allLocal is a dream product for a salesperson. It fills a gap in the market and it provides significant value for local businesses. I have had the pleasure of presenting the product to advertising agencies and fortune 500 companies, most of which have had overwhelmingly positive feedback about allLocal, but inevitably the same question almost always comes up “whose budget should pay for this product?”
Local listings drive foot traffic to brick and mortar locations, but also online as the business name will typically link to the website homepage. This gives the user the option of converting offline or online. The business owner should be happy to get that conversion whether it’s in a store or via the website, but this is where the line gets blurry about whose budget should be paying for a local product. The retail team gets credit for in-store sales and the online marketing team is tasked with driving acquisitions online. In theory two teams within the same company want that conversion to take place; they just want it to take place in their revenue channel.
In a perfect world both of those teams would be working for the greater good of the company and agree to split the low costs of a platform like allLocal because it makes sense for the customers that are trying to find their business. The reality is that it takes just one sale from each local listing, whether it’s offline or online, to more than cover the monthly costs of allLocal.
In any company, prioritization is key. Where do you spend your marketing dollars, where do you spend your development time and what comes first on each of the product roadmaps? This is especially true in a small company like ours. While we have been working hard to make local search marketing and reputation management easier for local businesses, we have for the most part ignored our website…until now! The new www.alllocal.com is live, complete with some online demos and a local search marketing learning center. Now back to work…
In a post on the Google Maps blog last night, Google announced that Tags will begin rolling out nationwide. The latest list of available areas will be available here.
For the $25 a month, your Tags are now included in mobile search results as well.
The post still used the word ‘trial’ to describe the program, so it is still possible that Tags get retired at some point here. However, the nationwide expansion means the limited trial must have cleared whatever internal relevancy, performance or revenue metrics Google had in place.
Last week, Google Places got some minor UI and functional tweaks. The changes were focused on the ‘business summary’ page that lists all of the locations managed within the account and are summarized here. The most interesting change though, was the push to verify bulk listings. When you login to an account that has locations added via the bulk feed and they have not been verified, you now get a very prominent message that you should consider doing so:
Some of the features that are supposedly planned for Twitter business accounts where outlined by the OPEN Forum.
- Contributors: Twitter support (as opposed to third-party) for multiple users on the same account.
- Verified Accounts: Add some authority to your account by having Twitter certify you are who you say you are. Curious to see what their verification process is going to look like…
- Opened Direct Messages: Will not require you to be followed to receive a DM.
Google announced today that the Google Local Business Center is being renamed to Google Places. Nothing has changed in the UI as of yet, but as part of the announcement on their blog they did rehash some recently added features and announced a few new ones:
- Service areas (previously available)
- Expansion of the paid ‘Tags’ service into new regions
- Business photo shoots are a cool (and free service) that they have been testing and is now more widely available
- 50K more ‘Favorite Places’
- New Google Places help center
The Google Places announcement also included some interesting stats on the local search space:
- Four million businesses have claimed their Place Page globally and two million in the US
- 20% of searches on Google are related to location
It does not get more local than the message board in the local coffee shop, and that is why I loved what I saw today when I walked in:
Little Coffee Bean, Upton MA
Using the most classic of marketing tools to drive one of the newest and most cutting edge.
Research online, buy local. That is how many of us tend to operate…and more and more services are trying to connect us to the inventory available at our local stores. Now Google has dipped their toe into the space with the launch of their ‘blue dot’ service. Their mobile (and only mobile for now) product search results will include a ‘In stock nearby’ link if one of the retailers they are working with (1) has a location near you and (2) has that product in stock. The list of retailers is pretty short at launch: Best Buy, Sears, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and West Elm.
This is a new feature for Google, but a few companies have been playing in the space for a while now: thefind.com (they don’t have the real-time inventory aspect though), shoplocal.com (driven more off of weekly print ads) and milo.com (true real-time inventory) are the ones that come to mind.
Google announced a ‘Nearby’ search option today. Just another way to drive searchers into localized search results and even more opportunity for businesses that are ranking well in the local listings. Quick example below:
A search for ’snow blower’ does not give me any local results:
Standard search for 'snow blower'
Selecting the ‘nearby’ option brings in local results (a single listing in this case):
The internet has always struggled with authenticity. It is a medium that accepts anonymous interaction, so you never know if the voice at the other end is really who it says it is. This provides for both an overwhelming opportunity (think sites like glassdoor.com) and a saddening view on humanity (think the comments on any political article).
This struggle has always existed in the world of online reviews. Fake reviews and fake comments are just part of what you get online. Astroturfing has always existed, but it is just plain easier and more prevalent online. In the world of local business reviews, we have seen massive growth in the number of online reviews over the last 2 years. This growth, for the most part, has been lead by product and marketplace innovations at Yelp. One of their claimed technological innovations is ability to detect fake reviews in a large-scale way. This removes some of the astroturfing that is going on and provide their customers with a more authentic experience. But now Yelp is in the news (again) for supposedly requiring businesses to purchase advertising from them in order to remove negative reviews or maintain positive reviews. This approach would certainly destroy any authenticity Yelp has created through their fake review removal technology. I can’t imagine this extortionist approach being either implicitly or explicitly supported by anyone that matters in Yelp. However, I can see a few rogue sales people looking to close deals by hanging this over a customer’s head. If that is the case, Yelp needs to clean its house and clean it quick if it wants to retain the authenticity it has started to build.
So what does this all mean to the small business owner? First and foremost, you need know what reviews exist for your business online. Secondly, you need to be responsible for maintaining your digital reputation. See a review bashing your business that your competitor down the street wrote? You need to flag that review. All major review sites offer a mechanism for contesting these type of reviews. See a review bashing your business that a real customer wrote? You have an opportunity to respond to that review in many cases. Maybe that waiter was really a problem and has been fired or maybe that customer was just being unreasonable. Your response, at the very least, will show your potential customers that you care. Now with all the reviews and review sites out there, this process can be overwhelming…but we are busy building tools to help.