You can’t celebrate Local Search Day without a local search panel. This years Rocks Digital brings together the best and brightest in local search, SEO, mobile and voice search!
Moderator Bernadette Coleman, the CEO of Advice Local, is known around the web as the Queen of Local SEO, and she brings it this year. The panelists are Danielle Hanson of Thinknear by Telenav, Chris Marentis of Surefire Local, Brad McCormick of Moroch Partners and Hillit Meidar-Alfi of Spatially. Keep reading and find out about what’s hot and coming to local search and a browser near year.
Local Search Expert Panel Questions and Answers
Moderator – Let’s get down to brass tacks. Panel, please introduce yourselves.
Danielle – With Thinknear by Telenav – we specialize in mobile marketing. There’s lots of bad data out there. Thinknear works to score impressions for each business location.
Chris – Working on large ads with technology platforms so that customers can understand their results better.
Hillit – CEO of a search and analytics company focused on understanding what our customers are. This is done through analytic tools and active trade areas.
Brad – Working for an agency, Moroch, and also teaching digital strategy at SMU. Have 2 daughters, am a Scorpio, blood type A!
Moderator – As you know, I’m Bernadette Coleman, co-organizer of Rocks Digital and the CEO of Advice Local.
Question: There was an article comparing ranking factors. What are your suggested strategies for ranking, and how do you make sure your location is represented accurately? Proximity is the Number One ranking factor. How does the panel feel about this?
Chris – We can all drive ourselves crazy with this. There are changes, no doubt, but there are certain factors, and proximity is one of them. There are lots of channels to create signals for. At an agency, part of your job is to keep workflow going and try to create training for your people. Even as a business owner you cannot keep changing in the wind. Proximity signals are where your customers are, so that you won’t get in trouble with search engines. That is the direction we try to follow.
Hillit – That’s the context we’re operating in, being ready for this opportunity. However, being ready all the time is a complicated concept and idea.
Moderator – What’s the easiest way to do this today?
Hillit – Have a timeline. Look at the entire context, then you’ll have more opportunities to operate.
Brad – Like an athlete, the concept is to train yourself. When you work out, you’re in shape. When you stop working out, you get out of shape. It’s like a pinhole – you’re looking for the single best search. You’re looking at different queues, how many active reservations you have. It is always changing – it is information and iteration. We have to embrace this.
Question: Now it’s all about voice search, so how is all of this changing?
Danielle – In terms of building a brand around a location, what’s important to your business? What message do you want to get out? There are so many different things on your phone and it understands so many things about you. Understanding that data and how it relates to your business is important.
Brad – What’s fascinating about voice search is the user never physically goes to your website. What I’ve heard is that traffic to websites may go down, but content on websites is so important because it’s going to come up in search. Marketing directors need to invest more, not less, to come up more in the search results.
Moderator – We have to change with it.
Chris – Click-to-call paid campaigns have been really good for marketers in being very successful.
Brad – You may want to sponsor a Little League team or something like that to get the backlinks to help you in search.
Chris – When there’s a job opening you can put the job opening on the site, and that’s a link back to you. The world is moving so fast. Facebook knows everything about you and now they’re starting to present things in new, more friendly ways. If working with a client, you want to tell them about putting pictures on Facebook, and then linking them to things. You want to create proximity signals, then you’re going to start showing up in the search results.
Question: Do you think the content is more valuable now?
Chris – Oh yeah! The good thing about the internet is that the interaction is all over the place. How do you know how that data relates to each other, and how do you know it is structured? How do you create a structure for that data? To get to mobile optimization is to understand how all of this works together. That’s the real issue.
Hillit – We need to learn a way to really connect with these people on mobile; try to fit into their day-to-day lives. How do we interact with them? The digital companies today have a lot of tools to help. The brick-and-mortar’s really don’t have these kinds of tools, so we have to help them. There’s a lot more data out there that needs to be processed, and from that data is a slew of insights. What can I do now to really reach out to my customers? Is there a new type of service I can give to my customers?
Brad – This idea of experimentation … data is a journey, and it’s very complicated when there’s too much data. The thing is, you want to do experimentation; doing a salt test to measure is a requirement. Clients always ask is this going to work? I don’t know the answer until we do a small test, then chalk up what we learned for next time.
Danielle – My world is understanding location data; we work with really big brands. In my life, there are more good ideas that come out of a discussion. Clients come to us and say, “I have 500 dollars, what do I do?” It can be a challenge to aggregate data when you have very large-scale data.
Question: Attribution is the challenge for all of us today. How do you handle that? How do you look at the data and put it in an understandable way?
Brad – Goes back to the experimentation. Many marketers have all these marketing dollars and no idea what the objective is. We want to get a touchdown, but chances are we won’t get a touchdown this play, so what do we want to get? Two yards? We have to be more sophisticated when we look at this.
Chris – Organics are hard to look at, and it’s kind of hard to parse that out. You start to better understand how those things are working. The key is to tie those things down. You can get to cost per lead, but cost per sale is the best way to do it.
Hillit – We’re critical about the cost of permission. At the end of the day, it is all about attribution and it needs to be made online and offline. This can happen weeks and months after your campaign has ended. We’re so far away from attribution, but it’s key to use tools to help us look at all this.
Danielle – Using a third party is really important to look at attribution accurately.
Brad – Many businesses don’t know the cost of attribution and don’t know the cost to get a customer. Everything matters. There’s a study that correlates banner search: 22% who saw the banner, and the rest who didn’t. The ones who saw the banner didn’t click, but they still made a purchase.
Chris – They may have gotten a customer and it cost them $218, but over a 2-year period they may find that the customer makes them much more money. This isn’t perfect, but it’s something to look at. Lifetime value of a customer is important.
Question: We recently had a client; we did 4 things which got them to the first page in Google mobile search. (1) Make a website app-compliant. (2) Look for Google structure data. (3) Have a FAQ section on the website. (4) Look for long-tail keywords and long conversations, not just short keywords. Example: “plumber Dallas” vs “I am having a plumbing issue in my bathroom.” We struggle with voice search. How do you address this?
Brad – When you talk to Siri, it’s much more conversational. Have a FAQ that is written conversationally. Siri does not have to normalize the content, and you will be rewarded.
Moderator – There’s a schema coming out that translates text to voice; this is something to be aware of. We have some really good tips. Any tips we can use right now?
Chris – One thing that helps us a lot: the physical address is not always geocoded. You could use a CRM to find areas you’re not ranking in. We created an app where customers can take a picture and geocode that picture – and that pushes it across the web. It really helps clients rank for the physical address.
Question: Now there are buttons in search results consumers can click on (especially for lawyers) for the reviews of their companies. Reviews have become very important today. Any comments?
Brad – You should always be monitoring, soliciting, and measuring your reviews. It’s a huge opportunity.
From the floor – I like this conversation, but how do you validate the data that you’re getting? Also, there seems to be overarching on causality. Unless you know the data is valid you can’t make the correlations on one thing affecting something else.
Brad – I think you’re right, but I think changes in this area are going to happen really rapidly. Universal ID will let you know who this person is. Today is the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone, which is not a long time, but 10 years from now, it’s going to be a wrist watch. Once that becomes available, then the data is going to become more reliable.
From the floor – We’re dumping all this data into a pond, then you’re trying to attribute what the data means, but the more data you have (pond to ocean) makes it exponentially more difficult to understand the data – but we’re still thinking we have a pond. It’s like dumping lots of puzzle pieces on the floor and then trying to solve them.
Brad – Machine learning can solve all that.
From the floor – What big data does best is look at a qualitative point of view. If you look at just the numbers, you’re going to miss something. It’s a lot tougher to draw on, looking at big data. We have to figure out what the qualitative part of it is, and machine learning is not going to solve that because IT IS A MACHINE.
Chris – We’ve been in lots of labs and it’s really interesting what they’re doing: they are reading texts and translating. It is a big ocean and it’s really hard, but we have to be leaders. That data has to be structured and stored because it lets the machine learn where these correlations are.
Hillit – What he’s talking about is clustering data. If we’re going to see how the data works, we need to track and see lots of different things.
Brad – Techniques we use in marketing today is like blood-letting 100 years ago using leeches. Because everyone was doing it, there wasn’t any data to compare it with. Those doctors had the same kind of conversations that we’re having today.
Chris – I think there’s a lot of data and a lot of challenges. Since how technology is going to change is at an accelerated pace, it’s a real problem.
Question: What surprises should we expect going forward in local search?
Danielle – Connect to the car with GM. More is going to change with cars in the next 5 years than in the last 50 years.
Chris – Voice search is going to change the game. Google Home. Voice search is almost going to be a unique website with tag structure, and it’s coming fast.
Hillit – The concept of search is going to evolve; I am very optimistic.
Brad – Voice search is going to increase; it’s going to be multi-disciplinary. Just keep on learning and realize you do not have all the answers.