Category Archives: Local Search

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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ReachLocal Moves Away From Consumer-Facing ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal announced today that it is moving away from its new ClubLocal business, which connects consumers with service providers. The publicly-owned company said that it is now considering a deal that would allow ClubLocal to be taken over by a “major” local entity along with a group that includes ex CEO Zorik Gordon and CSO Michael Kline. At the same time, ReachLocal would maintain a large investment in the business.

It is not a done deal. The company said it will “go shop,” or look at all options for the ClubLocal business until December 24.

ReachLocal’s move last Spring to develop “ClubLocal,” a consumer facing business to assign home repair jobs to vetted local services, met with some head-shaking within the industry. Reach has been seen primarily as a B2B service that did not appear to have the core competency or brand to work with consumers.

The service, however, went ahead and launched in Dallas and San Francisco, perhaps spending between $12 million and $15 million on the initial development and rollout. The main idea was that if Reach could provide SMBs with leads and actually process transactions for them, it would make for a much longer lasting relationship than simply relying on advertising solutions.

One of our BIA/Kelsey users of ClubLocal in Dallas reports that it provides excellent service. But there haven’t been extensive reports on its early business results. Soon after the launch, however, there may have been internal dissension about the company’s strategic direction.

CEO Zorik Gordon left the company, along with President Nathan Hanks. CSO Michel Kline had also announced plans to leave, although at the end of 2013. No explanations have been provided for any of the departures. Hanks is not part of the new group that will run ClubLocal if the proposed deal goes through.

In a discussion with BIA/Kelsey today, interim CEO David Carlick and CFO Ross Lansbaum wouldn’t comment on the executive departures, but noted that there is a search going on for a fulltime CEO; that Reach has become more of an enterprise business; and that B2C services such as ClubLocal are “not really our sweetspot.”

Carlick also noted that ReachLocal is going full speed ahead with its new ReachEdge product, a marketing automation and website project for SMBs. In fact, the company is accelerating deployment in Canada.

“Edge is the back part of ReachLocal – getting people to look at the local merchant Website and other offerings, and converting those visits into customer engagments,” said Carlick. “We have found the things that our clients tend to be worst at – like turning merchants into customers. We achieve results that are 200-300 percent better than what most merchants do now.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon Talks ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal is moving boldly to find new ways to boost the business of its SMB customers. While the independent sales organization is still largely supported by the sale of advertising packages to its 32,500 active advertisers, it is now focused on commerce oriented services that not only help businesses get found by consumers, but also helps them track results and schedule services.

Now, via a new service named ClubLocal, it will even book new business for SMBs at pre-negotiated rates, and accept payments via a Square-like, ClubLocal iPad app. Today, the company unveiled San Francisco as ClubLocal’s second test market, following a test in Dallas that started in July. The Dallas test has involved ”thousands” of completed jobs in over 20 categories.

In rolling out ClubLocal, ReachLocal provides consumers discounts of 20 percent or greater on typical area pricing for over 4,500 service job types, and fully vets the fully-licensed service professionals that partner with it. It also guarantees two hour service windows.

Over time, the company also will maintain a large base of reviews as part of its vetting process, as customers send in reviews after completing their final payment process. In Dallas, 40 percent of consumers have submitted reviews. As part of its San Francisco launch, ClubLocal is providing $100 in free home services to its first 1,000 Bay Area consumers.

Initial San Francisco categories include Plumbing, Handyman, Electrical, Heating and Air Conditioning, Appliance Repair, and Mobile Auto Detailing. Additional services will launch over the upcoming months.

We talked recently with ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon about ClubLocal. Gordon suggests that most people aren’t necessarily loyal to a single service provider in most categories – “that’s why you had Yellow Pages,” he says.

Gordon also says that the smart phone generation basically values service guarantees, pricing transparency and convenience above all else. Up to now, “there hasn’t been a Walmart for services pricing,” he says. Gordon also suggests that existing service models such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor require too much work and are inconsistent – and have only scratched the surface in terms of customers.

Ultimately, consumers will make ClubLocal a habit when they need to order home services, just as they’ve made Uber a habit for taxis, Open Table a habit for restaurant reservations and Groupon a habit for deals.

ClubLocal directly addresses the “Booking and Buying” portion of the marketing funnel, says Gordon – a portion that Uber, OpenTable and Groupon have shown is increasingly important in today’s marketplace. Indeed, Gordon predicts that “local will be more about commerce than advertising ten years from now.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon keynotes BIA/Kelsey’s “Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing” conference in Austin Sept. 11-13, joining a roster that also includes Home Advisor Europe CEO Simon Greenman and other leaders. Register here.

Lem Lloyd’s Move to FixYa: Q&A Sites as Content Marketing

People are getting excited about Content Marketing again this year, with Website, mobile and video editorial content, ratings and reviews, promotions and listings broadening the content farm/search ranking algorithms segment we saw several years go.

Q&A sites are a key component of the new content marketing, driving user generated content, participation and sticky usage. A big believer in them is former Yahoo and Knight Ridder/Digital Cities exec Lem Lloyd, who has just joined Q&A site FixYa as Chief Revenue Officer.

Lloyd notes that FixYa, a company with Israel and Bay Area offices, has 30 million unique visitors in the U.S. and abroad, drawing real scale around “passionate” subjects ranging from high end auto repair to Dyson vacuum cleaners. A search on “brakes” in the Chicago DMA, for instance, got 52,000 searches. “They are devoted to the brands, and making (their products) work,” he says, noting that the site has “some of the highest CPC and RPM” in the industry.

Lloyd argues that while the content is brand-centric, it is also intrinsically local. The site is ultimately focused on local intent, he says. The next steps are to use the site’s 17 million questions to build “a scalable marketplace,” in part by syndicating the content to media sites, he says. Some of that effort will spring from the site’s analytics, which reveal what people are looking for.

SpaFinder Last Minute: Scheduling as Promotion Opportunity

Is appointment scheduling poised to be a new anchor for service promotions? That vision –”look for an appointment, get a deal or upsell ” — has been articulated by a number of scheduling vendors, such as Agendize, FullSlate and Schedulicity. Most recently, RedBeacon founder Ethan Anderson has launched MyTime as a scheduling supermarket that allows shoppers to find discounted appointments at unfilled times.

Now comes Spafinder Last Minute, which provides same day and next day appointments. Started as “bTreated” by founder Josh Brenner, the company was acquired by SpaFinder last August. SpaFinder works with over 20,000 spa and wellness locations, and has recently spun off from the Booker platform service.

Now rebranded as “Last Minute,” it has initially launching in New York, where it has 50 merchants; Miami (25 merchants) and Chicago (25 merchants). Launches are expected this Summer and Fall in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto and Dallas.

Local sales teams will be hired in some of the markets, with other markets served by telemarketing efforts. The service can be filtered by category, daypart and neighborhood.

Brenner tells us that he is especially looking to see merchant defections from deals companies such as Groupon. “They are burnt out” from the high commissions. he says. Last Minute enables healthy levels of discounts.

Customers get a “really good deal,” with minimum discounts set at 30 percent to 50 percent off, says Brenner. Some spa treatment with very high margins, such has medical specialties and laser hair removal have discounted as high as 80 percent. SpaFinder, for its part, takes “sustainable” commissions of 20-25 percent (although the reality is that this isn’t far off from what many deals companies will negotiate for desirable merchants).

Brenner says the appeal of Last Minute is that it fills in empty slots. And it doesn’t “tarnish” the merchant’s brand.

At this time of year — pre-summer –most spas are booking a lot of massages, adds Brenner. Gyms are also booking a lot of classes. Most of the site’s users have been women. While men might buy spa treatments for wives or girlfriends, appointments are almost always booked by the persona receiving the actual treatment.

Yelp Rolls Out Local Revenue Estimator

Primitive (and perhaps misleading) estimates on effective ROI have driven many local publishers up the wall. During Yelp‘s IPO period, one analyst suggested that it cost pizza shops almost a hundred dollars in advertising on Yelp for every pizza sold.

To combat such mistakes and show how local ad dollars are really working, Yelp has come out with a new “Estimator,” which seeks to close the loop on the value of each lead. Any merchant that has claimed a Yelp page can track leads and engagement that Yelp brings in via phonecalls made from its App , check ins, or uploaded photos.

VP of Revenue and Analytics Matt Halprin, recently recruited to Yelp from Boston Consulting Group (where he worked on similar SMB analysis, as covered by our colleague Steve Marshall), noted that SMBs are confused about the value of their Yelp advertising compared to other channels, such as circulars, coupons, display and radio.

The Estimator, which is based on actual data pulled from Yelp’s logs, will give SMBs a much better idea of Yelp’s effectiveness, he says. But it “undercounts customer leads. We can’t see calls coming from consumers who are looking at their laptop and then making phone calls. It also can’t track customer walk-ins.”

Already, the Estimator has determined that Yelp advertisers do significantly better than non-advertisers. A local business that has claimed a Yelp page sees an $8,000 annual lift from Yelp, but advertisers see a lift that is $23,000. Halprin notes that typical ad packages run about $4,000 a year, or $350 a month.

LIL 2013: Search All Stars Talk Google (And Getting Around Google)

Local search is taking lots of new directions, with unprecedented opportunities opening up for low budget SMBs, according to an all star panel of search experts at Leading in Local in Boston March 19.

Moderator Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide noted that If you are in the directory business, the goal is to become a version of Yelp, with its strong brand and hordes of user generated content. That strategy makes your site more interesting to Google’s search algorithms and gets a higher ranking. But it’s tough to do with scale, he said.

Several panelists noted that one of the biggest challenges is coping with Google’s own ambitions to rule the nest. David Mihm of SEOMoz. It used to be that you had a strong chance of ranking your phrases, but now Google is surfacing with its own maps, plus results and Web results from an SMB in any given market.

Matchcraft’s Brad Petersen added that companies really should only focus on what Google wants. Don’t build any content unless it helps Google results, he said.

The Search Agency’s Brian McCarthy noted that SMBs can’t really hope to get the same traction from a search campaign as national brands and others. They won’t be able to keep up with multitudes of keyword requests and other factors. They can level the playing field with full automation, however, which will do it for them. There have been major advancements with automation, he noted (including from his company).

Matchcraft’s Petersen concurred that automation is critical at the lower end. “To us, there is good automation and bad automation.” For the latter, rely more on human editorial products, he advised. For the former, build very large taxonomies.

Facebook also represents major new opportunitie. Mihm noted that it is very expensive on a cost per click basis because it is so granular. But the targeting is terrific.

Search Influence’s Will Scott said Facebook is especially effective for amplifying the reach of a local audience. But Facebook is all abut pay for play, he said. Advertisers need to pay to have sponsored stories if they want to be widely seen. Otherwise, they get slimmed down to the point of being insidious.