In 2023, the world’s best athletes will compete in a variety of sports to demonstrate their readiness to represent their countries at the Paris Olympics, and I have a strong sense that the coming months will be a rigorous test of endurance for local business owners and their marketers, as well.
Having survived the extraordinary events that occurred in local search in the second half of 2022 – most notably the deprecation of the historic Google Business Profile Manager Dashboard and a slew of business-impacting bugs – I predict that 2023 will be a year of significant change for the millions of local brands for whom Google’s local search interfaces have become indispensable for discovery, communications, and sales. In the meantime, ChatGPT is upsetting the entire SEO sector, with many asking how long AI will throw a shadow over work and life.
Based on Google’s approach to and management of local and general search philosophies, I have a hunch that the recent developments portend a greater transformation in the future. Moz’s Tom Capper and Dr. Peter J. Meyers will provide an outlook on organic SEO (which binds our local world) to help us prepare. Then, let’s collect local insight from industry pundits such as Amanda Jordan, Ben Fisher, David Mihm, Garrett Sussman, Greg Sterling, and Mike Blumenthal. I will conclude by recommending three local search marketing areas for 2023.
As always, we enter the arena of 2023 bearing the bright torch of human intellect, but this year, our feet are a little hesitant; artificial intelligence is on everyone’s mind. On our journey to Paris, we can ponder on the Olympic motto created in 1924 in that city: “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” As a species, we are continually seeking personal and social improvement. Aristotle, however, stated that the mark of an educated mind was the ability to entertain a theory without accepting it, and many of my SEO colleagues are currently asking if the rise of artificial intelligence and a life so controlled by machines is anyone’s idea of a good move. Simply said, the fact that someone can do something does not suggest that they should.
Local SEOs may feel as though they’ve been through enough change in recent years, what with the loss of the dashboard for managing Google listings and an onslaught of bugs. However, when I polled my peers about the future, many of them anticipate significant challenges for local businesses and marketers.
Considering the level of concern currently being expressed in the SEO industry regarding the rise of disinformation that may result from inventions such as ChatGPT, the pitfalls of programmatic moderation of key local content such as reviews and images, and Google’s inability to adequately support the millions of local brands they represent on their platform, I believe we must invest heavily in human resources to counteract the shortcomings of machines. Here are my top three suggestions for an intelligent local company plan in 2023.
1. Shorten the road to a genuine person in any manner possible.
I see indications everywhere that people have reached a tipping point of robot “handling” fatigue. Multiple-step phone menus and lengthy hold times are extremely tedious. Chat functions that never result in human interaction feel inhuman and cold. Websites that impede rather than facilitate client journeys are detrimental to both parties involved in a transaction.
Utilizing the following strategies, minimize the distance between customers and live customer care by 2023.
- 69% of American consumers questioned prefer speaking with a live person over the phone for customer assistance. The majority of customers name lengthy hold times, phone disconnects, and having to start over with each phone agent as their top pain problems, as a result of which issues take too long to fix. If short staffing is causing long hold times at your company, implement call-back technology so that customers can continue with their lives while they wait to speak with a live person. Additionally, ensure that every customer-facing employee is well-trained on your products, services, and policies so that a customer needs to speak with as few people as possible to receive answers to their questions.
- 46% of customers feel that firms use chatbots to prevent them from contacting a real person, and 60% would rather wait for a real person than communicate with a bot. However, if you employ chatbots for after-hours customer service, they can be a beneficial tool. Just ensure that your interface clearly specifies that it is automated, includes frequently asked questions so that answers may be offered in a hurry, and collects consumer contact information so that a human engagement can commence as soon as feasible after the chat.
- More than half of customers who use live chat expect a response within minutes. Such applications must be manned in the same manner as telephones to prevent customers from feeling ignored and abandoning the business.
- Texting is the preferred way of communication for 44.5% of customers aged 35-54, according to a previously quoted Leadferno survey. About one-third of texting clients expect a response within a day. Given the disparity between expected response times and actual response times, texting may be a preferable alternative for brands with limited personnel, so that customers are not lost due to unmet expectations.
- Email is a vital channel for customer support, however one study revealed that 62% of companies do not respond to email-based customer service inquiries, 90% do not send an email verifying that the query has been received, and only 20% of organizations can provide a complete answer on the first reply. These shocking numbers highlight the necessity to staff your inbox so that clients receive quick, well-informed emails in response to every inquiry.
- Lastly, one of the major obstacles of the past few years has been the ongoing pandemic’s effect on local businesses’ staffing levels. Customers still want to be greeted and assisted by well-trained staff whenever doors are open, but the realities of a labor shortage, COVID, and Long COVID require businesses and customers to rely more on additional, non-human resources, such as the answering of frequently asked questions on in-store and storefront signage, company websites, and local business listings. We will now analyze these points.
2. Good tools will come to your aid in difficult circumstances.
Local business is predicated on human interactions, regardless of what AI enthusiasts may claim. Consequently, when external conditions generate workforce shortages, it is important to evaluate the human race’s long history of clever tool utilization to facilitate labor. Like the sea otter and the heron, we can use aids to make achieving our objectives easier, and in 2023, local company owners should ensure that consumers are supplied even when staff members are unavailable. Focus on the following:
- The New Merchant Experience, which replaced the Google Business Profile dashboard in 2022, was mostly seen as a usability disaster, especially for multi-location firms. Restore management simplicity by utilizing tools such as Moz Local to recover the peaceful, devoted workspace required to manage your listing on Google and the most prominent local business listing sites in a single location.
- Ensure that the listings you’ve established have complete and correct information so that clients can quickly find answers to their inquiries about your location, contact information, hours, products, services, and policies. This year, add your products, take additional photographs, and prepare to begin filming portions of your business. Google has recently begun promoting videos of local businesses, and I would recommend producing 30-second videos in which a representative from your organization answers the most often asked questions.
- 96% of your customers read reviews, and 60% of review authors want a response within two days or less. This is the year to see reviews as a two-way conversation, armed with the knowledge that when your solutions remedy complaints, 63% of reviewers will update their unfavorable review and 62% will give your business another chance. Study The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior to make 2023 your most communicative year to yet. However, due to recent study by Mike Blumenthal on the shocking reasons why Google filters reviews, you should be cautious about how you request reviews this year.
- Broaden your communications channels. Try a text hotline after hours if you’ve never had one before. Try out video-based customer service, live chat, and callbacks. Make 2023 the year in which you definitively decide whether channels such as TikTok and Instagram are suitable for your clients and brand. The greater the ease with which consumers may discover and access your business, the better.
3. In the face of anonymity, buck trends
Why did Patagonia’s founder designate the Earth to be its sole shareholder? Why, when everyone was proclaiming that brick-and-mortar was dead and that all purchases would be conducted online, would Warby Parker double down on physical shops so that customers without prescriptions could receive an on-site eye exam? Why has someone created a profitable restaurant for dogs in San Francisco despite the impending recession, assuming that people will splurge on their animal companions even if they are budgeting for themselves?
- These scenarios aren’t just about going against the grain and daring to be different; they’re about understanding what people care about, need, and love. The creators of these concepts took the time to comprehend the realities of a society eager to combat climate change, in need of affordable vision care, and desiring to boost their spirits by doing something special for a beloved pet. In a world that is becoming increasingly computerized and impersonal, having a real face (and a real heart behind it) could be what differentiates your local business in 2023.
- In the bizarre imaginations of some executives, human value is assessed by the mass consumption of things and now AI-generated entertainment. Local business owners are more knowledgeable due to their expertise. Embrace the story that your firm is run by real people who assist real neighbors in real ways, with charisma and charm that cannot be replicated by robots, in the coming year. This will not be an easy race, but regardless of the odds, it is worthwhile to compete.
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