May 17, 2013
At the Philadelphia Local U last week I had a chance to touch Matt McGee’s Glass. It was exhilarating, disturbing, interesting, disorienting and a number of other adjectives. Everyone at the table was anxious to try it and see what it did and how it works.
I was struck by its awkwardness and obtrusiveness as a wearable device and it is clear why it has already engendered a new noun: Glasshole. But I was also amazed at the power that an always on, always present, always connected device has and its obvious impact on local. Despite my inability to bond with the device it raised the question for me: Is this the future of computing?
My personal answer as to whether the Glass was THE PRODUCT was “not this product, not this form factor” as it didn’t go far enough for me to define a compelling experience. I wasn’t sure what I was hiring it to do (as Horace Diedu always says).
That though raised the question: Was it me or was it the Glass that was the problem? Was I being myopic and it was really the future?
To try to get out of my own way I asked all of the folks at Local U (whose opinions I value very highly) to give me some perspective by answering the following questions:
Macintosh was a metaphor for desktop computing. The iPhone became the metaphor for smart phones. The early products defined what other products needed to be like.
1) Do you think that the Google Glass is a metaphor for the next generation of small, wearable computers?
2) Is it a winner?
3) Do you think that Google will make Glass the market leader in the category?
Read their answers at the Local U Blog: Thoughts About Google Glass – Is It a New Metaphor for Mobile Computing and Local Search? and let me know what you think,
April 2, 2013
Starting today at ~1 pm PST, Google Local is rolling out an upgraded interface for Places for Business that will replace the current dashboard*. The rollout is staged and will be initially made available to a small number of US businesses and businesses newly claimed via the G+ Local page.
Over the near future the rollout will accelerate to include all U.S. dashboards. The international rollout will then continue across the 136 countries that currently have the Places dashboard. The exact timing of the rollout is not being made explicit.
The rollout is one more step towards the integration of local with Plus. While the feature set is neither expansive nor comprehensive, the product release does account for service area businesses (SAB) who can now get a Plus page for the first time. The product is currently targeted for single location businesses with bricks and mortar storefronts and SABs but still has limited provisions for multi location businesses and does not support Bulk uploads.
Once an account is transitioned the dashboard account will be automatically redirected to the new interface. If that account has a Plus account the option to edit the Google+ page will appear in the interface. But a G+ profile is not required to interact with the business profile. All that is needed is the existing Google ID/email. The business will be required to obtain a G+ personal profile if they want to add the additional features (social stream, videos) of a full G+ Local page.
When this rollout is complete there will be only two types of local pages: verified and unverified. Each business can decide whether they need the social and video features or not.
Google has noted that the purpose of this rollout is to address usability issues for the SMB in terms of UI, data push speeds, better notifications, reduced data integrity issues and improved integration with other Google products.
The product will retain the current Places for Business name although it really is more of a Google Plus lite than a Places Dashboard equivalent.
For more information see these related posts:
Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard
Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard
Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite?
* Unlike yesterday’s post this is actually true. And I must admit I much prefer my vision.
March 27, 2013
Every year about this time I get my new Superpages print edition and every year I count fewer pages. This year is no exception. And every year there seems to be more filler than the year before. And every year, there is a new YP print company coming out of bankruptcy. It’s an old story but one that continues to fascinate me.
In many categories the ads are for national players. In florists for example there are 2.5 pages and only 1/8 of one page covers truly local florists. Lawyers, a category where there is still some interest in the use of print yellow pages by consumers, has 7 pages but most are virtual offices or lawyers from over 50 miles away. Forty percent of those ads are for PI lawyers, another 40% for disability lawyers and only about 20% are for actual local lawyers.
The print YP are no longer a local advertising medium catering to local business. It is clear that what is left of the print yellow pages has been taken over by regional and national advertisers. One has to wonder though if they ever bother to calculate their returns or they are doing this out of habit.
February 2, 2013
Mia Culpa: Due to carelessness and haste I originally published this article indicating that Google was promoting authorship.. My thanks to A. J. Kohn for highlighting my error.
With the developing Google+ Local management interface Google is now actively supporting and encouraging Publisher Rich Snippet Tags for Local listings. Last week we saw that Google was using the new interface to promote Adwords Express Plus, now they have added a feature to encourage businesses claiming their listing to implement the publisher feature. It leaves open the question of whether Google thinks it is spammy to include authorship on a local website but makes clear that Google thinks every local site should implement the publisher tag.
The interface provided is slick, simple and avoids all discussion of technicalities that could be involved in establishing a publisher relationship. It gently instructs the business as to how proceed and if they are flummoxed by the task of inserting the single line of html onto their site, they are given the option of emailing their webmaster with instructions. A single button test of the install completes the circle of simplicity.
Clearly Google is not just highlighting rel=publisher for local but is making it incredibly easy. It is apparently an effort to get as many business to use it as possible. The interface is refreshingly clean and functional. A nice change from the interface kluge that is the current dashboard and a refreshing alternative to the historically complex ways of implementing this feature
It has been a long and tedious struggle living with Google local over the past several years. It reminds me of the maturing of a petulant teenager as he/she seeks their own path in life. Google’s rapidly developing G+ Local Interface may just grow up to be a fully functional adult in the local space. There seems to be more than a glimmer of hope.
Here are screen shots & feedback from the process:
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 17, 2013
Adam Dorfman is an interactive marketing professional with over 15 years experience in all facets of online marketing including local & organic search, pay per click, paid inclusion, email, XML driven advertising, mobile advertising, social networking, content creation, analytics, usability and offline integration as well as web development, hosting, networking and project management.
He currently oversees the Velocity platform at SIM Partners – a SaaS solution that empowers national brands to maximize Social, Local Search, and Mobile at the location level through automation and scalability.
Clearly, the biggest news in local search for 2012 was Google’s shift to Google+ Local. While Google Places was still a mess when they made the switch, it feels like the issues we had managing listings for local businesses there paled in comparison to Google+ Local. Google has made some very recent efforts into amending some of the problems, but Google+ Local is still much more difficult to get right than Google Places ever was.
As huge as that news was, there was so much more that happened with Google in 2012. From the still under-reported Venice Update to their integration and pull back of Zagat review formatting to removing AdWords Express from Places prior to the Google+ Local release, it seems that Google+ Local is receiving more attention and resources than ever before.
Apple’s foray into local search was also big news in 2012. When Apple dropped Google Maps as the native iOS mapping application and replaced it with their own, they received a lot of attention from both inside and outside the industry. The move highlighted the importance of map software and local information to people outside of the industry (plenty of my colleagues friends and family were asking about it).
When Apple rolled out their own mapping application, there was a lot of public criticism of Apple’s software, many suggesting it was subpar to Google’s . Not only did Apple end up highlighting the importance of this market to the general public, but also showed their vulnerability with the (perceived) failure of Apple Maps, to the extent that Tim Cook released a public apology for the application. In the end, Apple ended up making Google look like the better software developer and trusted source for local and map based information.
Outside of Google & Apple, here are some news and trends that caught my attention as something that will have a noticeable impact on our space moving forward.
- Marissa Mayer becoming the new CEO of Yahoo.
- National brands seeing the importance of having a hyperlocal strategy.
- The continued shift of local being driven by mobile usage.
- This is larger than local but the increasing complexities when it comes to creating, optimizing and managing paid, earned and owned media has made competing with national brands harder than ever for SMBs.
- David Mihm joining the SEOmoz team. Speaking of David, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a link to David’s yearly Local Search Ranking Factors survey or the Local Search Ecosystem. While not “news” at this point, they are still the two pieces of content I visit most frequently for reference purposes.
- The focus on bolstering international offerings by Yelp as well as them working to increase the amount of places their data is being syndicated to.
Thanks to Mike for keeping us in the space up to speed on the endless changes going on with Google+ Local. It’s been a whirlwind of a year and I suspect that 2013 will be no different.
December 11, 2012
So which author avatar is the people’s favorite?
Yesterday I promised to share the large scale (1500 responses) survey results as to which author avatar consumers would pick from amongst the local search results when they were asked: If you were selecting a lawyer based on these images, which would you select?
Surprised? I admit I was initially. The white, elderly looking republican type won and won by a statistically significant margin amongst the sample of the ~1300 responses used in the weighted results.
Which attributes caused Mr Old Republican to be more appealing? Was it gravitas? Age? Clothing? Shot distance? Colors? Facial expression?
You can find the complete results of the author avatar survey here. These results will allow you do your own faceted analysis of the data by various demographic criteria and you might want to do so prior to coming to any conclusions. Minimally before you go off and use aging software, change your tie color and redo your photograph read on for insights from Cyrus, AJ Kohn and Matt McGee…
December 4, 2012
Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law commissioned me to help them understand how consumers find specialty lawyers. Their goal was to appropriately allocate their marketing dollars in a realistic way between the many choices. Do consumers go to Facebook? How important was their website? What role do reviews play?
To that end, we created a Google Survey as to how consumers might find a specialty lawyer and what things would they look for while online in their search.
We surveyed 1500 consumers with 3 questions as to how they go about the process of choosing a lawyer. Moses & Rooth’s conclusions about the consumer lawyer survey can be viewed here. And the Google data, in its entirety, as to how consumers find lawyers is available here. I would encourage you to view the Google data and create some faceted views of the data to understand the differences in responses due to age, urban density, geography & income.
The weighted sample size included ~1200 respondents and the results were judged to be accurate within ~+3/-3 survey points. The Google Survey produces “a close approximation to a random sample of the US Internet population and results that are as accurate as probability based panels”.
The three questions asked moved from the general to the more specific:
- When you need to find a specialty lawyer how would you start your search?
- If you search for a specialty lawyer on the internet what is most important to you?
- If you searched for a specialty lawyer on Google, what would do you first?
The results of the survey are telling. Here are some top level take aways:
- Word of mouth from clients is critically important
- Search engines are the most likely source for new clients
- Facebook offers little value in finding new clients
- The print Yellow Pages, while not as likely to be used as the search engines, still have some life in the legal industry. This is particularly true in the MidWest and amongst older clients
- Google reviews are 3x more likely to influence a decision than Yelp (question 2)
- A website and online reviews play a critical role once the consumer makes it to Google (question 3).
In a broad sense I think we will find similar responses across a number of industries. It is likely that for many local industry types that the print YP impact might be less important but that the overall results will likely generally hold true. Here’s hoping I get the chance to survey additional industries.
To view the complete the survey data go here. The data is structured so that you can view the results by age group, income and population density. There are some interesting differences that warrant explorations.
If I were a lawyer and saw these results I would:
- Make sure that I am gathering my client’s emails and staying in touch
- Invest in local search and possibly Adwords
- Go out a buy some great bourbon for those lawyers that consistently refer me business
- If I chose to invest in any other marketing, be sure to put in place measurement tools to evaluate and periodically review the investments.
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?
October 31, 2012
Sometimes the lights go on and the realization strikes that a new metaphor has taken hold and will change the market going forward. That realization struck when I recently read about GoPago’s Free POS system for SMBs. Greg Sterling first wrote about the product in August but it wasn’t until I saw a second article did it dawn on me that free POS was an incredibly powerful way to get SMBs to fully embrace the possibilities of local.
The product has a symmetry, pricing and usefulness that speaks to a wide swath of the smaller bricks and mortar stores and fills a need that Square and Paypal have only hinted at. The product includes an Android tablet, a free Verizon Internet connection, a cash box, a receipt printer, the company’s app for handling transactions and inventory tracking, and setup and support of the service. The cost? A 2.85% credit card processing fee.
The product includes a built in loyalty program and an interface with social sites but could easily be expanded to include other cloud based services like electronic payments, PPC, offers, reputation management, email management or any other local marketing process.
The product is not a perfect fit for every business but it is ideal for the small bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and smaller retailer & service businesses that dot the landscape and often have to pay high processing fees on their credit card transactions.
The early creator of metaphor changing products sometimes reaps the benefits and other times the benefits go to better capitalized late comers. Certainly GoPago has no lock on this market. Square, Paypal, Bing and Google could all step in and have both distribution efficiencies and marketing clout that could give them an advantage in this space. Imagine Google offering up a free Moto/Android based POS system that also guides SMBs through a business center experience as the SMB gains familiarity with the many marketing options that Google offers. If I were Bing,in an effort to kick start their Local Business Portal, I would walk over to GoPago and hand them a check even if it meant the POS had to continue to use an Android based product.