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rank high on the search engines for keywords

Of course almost any business would want to rank high on the search engines for keywords relevant to their business, but in the past this was mostly due to the expected traffic which would be generated from these high rankings. With Google and Yahoo becoming household names, high rankings don’t just represent traffic any longer, they represent trust (or high ratings). I recently cruised by a chiropractic office near my house (Care Chiropractic) who is proudly proclaiming they are the highest rated on Google via banner outside their building. It is often a better investment than Adwords

Without even doing a search on Google, people who pass by this office on a regular basis now have a reason to ‘trust’ this practice more than perhaps another one they pass on the way home from work. Even though rankings do not represent ratings (although they are probably a factor in local rankings as seen from the data below), this chiropractic office is able to leverage to their ‘A’ position in the local ten pack even further than the traffic it generates on its own.

As a side note, this practice does not even have an organic top 10 listing, they did however have a number 2 PPC listing at the time of writing this article. This is an excellent example of how a small local business can leverage Google’s brand recognition to promote their own business. Search SEO search engine optimization tenerife in Google and you will see an example of this.
Here is a quick analysis of the business ranking in the top 10 in the local ten pack and Google Maps

Vodoo SEO

his week, I was able to catch up with Michelle Moore, director of search engine strategies at Metric Voodoo. We’ll be sitting on a panel on Mobile Local Search at SES San Jose next month, along with the head of this blog, Steve Espinosa.

In anticipation of the panel, we had some time to discuss the areas where mobile local marketing needs improvement, or requires different ways of thinking. These will also be key areas of discussion the Local Search Summit happening the same week as SES, as well as September’s  Directional Media Strategies conference run by my company, The Kelsey Group.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

MB: What are the biggest market factors that you see driving mobile search adoption on the part of both users and content owners or advertisers?

MM: Technology adoption with regard to smart phones is outstripping most previous major technology adoption rates, including touch tone phones, cassette tapes, hi-def TV and DVD video players. There’s an entire generation in high school right now who’s never known a time without cell phones. This ubiquitous adoption is already causing a measurable trend where smart phones are replacing computers, especially with regard to localized searches. People’s habits are changing – when that happens, it forces market adjustments all the way around, not only with how advertisers will get their messages in front of consumers, but also what sorts of targeting these users are willing to accept. Phone searchers love being “helped” but they hate being “tracked.”

MB: What are some of the fundamental differences of mobile marketing and SEO, compared to online marketing and SEO?

MM: I think the main difference now (which I’m single-handedly trying to rectify, heh) is that mobile marketing is a better proving ground for what I call “pervasive SEO.” You’re already dealing with limited screen space. How much more impactful do you think it is to be mentioned on the first 15 search results on several other sites when someone searches your chosen keywords, than to just be number three and show up once for your own domain name. Even if you’re number one, if you’re only there once someone else placing pervasively on ten or twelve OTHER sites will look more appealing, or more like an expert, or more prevalent. Internet users aren’t naïve anymore. They know that what’s on your web site was put there by you. If a dozen other sites are also saying good things about you, that’s much more effective in terms of earning consumer trust.

MB: What are some of the most common mistakes or misconceptions of companies entering the mobile space (media companies, app developers, web publishers, advertisers, etc.)? What about misconceptions preventing companies from playing in the mobile sandbox?

MM: I think there’s still a disconnect between the left and right brain that prevents advertisers from recognizing opportunities in the mobile space, especially for small to medium-sized business. For example, local search – which is one of my main prongs of attack with any business that has a physical location… it takes me about a dozen repetitions and even demonstrations over several weeks of the immense practicality of local business search on a phone before the little light bulb starts to glow. Ultimately, I have to sit back and wait for my clients to actually use their phone in this manner to make a decision or a purchase or answer a question, and then point out to them afterward why they ended up using the vendor they selected. “Do you remember why you ended up calling CVS Pharmacy?”  “Yeah, the first phone number I found for Foster’s Pharmacy wasn’t in service anymore.” “OK, so what happens when you change your business phone number and no one bothers to update all your local business listings that are floating all over the internet?” It’s as if small business owners think that because they have a web site with their name and address and phone number, that’s all they need. They don’t think far enough down the smart phone path to realize that their site might be all in Flash, or that the average local business search through a smart phone portal may put results from CitySearch or Superpages above your business’ own domain name… and oddly, SMBs are who absolutely need to succeed in this arena or get overrun by the big chains.

MB: Is the state of the economy currently having an effect on this adoption, any more so than other media? In other words is mobile’s “experimental” nature preventing companies from utilizing it as a content and/or ad delivery platform in uncertain economic times?

MM: I think this depends on who you’re asking. I don’t know a single consumer who’s given up their mobile phone. But I read all the time about companies abandoning or “back-burnering” their mobile marketing initiatives. It makes me want to ask marketers, “why are you doing this when that market is one of the only markets not shrinking?” Fewer and fewer people read printed newspaper, but more and more people use cell phones.

MB: Conversely, is mobile’s targeting capabilities, greater ad performance (CTRs etc.), and measurability making it resonate to a greater degree during these times when advertisers are demanding more concrete ROI? What does this mean for SEO Tenerife?

MM: You’d think, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure about national numbers, but in the South where most of my work is done, it seems that there’s a different barrier to entry. Much like with social media, there’s a general lack of awareness (and therefore, confidence) in mobile marketing.  I’m constantly preaching a reduction in faith-based advertising models like television, radio and newspaper, and a shift to trackable advertising, whether it’s plain old PPC or mobile advertising. But there seem to be a lot of marketing execs who lack experience with the medium, making it harder to convince the rest of the C-suite to support mobile marketing initiatives. It’s like the fact that you can measure ROI at all doesn’t matter – they’re not willing to dabble in mobile unless you can prove ROI to start with. It makes no sense to me.

MB: It’s my contention that mobile and local are so closely related. Online, searches with explicit local intent are about 10% of overall searches. On mobile, it is currently about 2x-3x more than that, and growing. Do you agree?

MM: Yes, I do agree. Every statistical report I’ve seen in the last 8 months indicates that at least 25% of all searches on phones are local business searches. This is why I start my discussions by showing folks the Sprint commercial that was released in May – “Right now, 6000 people are researching restaurants in the back of a cab.” How many “right nows” are there in a typical day… times 6000.

MB: What are the capabilities of the mobile device that will force advertisers to think differently when it comes to marketing or content delivery? Too many advertisers are porting over existing strategies (i.e. display ads) to a smaller screen. Will this change and “grow into” the capabilities of the mobile device including portability, location awareness, etc..?

MM: I think what consumers react most strongly to in the mobile arena is the gradual return of instant gratification. That’s why local business search volume is soaring. What businesses are slow to realize is that searches on phones are not in any way, shape or form about your web site. They’re about your physical location. This is why porting existing ad campaigns from the web will not be sufficient. I’m waiting for someone to fully develop an app that lets you not only research the restaurant, but see a layout, pick your table, and make your reservation without making a traditional phone call or sitting on hold or even talking to another person… then tie into Match.com and hook you up with a dinner date too.

MB: Who is doing it right? Any mobile sites or apps that you admire for delivering content in a way that is fitting to the mobile device and the way people are using it?

MM: The most awesome new phone app I’ve seen was on a Nationwide Insurance commercial. You have a wreck? You click an app that’s connected to everything you need – it calls emergency services for you, it gives you a checklist for your information exchange, locates the nearest agent or office for you, takes pics of the damage for you, starts your claim process for you, and even includes a flashlight function! This is an example of the total 180 that major companies are going to have to learn to do. This app is all about the consumer. Of course, it doesn’t do you a lot of good unless you are a Nationwide customer but this app is all about helping the consumer handle a difficult situation. Companies have got to figure out that they will get a lot farther when their advertising models are more focused on the consumer, not all about the company. On another note, I’ve seen the television commercial announcing this iPhone app ONCE – it made that much of an impact that I defied all “repeat seven times” advertising advice and remembered it after one viewing… I cannot begin to count how many Allstate, Geico, Liberty Mutual and Progressive commercials I’ve seen. I have no idea of the estimated cost of all those commercials compared to the one airing of the Nationwide commercial that I saw, but I can guarantee you that when my insurance renewal rolls around, I’ll be getting a quote from Nationwide for good measure. The return on the investment in more efficiently serving the customer will most definitely pay off with a higher ROI than those 6 million untrackable television commercials for the other major carriers.

MB: Any other advice for companies entering the mobile space or online publishers trying to seek out opportunities in mobile?

MM: Be proactive. Buck the old traditions and hire some new blood (says the 40-some-odd year old). Take steps to build an online reputation before you are forced to take steps to correct it. Be an expert in your area and make sure to let people know about it. Put yourself everywhere you can afford in order to have the best chance of being found – be that online yellow pages, paid ads in a search engine, paid sponsorship of a mobile portal, name on a bus stop bench, name on the back of a little league jersey, where ever you can get publicity without offending people’s sensibilities. If you can associate that with a topic consumers are passionate about, so much the better.

SMBs and SEM Churn

Once upon a time in the world of advertising, life was simple. If you were a brand, the fastest way to reach the biggest consumer audience was through TV. That’s still true though TV is no longer as effective in getting consumers’ attention.
With High Churn, Local SEM at a Crossroads

Once upon a time in the world of advertising, life was simple. If you were a brand, the fastest way to reach the biggest consumer audience was through TV. That’s still true though TV is no longer as effective in getting consumers’ attention. If you were a local, small business (SMB), the parallel imperative was to buy print yellow pages. Though SMBs sometimes grumbled at pricing, the yellow pages indisputably delivered value.

Enter the New Digital Reality

Along came the Internet and broadband and the result is the messy fragmented media marketplace we have today – only getting more fragmented with mobile. It’s now very challenging to reach consumers and even harder to maintain their attention. Advertisers large and small are still trying to figure out and navigate this relatively new reality.

Traditional media still deliver value but not at the same level as before. The Internet offers theoretically precise audience targeting and broad reach, but also complexity not found in traditional media. This complexity and the related fragmentation confounds even sophisticated advertisers who, for example, have yet to master “social media” despite the enormous popularity of sites like Facebook and YouTube.

SMBs, for their part, are often confused and even terribly frustrated by the complexity of marketing in the digital era. According to an August 2008 Opus Research/AllBusiness.com small business survey, confusion, lack of budget and lack of time or personnel are among the reasons a clear majority of SMBs don’t advertise online:

Source: Opus/AllBusiness.com survey (survey base 1,000, question n=615)

SMBs have clearly been much slower than their customers to adopt online marketing. And some even maintain the fallacy that the Internet is “not relevant” to their business. Some of the answers in the graphic above reflect a lack of understanding of how the Internet is used by consumers.

The massive SMB market in the US has always been a very attractive target for online publishers and ad networks from the earliest days of the Internet. But the difficulty of reaching SMB advertisers has resulted in development of the current “local search ecosystem” – an awkward set of alliances between traditional (mostly yellow pages) publishers, local search marketing (SEM) vendors and search engines, among a few others. It all works “on paper” but in practice it may be breaking down.

BellSouth and “Local SEM”

In late 2003 or early 2004 BellSouth (now part of AT&T) introduced a product that offered to put SMBs on search engines in addition to the publisher’s own yellow pages site. It was in essence a simplified SEM offering geared specifically to SMBs who wanted to “be on Google,” but didn’t know how. That became the template going forward.

Search engines, unable to acquire large numbers of SMB advertisers directly through self service, turned to established “sales channels” such as yellow pages publishers that could use their “feet on the street” sales reps to reach local businesses. Yellow pages publishers, seeking more traffic than their sites were generating and to prevent potential advertiser defections, all developed similar products: local SEM offerings.

Rather than explaining keywords and bidding strategies, the sale to the SMB was simplified by offering “guaranteed clicks” for a fixed price. That original model has evolved in most cases. But what it permitted was an easy “close” by the sales rep. The complexity of search marketing — setting up and managing a paid-search campaign – was totally outsourced and hidden from the local business. The search engine got ad dollars it might not have otherwise and the publisher kept the advertiser. The publisher-partner/vendor got the headache of fulfillment and managing the campaign itself. This is quite common.

A Perfect Solution That’s Breaking Down

Though a theoretically perfect solution for all players, these local SEM offerings are starting to break down in some cases. There are lots of companies operating in the space and having varying degrees of success. Let’s be clear: what I’m saying doesn’t apply equally to all players in the segment. But in more than a few cases, Local SEM churn rates are between 50% and 100% on an annualized basis.

What that means as a practical matter is that half to all of the SMB advertisers signing up for these local SEM programs are leaving them before the year is out. In some cases, it happens after only a couple of months. In investigating what’s going on, I’ve been offered several explanations by a number of parties in the segment:

Local advertisers are not being properly educated about SEM and expectations are not being properly set accordingly
Not enough time is being allowed by the SMB to optimize campaigns
Sales reps are rewarded according to sales figures only and not retention numbers
Not enough of the advertiser spend is going directly to media (search) buying, which diminishes the performance of the campaign
Beyond this, the margins for publishers and vendors are thin and nothing like the 50%+ margins of traditional print media. Accordingly yellow pages and some online publishers such as Citysearch are forming direct alliances and trading traffic to start to minimize their direct dependence on search engines and SEM. More broadly publishers and sales channels are seeking to diversify qualified traffic sources to get more and better traffic for less money.

I see this and other related moves in the market as a partial breakdown of the local search ecosystem alliances that formed over the past few years around simple products (i.e., guaranteed clicks) as a way to bring more SMBs online and solve common problems.

The Next-Generation Products

Let’s assume for argument that many of these local SEM products now being sold are unsustainable, what will take their place? After all, the Internet isn’t going away and SMB advertisers can’t return to an all-print strategy.

The challenge for everyone focused on the local space is creating products that can scale, deliver healthy margins and, especially, provide real value to SMBs. But most of what’s in the market today fails in one or more of those areas.

More sophisticated versions of existing SEM offerings that reach broadly into more traffic sources are starting to emerge. And a growing number of SMBs may be able to manage their own marketing on places like Facebook and Twitter because of their relative simplicity. Yet the majority of SMB advertisers will still need help and want to outsource their online marketing to trusted third parties. Accordingly there’s still plenty of opportunity to get the products right and deliver better value to local advertisers.

The marketplace isn’t getting simpler; it’s only getting more complex.

See for more content on local marketing

Google Maps Optimization

Google Maps Reaches Out to Small Businesses
I received an interesting invitation yesterday from the Google Maps team.

googlemaps

They are reaching out to local small business owners hosting an event in San Francisco city hall called “Favorite Places – Celebrating Local Businesses.”

This is the first event like this that I’ve seen from the Google Local Business Center. Given some of the trouble that small business owners have had communicating with Google about issues with their local profiles, I’m hoping this is the beginning of a broader outreach effort by Google to local business owners.

Google Favorite Places event invite
Many small business owners that have set up a nice profile in the Google Local Business Center have really come to depend on the traffic and customer inquiries generated from their local profiles and related search results in the Google 10-Pack.

But when problems happen – I know several local business owner who’s profiles were mixed up with other businesses – there is almost no way for them to get the issues corrected.

As many of my colleagues have pointed out, Google is providing a very valuable service here, but business owners need better communication and support from Google.

Let’s hope this event is the beginning of a new “proactive” outreach program by Google to small business owners!

Related posts:

Google Verified Bulk Upload Goes Live If you have followed the any of the local blogs…
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Tags: Google Maps, local business center

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2014 at 11:54 am and is filed under Google Maps, Local SEO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Responses to “Google Maps Reaches Out to Small Businesses”

JoyfulLocal says:
July 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm
In addition to being a good opportunity of communication for business owners and local SEOs, it looks like Google really started seeking for some advertising revenue from local search too.

It’s also interesting how this event is scheduled 2 days before the Local Search Summit. This conference will have a lot to talk about for sure! Exciting!!
Mal Milligan says:
July 26, 2014 at 11:03 am
My biggest problem with Google Local Business listings is dealing with multiple listings for the same client. Google generates local listings automatically when they find citations from trusted authorities. I had a client who had 5 different listings to his one website. It took Google 9 weeks to remove the first “duplicate place” after I tagged it as such. I do hope they reach out better, but better yet, I hope they listen better when a SMB or an SEO tags a duplicate listing. Getting your company listed above the fold for free is and incredible deal. I’ve had clients get as many as 2,000 impressions a month – totally free with Google Local

See Moz for help with your Local listing

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