Last night, Yext hosted the Bringing Brands and Customers Together panel discussion, moderated by GeoMarketing.com’s Editor in Chief, David Kaplan. The panelists were Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide, Barry Gee of FedEx, and Chris Walsh of Havas. It was a lively discussion full of insight, and excellent perspective both from a dedicated SEM perspective as well as that of an agency and a major brand.
The conversation opened with a discussion of how to define GeoMarketing, and looking at how it’s evolved in its short lifespan.
Andrew Shotland stated that any GeoMarketing effort begins with what the client needs and wants to accomplish. In a large brand’s case, they may have wanted to change their Google ranking. However, he noted, this is one one element of an overall GeoMarketing effort. For major brands, especially, small fixes can have a huge impact on search. He advocates for going outside of the site architecture (if needed) to tap into that reservoir of opportunity.
From the agency perspective, Chris Walsh pointed out that most people don’t know what their problems actually are. Many times, they need a solution for a problem they don’t even realize they have. From an agency perspective, their clients are trying to get people to a specific location. In that regard, local is really simple: you’re either there or you’re not there, that is in the directories/search results/etc.
Thus, when building a strategy for their clients, Walsh advocates asking, “Are you/we getting what you/we need from local and/or organic search efforts? And, how do we improve that?” The more straightforward solution is to provide more personalization: who and what is in the store, services the store provides, etc. A lot of local efforts are very quantifiable, but the improved customer satisfaction (a qualitative factor) is much harder to quantify despite its importance.
How is the market differentiating between traditional SEO and Local SEO?
Shotland was quick to respond that, while results for local and organic are blending, there are still distinctions between the two. Namely: (1) the importance of citations (IYPs) is moreso for local search; (2) location data of the business is weighted more for local; and, (3) reviews have a much more discernible impact in local SEO. To illustrate, he used the search term “pizza” in contrast with “pizza nyc”.
Walsh asserted that the two are, at their foundation, build on the same basics, but they have different aspects and potential outcomes. Google is not the be-all and end-all of search, and he pointed to the emergence of wearable tech as an example of local moving away from search engines alone.
When Kaplan asked the panel to expand on their discussion of wearable tech.
Shotland finds the notion of wearable tech very intriguing, in part because it changes the optimization playing field; marketers will have to optimized for how the information is displayed. With apps, alone, marketers have to ask themselves a slew of questions: what’s the interface, what are the results that show, are there even results displayed in search, and how does the specific business display? In more fragmented systems, there are lots of different ways business data shows up; marketers will have to determine which are the majority cases and optimize for those. He went on to add that there are going to be a lot of non-SEO challenges for wearables, and that ultimately, wearables’ success point for local is going to be others’ apps and presentation and how marketers and optimize for those.
Walsh, clearly the most excited about and by wearables, made the clarifying distinction that in a post-wearables world, the goal will not be simply to market to people, but rather to efficiently market to them. Speaking for the agencies, he said, they have to think ahead and aspire to guess the next big thing ahead of time, because to be current is to be behind.
Kaplan then noted that Google is clearly betting on the “Internet of Things” coming to fruition, given their recent acquisition of Nest, an automated thermostat company.
Shotland scoffed slightly, and noted that Google (as a search engine) can be very finicky, based on a location’s history and the myriad citations problems that plague the search giant. He pointed out that expanding into the “Internet of Things” will reveal (dare I say, expose) exactly how messy all of that data really is.
Walsh was quick to agree that “messy” is the exact word to describe the data ecosystem. However, as marketers, we all have to move forward and evolve along with data, in the same direction it does. “Without data, we [marketers] are nothing,” he concluded.
The panel finished by discussing if GeoMarketing is best wielded by large brands or by agencies, or by small-to-medium SEO-focused businesses such as those of our Partners.
Shotland was quick to assert that Geomarketing tactics are for businesses and agencies of all sizes. He gave the example of Local SEO Guide, whose work includes the kind of work that large brands do using Yext — they just don’t have the same level of scale. At-scale has its own upsides and downsides; one downside is that large brands are not as nimble in adjusting tactics as a smaller player would be, but smaller players don’t have the efficiency as large brands and thus chew a higher cost-per-location.
Walsh expanded the question further: Does GM close the loop of national-regional-local chain? He then answered his own question with an unequivocal yes; GeoMarketing links local back to national, finishing out the cycle. GeoMarketing is something everyone should be doing, full stop. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, ask; if you do know what you’re doing, ask.” He advised brands let experts help out a business; there’s so much potential that is being missed, and it takes an expert to really leverage extent efforts into potential gains.
Shotland, himself a prominent blogger in the local marketing space, concurred. “There are lots of smart people offering free advice online.” He also offered advice for smaller players in the local marketing space: avoid automated solutions. He was quick to note that he doesn’t meant automated solutions such as Yext, but rather automated content and pre-built websites, etc. These services work until they stop working, and the client business’s local data becomes a self-selecting mess. “At a certain level, automate what should be automated,” he advised. Beyond that, let the rest (i.e. the more difficult elements) bespoke and custom to the client’s goals.
The panel is expected to merely be the first of a series Yext does to keep the industry (and our Partners!) informed of what’s happening on the cutting edge of local marketing. As we host events here at Yext HQ, we’ll do our best to bring you detailed coverage for those who couldn’t attend!