews here on Street Fight. So in the interest of treading new ground, what less-discussed clues lie in Apple’s recent mapping moves that can triangulate its direction?

Location Weekly: DoorDash Opening DashMart Stores

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers Verizon deploying 2cm precision location tracking, DoorDash opening DashMart stores, and Google launching earthquake detection on Android devices. Rich Ventura of Sony Electronics joins as a guest.

Waze Rolls Out Contactless Payments at the Pump

More than half of Americans say they’re concerned about touching cash during the Covid pandemic, and 60% say they plan to use so-called touchless payments in the future. Google’s Waze is leaning into the shift with a new integration and partnership that will enable contactless payments at the gas pump for drivers all across the country.

Tracing, Tracking, and Trust: Why Tech Is on the Sidelines in Contact Tracing

Mainly, multiple instances of data breaches committed by governments, corporations, platforms, and even data warehouses have eroded the trust citizens have when forking over sensitive and personal information. The resistance only increases as a result of Americans’ strong resistance to being told what to do, which manifested in widespread protests against mandatory quarantine restrictions in several states.    

How can this resistance be overcome? Companies and government organizations asking for personal information must build trust from the very beginning. High rates of consent require clear information to users about exactly what data citizens will share and how this data will be used and protected.

Marketers, Don’t Stress About Zero-Click Search Just Yet

Did you know that over 50% of Google searches performed do not result in a click? Did you know that Google is continuing to expand the number of queries to which they are applying zero-click SERP features?

Did you know that it’s not something that you should be too worried about yet? 

“Wait… But it’s taking away search opportunities from my website!” 

That depends on how you are defining search opportunities, so let’s jump to it. 

Can a Pandemic Inflect Local Commerce Tech? Part II

What about the tech adoption accelerants happening on the supply side? Tech giants who provide marketing and operational tools for local businesses have been in hyperdrive over the past few months to roll out new Covid-era features.

Here are three areas where we’re seeing the most activity … and where we could correspondingly see the most local business evolution.

6 Ways to Use Martech Tools for Covid Compliance

Different industries are looking to manage the spread in different ways. For retailers, that might mean using artificial intelligence to make sure customers are following social distancing rules inside their stores. It might also mean using location data, beacons, and other mobile technologies to track where consumers are going during shutdowns or monitor employee compliance with local Covid regulations.

It’s worth noting that this is a sector that is evolving at breakneck speed. These are just a few of the ways the martech community is using its technology for Covid compliance right now.

Location Weekly: Google Moves to Auto-Delete Location, Search Data

In this episode of Location Weekly, the Location-Based Marketing Association covers X-Mode launching its Consent API for partner apps, Google moving to auto-delete location and search history, and NomadiX Media securing a contract with the Qatar World Cup.

How Google’s Review Attributes Expansion Impacts Local Businesses

Businesses that understand these changes and find ways to harness review attributes stand to see major gains in search. Google’s new feature could be a big improvement for small and mid-size businesses, in particular, since it provides marketers with both comparative structured feedback and sentiment. But whether businesses benefit from Google’s decision to expand review attributes into new categories depends largely on how they capitalize on the changes.