TikTok Jumps into Local Events

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For multi-location marketers, TikTok’s foray into events, and its increasing role as a destination for local discovery, portend that the platform is joining Facebook and other forums as a key place to connect online with local shoppers. TikTok can’t be ignored as an online-to-offline marketing channel.

Social Apps Are Creating a New UX for Local

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Young consumers are increasingly discovering local shops and restaurants on TikTok and Instagram, not Google or Yelp. An appetite for immersive visual experiences is behind the trend.

5 Big Marketing Opportunities for Multi-Location Brands

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This year’s is the fourth annual LMBR report; the data used in the analysis was provided by data partner Places Scout. Those interested in the full results can check out the report here. In this article, I’ll highlight just a few of the key takeaways for multi-location marketers.

Google Adds More Custom Relevance Signals to Local Results

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The ranking criteria that matters most for the current discussion is relevance. In offering product photos to users searching for products, Google is both declaring and emphasizing that this business has offerings relevant to the searcher’s stated need.

Consumers Widely Frustrated by Business Messaging

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Consumers are seeking easier ways to connect with businesses. For businesses, offering a phone number is no longer enough to maximize conversion opportunities when connecting with local customers searching for their products and services. But few businesses are prepared to meet consumers’ demands for quick, convenient communication.

How Tech-Enabled H2H Can Boost Hyperlocal Marketing

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Marketers do not need to see H2H as at odds with data-driven advertising. Marketers can leverage tech to activate brand ambassadors in target communities, foster local connections, scale to multiple trade areas, and collect data on the back end that allows for customer relationship management and marketing measurement. This is H2H marketing for the digital world, and it’s better than retargeting without a human touch and human touch with no data to back it up.

Yelp Revamps its Business Control Center and Releases Other Pandemic-Adaptive Features

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The announcement follows massive layoffs at the company as advertising plunged along with SMB revenue in the face of coronavirus-fueled lockdowns. But a recent Brandify survey showed Yelp remains a massive presence in the local digital marketing space: 64% of US consumers are somewhat or very likely to turn to Yelp when searching for restaurants, second only to the leader across verticals, Google.

Yelp’s new features will prove especially helpful for businesses in the months, if not years during which Covid-19 continues to affect everyday habits, but a number of the changes align with digital marketing best practices that will serve Yelp clients well beyond the next 12 months. Below is a rundown.

Brandify Study Shows Consumer Search Preferences for Healthcare, Restaurants, and Retail

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Google in particular has made significant moves in recent months to verticalize the consumer search experience. For example, the team responsible for the relatively new Google Travel and Google Hotels sites has reported that they built a new consumer experience for hotels specifically because they noted important differences in the ways consumers searched in that category. 

Brandify’s study illustrates that consumer preferences for additional verticals are similarly differentiated, both in the channels consumers prefer for each vertical and the sorts of information they seek out when searching. Already, the search experience for restaurants, retail stores, and healthcare providers varies by vertical, especially on Google, which has added prominent vertical-specific attributes as a result of Covid-19 such as dine-in, takeout, and pickup availability for restaurants.

Are Google’s Many Broken Features Reflections of Google’s Style?

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Mike to David: To some extent, the Google “method” of release quickly, break often, iterate, and finally reject or accept a change collides very directly when it interfaces with the much slower-moving real world. 

David: This speaks to our ongoing antitrust discussion and whether business harm is a justifiable prong on which to spear Google. Volatility is one thing, but a broken utility is another. And realistically, because of Google’s market position, small businesses have nowhere to turn when that utility is flat-out failing on fundamental levels.

The Ghost in the Machine: Google Gamifies Machine Learning

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David Mihm to Mike Blumenthal: As for our Halloween topic, a spooky good SEO, Scott Hendison, tweeted a link over the weekend that I found fascinating: https://crowdsource.google.com. Even for those of us who are used to these kinds of initiatives coming from Google, it’s the most brazen public effort we’ve seen to train their machine learning algorithm via user contributions across a whole range of data types.

Mike: It is certainly brazen. There is NO attempt to bury this as an activity within some other program like their Captcha. It’s a gamification of their ML plain and simple, and if I know Google, the reward will be either insignificant or worse: a discount on some “premium product” (i.e., an ad). 

Jump of 0.1 in Five-Star Review Averages Can Make the Difference on Conversion

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When customers are looking for a quick fix and do not intimately know the shops around them, star-rating averages are crucial. A new report by location-based marketing firm Uberall indicates they are so influential in consumer decision-making processes that a mere 0.1-point jump in a store’s average rating can increase its conversion rate by 25%.

Will Images Drive a New Local Search Paradigm?

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Blumenthal to Mihm: Obviously AI/ML vis-à-vis image recognition is going to play a huge role going forward in terms of discovery and conversion. But I would have to add that it is also critically important to Google as a way to engage the user in “immersive search” behaviors. That is, drawing the user deeper and deeper into Google so that they never feel the need or desire to go someplace else. This will further seal off the walled garden of local discovery search. 

You can see this in the new search by photos feature where the user is led into a grid of visual business choices and ultimately served up the Local Finder via the View list link or, if they click on an image, a business profile. But to get to the phone number, the user had to totally commit to diving deeper into Google.

Channels Are the New Citations

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Enter Phase Three. As my column’s title suggests, I would argue that the old concept of citation building has largely lost its relevance, and that thinking of the local network as a system of channels — parallel, somewhat independent sources of consumer traffic — is a more appropriate paradigm for where we are now. 

In all, there are approximately 10 independent sites and site categories that together make up the primary channels where any business should be well represented in order to be competitive.

Multi-Location Marketers Want to Do More Social Advertising, But One Big Thing Stands in the Way

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Unlike search, social is a push medium that marketers can use to reach new audiences. Social can leverage rich ad formats such as mouth-watering images of restaurant dishes, explainer videos for complex products, and eye-catching celebrity or influencer endorsements that are much more impactful and engaging at storytelling than search. 

Today’s local enterprise advertisers know that they should be leveraging the one-two punch of search and social together. One day they will. But until social advertising can offer the same streamlined workflow that can make managing hundreds or thousands of locations as easy as search makes it, social will still lag behind in the local marketing media portfolio. 

Embracing Hyperlocal Creative at Scale

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The challenge of authentic content is doing it at scale, in a way that is brand safe, across all markets. While creating custom content could seem like a feasible task for international companies with endless resources at their fingertips, even legacy brands all too often struggle with personalized, custom, local content at scale. It’s equally as challenging for local businesses like franchises, small agencies, and Mom-and-Pop shops who are charged with many business tasks outside of content creation. One of the pivotal concerns in digital marketing as it applies to content and content creation is having an efficient process to scale content production. 

So, how can franchises, local businesses, and brands scale their creative marketing content to better reach local markets?

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

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Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

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Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

Who’s Winning the Reviews Race? How Do We Define Winning?

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In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.

At I/O, Google Offers a New Vision for Local Search

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The notion of “helping you get things done,” emphasized by Sundar Pichai in his I/O keynote, provides a through-line for many of the event’s announcements. It struck me watching the presentations how thoroughly Google has become a consumer electronics company, a marketer of devices where search is more a central feature than a standalone product. Google, in other words, has become thoroughly dedicated to marketing its famous search capabilities in the context of devices that help you perform daily tasks. In the process, it is transforming local search and how we relate to the world with electronic devices.

Beyond SEO: How to Reframe the Local Marketing Conversation

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“I am looking for a language framework that helps business understand that the idea of ranking only makes sense in the context of not just getting more customers but also keeping them. While businesses might want a floodgate of leads, there are many things that they could be doing that would be cost-effective and productive,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their latest Street Fight discussion.