How to Rev Up Your Local Listings for the Business Resurgence

Many sites publish local business data, but only a handful are vital to local presence management. Although citation consistency across these sites is important, its impact on visibility has decreased in recent years. Google, Yelp, Facebook, Bing and Apple are the heavy hitters combined with industry-specific vertical leaders; however, Google reigns supreme when it comes to local search visibility. Google My Business (GMB) is the single most important factor influencing local search ranking.

Considering that 91 percent of consumers turn to local search to find information about businesses near them, a fully optimized GMB profile is critical. Not only does a GMB listing increase the chances of your business appearing in search and maps results, but it can also appear in the Knowledge Panel displaying rich business details when a user searches by business name.

GMB is in a constant state of evolution that has accelerated even more due to the coronavirus pandemic. What was once a method for distributing a static local listing within the marketplace is now becoming increasingly engaging and transactional. Having a robust GMB profile will help your business be found and communicate accurate information to consumers during the pandemic and beyond. A partner like Mindstream Media Group can help multi-location brands manage local listings at scale with ease.

Critical Local Listing Updates During the Crisis

GMB has played a crucial role in helping businesses keep their customers informed of changes to their business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. During the crisis, Google slightly relaxed their guidelines for listings, temporarily allowing unique services like virtual visits, appointment only, drive-thru or curbside pickup to be added to business names. As the pandemic subsides and operations begin to return to normal, businesses will need to revert back and adhere to standard name guidelines.

Businesses have also used GMB to communicate temporary closures, altered hours and other changes to operations. Updated business descriptions help inform consumers of additional or specific products or services being provided, changes to the purchase or return process, modifications to cancellation policies, any expected delays, etc.

Google also launched COVID Posts designed for announcements related to COVID-19. These posts appear at the top of the business profile in local search results and remain visible for 14 days (or more). Every business, regardless of category, has the option to add these posts to note things like updated hours of operation and closures, changes to regular service, safety precautions and hygiene practices and stock announcements for the availability of high demand products.

Stuck in COVID-19 Limbo

It seems we’re stuck in limbo with some areas of the country following a phased reopening process, others completely open and some facing a resurgence of coronavirus cases. This makes it even more difficult for multi-location businesses to provide accurate information to consumers as states, and even individual counties within them, reopen (and in some cases reinstate restrictions) at a different pace. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are no longer uniform. Businesses must communicate clearly and provide thorough, up-to-date location reopening information to customers. We’re helping our clients maintain fully optimized GMB profiles to keep customers informed and enhance their visibility in local search results.

How to Optimize Your GMB Profile for Reopening

  • Provide all requested profile data, paying special attention to hours of operation. Be sure to include a thorough business description, list all products and services you offer and include pricing information, if possible.
  • Use categories and attributes. The business category determines which attributes will be available for your profile. There are two types of attributes: factual (like payment options) and subjective (like whether your business is popular with locals). Subjective attributes are based on feedback from Google customers that have visited your business.
  • Customers want to know what the physical experience of interacting with your business will be like in the “new normal.” Clearly communicate what they can expect. Continue to share information on the actions you are taking to address safety concerns to keep customers and employees safe. For example, if you offer curbside service explain how the process works. If your business is enacting social distancing protocols, limiting capacity, modifying traffic flow, requiring masks, etc. include this information in your profile.
  • Include a cover photo and secure a short name. The short name allows customers to find your listing easily and can be used to drive traffic to your GMB profile. Also include photos and videos to show how your business is accommodating changes in regulations and what customers can expect when they visit your business.
  • Replace special COVID Posts with regular Posts to share messages directly on the search engine results page. Posts appear for seven days and are an easy way to drive e-commerce or share offers, products, news and events. Historically, API support has not been available to help businesses with more than 10 locations manage updates. However, it is currently available on a temporary basis and is expected to eventually become standard.
  • Monitor reviews. Although temporarily disabled at the height of the pandemic, reviews have started to reappear on listings. Don’t ignore them! Google is the single most important local review site and review signals are the third most significant local ranking factor. Reviews will become even more impactful during reopening as customers seek validation that a business is safe to visit and is fulfilling their consumer promises. Be sure to respond to reviews – both good and bad – in a timely manner.
  • The Q&A section is another important area that is often neglected by businesses. As a result, the majority of questions are answered by Local Guides, which can lead to inaccurate responses. This section provides an opportunity to proactively provide information by seeding questions, similar to an FAQ.
  • Leverage Google’s expanded transactional tools for booking, food ordering, quote requests and messaging to maximize additional commerce opportunities.

Keeping location information updated is important under normal circumstances and even more imperative as your business rebounds in the long-awaited comeback. Complete, accurate local listings are a must. However, for multi-location marketers, managing local listings at scale can be a challenge. A partner like Mindstream Media Group can ensure local listings are given the attention they need as part of your omni-channel media strategy.

 

Tips for Effective Ad Messaging Post-COVID-19

If you told me three months ago that the term “contactless” was going to be a trending term, I would have thought it was a new way of saying “wearing glasses” or maybe a new Lasik surgery procedure. I used to have to pour my margarita in my child’s sippy cup when a meltdown forced us to leave the restaurant early. (We’ve all been there.) Now, they have margaritas to go or they just might even deliver the margarita to your house.

Messaging and Terms have changed:

Delivery > Contactless Delivery

Dine In > Curbside Pickup

Birthdays > Birthday Parades and yard signs, OMG the yard signs

Graduation > Graduation Parades

Employees Must Wash Hands > Everyone Must Wash Hands

Why are they wearing a mask > Don’t forget your mask

Not only have our conversations and the way we search for information online due to COVID-19 changed, but there have also been fundamental changes in our daily lives and behaviors. No routine is the same. No behavior is the same. And for advertisers, this requires a change in tactics to communicate more effectively with consumers.

Finding the Right Messages and Content to Resonate with Potential Customers

Conditions will vary depending on which state you’re in, but with states taking a phased approach to re-opening, campaigns should be rolled out in a way that is aligned with the targeted state’s status; however, to be effective, audiences must be segmented in many more nuanced ways than just who is in a lockdown state, a partially open or fully open state. We look at segments such as past converters and examine unique messages that re-engage these customers and entice them to come back. We also take a look at a brand’s products and services and evaluate new messages that might be able to reach all prospects who may be willing to consider a new brand or business now that certain conditions have changed in their life. COVID-19 has created new audiences and new opportunities, and we’re working with many of our clients to aggressively explore new ways to capture a new set of future customers.

Strategy can be visualized in phases. The first phase is focused on a heavy, multi-message approach to help determine what resonates. Next, the best performing messages are aligned with the current customer base to re-engage them and capture their attention again. And finally, the right message for a new, growing audience segment is dialed in. We use data to validate the strategy while continuing to optimize and energize our clients’ businesses back to pre-COVID levels.

Relevant Messaging is a Moving Target

When the virus first started to change our world, many advertisers began pulling campaigns that would not resonate in that climate. Some advertisers quickly pivoted to more sensitive, timely ad copy while others struggled to figure out their messaging.

When the quarantines began, it was important to be mindful of these changes and make necessary adjustments. We recommended being more sensitive to those adjusting to life at home. There was worry about others and the uncertain future ahead. Clients’ messaging changed in order to show they were still there for customers and their needs. During high-stress times, brands benefit by staying true and authentic to their values and reassuring to customers. A financial client, Ameriprise, used this time to change their display messaging to assure prospective clients that they will help them navigate through market volatility challenges.

To help consumers get through this, focus shifted to what specific products or services made the most sense for each client’s target audience. For example, for our restaurant or QSR clients, messaging was adjusted to let their customers know they were still open for business, even if in a different capacity through curbside pickup, drive-thru, or delivery.

We wanted to avoid being salesy and keep the focus of our messaging on the value our clients provide. It was also important that CTAs made sense as to not imply a sense of urgency during a pandemic.

With many states being in the process of re-opening, finding what messaging best resonates with customers now is a goal everyone should be working towards.

Test, Test and Test Some More!

Being open to experiment and continually monitor targeting performance is important, as we adjust and evolve to the very sensitive nature of our marketing climate.

We believe that most brands and businesses are in a clear shift away from the crisis and “here for you” ads. Instead, they are moving into communications that are meant to engage and remind consumers that their favorite stores and restaurants are still here and that they’re excited and prepared to welcome them back. “Open for business” is the rallying cry.

With our clients here at Mindstream Media Group, we have been reevaluating and testing the messages placed in front of prospective customers to determine if they are well aligned with this new normal due to COVID-19. The usual “come see us” type of advertising to encourage customers to visit our clients’ stores and purchase their products, for instance, may not be the best while certain businesses remain closed or partially closed to foot traffic and states are maintaining different “open” standards. “Come see us” means many things now.

For two of our clients providing “need-based” services, we adjusted search ad copy to let their customers know they are still open for business, but also to make customers aware of the extra precautions they are taking to ensure their safety.

We are working with our clients to explore shifts in messaging and continuously adjust as state and city guidelines, as well as human behavior, evolve. Being successful in unprecedented times requires evaluating many new types of messages and targeted audience segments.

What’s Next?

As states gradually reopen and remove restrictions, audiences are beginning to change and have differing attitudes toward the current state of the country. Be mindful that life isn’t going to bounce back to normal for everybody. Everyone is adjusting and ad messaging will need to continually evolve. We understand our clients’ businesses and are working with them to advise their customers on their safety measures. As stay-at-home orders are being eased, we’re staying on top of the guidelines to properly promote our clients’ products and services to help them rebound successfully.

How to Optimize Local Listings for the COVID-19 Rebound

During coronavirus quarantine, sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp became lifelines for users looking for business information. As many businesses begin to reopen and the world starts to adapt to a new normal, it is important to ensure that your location information is being updated on prominent sites where consumers are searching for local business information. We’re working closely with our multi-location brands to ensure individual location information is up to date across these critical platforms. Click here for a handy downloadable checklist to keep track of your update progress.

 

Update Google My Business Listing Information

  • Remove temporarily closed status
  • Remove “Temporarily Closed” from Business Name, if applicable
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Add Appointment and/or Order Online URL, if applicable
  • Ensure Attributes are updated
  • Update your website location page, if applicable

Google Posts and Events for Communication

  • Let customers know a date your location will open
  • Advertise current promotions
  • Make customers aware of the precautions your business is taking

Additional Items

  • Update Google Q&A – This section is a great way to keep your customers informed with anticipated questions, and/or repeat questions you get, such as: What precautions is your business taking? Do I have to wear a mask? Do you have special hours?, etc.
  • Review Management – Continue monitoring and responding to reviews.

 

Update Facebook Profile Information

  • Remove temporary closed status
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Use Posts and Events to notify consumers of reopening, updated hours, etc.
  • Utilize Facebook ads to promote your business

Update Yelp Profile Information

  • Remove temporary closed status
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Add Appointment URL, if applicable
  • Apply new “Virtual Service Offerings” attribute, if applicable
  • Share updates via Customized Banners and Yelp Connect
  • Advertise current promotions
  • Update Business Highlights – Yelp has recently introduced new highlights that allow businesses to showcase availability and offerings during COVID-19.

For multi-location marketers, keeping location information for hundreds or even thousands of locations up to date can be tricky. Do you find yourself having to update information on several different sites and think, “there has to be a better way”? Need help with Review Management or Facebook advertising? Mindstream Media Group has several solutions to help with listings management, review management and digital advertising (paid search, social or display). Contact us today for more information!

Marketing Insights to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic – Weekly Recap of News You Can Use

Week of May 18, 2020

 

Greetings from the home office.

As business shifts from crisis survival mode to adaptation and long-term recovery, brands could find that some pivots made to their core offering and marketing strategies prove to be long-lasting. Both a blessing and a curse, the pandemic accelerated the timeline for innovation. The urgency of the situation also forced greater collaboration across not only departments but geography. In this roundup, we’re taking a look at how messaging strategy and consumer behavior have evolved and what marketers can expect as states slowly begin to reopen and we all attempt to regain a sense of normalcy.

How is messaging strategy evolving?

“During these uncertain and unprecedented times of social distancing and quarantine, remember we are all in this together as we adjust to the new normal. Stay safe.”

Sound familiar? It certainly feels like just another version of every other brand’s message right now. But, as the weeks roll on and brands continue to execute meaningful campaigns to secure their place in the rebound, it’s crucial to monitor messaging strategy in relation to consumer sentiment and competition.

You don’t want to say the same things everyone else is saying, but you want to acknowledge the landscape. Your message a month ago may have been wonderfully empathetic and yet disruptive, but now it sounds like everyone else’s.

Are consumers tired of COVID-19 messaging? Are ads resonating? Is it time to change themes? It depends. This study by Ace Metrix shows brands are having a harder time breaking through the clutter in a sea of sameness. However, opportunity still exists to connect with consumers using pandemic related messaging, but it will take a fresh creative approach to capture viewer attention. Learn more.

Source:  Ace Metrix

With the 2020 Olympics postponed, what’s a sponsor to do? Press pause on the campaigns they’ve spent two years perfecting or pivot to adapt to the circumstances? Here’s a look at what each brand is doing with their $100 million buy-in to the four-year stint in The Olympic Partners program. Learn more.

The disparate opposition in opinions on how the pandemic is being handled makes a brand marketer’s job even more difficult. No matter what you do, you can’t appeal to all audiences. This blog offers tips on how to tailor messaging for each channel that takes your brand, market and consumers into consideration. Learn more.

How is consumer behavior changing?

On average it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. After weeks of altered consumer behavior due to quarantine-induced lockdowns and staggering unemployment rates, it’s likely some will endure. This brief from Marketing Dive dissects Kantar’s latest COVID-19 Barometer that looks at how consumer behavior, attitudes and expectations have been impacted and what the lasting effects may be. Learn more.

This study conducted by Survata on consumer buying preferences shows that despite rethinking their total spending, consumers are choosing brand-name products over store brands or private labels in certain categories. Consumers are three times more likely to research products prior to purchase and 40 percent of respondents cited trust in the brand as the biggest influencing factor driving purchasing decisions. Learn more.

Source:  Survata

Although consumers may prefer brand-name products, supply chain shortages could force them to settle for whatever they can find on the shelf. The big question though is what the long-term impact will be. The key to regaining straying loyalists is understanding what drives the desire for a specific brand and leveraging that to connect with consumers on a deeper level. Learn more.

What should marketers expect?

This blog from Forbes considers what marketers should expect in the post-pandemic future and how to shift marketing strategies to reflect the changes in consumerism and start gaining a competitive edge now. Work now to position your business to successfully meet the pent-up demand as restrictions are lifted and consumers are back in the market for your products or services. Learn more.

Nielsen has mapped out three scenarios for re-emergence beyond the pandemic: rebound, reboot and reinvent. Scott McKenzie, Nielsen Global Intelligence Leader said, “The world is fundamentally recalibrating right now. Consumer habits are changing at pace and understanding those changes, in the context of these scenarios, will be critical as businesses prioritize how they too recalibrate to meet the changed circumstances driven by COVID-19.” Learn more.

Like Darwin said, “adapt or die.” Adapting your brand’s marketing strategies is a must for survival on the other side of the pandemic. This webinar by Nielsen provides insight into shifts in media consumption, the importance of continued advertising investment and marketing strategy action items to adapt for success. Learn more.

Compiled by Salesforce Research, the sixth annual “State of Marketing” report is based on insight from 7,000 senior marketers leading through this time of change. It underscores the importance of finding innovative ways to improve the customer experience and drive engagement. Learn more.


We hope you’ve found our compilation insightful. Stay safe and if you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog to get next week’s roundup delivered straight to your inbox.

Google My Business Expected to Become More Powerful for SMBs Post-COVID-19

During the COVID-19 crisis, many local businesses have turned to Google My Business (GMB) to keep their customers informed of business updates related to the pandemic (updated hours of operation, temporary closings, etc.). Keeping location information on Google updated is important under normal circumstances, but it is even more important to keep relevant business information updated during a pandemic. As users adapt to a new normal of social distancing, it’s imperative that businesses ensure their location information is up to date to keep customers informed and safe.

Engagement and Search Query Shifts

It is no surprise that engagement and search queries have shifted on Google My Business over the past couple of months as many businesses have had to drastically change how they operate. Instead of users searching “What are your hours?” users are searching “Are you open while we shelter in place?” Driving direction requests are down 60 percent across all verticals while website clicks and phone calls are starting to increase.

The COVID-19 impact on Google reviews is still a mystery at this point. In March, Google announced they would be temporarily disabling reviews (leaving a new review, responding to reviews). However, over the past few weeks reviews have started to trickle back onto listings. Turning reviews back on signifies that GMB functionality is returning to normal, meaning businesses and marketers will need to once again monitor reviews on Google.

As online behavior shifts, so should local businesses. In addition to keeping location information on Google up to date, consider updating your website and social media channels with relevant business information and updates.

GMB More Powerful Post-Pandemic

As businesses begin to reopen and customers start to venture out of quarantine, users will turn to Google My Business for quick and accurate location information. According to a study by BrightLocal, 68 percent of local marketing experts said GMB was more important now than it was a year ago. Businesses should be prepared to use GMB as a tool to communicate reopening information to customers.

One feature of the GMB tool kit expected to thrive post-pandemic is Google Posts. Google Posts allow businesses to more easily communicate with customers by publishing information in the search results. Due to the ease of use and ability to quickly communicate, Google Posts will likely gain wider adoption among GMB users after the pandemic.

Google My Business is anticipating the reopening of businesses and evolving their digital tool kit in response. To tighten up integration of online ordering, Google acquired TheOrdering.app and Pointy, both online ordering systems. Additionally, Google may roll out new tools in the pipeline earlier than expected.

Google My Business has always been a valuable tool for businesses to publish their location information for customers. Over the past few years, it has evolved into a local marketing platform that allows businesses to directly communicate with customers through Google Posts, manage reviews, purchase local advertisements, etc. Over the next few months, we will continue to see the GMB platform evolve as customers progress towards normalcy post-COVID-19.