What are the best ways to prepare your local search campaigns for holiday season 2020.

2020 has been a different & challenging year for many of us. COVID-19 upended the global economy & has dramatically shifted our behaviors too.We have experienced changes worth 10 years in fewer than 10 months. But most of these changes are not completely new. The shift from TV to Streaming, the growth of online education or even how we shop. COVID-19 just hastened the pace of digital adoption at many fronts. This means the basics remain the same but business should pay more attention to these than ever before:

  1. 1. On-page - You should have a technically strong website that loads fast, is secure, is mobile friendly, your product pages should have unique holiday content & trust signals such as products & services have customer reviews, all those are then also marked up with schemas or structured data. Your internal & external linking structure has to be strong with high quality domains talking/mentioning your brand or products/services.

  2. 2. Off-page – Last month during the Whitespark Local Search Summit, Darren shared the 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors study results, and we know that Google My Business is essential to a successful local marketing strategy! But unfortunately, I see a lot of businesses struggling to manage & keep their GMB listings healthy. Allie , from Whitespark also presented some results a research study where they studied 800,000 Google My Business listings across 70 categories in 100 major cities and only 49% of businesses have claimed their GMB listing and 96% of businesses are not using Google Posts.

Coming back to the basic things that we expect local businesses to have in place for a successful local holiday search campaign also include your citation management. The importance of citations is reducing YOY but still you need to ensure your business information is complete & correct on all key citation’s sources such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. For example Yelp in August 2020 added a few new features to their business profiles like logo & added new service offerings for certain business categories, including electricians, IT services, landscaping, painters, mobile phone repair, locksmiths, and several more.

And now with the holiday season just around the corner, the other important thing for businesses to consider in local holiday search campaign is to understand the changed audience behavior:

  1. 1. Health & Safety will continue to be concern for shoppers this holiday season. As per the survey conducted by Gather up in August 2020, 80% of US adults indicated that they will be more likely to do business with a firm that strictly enforces mark wearing for employees & customers.

    • -> GMB on 11st Sep 2020, launched new safety attributes for Food, retail, and service businesses. Safety measure attributes include: Masks required for customers or staff, Temperature checks required for customers or staff, Appointments or reservations required.

    • -> Businesses should also have updated website content & images, sent email to loyal customers, shared short videos on social channels, create Google posts to let customers know about the safety measures in place at their business.

    • -> Customers are going to read & rely on reviews more than ever before. So, it is critical for businesses during the holiday season to achieve operation excellence & avoid any negative reviews related to poor quality & unsafe experience. And even if there are any negative reviews then what have we done to respond to those reviews & what process improvements have we made to ensure no other customers have that experience at the store.

  2. 2. Shoppers have tighter budgets and hence are more price conscious. Shoppers are seeking deals, which means people are willing to try new brands if they offer the best deals or interesting new products. 46% of US shoppers expect retailers to offer discounts & June, searches for “best affordable” had grown globally by over 60% year over year.

    • -> Anywhere a customer might be looking for what you offer, be there with accurate and abundant information about identity, location, hours of operation, policies, culture, and offerings. From setting special hours for each of your locations, to embracing Google Posts, Bing Offers, to ensuring your website and social profiles are publicizing your USP.

    • -> Google is offering free product listings globally, . Make sure you are using the merchant center for your product feed & leverage the the sale price annotations when you promote your products and attract attention to your free listings.

  3. 3. We all have experienced out of stock situations for important products & shipping delays this year and holiday season won’t be an exception. Latest stats from Google August 2020 survey suggests that 62% of US Shoppers will start holiday shopping early to avoid items being out of stock.

    • -> Specifically with regards to the shipping information, on 22nd Sep 2020 Google announced it now supports new schema markup for product results, specifically the shippingDetails schema.org markup. With this markup, you can add details around the cost and expected delivery times around your shipping options on a product-by-product basis.

    • -> Also Sellers have the other option to go to Google Merchant Center & share shipping details. You need to specify the shipping_label attribute.

    • -> Lastly, another thing that businesses can do is take advantage of the GMB features rolled out during the pandemic and highlight that curbside pickup is available or not. Because there will be users who would want to pickup orders than wait to a few days or pay extra for shipping.

  4. 4. Supporting local businesses or buying from businesses due to alignment with values.
    • -> Let your customers know what your business has to offer through GMB attributes. You can add attributes like black owned, women led or LGBTQ-friendly.

Ofcourse, we can do all the good work & leverage all the latest strategies to drive revenue but if correct tracking is not put in place all the efforts are going to be useless. So working closely with your analytics team to ensure we UTM tag our emails, GMB posts, paid campaigns etc.