April 19, 2013
What Else is New Dept: There is a new bug with the Google Report A Problem for SABs: If a user selects the report a problem link via Maps or G+ Local they get a “This page won’t load…We’ve tried everything” message. At least its cute. Although that sad face icon is eerily reminiscent of my first Mac when it had a hard drive failure.
Can You Imagine That? Dept: This came to via me Google Forum Top Contributor (an unsung hero who you should be sure to follow in the forums) Treebles. “Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly. But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said“.
Maybe There will Be A Local Competitor to Google Yet Dept: Apple Insider reported that Apple’s iOS Passbook app was used to drive a successful coupon campaign for a UK restaurant chain. “The campaign allowed customers to get £5 off their bill when spending £30 or more. Harvester issued almost 16,000 vouchers in two weeks of campaign operation. Of those, almost 700 were redeemed during the course of the campaign. Overall, the campaign had a cost per action of £3.41. The solution gave a frictionless consumer experience, as with two-clicks a unique voucher code was delivered straight to their device, within Passbook. The voucher was then redeemed whilst paying the bill, directly from the EPOS terminal, giving the restaurant additional insight into campaign effectiveness.”
Thank God for Small Favors Dept: Google, in the fine print of the T&C’s for Glass Developers, are apparently banning ads in products for the new Glass product. Its hard to imagine relevant ads with an always on wearable eye glass computer. Its not so hard to imagine irrelevant ones.
March 6, 2013
Yesterday I published the first question of my driving direction survey showing an extremely fragmented market. It is a category led by Google but one that is fragmented and, after a long period of calm, is once again becoming heated.
Apple, with the release of their own mapping product in September, has quickly garnered market share and has created a playbook that others like Samsung could very well follow. After Apple’s disastrous rollout where their mapping product was widely criticized (ah the problems of a market leader), life has settled in. I wanted to see, 6 months in, how Apple Maps was fairing in the competition for iPhone users and how many users were actively using products other than Apple’s.
Using Google survey I created a filter question to ascertain their preferred device/software for driving directions. Five hundred users that indicated iPhone as the answer were asked this follow up question:
- What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?
The answer? Its a statistical dead heat with Google Maps for the iPhone showing a lead that is well within the margin of error of the survey.
What does this mean for Apple and Google?
The survey doesn’t really address whether the users still using Apple Maps are happy or just victioms of inertia. My anecdotal reports would indicate the former, that many are very happy with the product but I don’t have hard data to back that up. Apple, in releasing a product before it was fully ready, opened themselves up to plenty of criticism. More importantly they have yet to learn how to play defense well in an all too combative market that will take any opportunity to go after the market leader.
Apple has a solid market share and more importantly critical real estate. They have a product that is easy to use and very attractive. They seem to be willing to do what it takes to make Apple Maps a long term contender.
Google, a hyper competitive player, will (or should I say has) move into their release often, upgrade features till the other side gets tired strategy. Yesterday, after only two months on the market, they released a fairly significant upgrade to their iPhone Google Maps product.
As Googler Joel Headley noted on Google + yesterday in response to my survey:
It’s great to see a number of players that have great apps. I know it will help focus Google to develop new and exciting things in mapping not thought of by other folks.
Google, not used to second place in the mapping space, seems willing to invest resources in regular and frequent upgrades to their iPhone app (even while Their Places Product is burning).
Mapquest, an early entrant into the iPhone driving directions market with an excellent product, lost a tremendous opportunity to gain visibility both before the Apple Maps release and in its aftermath. I am not sure how they missed their chance. They too could have been a contender and one has to wonder exactly what they were thinking during the fiasco. The many bit players, like the telco products, will never achieve lift off velocity. Waze, seems to have moved on with Apple’s entry.
It does seem to be a two horse race. Like I said yesterday “driving directions, long a stable and somewhat boring market, is once again in play”. The advent of mobile platforms has injected vitality and change into a market that needed just that.
Note: See yesterday’s post for methodology and issues related to the survey results that might impact the results.
March 5, 2013
When we think of driving directions, we often think that Google’s omnipresent role in the world of Maps indicates that they dominate the market for directions. When Google surpassed Mapquest and Yahoo in desktop mapping in 2009, it seemed that it was game over. But the current reality of driving directions seems to offer up a quite different picture for market share than search and for maps penetration in general. With the disruption of mobile hardware it appears that Google’s lead in this fragmented market can be attacked. While Google is in the lead, with a market share of over 30% (*see note below as to why the survey undercounts Google’s share), their position in the US market is not overwhelming and not unassailable. This has implications for both those looking to break into the mapping world as well as for the SMB that is hoping to be found by their customers.
I have recently completed this survey that attempted to answer two questions:
- What product or service do you normally use to get driving directions?
- What mapping or driving directions app do you use most often on your iPhone?
The survey was conducted during the the Feb 22 – March 3 period and used Google Survey. A sample of 5532, weighted to reflect the adult US Internet population were asked the first question. The first question was used to screen for iPhone users, 500 of whom were then asked the follow up question.
Driving directions are an interesting use case; they occur at both ends of the purchase funnel and again independently of any purchase intentions. Consumers might look for driving directions after doing a search for a local business or before traveling. But they are also likely to request driving directions first and enter buying mode later. While driving direction use isn’t likely to be daily or even weekly, the product is a stepping stone to more regular and habitual use of all of a vendors mapping products and more importantly provides the vendors with a critical source of current road data.
You can see from this survey that usage of driving directions is very fragmented over different hardware and software services. Because I desired to isolate iPhone users and ask them an additional question about their maps usage (more on that in the coming days), Google’s share in the survey from iPhone users is not reflected in the above. It would appear that would add about 6% more users.
The story gets more even more interesting when you look you look at that data by age cohorts. There is a clear preference by those under 45 for Google and Apple mapping products while in the older cohorts there is a significant preference for Mapquest. This implies that usage is strongly habitual and once started it is difficult for a mapping product to change users behaviors.
February 22, 2013
Google might have updated the mobile local Pack display a while ago, who knows, but it seems to me a fairly recent change. The change makes for a more modern, cleaner business listing display.
The font size of the business name is larger and the buttons are subtler and now incude an icon for the action to be taken. The actual amount of space used is almost identical but everything seems larger to the eye. A subtle but effective change. It is interesting but in this context the map with the red pins are starting to seemed dated in appearance.
Here is a comparison of new and old display side by side (note the emphasis on the brand):
Because I so quickly forget what things looked like previously I am including a screen shot of the mobile local pack display that preceded this change. (Let me know if you happened to notice when this change happened):
January 29, 2013
Andrew Shotland is a well-known SEO practitioner and author of www.localseoguide.com and the trendy new applemapsmarketing.com. His proudest achievement on the Web can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipkSRwgVtpA
When reflecting on the year, I like to think about it less in terms of specific niches like “local seo”, “seo” or even “local search”. It’s not that 2012 wasn’t a watershed year for a lot of this stuff, but rather that the forces that are shaping the landscape of these niches are often the same that are affecting the Web as a whole. So here’s what caught my attention in 2012:
1. 2012 – The Year We Start Paying For It
In 2007, Radiohead released it’s new album, “In Rainbows”, online and offered it at whatever price you wanted to pay for it. Many opted to pay $0 while some paid more. It was a big success. In 2011, Radiohead release “The King of Limbs” via their website and this time charged $9.99. It too was a success. And there was no record label between Radiohead and its fans. In 2012, it seemed as if more “creators”, particularly media creators, were experimenting with getting their customers to pay for these creations, thus avoiding business models such as advertising and using distribution middle-men. My favorite examples of the past year include Marco Arment’s “The Magazine”, Louie CK’s “Live At The Beacon Theater”, show, The Oatmeal’s Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad and Andrew Sullivan’s soon-to-be-independent Daily Dish (technically announced in 2013, but the deal was cut in 2012 right?).
While each is an example of a strong voice with a loyal following tapping into their fan-base, I was particularly impressed with the launch of The Magazine, as it stood in direct contrast to the failure of News Corp’s “The Daily”. It’s a classic story of an independent Web developer who understood the medium and his audience to produce a low-budget, high-quality service while a media giant spent $30 million doing the exact opposite.
And let’s not forget about the millions raised for new projects by Kickstarter.
For me, this trend, along with the continuing shift of our time spent on the Web to mobile and tablets, is critical to my thinking about how I am approaching this year, and how I am approaching SEO for myself and my clients. After Google’s Farmer (AKA “Panda”) Update in 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “Are You Radiohead?”, where I wondered aloud that with today’s SEO, you need to be the Radiohead of your particular niche to succeed. If I were to write that piece today, I might change the title to “Are You The Oatmeal?” In other words, ask yourself is what you are doing so great that people want to support it?
And I think this is going to be a key philosophy driving Web strategy, and not just to rank #1 for “Viagra”.
2. Mobile Customer Loyalty Apps Are Da Bomb
Let’s get a bit more down-to-earth on this one. Sure Google Places + Local had a lot of drama in 2012. Yes, Apple launched maps, Facebook launched Nearby. There were a lot of big events. But to me, the fact that my local burrito joint started texting me with points everytime I bought the kids an Itty Bitty Beanie Burrito and the local butcher shop had a tablet near the register that I could use to check in, was a telling signal to me that this stuff was suddenly everywhere. For those of you who are not on the local SMB text messaging bandwagon, you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective, high-growth ways to keep in touch with your customers. That said, I think we are going to see a shake-out of the hundreds of start-ups that are operating in this area, while at the same time, I don’t think we’re going to see any one platform become dominant.
3. Local SEO ToolSets Become All The Rage
As I mentioned in my SEL piece “SEOMoz + GetListed: Let the SMB Toolset Death March Begin”, last year it seemed like everyone I knew was developing some kind of local SEO tool. That trend is only going to continue in 2013.
4. Google+Local Keeps On Iterating & Irritating
I’ve got to mention Google right? For SMBs and SEOs that serve them, Google+Local 2012 was an absolute train wreck. Still is in many ways. That said, it seems like Google is slowly starting to improve things. From actual phone support to the G+ page management you recently reported on, I think we are going to see a continual gradual evolution of the service. It will still have plenty of bugs. Data will continue to disappear. SMBs will continue to be frustrated. And SEOs will still have a lot of work to do.
5. Apple Maps Will Sneak Up On Us
While my recently launched Apple Maps blog may bias my thinking, Apple Maps’ launch last year was perhaps one of the most significant events in the local search world. Say all you want about how screwed up the service is, the fact is that even with the Google Maps iOS app out there, I bet millions of people are still using the Apple Maps app. And the fact that it is baked into all iOS apps that use maps means it’s not going away. In the long-run, Apple Maps is the biggest threat to Google when it comes to local search. I expect Apple to quietly improve the service significantly this year and towards the end of 2013 I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced a big update that stimulates a lot of people who switched to Google Maps to retry the app. It’s still going to be a rough go for businesses that want to optimize for Apple Maps, which of course means more fun for SEOs who figure it out.
6. 2012 – Great Year For Local SEO
I think Aaron Wall said that SEO is getting so tough that in 2013 we will see a lot of consultants exit the business. In some ways he is correct. I already see a number of my colleagues moving away from Google Places SEO services. But 2012 created so much opportunity to help and educate marketers that I see nothing but green field in 2013 for those that have the enthusiasm and think of themselves as the Radiohead of SEO. Stay thirsty, my friend
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 20, 2013
Siri may be witty but she can’t tell a joke for beans. After I read that Apple had posted a job listing for a writer/editor to refine Siri’s responses I was curious if Siri, who has retorts for many questions, had yet refined her Borscht Belt Schtick.
January 18, 2013
A new contributor to the Loci series this year is Lisa Barone. Hired in September by Overit, she oversees Overit’s marketing consulting, social media and content divisions and serves on the agency’s senior staff. She is known internationally for pioneering many of the best practices and strategies for social media, marketing and content in the online, digital world.
OK that’s the official version. My version? Lisa is a unique voice that never fails to put the whole mishegas of internet marketing into perspective for both SMBs and marketers. She is a fearless observer in a world that is all too often full of fear. If you can’t tell, she is one of my favorite writers in the industry. Her current writing can be found at Overit and SmallBizTrends.
On her G+ profile she notes that “I save brands. Most often from themselves” and takes what should be a self evident position in saying: “I am morally opposed to this. All of this”. The same could be said of her relationship to marketers. She saves us from ourselves and often provides a compass to follow.
Here are some articles that influenced her thinking about local in 2012:
How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing
This super-meaty post from Neil Patel serves as an incredible resource for small business owners. Whether they’re just getting started marketing their business on the Web or if they’ve been doing it for years, there’s still something to take away from this post.
Local and Mobile Domination: Harnessing the Changing SERPs
During December’s BlueGlassX event, Michelle Lowery blogged an awe-inspiring presentation from Michael Dorausch about how to absolutely dominate local search. With his presentation, Michael walks SMBs through the process of generating links through content and opens everyone’s else eyes on HOW and WHERE to find unique content inspiration. Stuff you haven’t even thought of! What I love about Michael is that he’s not an SEO. He’s just a really, really smart business owner who is doing amazing things to conquer the SERPs and grow an engaged customer base. Michael’s slides are also included in Michelle’s session recap.
Running a successful business means becoming a master at earning buzz and bringing eyeballs to what you’re doing. Here, Startup Nation compiles a great list on how to get media coverage for your startup. It’s a Must Read for all local business owners. You can’t wait for press to come to you. Go get it.
December 4, 2012
CNET writes that Chrome has gained a foothold in mobile but is a no show on the iPhone. Its not hard to understand why most users don’t give it a try but I went so far as to install it on my iPhone was forced to remove it. Not only did it not do what I hired my mobile browser to do – or rather what Apple taught me a mobile browser should do- which is to allow me to easily share web content, it inserted itself into Google products at inappropriate times and places. I was continually and inadvertently opening it from within Plus even when I didn’t want to.
I actually use and like the Google+ app on my iPhone with but one caveat – it doesn’t allow sharing to any other communication service; not Twitter, not Facebook, not Texting and not even email. What is social content for but for sharing? I read a lot and Google+ , Twitter and my feeds (I am probably the lone user of Google’s Currents iPhone app) have become a primary source for discovering interesting content. I share this reading with my wife via email, via text to my kids, to my peers via Twitter, etc. etc.
You get the picture. I share it. As should be done with social content. But the Google+ app only allows me to share a story to my Google+ circles. That is unless I open the content in Safari and then share it from there. Thus the sharing workflow on my iPhone was to find an article in Google+, open it in Safari where I might read it now or later and then share it from Safari to anyone and everyone that I thought would find it interesting.
The was until I installed the iPhone Chrome app. It inserted itself in the Google+ app front and center just above Safari link. I would have left Chrome on my phone for research purposes and the occasional use but I kept inadvertently opening it when I wanted to open Safari. Even that would not have been a problem except… Chrome, like Google+, supports no social sharing.
I find Google+ to be a useful and valuable addition to my phone. It sits on the limited real estate of my front screen. Yet it, like Chrome, manages to disrespect a fundamental core feature set of the iPhone. I often wonder how it is that Google, with such brilliant engineers, programmers and (now yes) designers manages to get it wrong.
Was it a business decision to limit sharing to Google only products? Or was it just an oversight?
November 28, 2012
Mike Dudas of Google just tweeted that Google has acquired Incentive Targeting to power highly targeted manufacturer and private label coupon programs. He noted that “Incentive Targeting..[does] for retail couponing what Google [does] for online advertising: make simple, relevant, measurable, & effective”
It would appear that the acquisition is for both talent and IP. And as Greg Sterling points out strategic. The company website notes that their “patent-pending technology allows non-technical marketing executives to design sophisticated, relevant promotions—and measure ROI in real time—directly over the Internet”. The product is interesting because it will deliver the coupon either via cell phone & social networks or via traditional methods of print and register receipt AND closes the loop for easy redemption and tracking.
It is an intriguing acquisition in a number of ways. It obviously puts Google directly into the coupon business. In the past they have never committed to couponing in any significant way and it had been said that Larry Page in fact had a disdain for coupons. Their past behaviors have certainly reflected a certain schizoid, on again off again approach to coupons.
This product, while currently serving large chains and manufacturers, could readily scale down to a single merchant and fit into the SMB dashboard/integrated marketing portal that is rumored to be in the works. Imagine a single location grocery store or our local 30 location chain being able to have an advertising person easily issue coupons across media & track the results in real time. It sounds like a winner to me. It could obviously move beyond groceries as well.
Now lets hope that it sees the light of day sooner than Google’s last local purchases of PunchD and TalkBin.