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March 8, 2011

SMX West 2011: Location Services: The New Local Search?

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This session dives into how location services like Foursquare, Google Latitude, Gowalla and mobile apps are changing local search. This should be a great preface to the upcoming keynote this afternoon from Foursquare, which we’ll be covering as well, so stay tuned. I love that we are able to give everyone so much local search love. It’s a great topic.

We actually touched on this topic recently in the blog, check out the post, “Checking out Location Check-in Services: Why They’re Good for Business.”

I’m doing hand yoga at the moment while I wait for the session to start.

Moderator: Greg Sterling, Founding Principal, Sterling Market Intelligence

Q&A Moderator: Kelly Gillease, Vice President, Marketing, Viator

Speakers:

Rodney Hess, Account Associate, Search Influence
Ken Norton, Senior Product Manager, Google
Gib Olander, Director of Business Development, Localeze
Jason Rupp, Director, Product Management, Ask.com
Chris Travers, President & Co-Founder, UniversalBusinessListing.org

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The first speaker is Gib Olander.

He is giving an overview of the way information-gathering has developed over the years. He concludes with location – finding what, where and when, now. Now that people are using mobile devices, we know so much more real-time information.

Location-based services are business identity. Before, all you had was a storefront. Locations and identity needs to have content associated with it (specials advertised on the window was what businesses did for years). What’s the business identity today? Online, with consistent information across the Web [starting to sound familiar today?].

Sources of local business information is changing. It’s more fragmented than ever; across search engines, social, apps, etc. Is your business able to be discovered? The thing that holds you together is your business identity. Establish it online. If you are fragmented online, your check-ins will be fragmented.

Quick piece of data: The difference between mobile users and PC users is mobile users buy within an hour, PC users buy within seven days. Sixty percent of mobile Internet usage is spent on social networking.

Check-ins aren’t going away, he says. He saw them grow by thousands upon thousands in a span of three months for the Chicago O’Hare airport. Some brands are taking advantage of it.

Tips to influence purchases: Give valuable information in the check-in places. It’s relevant because you’re offering it while they are there. Enable your clients to create and share great content. Also be aware of time as relevancy. Offer specials regarding lunch between certain hours of the day,  for example.

Rodney Hess is speaking next. He’s going to talk Foursquare. He just wished us all a happy Mardi Gras, since he’s from New Orleans [wonder if he’s bummed he’s in San Jose].

He’s talking “barnacle” SEO – attaching one’s self to a large fixed object and waiting for customers to float by. Google and Bing both index venues from Foursquare and Yelp in organic search results. Google crawls Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook for local citations.

Rodney did a case study and found that some people felt like check-in services weren’t worth the ROI; but what he found was that in some cases, it’s just not truly understanding how to best utilize it and what its purpose is.

He did a survey and asked people why they used it. His data says it’s due to factors like: it’s another social networking addiction, but “Badges” was not a factor in his study. Another stat showed that 70 percent of people said business promotions did not factor into using location services, which was surprising.

More than 55 percent said they use the location check-in services to find new businesses. For the people who don’t use the services, he asked what would make them start – some people said if they owned a Smartphone, that would help.

But the most popular answer of why people aren’t engaging in location check-in services was that people didn’t like the idea of others knowing where they were all the time.

Next is Jason Rupp.

He says Ask is focusing on Q&A now, getting back to its roots. They are still search-focused by now refocusing. The Q&A model for Ask.com looks at a user’s location as a trigger for what you’re asking about.

He’s talking mobile. He says that 10 blue links on a Smartphone is a bad user experience. People want their information a lot faster than on a PC. There’s a lot of signals you need to pay attention to. Seek new signals such as apps, location check-ins and more.

The engagement level on mobile is actually really good – contrary to initial beliefs. People come back more to apps than they do online. He said he heard a stat that Facebook users are 60 to 70 percent more engaged on Facebook than they are on a desktop.

He says they did some research and the credibility of content went down once the answer to a question on Ask.com was more than a day old. People on mobile especially want real-time information. Keep your content fresh and keep in mind that info is being indexed at a really fast pace, sometimes in the same day. That can have a big impact on your business.

Now we have Chris Travers. He is going to talk about tools available to optimize for local search.

SMX West 2011: Location Services Session

First, only claim your profiles across the Web if you commit to keeping the data updated. Social profiles can be very complex for businesses to manage. Fragmentation over multiple platforms and managing reviews and ratings is a concern.

Businesses need:

  • Syndication
  • Claiming
  • Verification
  • Video
  • Visibility
  • Reputation
  • Branding

Some leaders in the field for managing presence online are Solfo, Vendasta, Trackur, Yext, Knowem, etc. If you own a key brand, you need to claim your profile and not let anyone else get to it.

Listings are evolving online to include businesses within businesses, for example, redbox. This is a DVD rental inside grocery stores, but they have their own listings online.

Ken Norton is on next.

He is going to talk about how Google thinks about location. The first point is to think about location not as a specific thing as someone is looking for, but a layer that enhances every task someone is trying to accomplish online. Don’t focus on the place, think about the touch points.

He wants everyone to put mobile first and think about the user experience on mobile as being fundamental to everything you do on location. Google is thinking less about local products and more about how we can make everyone’s tasks better with location.

He’s done, that was fast.

Questions.

Q: How do you capture the success of the local information that distributed everywhere?
A: Chris says that it depends on the business; small business traffic comes from business listings most of the time. To measure it is very difficult. Google, Facebook, Yelp provides activity data from those profiles. That’s the start of measuring data.

Q: What’s the best way to get in on this if you don’t have a physical presence?
A: Ken says even if you don’t have a physical location, think about how location can be important outside of a physical address [touching on what he said earlier].
A: Rodney says to leave it. Many of those sites already have benefits that some of these physical location services don’t have it.
A: Chris says you might be able to list your brand within a physical location if they carry it.

Q: What is Ask.com’s view of opportunity with mobile and your users?
A: Jason says they are looking at mobile and desktop users as two different audiences. Providing the information they think they need based on where they are, what they’ve been doing and what they’ve asked for.

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2 responses to “SMX West 2011: Location Services: The New Local Search?”

  1. Rodney Hess writes:

    Thanks for blogging, Jessica! No, I wasn’t too bummed to miss Mardi Gras. I usually just stay in on Fat Tuesday to recover, as it is a week – or sometimes month – long event!

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Rodney! You’re welcome — enjoyed it! And thanks for clarifying your stance on missing Mardi Gras, ha. Love it.



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