It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, I felt compelled to publish a piece on
why you still needed a website, pushing back on the narrative that the amount of zero-click-type SERPs was making websites irrelevant. Nobody can claim this in 2021, and recent stats from Moxtra’s Small Business Digital Resilience Report make the “why” of this clear. Consider:
Local digital sales are where it’s at in 2021, so finding the best possible e-commerce provider should be the top priority for all relevant brands. Don’t worry too much about zero-click SERPs this year. Yes, Google has its shopping engine and has even
ramped up its “nearby” filter in 2020, but focus on pulling in every bit of traffic you can to your website’s own shopping cart this year. This goal will build stronger-than-ever bridges between local and organic SEO, so this is the time for local-focused agencies to double down on organic skills.
Has anyone ever really enjoyed sitting for hours in a waiting room to speak to an accountant, a consultant, a banker? I don’t think so. In 2021, websites for professional service providers should be optimized to drive online bookings for as many remote meetings as possible.
I’ve been predicting
the return of the milkman for many years here at Moz, and 2020 made it happen. Thousands of customers signed up this past summer to make standing orders with Alpenrose Dairy in the Portland area, after a 40-year absence of home delivery service. Under new leadership, the old dairy invested in a fleet of trucks, drivers, branded delivery boxes, and even dog biscuits to toss to barking pups along the way. As their success grew, Alpenrose began partnering up with other local brands to deliver all kinds of treats and groceries, and their social profiles are being rewarded with nostalgic, happy praise from locals and a ton of transactions.
What I find absolutely key to this story is that Alpenrose is managing delivery in-house. They aren’t outsourcing to a third party and losing something like one-third of their revenue. If a local business you’re marketing can deliver, it definitely should.
Further, I’d urge digital marketing agencies to have vital conversations with clients in Q1 about the problems inherent in outsourcing customer experience to a third party. As I’ve learned from both
restaurateurs and grocers, it’s generally too costly and too risky to let another company get between you and your customers. This means that a key problem to solve in the year ahead is the employment and transportation of in-house drivers.
“Oyster man. Oyster manny-manny-manny!”
A vintage cookbook tells me this is the song residents of mid-century New Orleans heard each day as a seafood wagon came down their streets. When I look through and beyond 2021, my best inspiration comes from examining the past, with its bountiful produce trucks making rounds, and ladies coming onto porches to purvey gumbo file powder. Ask your elders for reminiscences to inspire 2021 opportunities, because everything old is becoming new again, and whenever I ask around, customers who have gotten a taste of home delivery want it to continue beyond the hoped-for end of the pandemic.
But here’s one problem I need help to solve: If I’m predicting the continued expansion of delivery, and I’m looking back in time, I see lots of households with somebody available to accept perishable orders. In June of 2020,
42% of the US workforce was working at home, but if and when we return to formal workplaces, who will be in situ to bring in the meat and dairy before they spoil?
Will the return of the milkman necessitate the return of the outdoor icebox, or at least some form of it, like a fridge on the porch, a cooler the driver knows to fill, an apartment complex cold case? Inventors, please speak up, because there’s just no way I’m going to
let Amazon into my house.
3. My tossed salad of local search marketing predictions
Slice of Chic
So, solving for local digital sales and delivery are the two biggest stories I’m focused on in the year ahead, but here are my mixed greens of other developments I think we’ll see in the next twelve months:
Google’s , and it will be felt on local business shores. But the truth is that — as recently as 2019 — Core Web Vitals is coming one-third of small businesses still reported having no website at all (hence, nothing to optimize for Google’s latest initiatives). While local SERPs make it clear that it’s quite possible to rank a site-less local business in even moderately competitive packs and finders, 2020 turned the lack of a digital presence into a dire disadvantage for the smallest brands. Even a free website will be better than nothing in the year ahead.
Google will push harder on , and brands and agencies will need to decide whether to invite them into customer communications to this degree. If Google Messaging ever fully takes off, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google sunset Questions & Answers as a result. Google Messaging
Google’s purchase ofas key to their strategy for a local transactional future. I strongly believe Google’s greatest growth potential lies in facilitating local online shopping through a mapped interface, and I’m expecting their game plan for this to be more obvious by the end of 2021. Pointy should start to surface more clearly
Reviews will continue to be absolutely central, but unless Google does something more about vetting the quality of reviews and Q&A responses from its Local Guides program, searcher experience will suffer. We won’t see a massive erosion of trust to threaten Google’s review dominance in 2021, but review spam and poor content will continue the confidence leak at a slow, aggravating trickle unless Google plugs it up.
If , the local SEO industry’s necessary hyper-focus on Google could see some welcome variation. Apple launches its search engine this year Moz Local already distributes to Apple Maps, so if you’re a customer, you’re ahead of the Apple game, but coverage of optimizing for Apple search will deserve your closest attention to be an early bird.
The rise of , and hopefully prompt the company to start developing more agency-friendly solutions. Nextdoor is the structured citation platform in which I’m most interested for the new year, and Moz Local now offers a top tier plan with a solution for agencies to help get all their clients onto Nextdoor (a function that’s absent from the platform’s own interface). Watch the Moz Blog for further coverage this year! Nextdoor for local business visibility will hit a new high
Local medical and personal service providers may need to expand hires (at least temporarily). Once a truly successful COVID-19 vaccine has been widely implemented, expect a glut of bookings from clients who have put off all kinds of appointments during lockdown. Now is the time to investigate good booking software and also evaluate Google’s options for this, because online reputation will be impacted by the ability to see clients in a timely manner once it’s safe to do so.
Public-brand affinity will set conscientious local businesses apart. Centering deep concern for whatever your local public cares about most will be increasingly important in the coming year. Whether through brand activism or allyship with major movements like Black Lives Matter or climate change addressal, or diligent support of local programs to alleviate poverty or increase diversity, equity, and inclusion, company reputations will become further tied to actions for the common good.
I’ll sum up by saying that there’s never been a tougher year than 2021 for making marketing predictions. After all, how many of us foresaw the harsh realities of 2020? But, as I look to the sunrise of a vaccine, and couple this with multiple polls indicating just how strongly the public wants to support local businesses, I think there’s both reason for optimism and genuine opportunity ahead.
2020 reminded us of just how interdependent we all are, for the basics of daily living and for human support, encouragement, and hope. Everyone benefits from inhabiting well-resourced, sustainable communities and if your brand or agency can help with this, the future belongs to you.
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