Grocery stores are at the heart of the local SEO industry's talk in 2021.

Medical facilities aside, no company is more prominent on the map than daily life in the U.S., and few industries have had to adapt faster than our neighborhood grocery stores in the COVID-19 era. From independent grocers to large supermarket chains, there are heroes in every aisle who feed the nation. All of the data that supports these companies' strong survival is worth sharing.

In this article, I'm going to provide results from 900 data points that I pulled while analyzing the best local pack grocery store in each of the 50 U.S. capitals. I also summarize the practical tactics I learned from hearing from grocers and their marketers, highlighting how they adapt and thrive in unprecedented times.

I hope that both in-house and agency grocers will discover important insights in my analysis to ensure a successful 2021 for every major business.


I manually queried google for "grocery store" changed with the city name of each of the 50 US capitals. I was not physically in any of the cities I was looking for, which should rule out the influence of proximity between user and business. I manually recorded 18 characteristics in a spreadsheet for each of the winning grocery stores and then pulled my statistics from that data.

The GMB properties of world class grocery stores

Check out these statistics to see how a grocery store you market is performing.

Location within the city limits

100% of grocery stores in 1st place had a physical location within the city limits for the specified search term City. No business, strong as it may be, made first place in the local group if it wasn't in town.

Snack: A location within the city limits correlates with a good ranking for searches that include the name of that city.

Keywords in the business title

Only 6% of the top companies had business titles that matched any part of my search terms. This was good to see as Google is known (and unfortunately) to reward brands who add keywords to their business titles in violation of Google's guidelines. I've only seen one company whose title contained irrelevant keywords.

Takeout: You don't have to spam Google with keywords in your company title to be rated a top grocery store.

Brand diversity

No brand wins the top spot in the whole country. The results were extremely varied and consisted of a vibrant mix of independent grocers and large chains. However, some brands won in more than one state. Safeway won five local packs, Whole Foods four, and Hy-Vee and Hannaford three each. In addition, the brands were very different.

Takeout: Any brand, big or small, can compete for top notch local visibility. No brand has a ranking monopoly.

Page authority of the GMB landing page

Page Authority (PA) is a 100-point rating developed by Moz that predicts how well a particular website page will rank in search engine results. It is believed that PA has a strong influence on local pack rankings.

Upon examining the PA's website landing page, referenced from each grocery store's Google My Business listing, I found that the The average PA was 40. The highest PA was 58 and the lowest was 26. Amazingly, five of the top tier supermarkets had no website link at all and this must be a source of mystery and frustration for lower ranking grocery stores in these cities whose GMB records point to their websites.

Takeout: An average PA of 40 isn't prohibitively high. Using Moz Pro to measure competitive PA and actively looking for relevant local links for each grocery brand location can beat sleepier competitors. If a low PA or even a missing website link is still being rewarded with a high ranking for a competitor to the brand you are marketing, it is time to do a local business audit to see what other local search ranking factors are at play could.

Primary GMB category

82% of high-ranking grocery stores use "grocery" as their main category. The rest of the brands had chosen some other categories like “supermarket” or “organic grocery”. The main category chosen for the GMB listing is believed to have the greatest impact on what terms the company stands for in Google's local packages.

Snack: "Grocery" has a much higher estimated monthly search volume than any other keyword phrase I've examined, such as "Supermarket" or "Grocery". Grocers who want to rank for this top term should choose “Grocery” as the primary GMB category.


The average rating of the best grocery stores is 4.2 stars. The The highest rated market had 4.7 stars, and the lowest was 3.6. It is believed that star ratings affect local rank.

Takeout: No top notch grocery store had a perfect 5 star rating. Do not be overly concerned about the occasional negative review, strive for customer satisfaction that cumulatively results in 4-star ratings.

Number of Reviews

Grocery stores receive an enormous number of reviews, and the number of reviews is believed to affect rank. All in all, The 50 grocery stores I analyzed had received a total of 62,415 reviewsThis shows how often Google is used as the dominant platform for customer reviews.

The The average number of reviews per store location is 1,248. The count for The most frequently rated grocery store in my data set is 3,632. The The fewest ratings a top shop has received are 227. Keep in mind that the ratings each store location needs for maximum visibility are based on its unique geographic market and level of competition.

Takeaway: The fact that the vast majority of reviews I've seen are unmanaged (no brand responses) leads me to believe that professional review acquisition campaigns are likely not the driving force behind the high number of reviews in the food industry . I would rather suggest that Americans are self motivated to check out the places they shop for groceries. If a brand you are marketing is outperformed by a competitor with more consumer sentiment, implementing a formal review acquisition program is a wise bet to influence rank and improve customer service for a store location.

Check the currency

The timeliness of your reviews signals to Google and consumers whether your business is a place of busy activity or something quieter. It has long been theorized that the timeliness of the review may have some impact on its rank as a user behavioral signal. In my dataset 52% of the top stores were reviewed on the last day. 46% had received a review within the last week. Only 2% had passed more than a week without a new review.

Takeout: Several consumer surveys have found that when deciding where to shop, customers are most interested in your latest reviews. If a grocery store you're marketing hasn't been reviewed in weeks, months (or years!), This is definitely a signal to actively seek feedback from customers.

Always remember that your customers are your grocery store's best salespeople. They are free to convince each other to buy from your business by saying what they say about your brand in reviews. A steady stream of the latest positive sentiment is a priceless sales copy for your market.

Owner responses to reviews in 2020

Using the Google owner's response facility for the reviews a grocery store receives is fundamental to good customer service. In my dataset, however, is 60% of high ranking grocery stores hadn't responded to a single review in 2020and of the 40% who responded to some reviews, Not one brand responded to all of the reviews.

Takeaway: While ignoring reviews doesn't seem to have a negative impact on grocery stores' ability to achieve the top local pack rankings, I cannot stress enough what a waste of opportunity is happening in this industry.

With every review, a customer starts a conversation with a brand, whether they want to thank the company or complain in the hope of help. Ignoring most of the conversations that customers start must be extremely detrimental to consumer satisfaction and reputation. 2020 was a year like no other, and the grocers had their hands full trying to adapt and survive. Going forward, supermarkets that devote resources to answering every review will have an incredible customer experience advantage over less engaged competitors.

Place topics

Google extracts general topics from the body of each store's reviews and places them at the top of the review display. 40% of high-ranking grocery stores have "products" as their most mentioned topicand it was there for many, many other businesses as well, even if it wasn't their main subject. 6% have “organic” and a further 6% have to “go” as the most discussed element, but beyond that the local questions are very different. This area of ​​the Google user interface includes terms such as "clean", "cashier", "stores", "sales" and many other words.

Takeout: I'm not yet convinced of the usefulness or ultimate stamina of this aspect of the Google rating ads. However, it does provide a very brief sentiment analysis for grocers and marketers who want to know at a glance what customers are saying in reviews for a brand and its competitors. However, you need to drill down into the text of the reviews to see if customers frequently say a company is clean or not. Place issues are currently not a particularly sophisticated analysis of sentiment.

My dataset shows that Americans attach great importance to productsOne takeaway here is that the quality of your product department drives consumers to leave reviews. A great products department can lead to great review and great consumer-generated content about your market. A disappointing product area could do the opposite. I also found the spread of "organic" topics enlightening, having seen statistics on the 10x growth in organic purchases between January and March 2020. There is a clear demand trend here for healthy foods that should affect inventory levels.

Price attributes

Google rates many entries with a 1-4 point attribute "$" to assess cost. These labels are believed to be partly due to attribute questions that Google asks users, but the overall data set is incomplete. In my sample, Google only had one price attribute for 42% of the top rated grocery stores. From this number 76% were marked with the moderate price attribute "$$".

Takeout: As I noted in my previous article on Google's Characteristics of the Best Restaurants in America, neither Google nor consumers consider the cheapest or most expensive food options to be the most relevant. The concepts of frugality and spending vary widely in the U.S., but it's good to know that a modest price rating tends to correlate with the best local rankings. This seems to be in line with the current economic picture. The grocery brands you market don't have to be the cheapest or most expensive. The ideal would be value for money at a reasonable price.

Use of Google Posts before and during COVID-19

Google Posts is a form of microblogging that brands can use to post new content on their Google Business profiles. Before the COVID-19 pandemic 24% of grocers published Google posts, but in 2020, Only 16% actively used this function.

Takeout: Google offered specific COVID-19 post functionality to businesses in 2020, but high-ranking grocery stores largely ignored this option. Pre-pandemic usage was very low. Only about a quarter of grocers used Google Posts to drive engagement. The 8% drop in 2020 could paint a picture of a vertical too preoccupied with other, more pressing priorities to try this feature out.

Using Google Posts is not believed to affect ranking, and neglecting this feature hasn't stopped any of the topics from getting top rankings. If a brand you're marketing can allocate resources to this type of publication, it's worth a try. Moz Local can help you get Google Posts in your listings and improve the opportunities for consumers to engage with your profiles.

Google questions and answers

Google Q&A is a Google Business Profile feature that allows a company to post and answer their FAQs, and ask and answer questions from the public. Cumulative The fifty grocery stores in my survey received 1,145 questions. The The maximum number of questions for a single location is 192, and the the lowest is two.

Straight 14% of grocers replied to one of the questions their stores received, and there was no way any grocery store had answered all of its questions.

Takeaway: Most of the questions I saw were leads – customers asking if a store had this or that product, or offered a specific service or convenience. Unfortunately, public responses, often left by Google's local guides, have often been funky and sterile to help the client query. While it is believed that questions and answers have no impact on ranking, ignoring customers is not the goal of excellent customer service.

Additionally, ignoring leads has a monetary context. One source estimates the average American bill for grocery travel is $ 60. This means that the total number of questions in my survey, if answered, could raise $ 68,700 for this pool of businesses. In my household, however, the average grocery bill is around $ 150 per trip, which could mean that answering these many questions in California would be worth about $ 171,750 if stores have the goods and services customers are looking for. My numbers are only estimates, but I know that few brands can afford to leave money on the table.

I would highly recommend grocery stores take the time to fill in Google's Q&A with their top FAQs, including whether the company offers roadside delivery and service and requires masks to be worn. In addition, when you use a product like Moz Local you will be notified every time a new question comes in at one of your locations, so you can be sure that no prospect is being ignored and that all leads are carefully managed.

The COVID-19 adjustments have made high-level grocery stores

Aside from analyzing the GMB listing items in my record, I called each grocery store to ask them a few questions to understand how they adjusted compliance and policies in response to the pandemic.

I could have relied on the Google attributes that represent the roadside and delivery service, but I'm glad I made the calls as I found inconsistencies with the use of these attributes and the actual services offered. In some cases stores with these amenities did not have these attributes yet, in other cases the attributes displayed were incorrect.

These are my findings:

Home delivery of groceries

62% of the stores in my survey set now offer home grocery delivery. I was surprised that this number was no higher given consumer demand for the safest ways to feed their homes and the clear need to keep food workers as safe as possible.

From this number Only 12% of the grocery stores I've spoken to have managed to set up an in-house delivery service. 31 of the 50 brands in my dataset had to opt for the costly third-party last mile option. Of that number, 29% use Instacart, 26% Doordash, 8% Amazon Prime, 4% Peapod and Shipt, and 2% Grubhub. Three brands worked with more than one third-party service, and two offered both third-party and in-house delivery options.

Finally, I saw several instances of Google that third-party fulfillment companies could use to advertise on grocery stores' Google Business Profiles. Grocery store employees who told me they didn't have a delivery service are almost certainly unaware of this practice. I consider this scenario to be one of the most unacceptable in Google's local playbook, especially because it puts the burden on business owners to try and remove such advertisements from their offerings.

A company that works hard to build an in-house delivery team doesn't deserve Doordash, Instacart, or Grubhub parked on their list for a profit. Make sure that you check the Google Business profiles of all the grocery stores you market and that you want to remove any third-party links that you don't want.

Google Trends saw the massive surge in grocery delivery-related searches in the spring of 2020 as Americans looked for strategies to keep their households safe while staying at home. When you combine this with the tragic coverage the UFCW has offered on COVID-19 mortality among food workers, increasing delivery options is important.

Keeping the majority of the public at home and limiting face-to-face contact for grocery store staff has made home delivery a major COVID-19 adjustment that needs to go beyond the adoption rate of 62% found in my study.

Curb service

For brands still struggling to develop a working delivery program, roadside pickup has been a welcome option. 64% of the stores in my study now offer roadside service – a number that is only slightly higher than the home delivery number. I've seen several instances of brands not yet set up for delivery able to at least create this fulfillment alternative, but we'd have to see that number at 100% to make sure no one has to go to a grocery store and risk infection.

Mask policy

When I asked the grocery store staff for their location All employees and buyers had to wear masks, 83% said yes and 17% said no. This was the top question on my survey given the state of the pandemic in the United States, and I want to share what I've learned beyond the numbers.

  • Without exception, in the cities / states where grocers did not report masking requirements, they told me that they "lacked the authority to enforce the wear of masks.". Poor government policies have left the people in these communities helpless to protect themselves.
  • Reviews sometimes told a different story for the 83% of grocery stores that staff members told me that masks are required. Despite having a mask requirements policy in place, reviewers report cases of unmasked staff and users encountered in some locations and express concern and sometimes state that they will not be returning to those locations. This means that the actual enforcement of wearing PPE is less than 83%.
  • On a purely human level, I felt that my question about masking frightened some staff, as if they feared a negative response from me when they told me that masks were required. I can only imagine what experiences some of these employees have had with customers who have refused to protect themselves and others from infection. Speaking with staff further solidified my understanding of the need for a clear national policy to reduce and hopefully eradicate COVID-19 so that everyone in our local communities is protected.

My friend and colleague Mike Blumenthal has done the best job in the local SEO industry, documenting consumer demand for masking as shown in reviews, as well as how to remove anti-masking political abuse from your GMB listings, should that Business you & # 39; They get re-marketing. Because of my deep concern for grocery store employees and communities, I sincerely hope that the 2021 national leadership will result in 100% stake in the food industry's masking requirements.

Full contactless fulfillment

0% of the grocery brands in my study switched to contactless fulfillmentHowever, this method can be essential in overcoming the public health emergency. If grocery stores can operate as warehouses, storing food on the side of the road for pickup and delivery, workers and customers can significantly reduce contact instead of shopping in-store.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit America, markets such as Oneota Community Food Coop in Decorah, Iowa switched to pickup for a while and may have to do so again. Meanwhile, my neighbor gets her full grocery delivery every week from Imperfect Foods, which launched in San Francisco in 2015 and has seen a phenomenal expansion in its mission to deliver economical groceries the convenient way in recent years. This follows the meal set delivery bubble which includes Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Purple Carrot, and many other options. Even convenience stores like 7-11 are trying very hard to go contactless.

In April 2020, 40 million Americans placed online grocery orders. A quick adjustment is absolutely possible. By the time COVID-19 can be put in the country's rearview mirror, it may take national efforts to redesign grocery brands as grocery delivery curators rather than places to shop in person. Local search engine marketers should be fully involved in a grocery store's customer idea of ​​how to shape public perception that supports safety for all.

Satisfaction, reputation and ranking

Delivery, roadside service, and strict masking policies don't seem directly related to local search rankings, but in the larger scheme of things they do. Customers reward companies they love with positive reviews. When a customer is extremely happy with the way a company like a grocery store is looking after them, studies show that this motivates them to leave reviews as a thank you.

The more you show customers and communities that the grocery you are marketing cares about, the more you will grow your inventory of positive reviews with high star ratings. This then supports the local pack ranking goals that you want to achieve for maximum online visibility. And your reputation will have grown to the type that generates high conversions. 79% of shoppers say that contactless pickup is very important to them – whatever you can do to please the majority of consumers is a very smart move.

What I learned about agility from grocers and their marketers

"There shouldn't be a brand between you and your customer. You shouldn't introduce it to anyone else and nobody should own your information." – Brian Moyer, CEO of Freshop

It is not an exaggeration to say that the food industry is going through a revolution. Annual online grocery sales in the United States rose from $ 1.2 billion in August 2019 to $ 7.2 billion in June 2020.

As a local SEO, I can't think of any other industry from which I can learn more about customization, ingenuity, and resilience. I followed the news from the food industry and was particularly involved in a webinar I hosted for digital food software provider Freshop. I summarize seven important findings here:

1) If you can develop an in-house delivery program, do so as it is the only way to maintain ownership of the entire customer experience with your brand. In the long run, this also makes financial sense, as I described in my column on third-party and in-house delivery: A guide to making informed decisions. In the Freshop webinar, Brian Moyer reminded attendees that Blockbuster once had the chance to buy Netflix, but passed the chance on. Now is the time for grocery stores to protect themselves from releasing their trades to the local Instacarts and Doordashes.

2) Regardless of what software you use to digitize your grocery inventory, it should be heavily focused on POS integration, inventory management and analysis. I was impressed with the short demo I got from Freshop's Analytics dashboard on pick times and slot fulfillment for delivery management, profitability over time, tracking non-transactional and transactional behaviors, and integrating Google Analytics I've seen measurement of conversion rates.

3) Take a page from the meal sets and offer them yourself. Create breakfast kits, dinner kits, dessert kits, holiday food kits, etc. Make it easy for your customers to think in meals and get everything they need in just a few clicks.

4) Leverage digital ads on your grocery website from brands you already sell. This can create an additional source of income.

5) Create online shopping newsletters. Remember that I saw "Deals" and "Sales" as GMB place topics? Many customers who used to be guided by printed newsletters can learn to transfer this habit to clickable digital newsletters.

6) Carefully evaluate the community support options of the digital shopping software you choose. Most grocery stores are not direct competitors and can help one another. A good example I saw was a grocer sharing the letter they wrote requesting SNAP payments to be accepted. He was glad that other grocers could copy this form letter to use for their own applications.

7) Celebrate the fact that e-commerce has removed historical barriers for customers locating inventory on a complex floor plan. With a search box, any customer can find any product in any aisle. Difficult as things are, this is a silver lining of real value for grocers and their marketers.

Sum up

The Key Features of Google's Best Grocery Stores in the 50 U.S. Capitals are:

  • Is located in the city specified in the search
  • Reaching the GMB landing page PA in area 40
  • Don't rely on spamming GMB business titles
  • Verwendung von "Lebensmittelgeschäft" als Hauptkategorie
  • Gewinnen Sie eine 4+ Sterne Bewertung
  • Stark überprüft und in der letzten Woche bewertet
  • Empfang von Leads in Form von Fragen und Antworten
  • Bietet Liefer- und Einkaufsmöglichkeiten am Straßenrand
  • Masken erforderlich

Die Schlüsselbereiche der GMB-Möglichkeiten, die von dieser Gruppe noch nicht zum Schutz der dominanten Sichtbarkeit genutzt werden, sind:

  • Kundendienst in Form von Überprüfungsantworten
  • Lead Management in Form von Antworten auf Fragen und Antworten
  • PR in Form von Google Posts

Die Lebensmittelindustrie befindet sich in einer Phase großer Herausforderungen und Chancen, die Folgendes umfassen:

  • Die Herausforderung der Digitalisierung des Inventars
  • Die Herausforderung, das gesamte Kundenerlebnis mit Lieferung und Service am Straßenrand zu verwalten, um nicht von Dritten abgeschnitten zu werden und die Sicherheit erheblich zu erhöhen
  • Die Möglichkeit, auf neue Weise an Kunden zu verkaufen, indem neue Bedürfnisse erfüllt werden
  • Die Möglichkeit, dauerhafte Loyalität aufzubauen, indem unvergessliche Erlebnisse der Fürsorge und Zufriedenheit während der Pandemie geschaffen werden, die die Beziehungen nach der Pandemie beeinflussen

Ich möchte mit einem Dankeschön an meinen Lieblings-Lebensmittelhändler aus der Nachbarschaft schließen – einen in Familienbesitz befindlichen Landladen in einer ländlichen Gegend. Sie fanden mich während eines Stromausfalls inmitten eines Feuers auf Eis, während des Mangels auf Badetuch und vor Ort destilliertem Händedesinfektionsmittel, um meine Familie zu schützen. Sie haben eine Abholung am Straßenrand eingerichtet, um mich zu schützen, und als mein Auto außer Betrieb war, hat Ihre Familie angeboten, Lebensmittel zu mir nach Hause zu bringen, obwohl Sie noch nicht über das Personal für einen vollständigen Lieferservice verfügen.

Meine dankbare Treue liegt bei Ihnen.

Als lokaler Suchmarketer kann ich mir Daten ansehen, Zahlen teilen, aber ich denke wirklich an Menschen. Menschen, die die Nation ernähren, die jeden Schutz und jede Einfallsreichtum verdient haben, können sich ausdenken, um uns gemeinsam durch diese schweren Zeiten zu führen. Wenn Sie ein Lebensmittelgeschäft betreiben oder vermarkten und lokale SEO-Fragen haben, stellen Sie diese bitte in den Kommentaren. Ich werde mein Bestes tun, um hilfreiche Antworten zu geben, die Ihren Erfolg unterstützen. Vielen Dank für alles, was Sie tun!


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