As we kick off the new year, it’s important for multi-location businesses to reevaluate their current marketing tactics and determine what can be done to further improve. Local search is an area where businesses have room to grow.

A local search is the first thing a consumer does to find or uncover information about a business near them. In fact, 91 percent of consumers use search to find business information. In addition, 84 percent of consumers conduct a local search at least once a week. Let’s dive into the top local search trends for 2020 and how your multi-location business can incorporate them into your localized marketing strategy. 

 

1. Zero-click search

Zero-click searches occur when search results satisfy the user’s intent without having to click on external links, including the business’s actual website. For example, if you Google a hardware store, and click on a local business listing, which appears at the top of the search results, you will be taken to a Google My Business’s local profile. Six out of ten consumers convert on these pages – that’s zero click. The search is providing you the information you’re looking for – business address, hours, or reviews – without ever leaving the search engine results page (SERP). 

With the growing use of mobile searches, more and more search results are becoming localized, driving more activity to these local pages, which further increases zero-click searches. You must ensure all of your local pages are claimed, and up-to-date to fuel the SERPs with the correct information about your business. To further prepare for zero-click search, marketers should manage local reviews including average rating, response rate, response time, and volume of reviews.

According to our latest State of the Market report, we found some industry benchmarks for your online reputation including: 

  • Number of reviews per location
  • Number of reviews per channel 
  • Review response rate 
  • Average star ratings 
  • Percent of reviews that are four stars or above

With tips on how to prepare for zero-click search, your multi-location business is on its way to improving its local search strategy. 

 

2. Navigation and Maps searches

Maps and navigation are the new search tools. Seventy-seven percent of consumers report using Google Maps when searching for nearby businesses. For example, consumers will search for restaurants or businesses within Google Maps and pick a business based on proximity, as well as ratings and reviews. 

As consumers continue to use Google Maps and other navigation searches, it’s important to ensure your multi-location business has every local page claimed and up-to-date to appear in searches relevant to your industry. The top three maps and navigation sites reach over 90 percent of users – Google Maps (67 percent), Waze (12 percent), and Apple Maps (11 percent). Claiming your local listings and pages on GMB and Yelp ensures you are covered on all three of the maps and navigation apps! The image below illustrates the connections between search platforms and navigation apps. 

 

3. Blurred lines between search and social

Throughout 2019, we saw the lines blur when defining social and search platforms. Platforms that were previously considered “search” tools are now morphing into social tools – GMB and Yelp are examples of this trend. Both of these platforms are now showing more characteristics of a social platform and are being used as such. GMB now allows you to create posts, and interact with consumers through user-generated features, such as Q&A. Yelp also features a Q&A section for consumers. 

On the social side, Facebook is continuing to enhance its offerings to encourage consumers to use the platform as a search tool. We have seen an increase in ratings and reviews (or recommendations) on Facebook over the past year, optimization of local Facebook search results, and the platform has even announced the inclusion of search ads

In 2020, we expect this trend to intensify with search and social continuing to merge. Marketers must widen their marketing strategy to incorporate both search and social platforms to ensure they can be found wherever their consumers may be searching. Doing so will allow your multi-location business to appear in top localized search results, giving you a leg up on the competition. 

 

4. Local SEO and content 

SEO is a critical component in making your brand visible. Sixty-seven percent of all clicks online go to the first five organic search results- that’s a sizable percentage! 

Often, marketers stray away from spending ample time on SEO because it can seem confusing or complex – and it’s easier to dump money into paid efforts. However, that is not the case. SEO best practices can be learned relatively quickly and will ultimately deliver results. A strong SEO strategy can boost your multi-location business’s website to the top of relevant searches.

For your multi-location business to be successful in local search, local SEO is a must. Unlike organic SEO, local SEO has a geographical component attached to it. While local SEO can still be found on typical search engine results, it can also be found on Google Maps or other navigation apps. 

A strong local SEO strategy will increase your business’s visibility in local searches. To create a strong SEO strategy there are many components that should be implemented, including localized content. 

Creating local content for your multi-location business will increase the number of links referring to your business which will then increase the authority of your domain. This will help you rank higher in searches and make ranking for keywords easier.

While localized content is great for improving local search through SEO, it can also benefit your marketing strategies in other ways. For instance, local content can be used on your local search and social platforms to keep an active presence. Facebook is currently the most popular social media site for following brands. 52 percent of consumers follow brands on Facebook. Although Facebook is the strong leader, Instagram comes in second at 16 percent. 

Localized content and SEO is a must to ensure your brand is visible online. 

 

5. Voice search is on the rise

Voice is becoming prevalent in local searches. In 2020, voice search is expected to account for 50 percent of all searches. Voice search allows users to perform a search by verbally asking a question on a smartphone, computer, or other devices. These can include but are not limited to, devices like an Amazon Alexa, Echo Dot, or Siri on a smartphone. 

BrightLocal’s research indicates that 75 percent of people who own smart speakers use them to search for local businesses on a weekly basis. By 2022, 55 percent of homes are expected to have a smart speaker in them. 

Voice search is also changing the way local searches occur. Voice searches are more conversational when compared to other traditional searches and have local intent. For instance, voice searches are typically in the form of a question or command. Knowing this, review your multi-location business’s keyword plan to ensure it includes phrases and keywords that may be used in a relevant voice search. 

To further complicate things, voice searches only display one result, so rather than businesses competing to be on the top page of results, your business will have to compete to be the only result. 

Understanding the importance of voice search will give your business a better chance of being the first result consumers get in relevant local voice searches. 

 

Kicking off the New Year with Local Search

As you can see, local search is constantly evolving. While these trends are the top trends now, there may be new trends that pop-up throughout the year. As a marketer, it’s important to stay updated on the ever-changing world of local search and SEO to ensure your localized marketing strategy is empowering you to effectively reach and engage with your consumers where they’re searching online. The new year is a great time to start changing your habits, so make it a priority to stay on top of local search trends!

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