Location, Location, Location: How COVID-19 Will Change the Way We Live and Search

Crowd in New York City street.

Location, location, location — this is a central tenet for many local businesses. Got a shop or billboard in Times Square? You’re gonna get massive brand exposure.

But in the midst of COVID-19, all that is changing. And it’s not clear how the pandemic’s impact will change how local (and other) businesses market — for good.

Life & Work Changes

I discussed recently how this crisis could permanently change the way people work. What if half of the workforce permanently works from home? What happens when skyscraper occupancy is at half capacity?

This will surely have a ripple effect on all the businesses that rely on transporting and serving those people on a daily basis. And the exposure from that traffic.

In a WFH economy, neighborhoods will be where people spend most of their time — grabbing lunch down the street or walking to their local coffee shop. While it could be business as usual for those who live in Manhattan, for example, things will dramatically change for suburbs.

Foursquare is tracking foot traffic. It is dramatically down in places you would expect, like airports and hotels.

CV-19 impact on airport & hotels data chart.

But foot traffic is up in grocery and warehouse stores.

CV-19 impact on supply stores data chart.

Google is also tracking foot traffic around the world with its mobility reports. These show how communities are reacting differently to COVID-19.

Google mobility chart.
Community Mobility Report, Ventura County, Calif., Google


In the future, local neighborhood businesses will likely thrive in a work-from-home economy. Others might need to work harder to survive in a world where people travel less, such as gas stations or car lots.

New business opportunities will also emerge as a result of the new economy. For example, WFH office equipment and consulting, homeschool education and activities, productivity software and online entertainment. (Perhaps even baby goods and services will be more in demand in the near future?)

At the heart of all these changes is still the need to be in the most ideal location for your customers. And for many, that starts with Google’s search results. As exposure decreases from foot and car traffic, people will continue to go online to find what they need, and where they need to go.

Having experienced a new way of living, consumers are recalibrating their spending, increasing the likelihood that spending may permanently shift between categories and that online services could get adopted far faster. Decoding this new normal—and ensuring that the company has a strategy to navigate it—is an important part of the work of a nerve center.

-McKinsey & Company, COVID-19 Implications for Business

How Search Is Changing

Right now, the way people search is changing — and there could be a permanent shift.

For example, grocery stores and productivity tools are experiencing massive growth in search queries as of late.

Others like restaurants are not faring well, but food delivery is up.

Search Traffic Will Be Key

For many businesses, this is a critical time to be found online. When the dust settles, it will be as important as ever to survive.

Whether you’re a local business that needs to disseminate key info, a business that needs to pivot its offerings to stay relevant, or a business that will thrive in the new economy, that means optimizing your digital presence.

A recent local business survey from BrightLocal shows some promising results. While the majority are losing customers, they aren’t losing sight of the big picture. Many report their efforts to improve their websites and customer service.

How might this new economy impact Google Search? I imagine Google will get better at returning relevant search results for queries it believes are local. Perhaps to the point where appending “near me” to the query may not be necessary.

Local Business Necessities

Regardless, local businesses will want to ramp up their optimization so that local searchers can find them. Certainly, if you’re a local business, you’ll want to read this checklist for local search optimization.

For non-local businesses, think about the demands of this new WFH economy, how that will impact your offerings, and how you optimize. Our Always Up-to-Date SEO Checklist is a good place to start.

If you want to survive in this new digital world, you have to be digitally connected to be found.

For local businesses, prepare for a future where fewer people drive past or walk by your store. Where the first touch point is a Google search. In this new world, search traffic is just as important as foot traffic.

If you’d like to know how to improve your website’s visibility in search, contact us for a free services quote.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (7)
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7 Replies to “Location, Location, Location: How COVID-19 Will Change the Way We Live and Search”

Some very interesting tips that can be applied easily.

I read this blog and have good stuff in this, But I would like to add some basis things to add like citation links are very important when you are talking about local business. Citation links are a basis part of off page SEO activities. But you should add a section about the same.

Thank you for providing statistics. We work in the web development industry, and we noticed a little bit higher traffic at our sites.

Thanks for sharing such a valuable article at this time.

Thank you for providing statistics. We work in the web development industry, and we noticed a little bit higher traffic at our sites.

This will result in increased opportunities for Freelancer Writers and others to embrace coming changes and pivot their services for more business opportunities.

The changing landscape is full of wonderful prospects!

Moving forward day by day with all these changes :-)


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