January 11, 2011
Sebastien is Praized Media’s co-founder and VP Product Management. He has more than 12 years’ experience in local search, interactive entertainment and online media. Sebastien co-founded Praized Media in 2007 to help local media companies tap into the growing potential of online word-of-mouth and social media. Praized Media recently launched Needium, an innovative social media lead generation service for SMBs. He writes about traditional media, local search and social media on his blog at and tweets at @sebprovencher.
When Sebastien speaks I listen. You should too.
From my point of view, here are what I think the important events in
“local” in 2010.
1) The launch of Twitter Places:
More ways to geolocalize your tweets means more local/social opportunities. More and more people think Twitter’s future will be ”local”.
2) Foursquare went from less than 1M users to more than 5M users in 2010. 2M check-ins daily.
Still curious to know how many of those are “active” users (same metric as Facebook) but nonetheless, Foursquare is now a key player in the local/social ecosystem.
3) Facebook launches Places
Not as big as bang as I expected but a much needed “local” infrastructure in Facebook. 2011 will probably see growth and better integration.
4) The launch of the iPad. Seen as a savior by many newspapers before the launch, I’m not sure those expectations were met
Undoubtedly, on another level, the iPad is a resounding consumer success, creating a new space. What Apple did for smart phones, they’re doing it again for tablets.
5) The rise of Groupon and the daily offer space. Incredible revenue growth. High popularity. New local ad vehicle. ‘Nuff said.
6) Groupon rejects Google’s purchase offer. Worth a bullet by itself. Rumored $6B offer. Wow. Again, ‘Nuff said.
January 10, 2011
Who better to start off Loci 2010 than Greg Sterling? Greg is an indefatigable writer (how does he get anything else done?) and provides the strategic insights as well as the scoop on the “daily deal” to all of us in the industry. He can be found at Screenwerk, SearchEngineland and Internet2Go. He speaks at and organizes a number of conferences and you will find him speaking next at his Conversational Commerce Conference February 2-3 in San Francisco.
Local-social-mobile is the new mantra for many financial analysts and VCs. Indeed, we saw a range of developments in 2010 that tied these arenas closer together. It was a watershed year for the mobile Internet and the year that everyone started to take local very seriously – most notably Google. Executives at Google declared local not only a major priority but the company’s “top focus.” High-profile but unsuccessful attempts to buy Yelp and Groupon testified to that.
The following are list of the top trends and developments that I believe were significant in “local” or local marketing this year:
1. Mobile: the rise of mobile and smartphones in 2010 helped focus new energy and attention on the importance of local and location
2. Google’s surge into local was significant on several fronts and many product areas. There were so many local-related initiatives this year by Google it’s hard to keep track of them all. The launch of Place Search and the new UI that emphasizes local content on Google is reflective of this larger cluster of local moves by the search engine
3. Group buying and Groupon: in 2010 this phenomenon came out of almost nowhere to culminate in an aborted $5++ billion takeover by Google at the end of the year. There are well over 100 “Groupon clones” operating in the market and many more if you include the traditional media companies that have adopted the daily deals model
4. Facebook: Facebook launched check-ins and Places. It also launched Deals as a tool to reward check-ins. While each of these offerings is still “1.0” Facebook’s huge footprint can bring a kind of scale to location and deals that few others can match, save Google or perhaps now Groupon in some limited respects.
5. Local product inventory: a number of startups emerged and joined a group of existing companies trying to bring real-time product inventory data online. In Q4 NearbyNow and Milo were acquired and Google launched its own effort.
6. The rise of ‘free’ local data: there are now several companies, including Facebook, Google, Factual, Placecast and SimpleGeo offering free local data to developers. Over time these offerings will become better, more flexible and richer, enabling much more competition in the local, and especially local-mobile, segment. The “free database of places” removes a front-end barrier to developing local sites or applications
7. Local ad networks: CityGrid, Chitika, xAD, WHERE, Verve, Marchex and others emerged with local monetization offerings that hadn’t existed 12 months ago. This is significant for local (and mobile) publishers and developers. Now there are a number of high-quality alternatives to Google and conventional ad networks that offer generic national ads with geotargeting
8. Places (and location) everywhere: Google Places, Facebook Places, Twitter Places; location is now seemingly everywhere.
9. Social as alternative to SEM: While social media and search ultimately go together social marketing emerged as a kind of parallel universe and in some cases alternative to to more traditional PPC-search marketing. And for many smaller companies social media are more “comprehensible” than paid-search or SEO.
10. Noise and more noise: From a small business perspective the world of digital marketing and advertising became vastly more complex, confusing and “noisy.”
January 8, 2011
1. Particular postions, points or places
2. Centers of activity, attention, or concentration
Loci 2010 is a year end review of articles in Local Search that will be appearing over the next week(s). It is a series that I started in at the end of 2008 and and this will make its third appearance. For me, collaboration, cooperation, review and research create the path to increase our understanding of the world. That is even more true in the nascent industry of Local. In that vein, I wanted to share the articles that others in the industry have found significant from 2010.
I have gathered these articles from a range of people, people whom I respect and who are knowledgeable about local search. Each in their own way is a center of activity around local and each has their own particular perspective on which places in Local over the past year are 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 was 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.
January 26, 2010
January 15, 2010
I’ve been watching what we now call the “local online market” or “local search market” for about a decade. And finally in the past year we’ve seen an explosion of interest in “local.”
Strangely, the mobile handset arms race and growth of the mobile Internet this year have made the concept of local more accessible to people. It’s always been empirically clear that people use the Internet for research but mostly buy offline. I always say, “Local is where the money changes hands.” But mobile is now providing a more transparent connection between the digital and the real worlds that helps illustrate the power of place for people.
There’s a ton of great writing about local SEO and search marketing, as well as the future direction of the local market. Much of it happens on Mike’s blog. He brings a kind of passion and near-relentless attention to a host of practical issues that are critical for small businesses and local search marketers to understand.
Mike asked me to collect my favorite or “top posts” pertaining to local this year. That’s very hard to do. Instead, I’ve selected several articles and posts that capture what I think are important issues or developments in the local space from the past 12 months.
I don’t present them in order of importance; this is more like stream of consciousness:
Local Listing Ads: A New, Simplified Ad Unit For Local Business
Google has tried for a long time to find a way to sell directly into the small business market. In the recent past it has relied on a reseller strategy. Now it’s making a bigger direct push with Local Listing Ads and Place Pages. These flat-fee, no keyword ads could be a breakthrough product for Google with SMBs. We don’t know yet.
Link: Google creates a new simplified ad unit for local business
Local Results without a Geo-Modifier
In March, 2009 Google started showing local results (map + 10, then) in categories where there was no geographic modifier. This move was a reflection of what Google had been observing for several years: consumers often don’t include a geo-modifier in a query when they have a “local intent.” Yahoo later followed suit.
Link: Google Maps now showing local 10 pack on broad non geo phrase searches/
Location Everywhere: the Twitter GeoAPI
Twitter released deeper support for geo in August with an API that will enable developers to associate any Tweet with a lat-long. Twitter later bought MixerLabs, which had its own GeoAPI. Facebook has also been working on something more elaborate with location around status updates. It may also be preparing to release its own location API. The larger point is that most content and almost all user-generated content will soon be associated with location, unlocking many interesting possibilities for the PC and, more specifically, mobile users.
Link: Location Location Location
Local Search Ranking Factors Part II
I didn’t participate in this survey but many of the best local SEO folks did, including Mike. The David Mihm coordinated project is a must read guide for any practitioner trying to figure out how to get maximum exposure in Google local results.
Another important post from David Mihm, which led to an extensive debate on a couple of blogs was his Be Wary Of Call Tracking Numbers In Local Search
Link: Local search ranking factors
Link: Be wary of call tracking numbers in local search
TeleAtlas Gets the Boot; Google Goes It Alone
Deciding that mapping was so strategic that it wanted to own the entire value chain, Google fired its mapping data provider TeleAtlas and now uses its own internal resources for Maps data. This is a big, if obscure, story and Mike wrote a good post about it last year.
Link: Google replaces TeleAtlas data in US with Google data
RX for the Yellow Pages
Chris Silver Smith wrote two significant posts about the yellow pages. One discussed how yellow pages directories and other local publishers were getting squeezed off the first page of Google SERPs because of the greater frequency of the Map’s appearance. He also offered 10 prescriptions to “save the yellow pages.”
Link: Brave new world for Yellow Pages – Google nabs marketshare & strangles local directories
Link: What can save Yellow Pages industry
SMBs and the ‘New Local Product Suite’
Marchex unveiled a powerful reputation management tool for SMBs this year (the first of more to come), reflecting the growing importance of social media and the challenges of dealing with it at the local/SMB level. Related to reputation management is a broader portfolio of tools and services that address the cluster of local business needs in the local space. I called this the “new local product suite.”
Link: Marchex releases powerful SMB reputation management tool with search inside
Link: The local product suite now in focus
Mobile & Local
I end as I began with mobile. Any number of posts and articles could go in this category. Mobile is an absolutely huge story, only getting bigger. And local is central to the entire mobile user experience. Google has been remarkable is adapting to the changing marketplace and the advent of the smartphone camera as a search tool. Google Goggles and “augmented reality” are examples of new ways that “local search” on mobile devices is evolving away from the PC model.
Link: Google visual search – Augemented Reality 1.5 and beyond
Link: Augmented reality is also a form of search
Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker got everyone’s attention late last year when she proclaimed (as others had before her) that the mobile Internet would be at least 2X the PC Internet. Since that time Gartner has said that the mobile Internet will be larger than the PC Internet, on a global basis, by as soon as 2013.
Link: Morgan: Mobile Internet to Be 2X the PC Internet
No doubt there are omissions here, maybe even significant ones. Seb Provencher, for example, has written quite a bit about the convergence of local and social and I agree with him. The so-called real-time Web will also have its local angle.
Regardless, I think this year we saw a lot more people wake up to the importance of location and the connection between the Internet and the offline world.
January 13, 2010
The Matt McGee‘s annual Semmy Awards have been announced and 3 of my articles published this year have been nominated. My thanks go out to Matt (and his many minions) for all of his effort in recognizing the many great articles from throughout the year. It is a monumental task to track, collate and order the content. Its an honor & pleasure to have these articles included in the process.
In the Analytics category, Martijn Beijik’s excellant piece tracking the results of a 7-pack placement was nominated:
Tracking Local search Traffic with Analytics
In the Local Search category my article explaining one of Google’s patents was given the nod:
What is Location Prominence?
And in the Google Category, my article about Google’s approach to creating business listings was annointed:
Google Maps, Small Business & Society – who’s crazy?
So not all of these posts were explicitly about local but I think they all discuss leading trends and toward solving problems that local is dealing with or will be dealing with in the near future.
Here are eight posts from 2009 that sum up the year and point toward where we are going in 2010.
1) Battlelle sums up a trend early in the year (March 2009) that made me think about the importance of social media as a traffic source, and there have been several other articles about this topic since, but this particular article captures the reality of the change taking place. I think the implications for local are still playing out, but it’s a trend that will impact local in 2010.
•The Conversation Is Shifting
2) Danny Sullivan has been all over the newspaper/Google conversation and back in April 2009 I ran across this article on his personal blog. Again, this isn’t exactly local and the authors opinions are his own and not necessarily mine or my company’s, but I think it’s interesting to see how newspapers are struggling to monetize their content and I think that concept will impact local more in 2010.
•Google’s Love For Newspapers & How Little They Appreciate It
3) Sebastien Provencher always has great thoughts, plus I am a huge Gladwell fan, so this is a natural for me. Social and local remind me of those 1980’s REESES PEANUT BUTTER CUPS COMMERCIAL’s Hey! you got peanut butter on my chocolate, Hey! you got chocolate on my peanut butter. Most of your social network is relevant to where you are, and where you are is your location or something like that. Anyway, Sebastien clearly frames the opportunity here in April 2009.
•Malcolm Gladwell: “Re-Framing” the Yellow Pages Industry
4) Greg Sterling, as always gives everyone in the industry a compass to follow. I found this recap of all the iPhone apps important not only because it was informative but sort of shocking to see just how many local apps already had some success by mid-year 2009.
•Survey of Local Apps for the iPhone
5) Mike you gave us this terrific illustration of the proliferation of locksmith spam in February 2009 and it has increased the profile of claiming your business listing, stunning at the time and has led to significant change in the industry.
Google Maps Proves More Locksmiths in NYC than Cabs
6) David Mihm’s – thoughts on categorizations – he touches on many of the interesting and difficult questions concerning business listings today.
•Thoughts On Categorization In Local Search
7) Of the things I wrote this year, this one summarizes the core concepts that the aforementioned trends, articles and posts led me to think about: Business Owners: Are You Sabotaging Your Own Local Listings? The key concept is that a business location’s information can be accessed, shared, researched, judged from so many different places, platforms and applications that a SMB needs to establish an anchor and from my perspective that anchor should be a well defined, consistent representation of your NAP (name, address phone).
Enjoy 2010. As a former boss Jeff Herzog from iCrossing used to say, “search will be everywhere”. I think that’s becoming more and more true and as Greg Sterling points out in his post: Location Will Be Everywhere, local search just might be everywhere by the end of 2010….
Gib Olander’s bio….
January 12, 2010
Looking back, I believe 2009 was a transition year in the local media space. Mobile finally came of age after many years of broken promises and put “geo” front and center. Social media became a hot topic in the local media circles, something that was almost unthinkable 3 years ago when I started blogging about the power of the geo-social intersection. Many traditional media firms (Yellow Pages and newspaper publishers) spent the year reorganizing or worrying about their debt level which slowed down innovative deployments. 2009 was also the birth of the Local Social Summit, an event dedicated to this brave new world.
Last year, I was truly inspired by the zeitgeist and wrote my “I Have Seen the Future of Local Media” blog post (it became an eleven-page .pdf document!) in which I explain why the real-time social media revolution is a game changer in the local media space. I also wrote about Why Social Media is Not Just About Merchant Reviews, prepared a list of KeySuccess Factors for User Reviews Deployment, presented a compendium of future user features of The Perfect Local Media Company of 2014 and published a guest post on LeWeb’s blog explaining Why FourSquare Is Not The Next Twitter.
I obviously don’t write in complete isolation and I want to also share with you a few blog posts that truly inspired me in 2009.
In 2010, expect the following:
- It will be the year where “Local” becomes strategic for all media players, triggering the beginning of what I called in 2008 The Local Wide Web
- The economy recovers and new disruptive technologies are born. As the Kelsey Group said at their ILM 09 conference, “Get Ready for the Post Recovery Digital Shift”.
- Social media monetization will start happening on a serious scale through reputation management and online coupons/promotions
- On mobile, 2009 was the year of the iPhone. 2010 will be the year of Android
- In the second half to the year, venture capital will once again start flowing to fund innovative startups, ready to disrupt large industries. We will see a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the “local” space throughout the year.
- Human resources will be an issue in large media organizations. Hiring and retaining talent that understand the shift to mobile and social will be strategic. Entrepreneurial profiles and rewarding risk-taking will have to become the norm.
For those of you that would like to know more about Sebastien Provencher, here is his bio…
January 11, 2010
It seems to me that the two most important developments in local search during 2009 both came from Google. I suppose that’s not much of a surprise in the current local environment, is it? Here’s my top two:
Google Shows Local/Map Results on Generic Queries — you wrote about this on your blog, I wrote about it on Search Engine Land, and many others wrote about it, too. I called it a game changer. It’s huge because all of a sudden you have local business listings showing up prominently for thousands of keywords/phrases that they never appeared on before. It excused lazy search behavior. More importantly, it opened up a whole spectrum of exposure opportunity for small businesses. All of a sudden it was possible to rank on generic terms like “insurance agent” and “italian restaurant.” Huge development, and no surprise that both Bing and Yahoo had followed suit by the end of the year.
Google Launches Place Pages — I was in the middle of a two-month travelogue when this hit, and didn’t really appreciate it until much later when I got home and had time to see what it was all about. I think this will become a game changer, too. This idea of a single URL for “every place in the world,” as Google said (with typical hubris), is really compelling. It’s Google doing what the Yelps and Citysearches and IYP sites have been doing, so it’s kinda of a catch-up move in one sense … but Google has so much traffic and so much interest from business owners who want to be found. This can’t help but be big. I mean, Google’s already using place pages to show real estate listings; what else can they use them for?
And I’m shocked that Google isn’t indexing these pages. I suspect they will at some point. The URLs are already fairly SEO-friendly and some of the pages have really good content. Why not index them? So what if they’re already available in the 7-pack listings; why would Google include business listings from Citysearch or Yelp that may have less content and offer a poorer user experience, when it could show a Google place page in the organic search results?
(The flip side of all this Google talk, of course, is the ongoing saga of Google’s terrible support for small/local business owners. Miriam Ellis wrote a marvelous article about that. And no one’s done a better job of writing about Google’s ongoing problems with spam, hijacked listings, and general technical incompetence than you. So Google’s local track record is far from perfect … still.)
Some other things that stand out for me from 2009:
David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors remains the de facto standard for information about local SEO, and I could retire if I had a dollar for every time I’ve suggested a small biz owner read it.
I continue to love and be fascinated by the convergence of local search and social media. Small business owners were especially creative with Twitter last year, and I think that’s just the start of things. Twitter itself has made no secret of its plans to reach out to small businesses with formal services and tools, and they’ve said that local is an important part of their plans, so it should be interesting to see what develops in 2010.
And I think we collectively tend to under-report on Bing Maps and Local. I’ve always received a lot of traffic to my blog from people looking to learn how to get listed on MSN/Bing maps, how to optimize for it, etc. I documented some of that in this post, showing that eight of the top 50 keywords that send traffic to my blog are about Bing/MSN local, and only four of the top 50 are related to Google maps/local. I suspect that means something, though it might just be that you’re getting all the Google traffic.
January 8, 2010
Daniel Tunkelang is one of those individuals that you probably know little about but who will be influencing our lives a great deal going forward. Since November 2009 he has been
the a Tech Lead/Manager on the local search team at Google and has a long history of heavy hitting in the search environment. His specialty is what is known in search as faceted search which he believes offers a potentially powerful way to approach a broad class of local search problems.
In early December, he reached out to me and I would like to welcome him to the Local Community (btw he seems to have a tough skin which should serve him well ).
Not sure any of it qualifies for your list–the local space is a bit new for me, so I’ll surely have a more targeted list next year! Anyway, here’s some stuff I liked from 2009:
WWW2009 Madrid Proceedings:
Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my! (pdf) A logs-based comparison of search users on different devices
Greg Nudelman at UXMatters:
Best Practices for Designing Faceted Search Filters
Cameras, Music, and Mattresses: Designing Query Disambiguation Solutions for the Real World
And a collection of free resources about faceted search and search user interfaces:
Free Chapter on Faceted Search User Interface Design
Daniel’s bio if you are interested in more nformation about him: