Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Can Facebook Crack the SMB Nut? Can Google?

Greg did an interesting article on Facebook’s move into the SMB market. Whether their decision to forgo resellers is the correct one, time will tell. But has Greg points out, the real question is whether they can deliver compelling value to SMBs, in an easy to use package that drives widespread adoption.

Many have dreamed of this as the holy grail, few have succeeded. Google has been at it longer than anyone and still have not yet put the all of the pieces in place. Facebook has much less SMB baggage than Google but Google has a great deal more experience.

Rather than reproduce some of my thoughts from G+ I am embedding them here.

The Annual Print Yellow Page Page Count And Other Dead Horses

It’s time for the annual print Yellow Page count. And I promised last year to stop beating that dead horse… so this year I will beat several. IMG_2214 Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Page counts in my local print version have declined once again by over 10%. The good news for the Superpage print directory? The rate of decline seems to have slowed. Untitled1 The other good news is that their niche has become clear. They are still doing reasonably well and are still used (believe it or not) in rural areas, the mid-west and by older shoppers (ok very old shoppers). In my research they appear to have a mindshare that exceeds Yelp country wide.

The other good news? Well this isn’t really good news just news that means that the Yellow pages are not alone in the boat. Every other local advertising medium has seen similar declines and similar demographic shifts.

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Consumer Mindshare and Yelp: An Empire in Local Search Or a Wannabe?

Last week Greg Sterling noted: … Yelp and Google. They’re like Spain and Portugal in the 15th Century — rivals trying to carve up the local globe.

The analogy seemed wrong to me as Spain and Portugal were to a large extent equal in their strength. I noted in the comments that “I see the analogy as more like the US vs the Taliban or perhaps Grenada rather than one of equals like Spain vs. Portugal“.

Is Yelp, as Greg portrays, a powerhouse in local search? Or is their position more one of a far distant second to Google as a general local search site with little hope of competing? Or is the answer more complex than that.

When we view Yelp stricly from a consumer frame of reference (and ignore the lack of profitable business model and their thuggish SMB tactics) is Yelp a strong contender in the general local search category?

On the surface, my recent consumer survey would indicate that Yelp is running a far distant second (or third or fourth) to Google with little chance of competing:

Overall

Yet the answer is more nuanced and complex than that. When you parse the data by age, region and urbanicity the picture changes. Much more favorably for Yelp but even with those changes does the data rise to level of proof of Yelp as a general local search engine?

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Which Sites Do Consumers Use to Find a Local Business? Why YP.com is Facing Headwinds

Updated 2/18 with regional and urban data.

On January 20th, I  completed a consumer survey (n=~2500) asking: Which of the following on-line sites have you used regularly to find local businesses? The obvious winner was Google with the YellowPages.com making a surprisingly strong showing.

In a recent article by Greg Sterling, YP.com noted that they were going to compete directly with Google and Yelp as a general purpose directory.

On the surface the results show that YP.com is a contender in people’s minds as a resource for local discovery, with marginally more mindshare than Yelp and roughly the equivalent of Bing & Yahoo combined. In this survey it would even appear that almost 1/4 of the US internet adult population, in choosing none of the listed sites, would possibly be possible targets for YP.com as well.

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However when you dig into the details of the survey YP.com’s problems are much deeper than they appear on the surface. The headwinds that they face may make the goal of competing with Yelp and Google unrealistic.

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Yelp’s 2013 Results and the Headlines that Weren’t

Yelp announced their 2013 “earnings” last week. I am continually shocked by the rosy headlines and the lack of due diligence often present in the reporting.

Some of the more egregious examples of uncritical coverage:

Some were more neutral but still carried an uncritical tone or hints of positive results.

Few if any of the headlines that I found were critical with but one exception.

Here is a chart showing Yelps Revenue Growth compared to Expenses over the past 5 years. I am having trouble seeing a reason for optimism. This has been the same story for many years. See for yourself.

yelp-rev-v-ex-v1

I would suggest that the headlines should have been:

  • Yelp Reports 5th Consecutive Annual Loss
  • Yelp reports 20th Sequential Unprofitable Quarter
  • Yelp, No Profits in Sight as Expenses Rise as Quickly as Income

I think they all must have failed to read Yelp’s forward looking statement buried at the bottom (embarrassingly formatted exactly as on the report).
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Local U & Friends Invite You to the New Local U Forums

Last week was a busy and exciting week for Local U. It has been our long term dream to provide high quality local marketing training and advise on-line. On Thursday we rolled out the Local University Forums.

The Forums will be place where marketers, digital agencies and businesses large and small can get expert answers, detailed local data not available any where else and an opportunity to collaborate with some incredible folks.

Not just the regular speakers at Local U like David Mihm, Mike Ramsey, Aaron Weiche, Mary Bowling and Ed Reese but also folks like Phil Rozek, Nyagoslav Zhekov, Darren Shaw, Andrew Shotland, Carrie Hill, Dan Austin and lots lots more. For me it is exciting because not only will I be able to help others but I stand to learn there every day.

The forums are intended to be a low noise high information environment where questions about site design, local mobile issues, algo changes and local and international local seo can be asked and answered.

At the introductory price of $99/month for the first 50 members, now is the time to join and take advantage of everything the forums have to offer at the lowest possible rate. After the first few days we are well on our way to that goal. The first month is only $49 so you can try it.

For more details you read our announcement here and sign up here.

The Best Advanced Local Search Conference EVER

Featured Keynote by Wil ReynoldsOk. So I am a little biased.

But that being said, last year’s spring Local  U Advanced was one of the most educational and fun events that I have ever participated in and we are bringing it back east. There was more of everything that I love about our industry: more great local content, more great local speakers, more great sharing than I had ever experienced. It was collegial AND educational. And plenty of great food and refreshments.

This year the content is all new & we have TWO great keynotes. David Mihm, Aaron Weiche, Ed Reese, Mary Bowling, Will Scott (sans rant), Mike Ramsey and myself will all be there. And  the great networking and mixers will continue to be incredible as well.

What:

LocalU Advanced: Philadelphia. Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive and Joel Headley of Google have agreed to keynote the event. Wil’s advice on Real Company Sh*t for Local Companies promises to be incredible and you will gain new insights into how Google local really works from Joel. If his talk in NYC last fall in any indication, you will learn about the whys and wherefores of Google local at a whole new level of understanding

When:

March 7 evening and March 8th all day

Where:

Valley Forge DoubleTree by Hilton just outside of Philadelphia. We are offering a special group rate (Group name: MidAtlantic InnKeepers) of $129 for your hotel stay.

Check out the full agenda on our EventBrite page, and save $100 of the $899 with our EARLYBIRD discount code!

OK. I may be biased but I even after I strip out my self serving pride, I think its going to be a great event. Hope to see you there.

Hummingbird, Local Knowledge Graph & Shitty Search Results

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.59.58 AMThe big news earlier in the week was Google’s announcement of the Hummingbird search algo upgrade. InformationWeek noted that “the Hummingbird update expands Google’s use of its Knowledge Graph”.  Local search results were some of the first entities moved to the Knowledge graph and displayed as knowledge graph results. For me there are thus two questions.

Does Hummingbird affect local search results?

Are there any indications of a decline in local search results quality?

The answer, at least as far as I can tell, to both questions seems to be yes.

According to Danny Sullivan, Google started using this new algo “about a month ago”. Moz pegged the rollout at around August 20-22. For the most part this change went unoticed in both local and universal search results. But there was one big change in local that Linda Buquet has covered quite extensively that she first wrote about on August 24th. The timing and results, I think, are not coincidental.

Linda titled this one exactly right: Attack of the Bad Google Local One-Boxes!

What is the attack of the Local One-Boxes? A number of broad head searches like “Buffalo NY Diamonds” or “Denver SEO”  are returning (usually) a single branded, spammy local result. Google seems to have dug into the wayback machine to have pulled out these totally inappropriate results. (Note: as Linda said below it may be necessary to set your location to the same as the geo phrase to see these. That isn’t always the case but it increases the likelihood of surfacing them).

Essentially it appears that Google has once again conflated these head terms with what they suppose to be a branded search and have surfaced spammy pinned local results that we thought had long ago been buried. Hummingbird has worked surprisingly well as demonstrated by the lack of complaints. It is interesting that a problem thought solved long ago would trip it up.

For example if you search on the phrase “Buffalo NY Diamonds” it surfaces a second listing for a local jeweler at the same address that was created long ago for the purpose of keyword spamming “marketing” in local. The problem of Google showing a single branded results was first spotted years ago. It subsequently lead to a spate of one box spam and then, for the most part, squelched by Google. For whatever reason, these spammy local knowledge graph entities seem to have made a come back.

The timing and nature of the results makes me believe that we are seeing “the Hummingbird effect”.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.36.57 AM

When was the last time that you saw a local result for a spammy local SEO listings? The answer: December, 2009. They seem to have returned.

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LocalU Odds and Ends

Local-Advanced-U_180x70Lot’s has been happening at LocalU. We have an advanced LocalU coming up Monday in NYC that has just 5 seats left. If you do sign up be sure to use the discount code WS-LUA10 for 10% off. If you are already signed up be sure to reach out to me and introduce yourself.

We will be announcing our (very busy) winter & spring speaking schedule shortly and it looks like we will be in Dallas, Springfield (MA), Valley Forge, Harrisburg and hopefully the Cupertino area (and perhaps a few more places as well). We are now scheduling for May and the fall of 2014 so if you are interested in having us come to your city, let us know.

We hope to have our full video tape of the LocalU advanced session in Seattle available for purchase shortly and some other cool content as well. We will keep you posted.

We have been busy at the LocalU blog as well with some great articles over the past few months that you might have missed:

Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard? – Mike Blumenthal

The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking – Mary Bowling

Is Your Website Ready for the Holidays? – Mary Bowling

What Kind of Google+ Page Is It? – A Visual Guide to Google+ Local Pages – Mike Blumenthal

How Long Should Your Business Description Be in the Google Places for Business Dashboard? – Mike Blumenthal

Have You Tried Google Support for Local Lately? – Mary Bowling

How To Segment Local Search In Google Analytics (with Free Dashboard!) – Ed Reese (I particularly like the free dashboard that Ed created that gives some incredible insights into where your local visitors are coming from. And what is better than free?).

There will be light postings next week due to travel. I hope to see you in NYC next week.