Category Archives: Local Search

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.

Retailigence: Store Inventory Aids Mobile Search, Spurs Sales

Building ecommerce, promotions, search, social and same day delivery services around store inventory is one of those high concept “local” concepts that always make so much sense but have been tough to build around.

Intuit and eBay have both purchased inventory services (StepUp and Milo) and have integrated their capabilities into their other local services. eBay, for instance, has built the suite of services in eBay Local around Milo. Other key players in the space include JiWire (via its acquisition of NearbyNow), Wishpond and Retailigence. All focus on larger retailers with multiple locations, rather than mom and pops.

Retailigence, a three year old, Silicon Valley-based company backed by $4.3 Million from DFJ, Quest Venture Partners, and Dave McClure, stands out by taking an enterprise-oriented, B2B approach.

“We are 100 percent B2B. We don’t have a consumer-facing website or app, but thousands of applications rely on Retailigence in the backend,” says CEO and founder Jeremy Geiger, who comes from a supply chain management background. A major partner, for instance, is SAP, which provides management software to mid-and-large sized retailers.

The company uses point of sales (POS) integrations to gain access to real time inventory and product data, and currently works with 100,000 stores from 325 retailers. It is “a totally different use” of POS than what loyalty services such as FiveStars and Belly are doing, which is attaching sales information to individual buyers, says Geiger. “It is the inventory modules. The data is very specific. It has product, inventory and price and some description of the product.”

It is also different than the ecommerce approach taken by Google and others, which wait for sales to check inventory. “While they experiment with the use of local data in different ways, at best they are getting daily feeds from retailers. It doesn’t enable true online to offline commerce,” argues Geiger.

Geiger says that one of the fastest growing uses of Retailigence’s inventory data is to coordinate between brands and stores. Consumers have been trained to type in store names, but when they are out and about, they really want to type in what they are looking for (i.e. “iPhone charger”). “It is a more efficient and effective way” to search for goods that will spur more sales, he says – especially to smaller retailers that are often left out of the equation.

Chris Terrill Discusses ServiceMagic’s Rebranding to ‘Home Advisor’

A few years ago, it became apparent that IAC’s ServiceMagic had stalled. While the 1,200 person company has continued to show growth, and had expanded to several international markets, it was clearly vulnerable to new challengers, ranging from Angie’s List and Yelp to new companies, such as Repair.com and RedBeacon (now owned by Home Depot.)

Part of the problem may have been that its assortment of services didn’t reflect how people look for service information. Part of it may have been that after 12 years, it was a tired brand to those in the industry, and unknown to those outside of it.

Now the company has pushed the reset button under the leadership of Chris Terrill, who’d served executive stints at Nutrisystem, Blockbuster and Match.com. Terrill’s been on board for 18 months now, and has extensively studied what he has determined is a “half billion dollar plus opportunity.”

“It’s about more than improvements and home projects,” says Terrill. “It’s all things in the service space.” Looking at the competition, Terrill sees a lot of potential to carve out a unique role for Home Advisor. “There is no go-to, ‘Trip Advisor’-like brand in the homes space,” he notes.

Rebranding is key to much of the company’s next steps. Home Advisor, the name of Microsoft’s real estate portal, was purchased from Microsoft for “less than six figures,” says Terrill. “It was the deal of the century.” The new name does a lot more for the company than the limited idea of “service” and the generic “magic,” he notes. Terrill adds that a major branding campaign, including TV, kicks off in January.

“We didn’t want to stop at the name change,” Terrill emphasizes. “We have completely changed the user experience.” New elements include a project cost guide, which users can use to project the actual cost for projects right down to local zip codes. Another new feature is Home911, which is an emergency service app. There is also content for home remodeling. Users can research it to “get beyond aspirational,” says Terrill.

What isn’t changing very much is the business model, although Terrill says it continues to evolve. There are basically two options. Consumers will still receive several qualified paid leads when they are looking for work. Different pricing is in effect for the standard lead or leads from Home911. What won’t change is that consumers will receive services for free. The company’s surveys showed that 90 percent of consumers would never pay for service information.