Traditional Businesses Still Failing to Reach Online Consumers

An infographic from Marketecture offers a useful compendium of statistics pointing both to the great opportunity in local and the persistent gap between that opportunity and the actual practice of marketing by many small business owners…

The Impact of Google’s Local Update Is Still a Developing Story

Google seems to be experimenting with driving more traffic to its local competition, meaning that it’s more important than ever for a business to secure its presence across a broad base of directories. The value proposition of local SEO does not change in a fundamental way, given that Google has long used citation consistency as a prominent local ranking signal…

Unmanaged Local Listings Hurt Consumers and Businesses Alike

Google Maps and its competitors have become the most important pathways to brick and mortar businesses outside foot traffic and word of mouth. As one recent case indicates, an accurate Google Maps listing can be a matter of life or death for a local business. The company needs a stronger and more concerted effort to enlist the help of business owners to address this problem…

Why ‘Google My Business’ Helps, But Doesn’t Fix, Local for SMBs

The company’s redesign of its SMB portal replaces both the old Google Places for Business interface and the equivalent within Google+, and consolidates several features into a friendlier interface. The features for the most part are not new, but the update does a good job of tying together the claiming and profile management process with Google+ sharing…

New Listing Services Will Help Local Data Go Digital

Somewhat unexpectedly, 2014 has seen a profusion of companies entering the listing management arena, many of them veterans of related disciplines. Those of us with long experience in the space are not surprised that others would see the value in helping businesses get found on local search sites and apps. But why the sudden surge of activity?

What’s in a Swarm? Making Sense of Foursquare’s Split

It’s hard to envision now, but it could be that a decoupled discovery and recommendation service will be just what Foursquare needs to scale its dataset beyond entertainment and to encourage users to improve the quality and accuracy of venue information. These developments would turn Foursquare into a viable competitor to data aggregators like Infogroup and possibly to Google Maps itself…

Recent Studies Show Mobile’s Broadening Reach

The reports underline what we might call the inherently local nature of mobile search. Whether you are in a store contemplating a high-ticket purchase or downtown hoping to discover a new restaurant, the phone in your hand is your portal to timely and actionable information as well as marketing incentives that are increasingly likely to gain your attention…

The Shifting Line Between Free and Paid Local Marketing Services

The manipulation of organic reach on Facebook is one of many examples of the shifting boundary between free and paid local marketing services. In “pure” local search, that boundary has tended to be relatively clear: look for a local business in your typical IYP and you’ll see sponsored listings at the top of the results page, followed by organic results. But that boundary is likely more clear to those of us who know what to look for than it is to the general user…

New Location-Based Services Are Poised to Enter the Mainstream

To a surprising degree, the panels and presenters at Street Fight’s Local Data Summit last week in Denver emphasized a similar theme: we’re about to see a plethora of new technology-enhanced real-life experiences centering on ingenious uses of data. The signal feature this time around is an orientation toward experiences situated in a physical context. The question the new technologies will answer is this: “What do I need my technology to do for me now, in this place, at this time, under these circumstances?”

As Google Updates Places, Could Some Merchants Find Their Listings Deleted?

Local SEO consultants and service providers offer businesses the peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is watching the forums and industry news in order to act on policy changes and new developments quickly. Given the complexity of local SEO and the fast pace of change, it’s unreasonable to place the onus for listing management solely on the small business owner…

Let’s Simplify and Strengthen Business Listing Verification

Verification is a great idea in theory and, once you navigate the tangled process, it even works well for most business owners in practice. However, there is very little consistency across publishers as to how the process should work or what the result should be, and there is plenty of evidence that the supposed lockdown of business data via owner verification doesn’t always operate as it should…

Google’s Local Social Conundrum

Google’s attempt at ushering in the Facebook-ization of search, local and otherwise, depends on a major shift in perception and engagement. It may be difficult to bring about such a shift with a “build it and they will come” approach — given the current volume of content, the emphasis on social turns Google’s rich local result set into a desert.

When Big Platforms Go Local

Though Amazon’s plan to have drone delivery by the end of the decade may seem far-fetched, it speaks vividly to the notion that large online platforms are working hard to localize their inventories, and even to redefine what “local” means…

Finding the Balance Between Relevance and Reach in SMB Content

It’s simple enough to say that creating great content or a great platform should be enough to bring users to your door; but if they have no idea you exist, getting the word out effectively is both a matter of reaching your intended user base and staying within the confines of an algorithmically defined concept of quality content. For small and medium-sized businesses, the challenge is to be present and available to customers and potential customers in multiple online venues in a way that conserves effort while remaining effective…

Do Small Businesses Really Need a Website?

The website is the richest online repository of compelling information about a business, but it probably isn’t its primary means of attracting customers. Rather, customers who find you via Google Maps or Facebook may need to refer to your website in the event a third party search doesn’t provide enough information to make a buying decision. The website serves as a last stage effort to win business that hasn’t already been secured via local search…

The Government Shutdown and the Local Data Economy

For the most part, local search appears to demonstrate with flying colors the benefits of getting things done in the private sector. Not only is it a self-sustaining and profitable industry; it exhibits a drive to innovate that brings ever-improving services to our desktops and handheld devices at a dizzying pace. Imagine if local directories and apps were run by the same bureaucracy that manages the Postal Service, the IRS, and the Census Bureau. We’d probably still be using phone books. Yet at a fundamental level, governmental authorities still act as objective reference points when it comes to information of interest to the public…

Calculating the ROI of Local Search Campaigns

How can we calculate just how much return a given business can expect on the investment of time, money, or both into a local search campaign? For many business owners, it’s that type of dollars and cents calculation that will drive them to decide whether or not to move forward with a campaign. Other metrics are important but ultimately secondary to the bottom line…

What Will It Take to Bring All Businesses Online?

Many small businesses are claiming their Google and Bing listings, interacting with reviewers on Yelp, and using social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Inside the local bubble, it might seem as though the importance of these activities has been long established. Surely only a business stuck in the stone age would ignore the statistics we all know and love about searches with local intent, the explosion of mobile, and the critical need to be well represented in Google search results. How, then, are we to take a report showing that 52% of SMBs still don’t have a website?

How Will Jeff Bezos Redefine the Newspaper?

Amazon has always been a virtual marketplace, where the location of the buyer has very little to do with a transaction. Bringing the Bezos vision to bear on a community-oriented portal could mean any number of things, but it certainly means the potential for services that bear some resemblance to traditional journalism but are remediated into a form that takes advantage of digital commerce and social media, while maintaining a sense of local community…

How Local Search Looks to the Rest of Us

It seems like many recent conversations, webinars, articles, and studies have pointed to the same conclusion: local search as an industry is insufficiently aware of how its products are actually used by consumers and small businesses. Many of the solutions put forward by consumer-facing local publishers and by business-facing services overestimate our appetite for new products and the amount of time and energy we want to spend using online tools…