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April 16, 2008

Tactical Search: Local and Mobile Search

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Yay, a panel I know something about! Moderator Dana Todd (Newsforce) will be talking with Sean Cummings (Ask.com), Ian White (Urban Mapping, Inc) and Zach Anders (Ticketcity) about what might well be the future of search (and search engine optimization): local and mobile.

After a brief detour to the exhibit hall to make sure everyone was listening to our brand new radio show SEM Synergy [/shameless plug], I slip (late) into Zach Ander’s presentation.

Ticketcity invests heavily in search engine optimization and PPC. Local search has been very good to them. They’re seeing amazing returns. Users of local search are more likely to convert and buy. They’re a targeted audience. Local search is effective because there are reviews, directions, ratings, comments, etc. It helps the buying decision.

Local search users tend to be earning $60k+ a year. The local search engines are spending millions every year to bring people to their sites which is like free advertising for those in their index.

Mobile is growing rapidly. They predict there will be more than 250 million users on mobile in the US by 2010. Mobile search advertising is growing exponentially. Get in now before things get crowded.

Tips:

  • Spend in moderation
  • Monitor how both mediums evolve — know that people aren’t always as savvy as they could be.
  • Find a good partner
  • Take advantage of free opportunities.
    • Update your listings
    • Get people to rate your business

Sean Cummings is up next.

He says the first question is how do I get into your search engine.

Site structure makes a BIG difference. [coughSILOINGcough] If you have location specific content then be sure it’s in the Title that way. Organize it in a ways that makes sense. Make them unique and accurate.

Make people land on the right page. Don’t drive everyone to a high level page if something further down the silo is better.

Make sure that you’re listed properly. A lot of people don’t check.

Buy local pay per click.

Develop local SEO content. Use semantically related words.

SEO Press Releases targeting local terms. Local PR is great for building backlinks. Simple joint press releases announcing service in a new area are usually picked up by local media.

Wow, that was a lot of good information, really fast.

Erika Moersch (Outrider) is up next. She wasn’t in the program, hmm. [I love that continually call it a “program”. – Lisa]

She’s going to talk about how to set up a tactical mobile campaign.

Best Practices:

  • Create a WAP site
    • Experience specifically designed for the mobile user
    • Decreased load time
    • Ability to advertise on all mobile platforms
  • Choose the right keywords
  • Redirect so they can find you — detect mobile devices and redirect them to something designed for mobile.
  • Plan for on-deck and off-deck: 75/25 rule – 75% are using on-deck– a propriety system. 25% are on a mobile browser
  • Creative limitations — Make the title really stand out. It’s more important than the description. Get a call to action in there.

Issues and RoadBlocks:

  • Only 13.3% of phones are smartphones. You can’t use Flash and Java with stupidphones. [Hee! – Lisa]
  • The engines haven’t made their algorithms tailored to mobile yet. Yahoo is the biggest player and they’re still using the same algorithm despite the fact that searcher behavior is different.
  • No platform standardization on the major carriers.
    • CTIA is creating standards
    • Google is trying to create their own standard with Android

  • No domain/sub-domain standardization: M., .mobi, wap.
  • Tracking is more confusing with mobile. With paid search you have a lot of data but you don’t really have that information with mobile. Cookies don’t work well. You need to use log files more or get into a specific mobile tracking tool.

Mobile Search Insider Learnings:

  • CPC may or may not be high. It depends on the industry.
  • Yahoo vs Google Impressions – In the PC world, it’s Google. In mobile, it’s Yahoo that’s the main player.
  • Right now volume is very low. Make sure you’re setting expectations.
  • Underestimate impressions
  • There is less real estate. You have to be in position one or two for Yahoo. MSN will only have one paid result.
  • Right now because of the low volume. You can get into a competitive industry on pricey terms for less than $1,000 a month. They did competitive entertainment terms for less than $500.

The time for testing is now. Growth and cost are only going to increase, so now is the best time for experimentation.

Last but not least Ian White. His company serves major portals and IYPs.

He’s a little tired of talking about local. The top of the market as he sees it is 30% of small businesses.

40% of searches are inherently local. 5% of search terms use city or state names. 2% use informal terms (neighborhoods). .05% of search terms use a postal code. They focus on that 7.05%

90% of local search queries that are transaction based result in an offline buy. Research online, buy offline.

IP-based Geotargeting Sucks [heh]

It’s good for anti-fraud, regional content serving but otherwise he thinks it’s worthless. If the geotargeting people tell you they can target a zip code, they’re lying. Also, it doesn’t really cover what a target area might actually be. An auto dealership and a hardware store have a different reach.

Other problems: Vacation planning based on geotargeting is worthless. Where you are isn’t where you want to be.

Geographic keywords have arrived

They use the long tail, that’s the 7.05%. Design campaigns around user behavior, focus on both natural and paid.

Switching over to mobile now. Ways your phone knows where you are: Thumb, WiFi, A-GPS, Cell-ID, GPS. What are the mobile trade offs? Power consumption, time to fix, accuracy.

Q&A

What kind of conversion rates do you see on mobile campaigns?

Erika: It’s still pretty hard to get those right now. It’s been pretty good though, very strong conversion. Entertainment is very strong. We haven’t really narrowed down a great way to track conversions right now.

What did you do to make local search better?

Sean: Google doesn’t have the conversion rates yet either. We learned not to overestimate what the consumer knew how to do. We’re staying very basic, something that the consumer is comfortable doing. We’re slowing down the process. Making it simplified.

Free listings for local–where are they?

Sean: I don’t know where there’s a list right now. Superpages maybe, if you query them. Ask if you buy a campaign if they have all your free listings.

Ian: Think about it going upstream. Free has a cost.

Dana: You have to redo your Superpages listing every year.

Which converts better free or paid?

Zach: The free give you more utility and freedom to talk about yourself but we’ve found the combination of the two has worked very well.

Have you experienced different objectives in mobile versus regular paid?

Erika: We started out just branding but with regular paid, it’s more for a conversion. There really isn’t a direct comparison.

Dana asks what needs to be done in the case of standards. Make it one standard or open source?

Zach says that WAP itself is the problem. No one likes it and people create their own standard. The cell carriers themselves are the biggest hurtle. He thinks everyone’s going to the smartphones. But at the same time, people don’t know how to use their phones. The learning curve is far behind the technology. It’s not the tech, it’s the carbon based lifeforms.

Erika agrees. The sooner a standard can be agreed upon, the better.

Any standard will do is the general consensus.

Which is more effective, the city name or the general term + regional targeting?

Ian: He questions the regional targeting.

Zach: Do all of it. That’s what we did with our search engine optimization. It’s simple to take your keywords and append your cities.

And that’s it! Lunchtime! (Um, I may have confused Zach and Sean in the Q&A. I wasn’t looking up.)

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