Everyone is using the internet now more than ever, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, to nobody’s surprise. Though it would be reasonable to think that online businesses are thriving due to the increased internet traffic, the numbers say otherwise.
Despite the increased number of people on the internet, Google My Business clicks and impressions are down in a lot of industries, causing a lot of people to question the value of SEOs.
At first glance, the trends may seem scary, but a deeper dive into the numbers would show that the slump won’t last. In fact, it can be argued that the pandemic solidified how impactful Google My Business has become in serving as the intermediary between local businesses and their customers.
Google My Business Search Trends When the Pandemic Started
Google My Business search trends are down despite the exponential increase in internet usage caused by the pandemic. According to a report made by Reputation.com, Google My Business impressions are down on average 59% during the pandemic. From data gathered across GMB listings, the pandemic has apparently hit all regions of the U.S.
Apart from this, GMB clicks‒clicks to driving directions, calls, and website visits‒also plummeted by 37%. But despite the downward trend of GMB clicks overall, the clicks to calls and website visits are not as affected drastically as the clicks to driving directions. GMB driving direction clicks are down 60%, whereas website clicks are only down by 31% while clicks to calls are down 21% overall. A reasonable explanation for this is the minimal visits people are making to storefronts as a result of lockdown measures and COVID-19 protocols. Thus, clicks are shifting more towards calls and website visits instead of driving directions.
But despite the downward data of impressions and clicks, it’s important to note that people still visit GMB listings to learn about businesses. A quick tip for all business owners is to add useful information related to COVID-19 measures that will build user trust over your listing. How you respond to the pandemic is what will matter most to the customers!
The Pandemic Impact on Google Searches
The type of content that people search for also changed during the pandemic. With the increase of health concerns and at-home pursuits, people nowadays tend to focus their searches on news, health, hobbies, and other relevant industries. In the same way, local searches and online shopping searches are becoming more and more relevant to customers in 2021.
Search for Local Businesses
Although Google My Business search trends were down when the pandemic hit, the year 2021 saw a trend among customers making more local searches. The factor of proximity is affecting consumers’ decisions, opting more for online and local purchases now more than ever.
People are now focusing on making searches that are within the vicinity. Google registers an 80% increase in local + (business/es) searches during the pandemic. This trend is likely to continue after the pandemic, as digital commerce’s rapid growth seems to indicate so.
More and More Online Shopping Searches
The pandemic has also caused a lot of changes in the customers and their purchasing habits, with COVID and online searches being the primary cause. Online shopping searches are on the rise not only for safety reasons but for convenience too.
Global Connected Consumer Index recorded 28% more customers go online shopping on a weekly basis than before the pandemic. Thus, it’s high time for businesses to set up their online e-commerce stores. GMB also offers a shop feature for those businesses that have products up for sale.
GMB Tips for Your Local Business During the Pandemic
People have become more online-dependent, reserved, and drained by everything that’s happening. With the recent search trends favoring local businesses and e-commerce shops, what can your business do to reach out to more customers and properly utilize Google My Business?
1. Update Your Business Name and Number
GMB has allowed businesses to edit their business name field to reflect whether or not the service allows take-out only, delivery, or offer curbside service. For example, if you had a restaurant named “John Doe’s Diner,” you can temporarily change it to “John Doe’s Diner – Delivery Available” to make it clear to customers your availability.
The same goes for your business phone number. If current restrictions and regulations keep you home, but you still want a way for your customers to reach you, it would be best to update your work answering machine with a number your customers can quickly contact you.
2. Establish Your Business Hours and Health Policies
You can increase the confidence of your customers in your service by updating your hours of operation to clarify your business’ availability during the pandemic. Going to a shop but finding out it was closed when you get there leaves a bad taste among customers, so making sure your business’ accurate is critical.
Another way to make your customers less anxious during the pandemic is to update your business’ health policies. Let your customers know that you prioritize their health and safety so they can trust your brand better.
Take note that you may want to set up special hours in GMB to make sure you have enough time to prepare and clean your restaurant or shop.
3. Engage With Your Customer
Local businesses already have an edge when it comes to customer reach. The COVID-19 customer is naturally more inclined to “buy local” as they feel safer when purchasing within their comfort zone. While this is a great boon for local business, there are some drawbacks to this.
More than ever, many new customers base their decisions on reviews and online sentiment when buying. Naturally, having good customer feedback would make more new customers likely to buy from you. This is why you must make sure to monitor your online perception constantly.
Always be responsive regarding customer feedback. Use social media as a platform to understand your community better. Lastly, adjust as much as possible to meet demands while maintaining safety for your workers and customers.
4. Evergreen Content is King
While it’s okay to write about trending topics for your business, long-term, this content will naturally decline in traffic over time. Writing content that stays relevant despite different trends is your best bet as it will accumulate traffic over time.
Remember, SEO aims not to increase your web traffic but instead your qualified traffic simply. This means that your website visitors are likely very interested in your service already.
Evergreen content is all about long-term gains. People use SEO to gain trust in search engines. Slowly building trust with good, consistent output is important in keeping your business afloat.
Why You Should Make SEO a Priority During COVID-19
For businesses, the importance of SEO in COVID season cannot be understated, and that’s because:
- Publishing quality evergreen content is never wrong (an SEO staple)
- The visitors you attract are likely to be highly qualified
- SEO gains are long-term and
- Searches will only go up as it becomes more ingrained into our lives.
This is especially useful for small businesses because:
- People are more likely to buy local due to travel restrictions
- Consumers are actively looking to support SMBs
- SEO is one of the best ways to make SMBs stand out from the competition
- It’s free, and you likely have a lot of time to utilize it
SEO is a potential solution to mitigating the slower business pace caused by the pandemic. It can help increase your business’ visibility and set up a long-term plan for it. Increase your company’s 2021 Google My Business traffic by making SEO a priority.