No. 879
December 14th, 2010

Recap of BIA / Kelsey Group’s ILM 2010 Conference

Wow.  It has been a struggle to get back into the groove over the weekend and the early part of the week.  In case it wasn’t obvious from my liveblog, last week’s BIA / Kelsey Group ILM show in Santa Clara left me feeling nothing short of overwhelmed by the pace at which our industry is evolving.

The Local Space Is WAAAAAAY Bigger Than Just Search

Here is (I hope) a reasonably comprehensive list of the online opportunities available for SMB’s today:

  • Websites
  • Linkbuilding
  • Local Listings
  • Customer Reviews
  • PPCkel
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Print / QR Code Integration
  • Online Lead Gen Programs
  • Mobile Apps
  • TXT Messaging
  • Email Marketing
  • Location-Based Services
  • Daily Deals

Traditional SEO covers #1.  Local SEO covers the first four. Local SEM covers the first five.  Search + social covers the first seven.  But in the next three to four years, a small business, at least in an urban market, is probably going to need  to play in about 12 of those 14 spaces to be as effective as it needs to be with its online marketing.  Neal Polachek and I were speaking at lunch the second day of the conference…going forward, if you’re just going to call yourself an “SEO,” and you’re only going to the SMX/SES/PubCon-type events, you’re either going to lose some of your SMB clients, or not be able to serve them as fully as you should be doing.  To the point where the terms “Search Engine Optimization” and “Search Engine Marketing” may really limit our industry going forward.  We as an industry probably need to be thinking in terms of “Digital Media Consultant” or “Digital Media Optimization” in order to adapt to the changing landscape–and our traditional events need to cover a much wider spectrum than they currently do.

Groupon Is the New Cool Kid at School

So, pretty much every panel mentioned the failed Google-Groupon deal at one point or another.  Sean Smyth, the VP of biz dev for Groupon, was absolutely mobbed after his presentation, matched (but not exceeded) only by Carter Maslan of Google Places and Emily White of Facebook.

Similar to the cute new boy or hot new girl (take your pick), however, envy has definitely become a bit of a double-edged sword.  Thanks to the company’s tremendous success, it has inspired tons of competitors (beyond just LivingSocial) and has created a lot of angst along the way, and opportunities for others to steal market share.  Tippr CEO Martin Tobias highlighted his company’s willingness to share redeeming customers’ email addresses with merchants (something Groupon does not do) and the relative ease of whitelabeling his platform for traditional and nontraditional publishers, something Groupon has not (yet?) capitalized on.

Martin also highlighted a limitation of the Daily Deal space that others, including Matt McGee, have voiced–that Deals are most effective for impulse buys, for discretionary spending.  Things that are either necessities, commodities, or incorporate professional quality judgments (doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc.) are probably going to continue to remain outside the focus of most of these Deal companies.

Unless You Work at Google, You Are Required to Say Search Is Overrated

Whether you are the CEO of a major IYP portal, a daily deal site, a location-based service, or another kind of app play…Search is so passe.  I happen to disagree with pretty much all of them, but I’ll highlight their arguments:

  • Yelp is leaning very heavily on Mobile App traffic (currently 30% overall) and expects this trend to continue.  Stoppelman showed a video of Steve Jobs mentioning the Yelp app and saying it was a representative sample of how search is going to take place on mobile devices.  We learned later in the show (I think from Mike Boland) that the 2nd most popular app on the iPhone (behind weather) is the Google Search App, and that the 30% of Yelp’s traffic coming from their app is driven by only 2% of users.
  • Obviously, the Daily Deal players have a vested interest in minimizing the importance of search as a way for SMB’s to bring in more customers.  But Martin Tobias took a slightly more antagonistic tack in my discussion with him, however, saying flat-out that search “doesn’t work” for a lot of business types.  It’s true that other marketing channels, including  may be more effective, or bring in a larger volume of customers for certain business types like spas or salons.  But for my money (and for all of my clients’ money!), a sustained local search campaign is still the highest ROI marketing-type they’ve seen.
  • People are having great experiences playing LBS-type games and social word-of-mouth is extremely powerful.

Mike Boland also highlighted BIA / Kelsey’s prediction that Mobile Search revenues are expected to be $2.9 Billion in just four years (2014), up from “just” $500 Million this year.

The Google Places Algorithm Is a Lot Simpler Than We Thought

Just kidding.  But Carter was surprisingly open about the three main underlying factors of PlaceRank: Relevance, Prominence, and Distance.  In terms of specifics, I think the annual Local Search Ranking Factors remain a pretty reasonable estimate of the weight given to specific factors within those buckets, something which last week’s SEOmoz correlative study also corroborated.

I Was Totally Sold on Gowalla’s Unique Differentiator

Not being an LBS participant myself, I’ve always found the gamesmanship of Foursquare and other similar services more than a little curious, especially when friends of mine compete over random venues in cities they might visit once a year.

Maybe Andy Ellwood of Gowalla was just an extremely good speaker, but he completely sold me on the “cool factor” of Gowalla as a kind of location-based journal, a way to collect virtually all the truly remarkable places you visit (rather than just every place you visit) and share those experiences with friends.

Outside of custom-badge creation for Fortune 1000 brands, however, I’m just not sure how they’re going to make money.  It seems like they’ll need to identify some sort of long-tail business strategy in order to grow relevance (and revenues) for a larger segment of society.

There Are a Lot of Exciting Things Happening in the Local Data Segment

Just before the conference, UBL and Infogroup announced a partnership to allow an additional 85 enhanced data fields in various verticals where traditional NAICS codes were either limiting or ineffective.  Jeff Beard of Localeze filled me in on some of his company’s initiatives around Business Listings Identity Management, where the company incorporates both internal verification processes and external feedback prior to distributing authoritative listings to its distribution partners.  Gib Olander (I think?) made me aware of SimpleGeo’s new Public Beta for an open listings database.  And I also had a chance to meet Grant Ritchie of Locationary, a crowd-sourced Local database that seems to hold some promise, with whom UBL also recently announced a partnership.

The Networking at Kelsey Is Unmatched by Any Conference (Even SearchFest)

So, clearly SearchFest holds a soft spot in my heart for the intimate networking with elite-level speakers and attendees from all facets of search.  And it has to be said that its price point is considerably less than the Kelsey Group’s.

But if you’ve been dying to interact with one or more of the major players in Local Search, pretty much all you have to do is show up at a BIA / Kelsey event next year.

I greatly enjoyed the opportunity for extended conversations with all of the following people (or high-level representatives of the following companies): Localeze, Infogroup, UBL, Michael Streko, Dick Larkin, Emad Fanous and Erron Silverstein, Seb Provencher, Steve Espinosa, Andrew Shotland, Neal Polachek, Peter Krasilovsky, Mike Boland, Brad Robertson, Suresh Srinivasan, Todd Webber and Paul Manns, Andy Steuer, Grant Ritchie, Logan Coker, Uzi Eliahou, Adam Dorfman, and probably a dozen others I left off the list.

Andrew and I joked that BIA / Kelsey essentially has two tracks: the Content track, and the Networking track.  To the point where you can have a fascinating and productive day, literally just by hanging out in the hallway and talking people going to or leaving the panel sessions all day long.

How Are Businesses (Let Alone Marketers) Going to Keep Up with Their Opportunities?

It’s darn near impossible.  Successful offerings are going to boil down the trust that the merchant has with her touchpoint (whether that is a salesperson, agency, or self-serve website), and how clearly those offerings appear, or are explained, to her.

But stay tuned to Mihmorandum & I’ll do my best to keep y’all informed 😀

And just a quick final note for readers: I’ll be presenting later this evening (Tuesday the 14th) at the AZIMA December event — if you’re in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, stop by the Scottsdale Hilton and say hello!