What is the future of local small business advertising?

February 5, 2012


With search marketing officially taking over traditional media marketing channels it is no surprise sleazy sales tactics still work for some Internet marketing providers.

check out what I got from ReachLocal recently:


I will be sure to add some of the stats.

I just want you to understand that there is a difference between a backlink building content marketing SEO agency like SMB SEO and the product or platform specific Google Adwords reseller agencies and yellow pages.

In the month of July we created over 550 pages of content for less than 25 clients. This past January I had te responsibility for scheduling over 1,000 pages worth of offsite and onsite content marketing articles, blog posts, and pages for around 35 different businesses. Let’s see the yellow pages or ReachLocal folks provide that kind of Internet marketing strategy and schedules!

Just because my agency saves clients a boatload of money in PPC up charges by not paying anyone other than Google or Bing direct for clicks, doesn’t mean we are less effective or inferior to these larger marketing organizations. What they fail to offer:

Google Analytics
You own all the PPC campaign work
You own the PPC campaign account
CallMeasurement.com Call Tracking
woopra analytics
Custom Video Production
Web Ranking Reports Weekly
Niche Site Domain Development
Mobile Ads
Mobile Sites
PRWeb.com Press Releases
Local listing optimization
UBL Listing (universal business listing)
Localeze Data Center Listing

Google will be charging for some calls from PC ads according to Search Engine Land

April 28, 2011

This is awesome news for search marketers and internet advertisers.


Real question is “when do they cease to allow you to advertise your own number?” to make more money. All in the name of better conversion tracking, call quality attribution by keyword etc,right? I am sure a boat-load of other questions will come out over the next few months…. And changes!

Potential game-changer for small business local internet marketing. Google is already dominating local search share over local search directories.

Google already owns over 70% of total search volume and a commanding position in both mobile browser and local geo-location search results.

Google rocks!

General Observations About PPC Ads and Searches

March 10, 2011

Great post from Screenwerk that breaks down the share of searches for terms like “Yellow Pages” from Google and other search engines.

Notice how many searches for Facebook! What about those wanting to go to YouTube.com and even from other search engines trying to go to Google.

Google is the #1 Research Engine. Even though Bing.com claims that it is a decision engine, Google also dominates decision making.

There are 3 different types of queries people search for on the web:

1. Informational Queries – Those searching to research about a topic or subject.

2. Navigational Queries – Those searching for a brand website or typing in a website address (ex: SMBSEO.com) into Google Search vs Web Browser.

3. Buying Intent Related Queries – Those interested in buying something or finding something to purchase. Intent to purchase a good or service.

Searches for people buying stuff represent less than 10% of all searches. This is one of the challenges for PPC. This is also the bulk of the clicks to PPC ads. People have grown accustom to paid ads and what they do. Most folks don’t fall in the preference point to the buying cycle.  Search helps with those who have built an awareness of the product and those that could be anywhere along the buying process.

Definition: Buying Process
A standard process that corporations and individuals progress through (in order) when purchasing a product or service. Also known as the ‘Buying Cycle’ or ‘Purchase Process’.

Read more: http://www.searchenginepeople.com/the-buying-process-aka-purchase-process-or-buying-cycle#ixzz1GDT7JJbe

Yellow Pages print is much more PPC-esque. The intent to buy with the phone book is very tough. The great thing about an effective search engine marketing strategy that includes content strategy and authority building, you focus on all aspects to the buying cycle, emphasize knowledge and expertise of your product or service, and gain free traffic that can then be funneled along the rest of the buying process to the point of monetization or purchase.

Where as PPC represents the lions share of ad dollars doesn’t seem to drive nearly as much traffic as a properly executed SEO plan.

Superpages.com proved that it could gain more from showing up in Organic Searches for Google that it could by advertising for “Yellow Pages” keywords on Google AdWords. According to Google Trends there has been a significant reduction in interest for “Yellow Pages.”

I guess we will continue to see folks bASSackwards search for Yellow Pages on Google.

Google loves the revenue. Still doesn’t make sense why folks search Google to get to Facebook vs just using bookmarks or going directly to Facebook.com in the browser vs the Google Search Bar? Too many Internet Newbs still exist apparently!

My Rant……..The Next Bubble.

February 16, 2010

After reading a new article regarding the internet SEM investments and recent venture capital funding to WebVisible (another $20M), Reach Local (original $55M back in Oct 2007), and Yodle (recently funded with another $38M) I wanted to comment about The Next Bubble. Let’s discuss the what where and why investors are hot for SEM, Search, and what I see is still  groundbreaking opportunity in local search marketing consulting, as Greg Sterling’s blog pointed out here in his blog titled Screenwerk.

The thing about this topic is that it is both political, thoughtful, and very personal to me.

If you look at the success of Google (information from Wiki:) over the “somewhat” recent years-

Google Inc. (NASDAQGOOG, FWB: GGQ1) is a multinational public cloud computing and Internet search technologies corporation that hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, generating profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while the two were attending Stanford University as Ph.D. candidates. It was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998, with its initial public offering to follow on August 19, 2004. Its headquarters, located in Mountain View, California, is often referred to as the Googleplex, which is derived from the number googolplex. The company’s stated mission from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, and the company’s unofficial slogan, coined by Google engineer Paul Buchheit, was Don’t be evil. It runs over one million servers in data centers around the world, processing over one billion search requests every day and about one petabyte of user-generated data each hour. Even the company’s name, Google, was a play on the large number googol to represent the large amount of information the company set out to organize.

From this house:

Google Started Here

to multi-million dollar complex in Mountain View California:



Google is set to become the largest company in America.

Google Stock History

Google stock compared to GE and Exxon

Read the rest of this entry »

What is REALLY wrong with Yellow Pages company products and services?

February 4, 2010

Recently a few bankrupt Yellow Pages publishers sent letters to clients disclosing information regarding previous contracts and commitments.  Does this permit them to no longer follow SIZE & Seniority commitments to yellow pages clients?

Did you know that to curb massive revenue losses, as consumers have shifted away from print yellow pages phone books, the yellow pages industry is now offering ad seniority placement buyouts?

When Bell South began publishing mini-books other publishers quickly followed suit. When one does something… so does the other? Let’s not hope so!

Rumor is post-bankruptcy yellow pages directory publishers are considering offering “select clients” the option of jumping phone book directory placement (old contract agreements that outline size and seniority guidelines) with new “display ad placement buyout options”.

Seems like they will do anything to earn a buck, huh?

How can you trust a organization who fails to keep promises clients regarding these advertising investments. They made a commitment to the client that the ad they purchased would be placed by size and seniority from the date when the contract is signed. The print yellow pages industry has held the “decrease your ad and lose your discounts” AXE over clients heads to persuade clients into keeping ads for many years.  Is the Yellow Page industry selling products or services? Is the pricing fair? In my opinion the yellow pages industry needs to stick to products… not services.  Search Marketing service requires fulfillment and constant attention, something the print industry has very little experience in vs local advertising agencies.

Yellow Pages sites are attempting to become the local resellers of Google advertising. As a local search marketer, I don’t think the long contracts that leave little recourse and zero cancellation options in the event the Phone Book Companies PPC Management campaigns are not performing to expectations. In my opinion this is another means of continuing to grind the axe on cancellations. Without flexibility and a diverse offering (product portfolio) they are going to have continued issues with client churn.

Did you know that when you place advertising on Google’s AdWords interface, not only do you own the work produced when hiring a local search marketer, (I do not recommend  signing a 12 month contract , considering Google does not require such a contract to advertise) you also are able to see what changes your account manager and “PPC coach” made to your campaigns

PPC management Account Activity Reports prevent PPC Fraud by Google Guru

Next topic for Today:

Google Maps vs Yellow Pages searches:

Here is the graph continued and combined with Searches for Yellow Pages companies:

"Yellow Pages" is now obsolete

Who has experienced the greatest and/or most rapid decline in the Top IYP (Interactive Yellow Pages) & local search brand sites?

Notice how much Yelp.com gained compared to the decline of Superpages.com? This goes to show the consumer preference for review based sites  (and why Google was tendering an offer for Yelp.com)

FACT:  Did you know that Yellow Pages print directory usage has declined over 50%?

Has your “Yellow Page Rep” told you about the trends away from print and towards digital that is taking place?

Have print ad rates gone down to accomodate for the decline of print yellow pages and the industry fragmentation?

According to Greg Stewart from TMPDM, “Print Yellow Pages accounts for approx. 28% of Local Search.”

Primary Source of Local Business Information

I will go ahead and state my prediction: Yellow Pages Print usage will be less than 24% of Local Search by 2012! That means the phone books of 2005 (that were over 70+% of local search product or service queries) are now less than half as popular as they once were as a medium. (yet more phone books exist today than ever!

Do you think it is time the phone book publishing industry adapt to OPT IN vs a very misleading OPT OUT method? What are your thoughts? Take my poll!


Mike Stewart

“Your Dallas Local Google Guru”

BTW, Webformance Inc. will be offering call tracking to all clients. If you want to track your phone book, direct mail, email, Google, Video, Business Card, or other advertising investments and see which ones are really bringing the calls….. all you need to do is call: 214-267-9553!

“You can’t manage to get the best advertising if you can’t measure what advertising efforts work!” – Mike Stewart the Local Dallas Google Guru

The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google, Yelp.com, Merchant Circle via THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

December 15, 2009

The Best Six Local Business Review Sites : Google, Yelp.com, Merchant Circle | THE MARKETING ZEN GROUP

Posted using ShareThis

Great summary of local sites.

Since a potential customer’s initial search still starts with keywords on a search engine using a service-oriented keyword followed or preceded by the city in which they’re searching (ex: BMW mechanic Dallas). You should first pay attention to the truly important ones already showing up in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for your keywords. Below are six of the major review and business listing sites which hold weight and have huge online presence. Learn the six biggies.

1. Google Local Business Listings (The “10 Pack”)

You can get your business listed on Google’s map and show up directly on the search results by registering at the Google Local Business Center http://www.google.com/local/add Describe your business with location info, services, hours of operation and business website link. After you have a listing, your goal is get reviews. If you let Google find your business first, you’ll be rewarded with better placement on the map. Much like Google would rather find your website on its own through links rather than search engine submission, Google Maps will trust and more than likely post reviews from other review sites before submitting or modifying your listing. Often, the Google Local Listing bot will scour the Internet for other reviews sites already touting your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on some of the other sites first and you’ll already have a diversity of amazing reviews before you expand. Another backdoor is getting your business listed on the BBB’s website or InfoUSA.com to ensure your Google Local presence. Reviews are by far the #1 one factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Local Business Listings/Map Listings. Make sure the reviews are real though. Having keywords in your business name and a complete profile also helps. Get started at the Google Local Business Center.

2. Yelp!

Almost tripling in traffic from 10 to 25 million unique visitors over the last year, this community has exploded becoming a full-on social community with add friends function, reputations, commenting, and picture profiles. Yelp! has recently opened its doors a little more allowing business owners to talk back. Yelp! shows up well in search and they have the trust factor down due to their proprietary algorithm which has been cutting out fake reviews since 2006. To gain control of your profile you should first see if your business is already listed, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification. It’s the same process with most of these sites.

See what others are saying about your business and talk back on Yelp.com

3. Yahoo! Local Listings

Similar to Google Local Listings above, Yahoo! now offers the “10 pack,” only it’s three instead of ten. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! local shows up above organic search and below the top three pay-per-click listings. It’s wise to promote your Yahoo! Local Listing by treating it like it’s one of the family – get reviews, flesh out the profile, add business information. Although Yahoo! only gets 20% of the search engine share, that’s a pretty big chunk of search engine goodness. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.

4. Citysearch

This business review site has been around for many years. I can remember at least 10 years ago, when I wanted to be a “City Expert” reviewing restaurants and the like in my area. According to Wikipedia, Citysearch started in 1995 and although much of their content is not user-generated, they do have the notoriety to command attention when they put out a top ten list. Each review, although staff provided, seems thoughtful and specific. The most important aspect of the site — they show up well in search for Google and even better in Yahoo!. Get your business listed, and it may even be worth to have an “enhanced listing” for a monthly fee. Check out CitySearch.com.

5. MerchantCircle

Somewhat new on the scene, this company started in 2005 and has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. In June 2008, MerchantCircle announced over 5 million monthly users, 500,000 registered merchant users, and over 5,000 paying clients, with 4.3 million visitors a month according to Quantcast in 2007. Join the circle.

6. Insider Pages

Insider Pages is an online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp. Before its acquisition by IAC the company was based in Redwood Shores, California, and had over 600,000 reviews of local merchants around the country. Insider Pages was founded by Stuart MacFarlane in 2004. On March 27, 2006, the company announced an $8.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital, Softbank Capital, and Idealab. The company addressed a demographic (by its description) of young and middle-aged families who own homes in urban and suburban areas. Add you business. Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.

Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

1). Never fake reviews or testimonies, it’s not worth the consequences (possible banning).

2). Ask happy customers to review right after he/she has bought, and keep reminding.

3). Don’t freak out if there are some less than 100% positive reviews.

To address the last one, potential customers expect a balance with everything veering on the side of positive and not for your business to be perfect. If there are any negative reviews follow up with that person by contacting him/her and try to make their after experience a good one. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place. The more reviews and complete your business profile the better.

For almost five years, Neil Lemons has worked behind-the-scenes to help create exposure, traffic, leads, and sales through major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Calling upon his diverse background in copywriting, advertising, marketing, and sales, he has been learning traditional SEO and SEM tactics since 2004.  He is the lead SEM Strategist at MarketingZen.com, a Dallas website design company. For more information on Internet Marketing, SEM & SEO contact The Marketing Zen Group for a free site evaluation.

I would also include Superpages.com (which includes Switchboard.com and LocalSearch.com) on the list. Although, after Chris Smith left the company, Brian Gulledge from Inceptor took over the search marketing objectives for the company and they have become significantly less innovative, strictly focused on a single tiered approach in search marketing via paid search (as opposed to SEO & Google Maps,)  as well as offering less contribution to local search at local search SEO conferences, seminars, and discussions. He and Briggs Ferguson (the former CEO of CitySearch) are not the leadership Idearc needs.  I blame this on CEO Scott Klein. I also feel they have shifted away from Google focus beyond PPC.

Klein showed an error in judgement when he went to market with SMLocal (1.0) while not having the staff or tools to support sales. He also had PPC managers on gag orders by giving directions to managers not to disclose the amount of clients they were managing. According to a former PPC manager at Idearc, he was responsible for well over 100 accounts. In my opinion it is impossible for 1 individual to manage more than 15-20 accounts. Unless of course you use the taxonomy of Superpages.com for keyword research. lol. Wonder when the last time someone searched on Google for a “Plumber Licensed Commercial & Industrial”?

I have a strong hunch that Briggs Ferguson will soon leave Idearc Media.

How to build a Google ad that performs well. Great ad tips from Google.com

November 5, 2009

Google Adwords Ad Tips

Better ad texts, better performance

Your potential customers decide to visit your website based solely on what they see in your ads when they type in a search query, so ad texts play a crucial role in determining the success of your AdWords advertising.

In the video below we share with you our best practices for creating winning ad texts. These will provide you with ideas to test when writing your ads, which will help to differentiate your business from the crowd and drive even more relevant traffic to your website!

  • Use keywords in your ad title and ad text

    The easiest way to improve the performance of your ads is to think about how to make them more relevant to your potential customers. You’ve chosen keywords that are very specific to your products or services – and therefore relevant to your target audience – so the next step is to make sure that the ads which are matched to these keywords relate closely to them.

    Including successful keywords directly in the ad title is an effective way of increasing clicks because customers can immediately see the link between the keyword they used in their query, your product, and the content of your website.

    In addition, using words from your keyword list in any line of your ad text means these words will appear in bold to users who searched on them. This helps to draw the user’s attention to the ad and further highlights its relevance.

    Think about it from a user’s point of view – if you type in ‘digital camera’ would you rather see a general electronics ad, or an ad that includes the term ‘Digital Camera’ in its ad text?

  • Direct your users to the right page

    Ensure that the destination URL you use for each ad brings users to a specific landing page which relates directly to their search. For example, if a prospective customer is searching for ‘8 megapixel cameras’, the ideal landing page would feature this exact type of camera.

  • Add a call-to-action to your ads

    Try using a call-to-action in your ads, as this will give your potential customers a clear indication of what they can expect to do on your site. For example, calls-to-action such as ‘Buy Now’, ‘Sign Up Today’ or ‘Order Online’ can be really effective in increasing your ad’s performance.

  • Include your unique selling points

    Your ad text should make you stand out from your competitors and highlight your unique selling points. These can be products, prices, delivery offers or services that make your business unique, attractive or different. Have a look at your competitors’ ads and see if you can make your ad stand out by highlighting what you offer that no-one else does.

    Remember your customers will choose you over others purely based on the benefits that your ad is selling. The more information about your product that a user can gain from your ad text, the better. For example, if a user sees the price of a product and still clicks the ad, you know they’re interested in a potential purchase at that price. If they don’t like the price, they won’t click your ad, and you save yourself the cost of that click.

  • Inter-capitalize the ad text

    This may sound obvious, but using appropriate capitalization in ads can really have an effect on how they look. See below for an example of two ads – which one would you click on if you were looking to buy a new camera?

    8 mega pixel cameras 10% off digital camerasfree delivery buy today!http://www.camerashopsite.com
    8 Mega Pixel Cameras10% Off Digital CamerasFree Delivery. Buy Today!http://www.CameraShopSite.com

    The second ad looks more professional and is more eye-catching to users. Look over your existing ads and see can any of them be improved by something as simple as adding a few capitals to the beginning of words. And remember this can apply to the display URL as well, as shown in the second ad text.

Log into your account today, and edit your ads to make them even more compelling to your potential customers!

If you would like to learn even more ways to improve your account performance, why not visit our new Optimization Center, which is full of useful tips to help you get more customers?