Near Me, Nearly Gone

Google recently published new research about “near me” searches, and they are on the decline. Well, to put it more accurately, they’re not growing as fast as other modified queries. That leaves us wondering — is “near me” going away?

It’s not that demand for local results has gone away — far from it. In fact, now the “near me” qualifier is simply implied. Today, consumers just expect their answers to be contextually relevant. If I ask for a restaurant, I expect to see the ones “near me.” I’m not going to type that in, dear Google, but I expect you to understand that’s what I mean.

What we are seeing a big increase in is the use of “best” as a choice modifier. “Best restaurant,” “best Chinese restaurant,” and so on. That’s the growth space in phrase usage and let’s face it, as consumers, this is where we’ve always wanted to be. We’ve had to wait for technology to catch up and become as reliable as our friends have always been. Our friends generally understand the nuance of what we mean when we say things. Now our tech is at that level (to a degree).

What impact does this have on you as a business?

Well, given that Google, Bing, Yahoo and all engines still trade on trust, your data needs to be trustworthy. The shifts we see in technology’s ability to comprehend unspoken demands in a reliable manner come from sifting through years of data to understand what trustworthy patterns look like. And part of that comes from businesses implementing things like markup to their website elements. Since this protocol originates from the engines themselves, it’s a trusted source. Almost all those cool experiences and data points provided to a consumer on their mobile device are powered by such data. It’s the markup that opens the door to inclusion.

Which brings us to another interesting item from Google’s recent research: People are searching for a wider variety of items from their devices than ever before. One example called out was… toothpaste. Now that might seem random, but I see opportunity. If I’m a drugstore, a grocery store, or a convenience store, I’m marking myself up for the basic staples that people need in their lives — and that I have for sale.

Most businesses will tell you this simple fact:

          Consumers often buy more than intended when they physically visit your store.

This is especially true of lower cost, everyday items. That toothpaste search in a map app could easily lead a customer through your door who spends $30 on a variety of items. All because your website was marked up for that staple item.

This shift in consumer behavior has been happening for a while and will continue to roll this way in the future. Part of being a successful marketer is paying attention to your own actions as a consumer. Digging in and working on the code of your website to implement Schema markup takes work, and the right people, but it’s overall impact shouldn’t be overlooked.

And if you’re thinking you have time to get to this later, take a look at the arc of how long it took “near me” search volumes to reach apogee and start to flatten. You’d better get on this quickly, or you’ll end up two curves behind the others who moved first.


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