SMX LoMo: Day 1 Take-Aways

Now just to be clear about something – I’m not the greatest blogger, as you likely know. And I don’t make a living from my blog nor do I profess to have that much important to say – I just talk a lot and somewhere in there I tend to make a point or two. So, that being said, I’m going to try and take my notes and translate them here. At the same time, not all of my notes are going to appear here in the blog – those are mine, for me eyes and me own self. Call it a strategic advantage if you’d like.

Click here to see the complete agenda. I stayed on the Industry track today.

Day 1 at SMX LoMo, in a nutshell, was great. At times I found myself enlightened, fascinated, shaking hands and gabbing with some smart and likable people, but at other times I found myself bored and looking at the time. The later times were usually when the sessions were technical. I’m not here for technical lessons as many of the people are. I’m here for industry stuff. Thankfully, Greg Sterling did a heck of a job on that track, despite some very annoying audio problems.

Keynote Address from Michael Jones, Chief Technologist for Google Maps and Earth. Firstly, Greg Sterling did a nice live report of this. He kept it high level, mostly “why local search” and not so much “how.” He admitted that Google isn’t the best at it, refreshing to hear. I loved his comparison of local search being like hotel concierges; they are the experts for their locality. They’re like a buddy, not a machine. They embody certain characteristics mainly they are discreet, courteous, empathetic, multilingual, and quick spirited. Something else he said, which I was intrigued by and although he mentioned it very briefly, was “people are becoming hyper-local… there is a sort of shrinking going on.” I loved that. I agree. He also helped me see maps in a slightly clearer light than I ever have before – he said, “maps provide a context for the information they provide” mainly as it pertains local search. That was as simple and clear as you can get.

Introducing the Local Search Engines

Top 3 reasons merchants may not be doing online advertising:

  1. They think they don’t have the budget. This is mostly a perception issue.
  2. They think they need personnel to aid them. This is partly true.
  3. They are overwhelmed and confused by the options out there – too complex

There is a difference between “ads and answers.” I don’t remember who made that point, but that’s great. Answers aren’t ads.

Matthew Berk, of Marchex, pointed out that a lot of merchants don’t even know what “ROI” is! Holy shit. This kind of goes back to my points I made long ago about local merchants not really giving a shit and asking they whole “what have you done for me lately” question – see “Local Merchants: Do they get it?“.

Another point I heard was, and I’m paraphrasing, “if you slice a geography or a vertical up too granually, the result may very well be low traffic…. there simply isn’t enough inventory to support it.” That’s part of CitySquares’ problem – yesterday that is. We launched 25 neighorhoods or so, focused on the locally owned businesses, primarily, and we’ve been stuck at a relatively steady and plateaued traffic count. But, that’s changing with the new site as we launch a much larger inventory, and ultimately generate brand awareness. Anyway, I digress…

Another note I wrote to myself was how apparent and clear it is to me now that Marchex is our biggest threat, but also our biggest opportunity. I really dig what they are doing – I think they’ve got it right and it’s going to take time. Again, I digress. But one thing Matthew pointed out, which really stirred my pot (like that?), was something like “take a zip code like 21218, Baltimore … we can be the home page for 21218….” Wow. Just, wow.

Greg Sterling pointed out, as he has in the past, that merchants just don’t self provision, and they won’t until they can just say “here’s my credit card, here’s how much I can afford, and you take care of it.” That’s speaking the truth – amen brother Sterling. That was a big topic, for a good 5 minutes.

The last point I walked away with, which I love and needed to hear, was this: what’s the difference between IYPs and a local search? IYPs have a sales force! BINGO!! Man, I heard the angels sing. GOT IT!

SEO Best Practices in Local Search

Randomly:

  • 70% of internet users do local search
  • 68% use the phone to contact the business

I was confused by this at first but it only complimented the theory/stat that about 33% of all internet searches are people seeking local goods and services.

  • organic results improve brands
  • “local links” are critical for small businesses who have websites and want to do local search
  • This from Gib Olander, who confessed that it’s someone elses brain child: search is either Recovery or Discovery. Recovery is I know what and where, Discovery is I know where but not who.
  • Look into the hcard format

Community Driven Local Search – my favorite so far

From Andrew Shotland’s presentation (some of this is on his blog actually, nice work Andrew!):

  1. no reason (debatable?) that merchants can’t take their reviews from other sites (CitySquares, Yelp, etc) and put them on their own site. – I wonder though, does that mean they can put reviews of their business frpm other sites, on their Citysquares profile? Hmm.
  2. A few IYPs and local guides actually use “nofollow” on merchant pages! That sucks for the merchant! CitySquares won’t do that. “page rank leakage” – come on….. who cares! GIVE THE MERCHANTS MAXIMUM VALUE!

Ok so the CEO of Done Right, Paul Ryan, really unnerved some people. Long story short, he’s a review hater. I don’t think he’s wrong, but he may have articulated himself a little too provacatively. I could see many people squirming in their seats. Nonetheless, Paul is very articulate and intelligent and made some excellent points and I agree with most of them.

I took the mic during Q&A and simply made a point about the importance of reviews as it applies to the amount one is spending. Paul agreed with this and Greg expanded on it. More on that point here but in a nutshell, I think the more money you’re spending the more reviews matter.

64% of SMEs are aware of review sites.

Expert reviews vs. anonymous reviews was a big topic, mostly lead by Paul. Trust = Expert and “experts used to mean trust.” Look at CNET product reviews, you have both editorial reviews as well as consumer reviews.

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I bounced between the last two sessions, and then had a phone call – not much to report on them, sorry.

So thats my digest for the day. I’m about to call my wife, then head downstairs for a little chow and a scotch. I’m hoping to head downtown tonight to be around the stadium. The Rockies may clinch tonight. That’d be neat. Not that the NL interests me, or expansion teams. But it’d be nice to be in the vicinity of another teams success aside from the Red Sox, for a change.