March 11, 2010
Asking for feedback & testimonials from customers has been a long term practice in the business world. The practice has morphed to some degree by new exposure that on-line review platforms have provided to this information. The rewards are much greater and the affect of running afoul of the community standards can be severe. Yelp may think that “soliciting reviews” is somehow inappropriate but it is a practice that has been going on forever in one form or another. Whether Yelp wants to use those reviews is their business decision. However from where I sit, facilitating a clients ability to provide feedback was and is an appropriate activity for a business to engage in.
That being said, engaging customers in the review process can be much like sex…it can go from the sublime to the immoral in 6 seconds flat. Sometimes the difference between right and wrong is just not that great and some folks seem to miss the distinction all together.
Here are some guiding ideas that I use when considering and analyzing plans to ask for reviews. These are posited more as principless than best practices, things to think about when designing your review policy.
There are a number of different ways to structure a review program. How each business specifically sets it up will depend on the comfort level of the owners, their level of tech savviness, the tools at their disposal and their understanding of their clients. These principles can function to guide your plan’s specifics.
So rather than providing you with a specific formula for your review process I am taking a step back and offering up a framework of “principles” to help you think about the program that you do implement. This framework has proven incrediblty helpful as I work with different business owners establishing a truly functional review program and process that works for them.
Whatever system you implement for the customer, it should be so dead simple that they just don’t have to struggle. The least number of clicks, the straighest path, the least to remember should all be ideals of whatever system you put in place.
This correlates to the above. You want to provide your customers/clients with a range of sites so as to be compatible their online behaviors. It is hard to know if they prefer leaving reviews at one place or another. The more comfort they have with your suggestions the more likely they are to leave the review. You need to be where your customers are. In setting up your program asking them what they prefer is a good idea.
Whatever review process you choose, it should be open, transparent and beyond reproach. An unhappy customer is bad enough but one that thinks you are scamming the review world will be relentless.
Integrated into Business Processes
For a business, saying you will do something versus actually doing it, is a matter of the process being easy for employees and a required part of the internal procedures. This may require employee training and perhaps new procedures to be sure that the ask for reviews happens.
Reviews are like traditional testimonials. If they all occurred last year or the year before both potential clients and the search engines are going to wonder what’s up.
Diversity of review sites
Putting your eggs in one basket is never a good strategy. For example Google has been known to periodically loose reviews from one source or another.
It is also difficult to predict next year’s review site winner and the looser. Being in a range of places protects against both eventualities.
If one review can be seen in 4 review site instead of just one then all other things being equal, a review placed there is more valuable. For example even though CitySearch is declining in popularity, they still have 25 million uniques AND share their reviews with Google, Yahoo, MC and more giving you an opportunity to have the review seen 100 million times
Plan for the Bad Review
Even if you run the best business in the world, you will sooner or later, get a bad review. Decide ahead of time how it will be handled and who will handle it. Ending up in argument on the front steps of the customer is a no win situation and some thought put it in how you are going to respond will avoid the worst outcomes.
What broad principals for a review program would you add to or subtract from the list?
They are flexible to handle most situations but structured enough to provide guidance so that if the clients meets these standards their efforts are likely to meet with success. It allows the business to prioritize the principals so that if compromises need to be need it will be clear what the trade off is.
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 14, 2010
As you know, I think that all searches, like politics, are local. Knowledge should be as well.
There is a huge disconect between what is happening in “local” and many of the businesses on the street that really need to leverage the possibilities for marketing that come from that knowledge. We hope that Getlisted.org Local University can start to fill that gap.
Our first event is scheduled in Spokane, Wa. for February 4th. The event, with a choice of morning or afternoon session, is targeted to businesses that are beginning to explore the possibilities of online marketing. It will be jammed full of information with presentations from David Mihm, Matt McGee, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese of Spokane, Ari Bezman & Ryan Howard of Google and myself.
The seminar costs $129, but you can use the coupon code “mb2010″ to register for only $79. (I am hoping to gather more sign ups than either David or Matt ) There are only 100 seats in each session.
A little background on the Local University…
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:
January 6, 2010
David Mihm, well known for his writing on his blog & at SearchEngineLand and for his work on Getlisted.org, an smb local listing management tool, offers up the articles that he found most important over the past twelve months…
There were a ton of great articles in the Local Search industry this year & the following list really does not do a number of noteworthy posts justice. But here are my choices of articles I couldn’t do without from the past 12 months…
General Interest: Why SEO Still Matters for SMB’s (Lisa Barone / Outspoken Media)
Lisa takes Web 2.0 “thought leader” Robert Scoble to task for his short-sighted view of what SEO actually means in 2009, and highlights why it’s perhaps more important than ever for small business owners. If there were a “rising star” award for Local Search blogging, Lisa would surely win it–although she’s been a regular blogging star for years already.
The State of the Internet Yellow Pages: Brave New World for IYPs (Chris Silver Smith / Search Engine Land)
Chris details the impact that Google’s Local Universal interface has had on IYP companies in 2009.
Tips and Advice: If I Were Launching a Small Business Website Today (Matt McGee / Small Business Trends)
Wow. A FREE, detailed Internet marketing plan for small business owners just getting started on the web courtesy of one of the oldest-school gurus in our space. Well-written and spot-on as usual from Mr. McGee.
Analytics (tie): Tracking Local Search Traffic with Analytics (Martijn Beijk / Blumenthals.com) and Tracking Analytics from the 10-pack (Mike Belasco & Mary Bowling / SEOverflow)
Similar to Liebnitz’ and Newton’s simultaneous yet independent discovery of Calculus, Martijn and the SEOverflow team both solve a long-time headache for Local SEOs by detailing an ingenious strategy to segment 10-pack clicks from organic clicks.
Research / Analysis: What Is Location Prominence? (Mike Blumenthal)
Yes, I could have nominated the Local Search Ranking Factors for this award but no one outside of Bill Slawski has ever dived into a Google patent as assiduously as Mike did on this one — and translated it into plain English for the rest of us.
Holding Google’s Feet to the Fire (tie): Is It Time to Send Google Maps Back to the Drawing Board? (Matt McGee / Search Engine Land) and Go-to-Client and Home-Based Businesses Out of Google’s Local Loop (Miriam Ellis / SEOigloo)
It seems a shame for Mike not to win the award in this category, but we’ll use the argument “he wins it every year” to justify his exclusion. Matt calls Google out very publicly for its over-aggressive merging on Search Engine Land (an issue which was largely fixed within a week) and Miriam continues to agitate for, in her typically polite but insistent fashion, a solution to the service area problem (which has still not been solved despite a constant outcry from the Local SEO community since the very dawn of the 10-pack).
Excellence in Business Listing Data Exposition (tie): SMN Webcast Recap: Local Business Listings (Matt McGee / Small Business SEM) and Who Powers Whom? A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers (Yours Truly / GetListed.org)
Matt does a bang-up job of recapping the Search Marketing Now webinar featuring representatives from infoUSA, Acxiom, and Localeze, and I take things one step further with the most up-to-date chart of which data providers feed which search engines.
Corporate Philanthropy: Google Maps Should Consider a Canonical Phone Number Tag (Chris Silver Smith / Natural Search Blog)
Chris proposes a solution to help clean up business listings for the local search engines and data companies.
Business Owner Philanthopy: The Complete List of Google Local Business Center Categories (Mike Blumenthal)
Mike came across the full taxonomy of Google’s LBC and published for business owners and SEOs everywhere.