Tag Archives: sem

‘Yodle Organic’ Focuses on Boosting Search Rankings

Yodle, the third party SMB reseller, has now divided its business into “Yodle Sponsored” and “Yodle Organic.” The formation of the latter division, which has been live for a month with 150 clients, is a recognition that SMBs are increasingly relying on organic search as much as paid search – and they need help driving exposure to their websites, blogs, YouTube and social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

For $400 a month, with six month initial contracts, Yodle Organic is set to pump up its clients’ organic search rankings. It will provide personalized consultations, design and code websites to maximize search rankings; help create and syndicate video; distribute local business profiles to search sites and directories; and provide a dashboard that allows SMBs to measure goals.

Yodle CEO Court Cunningham says the timing feels right. “SEO’s price-per-lead and price-per-click is substantially lower than SEM. But it isn’t ‘either-or.’ They complement each other,” he says. “SEO takes time to build your site so it becomes visible and builds authority in the eyes of the search engines. It is about building equity in a brand that is long lasting.”

The challenge is to properly scale the effort for each client and make money – Yodle gets an average of about $1,000 per month from its 7,000 paid search clients. “No one has productized and automated and put clear accounting” around something like this, he says. But “we’ve been building websites for three years. We’re experts in automation.”

Still, it is an on-going experiment as Yodle works to get clients non-paid traffic in such new areas as maps, article sharing sites and even Google’s 7 Pack. “We look at these things as organic distribution,” says Cunningham.

Content production is probably the biggest question mark for Yodle (and for any company entering this space). Out of the gate, Yodle is using a combination of external contributors, internal editors and curated content from other sources. It hopes to provide at least ten fresh pieces of content a month to each client.

New G5 Venture: SEO Meets Real Time Reservations

Real time reservations have moved beyond restaurants,hair parlors and parking garages and are now being offered for self storage units. G5 Search Marketing, which specializes in self storage, has teamed with Centershift and United Stor-All Management to launch websites that integrate G5’s SEO and click thru solutions with unit availability, pricing, promotions and payment.

The effort allows United Stor-All to consolidate the Web presences of 80 facilities in 17 states and DC that it currently manages, while generating brand awareness and Web traffic for its storage unit owners. It is the first of several third party integrations that G5 has planned for 2010.

“Integrating at the point of sale enables us to close the loop and truly track a new customer all the way back to the origination point online,” says G5 CEO Dan Hobin “Our clients like to know that they have a managed service.” At the same time, Hobin says clients expect “full access” to their sites and want to be able to make changes at will.

Microsoft, Advance in Yahoo Consortium-like Pact

Newspapers are down in the dumps. But they remain powerful forces in local. Accordingly, the search engines (Yahoo, Google and Microsoft) are now beginning to fight for partnerships with newspaper sales channels, which they see as one of the best ways to reach into large local advertisers, and a good way to geotarget display ads.

Today, Microsoft fired a shot across the bow by announcing a wide- ranging search and display pact with Advance Internet for the 36 Advance Newspaper titles. Advance is part of the multimedia conglomerate that also owns Conde Naste magazines. The deal echoes the services provided by the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, but allows Advance to use its own ad server.

Major components include behavioral targeting, geographic targeting and the opportunity to add local eyeballs via exposure to the broader Microsoft Media Network, which has a 76 percent reach among U.S. Internet users, and includes MSN, MSNBC.com (which today bought Everyblock), CNBC and Fox Sports. Microsoft will also be able to sell text ads and display ads to Advance Newspaper sites.

The deal also enables Advance’s sites to define broader geographic markets than the circulation areas of its 36 separate newspapers — a limitation of the Yahoo Consortium in certain markets. Several Advance sites cluster on a regional and state-wide basis. The major sites include NJ.com, Al.com, Cleveland.com, MLive.com, NOLA.com, OregonLive.com, SILive.com, Syracuse.com, MassLive.com, PennLive.com, Gulflive.com and Lehighvalleylive.com.

The MS/Advance pact has been cooking up for several months, well before Microsoft’s Bing became the default search engine for all Yahoo sales – including local business sales of the Yahoo! newspaper consortium Microsoft might like it more because it doesn’t give such a huge chunk of certain advertising (88 percent) to Yahoo.

We don’t know, however, whether the deal has been entirely sorted out within Microsoft. Some internal political issues might arise, especially if it is deemed to compromise the much more important relationship with Yahoo. We shall see.

As it is, the deal isn’t exclusive to Advance. It could be replicated with other local media companies – although obviously not to the members of the Yahoo Consortium, which are locked up for several years.

In fact, there aren’t that many major newspaper companies left unsigned. But Gannett, with 86 U.S. papers and Tribune are obvious targets, as Ken Doctor points out in his analysis. The deal might also have some impact on smaller newspapers, and other local media, such as Yellow Pages, broadcasters and cable TV. Microsoft already has some relationship with Yellowpages.com.

Advance Internet President Peter Weinberger sees the deal as a “re-messaging opportunity. We are already known for our quality audience and for our trusted relationships with our accounts,” he tells us. While Advance is something of a secretive organization and rarely touts its own horn in public forums, Weinberger emphasizes that the company has got to be considered a big win.

“We have the number one news and information sites in each of our markets,” he says. “Five of our sites rank in the top 10 of newspaper affiliated sites based on local penetration of adults 18+.”

The Advance/MS offering has already been pre-sold on a test basis to certain advertisers, including those in core newspaper categories such as auto dealers, financial services, and local retailers. Travel is another potentially lucrative category.

“We’ve had a positive response so far,” says Weinberger. “It should take a couple of months to settle down,” and will really prove itself in 2010.

In the meantime, “We are achieving our goal to put together a digital marketing plan based on a conversation with our clients,” adds Weinberger. “We want to meet the objectives of each of our advertisers with our campaigns on our site. “

Weinberger especially sees a lot of promise for his local advertisers with search – possibly extending beyond core newspaper advertisers. “Many (advertisers) are interested in search, but it is relatively complex,” says Weinberger. “We say: ‘let us take on the burden of managing this for you’…We show them the value associated with SEM,” in context with the broader advertising purchase.

While Microsoft is certainly competing with Yahoo by making the deal, Advance’s involvement should not be taken as a slap against the Yahoo Consortium, says Weinberger. “I have heard a lot of positive things” about The Consortium, he says.

But “Microsoft makes more sense at this time. It allows us to use our current ad server platform (24/7 RealMedia).” The situation is the same with Google, which would presumably mandate use of its DoubleClick division.

An added benefit to the deal is the consultative relationship that is promised by Microsoft. “Microsoft understands that we are experts in the local field,” says Weinberger. Accordingly, Advance is being consulted on the beta development of Microsoft’s PubCenter, which provides text ads for display on web pages, with a wide variety of design and reporting features.

Meanwhile, Microsoft says it is pleased with the deal. “The local perspective is important to us and will be incredibly helpful as we build out our reseller efforts,” notes Microsoft PubCenter GM Brian Handly, via email. “This collaboration with Advance Internet presents a good opportunity for us to tap into newspapers and other local media companies.”

Regarding the impact on the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, Handly says “It is too soon to discuss specifics of the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal and what impact this may have on Yahoo’s newspaper consortium. Right now our focus is building a great number two player in search that creates choice, value, and innovation for consumers and advertisers.”

How Can Google Improve? Local Execs Comment

We all live in Google’s world now. Nobody would dispute that there are many positives associated with that. But how do industry practitioners really feel about it. Can it be improved? We asked three executives who cover different parts of the local ecosystem, promising them anonymity.

An aggregator said he thinks he should be treated as more of a partner. “Aggregators/intermediaries are treated with a broad brush, assumed to be link farms/inefficient nuisances, and essentially outcast,” he complained.

“In the business of local, the aggregation of advertisers and/or of content with valuable ad products and/or user utility can be very appealing to consumers and to local merchants. This dimension of innovation is being penalized by Google’s approach to search, and there are no partnership formulas that align with this.”

On the other hand, an SEM exec said that Google is “heading in the right direction” with its local products, especially Google Maps. But “the results are often not as relevant as their organic results. I believe they are getting traction simply because they are forcing users to go there by adding the 10-pack pack at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).”

More importantly, Google Local’s volume isn’t high enough. “From a monetization standpoint, we would like to spend more money on Local Business Ads (ads on maps) – but the volume does not seem to be there – at least like it is compared to regular ads displayed on the organic results pages.

“What Google could do to help us and other local marketers is to allow us to differentiate on clicks between regular organic results (below the map) and clicks to links displayed in the 10 pack,” he added. “Currently, they look the same from a tracking standpoint.”

Meanwhile, a Yellow Pages executive said he isn’t very interested in selling for Google. “Why on earth would anyone be a reseller for Google Local – it isn’t economically feasible,” he said. “They don’t provide discounts to resellers, volume benefits, or royalties to sellers, who may buy directly from Google after the initial sale.”

Vertical Case Study: G5 Focuses on Self- Storage Companies

self-storage.jpg Do you really need to have raised millions of dollars to succeed in selling search solutions to small businesses? It is a question that I often ask myself.

Dan Hobin’s G5 Search Marketing in Bend, Ore., is profitable without having raised outside money. Hobin’s secret is initially focusing the five-year old, 17-person company on a specific vertical category: self-storage

Hobin’s brother is in the self-storage business in southern California. Consequently, Hobin, a veteran of numerous dotcom startups such as CyberSource and Beyond.com, knew enough about their needs to try to transition their large marketing budgets to search. These companies typically take out full page ads in Yellow Pages, and spend $1,500 to $2,000 per month on the Yellow Pages programs, he says.

G5’s search solutions typically run $300 to $500 per month. The money provides a full range of search engine optimization and search engine marketing programs, trackable coupons, dedicated call tracking via VoiceStar, and graphically rich reporting tools. The combination of SEM and SEO is critical, says Hobin. Other companies have focused too much on SEM and miss entire groups of customers.

Currently, G5 serves 30 self-storage companies with over 600 locations. These companies recognize that search is far cheaper than Yellow Pages, says Hobin. With G5, Hobin estimates that they’re spending $5 to $20 per lead, or $30 to $50 per self storage rental. With Yellow Pages, Hobin estimates it is $150 to $200 per lead, or $300 to $400 per rental. Yellow Pages shouldn’t be abandoned, but other kinds of marketing should be added, he believes.

A typical client profile shows that their search efforts lead mostly to phone calls. Sixty percent of users make a call; twenty percent want to use a coupon; and ten percent seek a price quote.

G5 provides search solutions on a wide range of services. But most of the action is with “the Big 4,” Hobin notes: Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN. The IYPs and classified service providers, meanwhile, are all described as “second tier.” “If you are an IYP, the only way you get traffic is if you are listed on Google.”

G5 is also doing some advertising on Facebook. It is a good way to reach college students, who tend to be very big users of storage facilities. But it is also very seasonal, based mostly on school semesters Texting quotes on demand is also popular with college students.

Currently, G5 is adding a set of new verticals to its initial focus on self-storage. The criteria are that categories are dominated by companies with multiple locations – ideally 20 or more. It has already added a focus on apartments. Assisted living facilities will be next. “The key is they have a high lifetime value, and that we can manage their transition” to online, he says.

WebVisible Lands $12 Million; Emphasizes Integrated SMB Solutions

webvisible-logo.jpg The small business advertising arms race has gotten hotter in recent weeks, as companies eye a chance to add Google and Yahoo search solutions, and other services to small business marketing budgets once totally contained by Yellow Pages.

First we had ReachLocal’s $305 million valuation based on a $55 million round of financing, sparking the whole marketplace. In early March, SpotRunner entered the game, acquiring Weblistic in an all stock buy to power its 30 local sales offices with solutions that go beyond its core strength in video. At the same time, Orem, Utah-based Orange Soda got on the map with Freedom Communications, the publisher of The Orange Country Register. Previously, New York-based Yodle got $12 million in funding.

Today, Irvine-CA-based WebVisible, a six-year veteran of the reseller space with 60 employees, reinforced its own position with $12 million in new series B funding from Sutter Hill Ventures and Redpoint Ventures, an existing investor. WebVisible partners in the U.S. include AT&T, Earthlink, and McClatchy. Internationally, it works with Yellow Pages Group of Canada and British Telecom.

WebVisible CEO Kirsten Mangers says the new money is going to be used to flesh out its offerings and “fully support the customers we have.” The company’s focus is all about “innovation for reaching local businesses. At the end of the day, “it is never a money race.”

A major part of WebVisible’s vision is to provide a 360 degree set of solutions for SMBs. Search solutions are an important part of the equation. But “there comes a time when the sales channel needs more display, more marketing needs. Advertising always follows the audience,” she reminds. “And the paradigm changes over time.” The key is to not to tie yourself to a single channel. WebVisible strives to be “Switzerland.”

“Statistics show that conversions will rise with an integrated media campaign,” adds Mangers. “Customers have been asking for it.” Video is not “fully baked,” right now. But it “closes the loop on the brand story,” and is undoubtedly part of a solution that also includes SEO/SEM, banners and location based services. All of it needs to “scaelable by geography; scaleable by vertical.”

With so many players in the market, one would think that the resellers would begin running into each other, much like the third parties in the automotive space that besiege auto dealers, four or five at a time. But Mangers says that almost never happens. “It is a problem I want to have.”

WebVisible’s approach, as a white label provider of solutions, is to partner with the community players that have brand equity, ranging from Yellow Pages to newspapers to chambers of commerce. “They need to own the relationships,” she says. It is a more sustainable customer base.”

But the local partners should “put a body in place” dedicated specifically to the extended SMB solutions – not just Yellow Pages or the Big three classified verticals. “They need to go out and tell an excellent story; and show new ways of using online as their lead product.” At the same time, they should “never discount the value of their brand” with bundled discounts, etc.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, for instance, has worked with WebVisible to have a dedicated account rep, resulting in a tripling of bookings in the last two months. “Newspaper reps have so many products in their bag that recommendations and fact-finding become difficult,” says Mangers.