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.
Unlike other shopping “holidays,” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day is specific to a single retailer. But as the event grows, other retailers—both online and offline—are finding ways to leverage the anticipation that consumers are feeling.
Last year, 63% of Prime Day shoppers said they visited competing websites to compare prices. This is a major opportunity for online retailers to capitalize on the spike in traffic and provide consumers with personalized and targeted offerings and exclusive deals.
Blumenthal to Mihm: The consumer is on a journey and is close to making a decision when they are seeing you on Google. Whether they make it at the Business Profile on Google or at the website, it is imperative that your profile at Google has enough information to confer trust. Otherwise, the end user will just move on to the next profile and never make it to your site.
Want to Know How Long the Wait For that Hot New Restaurant Is? There’s a Google Integration for That
Building on the Reserve with Google offerings that have made the tech giant’s SERPs the new homepage of local businesses, Google seems to be adding a feature that allows people searching for local restaurants to sign up for a waitlist. Busy folks with a penchant for busy eateries rejoice.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Google has been making a serious effort to get more business owners more engaged with Google My Business over the past 12-18 months. The irony is, though, that deprecating the success business owners can see from easy, compelling offerings like Posts makes them less likely to remain engaged. It’s a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. That said, and despite my initial skepticism about Posts, I have become a long-term believer.
Bernadette Coleman: 2019 is here. While the focus in recent weeks has been predictions on the digital marketing trends that are expected to emerge this year, I would argue that one of the most important measures brands need to take in 2019 is to implement a full-scale voice search readiness strategy, if they have not already.
Street Fight’s Mike Boland explained in a white paper on voice this year that there’s a number of misconceptions regarding how the medium will play out in local search and commerce, and there’s plenty of research out there to illuminate where voice is really headed. I outline some key insights about voice as brands and SMBs alike make plans to tackle it in the months to come.