On Tuesday last week, London hosted the Local Social Summit 2012, the fourth year this great (and growing) summit has been put on. As a UK-based local SEO, I am envious of the plethora of local and social events that run regularly in the US; sadly, I don’t get across to many of them. So, it’s great to see an event of this caliber thriving in the UK, and even better to see the array of talented speakers and panelists who attended from the UK, Canada & US.
I am constantly impressed by the level of professionalism, innovation and entrepreneurship which abounds in the local/social industry. I’ve worked in and closely observed other industries, but I haven’t encountered another which has the same feverish pursuit of new opportunities. Bees and honey pots come to mind.
I want to use this post to highlight some significant trends discussed at the Summit and how they will impact us jobbing SEOs. But I also want to warn that the rapid pace of innovation is in danger of leaving local business owners struggling to keep up.
Key Trends Affecting The LoSoMo Industry
- Mobile is king
- Rise of ‘Local Discovery’
- Data Purity & Ubiquity
- Shift from Acquisition to Retention
- Solution led Service
Mobile Is King
This topic has been done to death, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much. We should have all read the key facts by now, but as a quick refresher:
- Mobile Internet usage to surpass desktop Internet usage in 2014*
- 50% of smartphone users have used a local app
- Mobile advertising spend to hit US$15 billion in 2015 (was US$1 billion in 2011)
Anecdotally, I caught up with a representative from Yelp who told me that approx 45% of searches on Yelp are done via their mobile apps. Given that Yelp had 84 million unique visitors in Q3, 2012, while their app was used on just 8.2 million mobile devices in this period, it shows a huge level of activity by their mobile audience.
While the headline figures are hugely exciting, it’s interesting to note that only 10% of Internet usage is done on mobile,** so a lot fewer pages/visits are being consumed by mobile users. Also, the most popular place for using a smartphone is in the home. So, while mobile is undeniably a game changer for the LoSoMo industry, the behavior of mobile users isn’t necessarily what we might presume it to be.
*Based on number of users accessing Internet on a mobile device
**Based on number of pages consumed on a mobile device
The Rise of ‘Local Discovery’
‘Local Discovery’ is an evolution of ‘Local Search.’
The difference being that ‘Search’ is broad and requires the user to invest time and effort in narrowing down and identifying the content they want.
‘Discovery’ is about presenting users with pre-filtered results based on their preferences, location and other elements of personalization. It means less effort on the part of user, and more curation and editorial involvement by site/application owners.
It’s hard to do this well on large sites which cover a broad set of verticals and locations (e.g., Superpages, YP.com) because of the need for detailed understanding of each industry or market. For a consumer to put their trust in a service which pre-filters results, the consumer needs to know that site/app is a specialist in their field.
So, we should expect to see a rise in the number of niche-industry apps and hyper-local applications which can afford to dedicate their time to understanding an industry and getting the best deals and latest information about the businesses they cover.
Tips for local business owners & SEOs: Keep a look out for new sites and mobile apps which are dedicated to your industry and city. Make sure your business is correctly listed on them (see ‘Data Purity & Ubiquity’ below) and engage with these sites to supply deals and content which will convert their users into your customers.
Data Purity & Ubiquity
While the mobile Web and the desktop Web may compete with each other for a user’s time, the data which drives them is essentially the same.
Yelp’s apps use the same database as yelp.com. Google maps app uses the same database as Google maps on your PC (algo differences aside). And many of the data aggregators which supply business info to websites also feed mobile sites and applications — with a few others which you may not have considered (e.g., TomTom feeds into Apple Maps, Nokia has its own solution)
We all appreciate the need to build ‘citations’ and ensure that the data shared about our business is accurate and consistent across as many directories and data aggregators as possible.
Well… this task just got more important. Mobile Internet users consume less pages and take action quicker than PC Web users. So, if your information is inaccurate or (worse) absent from a site, then you will be missing out on more and more potential customers.
Tips for local business owners & SEOs: Double your citation efforts so that you clean up incorrect listings and build out new listings on data aggregators and directories. Be sure to add you listings to services like TomTom & Nokia so you get into their ecosystem and data supply chain.
Shift From Acquisition To Retention
The objective and role of SEOs has typically been to acquire new customers for our clients. But, we know from our own businesses that it is easier to extend a relationship with an existing customer than it is to win a new one.
New customer acquisition has higher costs and higher churn associated with it, as well as diminishing returns in the long run. However, retaining existing customers and extracting more money from them is much more profitable.
Tip for SEOs: So, for SEOs who serve SMB customers, we should be thinking about how we reposition ourselves to help our clients with both their acquisition and retention.
Why SMBs in particular? Well, these businesses typically don’t have a ‘retention’ specialist, so this role is there for the taking!
Solution Led Service
SEO is a service industry, and our fees are defined by the time and expertise we can bring to a client’s business.
In the future, we will combine our service with solutions. These are technical solutions which our clients will need to enable better customer management, retention (see above), email marketing, mobile marketing, call tracking, content publishing, etc.
These aren’t solutions which we develop ourselves, but ones we curate from the market. We use our knowledge to pre-select the right solutions for our clients and become experts in using them so our clients don’t have to!
Tip for SEOs: Start to review the available solutions in the market. Build up your technical ‘armory’ which you can present to clients and then provide the service layer on top to run and manage them. In this scenario, you not only get paid for time and expertise, but also for the solutions you can bring to the table.
Don’t Leave Business Owners Floundering
As I alluded to at the start of this post, the innovation on display at the Local Social Summit was very impressive. But, while we charge ahead with developing new solutions, we are in danger of leaving SMBs behind… far, far behind.
Most SMBs are still grappling with how to use Facebook and Twitter effectively, and simply don’t have the time or headspace to appreciate the latest opportunities we present to them.
As an industry, we need to be wary of overloading SMBs with new opportunities and losing their interest. But, this is good news for SEOs. We can be the trusted filter through which new opportunities reach SMBs; we can do the hard work of analyzing the options and presenting the best solutions to them. And then provide the service and support to make the most of these exciting new opportunities.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.