January 23, 2013
Justin is the Founder and CEO of SupportLocal. He is recognized as a long-time innovator and leader in local search and social. In 2003, he founded LocalLaunch, a leading search engine marketing platform and products company. LocalLaunch was acquired by RH Donnelley/Dex One in 2006. Speaking around the world on the topics of local search and social, Justin has over 15 years of local search marketing leadership experience.
Justin is one of the smartest guys around and he thinks a lot about the big picture in local. His ideas are worth listening to.
TOP TRENDS IN LOCAL SEARCH 2012
GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP AS A STANDARD
Authorship must be part of the social search convergence dialogue as validated authoritative content mixes with our friend’s preferences in a dual for the best answer to user queries.
THE CONVERGENCE OF SEARCH AND SOCIAL
Today, the marketing funnel opens right back up post transaction (an hour glass) as the business has an opportunity to move the customer into a connection and potentially into an advocate – in turn, informing discovery.
SOCIAL SIGNALS BECOME CRITICAL COMPONENTS TO RANK AND PERSUASION
Increasingly social signals will affect discoverability and buying decisions, as one’s social network will provide us with a necessary qualitative checks and balances on the best answer. What was a sufficient product approach to local search discovery over the last decade is no longer sufficient.
THE BIRTH OF G+ LOCAL
As G+ Local converges with G Places pages, we are witnessing a new publishing format that seeks to solve both directional intent and social engagement functions. Combining discovery (pre-transactional activity) with engagement (post-transactional) activity, we have given birth to new forms of business profile structures and responsibilities for businesses and vendors alike.
SELF-PROVISIONING BECOMES A REALITY FOR SMBS WITH FACEBOOK PAGES
Hockey stick adoption of Facebook business pages amongst SMBs demonstrates willingness to self-provision but yields a non-qualitative data by-product and an “okay now what” demand for social marketing services.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IS NOT TREATED EQUAL
We have come to understand that for businesses “social engagement” is a highly variant and for most, a discretionary condition. Tremendous use case differences lie in customer transaction types amongst verticals (ex. Repeat vs. recurring) that has a profound impact on the form and nature of social engagement strategies.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, and APPLE
The rise of mobile usage in local search, the introduction of Apple maps and the meteoric rise of social for SMBs sets the battleground for years to come in local search.
THE DEATH OF DAILY DEALS
Need I say more.
THE RISE OF CONSUMER PREFERENCE FRAGMENTATION
Consumer preference as expressed by Likes, +1s, Check-ins, Reviews, Recommendations and more continue to splinter by type, medium, and site. Products of tomorrow will attempt to consolidate local preference of consumers and in turn will give the majors what they seek – a scalable local social layer to search.
2012 – ONE WORD – TRUST
Local search is no longer just about answers – it is about trusted answers.
January 16, 2013
Facebook with the rollout of Graph Search (terrible name) is staking its ground in local search. Here are selected comments from Matt McGee, Danny Sullivan & Greg Sterling that I thought summarized the situation well:
What Does FB (Graph) Search Mean for Local?
If Facebook’s execution is successful and the UX is good then the local search market may consolidate around Google, Facebook, Yelp and to some degree Apple in mobile. Vertical and niche sites/apps will remain viable and perhaps continue to thrive. But “thin” horizontal local sites could effectively be done.
The early weakness of the product will be data and the fact that its database is limited or incomplete vs other competitors. This was especially true in my test of Nearby vs. Yelp.
While it’s still a bit too early to say I’m not going that far out on a limb to argue that it’s possible Facebook Graph Search (and Nearby) could become just as important in local as Google.
Facebook Graph Search Arrives To Challenge Google, Yelp, Foursquare & Others
Facebook Graph Search will be more valuable to active Facebook users — those who’ve actively Liked businesses and pages, artists and movies, and so forth.
The big question for the long haul is whether or not Facebook Graph Search is good enough that users will change their search activity enough to put a dent in “the Google habit.” Although Facebook is saying that its new search product offers a different use-case than traditional web search, anything that keeps users on Facebook longer and away from Google would be a win in Facebook’s view.
Local search may be one of the most compelling use cases. As the second screenshot above shows, Facebook can build a very Yelp-like and Foursquare-like local recommendations engine based on the combination of friends, their Facebook check-ins, their “likes” of local businesses and similar data.
SEO For Facebook Graph Search? Facebook Has Some Tips
The business Page is what a small/local business can control the most, and Facebook’s three specific tips for business owners, then, are focused on optimizing a Page for the new search (and this is straight from their post):
- The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the “About” section all help people find your business and should be shared on Facebook.
- If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.
- Focus on attracting the right fans to your Page and on giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis.
How The New Facebook Search Is Different & Unique From Google Search
With Facebook Graph Search, the objects we search for aren’t web pages but instead virtual representations of real world objects: people, places and things. The connections are primarily Facebook Likes. Did such-and-such a person like a particular photo? A particular doctor? A particular restaurant? Those likes are the ties that bind the information in Facebook together.
A Facebook search can show you restaurants in San Francisco liked by your friends. Or further, those liked by your friends who actually live in San Francisco, as opposed to those who live elsewhere. Or those liked by your single friends, your straight friends, your gay friends, your friends who work for a particular company….
Need a good plumber? An electrician? Someone to do your taxes? A doctor? A dentist? These are all typically questions that are great to ask friends. You trust friends. With Facebook Graph Search, there’s the promise of asking all your friends this at once without actually having to ask them. You can just search and discover professionals like this that they like.
That all depends, however, on whether those professionals themselves have created a presence for themselves on Facebook. In turn, it also depends on whether those who use them have also liked them. Without those connections, there’s nothing to mine.
If the utility to use Facebook as a type of super-Yelp or super-LinkedIn doesn’t prove itself at first, at the very least, Facebook Graph Search will allow people to search within Facebook itself in a better way than they can now. For example, people will be able to find all the photos they’ve liked on Facebook.
It remains very early days, but I already find it fascinating the types of searches this is allowing me to do, searches I hadn’t contemplated before. It reminds me of how in the past, we wouldn’t have thought of doing things like YouTube searches or Twitter searches, since we didn’t have those resources. Now, we search at these places for unique needs. Facebook is a great repository of data, and it finally has a search catching up to all it knows.
FACEBOOK IS NO LONGER FLAT: ON GRAPH SEARCH
Prior to seeing the new search, I was not certain Facebook would ever live up to the hype it has accrued over its short life. It’s a good service, but it’s flat – over time, it struck me, people would tire of tending to it. They set up their social graph, toss a few sheep, poke some pals (or not), “like” this or that (often off-domain), waste hours on Farmville, and then…engagement drops slowly over time. I’m also not a fan of Facebook’s domain-specific approach to the world, as many of you know. Facebook’s new search doesn’t address Facebook’s walled garden mentality (yet), but it nails the first issue. Once this search product is rolled out to all of its members, Facebook will no longer be flat.
Put another way, Facebook needed a service that layered a fresh blanket of value over its core topography. Graph Search is it.
I think the above sums up the situation pretty well. Facebook has a chicken and egg issue and local is devilishly difficult to do at grand worldwide scales. And that raises this question: How will Google respond?
The view from where I sit? Facebook has scale and they have an audience. And they have bright people, lots of money and desire. In that regard they are unlike any competitor Google has had in local in recent times. Can Facebook change people’s behaviors? Can they get enough data to solve enough queries that it becomes a useful discovery engine? Yes but it will take time.
And Google never sits still. They are hyper competitive and are unlikely to give any quarter to Facebook in local. Google has a long history of directly confronting competitors in local and winning. With the YellowPages, Google did a better IYP. With Mapquest they did a better map. With Yahoo they did better search and better mobile. With Groupon they did offers and waited. With Yelp they are doing reviews and if not better quite yet, at a bigger scale. They have confronted every competitor head on and aggressively.
Google clearly has been working hard on building out a social graph and their knowledge graph around local entities. They are in the process of building out a more robust, stable and comprehensive local infrastructure. But that process has left their local product in a state of disarray that every SMB hopes will be fixed quickly. Its product is too complicated and opaque for most businesses to get their heads around.
Now that Facebook has shown their hand though, Google can now focus their energies. And focused it will be. Will Google win this one as well? We won’t know the answer to that but the games have started and it should great game to watch.
December 12, 2012
Last week at Kelsey it was reported that an “astounding 41.7% of SMBs surveyed by BIA/Kelsey say they see Facebook most importantly as an acquisition tool”. Astounding is right. That is a huge disconnect with reality.
My recent survey of how consumers find lawyers tallied that 2.1% of the US adult internet users would start their search at their favorite social network. 32.7% indicated that they would start their search at a search engine or elsewhere on the internet. In other words a consumer looking for a lawyer is almost 16 times as likely to start their internet search for a specialty lawyer anyplace BUT Facebook. They indicated that they were 5 times as likely to start their search in the printed Yellow Pages than on their favorite social network. Granted this is lawyers but it is likely that these percentages hold roughly true for other industry segments as well. We have seen a similar disconnect at our Local University presentations where SMB attendees have reported that 68% Have Facebook Pages but only 28% have claimed their Google Places Listing.
Facebook is an incredible platform for retention, community building, awareness but I see this huge disconnect amongst SMBs that think that it is prime territory for client acquisition. If any of you have clients that have missed this critical point, I am reprinting last week’s graph sideways so that it is more obvious. (The number on the far right is Facebook.)
This disconnect could actually lead to annoyed customers rather than new customers. Facebook is social. Direct customer acquisition activities is just the opposite. My wife said to me the other day that she DID NOT want her lawyer, doctor or dentist interacting with her in that environment. Certainly there are some business types that she wouldn’t mind interacting with, for example the local cupcake bakery, but even there interacting needs to be more social than anything. I don’t think her atypical. I think Facebook runs a grave risk of losing their core users if client acquisition becomes the standard operating mode there.
October 27, 2011
As part of Getlisted Local University we occasionally survey the attendees. We ask several questions to assess their level of knowledge about search in general and local search in particular. This survey sample size is very small and self selected from those that registered for the seminar. The participants are primarily small and medium businesses and the market area they occupy is mostly rural. The results however are consistent with previous informal surveys.
I am always shocked that so many businesses have created Facebook Business pages and so few have claimed their Google Places page. I have been at the local thing for such a long time that I frequently forget how few businesses actually make a concerted effort to understand and benefit from Local search.
|4. Do you have a website? (y/n)
|5. Have you “claimed” your local business listing in the Google Places Dashboard?
|6. Does your business currently have a Facebook page?
1)There is still a huge upside to Local search
2)Google Places has not yet succeeded in gaining mindshare against Facebook despite the very real benefit it offers and their longer time in the market.
November 17, 2010
When does the word active simply not mean active in Google Places? When you are in Google Places Purgatory.
Wikipedia: “purgatory”, derived through Anglo and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium. has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.
Google has always imposed neo-religious judgements on users of its products. Google Places is no exception and in fact seems to raise these judgements to a new level of a refined, modern theology.
Rejections are a major sin but from which one can reclaim oneself anonymously via algo with a corrected behavior.
Pending is like being at church on Sunday where the line to the confessional stretches interminably before you and you have to use the restroom but are afraid that you will loose your place. Sometimes it seems that your booth gets closed before all the cases have been reviewed and the process needs to resume next Sunday. Do not confuse this state with purgatory although it might seem like it.
Suspension is roughly akin to excommunication although with a thorough confession and plenty of time, a lister can come back into Google’s graces.
The “Term not Allowed“ word filter reflects a minor sin of thought, where just by correcting your language you can be readmitted to the fold. It mirrors formal religion’s attempt to control behaviors through imposition of minor dogmas in the hopes that compliance with larger scale issues will flow naturally from the initial compliance.
Like in many religions, the logic of these minor dogmas is often not clear. In a Google Places listing, the words Fountain, domination and stripper are banned along with sex and erection regardless of context. These words require priestly interventions to have their flags cleared but fortunately require no mea culpas or other ritualistic penitence.
The ban on the word Google must be roughly akin to the biblical ban on speaking the word Yaweh. How the word locksmith fits into this scheme is not totally clear although the common first letter with the word Lucifer comes to mind.
Clearly in this regard Google is not much different than the grade school nun or for that matter Steve Jobs. Although at least with Jobs, you can have a high degree of confidence that in the end you will not be pummeled with porn. With Google, there are no such guarantees.
But at least the above fallen states are explicit and there is (usually) a clear path to regain acceptance amongst the flock. (more…)
September 7, 2010
What do a popular Anaheim florist, a prominent law office in a large urban area, a rural web development firm and a large retail bank/atm location all have in common?
They all are in the Localeze index and yet Facebook Places does not know about their existence. Why this occurs and how many businesses are missing from FB Places isn’t totally clear. Given my experience, the phenomena is fairly widespread and affects some significant number of businesses in the U.S. in both rural and urban environments.
Indications are that Localeze has provided Facebook with a full data set of their index so they seem to be off the hook. Either Facebook has chosen to surface some businesses and not others or more likely, they are still struggling with the technology to match a mobile user with the many Places that are in a mobile user’s immediate vicinity.
Regardless it means that every business needs to get their hands on a mobile phone and verify whether Facebook finds your Place and if not struggle through the mobile interface to add your Facebook Place page.
I am trying to understand why this is happening so if you have insight into either Facebook’s technology, their policies, or the limits and difficulties of coding for check-ins and can shed light on this phenomena, I would love to hear from you.
August 19, 2010
It is early in the game and folks are just digesting what Facebook Places is all about but I was struck by a Twitter comment by Seb Provencher (@sebprovencher):
With the FB Places launch, we can officially say it: merchant/place reviews are dead. Status updates are the new merchant reviews.
So I asked several folks that followed the announcement closely to provide a more nuanced view of the statement.
From Seb Provencher who had not yet had his first coffee so this opinion is open to revision:
- Status updates (or tweets) are easy to do.
- many people have stopped blogging because doing short-form messages
is so much “easier”, less time-consuming, than a big blog post.
- I think the same thing will happen to long-form merchant reviews.
It’s going to become so much easier to do a quick status update review
using Facebook places (and those will accumulate on the Facebook Place
page) that a lot of people will migrate from doing reviews on Yelp (or
IYPs for that matter) to
For me, Facebook Places is not about “check-ins”. It’s about signaling
socially your location. It’s about structuring a conversation about a
local place and anchoring it to the right place.
From Greg Sterling who responded from his iPad even though it is 6:45 am where he is:
Status updates are not the same or better than reviews in many cases because people won’t offer more than “tips” or sometimes will just create noise: “we’re all here.”
So “try the fries” or the “killer reindeer sausage” doesn’t answer other questions I may have about a place, such as whether it’s good for kids, etc. If FB “aggregates” all this info and does a kind of semantic analysis of it then it may not be as necessary to consult reviews in the future at some point.
It’s also not clear immediately how FB is going to make all this information discoverable. There’s going to be a search component here but the form it takes isn’t yet clear — even to FB.
Seb is probably responding to the mainstream potential/appeal of the product and the idea that people will just write tips or short blurbs rather than reviews.
But reviews will continue to have their place (so to speak) from a consumer perspective. In terms of “references” and SEO that’s going to be an interesting thing to watch here.
Google could access all the API and “Like” button information that is coming out of Facebook equally. And this move puts some pressure on them to “socialize” their own Places I think.
And David Mihm who also is an early riser:
Hyperbole. Ratings are important for a quick look by the consumer who doesn’t want to read through all the garbage. There’s also an actual reviews tab built in by default to FB pages.