Yelp, Foursquare, Trulia, YP, Retailers Have All ‘Watchified’ Their Apps on Day One

Apple Watch Apps

I was trying to get a sense of how many local search and location-based apps are now available for the Apple Watch. Because of the way that Apple’s got Watch Apps displayed in the iTunes App Store it’s not easy to get a clear picture.

From what I could tell, however, there are quite a few. Among them are: The Weather Channel, Yelp, Trulia, Fandango, AroundMe, Foursquare, Retale, OpenTable and others, including a bunch of travel and retail apps such as Starbucks, JCPenney, Target and American Eagle Outfitters. Many of the major local search apps (except Google/Google Maps) are present.

YP, which sent me their PR materials, has two entries: its main YP app and its Gas Guru app. It will be interesting to see whether Apple Watch buyers simply duplicate their iPhone apps on their wrist or if the Watch becomes a way to introduce apps to users.

YP’s Two Apple Watch Entries

YP Apple Watch Apps

 

For its main app, YP has stripped out much of the functionality and content of the iPhone version to make it simpler. But its “mybook” will extend to the Watch. You can find gas stations in the YP app but the company has also launched a Watch version of its Gas Guru app.

Regardless of the app category, getting the user experience right will be critical. The key for developers and publishers is to quickly put out 1.0 versions to the first group of Apple Watch buyers, collect usage feedback and then release 1.5 versions based on that initial feedback and usage patterns.

Watch app discovery will probably be a bigger problem in some ways than general smartphone app discovery. I suspect we’ll see lots of app-install ads targeting Watch users. It will be very interesting to see whether or how those ads play out on the units themselves.

Overall the Watch will probably be most useful and valuable for customer service or to extend the value of the smartphone app rather than as a new or independent “advertising” platform. However notifications, if judiciously used, could become an effective marketing tool on wearables. But there must be considerable value for the user.

One of the annoying parts of the Android Wear experience is that you’re opted-in for notifications by default — and they become relentless. This may also be true of the Apple Watch.

As with the iPhone, all notifications should be opt-in and they should be useful and valuable enough that I will want to opt-in. If the app’s value isn’t self-evident and it can’t “earn” my notification, chances are it’s going to get deleted.

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Local and SMBs Will Largely Be Spared in Tomorrow’s Mopocalypse

Heston

Just as the ancient Israelites were spared the wrath of God in the story of the 10 plagues of Exodus, so too local data and local mobile search results on Google will not feel the sting of Google’s mobile friendly update tomorrow.

Local, News, Video and Tablet search will not be affected by tomorrow’s mobile-friendly update. Google has made this clear. Only core search results are impacted. Ironically then SMBs with crappy websites will get something of a pass for the time being because they’re mostly found through third party directories and apps or in the Google local pack — which isn’t affected.

Accordingly it’s much more important for them to have accurate local data across the internet and to have claimed and enhanced their profiles on key local sites.

If you’re not sure whether your site will be smitten, use Google’s mobile friendly testing tool. It will tell you quickly and why.

Mobile friendly tool

If you’re at LSA 15, David Mihm and Andrew Shotland will be talking about ranking and SEO issues in today’s tactical workshops and can answer questions about Mopocalypse.

Also take a look at Search Engine Land’s comprehensive FAQs on the mobile friendly update.

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LSA SMB Bootcamp in the Bag, Tactical Workshops Happen Today

Digital Bootcamp logo

Yesterday (Sunday) the LSA hosted its first Digital Bootcamp for small businesses in LA. There were about 130 people in attendance, including speakers from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Yelp, GoDaddy, Closely, YP, Goodzer, Where2GetIt, ReachLocal, LocalSEOGuide, MOZ, Search Influence, G/O Digital and ConstantContact.

The businesses present were from a wide range of industries and demonstrated varying levels of digital marketing sophistication. However what was striking was the uniform need and desire for trustworthy information. The audience was engaged in a way that most industry audiences are not. These folks really wanted help and tactical advice from the speakers.

Marketing Budgets of Bootcamp Attendees

SMB day survey

I’m so used to looking at survey data that it was refreshing and enlightening to have a group of actual small businesses to talk to about their interests and needs. In some ways it was like an eight hour focus group.

(If you’re interested in a recap of the session content, most of them were captured in blog posts by LSA’s Joe Morsello and Wesley Young.)

While it’s very tough to generalize, the crowd seemed biased toward DIY. And while they were interested in everything, there were two or three areas of primary interest: SEO, social and (maybe) email. Overall people appeared genuinely grateful for the advice and information.

Beyond the on-stage content, the greatest value for attendees may have come in the opportunity to speak to and ask direct questions of the exhibitors and speakers in the hallway. There they were able to get their very specific questions addressed (hopefully).

This is generally an opportunity they don’t have in the “real world.” SMBs rarely if ever get to talk directly and informally to Google or Yelp for example.

In addition to companies who spoke, I’m grateful to Andrew Shotland, Will Scott and David Mihm who gave solid advice to attendees about SEO, data syndication and social.

Today (Monday) Scott, Shotland and Mihm will be back leading some great tactical workshops in the afternoon, along with other great speakers:

  • Crafting a Compelling Sales Offering for Today’s More Savvy SMBs (Will Scott)
  • Selling Mobile to Small Businesses: What’s Working Now? (Alison Callahan)
  • Research: Triggers and Causes of SMB Churn (Brendan King)
  • Sales 2.0: Best Practices (Earl Baer, Anke Heckhoff, Sandy Lohr, Neal Polachek)
  • Conducting a Basic SEO Audit (Andrew Shotland)
  • Major Algorithmic and UI Trends at Google: What They Mean (David Mihm)
  • New Uses of Location for Audience Targeting and Offline Attribution (David Staas)
  • Call Conversion Optimization: Generating More “Good Calls” (Alex Dionysian)

The Bootcamp was a full one-day conference. This is another full day of content broken into two parallel tracks.

If you’re attending LSA, these workshops begin at 1:30 today. This is going to be some of the most valuable content at the event. You’re not going to want to miss it.

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Surprise — Local Search Not Part of EU’s Google Antitrust Charges

EU half flag

As expected this morning the European Commission filed a formal Statement of Objections against Google. These are formal charges that Google abused its market position in search in Europe. Google will get a chance to rebut them but the outlook for Google is not great.

Google competitors and critics had been vigorously lobbying for this for several years and actively worked to defeat the prior “rival links” settlement negotiated by former European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

The core of the EU’s objections and “case” against Google focuses on vertical search results and the degree to which Google “favors its own properties” vs. competitors in the SERP, potentially harming competition. For various reasons the Federal Trade Commission in the US declined to file a case against Google.

Simultaneously today the EU also opened an Android antitrust investigation against Google. My guess is that will result in Google being forced to relax some of its rules around access to Google Play and app pre-install requirements. But the investigation could drag on for some time, as with the search case — which was a five-year investigation and negotiation.

Most interesting to me about the Statement of Objections filed today is that it narrowly focuses on comparison shopping and doesn’t get into other “vertical search” areas such as travel and local. These had been hotly argued and contested. Yelp even developed a very interesting, concrete algorithmic approach about how to address “search bias” in local results.

The Statement of Objections today doesn’t preclude other claims in the future. The Commission says it’s still “actively investigating” other vertical search categories:

Today’s Statement of Objections relates to the first of those concerns. In the context of that concern, the Commission continues to actively investigate Google’s conduct as regards the alleged more favourable treatment of other specialised search services.

Yet it’s curious that the Commission didn’t go forward with a broader claim that Google favors “its own properties” in these other areas. (Indeed, the rival links settlement examples were often local search results.) Is that because it sees shopping as the “strongest” or most egregious case? By the same token does it see maps/local and travel as “weaker” and would favor Google’s arguments?

I’m not sure what the rationale is. I’m curious about your thoughts? Why isn’t local included since it was one of the key areas that Yelp and other publishers complained and lobbied about?

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Mopocalypse Is Right Around the Corner

Hell

By now everyone knows that Google’s “mobile friendly” algorithm update is coming on April 21. It’s intended to reward sites that render well and load fast on smartphones. It will punish sites that are not mobile ready.

Surviving and thriving in the post-mobile-friendly era is about more than just responsive design. But whether you call it “mobilegeddon” or “mopocalypse” you need to understand and respond if your site isn’t ready. Later today (2:30 ET) LSA is doing a webinar on it and what you need to know and do.

It features me, Bryson Meunier and Will Scott. They’ll be discussing the update in general and its impact on local-mobile results.

Bryson and Will

There’s some dispute about whether or how much the update will affect local results, which have historically been governed by their own algorithm. But the impact will be significant and affect a lot of sites’ mobile rankings. For example 10,000 of the top 25,000 sites according to Portent were not deemed mobile friendly and will likely be punished accordingly.

Mopocalypse

If you don’t have an app on a user’s smartphone the way he or she is going to find you is through mobile search — and probably Google at this point. Google controls nearly 85% of mobile search usage in the US. This is why the mobile-friendly update is relevant to everyone.

Google’s motives here are a mix of self-interest and the recognition that publishers and webmasters need a carrot and stick approach to motivate them to improve their mobile site experiences. The webinar today will explore all of these issues and make tactical recommendations about what to do if your site isn’t ready — and even if you think it is.

So join us later today for “Surviving the Mopocalypse: Understanding Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update.” If you can’t make it here are some useful resources:

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LSA 15 Workshops: A Tactical Experiment

LSA 15

I’m on vacation this week, which is why I haven’t been posting. But I wanted to take a moment to encourage you to come to LSA 15 in general and our Monday afternoon workshops in particular.

The workshops take place on April 20 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. They’re something of an experiment for us. We’re addressing a range of important subjects and trying to do so in a way that is not typical of most conferences, where you only get general, high-level discussion.

The idea is to get very tactical and give attendees specific, practical advice as well as an opportunity to interact with speakers and ask the types of questions that wouldn’t be asked in a large general session.

We have two tracks. One is generally organized around the themes of sales and retention:

  • Crafting a Compelling Sales Offering for Today’s More Savvy SMBs (Will Scott)
  • Selling Mobile to Small Businesses: What’s Working Now? (Alison Callahan)
  • Research: Triggers and Causes of SMB Churn (Brendan King)
  • Sales 2.0: Best Practices (Presentations & Discussions) (Earl Baer, Anke Heckhoff, Stephen Gibbons,Neal Polachek)

All of these sessions should be very informative and interactive. In particular Vendasta’s Brendan King is going to present data from across the company’s customer base on what causes churn. There are some provocative findings that will interest anyone in sales. This material is also the subject of a forthcoming LSA white paper I’m working on.

Coming out of that churn discussion, Neal Polachek is leading a session with three local sales professionals that will be focused on sales best practices, followed by a group discussion. You won’t want to miss it.

Track two is a mix of SEO and mobile content:

  • Conducting a Basic SEO Audit (with Attention to Easy Wins and Scalable Content Strategy) (Andrew Shotland)
  • Major Algorithmic and UI Trends at Google: What They Mean (David Mihm)
  • New Uses of Location for Audience Targeting and Offline Attribution (David Staas)
  • Call Conversion Optimization: Generating More “Good Calls” (Alex Dionysian)

The session titles are pretty self-explanatory. Shotland and Mihm’s presentations will be very useful for non-SEO professionals who need to understand these concepts and tactics. NinthDecimal’s David Staas will be talking about how location is being used in myriad ways for audience targeting and analytics.

NinthDecimal recently announced an important deal with ZenithOptimedia in which the latter is using location data for a wide range of purposes for its brand customers, including audience targeting, real-time optimization and analytics. You really need to understand this stuff.

Finally MatchCraft’s Alex Dionysian is going to talk about how all calls are not equal (most are not prospects) and how to maximize desirable calls for your customers.

Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference will feature lots of great speakers and content — it’s LSA’s most diverse program to date — but these workshops will be a unique opportunity to get “down in the weeds” with critical issues that affect performance.

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Local Search on Mobile Devices Is Pulling Away from the PC

SMB local

Last week comScore released its “Digital Future in Focus” report. The document compiles and presents the company’s latest US internet statistics in a variety of areas, including search, mobile, social, video and e-commerce.

Most of the data has been previously published. However comScore presented for the first time its estimate of mobile search query volumes together with desktop searches. The chart below shows that data, which I first wrote up last week at Search Engine Land:

mobile search volumes

The chart reflects a total of 64 billion US search queries in Q4 2014. Roughly 29% of the overall volume is coming from mobile devices. The remaining 69% is from the PC.

From this we can deduce and crudely determine the percentage of local search queries. But first a caveat.

My sense is that “search” is here defined as activity on the major search engines exclusively. Even though the report discusses apps and app usage trends, it’s not made clear whether any of the search volume reported above comes from apps or is purely PC or mobile web-based activity.

I suspect that the Google and Bing search apps are included in the numbers, while mapping and other search-centric apps (e.g., Yelp, YP, Foursquare) are not.

If we use the “local intent” search figures previously released by Google and Microsoft (i.e., 20% of PC search and 40% to 50% of mobile search) this is what the numbers above look like in real terms:

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.06.18 AM

Taking the midpoint for local intent mobile queries (45%), total local query volumes (PC + mobile) would be 27% of overall search in Q4 2014. Of course the 20% (PC) local search figure is conservative (Google admitted this to me in 2010). But because that’s the only public number we have from the company we’ll stick with it.

Both Google and Microsoft have said that local intent search constitutes half of mobile search queries. Google has informally and formally issued a couple of different numbers, hence the range above. But if we go with the 50% figure then today local search on mobile devices is larger than on the PC.

This coincides with recent LSA survey data finding that more people use mobile devices for local search than the PC.

Device most commonly used when looking for location information online

Local mobile search dominance

The comScore data above, as mentioned, probably do not define search beyond the boundaries of the major search engines. And there may be billions more “local intent” queries happening across the fragmented world of mobile apps.

While we don’t have as much visibility on consumer intent behind PC search, the totality of evidence now argues that local search on mobile devices has eclipsed local search on the PC.

Especially with the “Mopocalypse” coming (Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm) it’s more important than ever for everyone to focus on mobile optimization, digital presence management and local-mobile data syndication.

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New Documentary Exhumes Yelp ‘Extortion’ Allegations That Won’t Go Away

Antiy elp documentary

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits have unsuccessfully argued that Yelp is a “shake-down” racket that manipulates reviews to encourage SMBs to advertise and punish those that don’t. At the heart of these claims is Yelp’s controversial and often misunderstood “review filter.”

Now a new crowdfunded documentary seeks to make the same argument to the broader public. A press release and several articles on it yesterday were being blamed for a drop in Yelp’s stock. (The stock has recovered today.) The kickstarter project has raised roughly $17,000 of its $60,000 goal.

The claims in the trailer (below) are pretty sensational — all of which have been made multiple times before. There’s a good deal of merchant resentment (even bitterness) out there against Yelp and that continues to fuel what might be called “magical thinking” about the operation of the review filter.

Nonetheless the persistence of these rumors and beliefs about the connection between reviews and advertising on Yelp suggests that some of the often inexperienced salespeople have contributed to the misperceptions that continue to plague Yelp. And I continue to be surprised by the strength of these rumors and the fact that many industry insiders believe them as well.

Why do you think these rumors and beliefs about Yelp persist despite waves of unsuccessful litigation? Do you think it’s a “rogue salesperson” issue or is it a function of salespeople under pressure implying an ads-reviews connection to close new accounts? Do you think it’s a more systemic sales training issue that the management is not addressing? Or do you actually believe the “extortion” claims are real though unproven?

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Facebook: We’re Building a Customer Service Organization for SMBs

Facebook SMB

Facebook’s Jonathan Czaja was interviewed by StreetFight this week. Czaja is a terrific guy who came to Facebook about a year ago from retailer Bonobos. Czaja defends Facebook’s throttling of organic News Feed reach and says that the company’s ad programs are evolving.

Perhaps the biggest “reveal” of the article is that Facebook is investing “heavily in building a customer service organization because we realize small business require a level of support that we’re not providing. For instance, we’re testing live chat capabilities today, so we can talk with Facebook advertisers to do things like screen sharing and we’re close to testing voice support as well.”

Here are a couple of other interesting statements from Czaja:

A decline in organic reach does limit the amount in which you can communicate with your customers in the way you used to be able to do on the platform . . . There’s still a lot of value to the Page apart from distributing content to your fans. We’ll have a lot more to say about Pages going forward, and we do think it’s important that small business create a presence on Facebook and demonstrate the value they bring to their customers.

We’re seeing a lot of promising results [with Conversion Lift Measurement,] but the challenge is that, at the moment, it’s only effective for the larger advertisers who can provide a large enough sample of point-of-sale data to demonstrate lift. Without that large dataset its much harder for marketers to measure performance, so I’m not quite sure if it will apply all the way down to single stores in small locales.

Here’s my reaction to the interview:

Not discussed in the article, but most critical now for SMBs is to have a Page that provides consumers with “validation.” There are more local business ratings and reviews (broadly defined) on Facebook that anywhere else online and consumers are checking them before making purchase decisions.

Reviews on facebook

Accordingly, there’s a somewhat hidden, Yelp-like use case that’s happening on Facebook. SMBs don’t fully recognize or understand this. Not having a rich Facebook presence is a bit like not having reviews on Yelp — you won’t seem credible to consumers.

Czaja also didn’t discuss “resellers.” This has been the key to Google’s SMB strategy. And while there are many companies that sell social presence/marketing to SMBs already (e.g., G/O Digital) there’s no formal reseller program that I’m aware of.

Some sort of reseller program (for lack of a better term) is inevitable for Facebook. It would be better for the company to realize this now and start training and certifying third parties just as Google does.

Paradoxically, Facebook’s News Feed throttling actually makes life a bit easier for everyone in the ecosystem. After setting up their Pages many SMBs simply didn’t know exactly what to post or how often — what I’ve called “the Now What? problem.” But now the strategy is now simpler for SMBs and for third parties that want to sell social to them:

  1. Set up a Page and add enhanced content; think of it as building a social version of the company’s website
  2. Post product updates, new positive reviews from elsewhere, company news and/or promotions (periodically) and turn those into “Promoted Posts” (consistent activity is best; perhaps weekly or bi-weekly)
  3. Buy locally targeted Facebook Ads (offer ads can be very successful and show clear ROI). Think of this as a key component of a mobile marketing strategy

Getting positive ratings and reviews is more challenging. But tactics are much clearer I think now: rich presence, occasional but regular posts that can come from elsewhere and Ads.

Third parties can set up the Page (which can include functionality like scheduling or commerce if appropriate) and they can also buy Ads and run campaigns on behalf of SMBs. Organic posting is still somewhat problematic but third parties can provide best practice guidelines that give SMBs a clearer sense of what to do, almost a template.

The ROI conversation should migrate to Ads exclusively (offline conversion metrics are key over the long term). Presence is necessary, ratings are necessary for consumer validation. Ads are where the ROI conversation should take place. This gets rid of the “is Facebook working?” and “are we wasting our time?” discussion that was linked to organic posting.

As an interesting aside, someone linked to an Alignable survey in the comments to the StreetFight article. I missed the survey in December when it came out. Of the 1,400 SMB respondents, only 14% said they would pay to promote their organic posts and another 18% said they weren’t sure. The rest (68%) said they wouldn’t pay.

Source: Alignable (12/14)

Source: Alignable (12/14)

This week Facebook introduced P2P payments in Messenger. There’s some very interesting potential here.

Facebook could deliver payment services to SMBs (not unlike Square) if it wanted to. It could also buy a booking service (e.g., MyTime) and offer appointments and scheduling through the site. So there’s a great deal more than can be done on Facebook for SMBs to provide value and engage them.

Finally I’ve argued that until they develop a “local search” product (i.e., Places app) they’re not going to see SMBs motivated en masse to buy ads. I believe a local search consumer experience is key to helping SMBs clearly see value in Facebook advertising.

What are your thoughts on all this and where Facebook needs to go to convert more of its 30 million SMBs into advertisers?

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Facebook Buys TheFind: Great Potential That Could Be Wasted

TheFind product search

In something of a surprise, last week Facebook announced it was buying shopping engine TheFind. TheFind will now shut down as its team joins Facebook.

Below is the statement that was posted on TheFind’s site:

For the last nine years, we’ve worked hard to bring you a shopping experience that’s easy, efficient and fun – searching all the stores on the web to find just the right products you’re looking to buy.

We are now starting our next chapter by combining forces with Facebook to do even more for consumers. Facebook’s resources and platform give us the opportunity to scale our expertise in product sourcing to the over 1 billion people that use the platform.

Key members of our team are joining the company and will be working hard to integrate our technology to make the ads you see on Facebook every day better and more relevant to you.

Unfortunately, this means we will be taking our search engine offline in the next few weeks.

Thank you for your loyalty and for making this a fun journey for all of us!

TheFind was one of the more innovative shopping search sites and brings a range of expertise and capabilities to Facebook. Yet Facebook may not use everything TheFind has to offer.

The official word from both sides is that the acquisition is about improving ads on Facebook. But TheFind could also help Facebook with Graph Search, Local and product search.

Facebook has flirted with commerce off and on since its inception. Several years ago there was an expectation that brands and retailers would be driving significant e-commerce off Facebook Pages. That didn’t materialize.

As Google and Amazon battle it out for shopping supremacy, Facebook could use TheFind’s infrastructure to build a product search marketplace. While this could distract from the focus on Facebook ads, why wouldn’t Facebook want to do this? Alternatively Facebook could continue to operate TheFind as a stand-alone site just as it does with Instagram and WhatsApp.

Graph Search remains an underdeveloped asset at Facebook. Engineers at TheFind could help improve and make Graph Search a better and more widely used offering. In addition TheFind could also help with place discovery/search (a neglected component of Graph Search) and even help Facebook develop the long-awaited Places app.

In my mind there are numerous possibilities and ways that TheFind team and its current product could be used by Facebook. While not everything about the acquisition has been completely figured out it does seem like TheFind won’t be fully “leveraged” in the narrow focus on ads. But maybe Facebook will surprise us.

What do you think? If you were running Facebook how would you utilize all TheFind’s capabilities?

As a final thought: the acquisition of TheFind marks a kind of conclusion to the “price comparison engine” era. While sites like Shopping.com (eBay), PriceGrabber, Nextag and others remain in existence, they haven’t built brands and the prominence of these sites has faded dramatically. They’ve largely disappeared from the Top 50 sites.

Now it’s really a battle between Amazon, eBay (to a lesser degree), Google and individual branded retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

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