February 18, 2008
I did an interview with Rand Fishkin yesterday that was published at SEOMoz.org. One of the questions that came up in the interview was:
There have been estimates that nearly 40% of all search queries have some sort of local intent – to what degree do you think that’s an accurate estimate?
Here is the answer I provided:
This research is from my local guru, Greg Sterling. I have not looked at the methodology or the numbers and can’t speak directly to their accuracy, but the source is impeccable and the logic is valid. It provides a useful lens for understanding local. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is 10%, 40%, 60% or more. If you are in one of the industries that needs local and can benefit from it, then you need it and you probably need professional help to navigate the maze that is local. If you need it and you don’t have a strong presence, it can be a disaster as seen in the case widely reported last December of the florist that was affected by a competitor gaining the Authoritative OneBox.
Local search is an aggregation of a million niches which will come to local as the ROI becomes more obvious to each of them. As the granularity of local data increases and functional mobile technology proliferates, more and more business sectors will be impacted and will benefit from participating in local.
Greg Sterling pointed out to me that the question is really a proxy for the question: Is Local a big deal? Should we take this seriously? And he pointed out that “most people still don’t get the online-offline connection aspect of local”.
Yesterday I experienced a case in point. Our family was spending a ski weekend with the families of my college friends and as it was raining, we were discussing books and chronic pain relief , the specialty of the friend with whom I was talking.
He thought he had ordered a certain book, but couldn’t remember exactly where or even what the title was and so we started a search in Google. After he made a few unsuccessful searches on Google for the author or the book name, we were able to tease out both on search 5 or 6. That took us ultimately to Amazon to verify the book and its name. From Amazon, we visited Borders.com to see if it was in either his or wife’s order account (which took us back to Amazon). Ultimately he discovered that he requested the book be sent to the local Borders for his pickup. Tomorrow when he gets back to Detroit, he is heading into his local Borders and picking up the book.
It reinforces Greg’s point that ultimately many searches have a local intent. We after all exist in a local world and fulfill our real needs in that world. One could say to paraphrase that “All search is Local” in that it is intended to impact our real lives in some way.
February 14, 2008
This was mostly written as a response to comments in my interview with Miriam at SEOIgloo. I realized that I can only write so many words before breakfast so I have posted the comment slightly changed here.
There are those who say that “local search gets no respect, it should be important to all” and others in the search industry that look at local and say: “It is not a significant force, its not important and doesn’t affect my clients”.
I have often thought the “local is over rated”/”local is underated” debate misses the point to some extent.The debate is more nuanced than that. And the answer is: Yes.
If you need Local, you need local.
We are in a nascent market, local search, that has not yet fully developed. It requires indexed content from the producers of the information and searches from the consumers of it. It will use new ways of accessing this information
So as more and more information comes on line, as Google (or whomever) provides more and more granularity, users and producers both will follow along as they realize that they will benefit.
Each company will come to local when it is in their benefit to do so. Five years ago, local wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel business, 4 years ago it wasn’t important unless you were in the hotel or florist industry, Three years ago you would have added cars and restaurants to the list and so on.
As your industry or the industry groups that you represent benefit from local, your business will need to be there. For now it local is a collection of niches.
As the information granularity improves, say WalMart posts local inventory, it will also impact the usage and the companies that will need to be there. If Target sees Walmart there then the process will progress on the data side as well. Local will become the ultimate aggregation of niches.
As the information improves in any given industry segment and as the business feels the need to be in local, the searchers will be there & the SEM’s will follow. In the meantime the number of niches that benefit will continue to grow.
Ultimately, as Miriam points out on SEOigloo, even with Ebay sellers all bussiness is local. (Just look at the comparison of internet shopping to total shopping).
The other looming change will be in how we access that information. The movement toward hand held computing ala the iPhone will change all of this is unforeseeable ways but most all of them will have an impact on local.
The game has just started so it would be foolish to place any bets on who does or doesn’t need the capability. I think we can agree that the number of niches that benefit from local is growing. At some point what was a collection of niches becomes the majority and the tipping point is reached. Keep your options open and take advantage as you see the opportunity.
Regardless there are industry segments that need to be in local now and they need solid advice and counsel.
February 8, 2008
While reporting on Apple’s mobile strategy at MacWorld I was enamored by the elegance and usability of Apple’s AppleTV2.
It solved a problem that we didn’t know we had (how to avoid driving to BlockBuster), was easy to use, very cool and consistent with Apple’s overall strategy of using the computer (or 2) as the center of the personal digital information flow.
It also struck me that Apple already had all of the elements in AppleTV2 that would make for compelling local ad delivery: location awareness, attentive audience, knowledge about tastes & interests, a credit card on hand (just one click away), demographic information and more that I hadn’t thought of. I dismissed the idea as it seemed that Apple was not even remotely discussing the idea. I should have known better than to think that Steve Jobs would leave money on the table.
This recent patent review from AppleInsider opened my eyes to both the incredibile potential of the idea and the thought that Apple had obviously put into the idea. The patent reviews the use of context sensitive widgets that can pop up on your TV screen as a funtion of the music that you are listening to or the video that you are watching. These widgets could be preprogrammed into the media or if “the content is broadcasted, such as live television, then a widget could potentially be downloaded as part of the broadcast signal from a cable head-end, or provided through a separate communication such as an Internet connection, and then displayed over the content.”
February 7, 2008
Google News’ New Local Angle – Greg Sterling, SELÂ detailing Google’s new local news service, similar to topix.com
In CBS Test, Mobile Ads Find UsersÂ – Laura Holson, NY Times
CBS plans to announce on Wednesday that it is trying one of the first serious experiments with cellphone advertising that is customized for a personâ€™s location. Its CBS Mobile unit is teaming up with the social networking service Loopt, which allows its subscribers to track participating friends and family on their mobile phones.Â
Porn, not ‘localisation,’ is what users are searching forÂ – telecoms.com
Content, not local information, is what most users are looking for when using search on their phones. And, as on the fixed Internet, much of that content is pornographic, Farhad Divecha, director of search-engine-marketing agency AccuraCast, told delegates at the recent Mobile Search Conference, held in London.Â
Study: Free Mobile Directory Assistance To Overtake PaidÂ – Mark Walsh, mediapost.com
February 5, 2008
Last week I received an automated email from Yahoo Local that hit the target for automated communications. It sent me relevant information in a timely fashion about something that I cared about. I was impressed. I had encouraged Google to follow a similar path. But alas not all surveys work equally well.
MerchantCircle must have been reading my blog as they also sent along a request to fill out a survey. While the email and survey were an improvement over MerchantCircle’s previous bait and switch (see here and here) promotional efforts the survey still didn’t quite make the grade.
The survey questions all seemed pointed to MerchantCircle wanting to know how good of a prospect I was rather than what information I might provide to actually improve their service:
MerchantCircle has a history of less than stellar promotions. This one, like all of theirs, came unsolicited and filled no particular need of mine. It seemed like they were more interested in my money than in my opinion. Again, another lesson to be learned. They are getting better, but still a ways to go.
I can only imagine what their sales promotion manager is like. Here is the full survey if you would like to look at all of the questions.
January 30, 2008
Many small business people feel embattled, besieged and forgotten. The move toward the “free” business listings of the Internet has removed one monkey from their back – the FUD of the Yellow Pages only to replace it with the inscrutable Google Maps.
Small business people hate standing in line and begging for help ala Google Maps for Business Group. Why isn’t my listing showing? Why can’t I get in the category of my competitor? How come my competitor has the only OneBox on the search results? The questions are asked but not often answered.
At some level Yahoo seems to understand what SMB’s feel better than Google. Last week after I modified a local listing with Yahoo they sent me this email:
It made me feel good and I dare say would make most small business people feel the same. I knew that the listing was live, I had received an acknowledgment of my effort and they had reached out to me.
I recognize it for what it is: good but automated communications. None the less I felt a certain warm and fuzzy. There was a lesson to be learned here. I even took the time to take the survey and was further impressed. When taking the survey it seemed that they were sincere about wanting to know what I thought and that they did get what it takes to deal with small business folks. (more…)
January 21, 2008
After Greg Sterling surveyed SEL readers on their mobile internet usage patterns, I thought it would be interesting to survey a totally distinct user group. Greg agreed and we surveyed the 1123 registered readers of OleanInfo.com, of those 124 took the survey. OleanInfo.com is a local portal site catering to folks interested in Olean NY. Roughly 80% of OleanInfo’s readership lives within 40 miles of Olean, NY, a small town in western NY State.
The readership was chosen for contrast with the SEL readers. Presumably they are rural or of rural origins and less technically oriented. They proved to be, as a group, classic “late adopters”. 85.8% of the OleanInfo respondents were over 40 and 58% over 50 and as a group had very low mobile internet use. This stood in contrast to the SEL readership that was 84% under 40 of which almost half access the mobile internet once per week or more.
â€¢ 90% of respondents report using their cells to text message (thus they do sooner or later adopt)
â€¢ 0% penetration of the iPhone
â€¢ Very low (12%) penetration of traditional smartphones
â€¢ 87% had no mobile internet usage AT ALL
â€¢ 26% reported using Free DA and of those 32% used Goog-411 and 44% uses Free-411. (Remember that the Goog-411 billboard campaign took place in Olean)
A more complete write up of the data is available at SearchEngineLand: Comparing Mobile Search Surveys: Early Adopters Vs. Mainstream Users
January 17, 2008
Updated 9:00 am 1/18
One of the on-going problems confronting any local search environment is the difficulty of keeping local data fresh. The many gyrations and the long path of local data before it actually shows up in Google Maps almost guarantees a persistent accuracy problem.
Imagine though local sites that are closer to the end user and with “fresher” data feeding that data in real time into a Google My Maps environment. The implications are significant as RSS feeds from local sites provide a way to provide a potential layer in Maps that is “guaranteed fresh”. (Credit goes to Greg Sterling for providing insight & clarity on this point.)
Well it appears that Google Maps is allowing a limited number of “trusted” partners to provide exactly such feeds directly into My Maps. Merchant Circle with reviews and coupons and Topix with news are providing RSS feeds of their data to Google Maps via My Maps.
Here is a screen shot of a Merchant Circle Coupon feed from Indianapolis that shows up in Google My Maps:
At the bottom of the feed this disclaimer appears:
Displaying content from feed.merchantcircle.com
The content overlaid onto this map is provided by a third party, and Google is not responsible for it.
To view this feed in Maps just click here: Local Activity for Indianapolis, IN. There appear to be similar feeds for every city that MerchantCircle covers. Just to clarify, these results from the feeds are showing up, mixed in with standard Community Map results. It is conceivable to me that at some point they will be further blended with standard Map results in the future. For example if you searched on Dr Joeâ€™s Chiropractic Center Idaho Falls Id you will find one of the pins from the feed mixed into the results.
Topix.com also seems to be providing feeds of news stories (see screen capture below) which offers up the interesting possibility of viewing news stories through a geo specific lens.
January 15, 2008
The Chicken has Landed – Sandra Niehaus, Closed Loop Marketing on the role of linkbait worms as feed for surrogate rubber chickens.
Microsoft Takes â€˜Localâ€™ Targeting into Stores – Greg Sterling, Sreenwerk
What Does Your PPC Ad Say About You – Matt McGee, smallbusinesssem.com does a followup piece on MerchantCircle’s marketing stratgies.
Rural Verticals: The Shift of Small Town Auction Advertising – Peter at The Local Onliner
Introducing the SemmysÂ – Matt McGee of SmallbusinesSEM has introduced a new industry award.
The following are the nominees in the Local Search category for the 2008 SEMMY Awards. The judge(s) will narrow this group down to 5-6 finalists. Congratulations to all nominees! Thanks for the recognition!
- Local Search Interviews, Information, and Resources
Michael Gray, Graywolf | 2/5/07
- Location Prominence and Differences in Local OneBox and Google Maps
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 2/8/07
- Googleâ€™s forced choice for the Authoritative Web Site
Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Mapsâ€¦ | 2/12/07
- Local Numbers: Setting the Record Straighter
Greg Sterling, Screenwerk | 3/1/07
- Google Local Search Glossary
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 3/4/07
- The Latest Local Search facts and figures
Simon Heseltine, Search Engine Tigers | 3/7/07
- Local Search: Users First?
Cathy Hillen-Rulloda, Avante Gardens | 3/27/07
- Google Reviews: Reputation + Quality + Snippets + Clustering
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 4/6/07
- Yahoo tackles Geographic Challenges of Web Search Results
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 5/20/07
- Girl Scouts with Guns: Geographic Coding in Google Location Searches
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 8/5/07
- When Might Google Show Local Search Information in Web Search Results?
Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea | 8/12/07
- Yahoo Local Now Features “User Denigrated Content”
Mike Blumenthal, Search Engine Land | 9/11/07
- Everything You Need to Know About FRO (Fake Review Optimization)
Andy Hagans, Tropical SEO | 9/20/07
- Five Reasons Why The Mobile Web Sucks
Scott Karp, Publishing 2.0 | 9/26/07
- Give Local Search Marketing a Shout Out with PlaceShout
Lisa Barone, Bruce Clay Blog | 10/11/07
- Local Search on Facebook
Larry Sullivan, Local Biz Bits | 10/11/07
- Geotargeting Location by IP Address = SEO Death
Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide | 10/14/07
- The REAL Problem with Local Search
David Mihm, Mihmorandum | 10/25/07
- How many Google Coupons are there?
Mike Blumenthal, Understanding Google Mapsâ€¦ | 11/3/07
- Anatomy & Optimization Of A Local Business Profile
Chris Silver Smith, Search Engine Land | 12/17/07
- Google Reviews Review
Miriam Ellis, SEO igloo | 1