Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

How Consumers Find a B & B


We recently completed a basic Local U seminar for bed and breakfast owners attending the MidAtlantic Innkeepers Conference in Baltimore. To augment the seminar I decided to create a large scale consumer survey using Google Survey as to how consumers find a B & B and what online resources that they use to do so. The survey mirrored the specialty lawyer survey that I conducted on behalf of Moses and Rooth last December.

During the last week of February, 2013, we surveyed a representative sample of ~1300 American adult internet users that were 18 and older to better understand their behaviors when making a decision about choosing a B & B. The methodology created survey results with a margin of error of less than +/- 2.8%.

We asked three questions that moved from the broader question of where visitors started their search, offline or online, and examined their behaviors as they moved through the decision process. The specific questions were:

If you were looking to book a Bed & Breakfast where would you start your search?

If you were to search for a Bed and Breakfast on the Internet what would be most important to you?

If you searched for a Bed & Breakfast on Google, what would you do first?

Where do consumers start their search for a Bed and Breakfast

It seems self evident that the bulk of activity when looking for a bed and breakfast starts (and likely ends) at the search engines. The decline of print is articulated in these results as is the low usage of Facebook and other social networks. Like in the lawyer study, Facebook usage for this task was more than 10 x less than the use of search. More interesting to me is the apparent importance of “pimping out” your Google listing as searchers are much more likely to look the visuals and map at Google and at not just the reviews. One possible tactic suggested by the survey would the use interior StreetView to gain a visual edge in conversion optimization of the Google business listing.

You can find the complete study at LocalU’s blog and download a PDF of the study there as well.

These results offer an interesting contrast to the lawyer survey. To a certain extent these two industries are at the opposite ends of the local search spectrum. In one (the lawyer search), consumers need to develop knowledge about truly local resources while in the other (the B & B search) consumers need to develop knowledge about a distant local resource.

Continue reading

Siri: When did you start working?


Siri

Last night I was driving to Baltimore for an upcoming LocalU seminar. I heard the ding of a received text while listening to a podcast and I was curious. I asked Siri to read it to me. She did. She asked if I wanted to reply, I said yes. She sent my response flawlessly.

A while later I was heading down the highway and glanced at my email and wanted to send off a quick response to one ( I know, I know…it’s dangerous. Do not try this yourselves). I dictated, she understood me and inserted my response correctly into the email.

At 9:30, just outside of Williamsport and dog tired, I pulled over to the side of the highway and asked her to recommend a few nearby hotels as I couldn’t see any signs off  of the exit. She asked me which of the several choices I wanted and if I wanted to call one or get driving directions. I indicated that I wanted driving directions and  she guided me to the next exit and through a maze of service roads to a decent night’s sleep.

Hmm… it wasn’t until this morning that I realized with a start that she was 4 for 4. Was it an aberration and the Siri brain farts will start again today? I think she was showing off.

Slowly, ever so slowly, it seems that Siri is getting smarter. When did that happen?

Loci 2012 – Andrew Shotland


Andrew Shotland is a well-known SEO practitioner and author of www.localseoguide.com and the trendy new applemapsmarketing.com.  His proudest achievement on the Web can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipkSRwgVtpA

*************

When reflecting on the year, I like to think about it less in terms of specific niches like “local seo”, “seo” or even “local search”.  It’s not that 2012 wasn’t a watershed year for a lot of this stuff, but rather that the forces that are shaping the landscape of these niches are often the same that are affecting the Web as a whole.  So here’s what caught my attention in 2012:

1. 2012 – The Year We Start Paying For It

In 2007, Radiohead released it’s new album, “In Rainbows”, online and offered it at whatever price you wanted to pay for it.  Many opted to pay $0 while some paid more. It was a big success.  In 2011, Radiohead release “The King of Limbs” via their website and this time charged $9.99.  It too was a success.  And there was no record label between Radiohead and its fans.  In 2012, it seemed as if more “creators”, particularly media creators, were experimenting with getting their customers to pay for these creations, thus avoiding business models such as advertising and using distribution middle-men.  My favorite examples of the past year include Marco Arment’s “The Magazine”, Louie CK’s “Live At The Beacon Theater”, show, The Oatmeal’s Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad and Andrew Sullivan’s soon-to-be-independent Daily Dish (technically announced in 2013, but the deal was cut in 2012 right?).

While each is an example of a strong voice with a loyal following tapping into their fan-base, I was particularly impressed with the launch of The Magazine, as it stood in direct contrast to the failure of News Corp’s “The Daily”.  It’s a classic story of an independent Web developer who understood the medium and his audience to produce a low-budget, high-quality service while a media giant spent $30 million doing the exact opposite.

And let’s not forget about the millions raised for new projects by Kickstarter.

For me, this trend, along with the continuing shift of our time spent on the Web to mobile and tablets, is critical to my thinking about how I am approaching this year, and how I am approaching SEO for myself and my clients.  After Google’s Farmer (AKA “Panda”) Update in 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “Are You Radiohead?”, where I wondered aloud that with today’s SEO, you need to be the Radiohead of your particular niche to succeed. If I were to write that piece today, I might change the title to “Are You The Oatmeal?”  In other words, ask yourself is what you are doing so great that people want to support it?

And I think this is going to be a key philosophy driving Web strategy, and not just to rank #1 for “Viagra”.

2. Mobile Customer Loyalty Apps Are Da Bomb
Let’s get a bit more down-to-earth on this one.  Sure Google Places + Local had a lot of drama in 2012.  Yes, Apple launched maps, Facebook launched Nearby.  There were a lot of big events.  But to me, the fact that my local burrito joint started texting me with points everytime I bought the kids an Itty Bitty Beanie Burrito and the local butcher shop had a tablet near the register that I could use to check in, was a telling signal to me that this stuff was suddenly everywhere.  For those of you who are not on the local SMB text messaging bandwagon, you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective, high-growth ways to keep in touch with your customers.  That said, I think we are going to see a shake-out of the hundreds of start-ups that are operating in this area, while at the same time, I don’t think we’re going to see any one platform become dominant.

3. Local SEO ToolSets Become All The Rage
As I mentioned in my SEL piece “SEOMoz + GetListed: Let the SMB Toolset Death March Begin”, last year it seemed like everyone I knew was developing some kind of local SEO tool.  That trend is only going to continue in 2013.

4. Google+Local Keeps On Iterating & Irritating
I’ve got to mention Google right?  For SMBs and SEOs that serve them, Google+Local 2012 was an absolute train wreckStill is in many ways.  That said, it seems like Google is slowly starting to improve things.  From actual phone support to the G+ page management you recently reported on, I think we are going to see a continual gradual evolution of the service.  It will still have plenty of bugs.  Data will continue to disappear.  SMBs will continue to be frustrated.  And SEOs will still have a lot of work to do.

5. Apple Maps Will Sneak Up On Us
While my recently launched Apple Maps blog may bias my thinking, Apple Maps’ launch last year was perhaps one of the most significant events in the local search world.  Say all you want about how screwed up the service is, the fact is that even with the Google Maps iOS app out there, I bet millions of people are still using the Apple Maps app.  And the fact that it is baked into all iOS apps that use maps means it’s not going away.  In the long-run, Apple Maps is the biggest threat to Google when it comes to local search.  I expect Apple to quietly improve the service significantly this year and towards the end of 2013 I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced a big update that stimulates a lot of people who switched to Google Maps to retry the app.  It’s still going to be a rough go for businesses that want to optimize for Apple Maps, which of course means more fun for SEOs who figure it out.

6. 2012 – Great Year For Local SEO
I think Aaron Wall said that SEO is getting so tough that in 2013 we will see a lot of consultants exit the business.  In some ways he is correct.  I already see a number of my colleagues moving away from Google Places SEO services.  But 2012 created so much opportunity to help and educate marketers that I see nothing but green field in 2013 for those that have the enthusiasm and think of themselves as the Radiohead of SEO.  Stay thirsty, my friend

Loci 2012 Important Trends in Local – Ted Paff


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 issues that affect him and his clients in the local space.

*****

Here are a few articles that influenced my thinking in 2012 with respect to Google, local search and some of the emerging trends in local:

Google
The main story line in 2012 for local was that Google+Local is a train wreck. In addition to countless bugs, the complexity of managing the page makes most time-starved local business owners stick their head in the sand. Mike, your review solicitation guide is an instant classic and joins David’s annual magnum opus as a must-read.

Nyagoslav got me thinking with this article about the impact of privacy on review solicitation in various different industries. However, not asking for reviews reduces both quantity of reviews and the average ratings.

You presented data that pointed to the importance of a local business’ total web presence (in question 2) and broad review distribution (in question 3). It is still a little surprising to me how poorly understood the buying cycle is for most local businesses.

I don’t think Google+ will replace Facebook as my social destination of choice and that leaves me unclear what role Google+ fills in the ecosystem.

Hope springs eternal for a local search alternative
Based on how embedded Google products are in my life, this article got me to think about the risk of relying too much on any one service provider. In addition, Google’s move to prioritize profit over completeness/quality of search results with merchants, makes me wonder about Google’s future monetization strategies in local.

As a result, I am hopeful for the creation and evolution of local search alternatives. Facebook is an obvious possibility with lots of cool ways to build a local search business. Go Facebook go!! Apple’s Passbook along with their new-found interest in maps has real possibility to jumpstart their local offerings. Go Apple go!!

Emerging trends in offering digital products/services to local SMBs
Building a business serving local small/medium businesses (SMBs) is hard. There is so much truth in here, it hurts. However, businesses are being built in local.  But stories like this and this lead me to wonder if local SMBs understand the ROI of their marketing spend.

Speaking of ROI on marketing spend, Groupon has issues. The stock market knows it and its employees know it. However, there are some very smart people working at Groupon and they have a lot of cash. They are busy reshaping Groupon by buying/building/integrating a POS systemscheduling systempayments system and yield management system.

Viewed as an arc, Groupon’s acquisitions point toward a different type of digital marketing business emerging to serve local businesses. Digital marketers that integrate marketing services into the operational workflow of local businesses solve a lot of problems for local businesses and clarify the ROI of marketing dollars. Intuit/DemandForceConstant Contact and Avvo are good examples of this trend. Even Google is at the edge of this trend.

Mike, thanks for lovingly tending to the best forum for all things Google and local. Many of us would be much worse off without you. To your many readers, thanks for leaving amazing comments to Mike’s posts.

Keyword Not Provided Passes 70% as Chrome Makes ALL Searches HTTPS


My keywords not provided passed 70% just as Google Chrome has started switching all searches to secure search (https) for all users. Obviously the technical nature of my readership puts my site at the vanguard of this new reality.

But the Chrome switch to HTTPS, which started on December 10th, presages a big jump in not provided numbers for all websites. The secure search occurs in Chrome whether you are logged in or whether you are logged out and searching in in cognito mode. It was only on August 2nd, that my blog passed 60% for not provided traffic from Google. The trend was accelerating even before this most recent change to Chrome.

Of my 15,228 visitors over the past 30 days that came via Google search, 10,661 of them, or 70.009%, did not show the keyword data.

I should have written this post last week as my keywords not provided hit 69%. It would have made for a better title.

 

 

Google Map for iOS Ships


Late yesterday, as you probably already  know by now, Google Maps for iOS appeared in the app store. The product includes, turn by turn directions, transit directions, traffic information, street view and the ability to sync your searches and directions with your desktop.

The early (and frequent) reviews are predominantly and overwhelmingly positive. The legitimate criticisms offered include:

  • the inability to do offline navigation,a feature in iOS maps and critical with spotty cell service,
  • no iPad app yet
  • a lack of bicycle routes
  • slowness, choppiness and performance issues (definitely on the iPhone 4 but perhaps others as well)

photo1

In my initial test, compared to iOS Maps, Google Maps is significantly faster at generating maps. Its ability to disambiguate and find locations is superior. And I assume that its database of places is better but I have yet to test that.

It does not however integrate with SIRI which from a car based “workflow” point of view is a huge drawback. Not necessarily Google’s fault but a typical use case for me is to ask SIRI about a location and from there get directions. It is mostly hands off and very easy. Speed of map generation is not as important as the convenience of getting directions in a mostly hands free way that is critical. All in all Google Maps appears to be a great mapping product.

Amazing what Apple had to do to get Google to provide turn by turn on the iPhone. One wonders though, even with the hoopla how many iPhone owners will take the time to download and use this product instead of Apple Maps or whether Apple Maps is “good enough”.

The Disconnect Between What SMBs Use Facebook For and What Consumers Use it For


Last week at Kelsey it was reported that an “astounding 41.7% of SMBs surveyed by BIA/Kelsey say they see Facebook most importantly as an acquisition tool”. Astounding is right. That is a huge disconnect with reality.

My recent survey of how consumers find lawyers tallied that 2.1% of the US adult internet users would start their search at their favorite social network. 32.7% indicated that they would start their search at a search engine or elsewhere on the internet. In other words a consumer looking for a lawyer is almost 16 times as likely to start their internet search for a specialty lawyer anyplace BUT Facebook. They indicated that they were 5 times as likely to start their search in the printed Yellow Pages than on their favorite social network. Granted this is lawyers but it is likely that these percentages hold roughly true for other industry segments as well. We have seen a similar disconnect at our Local University presentations where SMB attendees have reported that 68% Have Facebook Pages but only 28% have claimed their Google Places Listing.

Facebook is an incredible platform for retention, community building, awareness but I see this huge disconnect amongst SMBs that think that it is prime territory for client acquisition. If any of you have clients that have missed this critical point, I am reprinting last week’s graph sideways so that it is more obvious. (The number on the far right is Facebook.)

facebook-arrow

This disconnect could actually lead to annoyed customers rather than new customers. Facebook is social. Direct customer acquisition activities is just the opposite. My wife said to me the other day that she DID NOT want her lawyer, doctor or dentist interacting with her in that environment. Certainly there are some business types that she wouldn’t mind interacting with, for example the local cupcake bakery, but even there interacting needs to be more social than anything. I don’t think her atypical. I think Facebook runs a grave risk of losing their core users if client acquisition becomes the standard operating mode there.

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1)


What makes for a good Author photo in the Local results?

Author photos are increasingly showing in Google’s local search results. Since first appearing in local results in February of this year, author photos have slowly and steadily increased in frequency. In most markets you may only see one author photo in the local results but in some markets a preponderance of results display them. This blended result from a legal search in the Orlando market, with its variety of images, put the question front and center as to what makes for a good avatar in local results.

The interesting variety in the array of photos in this particular search result – some old, some young, no women, bordered, without borders, bright colors, muted colors, looking left, looking right – immediately elevated for me the idea that click through rates AND conversions would in all likelihood be influenced by differences in these photos. In looking at the results perviously, I had encouraged my client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law, to use an open, friendly close up photograph. But after showing these results to several people I realized it likely that there was more to avatar photo preferences than met the eye. And that the role of an author photo in local might be different than in general search results.

I wanted to better understand the issues with these photos so I embarked on an effort to learn how other experts might address the situation and how consumers might evaluate these photos. I invited Cyrus Shepard, who has done thorough testing of his own author photo, AJ Kohn who has written extensively about authorship and Matt McGee, an editor at MarketingLand that has written broadly about social (and who has the best avatar of all time), to give their opinions as to which of these photos were most effective and why.

The second prong of my effort to understand how these images might influence results was to create a consumer survey using the Google survey tool to ask 1500 adult internet users the question: If you were selecting a lawyer based on these images, which would you select? The results of the survey with comments from Cyrus, AJ and Matt will be published in the very near future.

My goal in doing this exercise was not to profile the ideal avatar photo but to start a conversation to get myself and others thinking about what questions we should ask when creating these photos, how might the role of avatar photos for local differ than that of regular author photos and how to get started advising a client as to the direction they should take. In other words, what is a good starting point for your local author image.

I gave Cyrus, Matt and AJ the following charge:

1) Which avatars in the above search result do you prefer and why?

2) What makes for a good avatar. Are there design principles or other general guidance to use when creating one?

3) I am going to do a Google survey and see what consumers say about this specific group of photos

4) And then show you the results of the consumer survey so you can comment and add additional insights

Before I share the initial, pre survey impressions of Cyrus, AJ and Matt with you, take a moment to examine the avatars yourself and decide which ones you like best, which ones you think would perform best in the real world and why…..

Continue reading