Category Archives: Loci – Important Articles for the Year

Annual summary of important articles in Local Search from the folks that are involved in Local Search every day.

Loci 2011- Andrew Shotland

Most of you are familiar with Andrew Shotland, a well know Local SEO practitioner and author of www.localseoguide.com. He has provided his services to numerous media, ecommerce companies, franchises and start-ups including Bing.com, Amazon, DexKnows.com, Yellowbook.com, The Yellow Pages Group Co. of Canada and many, many other big players (space limitations precludes me from including his whole list :)). He also provides small businesses with search marketing services.

You may (or may not have) also know that, in a past life, he was a founding member of NBC’s Internet group and a former GM of NBC.com. While at NBC, Andrew created NBC-IN, the first national network of local TV station websites. Most recently he was VP Business & Product Development at Insider Pages. In 2011, he launched a partnership with BIA/Kelsey to provide social media consulting services to BIA/Kelsey clients.

What you (and I didn’t know) was that he obviously bleeds Apple :) … Here is his take on influential and meaningful influences in 2011. And meaningful they are.

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I am afraid I am too trendy, but if I had to think about what had the most influence over my thinking/actions this year, it’s all Jobs-related. I wish I could say the posts on the Lat/Long blog or from Matt Cutts were as inspiring, thought-provoking or actionable, but some things were not meant to be:

Steve Jobs Stamford Commencement Speech
Best 14 minute investment – Makes you want to get off your ass and do something meaningful

Apple’s Here’s To The Crazy Ones Ad With Jobs Voice Over
Makes you want to get off your ass and do something meaningful, but only takes 60 seconds

Jobs Perspective on Designer Paul Rand
This one is perhaps my favorite because of how Jobs describes Rand’s approach to consulting.

Honorable mentions:
-DaringFireball.net – @gruber is one of the best writers on the Web
-Asymco.net – Horace Dediu is insane. He picks apart business data the way Mike Blumenthal picks apart Google Places
-Blumenthals.com – No need for explanation. This URL http://support.google.com/places/?hl=en-US&rd=1 should 301 to your homepage
-Kottke.org – best aggregator of interesting stuff. All work and no play, etc.
AndrewSullivan.com – regardless of whether or not you agree with his opinions, simply one of the best discussions on the Internet
@RakeshLobster – his Groupon stuff is perhaps the most entertaining string of tweets since @RepWeiner tweeted his package

Locai 2011 – Jim Moran

Jim Moran is co-founder of Yipit. Yipit was an early entrant into deal aggregation space and the company recently raised $6 million in funding. The site gathers offers from Groupon, LivingSocial, AmazonLocal, Google Offers and 750+ daily deal sites in 118 cities and sends the best to you each day based on your preferences. Yipit also provides daily deal data and insights to the industry and investor communities.

In a previous life, Jim worked in mergers & acquisitions at The Blackstone Group. He writes short thoughts about the Daily Deal space on Twitter (@jdmoran) and more careful thoughts on the Yipit Blog. He earned his stripes in Local the hard way and was one of the first to aggregate daily deals.

He is both a participant and an astute observer of the deal environment. If you are looking to for an expert to follow in that space, he is your man. Here is his take on the articles that most influenced his thinking during the past year.

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The LOCAL Innovator’s Dilemma - I wish I had read this article before getting into local five years ago. Would have accelerated our thinking substantially as we made sense of local. Spot on summary of challenges facing local startups.

Groupon S-1 Reveals Business Model Deteriorating in Oldest Markets – The Yipit Blog post with the largest response this year. Outlines issues with Groupon’s business model as made clear in their S1. All their graphs are moving in the wrong direction, so the clock is ticking for them to evolve their business model.

Groupon Buys OpenCal, Launches Online Appointment Booking Service ‘Scheduler’ – This may end up being the evolution Groupon is looking for. Representative of their strategic shift this year towards leveraging their scale to attack existing successful business models (in this case OpenTable, but in other cases, travel, ecommerce) vs inventing completely new experiences (Groupon Now, Groupon Stores, etc), which has so far been unsuccessful.

What Went Wrong in the Daily Deals Space? – Rob does a terrific job of illustrating some of the game theory issues driving follow on competitors in the deal space. I think a lot of this gets sorted out in 2012.

Loci 2011: Ted Paff

Reviews continued to be a dominant theme in 2011. Ted Paff is the owner of CustomerLobby.com, a solution to help local businesses to get, manage and publish customer reviews. He is more familiar than most with all of the realities of SMBs and reviews as he lives and breathes them every day of his business life and most of the rest of his day as well. I know for a fact that he loses sleep pondering the many review related issues that affect him and his clients.

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Here are a few topics and related articles that influenced my thinking in 2011 with respect to local business marketing and Google:

  1. Google+: This post highlighted how it has the potential to meaningfullychange search.
  2. Reputation Marketing: This is a broad trend but I found this article about the Zero Moment of Truth thought provoking. Among other things, it means that customer reviews and other 3rd party content is more critical. As we have seen for a while, consumers are willing to pay more to companies with great reputations.
  3. Social Media: While it is true that social media has lots of potential impacts, data is slowly coming to light that social media: (i) may not be what most SMBs want it to be, (ii) that a company’s Facebook Fans aren’t really paying attention to them just because they “like” them and that (iii) search may be the right thing to focus on.
  4. Google Reviews: I was very aware that Google removed 3rd party reviews from its Place Pages. I was however surprised that Google reviews are not clicked on as often as 3rd party reviews.
  5. Negative Reviews: Negative customer reviews matter and it only takes a few negative reviews to have a significant impact. I continue to believe that most negativereviews can be marketing gold if handled correctly.
  6. Deals: So far, “Deals” are not a great deal for local businesses. For better or worse, Groupon is thebellwetherof the deals industry and 82% of a their customers are unsatisfied with the results. In addition to not being happy, SMBs reputations were hurt by running a deal.

Loci 2011- David Mihm

David Mihm is a passionate golfer and when he has time to play, maintains a scratch handicap. He is also passionate about local and is one of the people in the industry that you should pay attention to.

His online tool set at Getlisted.org has helped 1.3 Million U.S. Small Businesses get their business’s noticed. His annual Local Search Ranking Factors is a foundational survey that helps virtually every local SEO every year. He is not just passionate about local, he is a fierce advocate for small business as well. He co- founded the Getlisted Local University small business training seminars and implemented the innovative Review Wednesday to help recognize quality local businesses.

I am proud to have David kick of Loci 2011 (and to call him my friend). Here are the developments in 2011 that David has identified as significant.

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Several years from now, I think 2011 will be primarily remembered for:

– The Google-Yelp-TripAdvisor drama on a massive stage in front of the Senate Commerce Committee. We haven’t seen the end of this by this Antitrust scrutiny for Google by any stretch–given their COMPLETE dominance of the mobile ad market. Conspiracy theorists might suggest that part of the reason for the major interface update in July — and ESPECIALLY the one in October which shows Place Page data but still directs clicks through to SMB websites — was due to this increased scrutiny.

– The launch of Google Plus for businesses, and the presumptive integration with Places that is coming in 2012.

– The launch of Mapmaker in the US. Not only for its help for those of us in the SEO community with cleaning up listings, but what it signals for the future of data aggregators here and around the world.

– Google’s investment in feet-on-the-street–initially as part of Offers, but going forward, for a whole suite of SMB digital marketing products.

– The birth of critical awareness of mobile marketing among small businesses–seeded initially by campaigns like Google’s GoMo.

– Google’s quasi-serious effort at customer service for Places.

– Facebook’s continued neglect of the entire Local arena. Much like Google did, they’ve left billions of dollars on the table…but so far this has not hurt them as it’s still by far the most popular place for small businesses to spend their social media time.

– Bing Local’s continued competitiveness on functionality with Google Places…if they can ever get the traffic…

– The beginning of the end of a Pets.com-esque fall from grace for Groupon, partially precipitated by our mutual friend Rocky Agrawal. And a broader realignment/reconsideration of the Daily Deals space as a whole.

I also want to recognize again your amazing Web Equity infographic. It’s rare to find one that is so actionable–and also scalable–that can take into account future developments in our space.

Loci 2011: Important Trends in local

loci with pronunciations

1. Particular postions, points or places
2. Centers of activity, attention, or concentration

Loci 2011 is an annual review of the  important articles in Local Search that will be appearing over the next week(s). It is a series that I started at the end of 2008 and this will make its fourth appearance. I have always thought that collaboration & cooperation are the best ways to increase our understanding of the world. That is even more true in the nascent and growing industry of Local. I am also of the opinion that often curation by those with special expertise or focus can help everyone.

Thus I have gathered articles and view points  from a range of people, people whom I respect and who are knowledgeable about Local.  Each in their own way is a center of activity around local and each has their own particular perspective on which developments in Local over the past year were the most important. Their voices, some more prominent in the industry than others, are voices that should be listened to as they are intimate with the many different facets of local.

Here is the charge that I gave them:
Would you be willing to share the 3,5 or 10 articles that influenced your thinking or actions the most over the past year? The articles could be yours, or from others and could cover any topic that you think relates to Local ie local mobile, phones, mapping, Local VC, Local companies, Google, trends, marketing, best practices etc….but articles that you found of importance in one way or another throughout the year.

Join me, over the next weeks as we look at what others in Local have read and think important from the last year.

Loci 2010 – Gib Olander

Gib Olander currently serves as Director of Business Development for Localeze and frequent speaker at search marketing conferences. Localeze is a leading provider of merchant content management services, which includes; collection, organization, validation and distribution of merchant content. This content is widely used in the local ecosystems and the data is the foundation of place information at a large number of sites including Bing, Facebook and Twitter amongst others.

From this vantage point, Gib sees the industry dynamics from the inside out, providing useful insights to many in the industry.

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2010 was a transformative year, I struggle with calling it a year of convergence or a year of fragmentation. Convergence because everywhere we looked a local component was added, we’ve had: social local, mobile local, local search, local commerce, mobile Local search, social mobile search, ETC. Or was it a year for fragmentation with traffic being driven to businesses from a wider variety of sources than ever before, I don’t think 2010 answered many questions but it certainly built the infrastructure for where the space is going in the future, it’s never been a better time to be involved in the Local search ecosystem.

This early in the year article set the tone for the change taking place in the internet space in general. In February you heard major Local publishers declare that Facebook was the leading source for traffic to their site over Google with Facebook growing at an incredible rate it was only natural that they launch a local initiative.

By 2011 it’s expected that 80% of mobile devices are going to be GPS enabled which changes everything. This location based service patent by Apple is an example of the innovation going on in mobile. There are now more than 6000 Location based or at least location aware apps for the iPhone alone. 2010 was the year of Mobile & Local with great innovation from companies like Foodspotting and in the advertising world of Local & Mobile new initiatives like Where Ads were launched creating a new revenue models to fuel the growth.

With foursquare usage continuing to grow and dozens of services, games, applications, networks adding check in functionality it is a trend to watch. One of the most impactful presentation’s I witnessed this year was from Michael Metcalf from Yahoo, he really gave me an understanding of how important our personal Location History and our Spatial Network are, it’s about so much more than the next badge you are going to win, it’s just a matter of time before the value gets unlocked to its fullest.

Local as an important layer of context really emerged, Twitter embraced that concept with their places announcement showing that the context of a clearly defined place is a powerful tool.

Google as friend or foe became a hot topic again in 2010 first with Yelp then with TripAdvisor,  resulting in Google launching its own service/platform to create the content it wants.

Google continued to amaze with the amount of innovation they rolled out during the year with the most notable being the self-described search refinement of Google Place Search resulting in the ever increasing importance of establishing, monitoring and managing your business identity with a standard and consistent Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)

From the Localeze perspective I felt like we had an amazing year of progress  Here is a list of our press releases in 2010

Thanks for a great year, I can’t wait to see how things emerge in 2011!

Loci 2010 – Matt McGee

Matt McGee needs little introduction to most readers here. He has been involved, perhaps longer than I, in the local space as a consultant, practitioner and writer and was one of my first virtual friends in the space. I have had the good fortune to have had Matt become a real friend and we often “tour” together with GetListed Local University. He maintains his own blog Small Business Search Marketing, is Executive News Editor at Search Engine Land and a moderator and editor at Sphinn.

His sense of internet marketing is keen and one that I listen to and trust even if having him in my social graph at Hotpot skews the results to pizza.

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I’ve been enjoying the previous articles in this series. I don’t agree with all the opinions on what was most important in 2010, but that’s surely part of the fun. I do agree that 2010 was a big year for the local industry. Marissa Mayer, one of the most important people at Google, was “promoted” to a position overseeing local and mobile. Google launched Places Search, a whole new take on local search results. Bing made some very cool upgrades to its maps product. Facebook took a real step into the local space with Facebook Places. And so much more. 2010 was a BIG year for local/mobile.

But for all the progress, I’m still struck by how undeveloped the space is as a whole. So, at the risk of having you call me “Debbie Downer” (that’s a Saturday Night Live reference, Professor), I’d like to list 10 things that are still missing, broken, or unsolved in local at the end of 2010.

1- Google Places is still filled with bugs, from merged listings to problems with reviews and so much more. I have a gut feeling that spam is somewhat better than it’s been, but there are so many more problems for such an important piece of the local puzzle.

2- It’s still borderline impossible for the average person to track local/”pack” traffic in Google Analytics. There have been several articles that teach semi-complicated methods for doing this, but those articles shouldn’t be needed.

3- On a related note, the Google Places business dashboard remains mostly useless. The data is several days old and the stripped-down referral keyword list remains often frustrating. It would be better for Places to integrate directly into Google Analytics.

4- Bing still doesn’t offer any stats in its Local Listing Center. Nor does Yahoo.

5- Google still appears to be much more interested in acquiring small businesses (as Google users) than they are in actually supporting the ones already in the fold.

6- We still can’t manage multiple Places listings (for different clients) from a single interface. (Bing and Yahoo also don’t offer this functionality.)

7- There’s still no effective SEO/visibility solution for businesses without a location or for businesses that need to hide their location. Google’s product for those businesses seems to do more harm than good, and Bing doesn’t even have a product for them.

8- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo allow a local business to integrate their Facebook and/or Twitter content into local business listings. I think Citysearch is the only local provider that has this functionality. Why?

9- There’s still no real solution to the call-tracking dilemma. SMBs want/need to track calls, but multiple phone numbers wreaks havoc on the trust of your primary business listing.

10- Neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo provide any review management tools inside the business listing dashboards.

I’ll stop there with a “thanks” to Mike for letting me contribute to this series, and a “thanks” to you for reading. Hopefully we’ll see some or all of these things improve in 2011.

Loci 2010 – Jim Moran of Yipit

Jim Moran is co-founder of Yipit, which aggregates and recommends Daily Deals based on your tastes. The site gathers offers from Groupon, LivingSocial and nearly 300 deal services, and sends the best to you each day based on your preferences. In a previous life, Jim worked in mergers & acquisitions at The Blackstone Group. He writes short thoughts about the Daily Deal space on Twitter (@jdmoran) and more careful thoughts on the Yipit Blog. If you haven’t read his article on modeling a Groupon deal value, you should do so immediately.

If you are looking to for an expert to follow in the deal space, he is your man. Here is his take on the articles that most influenced his thinking during the past year.

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The Ultimate Guide: How Media Companies Should Offer Daily Deals – The Yipit Blog, Vin Vacanti
Reasoning: immediately following this blog post, we received countless emails from major media company execs looking for feedback on how they planned to approach the daily deal market. We met with dozens of them, hopefully it added some value in the next wave of daily deal products.

Why Online2Offline Commerce is a Trillion Dollar Opportunity – TechCrunch, Alex Rampell
Reasoning: I believe this post opened a lot of people’s eyes to the scale of the market we’re all so focused on.

Shopping Apps That Can Point You to Lower Prices – The New York Times, Bob Tedeschi
Reasoning: this article made me sick to my stomach over the future of big box retailers.

Real Reason Groupon is Selling: They’re Another AOL? – The Yipit Blog, Vin Vacanti
Reasoning: We think this is a pretty powerful analogy/framework for how things will shape up for Groupon over the coming years.

Golden Footballs and the Economics of Groupon – Evan Miller
Reasoning: I am an economics nerd, and this was a very fun look at the theoretical underpinnings of the daily deal space.

Loci 2010 – Ted Paff

Ted Paff is the President of Customer Lobby, a solution to help local businesses to get, manage and publish customer reviews. Prior to founding Customer Lobby, Ted was an entraprenuer, venture capitalist and investment banker.

He has been a guest blogger here before writing the popular Responding to Negative Reviews – Your Prospects are the Real Audience. Ted probably knows more about the ecosystem of the local review space than anyone that I know, for good or bad his life depends on it.

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Here are a few articles that marked notable events and/or influenced my thinking in 2010 with respect to reviews and Google Maps:

  1. I found this article and this article to be thoughtful commentaries on review policy.
  2. Although the implementation has a long way to go, Google’s support of microformats changed my view of how we and others will provide data to all of the search engines.
  3. The many versions of Google’s integration of local/SERP results had me rereading and recommending these articles (here and here) on local SEO.
  4. When we started building our company, I knew (and was repeatedly told) that creating a direct, outbound sales force was expensive and time consuming. In reading this article, it struck me that almost every company with scale that markets online services to small businesses, including Google, finds it worth the cost.
  5. The rise, fall and reincarnation of sock puppet accounts marked the early days of reviews spam. Testimonials treated as reviews are likely to be spammy as local businesses figure out that they can inflate their reviews count. I think Sam Decker got the title of this post right but there is a lot more to come on this topic.
  6. Data from “people like me” gleaned through the integration of my and others opinions, and mobile and search data could create the first real recommendation engine for local businesses. If Google (or Yelp) can figure this out, the impact on local businesses will be huge.

Loci 2010 – David Mihm

David Mihm is the President & CEO of GetListed.org, in addition to running his own Portland-based search engine consulting business. He’s a Search Engine Land columnist and a frequent speaker at the SMX, SES, and Kelsey Group conference. He has created a number of tools to assist the SMB in navigating the rough waters of local more easily and publishes the annual survey of Local Ranking factors. More importantly he cares about the state of local search and how it impacts SMBs. He brings that sensibility and an astute mind to his list of articles that  stood out for him in 2010.

He thinks through the issues top to bottom and whenever I have a question, he is the one that I call.

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The Local conversation this year was once again dominated by Google, and in particular, its decision to completely reinvent its Local interface, moving away from the 10/7-pack and into a blended organic/local SERP.  (Btw, it bothers me that we still do not have a conventional term for this type of result two months after it launched!).  So a couple

Looking ahead to 2011, I think it’s going to be all about reviews, reviews, reviews this year as the differentiating factor for most Local SMB rankings.  Google’s extensive–though not quite exhaustive–push of Hotpot here in Portland these last couple months only goes to show how much stock they’re putting in reviews.  So I want to bring people’s attention to a couple of your posts in this arena.

Then, a couple of conceptual / theoretical posts–one by Chris Silver Smith that highlights an often-overlooked fundamental principle of Google’s Location Prominence patent, and one by Carolyn Johnston of Microsoft addressing one of business owners’ and marketers’ biggest frustration: why is my business data wrong, and what’s with all of the duplicate listings?

And, one tactical post–in my opinion the most actionable post in our industry over the course of the entire year–hats off to Garrett French.

Localization, Unique Data Sets & the Future of Search
Few people follow the economic side of Google’s UI decisions as closely as Aaron Wall.  In this article he lays out some of Google’s less altruistic motives behind Place Search.

Dead Fingers Walking
Andrew Shotland’s darkly satirical commentary on the same Places UI upgrade (pre-dating Aaron’s article by several months thanks to your own publication of the beta Place Search interface, Mike).

What Are the Implications of the New Integrated Local Search Results? –
Your own commentary on this seismic (or catclysmic, if you ask Andrew) shift in the way Google returns results for Local Intent searches.

Review Services – Do Positive Only Reviews Have a Place?
Perhaps not one of your greatest literary epics, Mike, but I see this debate raging for many years, particularly as Google begins to incorporate self-generated testimonials and hReviews into its Place Pages.  It’s an extremely important question to ask both the search engines and the marketing community.

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews
You pretty much nail the matrix of important considerations in this easily-digestible column.

A New Behemoth Emerges in Google Maps: Wikipedia
Chris Silver Smith highlights the importance of the highest-rated referring Place-related document as part of Google’s Location Prominence patent, here pointing to Wikipedia as a very highly-rated source.  Perhaps not actionable for most businesses but I think the concept behind this discussion is incredibly valuable.

Why Local Listings Data Is Tough
A great “Q&A” posed from the perspective of the marketer/SMB to the search engine that is very illustrative of the difficulties in getting accurate data to flow all the way through the Local Search Ecosystem.

Phone Number Co-Citation Analysis for Local Link Builders
Garrett French’s terrifically efficient strategy for making sure you’ve got your competitive bases covered when it comes to Local listings.