Google My Business (GMB) has become one of the most significant aspects for local SEOs as well as the one-stop-shop for consumers to know about store hours, closures, services offered, and other relevant information.
Shifting Engagement on GMB: Consumer engagement has changed considerably during the pandemic, as shown by the click and call data. With this, online buying behavior has also been impacted.
For example, the search query “takeout near me” has spiked way up as compared to those for “restaurant reservations” since at-home orders came into force.
Directions, Clicks, Calls and Reviews: Although requests for directions have come down considerably since the COVID-19 outbreak, there hasn’t been much of an effect on calls and website visits driven by GMB. According to new data from Reputation.com, “GMB driving-direction clicks are down 60% across all verticals.” Website clicks and calls have decreased by 31% & 21%, respectively.
When it comes to GMB, Reputation.com reports a notable decline in retail, restaurant and automotive industry but also a modest recovery in consumer engagement. This could very well be the catalyst in online shopping and e-commerce spending driven by stimulus checks and by the thought that we’re almost at the end of the lockdown period.
Being hit by the pandemic, Google had stopped publishing new comments from users & replies from business owners until now. Reviews are making their way back in, and it will be interesting to see if and how the patterns have changed amid the lockdown.
Post-COVID, GMB will continue to be a local business lifeline: As businesses reopen, local marketers can once again turn to GMB for operating hours, products and service availability. GMB could emerge more powerful than ever post COVID-19 with local features such as posts that allow businesses to communicate seamlessly and have a high chance of gaining wider adoption and prominence, with Google possibly accelerating the rollout of other tools in the pipeline.
According to a survey by BrightLocal, 68% of local marketing experts said GMB was more crucial at this time than it was a year ago. Even Moz’s recent Local Ranking Factors study concluded that the top ranking factor for Google Local Pack and #4 for local SEO is GMB signals. Another survey by BrightLocal concluded that 87% of local marketers considered growing reviews to be the most important to local marketing success.
Not to forget the fake reviews problem faced by Google, fighting spam (fake listings, illegitimate reviews) on Google was #2 to local marketing success.
Why It Matters: Get ready to experience a huge evolution of GMB. Local search will be redefined and will not be limited to using tools and information to make purchase decisions offline. GMB is no longer just a way to get content to Google but rather a dynamic channel streamlining transactions between consumers and business owners.
There will be a much tighter integration of digital tools such as inventory, booking, ordering and payments with offline fulfillment post-COVID. TheOrderingApp.com and Pointy are examples of how Google is trying to bridge the gap between digital and offline operations while being a trusted, back-office-like platform for local businesses.