David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal offer their take on a decade in local search. Among other topics, they take stock of Google’s dominance.
Mike: Now, it seems that the battle to become the hegemon of local has been signed, sealed, and delivered by Google not just in the US but worldwide. Their well-played hand with Android seems to have been the push they needed. And they managed to gain a totally dominant position IN SPITE of the Google Plus fiasco, which started around that time.
David: Google Plus! I’d honestly forgotten about that debacle already. In our little corner of the world, the fact that Google could waste all those years, person hours, and billions of dollars developing Google Plus and still ascend to its current position in local search shows you just what a colossal opportunity Facebook has missed in this space.
David: I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our product mix at ThriveHive recently. And in particular the segmentation of the various offerings of our newly combined GateHouse/Gannett company by customer budget.
It has surprised me, frankly, that so few agencies seem to go to market with the essential digital marketing bundle for local businesses you and I proposed exactly two years ago. In re-reading that article, I’d still give the same advice today and with even more urgency based on the rollout of Local Service Ads.
During the holiday shopping season, it’s Amazon’s world — or is it?
Outside the digital sphere, brick-and-mortar holiday sales at big-box shops like Walmart and Best Buy continue to be buoyed by bullish shoppers willing to hit the streets in search of timely deals during consumer-focused quasi-holidays like Black Friday. As a result, shoppers are spending more during the holidays than ever before.
And then there’s the independent, local retailer. How is a small shop supposed to compete with the ease of mobile e-commerce or the allure of big-box doorbuster deals? Turns out, they have an ace in the hole: last-minute shoppers.
Constant Contact, known for its email marketing platform, is expanding to offer an AI-driven website builder as well as tools for branding, productivity, and e-commerce. It’s the first major expansion for Constant Contact since its acquisition by Endurance International Group.
The company’s new website builder is specifically designed for SMB owners and operators without the time or expertise typically required to build an effective site from scratch. Constant Contact claims sites can be created in minutes.
Headlines about retail closures suggest it’s Amazon’s world and we’re all just living in it, but there’s more to the story. For local businesses, in particular, there’s ample reason to be optimistic that the retail apocalypse doesn’t have to spell end times. In fact, exactly the opposite could be true. Let’s walk through a few of the reasons for optimism.
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.
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.
A freshly released report from SMB software firm Broadly uses data from a survey of 300 SMB leaders to paint a picture of the American SMB in 2019: gradually embracing mobile-first communication, skeptical of innovation that undercuts human connection, and ambivalent toward large digital marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.
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.
“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.
A whopping 64% of respondents indicated relying on Google My Business to find contact information for local business, suggesting it’s an indispensable platform. Yet consumers still trust local business websites most of all, and only 8% say they never consult a business’ website when making shopping decisions.
“I think it makes more sense for a small business to buy ‘brand building’ that includes some community events and link building than for that same business to buy SEO,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm. Find out what tech tools can build a local brand and why David disagrees partly with Mike’s suggestion.
While SMB digital marketing spend has seen a steady rise, SMBs are being more conservative about the agencies and vendors with which they partner. In the transparency era, consolidating spend with a select group of trusted agency partners that offer multiple core services is now the norm.
For agencies that cater to SMB brands, these trends have created opportunities and challenges. There is money to be had, but only organizations that differentiate themselves from the competition and can deliver clear ROI will benefit. So how can SMB agencies show their value to brands and ensure revenue growth? There are three opportunity areas, in particular, that can help.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Answer Optimization and Zero-Click SERPs seem to be gaining traction as concepts in the SEO industry, but as you pointed out in our previous conversation on this topic, Google’s moving well beyond simple answers and into journeys. Cindy Krum highlighted several examples of these new search journeys, which as I saw her presenting struck me as “rabbit-holes.”
Rodion Yeroshek: The majority of restaurant businesses, especially the small ones, remain slow adopters and non-adopters of AI technology. People may think that the introduction of AI in small restaurant operations is nothing more than jumping on the bandwagon. However, research on the impact of AI on the world economy by McKinsey Global Institute warns the naysayers. The research predicts that by 2030 active adopters of AI technologies could double their cash flow, while non-adopters could lose up to 20% of theirs. This is a hint for restaurant managers who plan to stay in business for the next 10-15 years that it’s time they embrace AI tools or prepare to lose a big part of their market share for good.