Archive for the 'yellow pages' Category

Simple Product, Flat Fee, Proven Performance

Simple product, flat fee, proven performance – those are the ingredients for a successful local advertising offering to small and medium sized businesses.  Google’s new Local Listing Ads seem to have the right ingredients.  There are lessons here for all local advertisers.

Simple Product

Small business owners are busy running their business.  They don’t have the time or inclination to figure out complex products.

In Google’s case the offering is simple to set-up and easy to understand.  To set-up up local listing ads, you just have to:

  1. Claim and verify your Google listing (a good idea any way).
  2. Select your landing page – which defaults to a very functional Place Page provided by Google (so you can almost ignore this step).
  3. Select the categories where you want the ad to appear.

Google then creates your ad automatically (based on the information in your listing) and presents it based on the category  a user is searching, the location where they are searching and the location of your business.  All optimization is performed by Google.  There are no controls to tweak and monitor.  The ads automatically include a tracking number (more on this below)

Flat Fee

The business owner pays a flat monthly fee which is apparently based on their location and the categories they’ve targeted.  There is no bidding – it’s no haggle-free pricing.

Oh – and the first month is free.

Proven Performance

Google provides detailed information through Local Business Center that includes:

  1. How many people saw your ad.
  2. How many clicked on it.
  3. How many got directions to your business.
  4. How many people called your business.

And – whenever you receive a call you get a whisper telling you ‘this call brought to you by Google’.

The service is fully transparent.  At the end of the first Free month a business owner will easily be able to assess whether or not the service is providing value to them for the fee they are paying.

Applying the Recipe

All providers of local advertising can follow the same recipe:

Simple Product – This has always been a strength of traditional media like the print yellow pages.  People understand how the product works.  Someone visits you in person to set the product up!  But many digital offerings fall short by failing to ensure a functional landing page is used.  Google has addressed this with their Place Pages which are designed for optimization.  A landing page is an integral part of a complete digital solution – without one there are a lot of wasted clicks.

Flat Fee – I’ve said this many times.  Small businesses want simple pricing – combined with proven, transparent performance.  People too often link the idea of performance driven advertising with variable, performance driven pricing.  This just scares a lot of small business people.

Proven Performance – This is the most important part: you have to deliver the leads to the merchants and PROVE that you’ve delivered those leads.  Google’s service is fully transparent.  As a merchant you don’t control where and when you ad get’s placed, but you do know how well it’s performing and can choose to carry on or not.  As I’ve written before, all forms of advertising should be tracked – including print media.  Imagine a small business owner hearing ‘this call brought to you by the print yellow pages’ every time someone called a number from the book.  That would prove value in the media to them.

More on Local Listing Ads from Mike Blumenthal and Greg Sterling.

Want a review of your local advertising product  strategy?   Contact me at eric AT


The Evolution of Pay for Placement

As factors such as reviews become increasingly important in the filtering and ranking of local information, the way local advertising is presented changes.  Traditional pay for placement schemes are replaced by relevant sponsorship.

Pay for placement finds its origins in the Yellow Page book where advertisers pay to be more visible by purchasing larger ads and colour.  This works well in a printed book because the normal mode of usage is to flip through several pages in a category of interest.  Larger ads tend to catch one’s attention and allow the advertiser to communicate more information to a potential buyer.

Ads for Movers in the Yellow Page Book

Ads for Movers in the Yellow Page Book

As yellow page publishers moved online, they replicated this pay for placement approach but replaced the idea of a larger advertisement with being placed higher in the list.  In a pure pay for placement scheme the results are primarily ranked on the basis of payment by advertisers.

Search results for movers from

Search results for movers from

When reviews are added to the equation, a purely commercial ranking of results becomes problematic since the user is expecting results that are ranked on the basis of the reviews and any suggestion of commercial interference in these rankings undermines the credibility of the site.  Yelp, a site focused on community generated reviews for local products and services, adopts the elegant approach of allowing sponsored listings at the top of the search results.  This sponsored result is still relevant to the user’s inquiry and also has it’s own reviews.  The sponsor get’s to choose a review to highlight in their listing.

Search results for movers in San Francisco on Yelp

Search results for movers in San Francisco on Yelp

Of course, Google has always enforced a clear separation between what they call ‘organic’ search results and sponsored search results.  This is the very basis of AdWords.  And in practice, the net effect of the Google approach looks very similar to the Yelp appoach.  The difference is that in the Google approach the sponsored advertising could potentially be anything whereas in the Yelp approach the sponsored result is one selected from the ‘organic’ results and elevated to the top of the list.

Google results for a search for movers in Edmonton.

Google results for a search for movers in Edmonton.

As users expect searches for local products and services to be ranked on the basis of reviews or other factors that are personally or contextually relevant to them we are likely to see approaches such as Yelp’s becoming the ‘norm’ for local advertising.

Local Advertising in Augmented Reality

As if local advertisers didn’t have enough on their hands trying to figure out how to make themselves visible on the web and in mobile — soon they’ll need to figure out how they should look in augmented reality.

Augmented Reality is where graphics or information are overlaid onto real world objects.  This can include information about stores, restaurants or points of interest:

Wikitude - 500x396 - real

Wikitude is a Wikipedia layer for Android intended for use as a travel layer (as seen in the screen-shot above).  And Dutch software firm Layar will soon release an application for Android.  It looks interesting:

What it Means for Local

Another place where local businesses want to make information about themselves available.  In Layar you’ll apparently be able to turn different layers on and off.  So, I can imagine a ‘dining’ layer with restaurants – one that you can apply filters to for different choices.  It seems like there will be aggregators — so again this is probably an opportunity for intermediaries like Yellow Page Publishers.

Now I can’t wait until someone makes an Augmented Reality available for my iPhone!

(via Read Write Web)

The Biggest Opportunity in Local Advertising

Ok.  A bit of a think piece for you.  I have a ‘hypothesis’ on where a lot of local advertising dollars are going to be spent.

The big missing link in local advertising is that a large number of local businesses still don’t have a properly designed and optimized website.  By ‘proper’ I mean one that has decent design, follows basic (local) search engine optimization principles and has at least some level of monitoring and optimization happening on it.  For bonus points, they might have dynamic content like blogs or twitter feeds and do some online (search engine marketing) as well (again, with proper optimization principles in place).

Right now, many people are trying to sell SMB’s lots of other products (clicks from a Google Adwords campaign for example) that are usually pretty useless to them because they don’t have a website that can ‘receive’ them.  And the problem just gets further confounded when you take in to account that these SMB’s really need to be thinking about how these websites appear on mobile devices as well.

This market is ‘sort of’ being served today, but very poorly.  The various services (graphic design, web design, seo, sem, etc.) tend to be purchased a la carte or they are too complicated and expensive for smaller businesses.  Most small business owners don’t know what SEO means or they are intimidated by it.  They fear (rightly so in some cases) being ‘ripped off’.  At the other end of the market are various ‘packaged’ websites that are too ‘toy’ and don’t go far enough in offering a real ‘digital presence’.

So, eventually, some people are going to make a boatload of money by getting the right ‘recipe’ for creating, managing and optimizing the ‘digital presence’ of small and medium businesses.  I like to call this Digital Presence Optimization.  And this management will extend in to things like ‘reputation management’ where you monitor and respond to reviews at various sites — this will become increasingly critical.  SMB’s will need help and guidance on how to participate in the social conversations.

This could be a service offering provided by existing market players like Yellow Page publishers.  It could be done by one of the many new entrants — though I believe most of the current ones are too narrowly focused.  In the absence of a catalyst, it’s likely that this market will be served by lots of boutique, regional providers – existing providers of web services, SEO and SEM who figure out how to package and deliver their offerings in more ‘SMB’ friendly packages.

Call Tracking is Not Pay Per Call

Whenever I talk to people about call tracking in local advertising, they immediately assume that I’m also talking about Pay Per Call.  I’m not.  Or at least not necessarily.

If you want to charge the customer on a pay per call basis, then of course you must have call tracking.

But just because you support call tracking DOES NOT mean you have to charge customers on a performance basis.  It is perfectly reasonable to continue to charge a customer, such as a small business on a subscription basis.  In fact, many small businesses prefer to pay this way – they can budget for it and they don’t get any nasty surprises.

But those advertisers still expect to know that the advertising is performing well and they will get the Return on Investment promised to them by the sales rep.

The combination of call tracking and subscription is actually a best of both worlds scenario for most small businesses.  Why don’t more people provide it?  It seems like a big missed opportunity to me.

Truly local advertising set to emerge

A number of announcements this week suggest that truly local, geo-targeted advertising is gaining momentum.

To take-off, three things are required:

  1. Broad availability of geo-reference information in browsers and mobile devices.
  2. Advertising platforms that exploit this information to deliver advertising.
  3. Local advertisers who can benefit from such precise advertising.

This past week saw announcements on all three fronts.

Increased Availability of Geo-reference Information

Skyhook Wirelesss announced the availability of a ‘one-touch’ location capability for publishers.

The Loki plug-in works with all major Internet browsers and operating systems to determine the precise location of any Wi-Fi-enabled device instantly, given the user’s permission. Web developers can use visitor location information to personalize content, ease local searching, deliver localized ads and more.

Major websites such as Flickr, Mapquest and Weatherbug are incorporating the technology.  It makes it easy for web developers to deploy the sort of location based smarts that have been very popular on the iPhone:

“The WeatherBug iPhone application has been extremely successful in part due to its ability to be location-aware. Loki enables us to instantly offer this same, rich experience to our desktop and laptop users and was incredibly simple to integrate,” said Chris Sloop, co-founder and CTO of WeatherBug.

Geo-Targeted Advertising Platforms

Google and Placecast both announced geo-targeting ad vehicles this week.

Google announced a Maps Ad Unit:

Placecast joined with Alcatel-Lucent to create a platform for delivering advertising to ‘on-the-go’ consumers.  Consumers ‘sign-up’ for the service and the kind of messages they want to receive.  Then when you are near a place that might be interesting you will get an ad sent to you.  (Might be a bit spooky – but it is opt-in.)

Local Advertisers

And finally, TechCrunch reports that the Village Voice is planning a Local Ad Network.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  They already have a relationship with local advertisers – why not help these advertisers get exposed in other media?

Getting access to the local advertisers – often small and medium sized businesses – who can really benefit from such highly localized advertising will be the biggest challenge.  Or the biggest opportunity!

Majority of Local Advertisers Manage Their Own Campaigns

Two reports released today by Adquants provide illuminating insights in to the local advertising ecosystem.  Not surprisingly, the largest participants are resellers — accounting for up to 30% of the local advertising.

Paid Search Managers of Local Businesses

But, more fascinating is that more than 70% of local advertising campaigns are NOT being managed by large players.  This means the local businesses are managing these campaigns themselves or these campaigns are being managed by a long tail of smaller players doing it for them.

For these large players, their biggest competition may not be the other large players or even the even bigger players where they buy the traffic.  Instead, they probably need to be looking over their shoulders at the increasing number of Do It Yourselfers and a growing number of small businesses in the business of helping small businesses market themselves in the digital domain.

via Greg Sterling.

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