Aggregate local search trends give us valuable insight into how consumer behavior is trending month over month — and now, year over year — in light of a litany of influencing and interruptive factors.
Each month, we examine local consumer search behavior across the over 200,000 Google My Business (GMB) accounts we monitor for enterprise clients across the U.S. We’re looking at combined rates for total searches, total views, total clicks, and specific local conversion actions such as click to call, click to website, and click for driving directions.
You can use these insights as benchmarks for your own brand’s GMB performance. They can also give you more insight into how similar businesses’ local marketing efforts are stacking up against your own. Are the trends you’re seeing internally indicative of challenges your locations are experiencing? Are there industry-wide opportunities you could be tapping into?
Let’s take a look at the local consumer search behavior trends August presented and see how local consumer search behavior trended in 8 different verticals, as compared to July and also to August 2020.
August brought a continuation of the downward month-over-month trend in GMB clicks of all kinds for business services — except clicks for driving directions, which reversed just slightly at +2.44%. The single-digit reduction in total clicks, clicks to call, and clicks to website are markedly less than the 27% to 37% drop we saw across those same metrics from June to July.
However, local search activity increased dramatically over August 2020, when much of the country was still heavily impacted by COVID-related shutdowns. This holds particularly true for business service brands we monitor, which include salons, gyms, and home services brands which were all heavily impacted by lockdown orders. In the below figures for August, we see:
- +135% total searches in business services GMB insights
- +123% greater total views in GMB for business services brands
- +89.5% more clicks for directions YoY
The downward trend in GMB conversion actions continues for financial services brands. But, as we discussed last month, this doesn’t mean there’s reduced interest in local banking, mortgage, and other financial services. Total searches and total views are up once again both YoY and MoM, building on gains made last month.
These figures reflect the fact that in August 2020, it took a lot more information and planning for local consumers to take care of financial business. They needed to locate drive-thru ATMs, book virtual appointments with mortgage and insurance professionals, call their bank branch to check on special hours, and more.
What we’re seeing now is a healthy return to business as usual, as financial services clients continue to search for information but no longer need as much help converting.
August figures for dine-in restaurants follow nearly the same trajectory as July:
- Total views and total searches are up impressively over August 2020.
- Local conversion actions such as clicks to call and clicks to website are down both MoM and YoY.
- Clicks for directions are up 28.7% over August 2020.
The availability of outdoor dining, businesses reopening in full, and increasing vaccinations are likely all playing a role in helping the restaurant industry rebuild. Customers are searching for dining options and finding enough information in GMB to feel comfortable clicking for directions and going directly to the location. Make good use of all available health and safety, vaccination requirements, and restaurant attributes to provide those instant answers to hungry diners in your local area.
Quick Service Restaurants
GMB trends for quick-service restaurants are in line with what we’re seeing in the sit-down dine-in establishments above. Search interest and views are down from July, but markedly higher than in August 2020.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, spending on food away from home was down 32% in 2020 as compared to 2019. This could be why total searches and views for all kinds of restaurants have trended upward so dramatically in 2021.
The beleaguered hotel industry’s comeback continues with triple-digit gains in search interest and views building on the 154% and 177% YoY increases we saw for those two metrics, respectively, in July.
All metrics were down slightly in August, a complete reversal of the month-over-month gains made in July. Here, we turn to marketplace insights firm STR for pre-pandemic figures, as a simple year-over-year comparison doesn’t tell the whole story for hospitality. Although search interest and all GMB conversion actions are much higher than in 2020, hotel occupancy was still down 11.3% in August 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.
Revenue available per room has fallen 8% in that time, no doubt due to increased cleaning measures and more time between guests. Even so, STR reports that the average daily rate is up 3.7% over 2019. Consumers are not traveling as they were then, but are willing to spend more to do it.
Retail spending was down 24% in 2020 compared to 2019, which impacts the year-over-year trends we’re seeing in GMB data. U.S. Department of Labor data also tells us that spending on 9 of the 14 major components of household spending decreased from 2019 to 2020.
August brought with it gains across the board as far as local search was concerned, with every single metric tracked trending upwards. That local search interest is translating to money in the cash register, too — Bloomberg reports that U.S. retail sales grew 1.8% in August, the largest increase in five months.
The power of local reviews in building local search visibility and improving rankings for brand stores cannot be overlooked. See Leveraging Local Reviews For Retail Brands: Expert Insights and Best Practices to learn more about making your reviews strategy work for you.
Searches for COVID-19 were on the rise the past 3 months according to Google Trends, which aligns with the month-over-month figures we’re seeing in GMB accounts in the healthcare sector:
Last month, we saw a slight (2.72%) reduction in clicks to call, and otherwise, all GMB metrics trended upward. We see the same again for August, with both month-over-month and year-over-year performance improved on every metric tracked.
Total views and total searches fell again in August, continuing on from July. Year-over-year, both metrics are up substantially again this month, which makes sense given the difficulty involved in showing apartments and moving to a new rental during the height of the pandemic, in summer 2020.
However, reduced local search interest in rentals on a month-over-month basis is almost certainly being influenced by market conditions. The national median rent has increased by 11.4% so far in 2021, compared with just 3.3% for the first six months of 2017, 2018, and 2019, CNBC reports. Wages are not keeping pace, and many people are feeling financially uncertain.
Consumer Search Behavioral Trends: Key Takeaways
Google My Business insights are excellent local key performance indicators that require additional context to interpret. At the store level, these metrics can help you adjust customer methods to suit consumer needs, inform targeted content and listings optimizations, and more.
At the brand level, GMB trends can help you identify top performers and areas of opportunity, how seasonality and other factors impact local search performance, which products and services are most in-demand, and more. Check out our GMB: Interpreting Metrics at Scale on-demand webinar (20 mins) to learn more.
And with industry benchmarks like these, you can inform your own strategy with the context that a higher-level, aggregate view provides.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months: