31 October 2020
Over the past decade there has been a steady shift towards growing businesses online. While many local businesses across the country and the state of Hawaii have invested in different digital assets like websites, virtual marketing, and social media; due to COVID-19 there has been a great acceleration to an increasing online marketplace.
The way in which we interact, shop, work, and hire services of any kind has changed due to the pandemic. More people are ordering food through apps versus going to restaurants, booking services online, and checking to make sure any business they patron has adhered to the most up to date safety standards.
With the sudden need for your business to be visible online, what are the top things that people in every niche need to know when looking to grow their brand?
We have compiled a list of some of the most important factors that affect the success of a local business online.
Google My Business
These past eight months have proven how important an updated and active Google My Business listing is when it comes to running a successful local business. Important features added to business’ listings through the search engine include features reflecting changes to hours or service due to COVID. Making sure that these are constantly up to date is paramount in driving more customers to you.
Through Google My Business and the COVID safety features, you speak to the majority audience of potential customers as the habits of the consumer have changed. One of the first things many people look at when considering hiring you or buying your product is if you are 1. Open, 2. Up to date on health standards, and 3. What the range of your service may include due to the regulations set in place.
Having an active Google My Business can also help your SEO when it comes to the local market. 75% of marketers agree that elements of Google My Business profiles (categories, reviews, photos, etc.) are local search ranking factors. For the health and wellness industry it is important that you have reviews over everything else. Reviews are important in quality as much as quantity. Leads are more likely to give their business to a company that has over 30, 4-star reviews versus a business that has 1 or 2 5-star reviews.
90% of experts agree that Google My Business reviews influence the local pack ranking. The Google 3-Pack is the list of 3 businesses under the map that show up when you search for a specific service. Those in hospitality rely on systems like GatherUp that encourage customers to leave reviews in a quick and easy way that ultimately boost’s that business’ SEO and Google 3-Pack ranking. Although some argue that the ranking of the 3-Pack is based on proximity of the searcher to the business, it is actually reviews that drive the ranking more.
While reviews are still important for all businesses, those in the home services niche tend to have better SEO when their Google My Business listing includes dynamic categories. Google is constantly updating their list of business categories. There are currently over 4,000 categories and you have the ability to list 10 on your business profile. One marketing expert pointed out that those in the home services industry should be updating their categories alongside the changing of the seasons, placing “AC” as your prominent category going into summer, and shifting to other specialty areas as the needs of the consumer change.
According to experts, prior to the pandemic 78% of local marketers agreed that Google is the new homepage for local businesses, meaning that their websites may be obsolete when it comes to driving more traffic, sales, and leads. This is because many were using Google as a first point of contact when it came to hiring businesses. Scouring the Google 3-pack to look for specific services in their proximity.
However, with fewer people actually physically patroning businesses, websites are on the rise again. While Google is still the first point of contact for many, consumers are looking towards businesses that provide safe and contactless service. E-commerce websites, delivery apps and website options, as well as online booking and quotes are all things only accomplished through building a premium and easily navigable website.
For those in the financial industry, they state that their websites are hubs containing the most current information. This is especially true following the impact of COVID, those in this industry use their website as a way to keep clients informed with the most up to date and relevant information that may be impactful to them.
Websites also affect the success of one’s Google My Business SEO. Businesses that have multiple locations, but due to the pandemic in-part which may have left them leaning more so on their online presence, are encouraged to have their GMB website link to a locations page versus the homepage of their website.
The nature of buyers has also drastically changed over the past few months. There is a sharp uptick in online versus in store consumerism. Digital transformation for local businesses is growing alongside it. This greatly impacts a local business SEO success as well; having a premium website that allows potential customers to directly interact with you, your products, and your services without having to venture outside the home will symbiotically drive more traffic and engagement.
The total overall web traffic is at a high, 34% above the benchmark and it has seen a metric increase of over 25% since March. Businesses with the most established online presence are the ones able to capitalize on this trend. But many who invest in their assets now and commit to growing in this way, pivoting and retooling are sure to see a sharp increase in business.
Inbound vs Outbound Marketing.
While marketing emails are seeing a 52% increase since the onset of the pandemic, sales emails are falling. People are now more than ever ready to interact with brands without the commitment of buying. Providing potential consumers with valuable, entertaining, and relevant news and information creates a relationship that is vital to the success of local businesses’ online. While sales emails are seeing an increasing pushback.
While the rate at which people are consuming is on the uptick, people are hesitant to make large item purchases. Continuing to build trust through creating value in marketing emails and promotions could be the difference between success and failure or growth and downsizing.
A lot of consumers are also hungry for direct interaction with a business. If you are a local business but you have not been able to maintain your storefront at this time, you may have a large array of clients wanting to get in touch with you and seek out your service or product that you may not even have realized. As businesses are revamping or developing their websites, the most popular feature being installed is chat. Being able to directly interact and ask questions with a business owner is so important to the economy here in Hawaii– it is no different when it comes to running a digital storefront.
Two of the largest chat feature companies for websites reported, “Regionally, APAC engaged in the most chat conversations compared to LATAM, EMEA, and NORTHAM. Just three weeks ago, APAC reached 144% above pre-COVID levels and it’s been the highest above the benchmark since July. While every region has experienced significant increases for live chat volume, APAC’s chat conversations have increased 132% since March, EMEA 86%, LATAM increased 81%, and NORTHAM 81%.”
While many people are less likely to go outside offline marketing is still of great importance. Businesses right now are encouraged not only to be creating custom branding and imaging in order to sell merchandise, but this would also mutually benefit the success of their new or updated E-commerce store.
Customers are hungry, they are looking for ways to support their favorite local businesses especially during this time. Making new branded material and selling it through an E-Commerce website would not only help with SEO, but it would boost the interactions between your brand and potential customers from all over, not just in your area.
The best way to emerge in the new digital medium which local businesses around the world and in the state of Hawaii are being urged to to become a part of is to use a combination of strategies honed through research conducted by experts in the digital marketing field as well as what you have learned in your experience with the local market.
It is important to regularly evaluate if you are staying up to date and top of mind to the consumer; the way we are interacting with each other on both a professional and personal level may be changing to reflect an increasingly online world, but it still holds the same principles as the economy before COVID.