For marketers who have found ways to use the latest tools and features being offered by Google and other search partners, 2021 is poised to become a period of high growth. With Google’s spate of new local marketing features launched in 2020, and predictions that additional changes are on the horizon in 2021, Adthena VP of Marketing Ashley Fletcher says the role that GMB plays in the larger local search space is expanding.
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.
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.
Whether to build local pages on a subdomain or within a subfolder has long been a topic of heated debate. I’ve never sought to sway anyone’s religious conviction, nor do I intend to begin doing so. If you’re a devout subfolder-er, then I’m sure you have your reasons, and I look forward to hearing them. I’ll add that I haven’t yet thought of any other instances wherein I’d argue in favor of a subdomain, but I believe local pages are an exception. So, for those of you still open to opportunity, prepare to be opportune.
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.
With the addition of call data from DialogTech, we’ve been able to add an important new layer of insight to our examination of consumer sentiment in 2020.
The current report also adds two full months of new Google My Business data to our ongoing study. As you’ll see, the picture painted by the new data is one where consumers are continuing to limit their shopping activities in comparison with pre-pandemic trends, but have increased store visits and contacts significantly throughout the summer, likely with a focus on an expanded set of essential needs mixed with optimism about a return to normal.
On March 20, the Google My Business team announced they would disable reviews and Q&A (since restored) in order to conserve human and machine bandwidth for critical updates. New listing creation and verification was also temporarily disabled. Google made these moves, in large part, in order to ensure that listings in critical categories, especially healthcare, would remain up to date.
The Google My Business product team also rushed to create new features in response to the crisis, such as a “temporarily closed” flag in the GMB dashboard and prominent attributes showcasing the availability of services like pickup and delivery. Healthcare was a primary focus in this phase of new feature development, which is still ongoing.
Given the dominance of Google as a tool for local search, and given the fact that Google provides a richer set of search and engagement metrics for each of its business profiles than any other publisher, we thought it would be worthwhile to examine Google My Business data as an indicator of consumer search trends during the time of the pandemic.
The verticals that are booming in the pandemic period, with major gains in overall GMB activity, include pharmacies, banking and finance, hardware and home improvement, general retail, gas and convenience, and grocery. Those whose struggles are borne out by significant GMB activity decreases include restaurants and eateries, branded retail, and hotels and accommodations.
Building a brand will never stop being essential for companies with brick-and-mortar locations hoping to secure the dollars of nearby consumers. But a new report from location marketing firm Uberall suggests the rise of location-based or “near me” search is undermining the power of branding alone, increasing the importance of optimizing for searches in which consumers are simply looking for the closest, most convenient option while on the go.
In addition to the opportunities and challenges that come with an omni-channel commercial ecosystem, 2020 brings to businesses the challenge of mobile search, which leads people on the go to search for “X near me” and pick the closest possible option. The new year also brought, as hardly anyone would’ve predicted months ago, an impending recession as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I caught up with Nicole Amsler, vice president of marketing at loyalty tech firm Formation.ai, to garner her insights on loyalty strategy this year.
With the regulations and changes that limit marketers’ ability to reliably track users, location marketing must evolve. Push marketing is likely to become less effective as brands continue to lose access to consumer data.
A tried and true alternative is pull marketing. Pull marketing is an approach that attracts in-market customers to your brand or product. Rather than pushing a brand on the audience, pull marketing draws in customers by using less intrusive methods that don’t rely on personal data. One of the most common forms of pull marketing is search advertising (paid and organic).
Fueled by the growth of mobile and set to rocket even further north in coming years thanks to voice, unbranded searches like “burgers near me” or “Thai food” are growing as fast as 113% year over year, according to a fresh study by multi-location marketing firm MomentFeed. Unbranded search grew about 30% from 2016 to ’17 and 56% the following year before doubling pace in 2018-19, suggesting the slope of this trend’s adoption could get even steeper in coming years.
I’m fresh from a couple of days wandering the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately known as CES — the annual conference that descends upon Las Vegas in January and proffers the latest in technological solutions to improve every aspect of our daily lives. This is my first time attending the world’s biggest technology conference, where 4,500 companies this year are vying for the attention of 180,000 attendees, according to my Uber driver.
As I made my way through the crowds at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and other conference venues, I tried to get a sense of the common themes defining consumer innovation as we begin a new decade.
Curious about the future? 2020 will be more dynamic for the location industry than the past year.
This week on the Location-Based Marketing Association podcast, we are talking about our expectations and predictions for location-based marketing.
In 2019, updates to Google’s local search algorithms and changes in the way consumers use mobile devices caused a shift in the way local businesses marketed themselves online. Digital marketing firms have been quick to pivot to meet market demand. As of today, one of the industry’s most influential not-for-profit associations is making a change as well.
Local Search Association (LSA), a not-for-profit association of companies focused on local and location-based marketing, will now be known as Localogy. The name change is part of a larger rebranding effort as the group looks for ways to better showcase its mission to re-invest in the changing nature of local business.
David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal offer their take on a decade in local search. Among other topics, they take stock of Google’s dominance.
Mike: Now, it seems that the battle to become the hegemon of local has been signed, sealed, and delivered by Google not just in the US but worldwide. Their well-played hand with Android seems to have been the push they needed. And they managed to gain a totally dominant position IN SPITE of the Google Plus fiasco, which started around that time.
David: Google Plus! I’d honestly forgotten about that debacle already. In our little corner of the world, the fact that Google could waste all those years, person hours, and billions of dollars developing Google Plus and still ascend to its current position in local search shows you just what a colossal opportunity Facebook has missed in this space.
A tweet on Monday from Google search liaison Danny Sullivan provides an explanation for the rankings shakeup that has perplexed the local search community since the beginning of November. Google began using neural matching to generate local search results.
Local search has just undertaken a huge evolutionary step. No longer are local results being matched to user queries solely on the basis of identifiable ranking factors, such as proximity to searcher, keywords in business names, primary category of the listing, review count, and so on. That isn’t to say such factors are now unimportant, but they have been augmented by a broader and more general sense of relevance delivered by neural matching.
For Brandify’s local search consumer survey, consumers were asked to name the tools they’ve used in the last 30 days to find information about businesses nearby. Though a vast majority of 77% named Google Maps over any other tool, there was a significant “second tier” group including Facebook at 38%, Yelp at 35%, and business websites at 32%.
The study also asked consumers about the frequency of searches, the range of businesses for which they searched, preferred devices, and the likelihood of visiting a business after searching.
Loyalty to local businesses may never cease to be an important factor in brick-and-mortar commerce, but the boom of “near me” searches and the emphasis on convenience in the age of mobile search make a prime online presence for the quick-querying passerby more important than it has ever been. This latest Uberall data indicate that responding to reviews can provide the slight 5-star rating bump that guides an unfamiliar customer into a store she may otherwise pass up for a higher-ranked competitor.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Setting aside the fact that the vast majority of calls you receive from non-Google directories are from salespeople, if you’re paying for an expensive citation service with analytics, compare the non-Google numbers to your GMB Insights. It’s going to be a drop in the bucket.
It’s time that every brand, regardless of size, ask itself whether going beyond Google, Facebook, and maybe Yelp is worth paying any premium.
If a tree falls in the citation forest and no customers are there to see it, not only does it not make a sound, but Google doesn’t care that it fell.