Hurricanes and Local Search

As most know Houston and Galveston got rocked this past weekend by hurricane Ike. The aftermath has been rather devastating and a few days later over 1 million people are still without power. Many local businesses will be suffering for a while before things can get back to normal, while others will be experiencing a boom time (tree removal crews and arborists as well as window repair guys). There are also opportunities here for local businesses online.

I have a client in Houston and Ike will be meaning a slow down for them for a bit, but may lead to a pick up in maintenance work later on as the city recovers.

From their website traffic I see a massive decline in traffic leading up to the storm and almost no traffic on the day of. Not surprising, with over 2 million out of power not too many people in Houston are using the internet, nor are they busy shopping for anything. They were just hunkering down and riding out the storm.

But for those outside of Houston there was a lot of interest online. Many we’re searching for news on Ike and what’s happening in Houston. Here in Google insights we can see a huge spike in traffic for the search term houston.Houston Search Traffic for Hurricane Ike

Traffic patterns on my client’s website were pretty much the exact opposite. Search engine traffic on the day of Ike making landfall was zero. Slowly climbing back now.

Opportunities in Local Search after the Storm

If your business provides any type of service related to the cleanup you should be talking that up on your website. As more and more Houston residents get power restored they will be searching for all kinds of clean up and repair services. Providing good information about what to do and not do, repair suggestions, safety tips, and insurance advice will go a long way to building trust in your business.

Some examples include this air conditioning company giving info on checking A/C systems before turning them back on, this lawyer is running a food drive in Houston, this home inspector is giving repair advice in the wake of Ike, and hyper-local blogging site, the Houstonist, is posting users photos and providing daily updates on restoration of services and other hurricane cleanup info.

This Trade Association for the telecommunications sector is using local search to find and contact Houston businesses to let them know about opportunities to have their phone carrier to re-route their answering service to out of state providers until phone service is fully restored. Apparently there are dozens of companies stepping in to offer emergency services, some for free. I know because a client received information from them via a blog comment. Perhaps these phone companies and answering services hope to be able to sell those companies on switching to them afterwards??

Local classified services such as Craigslist are receiving lots of listings from arborists and tree removal contractors. created a separate section for Hurricane Ike related listings in their Houston section. Lots of building contractors and tree removal services are posting listings in there.

Houston, I hope the recovery and clean up goes well and not too many suffer too much.

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