How much has our life changed in a year? More or less in these days, in 2020 we began to get acquainted with terms such as DPCM, lockdown, mask and with all the attempts to stem the spread of SARS-Cov-2 virus, the new strain of Coronavirus that continues to shake our daily habits even today. As we have also told over the past few months, the COVID-19 has immediately transformed Google SERPs , and then has upset the entire marketing industry (and not only, of course), which now finds itself having to reassess “drastically the way we see the measurement and success of local marketing for both channels and campaigns”.
Local marketing in times of crisis
It opens with this reflection the article by Marshall Nyman and Lauren Abramson published in Search Engine Journal, which focuses on local search and offers interesting insights to learn how to measure the success of marketing efforts in a turbulent phase, such as the current global pandemic, or in the event of other unforeseeable events.
Local marketing operators need to develop transversal skills, such as flexibility and the ability to change strategy quickly, which have become a “non-negotiable requirement”; at the same time, they need to change hard KPIs, because “what customers expect from brands requires considerable development for execution”.
The examples are there for all to see: curbside pickup, which before was a useful service to people with little time available, is no longer a unique added value offered by a brand, but a health and safety protocol provided for all consumers, as well as “contactless” delivery.
How to measure local marketing’s success
And so, in such a troubled time of frequent change – you see our studies of the impact of Coronavirus on Google SERPs in March and November, in the second wave, to get an idea – local marketers need to adapt and evolve quickly, to capture the “signals” and effectively measure the success of their strategies.
The two authors therefore indicate 7 tactics and best practices to measure the effects of local marketing campaigns valid even in times of crisis.
For years we have been repeating that Google My Business is the most immediate and effective showcase for local SEO, and during the pandemic the tool took on an even more central role, allowing commercial activities to stay in touch with potential interested customers and to communicate to them updates on the actual possibilities to use the service offered in the light of the various regulations in force at the time.
Classically, among the most controlled metrics of GMB to measure the success of the strategy were the visualizations of the map and the directions, but the new context makes it crucial to know how to monitor (and on a monthly basis, rather than annual) other statistics, such as Impressions/Views from Search, Click on the site and Click on Calls, which can give us a picture of the actual interaction of users with the activity tab.
With lockdowns and the various restriction measures, in fact, consumers have gone beyond traditional research and have adopted e-commerce options: regardless of the product or service offered, each sector has been affected to some extent and all activities have had to cope with a new type of need, “keeping customers informed helping them to feel safe”.
For this reason, all updates to company operations – from temporary closures and time changes to the availability of outdoor or indoor seating – have required rapid and effective dissemination of information to consumers, and “Google Posts has become a key tool to quickly share news”, especially since the introduction of the option “Post COVID-19, which allowed companies to share critical information about safety and health directly in SERP”.
The world is now surfing from mobile and the pandemic has only given a further boost to this dominance. And yet, experts explain, it would be wrong to focus only on mobile benchmarks, which cannot be the only area of interest.
In fact, brands should also focus on the analysis of desktop traffic, also on a monthly basis, “to identify immediate trends that can help to discover the current needs and expectations of the siteâs customers”.
Refferal traffic toward sites is not always a main KPI, but “a secondary KPI or support depending on the story told about the customerâs engagement”.
With changes in the way Apple Maps, Yelp and other local sources have provided opportunities for brands to share COVID-19 physical activity details, “Measuring referral traffic and increments from these platforms show how people control additional sources to continuously verify information,” as well as reiterating the need for accurate information across the local ecosystem.
Now more than ever we should work with a “holistic” research strategy, that is, integrated and unified, not dividing the efforts of organic campaigns from paid counterparts.
Today, Google has “forced brands to possess precious search terms through constantly evolving SERP layouts and integrations such as hotel ad feeds”, and therefore “adding budget for Local Search Ads or integrating Local Inventory Ads into lists can help customers find what they are looking for more efficiently”.
The advice is therefore to measure the paid performance and, if they show to be a profitable effort to undertake, add them to the overall search strategy: the basic goal is to reach and be reached by the customer, through any way or channel.
Being able to monitor and know how to answer reviews during a crisis has become an even more important element of local strategy and success: in the new current context, User feedback is crucial not only in building the brand image, but also to effectively understand how to meet customer needs.
For this reason, some platforms, such as Yelp, have openly relied on customers to get feedbacks on how activities are following health and safety protocols.
In general, understanding the sentiment around a company or brand, monitoring customer satisfaction, fluctuating average rating and addressing customer concerns are all parameters that can help create a positive feeling, as well as “the speed and frequency with which the teams in charge respond to reviews and feedback have become a successful metric”.
Those who work in the retail sector and had not implemented the e-commerce channel before, are now forced to develop and run it flawlessly. Business is moving almost exclusively online and further delaying means losing business opportunities.
There are daily problems, between delays in shipping times and logistic nightmares, so “it is essential for companies to ensure a process of orders without interruptions, with fast delivery times, to build a positive brand association“. But as we move towards a normal situation, experts ask, how “will it be possible to really understand how physical shops are behaving compared to digital shelves?”.
In support comes Google Analytics, which offers a feature (for now in beta) on store visits that can help brands to view their omnichannel performance.
Even the target keywords of the activity need a pivot: in the last year have grown at an unpredictable pace the searches [near to me], [curbside pickup] and [drive-thru] and new trends have emerged as [contactless delivery].
We must therefore check whether we are actually monitoring the trend keywords relevant to our sector, because – if not – we may miss the opportunity to convert high-intent consumers.
Checking the main terms from GMB insights can help companies understand which keywords should be optimized to continue reaching current and new customers, but refinement of local marketing strategy also includes “the remodeling of Kpis and the most important metrics for the activity”.
Responding to the crisis so to organize the recover
The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic brought to light “new areas of opportunity for businesses, including new social distance services, and skyrocketed both mobile and desktop purchases”.
As a result, Nyman and Abramson conclude, metrics that were once crucial to monitor to determine the success of local brand marketing have now become obsolete, and “It is essential to stay informed and updated to recover from a largely tumultuous event and set your own business for a recovery and a future that may be favorable“.
This content was originally published here.