No. 541
October 8th, 2009

SMX East Local Items of Interest

What this post lacks in coherence it will make up for in speed ūüôā¬† Below are some of the items I found most interesting during my three days in New York this week:

Ranking Tactics for Local Search

It was truly an honor to be on a panel with Mike Blumenthal, Mary Bowling, Will Scott, and Andrew Shotland.¬† Obviously I’m a little biased, but I thought it was the most complete, most interesting picture of Local Search ever given at a conference.¬† Each of us brought a little special sauce to the table, and I hope that attendees walked away with a better idea of how to maximize their Local Search presence.¬† Lisa Barone wrote a terrific recap of the key takeaways.¬† Some of the lighter moments and geekier insights included:

  • Mike Blumenthal is a localholic.¬† And he has a “genetic distrust” of the Yellow Pages.
  • Mike calls a citation that includes an inbound link to a business website a “citation on steroids.”¬† I love it!
  • According to Mike, web pages with your business name in their title tag may be particularly valuable citations within Google’s Location Prominence algorithm.¬† Same goes for internal pages on your own website with your business name in anchor text.
  • Mary Bowling recommends using the first “one or two” categories that Google proposes for your business within the Local Business Center, but using the remaining three or four for longer-tail queries.
  • Will Scott brought an old¬†Yellow Pages tagline back to life: “We make doors swing and phones ring.”¬† Truly, this is the dream of all Local Search marketers.
  • I was particularly surprised by how well “Local Business Sites” ranked in Andrew Shotland’s recent IYP study.¬† 32% of the top ten organic results in major categories were taken up by actual small businesses.¬† Nice going, Google.¬† 27% were owned by IYP directories, and 17% by vertical directories.¬† Local vertical directories owned less than 5% of the real estate–probably a great area for newspapers to step up and stave off extinction…?

Maps, Maps, Maps

Atif Rafiq highlighted that Yahoo’s interface¬†now allows for inline sorting of results by type, saying that Yahoo is moving towards a “unified search experience.”¬† I asked how that interface might be affected with Bing powering organic but neither Atif nor the Bing rep could comment on that yet.

According to the Bing rep, distance from the centroid is still a key factor for ranking well in Bing Local.¬† I guess Andrew’s idea of “Centroid Real Estate” might still have some legs!¬†¬† Corporations who use Bing Maps for enterprise get a custom icon when their locations show up in a Bing Local search…akin to the custom icons offered by a Local Business Ad via Google’s Adwords program.¬† Seems like quite a large incentive for hotel chains and other highly-location-sensitive businesses to incorporate Bing Maps if Bing continues to grow its traffic.

Ari Bezman of Google Maps / LBC stated that category names should follow an “my business is a…” construction, rather than a list of comma-ed keywords.

Steve Espinosa presented some terrific tips for mobile — namely that running a mobile-only ad via Adwords can command a HUGE chunk of “above the fold” real estate and combined with a listing ranking #1 or #2 in the 10-pack can yield complete mobile page domination.¬† Google Places is a better experience on mobile than most SMB websites, so Local Listing Ads (see below) could be extremely powerful as more and more people get on smartphones.

Steve again: business need a minimum of four reviews to get star ratings to show up in Google’s Mobile user interface.¬† A Local phone number makes a¬†positive effect on conversion (as opposed to an 800 number), and including more content like photos, etc., can really push competitors’ content further down the page in Yahoo on mobile.

Chris Silver Smith presented some great examples of MyMaps / UGC that were great branding vehicles for local blogs and local businesses.  You can use a KML file for easy upload, and including names and addresses for each location you describe can not only help those businesses rank better in the 10-pack but sometimes get custom markers to appear.

Facebook Marketing Tactics for SMB’s

Marty Weintraub mentioned that, unsurprisingly, including your geo area in the Title of an EVENT or GROUP on Facebook can make it rank better in Facebook search–don’t neglect this no-brainer step.

Will Scott, pulling double-duty, gave an excellent SMB tactic to target possible customers in your area with a birthday special–the fact that the offer will expire the next day, when it’s no longer their birthday, increases the urgency to purchase.¬† And it’s unlikely that a person will go to that establishment themselves–they’ll likely bring along a couple of (paying) friends.

The Social Scene

There were a couple of great social events at SMX East — not the least of which was the Local Happy Hour hosted by Will Scott and myself.¬† Thanks to Gregg, Monica, and Mike from TMP, Greg Sterling, Atif Rafiq, Gib Olander, and all of the other Local Search types who showed up at Stitch.

Marty Weintraub’s Duluth, MN marketing firm and David Szetela, PPC Expert, hosted an equally cool get-together at Dave and Buster’s the next night–thanks for the invite, guys!¬† And thanks to the generous guys at 10e20 for such a cool event¬†to wind down the evening on the¬†roof deck of Sutton Place.¬† Great to catch up with old friends Chris¬†and Danielle Winfield, Brent Csutoras, Rhea Drysdale, Lisa Barone, and the Bosers and meet a couple new ones like Chris’s brother Patrick and Emily Spence of SEO In-house.

And in Other News

Danny Sullivan bent the ear of Sergey and planted a nice little plug for Local Search quality!

“Talking with Sergey today, I said that after reading how Google pays people $16 per hour to rate the relevancy of its results, how about paying some of those to review and improve the third party local information that Google depends on?

Sergey was thoughtful about it and said Google might move more that way, highlighting how today, the company has announced its own maps in the US.”

As you probably heard on Greg Sterling’s or Mike Blumenthal’s blog, Google announced what has the potential to be a wildly successful new SMB ad product called Local Listing Ads.¬† It’s currently in beta in San Francisco and San Diego markets.¬† The Local Search crew tried to set one up as soon as it was announced for a client of Will Scott’s, but it didn’t appear to be live just yet, actually.¬† Nevertheless, a fixed-price, category-based ad product is¬†a stroke of genius on Google’s part, provided they can answer some questions about how hyper-competitive categories will be managed.

Mike and I have posed some questions to the appropriate Google representative and I’m sure we’ll both be publishing any answers we receive as soon as they come in!

Overall it was a great week in New York & the Third Door Media team did a terrific job in drawing amazing speakers and putting on a top-flight conference.  Looking forward to SMX West in Santa Clara already!