Archive for the ‘Local Search’ Category

Localeze Upgrades Identity Management

June 3, 2010

The entire realm of local business data is morphing quickly into the more complex and nuanced realm of identity/presence management and reputation management. I learned this morning about yet another local reputation product that will debut in a few weeks.

And this morning Localeze announced that it had upgraded its Business Registration Manager:

[Localeze's] new and improved Business Registration Manager (BRM) which further validates listing ownership of a business’ online identity. The newly launched BRM establishes ongoing dialogue with verified business listing authors, creating trusted authorized relationships, which yield a high level of confidence in listings quality for local search platforms . . .

The BRM upgrade, which includes a new design and interface, allows users to quickly claim their anchor business listing identity (Name, Address, Phone Number) and enhance listings with descriptive keywords and links. The web application gives complete 24/7 access to update, revalidate, and manage local search business listings.

With the “Manage Listings” user interface, validators identify listings that need improvement based on a proprietary automated analysis and provide recommended corrective action. Through the BRM, Localeze will now proactively notify clients of the status of their listings with a monthly dashboard and link for them to correct and update their data, and re-verify their status as the authorized owner of the business listings.

Localeze is increasingly positioned as a one-stop shop for businesses to manage their identities and data across a wide range of local distribution partners. As I suggested in my previous post about the repositioning, Localeze now sees itself more like CityGrid than Infogroup.

Citysearch Now Just One Publisher at CityGrid

June 3, 2010

Jay Herratti is now the CEO of CityGrid Media — not Citysearch. Kara Nortman runs day to day operations for Citysearch, InsiderPages and Urbanspoon, the three local properties owned and operated by the new entity CityGrid Media. There are also strategic investments in OrangeSoda and MerchantCircle.

I asked Herratti what he will be doing on a daily basis now? He laughed and said that he will primarily be helping evangelize and promote the CityGrid network and overseeing the ongoing development of its platform and infrastructure.

CityGrid has quickly emerged as the most prominent of the new group of local ad networks, which also include Where, Local AdXchange and to varying degrees LSN and Verve Wireless. However all of these are either exclusively or predominantly mobile ad networks, while CityGrid is “platform agnostic.” In addition, some of these use CityGrid to provide fill for their own networks. There’s also Google AdSense of course, as well as various more traditional ad networks that also offer geo-targeting. (Local.com’s white label IYP network is a version of this as well.)

CityGrid however is the most visible and arguably the best positioned of the bunch. It also offers the most direct alternative to Google AdSense for publishers, although CityGrid can be used beside AdSense as well.

According to the official material from IAC:

CityGrid aggregates more than 700K paying advertisers including YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com and Dex, and reaches over 140M unique users across more than 150 web and mobile partners including Bing.com, MapQuest, AOL and more.

The CitySearch sales force now becomes the CityGrid Media sales force. It will be selling Citysearch as one of many properties in a much broader network. But that pitch is not far removed from what has been going on at Citysearch for some time. And because it owns or controls a considerable amount of its own traffic, CityGrid is in a stronger position than some of its independent sales channel competitors, which must get a substantial chunk or a majority of their traffic from Google.

A couple of years ago Citysearch seemed to really be faltering vs. Yelp, which had reinvented the city guide model that Citysearch helped pioneer. But a couple of acquisitions later and with the arrival of CityGrid the business has almost been totally reinvented. And in some ways CityGrid Media has a brighter future and is now more valuable to corporate parent IAC than Ask.com.

I asked Herratti what happens if “a 100 new sites” now come at him to become part of the network? Can they integrate them? Can they control quality?

He said that developer self-service will allow publishers to join CityGrid rapidly without the bottlenecks that would otherwise accompany the process. He also said that before anyone is paid there are quality checks that CityGrid does to ensure publishers measure up.

I asked about what happens to clicks and calls that come through the system from sites that have integrated (via self-service) CityGrid content and advertisers but have yet to be “certified” officially on the network? Herratti said those are free calls and clicks to the advertiser. Until approval of the publisher site there’s no charge to advertisers for traffic or leads coming through. Accordingly Herratti said that there was lots of “free” traffic to advertisers on the network.

I questioned whether small publishers and developers “could really make a living” off the revenue generated by CityGrid. Herratti was emphatic that they could: “Absolutely.”

Herratti said that Urbanspoon was a beta partner before it was acquired and they saw the revenue being generated there. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to buy them,” he explained.

Superpages Adopts Yext Rep Tool for Advertisers

June 2, 2010

SuperMedia’s Superpages indicated that it will make available the Yext reputation management tool to its advertisers over the next few months. I spoke with Superpages VP Robyn Rose, who said the company evaluated other reputation tools but preferred the comprehensiveness and simplicity of the Yext UI and product generally. It’s also free.

Superpages happens to be one of the local sites that Yext Rep tracks.

I asked Rose who she anticipated the primary user of the product would be. She opined that a vanguard group of savvy local advertisers would use Yext Rep. But she added that beyond this it would probably be Superpages’ sales and account reps who would initially tap the product and convey the information to advertiser-clients. Rose said that the capabilities that Yext Rep offers are of interest to Superpages’ advertisers; informal discussions with SMBs have indicated this to the company.

Reputation/presence management is quickly becoming a must-have capability for local publishers, even if most SMB advertisers might be inhibited somewhat in the use of these tools.

Competing products in the market specifically targeting SMBs include (not in any specific order of preference or priority):

  • Marchex
  • Yellowbot
  • Vendasta’s StepRep
  • MyRepMan from Moon Valley Software
  • Palore’s AmIVisible
  • GetListed
  • Citysearch is also reportedly developing one for its advertisers

I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed here. And there’s a large category of enterprise level “listening” or “buzz monitoring” services that have been around for several years.

Here’s my earlier, more comprehensive discussion of the Yext Rep tool: .

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Update: The TechCrunch piece that was just brought to my attention gets some of the information wrong BTW. (It’s not going to automatically roll out to all Superpages advertisers.)

Snapfinger Points toward ‘M-Commerce’ Future

June 2, 2010

The lines between online and offline commerce are blurring. The idea of “buy (or reserve) online” pick up in store is fairly well established today. Open Table is a cousin of that for the restaurant industry: online inventory management, offline fulfillment.

In the same vein, a company called Kudzu Interactive (no relation to local directory Kudzu), which owns site/app Snapfinger, just announced a new $7 million round, for a total of $11 million to date. As you may have read the company enables “remote ordering” (online, mobile) from chains and franchise restaurants for “in-store” pick-up:

The company integrates at the point of sale with the restaurant, like Open Table. And like Milo with independent local retailers, Snapfinger is working to bring independent restaurants into the system:

Snapfinger enables users to access more than 28,000 restaurants from leading national chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steakhouse, and Boston Market, as well as local independent restaurants currently in its network. The product uses location-based technology to find nearby restaurants and enables the user to order food and complete the payment transaction in a matter of minutes. Snapfinger is fully synchronized with the restaurant’s POS (Point of Sale) system, ensuring order accuracy, real-time menu updates and accurate prep times.

Snapfinger has competitors such as GrubHub, among others, and several chains offer their own mobile ordering apps: e.g., Pizza Hut, Chipotle. Because of their convenience, however, it’s likely that centralized ordering will win out over individual restaurant apps for most consumers. Regardless the idea of mobile inventory/ordering/purchasing for offline pick-up will continue to gain steam as consumers overcome security fears.

Kudzu Interactive/Snapfinger is a company (and app) that, as it grows, will become increasingly attractive as a takeover target — including by OpenTable.

MyRepMan: Yet Another Strong Reputation Tool

June 1, 2010

My tour through the various SMB presence and reputation management platforms continues. Late last week I spoke with Pete Ryan and Damian Rollison of Moon Valley Software. They showed me their MyRepMan product, which has been in development for the past couple years. Another impressive product, it appears to me to be the broadest one I’ve encountered in this growing area.

Among the things it does, MyRepMan identifies the presence or absence of business listings on relevant local sites and scores each business. It provides detail from individual directories and search engines. It captures mentions and reviews and also seeks to integrate paid advertising placement into the dashboard.

Here are some screenshots to illustrate most of this functionality (click to expand):

Like the YellowBot reputation product, StepRep and maybe even Yext, MyRepMan has more “horsepower” than most SMBs can be expected to utilize. Indeed, a tiny subset of the overall population will take advantage of all these tools have to offer. The primary audience for most of these products may turn out to be sales or account reps working with SMBs and not SMBs themselves. Moon Valley in fact developed MyRepMan as a sales aid for one of the yellow pages publishers.

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Moon Valley’s Damian Rollison offers his own overview of the MyRepMan product and its capabilities.

Will Yahoo Bite Local Newspapers?

June 1, 2010

Alan Mutter offers a provocative post on how Yahoo! may challenge local newspapers, who are some of the site’s primary partners:

Yahoo appears to be getting ready to produce local websites filled with original content that could compete with newspapers, posing a particular challenge to the hundreds of publishers who now sell advertising for the powerful portal.

The apparent intention to target the sweet spot for publishers was signaled last month when Yahoo announced plans to buy Associated Content for $100-ish million to gain access to some 380,000 individuals who are willing to write articles, take pictures and produce videos for rates starting at $2 per effort. The deal is scheduled to close later this year.

Insiders here in Silicon Valley say the odds are strong that a good number of those content producers will be deployed to cover local news in the hope of assembling ever-larger audiences for the premium-priced advertising that Yahoo sells via the rich user database it has amassed over the years.

No doubt some of the Associated Content writers (now indirectly beholden to Yahoo!) will cover local markets as Mutter suggests. However if Yahoo does something like MSN Local it won’t necessarily be an affront to newspapers. It could also provide newspapers with some additional distribution.

Yahoo! is unlikely to do something that would self-consciously compete with its newspaper partners. But it is true that if the company does a great job with local content sites online newspapers could suffer as a practical matter. Yahoo! has many more content and engineering assets than newspapers and has the capacity to produce sites or subdomains that are more user-friendly and utilitarian than most newspapers.

I could imagine a local content area that combines some of Yahoo! Local, with news, maps (from Nokia/Navteq) and content from other places on Yahoo! and third party sites.

Angie’s List: Let’s Make a Deal

June 1, 2010

Angie’s List has jumped on the deals/coupons bandwagon, according to a press missive I just received.

Called “The Big Deal,” it’s a version of group buying but it also includes a membership incentive: the deals are less expensive for Angie’s List members.

According to the release:

The Big Deal has been offered on a test basis in Indianapolis, Chicago and Washington D.C. for the past month.  Those offers – two of which are active until 5 p.m. today – include:

  • 50 percent off a facial from a Chicago salon – Details at http://bit.ly/cIv2MU
  • 55 percent off carpet cleaning in Indianapolis – Details at http://bit.ly/ctfnNg
  • 65 percent off from a Chicago painter
  • 58 percent off a massage in Washington D.C.
  • 80 percent off a dental exam from an Indianapolis dentist

Apparently these deals are only being offered in connection with businesses that have high service ratings on Angie’s List as well.

Why Yahoo! Should Consider Buying Zvents

June 1, 2010

Yahoo!’s interest in beefing up local news and location-based content should lead it to consider buying Zvents. Yes, Yahoo! owns events destination Upcoming. However Zvents has more data and an ad/distribution network that includes many of Yahoo!’s newspaper partners.

Zvents is really a platform and media play that Yahoo! could develop further in many interesting ways. It could also exploit Zvents’ data in mobile.

If I were Yahoo! I would buy the site and also put CEO Ethan Stock in charge of local for Yahoo!

Zvents has raised just over $30 million to date and so the acquisition price would likely be comparable to or slightly more than what Yahoo! just paid for Associated Content.

I have no financial interest or stake in this outcome; I just think it makes sense for Yahoo!

Free Speech & Defamation in Local Reviews

May 31, 2010

A new sushi place opened in my neighborhood recently. I was pretty excited; we’ve had only a mediocre Japanese place that mysteriously remains in business despite its low quality. I’ve often thought it must a front for criminal activity, how else could it survive?

Initially the new restaurant got very favorable reviews on Yelp but then a second wave of unfavorable reviews appeared and dragged down its overall rating from almost five stars to three. I was surprised but when I looked more closely the critics seemed to be complaining about two main things: it took too long to get a table and the fish wasn’t as good as expected — likely based on the earlier reviews.

In other words, positive reviews had helped create the crowds, which the second wave of reviewers complained about. It also created very high expectations that the second group came to dinner with. There’s something strange and even vaguely unfair about that; the early success fueled wait times and expectations that were disappointed. (I haven’t yet been there so I can’t comment on the quality of the experience or the food.)

I admit I felt frustration and event a tinge of anger. This second group was threatening to kill the place before it really had a chance to get going or before I’d had a chance to get there myself. I empathized with the business owner and was able to feel in a vicarious sort of way the resentment some SMBs have of amateur reviewers.

While there’s often valuable feedback in reviews, most people writing them have little or no idea what’s involved in running a small business. In addition some of the most frequent Yelpers, for example, are often writing for one another (sometimes with a heavy helping of snark) rather than objectively reviewing the restaurant or other local business in question. There’s often only limited thought given to the potential impact on the business itself.

I am very glad that Yelp had established its Small Business Advisory Council. I think this will only be good for the site in the long run. It also addresses and redresses the perception of imbalance and unfairness that is partly responsible for fueling the litigation Yelp is now defending against.

Of course, one could argue that a well-run business will ultimately garner more favorable reviews than negative and everything will take care of itself. And there’s truth in that argument.

Some businesses that believe they’ve been wronged by negative reviews (mostly unwisely) take legal action against online critics. This should only be done where it’s entirely justified and only in the most extreme cases.

The New York Times has a nice article on this subject, When Online Gripes Are Met With a Lawsuit. It frames the issue in the larger context of defamation vs. free speech and Slapp, “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” The article’s hook is a defamation suit brought by a towing company against a guy who set up a Facebook page against the company after his car was incorrectly towed:

After a towing company hauled Justin Kurtz’s car from his apartment complex parking lot, despite his permit to park there, Mr. Kurtz, 21, a college student in Kalamazoo, Mich., went to the Internet for revenge.

Outraged at having to pay $118 to get his car back, Mr. Kurtz created a Facebook page called “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing.” Within two days, 800 people had joined the group, some posting comments about their own maddening experiences with the towing company.

T&J filed a defamation suit against Mr. Kurtz, claiming the site was hurting business and seeking $750,000 in damages.

Is this a business that has been wronged or is it a company using strong-arm tactics to silence a critic. In this case it’s almost certainly the latter. The article goes on to discuss various anti-Slapp laws and pending federal legislation that would make it harder for litigation to be brought against consumers simply voicing their opinions and experiences online.

One of the more interesting discussions in the article is about a tactic that some doctors are using to control negative reviews about them online:

Recognizing that lawsuits can bring more unwanted attention, one organization has taken a different tack. The group Medical Justice, which helps protect doctors from meritless malpractice suits, advises its members to have patients sign an agreement that gives the doctor copyright over a Web posting if the patient mentions the doctor or practice.

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, chief executive of Medical Justice, said about half of the group’s 2,500 members use the agreement.

Presumably then the doctor can simply contact the directory — InsiderPages for example — and say it owns the critical review in question and ask for its removal. I’m not so sure, however, that these agreements are legal. Patients probably don’t understand that they’re signing away their right to criticize the doctor. It probably also qualifies as an illegal prior restraint on free speech. And then there are the review sites’ fine print, which often assert they own the review copyright as well. So there’s a tangle of legal issues that have yet to be sorted out by a court.

Given how influential reviews can be SMBs need some way to respond. Yelp and other review sites do provide mechanisms, to comment upon and clarify the context of a review and/or to contact the unhappy individual and try to make good on the problem or bad experience. But on balance the system as it currently stands is far from perfect — and most SMBs simply have to do their best and hope that people are basically fair and honest.

Facebook’s Coming Q&A Service & Local

May 31, 2010

There are a range of “Q&A” services in the market: Yahoo! Answers, kgb, ChaCha, Quora, Aardvark (Google) and several others. Yellow Pages Group (Canada) and SuperMedia offer variations on this idea in the yellow pages segment.

Now Facebook is about to launch a Q&A service and it’s taking “applications” for beta testers:

We at Facebook are preparing to launch a brand new product to the world. We think it will be as exciting as Facebook Photos and Facebook Events, but we need your help to make it great.

As a beta tester, your job will be to ask great questions and provide great answers about your favorite topics. Economics? Skydiving? Relationships? Mexican Restaurants? It’s up to you. You’ll be the first person outside of Facebook to use this product. Your expert writing will be seen by tens of millions of people — including job recruiters. And we’ll bring our best beta testers out to California to tour Facebook headquarters and meet the team.

The intent is to tap Facebook’s massive global user base for answers to a range of questions that are very broad in scope:

We don’t know exactly how the service will operate, but it has clear local/LBS potential. Many people today ask questions of their networks on Facebook: “Does anybody know a great X?”

A structured, searchable service that provides responses in near real time could become a very potent way to get (local) information and recommendations. Could is the operative word here, until we see how it works.

There are a number ways in which Facebook is poised to become a real force in local for both consumers and small businesses marketers. This is just one.

Placecast Cleans Dirty Location Data

May 28, 2010

In the couple of months since Placecast launched its Match API the company has seen great traction and discovered how compromised much of the location data is “out there” — especially when it’s user-generated. The Match API “cleans” individual data sets and helps de-dupe and correct data where publishers are drawing upon multiple data sources.

Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman described it like a laundromat: dirty data in, clean data out. According to the press release out this morning:

Placecast is finding traction with its solution for cleaning and managing location-based data. The creators of Placecast MatchAPI announce that in fewer than 60 days since it was initially launched, more than 200 LBS-related companies have signed up to use the data management tool, including WCities, Socialight, Buzzd and AlikeList . . .

Initial experience with location-based companies using the MatchAPI platform reveals interesting insights about the quality of location data. Statistics from datasets uploaded indicate that when the Placecast MatchAPI platform cleans a data set, there is an average fault rate of over 8%, growing to as much as 40% in data sets with high proportions of user-generated content . . .

With the strong initial interest, Placecast is now rolling out a developer portal in order to continue to provide free services for correcting duplication and matching across different location data sets, two of the biggest challenges in building location-based services that scale. The portal is live at http://www.placecast.net/developer/

Alistair Goodman also corrected some faulty assumptions I held about the product. Placecast isn’t working with a master database and comparing individual data sets to that master list. Nor are they generating one — yet.

It would be hypothetically possible through the involvement of all these parties for Placecast to develop a common, clean LBS database. This is my speculation, however, and not anything Goodman said the company would be doing. At the present time it’s not sharing data among partners. But “collaboration” is one of the features or “values” in the Match API developer portal.

This master LBS database is, in a way, “low-hanging fruit” as a phase II for this product. There’s also the potential for a local ad network or “exchange,” which could eventually emerge from this as well.

Geotoko: LBS App Marketing Tool for SMBs

May 28, 2010

BrightKite created master consumer check-in tool Check.in, which enables users to check in to multiple LBS apps simultaneously:

Now in a parallel way Geotoko seeks to make it easier for SMBs to utilize multiple LBS services and contests for promotional purposes:

Google Local Info on iPhone vs. Android

May 27, 2010

I just took a look at the same search, “Sushi, San Francisco,” on both the Android EVO and iPhone and here are the screens:

Sorry about the blurry Android shot. These are both mobile Web, not Google’s app.

Notice that on Android, Google is giving you a map and an overall presentation that more closely approximates the PC than the iPhone version. Nothing more than that . . . just thought it was interesting.

Google Algo Changes Drop ‘The Other Shoe’

May 27, 2010

Google’s first big shoe drop was the increasingly common appearance of a map + 7 in response to explicit and implicit local intent queries. That took away many of the “above the fold” SEO slots available to local sites such as yellow pages publishers. However, some of that real estate has been restored in the new Google interface:

Now the “other shoe” may have dropped as algorithm changes that may penalize undistinguished local directory sites start to have an impact. Monsieur Andrew Shotland explains:

Thanks to Vanessa Fox as always for eliciting grains of truth from Google.  At last week’s Google I/O conference Matt Cutts confirmed that there was an algo change at the beginning of May that will likely be affecting sites that generate a lot of long-tail traffic:

”this is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”

I have already seen the impact on a couple of large sites that I monitor, as well as on smaller sites.  In the case of the large sites, the traffic has drifted downward, with a couple of extreme drops, and in the case of the smaller sites traffic growth has either flattened or slowed down to barely noticeable.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody in SEO land as unique content, good site architecture and strong backlinking have been the cornerstones of SEO for years.  That said, it appears that this algo change has raised the game to a whole new level.  It used to be that an authoritative domain could add pretty much any content, even duplicated content, it wanted to its site and with a little bit of effort get strong organic traffic. That does not appear to be such an open and shut case anymore.

Andrew already sees this impacting YP publishers and others in the local space that have historically relied on SEO for traffic.

I also had conversation with Matt Cutts at I/O about this same general phenomenon, except I was thinking about and focused on Demand Media, Associated Content and the like. I wasn’t thinking about YP publishers.

If what Andrew is saying is playing out — and he’s observing it apparently — then local ad networks like CityGrid become even more important, as well as improved user experiences (for direct traffic) and brand building.

Social media and mobile also become even more strategic for branding and traffic (although in the case of mobile it’s all incremental right now).

YPG Promoting Video Advertising

May 27, 2010

Yellow Pages Group in Canada is making a push for video advertising — on third party sites (e.g., Yahoo.ca) on traditional TV and in newspapers.

The print newspaper ad promotes a free on-site shoot and low $77 monthly hosting price point.  Each of the ads show a phone number and point to a dedicated site promoting video advertising on Yellowpages.ca: GetFound.Yellowpages.ca.

On the site there is an image of a Yellowpages.ca profile page which hosts/houses the video but no mention print yellow pages that I could find.

The article (linked above) that alerted me to this campaign contains a quote from YPG corporate communications director Annie Marsolais, saying that it’s directed at non-YP advertisers:

While 40% of Canadians businesses have advertised with Yellow Pages, the campaign is aimed at the other 60%, said Annie Marsolais, director, corporate and marketing communications for Yellow Pages Group.

Consistent with YPG’s efforts to remake itself as a digital advertising company that happens to also publish a directory, it’s interesting to see the company emphasize and market a product without any reference print.

Yellowbot Offers Reputation Tool Too

May 26, 2010

Unknown to me until recently, Yellowbot has been offering a reputation management tool to the SMB market. Last week I got a demo and was impressed by its capabilities and flexibility.

Here are some screens that reflect features:

The interface isn’t quite as slick as Yext’s tool introduced yesterday. However this is a powerful system that offers merchants the ability to update and correct listings, monitor competitors, see mentions from a pretty comprehensive list of sources and track “buzz” by date ranges. The latter ability provides another sort of analytics tool for SMBs in addition to reputation and presence management.

One could use it for example to track the efficacy of traditional media: did a coupon or direct mail drop result in a spike in online activity? One could also use this in a similar fashion to test the relative performance of different local sites. However those scenarios are probably beyond the scope of what most SMBs are going to do with this platform.

Indeed, the issue as I see it is that Yellowbot’s platform may be too powerful for many time-starved SMBs who won’t exploit its full capabilities. But that doesn’t take anything away from the platform and the true users of this will likely be the sales channels and publishers with SMB advertiser relationships.

Right now, as I understand it, Yellowbot has several partners that are selling the platform. With Yext’s free tool — and MerchantCircle certain to upgrade its free tool — can stand-alone pricing survive?

Live From Happy Hound: An SMB Story

May 26, 2010

Well, not exactly live but I was at Happy Hound yesterday in Oakland for the press event associated with the release of Google’s Economic Impact report.

Owner Suzanne Gotter has been a case study for Google AdWords for several years. At the event Google spoke and then Gotter spoke and told her story, which was impressive. She had a background in sales and marketing and so was, arguably, not the typical small business owner out of the gate. However confronted with an empty warehouse she used Google and AdWords to grow her business to 33 employees and now is opening new locations.

She said in total sincerity that the overwhelming majority of her new customers came from Google. How did she know? She asked them all.

Gotter said that when she opened several years ago she tried multiple forms of advertising, including magazines and, yes, yellow pages.

After the end of the press conference, I asked her about how the yellow pages performed. She said she took out quarter page color ads in three books. She added that it was expensive and while she did get calls and some walk-ins, she said the customers misunderstood the nature of her business (she’s not a kennel) and also didn’t want to pay and/or weren’t able to afford her services.

She initially managed her own Google AdWords account but now has an agency do it for her; she also no longer looks at her analytics because she’s too busy.

She spends about $400 per month on AdWords but now also ranks very highly in organic results:

She said that organic CTRs were about 5X AdWords clicks and Google confirmed that as a general matter. She was asked, “Now that you rank so well will you still buy AdWords?” Her answer was yes because she’s expanding her services and now adding locations. For awareness of the new services and locations she felt she still needed AdWords.

The agency she’s using now for search marketing is the same local ad agency she spoke with when she started the business. She told me they wanted to sell her a bunch of expensive, high margin offerings including outdoor. She couldn’t afford them and was skeptical. Back then the agency didn’t talk to her about search. Now that’s all they do for her.

Razorfish Outlook: Local Thoughts

May 26, 2010

Digital agency Razorfish just put out its 2010 global outlook report. Among a broad range of other topics, there was some interesting discussion of local (and mobile) in the document. Here are some largely verbatim excerpts:

We expect more money to go to mobile, particularly in local search. We are watching Google and Apple closely in the mobile space, and intend to test new ad platforms and measurement systems as they come online. 2010 will likely turn out to be the year of testing before mobile really takes off in 2011.

Will local online benefit from the “death of newspapers”?

With the “death” of newspapers, and a rise in location-based technologies, many are curious to see if advertisers will move more of their budgets to local online. Approximately one-third of our clients ask us to run local ads. For most clients these are small percentages of their outlays — they still use digital as a targeted mass media. Local mobile spending is still very small, and was tested by only a few of our clients. Interestingly, although the number of clients participating in local display and local search activities was about equal, local display spending was twice as large as local search spending. This may be due to there being more inventory available in local display, and at lower prices than search, rather than a preference for one or the other. We expect to see this change in the next year as newspapers continue to decline in circulation, the iPad and other devices like it bring newspapers back to life but in digital formats, and smartphone usage increases local search . . .

(emphasis added.)

Gaming, brands and LBS

As gaming and social intertwine with location based services, the opportunity for brands to be relevant and meaningful parts of the interaction are growing. We expect to see growth in this category not only from brands focused on entertainment, but truly all brands who have a product or service that can be an integral part of a gaming, social, or local experience.

As these predictions make clear, 2010 will be about much more than a few hot platforms. While things like mobile and social are expected to make headlines, there are a number of other developments that will grab the attention of marketers and agencies alike. From infrastructure plays like ad verification systems to local online advertising, 2010 is shaping up as a year in which change in online media will make itself felt both in front of and behind the scenes.

While this is educated speculation to some degree it also reflects the perspective of an agency managing client budgets with knowledge of where ad spending is going.

Yext Launches Rep Mgmt Platform

May 25, 2010

Today Yext launched a reputation management platform that it hopes will be broadly adopted by not only SMBs but also some of its competitors. Here’s Yext’s description of its new Yext Dashboard:

The Yext Dashboard is a one-stop destination to manage online reputation and advertising services. The Yext Dashboard contains a real-time feed that shows the constant flow of reviews, tweets, Facebook wall posts, alerts and other information, allowing business owners to monitor and manage how their reputation is being affected in real-time. The Yext Dashboard also allows third–party providers to develop tools and services that integrate into the Yext Dashboard and feed.

The interface is elegant and simple. There are basically three views:

  • Feed (all activity from covered sites, including Facebook and Twitter mentions)
  • Rep (this shows the sources of the various mentions and reviews)
  • Ads (this can show ads and/or calls if you’re  a Yext subscriber)

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The interface allows users to sort by source, time and locations (if you own a multi-location business). There are also some non-traditional sources. SMBs can filter by specific source, as mentioned, to see only the comments coming, for example, from Yelp or Foursquare or Superpages, etc:

Like other comparable products SMBs can see where there listings appear and where they do not — and go right to those sites to update, add or correct them.

The “Ads” view will hypothetically show ads from any third party site, but will also show “calls” (recordings/transcripts) from Yext. Yext hopes that it will boost advertiser adoption of Yext but CEO Howard Lerman  also said that he hopes others, including Yext competitors, will write apps that can appear in this dashboard.

Many reputation management products now in the market, including Marchex, Yellowbot and Steprep, among others, are being sold directly or bundled as part of premium packages. The Yext Dashboard is free.

I’ve had three calls in the past 72 hours with companies offering reputation and/or presence management products for SMBs. It’s very clear to me that reputation management and related services are quickly becoming a mandatory part of the SMB offering.

Koprol & the Rise of the ‘Social Cityguide’

May 25, 2010

Yahoo! bought an Indonesian site you’ve never heard of: Koprol. It didn’t spend a lot I’m sure; the site is young and still in beta.

At a high level the site mimics the functionality of Foursquare. It’s about mobile access to local information and social content (updates, friends’ comments).

It appears to have traction in its home market of Indonesia, but will it succeed in the US and Europe? That’s not clear; but it’s a platform that Yahoo! can use and develop in a few ways. It may extend Yahoo! Local or it may exist independently. We’ll see.

Stepping back, what the acquisition reflects however is the rise of the “social cityguide,” which integrates PC and mobile with Twitter/Facebook-like update streams and brief reviews (thumbs up + “tips”). Yelp in particular will need to contend from a movement toward shorter content and away from long-form reviews.

I can’t remember who it was I was speaking with but the discussion was of Yelp as the equivalent of a blogging platform for its most active members.

Foursquare, Latitude/Buzz, AT&T Buzz, Gowalla, among others are reflective of this new trend toward a marriage of location, mobility, social and quasi-real time communication or exchange. And as the world of “local” becomes increasingly mobile this trend and the competition will intensify.

These social cityguides are potential successors to traditional sites used for entertainment-related lookups. They probably won’t be used for home services but they could take over for restaurants and select other categories. (Facebook, with its impending location launch, Q&A and Like button is lurking in the background.)

I’m not sure how it’s doing but AT&T Interactive is wise to experiment with a site like Buzz.com for several reasons. For a younger, mobile audience a yellow pages site or app will have difficulty competing with Foursquare, Yelp and this new category of social cityguides.

People often ask me what are the big trends I’m seeing in local. Well . . . this is one of them.


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