Loci 2010 – Greg Sterling

Who better to start off Loci 2010 than Greg Sterling? Greg is an indefatigable writer (how does he get anything else done?) and provides the strategic insights as well as the scoop on the “daily deal” to all of us in the industry. He can be found at Screenwerk, SearchEngineland and Internet2Go. He speaks at and organizes a number of conferences and you will find him speaking next at his Conversational Commerce Conference February 2-3 in San Francisco.

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Local-social-mobile is the new mantra for many financial analysts and VCs. Indeed, we saw a range of developments in 2010 that tied these arenas closer together. It was a watershed year for the mobile Internet and the year that everyone started to take local very seriously – most notably Google. Executives at Google declared local not only a major priority but the company’s “top focus.” High-profile but unsuccessful attempts to buy Yelp and Groupon testified to that.

The following are list of the top trends and developments that I believe were significant in “local” or local marketing this year:

1.     Mobile: the rise of mobile and smartphones in 2010 helped focus new energy and attention on the importance of local and location

2.     Google’s surge into local was significant on several fronts and many product areas. There were so many local-related initiatives this year by Google it’s hard to keep track of them all. The launch of Place Search and the new UI that emphasizes local content on Google is reflective of this larger cluster of local moves by the search engine

3.     Group buying and Groupon: in 2010 this phenomenon came out of almost nowhere to culminate in an aborted $5++ billion takeover by Google at the end of the year. There are well over 100 “Groupon clones” operating in the market and many more if you include the traditional media companies that have adopted the daily deals model

4.     Facebook: Facebook launched check-ins and Places. It also launched Deals as a tool to reward check-ins. While each of these offerings is still “1.0” Facebook’s huge footprint can bring a kind of scale to location and deals that few others can match, save Google or perhaps now Groupon in some limited respects.

5.     Local product inventory: a number of startups emerged and joined a group of existing companies trying to bring real-time product inventory data online. In Q4 NearbyNow and Milo were acquired and Google launched its own effort.

6.     The rise of ‘free’ local data: there are now several companies, including Facebook, Google, Factual, Placecast and SimpleGeo offering free local data to developers. Over time these offerings will become better, more flexible and richer, enabling much more competition in the local, and especially local-mobile, segment. The “free database of places” removes a front-end barrier to developing local sites or applications

7.     Local ad networks: CityGrid, Chitika, xAD, WHERE, Verve, Marchex and others emerged with local monetization offerings that hadn’t existed 12 months ago.  This is significant for local (and mobile) publishers and developers. Now there are a number of high-quality alternatives to Google and conventional ad networks that offer generic national ads with geotargeting

8.     Places (and location) everywhere: Google Places, Facebook Places, Twitter Places; location is now seemingly everywhere.

9.     Social as alternative to SEM: While social media and search ultimately go together social marketing emerged as a kind of parallel universe and in some cases alternative to to more traditional PPC-search marketing. And for many smaller companies social media are more “comprehensible” than paid-search or SEO.

10.   Noise and more noise: From a small business perspective the world of digital marketing and advertising became vastly more complex, confusing and “noisy.”

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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4 thoughts on “Loci 2010 – Greg Sterling”

  1. Greg, Mike: Nice list. A very busy year with a lot of tumultuous change.

    Two things I might add:

    A). the change in the Google UI for Local. Google still maintains an incredible monopoly on search and buying activity via search. The UI change means that the ad businesses working in Local have to deal with it, as do the SMB’s. By the way, my anecdotal evidence for a number of businesses is that when it comes to mobile search Google absolutely crushes Bing and Yahoo by even a greater amount than they do off of PC’s. At least that is the way I see it off of my analytics.

    B). Reviews are dramatically important. Yelp invented the vibrant review environment. It surges forward with a huge volume of reviews. Google is muscleing its way in with its change in the UI for local searches, highlighting volume of reviews, and creating a vibrant world for reviews.

    Reviews are big, they are dramatic, smb owners get crazed about them….and lastly, this past Saturday, after a long day of work I stopped at my small local neighboring watering hole in the DC region to catch the Seattle/New Orleans game. One ardent Seahawk fan and Seattle native was there rooting on the Seahawks.

    Why did she show up there? Yelp reviews….straight from her mouth!!!

  2. @Earlpearl

    I think you will find in the subsequent posters both of your suggestions reflected from the SMB, the SEM and the review generation standpoint.

  3. Mike:

    Here is a follow up on the review anecdote. On Monday I had lunch at the restaurant/bar/neighborhood joint. The owner was there. I referenced to him I had mentioned on an unnamed web source the impact of a Yelp review that brought in a new customer this past Saturday.

    He knew the customer and that she arrived because of the Yelp reviews. He told me about a couple staying at a local hotel that visited his place this weekend. The guy stopped by twice. They came the first time because of Yelp reviews.

    I took a look at some of his local information. He has a claimed Google lisitng. He has not claimed the yelp listing. The business has over 50 yelp reviews; most good, some mediocre or bad.

    He has some recent Yelp reviews. Two google reviews. One from me. No recent reviews.

    All in all interesting. An smb operator is typically not web smart enough or active enough to follow all the stuff on the web. He could easily be bombarded by a slew of calls from web businesses, sales people etc. This guy gets calls. He considers most of them to be a pain in the neck.

    He has made some money off of Yelp. Its that simple. He isn’t advertising on Yelp. He is obviously aware of the power of reviews.

    Mike: You have been at the forefront of the review issue. I give you credit. Its an enormous issue. It can have a significant and profound result. I’ve run into other owners, all very aware of the impact of reviews, and the existence of negative reviews.

    We are very aware that our customers read reviews. These reviews impact sales.

    All in all, I see it as a significant issue and one which will continue to impact smbs….and have monitization issues that surround it.

  4. @EarlPearl

    Yes, reviews will become more important over the next year while at the same time possibly being diluted in value by the increased volume and noise.

    Google is working hard to get traction in the space. In restaurants they don’t have a chance but everywhere else they can compete on more than even ground… I am trying to assemble numbers in the restaurant area to see their review rate is increasing due to hotpot…

    You will enjoy the next few Loci 2010 posts.

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