Local Search Is the Fastest-Growing Digital Channel for Location-Based Businesses

What is local search?

Local searches have location intent, like “car repair near me” or “best pizza in San Jose, CA” 

Are all local searches on Google?

Many local searches are on Google, but many are on Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and other vertical search engines also.

What are location-based businesses?

Businesses that provide products and services to the public at a physical location, like restaurants, stores, dentists, and veterinarians.

What is channel share?

Channel share is the proportion of traffic that comes from each of the digital channels, like SEO, Local, Paid Search, Display, Social, and Email.

What is channel mix?

Channel mix is the blend of traffic from each channel as it exists for a particular business. Understanding the industry benchmark of shares will help a business allocate focus and resources to better match the opportunities to reach prospects and customers. 

How is Google My Business or GMB different from Local Search?

GMB is the platform on which a business inputs and manages their Local profile to improve how it will appear on the Google search results.

How does a business do Local Search?

In prior years the focus was on UNAP consistency (URL, Name, Address, and Phone) across owned properties and on 3rd party sites, like listing services. The consistency helped search engines better determine the business that matched searchers’ needs. Now in addition to UNAP, the focus is on profile completeness in terms of information, reviews, posts, images, videos, category, store hours, FAQs, and Q&A.

Who is Milestone Inc?

Milestone Inc is a technology innovator that helps customers organize and amplify their digital information to reach their audience. Milestone Research is the research and data science division with Milestone Inc.

Local Is the Fastest-Growing Channel for Location-Based Businesses at 50% Pre- and Post-Pandemic

Local channel share of traffic excluding Direct rose to 28.8% in June of 2021

Analyzing traffic sources from multiple channels gives a benchmark and potential formula to replicate success and get more web traffic.  

Milestone Inc’s Milestone Research reviewed over 500 location-based websites, 63 million sessions, and 176 million page views over 18 months from Jan 2020 to June 2021 to generate these findings. Next, we categorized results as location or non-location-based businesses. 

The findings stated below exclude the Direct channel because it is a derivative channel that depends on other channels for true top-of-funnel support, so the data represents what Milestone Research identifies as trackable digital traffic. 

Local is the second-largest channel behind Organic Search and the two organic channels together dominate the traffic, pageview, and revenue mix.

Local traffic is the highest intent traffic, and that means its share of pageviews and revenue is even high than the traffic session share with share of Pageviews at 28.6% and share of revenue at 25.5%.

Local Search appears to have benefited from the pullback in paid spending and traffic that occurred during the pandemic. With fewer ads in the environment, people used text search more often to start or advance on the customer journeys.

Milestone Labs and R&D have been mapping the growth of Local for more than 10 years and noted that there was more focus and feature enhancement in 2020 than any year prior. We believe this was in part due to the pandemic and Google’s interest in supporting local businesses and consumers during the stay-at-home orders.

Milestone has identified more than 15 areas of GMB and local pages that can be optimized to improve local visibility and traffic. 

Conclusion

The growth in Local has likely caught most businesses by surprise, so their focus and investment in Local is far below the share of traffic and revenue of around 25% that it commands. Local is the new organic battleground with only a few providers per category showing up above the fold. 

Milestone Inc’s Local Recommendations for Websites

  1. Complete Your GMB Profile – Fill in and keep accurate all information about your business. Publish GMB Posts if available in your industry.
  2. Ensure Your URL, Name, Address and Place are Consistent – Make these elements perfectly consistent in all instances.
  3. Add Schemas- Help search engines understand your website content by adding structured data and advanced schemas 
  4. Mobile Experience- 50%+ of web traffic is mobile. Ensure you provide the best mobile experience by focusing on a mobile-first design. Build a responsive website that seamlessly adapts to a laptop, iPad, and mobile design. Give the best speed and digital experience on mobile by incorporating AMP pages and core web vitals. Optimize images for a compelling story, relevancy, and rich experience.  
  5. Voice Optimization- Ensure your website pages are voice optimized to be picked up by Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now 
  6. Add FAQs- All search queries are questions. Adding rich FAQs to your website that answer questions potential customers are asking can give you a lot of search visibility and traffic. 
  7. SEO-friendly Website- Tag your website with metatags, image tags, and social tags.  
  8. Clear CTAs- Keep clear CTAs with information forms, coupons, and time-sensitive offers 
  9. Compliance- Ensure access to all customers by building an ADA compliant website 
  10. Event Calendar- Enhance your special offering and location visibility with event calendars  

If you are interested in learning more, download the full Local share research report.

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