Here’s how you can improve the visibility of your local listings on Google in 2021.
You don’t need us to tell you that the year 2020 will go down as one of the most disruptive on record. Yet, despite the disruption and disorder, there was significant progress made in a huge number of fields, disciplines, and industries—and particularly in digital marketing.
Brands the world over have been forced to accelerate their digitization, bringing forward digital roadmaps by several years. But our subject matter experts have been anticipating these developments all along. For them, 2021 is now in clearer focus because of the chaos of the last year, not despite it.
This article will reveal how local listings will assume an even more significant role in customer journeys over the next 12 months and more.
1. Google attributes will be crowdsourced
Attributes and amenity information once only existed within the hospitality vertical in Google My Business (GMB), but the pandemic saw Google attributes become a minimum requirement for GMB listings to function properly. Starting with restaurants needing to make it abundantly clear if they offered takeout and delivery, attributes expanded throughout 2020 to cover a multitude of business offerings in every business category.
Every business worth its salt now includes attributes on their business listings to inform users about fundamental business aspects, such as online or in-person services. Others have taken it a step further and have provided auxiliary information about their business, such as wheelchair accessibility, dietary options, and female or veteran leadership and ownership.
In other words, attributes have become commonplace either as a requisite for a listing’s completeness or as additional content to further improve user experiences. With their prominent position on a business’s listings and knowledge panel, users now expect to see attributes. Listings that still haven’t adopted them look neglected next to their competitors.
In 2021, incomplete listings will have attributes assigned to them via crowdsourced data. Google can already populate addresses, phone numbers, and websites without any verification from the business owner, and attributes are next on the list.
Attributes have shown themselves to be a useful, practical feature, and Google will force their use when business owners fail to implement them. Critically, attributes will become a major factor in local SEO—matching a business with a user’s query—so all business owners will need to include attributes on their listings to remain competitive. Just remember that automatic assignment of attributes will inevitably lead to some undesirable inaccuracies; your best bet is to manage them directly.
Take control of your Business Profile on Top4
If Google can display addresses, phone numbers, and websites without any verification from the business owner, there’s always the possibility that they will display the wrong information that will not be beneficial for your business. By adding your business to Top4, take control of your business information and contact details easily – all in one platform.
A Top4 Local Microsite is your new local advantage that boosts your website’s traffic alongside publishing across all major Social Media Platforms, Google My Business & Google Maps.
2. Google reviews will gain functionality (and prominence)
From adding a review carousel to a new “Get more reviews” button on the local knowledge panel, Google strongly emphasized its reviews in 2020. In previous years, the search giant was happy for users to rate businesses on a basic five-star scale, but now heavily emphasizes review content. Why? Because users can now search a business’s reviews by key terms and, more importantly, Google results now include review content when matching searches to businesses.
Google is attempting to increase its market share in the review space and, more specifically, is trying to poach users from sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. That’s why it’s copying many of Yelp’s more robust review features to encourage the kind of reliable, content-rich reviews users prefer (which it can mine to auto-assign attributes, as explained above). Google is even now suggesting that users follow “local guides”, who have in turn been encouraged to leave more reviews of their own.
By increasing the quality and scope of their reviews, Google is hoping that users will look at more than just the star rating of businesses—and come to see Google as the de facto source of reliable information for users in the consideration stage.
Boost your online credibility with Top4
Now that reviews are going to become more and more important for your business, how do you get started? How do you get more reviews for your business?
Here’s where Top4 can help. Our location-based marketing platform Top4 will add a brand new feature that helps your business receive the reviews you deserve. Here’s a sneak peek of our new feature:
With one easy click, you can import your existing contacts from Gmail and send them emails to ask for your business’ reviews. If you don’t know what to write, we also added a customized message that will help you convey your message!
3. A “clickless”, pay-to-win Google will emerge
Google is in the process of migrating information to knowledge graphs and GMB listings. Users will no longer need to click through from the SERP to find the information they need. As a result, traffic to brand’s websites and local pages may shrink as users increasingly find decision-critical information in search results.
But Google isn’t content to simply provide more information upfront. Users can call almost any local business directly from the SERP, and in some cases can even reserve a table through Google. We can easily see Google doubling down and adding even more conversion functionality, such as appointment bookings for all types of businesses or “buy it now” for product searches.
The purpose of all these improvements—displaying more information, adding higher quality reviews, and adding additional conversion points—is to keep users on Google above all other websites. By providing more value (mostly by poaching the value that other websites offer), Google becomes the primary platform in all parts of a consumer journey from discovery, to research, to purchase. This consolidation will have an Amazon-like effect, where businesses effectively abandon their own first-party platforms to better serve users where they congregate. With Google controlling the user journey, businesses will need to bend the knee and possibly sacrifice a percentage of revenue to Google’s platform for every lead it generates, even via historically organic results.
It is not just a matter of more ads placed on the top of Google search results: it’s a matter of Google offering a better organic experience for users—but requiring businesses to pay to be part of that organic experience. For instance, in 2020 Google allowed businesses to make Google Posts at scale for no cost, ostensibly for important COVID-related updates. But the search giant also stated that it was a temporary measure. Don’t be surprised if Google Posts become a paid feature once they’re an accepted (and even expected) part of the user experience.
Don’t think they would? We’ve seen it already in the hospitality sector. Google denies hospitality businesses the normal tools they provide to every industry: hospitality brands are unable to use Google Posts or link to an appointment/booking URL in their knowledge panel. Moreover, hotel knowledge panels are driven by an ad system wherein hotel owners must bid via a room rate commission fee called “Google Hotel Ads” instead of bidding on a keyword in the conventional sense. That’s right—hotels need to bid in their own knowledge panels!
Brands in the future will need to fight to stay on top of Google’s organic listings as Google poaches the leads formerly converted on the brand’s own website. Businesses need to find a way to compete with Google and generate leads themselves or otherwise play ball with the search engine and go the way of the hospitality industry, paying for organic features just to remain competitive.
4.The rise of QR code marketing
No one could have predicted QR codes would take off in 2020. It’s just one many things about the year of COVID that have change.
“New shopping habits, consumer wishlists and work commitments have all shifted and been formed. Just look at QR codes,” says Sandbox Media CEO, Luke Sullivan. “The unpredictability of government decisions and impacts of a cookieless world are huge. While we all wish we had a crystal ball, the unpredictable nature of 2021 is an incredible time to take some calculated risk and get ahead. Don’t let the analysis cause paralysis. The start of the decade starts in 2021.”
QR codes are on the rise because they provide consumers contactless delivery, pickup and payment options – necessary for our current public health protocols. Brands should use this adopted consumer habit to their advantage by tracking engagement via their advertising and marketing tactics.
QR Code and Contactless ordering coming soon!
Another good news: soon, starting with restaurants and cafes, businesses on Top4 will be able to display their menu using QR Codes – and ordering from your favourite local restaurants becomes even easier with Contactless Ordering!
Support your local restaurants – cafes – RSL Clubs and Pubs with Top4 – https://www.top4.com.au/restaurant/
Let’s dominate your local area!
Local listings and their related features are already an integral part of the customer journey, and 2021 will see them further embedded into our online behaviour. The challenge for businesses especially those with distributed footprints will be to continually manage and optimize every new feature for every location, encourage authentic (and long-form) reviews, and know just how much to engage in Google’s forthcoming pay-to-win dynamic.
To find out how we can help you with your Website + Marketing, using our unique location marketing platform called Top4, get in touch today www.top4marketing.com.au
Looking to build customer loyalty through social media? Don’t forget to add your business to Top4.com.au
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