One thing that small businesses need is growth. When you experience growth, your bottom line will follow. In other words, the more people who know about your business, the more end up using it.
But what happens when you look at your local search results and growth isn’t happening? What if those numbers are declining?
The first thing to do is stop and assess why your numbers have decreased. Whether you see a month to month decrease, a quarterly trend or a year over year decrease, it’s not always a bad thing.
In fact, there are a few instances where decreases are a good thing!
Let’s examine the four most common reasons your local search numbers may be decreasing.
1. Your Business Has Moved
When it comes to local search, your business’s physical location is the most important piece of information Google, Bing and other search engines have about your company.
From a local search growth perspective, the longer you are in one location, the better. Trust is built for your business at that location, and the algorithms know exactly where they can expect to find you.
When you move, the search engines need to re-learn where you are and trust they’ll find you there. The further away you move, the more drastic the impact you’ll see.
To help you understand, think about like this:
When your favorite grocery store rearranges the store, it takes you a couple trips to remember exactly where everything is.
Well, the same applies to local search. If Google thought you were in one location, but you moved to somewhere else, their algorithms need to update their memory of your new location.
During that learning time, you may experience less visibility and traffic. Rest assured, this is temporary, and you should see the trend reverse back to growth.
2. You’ve Recently Optimized Your Listing
This may seem counter-intuitive, but many times we see that optimizing a local search strategy or a local search listing actually results in decreases in traditional visibility and interaction data.
While the initial reaction to seeing this is, “Oh no! Something is wrong!” consider for a moment what optimizations are really being made.
Are you focusing on optimizing your business for the first time since you opened? Chances are you were showing up for some irrelevant searches.
By optimizing your listing for what products and services you offer, and increasing the relevancy of the people finding you, you’re going to weed out a lot of bad impressions/views. In this case, that decrease is a very good thing.
Here's an example:
You own a hair salon, and prior to optimizing your listing, you had great numbers. But once you started implementing a local search strategy your numbers started to decrease.
On the surface, that’s not great. However, upon further inspection, you can see you are being found more for cut and color searches when previously you were getting a lot of exposure for laser hair removal.
Your salon does not receive valuable traffic from a person looking for laser hair removal (these are views we need to weed out).
3. The Search Volume You’re Used to Isn’t There (Seasonality)
Examining year over year is the biggest indicator, in most cases, of the effectiveness of a local search strategy. But what if you see a decrease year over year?
If you haven’t moved recently, and you haven’t changed your service offerings, check the search trends for clues. In many cases, you’ll see a decrease in search popularity for your key services and products if you’re seeing a decrease in exposure.
Check out this example:
You own a roofing company in Oklahoma, and last year your service area was hit by two tornadoes in July. Undoubtedly, there was a huge increase in search traffic for roofers in July and August in your area.
But this year in July, there was only one tornado. The need for a roofer was not as great compared to the prior year, and search trends would show a decrease in the number of people searching for a roofer.
Changes in search volume are unavoidable, as no one is able to force someone to search.
This concept also includes seasonality trends. Typically, September and October are mild months in the Midwest, with comfortable temperatures that entice you to open your windows and not use your HVAC unit as much. This is also the time we see the lowest search volumes for heating and air conditioning contractors.
If we looked at the volume from September and October compared to July and August (traditionally very hot months), we’d see a decrease. But we expect to see that decrease because it happens every single year. In that case, a decrease is neither good nor bad, but neutral.
4. There Has Been a Disruption in the Market
Due to the nature of major disruptions in digital marketing, this is the most rare.
We normally don't see significant changes that would cause drastic and noticeable decreases month over month or year over year.
Recently, however, there has been a change to select search results by industry (and to some extent market), Local Services Ads. Also known as Google Guaranteed Ads, this new ad format has changed the search results layout and pushed local search further down the page.
Because of this, there have been local search decreases when it comes to traditional exposure metrics. Again, however, these decreases are not inherently negative if we also look at interactions with the listing.
A decrease in visibility metrics but an increase in phone calls show an increase in where it counts — leads!
Plumbers, HVAC, locksmiths, garage door companies, electricians, roofers and other similar industries are the ones who have been impacted by this disruption when it comes to local search visibility growth.
The other, and more widely impactful market disruptor is an increase in competitors.
There are a limited number of impressions available in an area, and with more businesses opening and verifying their local search listings, the harder you have to fight for exposure. If you own a flower shop in your town and four new flower shops open up near you, the chances you’ll maintain the growth you’ve previously seen. Your competition is a disruption.
One final point about decreasing local search visibility: Marketing is NOT linear.
There are very few, if any, businesses that have experienced growth every single month.
There will be upward trends and downward trends, but the important thing to remember is that long-term growth is the result of identifying why you have decreases and adjusting to them if necessary.
If you need help with your local search ranking, request a demo with one of our consultants to learn how our team can improve your online presence!