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New Research Shows Spike in “Near Me” Searches — Here’s What Marketers Should Do About It

Derek Andersen Copywriter, DialogTech

We’ve all heard businesses throw around the word “unprecedented” to describe the effects of COVID-19. It has become a cliché because it’s true — the virus has fundamentally altered the way consumers research products, engage with businesses, and ultimately complete purchases. Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen consumers move more of their interactions with businesses online. This drove an increase in online retail purchases, virtual real estate tours, telehealth appointments, and more.

But, despite the growth in online shopping, Google reported that searches for “available near me” increased over 100% in 2020 vs. 2019. This may seem counterintuitive, as many consumers are avoiding in-store experiences when possible, due to safety concerns.

Local search experts say this trend likely emerged out of an abundance of caution: now, more than ever, people want to plan ahead about shopping in-person. Before they leave their homes, they want to get information about local business hours, inventory, COVID-19 safety precautions, and the availability of services like curbside pickup. In fact, 80% of shoppers say they will consolidate shopping to make fewer trips than in previous years and 67% of shoppers plan to confirm online that a desired item is in stock before going to buy it.

To Capitalize on the Rise in “Near Me” Searches, Marketers Should Optimize Their Local Listings

The increase in “near me” searches has big implications for marketers. Since a growing number of consumers are finding your business from local search, you need to make sure you’re optimizing your local SEO strategy accordingly.

A critical piece of local SEO is your Google My Business strategy. When consumers run a local search, Google My Business listings are often among the top results. These listings provide a quick overview of your business on the SERP, including its address, hours of operation, Google rating, and a click to call button.

Sample Google My Business Listings

To ensure your Google My Business listing ranks well in local searches, you need to include information that is accurate, complete, and helpful. First, make sure your addresses, hours of operation, and phone number are up-to-date. In addition, including appealing photos on your profile can help you tell the story of your business and increase engagement. Finally, you’ll need to have a strong review management strategy in place (more on this next) — your star rating and quantity of reviews are key ranking factors for your Google My Business page. You can learn more about how to improve your Google My Business ranking on this Google FAQs page.

While Google My Business is one of the most-trafficked listing sites, there are numerous others that consumers may use to find your business. These include Bing Places for Business, Alexa, Waze, Eventbrite, Facebook, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, MapQuest, and many more. Trying to keep the information about your business locations current across these disparate sites can be a lot of legwork. That’s why some marketers utilize solutions like Yext, which allows you to manage and update all of your listings in one place.

Marketers Should Also Ensure They’re Following Local SEO Fundamentals

In addition to optimizing your local listings, below are some quick local SEO tips for marketers:

1. Ensure NAP Consistency

NAP or Name, Address, and Phone Number, is a critical ranking factor for local search results. To ensure you’re a legitimate business, Google will cross-reference your company name, the addresses of your various locations, and the phone numbers of those locations across your website and other web listings.

To help with NAP consistency on your website, consider adding your company name, the addresses of your locations, and the phone numbers of your locations to your pages as schema markups. Schema, also known as structured data, is the language of search engines — it is easier for crawlers to identify the data in this format. You can add schema markups to your site as HTML code or plugins.

If you have a lot of listings — like if you follow a CMDS model or manage franchisees in many locations — a listing management tool like Yext can make this process easier.

2. Add Schema Markup

As mentioned above, adding schema, the language of search engines, to your website code can help crawlers more easily identify important information like your business’s name, address, and locations. But you can also use schema to display more information about your business on the SERP.

For example, you can add schema markup that list FAQs and link to pages that can answer them. This gives you more SERP real estate, helps you clear up common pre-purchase questions searchers have, and can increase clickthrough rates.

3. Improve Mobile Site Speed

Mobile site speed is an important ranking factor for all search engine queries. But for local SEO, the stakes for mobile optimization are particularly high. Local mobile searchers have high purchasing intent — 88% of people who search for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. Making sure your site loads quickly on mobile is the difference between securing their business or giving them a poor site experience and losing them to your competitors.

For more local SEO strategies and best practices, check out this blog.

Marketers Can’t Afford to Ignore the Calls “Near Me” Searches Drive

One of the most common actions after placing a “near me” search is to place a phone call. In fact, 24% of people who click a Google My Business Listing call directly from the listing. These calls are a critical piece of the journey for local searchers who want to inquire about new hours, check inventory, and learn about COVID-19 safety precautions.

To view your call volumes from local search, you can place DialogTech call tracking phone numbers in your Google My Business listings. You can also integrate DialogTech with Yext to easily place call tracking numbers in all your listings across the web. With call tracking numbers in place, you can see the quantity and quality of calls driven by each of your local listings. You can also see how many of these calls result in revenue for your business. With these insights, you can report your full local SEO performance and make optimizations to your listings and webpages to drive higher-quality phone calls.

Don’t worry: adding DNI (Dynamic Number Insertion) trackable phone numbers to your website doesn’t interfere with Google’s NAP and will not harm your ranking. You can also add call tracking numbers to your Google My Business listings without violating Google’s NAP guidelines — learn more in this support article.

Sample DialogTech report comparing call quantity and value from marketing sources, including GMB

Help Your Locations and Agents Convert More Calls From “Near Me” Searches to Revenue

While you may be driving high-quality phone leads from your listings and organic traffic, this means nothing if your locations aren’t converting them to customers.

With call tracking and analytics, you can use AI to analyze phone conversations and track agent and location performance. With these conversation intelligence insights, you can see which agents and locations are underperforming and failing to convert the leads you’re driving from SEO. You can then drill into the conversations to understand the issue and use the transcripts as coaching tools to increase conversions on calls driven by your local SEO efforts.

You can also use these reports to see if there are campaign or routing issues impacting call quality. For instance, if you discover certain paid search campaigns running after business hours or driving calls at times when locations are understaffed, you could adjust your ad schedule so you only run ads during certain hours. If you have a high number of unanswered calls from organic search that you can’t pause, you could look at using an IVR to automatically assist and route callers, or send them to locations that are open if that is an option. If one listing site or source of calls drives most of your conversions, you can use DialogTech to prioritize those calls so they are always answered first, reducing the risk that they hang up after being on hold too long.

Sample DialogTech report of location and agent performance over the phone

Further Reading

Below are some additional resources to help you capitalize on the spike in “near me” searches:

Read 10 Local SEO Tips to Supercharge Your Rankings and Conversions, to learn how to drive more revenue from local search.

Check out Why Tracking Calls from Google My Business Is a Must for Every Marketer to learn more about how you can leverage call data to drive more call conversions from your GMB listings.

Download The Ultimate Guide to Tracking Phone Calls in Google Analytics to learn how to push phone call data into Google Analytics and better optimize your local SEO.

Download The Digital Marketer’s Playbook for Unanswered & Unconverted Calls to learn how to increase answered call rates and convert more local search callers to customers.

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