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.


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!

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 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.

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

Week of May 4, 2020


Greetings from the home office.

Little by little, the tide is beginning to shift. States across the country are beginning to ease lockdowns and lift stay-at-home orders. Businesses are reopening, and brands are starting to shift their messaging to reflect the improving consumer sentiment. Despite many unknowns in a sea of challenges, advertisers are cautiously navigating into the next phase. Some brands are restarting their advertising efforts. Those that aren’t are most certainly thinking ahead to develop their strategic media plans and consider their messaging approach for the next several months. Now is the time to maximize your brand’s positioning and take proactive rather than reactive actions.

This week’s content roundup reflects this evolution towards a glimmer of optimism.

A survey conducted by Mitto found that 41 percent of consumers are tired of COVID-19 related ads and are ready to hear non-pandemic related messaging from brands. The key for marketers will be targeting messaging appropriately based on the differing restrictions in each market area. Learn more.

After weeks of somber advertising messages showing solidarity with the quarantined public, brands are beginning to shift messaging to a lighter approach. While it’s certainly difficult to predict what life will be like after months of isolation, brands are preparing for an improved Q3 and incorporating humor to help us all feel hopeful about a return to normalcy. Learn more.

Marketers are now focusing on making their communications relevant in uncertain times and are overly cautious about sending the wrong message. Here’s another look at how some brands are using humor and levity to provide a much-needed break from the sad news of the pandemic. Learn more.

The initial panic is subsiding, and advertisers are beginning to take a proactive approach to their marketing. With so much of the future still uncertain, brands remain cautious of spending but are resuming search campaigns and planning for multiple future scenarios, most notably in the travel industry. Agencies, as well as CMOs, are optimistic about the remainder of 2020. Learn more.

Source:  Twitter

Although there are must-do actions every brand must take during this time, focusing solely on the short-term could mean “winning the battle but losing the war.” Now is the time for strategic planning to prepare for the rebound. Here are six rules for brand revitalization in the post-coronavirus future. Learn more.

Here’s a look from Ad Age at the latest marketing efforts by some of the biggest brands in the marketplace, updated daily. From Chick-fil-A encouraging kids to #BandTogether on musical projects to Zappos’ Customer Service for Anything, marketing creativity is blooming. Learn more.

Although every industry vertical has been impacted differently, the path to navigating the pandemic can be broken down into three stages – respond, rebuild, recover. Priorities evolve as a business moves through each stage. Google has created a guide to help marketers stay ahead of the changing landscape and proactively shift digital marketing strategies to align with consumer needs at each stage. Learn more.

Source:  Google

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.

The 5 Ws of Paid Search During COVID-19

While some parts of the country have started to open up, many of us are still at home – working from home, schooling children from home, exercising from home, shopping from home, doing nearly everything from home.  With daily routines disrupted, it’s no surprise that consumer behaviors have changed as everyone attempts to adapt to their “new norm.”

Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to stretch their marketing dollars by adapting their paid search program so that it’s relevant to their customers’ new reality.  Here are the five Ws we keep top of mind when making adjustments to clients’ paid search campaigns.

WHO Are We Targeting?

While every industry has been affected differently, they’ve all been affected. For some businesses, their target demographic has completely changed as a result of this pandemic. Consumers who may have been less inclined to buy their products or use their services in the past may now have a sudden interest or need for them. Other businesses have completely pivoted just to stay afloat. They’ve started offering new products or services that are suddenly in high demand since they already have the necessary infrastructure in place. We review targeting for each client to ensure it aligns with any changes they have made to their business and adjust settings and bids accordingly.

Geo Targeting – Some clients are unable to offer their products and/or services where they had been historically. Others may be expanding their geo-targeting to cover additional areas during this time. We’re adjusting geo-targeting as needed, while taking into consideration any restrictions within each of their target locations.

Demographics – We expect to see shifts in who is searching for some clients’ products or services.  In some cases, it may make sense to open up demographic targeting to reach additional audience segments.

Audiences – We expect to see some volatility with certain audience segments, so we’re reviewing performance and adjusting as needed.

If search interest for a client’s business has been down or we’ve seen a decline in conversion rates or purchases, we’re lengthening the membership duration for some of their audience segments, especially those with shorter durations. This will provide more time to retarget those consumers who didn’t convert once the dust settles.

We’re also creating an audience composed of visitors to clients’ Coronavirus FAQ page on their website. There are a number of ways this audience can be leveraged to aid in rebound efforts, giving us the opportunity to tailor ad messaging specifically to those consumers who didn’t convert while the country was shut down.

WHAT Are They Searching and WHAT Are We Saying?

Keywords – If not already included, “open near me” or “open now” are being added to the target keywords for brick and mortar clients that are open. Search term reports are reviewed regularly to identify other keyword opportunities, as they will continue to be important as more and more businesses begin to open their doors again. We also utilize search query reports and the keyword planning tool to identify any new COVID-19 related keywords to target.

In addition to looking out for new keyword opportunities, we also keep a close eye on each client’s search terms report to ensure their ads aren’t generating irrelevant impressions. Negative keyword lists are expanded where necessary.

Ads – Ad messaging is being reviewed to ensure it’s sensitive to the current situation and still relevant to the state of the client’s business and the new reality of their customers.

If there are any safety concerns that would make consumers hesitant to purchase a client’s products or services right now, messaging is being altered to explain the changes that have been implemented to help alleviate those concerns. For example, Papa John’s has implemented a “no touch” policy where they ensure no pizza is ever touched once it comes out of the oven AND they’ve implemented a “no contact delivery” on all app and online orders to make sure their customers feel safe. These types of operational changes are important to include, as they may help consumers overcome any hesitation in placing orders.

There has been a surge for various products during this pandemic where fulfillment has been an issue. We’re working closely with clients to pause any efforts for products that are currently out of stock.

Ad copy and calls-to-action are being updated to reflect changes in clients’ business operations like changes to how products and services are offered or delivered.

As shelter-in-place orders are gradually lifted, it will be necessary to ensure ad messaging is appropriate and relevant to all the target areas for each client since they likely won’t reopen at the same time. Ad customizers based on the user’s target location is one way ads can be tailored to the most relevant consumer based on how a client’s business is operating in their area. Duplicating campaigns is another option we have that provides more control over spend and targeting. This allows us to have one set of campaigns targeting areas that are still closed with messaging that speaks to those consumers, and a second set of campaigns targeting areas that have reopened with appropriate messaging.

When the time is appropriate, we plan to create new ads that leverage the IF function to provide special offers or messaging to the audience we created for visitors to a client’s Coronavirus FAQ page, to get them to convert.

Ad Extensions – These typically need updated for most clients as well.

Call Extensions – We’re working with clients to ensure the number being used is still accurate and, if applicable, that it’s routing appropriately to any employees who are now working from home. If business hours or availability for answering calls have changed, we’re also adjusting call extension scheduling to reflect those changes.

Location Extensions – We’re updating Google My Business listings for clients to reflect any changes to business and hours of operation so their customers know when they’re open.

Action Extensions – We’re replacing Calls-To-Action in Bing such as “Visit Store” or “Directions” with CTAs that reflect the current state of the client’s business.

Callout Extensions – Callout extensions that highlight services clients can’t currently honor, such as “Open 24/7” or “Same Day Delivery” are being updated.

Structured Snippet Extensions – We’re temporarily removing products and/or services a client is unable to offer/fulfill at this time.

Sitelink Extensions – Updates are being made to sitelinks that are no longer appropriate or applicable. For example, extensions that pertain to shipping are being updated to reflect any changes to shipping policies. Sitelink extensions with broad verbiage pertaining to new safety measures, health and safety, etc. are being added for clients that have a COVID-19 FAQ page.

WHEN Are They Searching?

Everyone’s needs and priorities have shifted. We’re taking measures to be sure our clients are in front of the right consumers at the right time.

Ad Scheduling – We’ve all had to make changes to our daily routines, so consumers may be searching earlier in the morning or later at night. Current performance is being reviewed and adjustments are being made to ad scheduling and bids to maximize spending efficiency.  What historically may have been a client’s top converting time-of-day or day-of-week may no longer be the case. Schedules are being opened up for clients with a decline in search interest on their current schedule.

For clients with Call-Only campaigns, ad scheduling is also being adjusted to align with the changes in business hours to ensure the business is open and available to field calls.

Automated Bidding Strategies – In times of uncertainty like this, Smart Bidding strategies require additional monitoring. Changes to the competitive landscape often impact campaign performance and automated bidding strategies (especially tROAS and tCPA) may need to be adjusted to align with changing consumer behaviors. We’re reviewing any automated strategies for settings/parameters that need adjusted based on the current landscape.

WHERE Are We Reaching Them?

Channels – The impact on search volume will vary between channels, as will the performance. For some clients advertising only on Google, we’re launching campaigns for their top products and/or services on Bing to help make up for any loss in volume. For clients that are already advertising on both, performance between the two is being compared to see if any budget shifts between channels are warranted.

Networks – We’re closely reviewing search partner network performance since impression volume could fluctuate due to changes in search volume on networks owned and operated by each channel.

Devices – With many consumers still confined to their homes, mobile searches have been decreasing and desktop searches have been on the rise. We’re monitoring device performance and making adjustments as needed. As people begin to go back to work, we expect to see further shifts in device usage.

WHY These Changes Matter

For clients whose business has slowed, adaptations like these to their paid search program will ensure their marketing dollars are being maximized and that they are positioned to rebound as soon as shelter-in-place orders are lifted.  For clients in industries where interest has increased for their products or services, quick adaptations like these ensure they’re seizing the new opportunity and maximizing ROI.