Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.)

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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.

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.

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.

AT&T Promoting YPMobile with Contest

May 24, 2010

AT&T is seeking to promote use of its mobile app YPMobile.com with a contest:

Urbanspoon ‘Rez’ Challenges OpenTable

May 20, 2010

Publicly traded OpenTable has been the Microsoft of restaurant bookings, a proprietary hardware-software inventory management solution with Cadillac fees and effectively without competition for the better part of the last decade.  The company has a market cap of almost a billion dollars.

That was the beginning of an elaborate post I was going to do on Urbanspoon’s new “Rez” challenger to OpenTable. But the Wall Street Journal “broke the embargo” last night and then everyone piled on. You can read all the competing stories here.

So in lieu of the elaborate post I was going to do, here’s the “just the facts ma’am” version:

  • Rez was in beta in Seattle and LA with something approaching 150 restaurants for the past several months
  • It’s essentially a widget that goes on Urbanspoon, Citysearch profiles and I believe InsiderPages (and is distributed with those profiles via CityGrid to third party sites). It can also be added to the restaurant’s own site too
  • Many of the Rez beta testers were also on OpenTable; Rez can be used along side OpenTable
  • There’s an iPad inventory management app that replaces the elaborate hardware-software combination OpenTable requires
  • Fees for Rez (to the restaurant) are $99 per month plus a dollar per “head” per reservation. This includes new customers and repeat business. Urbanspoon/IAC won’t charge if the reservation comes from the restaurant’s own website however.
  • The Citysearch sales force will sell Rez to restaurants
  • OpenTable is already responding in Seattle by trying to cut prices and being more aggressive from a sales standpoint.

Here are a couple of images of the iPad inventory management app:

The bottom line is that this is a cheaper, simpler alternative to OpenTable, which the company will have to take seriously. It will probably force OpenTable to step up brand marketing and cut prices. If Rez gains visibility and “word of mouth credibility” among restaurant owners OpentTable’s growth may be slowed or stopped in some markets. Unofficially OpenTable has only about 10K restaurants across the US — a tiny subset of the entire population.

Citysearch and Urbanspoon can bring a compelling set of related marketing services along with Rez, which OpenTable cannot. And Rez can become a more generic online booking/appointments system for Citysearch and InsiderPages over time, extending to other categories beyond restaurants.

Now there’s an angle nobody else covered!

Firefox Update Screws Up Rendering

May 18, 2010

I just updated to the latest Mac version of Firefox per a prompt on my browser. After the upgrade much of the text on my screen looks like this:

Hello Chrome . . .

Update: Now I see I unwittingly downloaded the beta for 3.6.4 and its crashing and screwed up the Internet. I don’t know why I was prompted to download it. I suppose it’s my fault for not looking more carefully at the message and mindlessly updating like some sort of Pavlovian fool.

The Rise of SMB Reputation Management

May 17, 2010

When I was at the CA governor”s conference on entrepreneurship a couple of weeks ago I was struck by how many small business owners in the session I attended raised their hands when asked about how many used Google Alerts to track what was said about their businesses.

Given the rising awareness among SMBs of review sites and social media it would appear there will be growing demand for presence/reputation management offerings. Indeed, there now appear to be a range of reputation management tools in the market or entering the market.

Marchex had the first formal tool, following MerchantCircle’s early rudimentary one. Then came Palore/AmIVisible’s “presence management” site and GetListed and Chatmeter, which offers SEO and reputation tools.

ClickFuel also has a tool as part of its suite that does some version of reputation management. Yodle also has an offering and so does ReachLocal (through the SMBLive acquisition).

Now I’ve become aware of reputation management offerings from VendAsta and Yellowbot. It makes sense that more companies would offer these tools because of the rise of social media and reviews.

The question is do these tools enable business owners to do anything other than see what’s being said about them and/or where they appear online? One of the nice things about Marchex’s platform is that it enables business owners to retweet or post selected reviews to their followers.

Are there other reputation management or presence management tools out there that I haven’t mentioned?

Update: Add SIM Partners to the list. And Marchex’s reputation management product is a finalist for “‘New Product or Service of the Year’ category of the 2010 American Business Awards…”

No Posts Until Friday

May 12, 2010

I’ll be offline until Friday. Stress detox. Lots of green tea — that sort of thing.

No posts here or at Internet2Go until then.

kgb Launches Multi-Country Deals Site

May 10, 2010

kgb, which offers the SMS-based mobile Q&A service, has just launched a group-buying site at kgbdeals.com. I’ve discovered that there may be as many as 90 to 100 sites that are doing some version of “groupoing” now — with more to come undoubtedly.

kgb competitor ChaCha also offers couponing but only in a single market for now. By contrast, kgb has leveraged its international reach and is doing this across several non-US markets:

Undoubtedly these deals will also be pushed into mobile and via the “traditional” kgb service.

SMBs Need a Lot of Help Online

May 10, 2010

I attended The [California] Governor’s Conference on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last thursday at the Oakland Convention Center. One of the sessions I sat in on was about social media and online marketing. It was the mirror of an identical session in the morning that I was unable to attend.

The panelists included representatives from Google, Yelp, Twitter (where I got the sticker), Cafe Press and the California Restaurants Assn. Each panelist got to talk for about 5-10 minutes and then there was a Q&A session.

While there was some sophistication, the Q&A session revealed just how much help most SMBs need. Yelp’s Vince Sollitto, who was on both panels, said that the earlier session had a higher level of sophistication and greater engagement.

I took a lot of notes but I’ll summarize and provide a few observations.

More people in the room had a facebook page than were AdWords advertisers. But about 3/4 of those in the audience were on LinkedIn.

Google’s Claire Johnson spoke repeatedly about claiming listings on Places and about search marketing. It became clear however that most of these folks were very far away from search marketing.

Most of those in the audience were familiar with and used Yelp as consumers, but only a few had used the business tools. Yelp’s Sollitto said Yelp had 31 million uniques and 10 million reviews. He addressed the issue of negative reviews by saying, “negative reviews are an authenticator” and provide credibility — ironically. Not sure if those in the audience bought the argument. When he cited the URL, biz.yelp.com, however, lots of people wrote it down.

Francesca Helina of Twitter talked about tweeting “on the go” and discussed Twitter apps as the best and most convenient way to tweet. She hinted at a number of services for SMBs to come and discussed Twitter’s window sticker. She briefly mentioned Promoted Tweets, but focused on the free service. She referenced two accounts (@smallbiz and @Francesca) where marketing on Twitter and best practices would be showcased.

John Goddard of the California Restaurant Assn said that 73% of CA restaurants were independent. He talked about how many have adopted social media and Twitter in particular. “A lot of chefs are blogging” and building social media strategies around their blogs, said Goddard.

I was somewhat surprised to see how many in the audience were using Google alerts (roughly 1/3) as a basic form of reputation management and review monitoring.

Café press extolled the virtues of search marketing saying “30% of our business from Google search.”

The moderator, a woman from Palo Alto Software, threw around tips and jargon that were generally way over the heads (from my perspective) of the audience. Indeed, most of the discussion from the podium was more advanced than the people in the room — sometimes painfully so.

This is an extreme example, but one woman asked for advice on what types of content would make her website (which she hadn’t developed yet) interesting. This reflected to me the very basic level of understanding — or lack thereof — of online marketing possessed by some small businesses.

One older woman, selling Japanese medicinal herbs, talked about her frustrations with consultants who made big promises about SEO and high rankings (There’s a ton of that going on out there.)

I conduct surveys of SMBs and talk about their issues frequently in the abstract. But it’s very helpful to be in a room like this from time to time to see the challenges they confront in a very direct way. For them the world is only getting more complicated and, while there is growing awareness and sophistication in some quarters, the smallest SMBs need a lot of help — a lot.

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Related: Google offers a co-branded (with the SBA) site/tutorial on online business marketing fundamentals.

Twitter’s Got an SMB Decal Too

May 7, 2010

Following Yelp, Google and Facebook, Twitter becomes the latest company to join the SMB window sticker club. Similar to Facebook’s decal it enables businesses to build lists of followers via text message. Here’s my bad/blurry photo of it.

You write your own Twitter URL in the blank: “Follow @gsterling.”

I got this today at the [CA] Governor’s Conference on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. It was given out during a panel on social and online marketing featuring Google, Yelp, Twitter & Cafe Press.

I’ll do another post with my thoughts and observations of the panel discussion and audience reaction.

My inference from the comments and discussion is that this is the beginning of a more concerted effort by Twitter to directly address the SMB/local advertiser market. In accordance with that, Twitter has also started a new feed (Twitter.com/SmallBiz) to promote Twitter use by SMBs and disseminate information, best practices advice and case studies.

Trulia Pushing Mobile in Newsletter

May 6, 2010

I just received the newest Trulia newsletter and it puts mobile front and center:

Trulia says that about 10% of its traffic comes from mobile devices. Zillow told me about the same number, spiking to 15% on weekends.

Trulia recently added rental listings, which CEO Pete Flint said were even more likely to be searched on mobile devices in his view. But this is clearly not a case where mobile is cannibalizing traditional PC search behavior. It’s very much a complement to PC usage and an illustration of how local sites need to offer good mobile experiences — to deliver utility but also to cement loyalty.

Local.com Adds Newsday to Publisher Network

May 6, 2010

Local.com has added Newsday to the network of publishers that use its white-label directory product:

Local.com’s private label local search platform, to power the search directory for its widely known flagship local news and information site, www.newsday.com. Local.com will also power the directories for two of the company’s other local properties, Explore Long Island (www.exploreli.com) and Get Local Long Island (www.getlocalli.com).

The press release boilerplate copy says there are 800 partner sites for Local Connect:

[Local.com] uses patented and proprietary technologies to provide over 20 million consumers each month with relevant search results for local businesses, products and services on Local.com and over 800 partner sites. Over 50,000 small business customers use Local.com products and services to reach consumers using a variety of subscription, performance and display advertising and website products.

That network is arguably Local.com’s most valuable asset. It’s not clear to me that the company is building any “brand equity” in its destination site, although according to Compete it has very respectable traffic:

Groupon Buys Mob.ly, Opens Valley Office

May 5, 2010

Groupon has acquired mobile development shop Mob.ly, which has a number of A-List clients, and simultaneously opened its Silicon Valley office:

Groupon has announced the opening of an office in Silicon Valley to gain better access to the Bay Area’s technology talent, with a focus on Groupon’s mobile- and business-intelligence practices. The core of Groupon’s mobile team comes through the acquisition of mob.ly, a mobile-development firm led by former Yahoo! Senior Director of Product Management Mihir Shah and Yishai Lerner, former Director of Engineering at Carrier IQ.

This obviously indicates a big mobile push to come from Groupon:

The company recently raised more than $100 million at a valuation of over $1 billion.

Yahoo! Taps DexOne’s Biz.com for B2B Exposure

May 5, 2010

Yahoo! has joined Citysearch in utilizing DexOne’s (formerly RH Donnelley) Business.com site for B2B exposure and distribution:

Hot on the heels of a recent agreement with Citysearch Dex One’s Business.com subsidiary has inked a deal with Yahoo! to help businesses achieve greater online exposure.

Yahoo! advertisers now have the opportunity to have their paid search ads appear on select sites within the extensive Business.com Network, providing them with expanded opportunities to reach online customers.  Simultaneously, users who search on Business.com Network sites now have additional results to choose from, thereby helping them find more products, services and businesses that best suit their needs.

Business.com claims 40 million uniques for its ad network, which contains a range of B2B sites such as Financial Times and AllBusiness.com. There’s some very targeted vertical exposure in these impressions/clicks.

MerchantCircle Releases API

May 5, 2010

MerchantCircle has released an API, which allows third parties to incorporate or build on top of the company’s content and listings:

  • Over 2 million pieces of unique, merchant-generated content such as blog postings, videos, and pictures.
  • Over 650,000 local business reviews contributed by local consumers
  • Over 350,000 current, local deals and coupons created by local businesses
  • Over 80,000 questions and 100,000 Answers from the MerchantCircle Answers Program

Companies that will be utilizing this include Citysearch/CityGrid, FootFeed.com, HelloMetro, 8coupons and Locomatix.

Between MerchantCircle, Facebook, Twitter, CityGrid, Foursquare and other local APIs in the market, the amount of local content available is exploding. There’s also a ton of valuable local content locked up in Yahoo! Answers right now too.

It used to be that there was a shortage of local data and reviews, now we’re almost approaching the opposite problem. Now the challenge becomes de-duping, integrating and elegantly presenting this via the PC and mobile devices.

We’re in a new era in local for sure.

AT&T Joins CityGrid

May 5, 2010

AT&T’s YP.com has joined the CityGrid network. (There was already a traffic deal between Citysearch and YP.com.) The NY Times uses that announcement to discuss Citysearch and its CityGrid strategy. Here are some interesting bits from the piece:

  • CityGrid now has 150 publisher sites: “Citysearch’s 18 million business listings and ads from 700,000 small businesses show up on 150 Web sites.”
  • Citysearch traffic has been declining: “Over the last year, the number of people logging on to Citysearch each month has fallen 24 percent, to 21 million.”
  • Citysearch has 200 ad sales people (Yelp is trying to grow to roughly 400 with its recent investment round.)

CityGrid was in development for some time — maybe years — and it’s a brilliant idea. However it was also something that the market was desperate for: a high-quality source of local traffic and monetization and alternative to Google (both “.com” and AdSense). Publishers, however, don’t have choose between CityGrid and AdSense; both can be used — as InsiderPages does.

Where.com and LocalAdXchange offer local ad networks/exchanges predominantly (though not exclusively) in mobile. ReachLocal also started a local ad exchange but I’ve heard nothing about it for many months. There are also other local-specific ad networks in mobile, such as Verve and LSN.

The yellow pages, because of their own inter-industry competition, missed the opportunity to come together and build this service themselves.

The key here is not the content or advertisers or the platform (though all are important) so much as it is the vision behind CityGrid and the willingness to “flip the model.”

Consumer Reports: ‘Social Insecurity’

May 5, 2010

In a report intended to be somewhat inflammatory, stoke fear and sell magazines accordingly, Consumer Reports reveals data from its latest “State of the Net” survey. Here are two public bullets of interest to me:

  • 52% of adult users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace have posted risky personal information online (personal information, street address, kids photos, etc.)
  • 23% of the users of Facebook . . . either didn’t know that site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them

There’s lots of stuff about scams, fraud, malware and so on. I cite the report as further evidence that a meaningful number of Facebook users don’t fully understand privacy on the site and/or aren’t aware of the potential exposure of their information beyond their immediate friends on Facebook.

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Related: EFF doesn’t Like Facebook Connections and points out all the privacy issues.