SMX LoMo: Day 2 Take-Aways

First session I attended yesterday (day 2, final day) was Pay Per Call Ads: Living Up to the Promise. I was disappointed that Ari Jacoby, of VoiceStar, wasn’t on the panel. Greg told me he was ill and had to withdraw from the panel. Ari is an expert in Pay Per Call, Click to Call etc, and recently sold VoiceStar to Marchex for $28M. I digress…

Some notes I took:

  1. 71% of SMEs prefer a phone call vs clicks (no shit but who are the other 19%?)
  2. 20% connection rate for phone calls – meaning only 20% of SMEs actually answer their phone. This was a topic of debate, and I have a hard time with that number.
  3. 70% of yellow pages advertisers are service businesses. Something I always figured, but never knew the stat. A good nugget.
  4. Google and Yahoo both flirted with PPCall (or was it click to call?) but they haven’t really rolled it out. I seem to recall reading somewhere recently that Google actually rolled something back in some expiremental market. Anyone know?
  5. IYP users buy quicker and spend more. Interesting conclusions can be drawn about one’s online vs offline intentions.
  6. 82% of online searchers follow up with offline visits – local search, not IYP
  7. James Price, with Idearc, had stats that showed huge ROI for service businesses. He wouldn’t be more specific about what kinds of services businesses.
  8. Ingenio charges a flat $2 rate for all pay per call customers – that’s something I can appreciate vs the other pricing model option.
  9. Idearc said that their median cost per call is somewhere around $15-$20/call.

CitySquares expiremented with Pay Per Call long ago, in late 2005. It was a mistake for us, because a) we just didn’t have the traffic to justify it and b) the merchants didn’t want to, in essence, give up their phone numbers. I think it’s something we’ll revisit again at a later time, once we can better justify it and it just makes better sense across the boards.

Lastly, note to self: use 1-800-FREE-411 for now on! Cool – but I’ll admit I’m not looking forward to the ads. When I call 411 it’s usually because I’m in a rush and listening to ads is going to steam me, I just know it.

The Ultimate Local Ad Model

More notes and take-aways:

  1. See Genbook.com – sort of an OpenTable for SMEs. Kind of a pay-per-action opportunity.
  2. Pay per action was a big topic.
  3. Steven Chuck, Director of Strategic Alliances, Yahoo!, had a great presentation. I want it.
  4. Digital word of mouth is “one-t0-many” because it’s published via reviews, that’s powerful, if its managed well.
  5. I love Yahoo! Locals 3 silos on their city guide pages, very smart. Very clean too. I’ve always like Yahoo! Local’s solutions.
  6. Yellowpages still, to this day, has only sold 1 out of 3 businesses, nationwide. I had no idea it was that low.

Show Me the Money

More random notes:

  1. Justin Sanger, of Local Launch, is a very intelligent and personable guy that captivates the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 chances I had to see him speak. His deck had a “nebula” slide showing, well, hard to explain and I’m in a rush, but I’d like to get my hands on that – it was great.
  2. Justin: “SMEs just don’t self provision” – I hear that!
  3. Justin said this twice this week: “SME’s don’t buy advertising, they are sold advertising.”
  4. He said something along the lines of “Google just isn’t going to build a local salesforce – it’s not gonna happen.”
  5. Random note: forget about postal codes
  6. Out all SMEs, 33% are in yellow pages, and about 7-8% of them are online. Need to clarify this a bit more – what is “online” ?

So that’s my digest for day 2. Its brief, albeit, but I’m in a rush to catch my flight.

SMX LoMo was a great event, very well organized. I thoroughly enjoyed Greg Sterling – I had no idea he was such a fun guy, very refreshing. Also, the attendees were of the highest quality – just good people. I made some new friends that I look forward to seeing again at ILM:2007 and working with too.

SMX LoMo, final session

SMX LoMo, final session

Originally uploaded by Benee

Final session at SMX lomo, the future of lomo, when technologies collide.

I will post a complete digest for day 2 after dinner with my cousin later tonight, or on the plane tomorrow.
……………………………………….
Ben Saren
Citysquares.com
617.459.4922
blog: www.yoursuspect.com

Sent from my BlackBerry

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.

——-

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.

SMX lomo: community

SMX lomo: community

Originally uploaded by Benee

Community driven local search session.

Ian white introd me to Andrew shotland, former seo guru at insider pages. Andrew seems extremely knowledgeable and he’s speaking now. I should pay attention. Bye.
……………………………………….
Ben Saren
Citysquares.com
617.459.4922
blog: www.yoursuspect.com

Sent from my BlackBerry

SMX lomo: “the local search engines”

SMX lomo, the search engines

Originally uploaded by Benee

2nd panel, Introducing the Local Search Engines. Good panel, although a little sleepy maybe. I’m getting great notes out of this one.

The keynote was Michael Jones, chief technologist of google maps and earth. Good keynote, but I don’t think it was really that relevant. I felt like I was being pitched on cool technology.

I’m guessing there’s about 120 people here today. Nice to finally meet some people I know on the phone and virtually, like fred and gib with Localeze. Good guys! And my pal Ian white from urban mapping is here too.

At SMX Local & Mobile

I’m in Denver at SMX Local & Mobile. I’m in my hotel room and some jerk is smoking and it’s coming into my room. I don’t mean to imply that smokers are jerks either, I’m a former smoker and on frequent occasions it smells good. But right now, it’s giving me a headache and it just plain stinks. This is also a non-smoking floor. So, he/she is a jerk. I’m about to chill out to some local news and continue reading David Weinberger’s new book Everything Is Miscellaneous.

But I wanted to letcha know that for the 2 days of the conference, which starts tomorrow, I’ll try to post a bit of a daily digest on things I picked up and observed. I hope I do a good job of it. I’ll likely post at the end of each day (there are only 2 of them).

P.S. – Sorry for the light blogging. I think I’ve been too busy to blog, which isn’t cool – isn’t cool at all. I’ll post an update soon though! Perhaps I’ll type something up on the flight home.

Fall Conference Schedule

As I sit here at my desk and look out the window, the trees I see are still green. There are no oranges, no reds, no yellows and purples, yet there is a dryness in the air, and a slight coolness about it. Ah yes, autumn is slowly creeping into New England. And that also means that the fall conference season is among us too.

In addition to WebInno, which is always a fantastic event that only seems to be getting larger and more energized (if that’s possible), there are a few conferences that I’m planning to attend this fall. If you have interest in the local space, I definitely encourage you to attend these too.

SMX Local & Mobile – October 1 & 2, in Denver, CO.

Local & Mobile search promises to be the next “big opportunity” for interactive marketers. The consensus prediction is for $8 billion in ad spending by 2010.

The market is fragmented … and getting more so with new platforms launching weekly. Search engines and online directories want a piece. So do niche players carving out positions in product/service market segments. Add the mobile carriers and the recipe for a stew of confusion is complete.

Click here to learn more.

I’m looking forward to this one, as it’s my first Search Engine Land event, and I’ve heard and read good things about their events. Also, Greg Sterling will be moderating most of the panels and I’m a big fan of Greg’s blog.

Then there’s ILM:07, in Los Angeles, CA, November 28-30.

Interactive Local Media 2007 (ILM:07) and Search Engine Strategies Local (SES Local) are coming together in November to deliver THE blockbuster local search and online local media event of the year.

+ 50+ speakers representing every segment of the local search and interactive local media space
+ Proprietary Kelsey Group research
+ SEM and SEO sessions created and led by SES
+ Superb networking opportunities throughout the event

If you have a stake in the future of local search and online local media, then ILM:07 may very well be the most important conference you will attend this year.

ILM is the one conference that I’m really the most excited about. I’ve long heard so many great things about it and finally I get to go! Peter Krasilovsky is organizing much of it and I’m a big fan of Peter’s blog and all he does in the local space.

There is also Web 2.0 Summit, Oct 17-19 in San Francisco.

Where are the greatest opportunities, and the greatest risks? At the Web’s edge—the places where the Web is just beginning to take root: the industries, geographies, and applications that have yet to be conquered by the Web’s wide reach.

For the past three years, the Web 2.0 Summit has explored ideas which have already begun to slip into the mainstream. This year, we’ll highlight news from unusual suspects—the enthusiasts and dreamers touching the edges of spaces not yet conquered by the Web, as well as established players who are looking to expand into new and previously unimaginable realms.

How is the Web infiltrating new beachheads in areas we never thought it could—or would? What are the majors doing at the edge, at the loony “twenty percent time” at Google, in the labs at MSN, IBM, etc., that might inform entirely new applications, opportunities, even threats? What are the edge startups promising to redefine the center? What are the things we wish or know the Web can do, but so far, is failing us? What are the edges in terms of policy, politics, and morality? Learn More about Web 2.0 Summit…

I’m still not confirmed for this one, but I’ve listened to all the podcasts from last years summit, and I’m damn anxious to attend this one.

So anyway folks, if you’re planning to attend any of these conferences, or if you can recommend any others, please shoot me an email. I’m not about to hyperlink to my email address here on my blog, so you’ll just have to guess what it is @ citysquares.com. Smile