Breakdown of Local Consumer Search Behavior in 2023: Key Findings
10 mins read

Breakdown of Local Consumer Search Behavior in 2023: Key Findings

Local consumer search behavior is fickle and volatile. It is largely influenced by a combination of key factors that can include economic conditions, trends, marketing strategies, cultural influences and personal preferences.

For example, economic conditions such as possible layoffs during a recession or price fluctuations can strongly influence consumer behavior. In times of economic uncertainty like the one we are experiencing right now, consumers can be more cautious about their discretionary spending and prioritize essential goods over other goods. For industries like hospitality and restaurants that rely on discretionary spending, this can result in massive downward shifts in search interest, listing views, and conversion trends.

Knowing that consumer search behavior is likely to change countless times throughout the year, it’s important to regularly monitor your local marketing metrics to see how often and when consumers are engaging with your brand. Rio SEO publishes comprehensive quarterly and annual reports detailing how consumers’ local search behavior has evolved overall (across all industries) and by industry. These comprehensive insights can better guide your local marketing strategy and help you compare your performance against your competitors.

For the purpose of this research, Rio SEO analyzed local search data for more than 164,000 different US business locations over the period 2021-2022.

In this post, we will cover key takeaways from our Local Consumer Search Behavior Breakdown 2023 white paper and the accompanying webinar we hosted. Use these insights to better inform your brand’s performance and opportunities for the future.

Overall local search behavior

Local searches (queries people use to find your business) and views (the number of visitors to your Google business profile listing) trended closely together in 2021 and 2022. This rules out a sharp drop that we see in early 2022. Mask requirements were still being enforced and uncertainty about the war in Ukraine was beginning.

If we look at conversion trends for local search, we can see that the overall downward trend in local conversion actions that had lasted through the first two months of 2022 started to slow down in March. A general trend we’ve also seen is interest in clicks for directions. This suggests that consumers are again more comfortable driving to businesses and shopping in stores. We see the increase in clicks for driving directions conversion actions in our research for most verticals.

Conversion actions in local search

Service companies, for the purposes of our research, include a wide range of brands that provide personal services, including gyms, storage facilities, postal services, hair salons and barbers, waxing services, and more. In this industry in particular, there is close personal contact with the customer, which is probably why we are seeing strong fluctuations in local search queries, views and click trends.

In 2022, we see the most volatility in this sector from January to March, when the Omicron variant sparked renewed concerns about whether it was a good idea (or even possible) to access services that involve close contact with another person require.

Local search and conversion trends for service companies

We categorize financial services companies into Banks, Mortgage Brokers, Insurance Agencies and Pension Advisors. Financial services firms saw volatility across all metrics through May 2022. We see that in June and July 2021, searches, views, and clicks collapsed to their lowest levels for that period.

A variety of factors including mortgage rates and house prices, bank rates, inflation, the war against Ukraine, economic uncertainty and more impacted search volume and interest in the financial services industry. Even one of these factors can result in consumers tightening their wallets, not to mention numerous negative economic factors impacting consumers at the same time.

Local search and conversion trends for financial services

Full-service restaurants encompass the entire dining customer experience—from checking in with a hostess to being served by a waiter. The restaurant may also offer curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery.

Given the current economic climate, it’s not surprising that sit-down restaurants continue to struggle to match the momentum they had before Corona. Customer expectations have evolved and many restaurants have increased prices due to supply chain issues. There’s still hope for restaurant brands. 84 percent of consumers say that dining out with family and friends is a better use of their free time than cooking and cleaning up.

Overall, a restaurant’s Google Business Profile drives an increasing number of guests directly to restaurant locations each month. Restaurant brands benefit from optimizing all available fields in the Google Business Profile, leveraging Reserve with Google to accept reservations and displaying real-time wait times directly in the Google Business Profile, and syndicating your menu.

Local search and conversion trends for full-service restaurants

Quick service restaurants typically offer food at a lower price than their full-service restaurants. They work with a “grab-and-go” mentality, without waiters and with a full seating experience. This operating model weathered the effects of the pandemic better, grew in popularity, and is now the preferred dining method for some consumers.

Conversely, we see less variability in local marketing metrics for quick service restaurants compared to full service restaurants. The holidays had a cooling effect on local searches, views, and conversions in both 2021 and 2022. This is in line with the seasonal trends observed by the restaurant industry, where interest in eating out and take-out wanes during the colder months.

Local search and conversion trends for quick service restaurants

The search experience has taken a tumultuous turn for retailers in recent years. Total views, searches, and clicks tended to trend together, with minor variances.

We’re seeing the greatest local search interest and activity in the spring of 2021, as lockdown measures eased across the United States and many consumers felt safe going back into physical stores. The post-holiday season of 2021 brought a sharp drop in search interest and activity as Omicron sent consumers home — and to online shopping.

At the 67,000+ retail locations we analyzed; Employees at each branch take hundreds of calls each month directly from Google Business Profiles. Somewhat more searchers — about 400 per month per location — visit the store’s website or local page to learn more and find answers to their questions. To help consumers make informed decisions, retailers must be willing to answer questions wherever consumers want to help improve the customer journey.

Retail Conversion Trends

When we compare the healthcare industry to the other industries we’ve studied, we find that onversion actions have been far less volatile. Overall, we see healthcare brands becoming more resilient in terms of local marketing metrics over the past two years, which is no surprise given that doctor visits are inevitable. Numerous health problems have also increased, such as COVID, RSV and mental health.

Updating local listings and pages with accurate hours of operation, insurance information, appointment availability, and services offered can help potential patients become as self-sufficient as possible. Like other business types, healthcare organizations can use GBP attributes to provide more information that can proactively answer searches and eliminate the need for a phone call.

Healthcare change trends

Hotel brands include chain and group hotels and motels with 100 or more locations. The recovery has been difficult for hotel brands and depended largely on external factors.

We know that the pandemic has prevented a lot of travel and with it the need for hotel rooms and that business trips have also come to a standstill. Like restaurants, hotels are still grappling with the fallout from the pandemic, which is why we’re seeing ups and downs in Google search metrics.

The good news for hotel brands is that interest is picking up again. Over the past summer, there has been a huge increase in conversion actions, particularly clicks for directions. The important question for hoteliers, and for all of the industries we study in general, is: is historical data still useful for measuring success? Putting the year-over-year gains and losses in context, the success of local marketing might look a little different than before, regardless of your industry. You may need to adjust your pre-pandemic and post-pandemic expectations as consumer behavior and purchasing decisions look very different today than they did three years ago.

Conversion trends in search behavior of local consumers in hospitality

Despite a turbulent economic environment, vacancy rates are low in most major cities and many consumers are returning to major cities to return to office work. We’ve also seen through the pandemic that consumers value their homes more as they spend more time in them. This is probably why we’ve seen more ups than downs in the multifamily housing industry over the past two years.

We expect conversion metrics to level off in the second half of 2022. Several key factors are required for the real estate market to thrive. These factors include population growth, high employment and good wages, and consumers’ willingness to spend money on goods, services and leisure.

The unemployment rate has continued to fall since January 2021 and stood at 3.5% in December 2022. Wages also increased continuously in 2022. This has led to a focus on home buying in recent years. Faced with intense competition, increasing numbers of homebuyers and limited inventory, prospective homebuyers have been forced to continue renting from multifamily housing companies.

Conversion trends in the search behavior of local consumers in apartment buildings