Greg Sterling – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 23 Oct 2019 13:06:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 Survey: 97% of online adults transact with businesses they find on Yelp /survey-97-of-online-adults-transact-with-businesses-they-find-on-yelp-323881 Wed, 23 Oct 2019 13:06:32 +0000 /?p=323881 The survey of more than 6,000 adults is a follow up a study conducted by Nielsen in 2016.

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Almost all (97%) of online adults spend money with businesses they find on Yelp, according to a Yelp-commissioned study conducted by SurveyMonkey, And 93% of people using Yelp compare businesses before making a buying decision. The survey of more than 6,000 adults is a follow up to studies conducted by Nielsen in 2012 and 2016.

High purchase intent. The 2019 survey found that roughly half (51%) of Yelp users conduct some sort of transaction within 24 hours of a site visit and 90% do so within a week.

Source: Yelp-Survey Monkey (n=6,338)

These figures show growth from the 2016 study, which found:

  • 92% of respondents made a purchase after visiting Yelp, “at least sometimes, frequently or almost always.”
  • 42% said they purchased within 24 hours; 79% within a week.

Yelp cites both the 2016 and 2019 studies to argue that Yelp is the “most influential and trustworthy” site to find a local business, beating out “Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and HomeAdvisor.” However, Google now has considerably more reviews than both Facebook and Yelp.

Other factors beyond reviews. Beyond reviews, survey respondents cited other considerations in evaluating and comparing businesses on Yelp:

  • 75% valued seeing that a business has a business or trade license
  • 71% valued the ability to request a price estimate online
  • 69% valued seeing pictures and costs of completed projects
  • 58% valued knowing about unique characteristics, such as being open late or being family-owned

(Don’t miss: Local marketing for multi-location businesses, a full-day track at SMX East)

Since these are survey responses, they indicate user preferences but not necessarily actual user behavior. But previously Yelp said that “a business with 1-5 reviews and at least 10 photos sees 200 percent more user views than a business with the same number of reviews and no photos.” That’s based on Yelp user data. The company also explained that “Businesses who complete their profiles see, on average, 5x the customer leads each month.”

Why we should care. According to an independent study by FreshChalk, Yelp shows up in the top five results for 92% of local queries on Google consisting of a city and vertical category. So it remains a critical directory for ranking in addition to its high purchase intent use case.

The company is has been busy this year rolling out new products and features (e.g., personalization) to differentiate from Google and to diversify revenues away from advertising alone.

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New trade group Paid Search Association launches with exclusive PPC focus /new-trade-group-paid-search-association-launches-with-exclusive-ppc-focus-323734 Fri, 18 Oct 2019 17:06:33 +0000 /?p=323734 Trusted education and career development will be two of its primary functions.

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The industry has a new association – the Paid Search Association – which formally launched yesterday. It describes itself as “the first association focused exclusively on the paid-search industry.”

A mature industry. Upon first glance, it’s a somewhat surprising development given that marketers are increasingly seeking to overcome organizational silos and coordinate campaigns across channels. In addition, paid search is the most successful digital channel by revenue (across mobile and desktop) and quite mature compared to other channels and tactics. Therefore, one would think education about the medium is less necessary or even altogether unnecessary at this point.

PSA’s inaugural president is David Szetela, the CEO of FMB Media. Founding board members include Brad Geddes, Frederick Vallaeys, Amy Bishop, Navah Hopkins, Aaron Levy and other notable search marketers. The organization will be open to both individuals and companies.

Among other resources, PSA currently offers or intends to offer:

  • Paid search news and events calendar
  • Educational and training resources
  • Access to research
  • Online discussion and job forums
  • Member directory

Filtering and quality control. I asked Szetela in an email, why he thought PSA was needed, given the relatively mature state of the industry. He said, “I think the industry has evolved to the point where individuals can no longer practice all of the various fields of SEM expertise. The PSA is for people whose job is mainly or exclusively paid search PPC advertising management.”

He also said that he thought it was “tough for PPC professionals to stay informed and educated. Resources are scattered, and quality varies widely.”

That sentiment was echoed by board member Brad Geddes, who said in email, “There are many sources of information on the web about paid search. Some are very good and others are either old or rife with errors. Having a central body that is going to point users to great training, education and materials will be one good function of PSA . . . the vetting of information so marketers know who to trust [ ] will be one of the primary educational functions. I’m hopeful that PSA can team up with an organization such as OMCP to also point users in directions that will help them certify their education.”

Career development focus. Geddes also stressed that PSA will be a useful resource for career development for paid search professionals. “Developing one’s career is another goal of PSA. When you look at career development for in-house marketers versus those in an agency, there can be vastly different career prospects. Having a central resource that can help with mentoring, resources, and information on a digital marketing career is a welcome addition to the industry.”

I also asked Szetela why PSA was needed given that SEMPO exists and has been around for many years. He explained, “I think SEMPO is a great organization to serve individuals and companies that have a wide range of responsibilities and service offerings. I’m sure there will be some membership overlap.”

Why we should care. There are tons of blogs, conferences and research reports promoting and dissecting paid search. But what Geddes and Szetela say is true; there’s too much information out there and much of it is uneven. The education and job-development resources will also be useful for people at various stages of their careers.

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The future of search begins with a ‘V’ /the-future-of-search-begins-with-a-v-323630 Thu, 17 Oct 2019 13:34:21 +0000 /?p=323630 Voice and visual search will ultimately become significant drivers of query volume beside text input.

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The future of search begins with a “v” — as in voice and visual search. While “voice search” (on smart speakers) hasn’t taken off, as we enter the era of “ambient computing,” it’s clear that voice will be the universal interface for an increasingly diverse array of connected devices.

Not 50% but closing in — eventually. The oft-cited stat, “50% of all searches in 2020 will be voice searches,” has been discredited. However, in 2016 Google said, “in the Google app, 20% of searches are now by voice.” Since that time, adoption of voice and virtual assistants has grown significantly.

So while it might not be 50%, voice input (on smartphones) already drives a non-trivial percentage of queries. We just don’t know exactly how many because Google doesn’t break it out. And, as Amara’s law states, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” So it will be with voice.

Google and Bing visual search advancing rapidly. Visual search is less mature than voice but offers another compelling alternative to inputting text into a box. Google has been rapidly developing its visual search tool Lens, which now has a wide array of capabilities: translating text, searching restaurant menus, scanning barcodes, searching objects in the real world and driving commerce. Most recently, Google introduced “style ideas,” where users can search on items of clothing in stores or otherwise IRL and see similar items with the opportunity to buy many of them.

This kind of visual search is built on computer vision, object recognition and machine learning. Microsoft has also done a great deal of work in this area since at least 2009 and been making steady upgrades and improvements to Bing visual search. It also makes visual search available to third party app developers.

Pinterest Lens. Pinterest’s visual search efforts are a bit more under-the-radar than Google’s and Bing’s. But the company is doing pioneering work in the area. Pinterest enables users to isolate items in pins and search on them visually to find similar objects or use the smartphone camera to identify objects in IRL and shop them online in the Pinterest app. The latter offering is also called “Lens,” setting up a potential naming or trademark dispute at some point with Google.

Most recently, Pinterest introduced shoppable Product Pins, connecting Lens image search results to e-commerce information (price and retailer link). In addition, saved photos from Lens can be saved to boards and become a source of future recommendations for those users.

Local visual search. In the event it wasn’t obvious, the ability to use a smartphone camera to search objects, products or places offline is another form of local search. In other ways too, image search and the smartphone camera are making their way into local. Google’s recent “search by photos” is one example. Another is the incorporation of augmented reality into Google Maps walking directions.

Recent studies have indicated high levels of demand and popularity for visual search, especially among Millennials, as well as a preference for visual search over text on smartphones.

Why we should care. As a general matter, retailers and product marketers need to optimize for image search and local marketers need to ensure that their various local profiles (GMB, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) have a rich supply of images — profiles with optimized images significantly outperform those without.

Stepping back we can say something like “the search box is expanding;” SEO and content discovery are becoming more fragmented and complex. And while it may not be today, marketers need to start preparing for a time when consumers use voice/virtual assistants and the smartphone camera as much as they use text in the traditional search box to access information and express buying intent.

Make sure to join Barry Schwartz, Eric Enge and me at SMX East for Future-Now Local Search: Assistants, Voice, Maps and More as we unpack all these developments for search marketers.

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Google readies new markup rules for European news publishers /google-readies-new-markup-rules-for-european-news-publishers-323548 Wed, 16 Oct 2019 12:12:08 +0000 /?p=323548 The approach is a reaction to the EU Copyright Directive, to avoid paying licensing fees.

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Google is getting ready to change how it presents content in search results pages in France and throughout Europe. This follows on the heels of the new European Copyright Directive that first rolled out in France.

The Copyright Directive is intended to generate fees for media publishers whose content appears in search results and on news aggregation sites. However Google has declined to pay those licensing fees and has instead changed the way it will show content unless news publishers explicitly give it permission to display longer snippets and images.

Publishers need to opt-in. The company previously said, in an originally French blog post, “When the French law comes into force, we will no longer display an overview of the content in France for European press publishers unless the publisher has made the arrangements to indicate that it is his wish. This will be the case for search results from all Google services.”

Following the French ratification of the EU Copyright Directive, Google created new markup, meta-tags and webmaster guidelines to enable publishers to customize their content previewed in search results. Google explains in a new European press publisher FAQ that it “will not display text snippets or image thumbnails for affected European press publications in France, unless the website has implemented meta tags to permit search previews.” The post answers a wide range of questions, including who must opt-in to show longer previews and what type of control publishers can exercise over the presentation of content snippets.

Giving up on 8 billion clicks? In the post Google reiterates its policy and position around the Copyright Directive: “[W]e don’t accept payment from anyone to be included in organic search results and we don’t pay for the links or preview content included in search results. When you use the new markup tools, you consent to the use of that preview content without payment, either to or from Google.”

Google asserts that snippets and preview content make users more likely to click. “Google Search sends 8 billion clicks to European publishers every month, each of which represents a real economic opportunity for publishers through advertising or subscriptions.”

If news publishers decline to opt-in to the display of snippets, Google will show a stripped down version of publisher content by default — what one might call “bare links” with no copy or images, incomplete story titles and site titles without context.

Why we should care. News publishers that decline to opt-in and permit the display of longer content snippets will likely cede traffic to rivals. Similarly restrictive copyright rules in Germany and Spain several years ago prompted Google to pull back on snippets, which caused a significant decline in search traffic to news sites in those countries.

European news publishers will soon face a significant dilemma: demand licensing fees and have their SERP footprints radically reduced or cooperate with Google and give up any potential copyright revenue. With its opt-in approach, Google has effectively nullified the licensing-revenue dreams of publishers who lobbied for the passage of the Copyright Directive.

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Restaurant app Tobiko goes old school by shunning user reviews /restaurant-app-tobiko-goes-old-school-by-shunning-user-reviews-323373 Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:33:57 +0000 /?p=323373 The app represents a return to the simplicity of expert reviews.

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You can think of Tobiko as a kind of anti-Yelp. Launched in 2018 by Rich Skrenta, the restaurant app relies on data and expert reviews (rather than user reviews) to deliver a kind of curated, foodie-insider experience.

A new Rich Skrenta project. Skrenta is a search veteran with several startups behind him. He was one of the founders of DMOZ, a pioneering web directory that was widely used. Most recently Skrenta was the CEO of human-aided search engine Blekko, whose technology was sold to IBM Watson in roughly 2015.

At the highest level, both DMOZ and Blekko sought to combine human editors and search technology. Tobiko is similar; it uses machine learning, crawling and third-party editorial content to offer restaurant recommendations.

Tobiko screenshots

Betting on expert opinion. Tobiko is also seeking to build a community, and user input will likely factor into recommendations at some point. However, what’s interesting is that Skrenta has shunned user reviews in favor of “trusted expert reviews” (read: critics).

Those expert reviews are represented by a range of publisher logos on profile pages that, when clicked, take the user to reviews or articles about the particular restaurant on those sites. Where available, users can also book reservations. And the app can be personalized by engaging a menu of preferences. (Yelp recently launched broad, site-wide personalization itself.)

While Skrenta is taking something of a philosophical stand in avoiding user reviews, his approach also made the app easier to launch because expert content on third-party sites already existed. Community content takes much longer to reach critical mass. However, Tobiko also could have presented or “summarized” user reviews from third-party sites as Google does in knowledge panels, with TripAdvisor or Facebook for example.

Tobiko is free and currently appears to have no ads. The company also offers a subscription-based option that has additional features.

Why we should care. It’s too early to tell whether Tobiko will succeed, but it provocatively bucks conventional wisdom about the importance of user reviews in the restaurant vertical (although reading lots of expert reviews can be burdensome). As they have gained importance, reviews have become somewhat less reliable, with review fraud on the rise. Last month, Google disclosed an algorithm change that has resulted in a sharp decrease in rich review results showing in Search.

Putting aside gamesmanship and fraud, reviews have brought transparency to online shopping but can also make purchase decisions more time-consuming. It would be inaccurate to say there’s widespread “review fatigue,” but there’s anecdotal evidence supporting the simplicity of expert reviews in some cases. Influencer marketing can be seen as an interesting hybrid between user and expert reviews, though it’s also susceptible to manipulation.

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BrightEdge promises ‘self-driving SEO’ with new Autopilot offering /brightedge-promises-self-driving-seo-with-new-autopilot-offering-323268 Thu, 10 Oct 2019 20:35:42 +0000 /?p=323268 Key SEO tasks can now be fully automated according to the company.

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One of the promises of machine learning and AI is that mundane tasks can be automated leaving people to do more strategic or creative work. That’s what BrightEdge is saying about its new Autopilot SEO product, which the company likens to a self-driving car. 

The product was announced several weeks ago at the company’s Share19 conference.

Petabytes of data. BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu told me during a call that the product was built over more than a decade and after analysis of billions of webpages and petabytes of data to determine what common SEO tasks were capable of automation. Yu said BrightEdge created Autopilot to address the parts of SEO that are repetitive in order free up marketers’ time and resources.

Yu explained that Autopilot can perform a number of important SEO functions with no human involvement. Among them:

  • Orphan pages are “automatically fixed, optimized and connected.”
  • Mobile pages “are self-optimized.”
  • Duplicate content is automatically fixed.​

Yu also says that no other SEO company can do this currently through automation.  He further explained that the company’s recent acquisition of responsive design platform Trilibis was critical in the development of Autopilot. Autopilot also utilizes other BrightEdge technologies (Data Cube, Data Mind, BrightEdge Instant), to “drive auto-optimization, self-driving SEO with zero touch.”

Better rankings, more engagement. Yu said that over the past six months Autopilot has been deployed across 1,000 BrightEdge customer sites. The company offered some aggregated customer data to show that the solution is improving SEO performance:

  • 60% increase in page views per visits​
  • 21% more keywords on page one rankings​
  • 2X increase in conversions​
  • SEM impact: 28% improvement in Ad Quality score​

The PPC improvement is based on optimized, faster-loading mobile landing pages.

BrightEdge cites customer Campbell’s Soup as a marquee case study. Since adopting Autopilot the company says Campbell’s Soup has seen a “204% traffic lift year-over-year.” It has also seen page speed improvements across 35% of pages and more page one rankings for thousands of keywords.

However, Yu emphasized that the chief benefit of Autopilot is that can help “scale a marketer’s time and impact across the organization.” BrightEdge says it’s not charging separately for Autopilot.

Why we should care. If the claims above are correct then BrightEdge’s new Autopilot may be a significant development. However, just as many paid search marketers argue that automated responsive search ads don’t perform as well as traditional text ads, there’s little danger that automation will put SEOs out of work. But we’re very interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on whether and how much SEO automation is possible.

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Google showing mobile ‘search by photos’ option in selected local verticals /google-showing-mobile-search-by-photos-option-in-selected-local-verticals-323237 Thu, 10 Oct 2019 18:04:28 +0000 /?p=323237 The new element appears to not have a fixed position but resides below the local pack, sometimes right below.

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Google is starting to show a new option to “search by photos” box in certain local verticals. It appears only in mobile results right now and is distinct from “interesting finds” and “discover more places,” which are also photo-centric boxes in SERPs. This was discovered initially by Mike Blumenthal.

Examples of the “Search by photos” option appearing in Google Search for some local queries.

No fixed position. The above result is for “Tacos near me.” It shows “search by photos” below the fold, below the local pack and other organic results. However, this wasn’t true in every instance; in a couple of cases the search by photos box appeared immediately below the local pack.

Each image shows a star rating and distance from the user. Clicking any individual photo takes users to the GMB profile page. There’s also an option to open “more photos” which displays a full page of images from different listings. Users can then click “view list” to get more information and scroll through multiple listings.

Below is another example for dentists.

“Search by photos” appearing in Google Search results for the query “dentists.”

Not showing for all categories. I was able to find similar SERPs for several other local categories but not all local verticals I searched. Dry cleaners, locksmiths and jewelry stores, for example, yielded these photo boxes but not lawyers, architects or plumbers.

It’s not clear whether Google is simply testing this or rolling out a new mobile SERP element and whether it will ultimately come to the desktop. It’s also not clear what the criteria are for showing specific images. The listings in the local pack and search by photos box sometimes directly corresponded and sometimes did not.

Depending on how this evolves, it might be an opportunity to get double exposure: in the local pack and the search by photos box.

Why we should care. Local business profiles with optimized images significantly outperform those without. Search by photos is yet another argument in favor of claiming and fully building out GMB profiles with lots of images. It also argues that photos should represent every major menu item or important product category and should be more “professional” as well.

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Invoca ‘Signal Discovery’ promises automated optimization from predictive call intelligence /invoca-signal-discovery-promises-automated-optimization-from-predictive-call-intelligence-323110 Wed, 09 Oct 2019 14:14:55 +0000 /?p=323110 Calls are an important source of first-party data, often neglected by marketers.

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Call intelligence company Invoca has released a new call analytics tool called “Signal Discovery.” It uses machine learning/AI to cluster calls into topics and reveal insights about customer interactions and the efficacy of campaigns. It can also help automate marketing optimization based on call content without human involvement, according to the company.

Growing importance of first-party data. Prospect and customer phone calls are a huge and largely unexploited source of first party data that will become more important to brands and marketers as CCPA kicks in next year. While it’s not entirely clear how much third party data will be lost; first party data has become a much more valuable asset in the wake of privacy regulation and legislation. According to survey data from Invoca, a majority (56%) of marketers don’t know the content or outcomes of their customer service and sales calls.

Signal Discovery presents marketers with a “call map” (see above) that visually represents similar conversations as topic bubbles that can be more closely explored, with the ultimate ability to listen to individual recordings. According to the company, Signal Discovery will “listen” to every call and use unsupervised learning to generate these conversation clusters. It can then “predict occurrences in future conversations . . . based on similarities in speech patterns” from past calls. Marketing can be optimized and automated on that basis, accordingly.

Marketer challenges: data quality and too much volume. In coordination with the announcement of Signal Discovery, Invoca released survey findings about marketer data usage and sophistication. The company polled 500 business-to-consumer marketers, with annual budgets of over $1 million “across a range of companies and industries.” The marketers surveyed had at least three years of experience.

The most common sources of first-party data for these marketers were: 1) company websites, 2) mobile apps, 3) purchase data, 4) in-store interactions and 5) email.

Source: Invoca “State of First-Party Marketing Data” report (2019)

Asked what challenges they faced in using data to optimize campaign performance, these marketers said data quality and then privacy in that order. However, just under a third cited “too much data” as a problem. This latter issue was a bigger concern for more seasoned marketers (11+ years of experience) vs. those with less experience. For the less experienced group, data accuracy and quality were the biggest challenges.

Source: Invoca “State of First-Party Marketing Data” report (2019)

Seeking greater efficiency with AI. The survey explored a number of other issues, including AI-tool adoption. The top use case cited was efficiency — to help improve spending decisions for marketing campaigns. After that, responses included mining customer data, message personalization and audience segmentation.

Source: Invoca “State of First-Party Marketing Data” report (2019)

A separate 2018 survey from Fospha found that less than 10% of marketers said their use and understanding of data-driven attribution was “excellent,” while roughly 29% said it was “good.” The rest of respondents said it was “neutral” to “very poor.” These findings are generally consistent with marketer sentiment about challenges regarding data understanding usage in the Invoca study.

Why we should care. As a basic matter, marketers that sell over the phone or offline aren’t getting a complete picture of how their campaigns are performing if they’re not tracking phone calls. Dynamic number insertion, which is widely used today, prevents tracking numbers from being crawled or used to replace existing phone numbers, so NAP consistency or “pollution” aren’t issues SEOs have to worry about any longer.

Beyond simple call tracking, the content of calls are a potential goldmine of first-party customer insights that have all kinds of implications for media planning, campaign optimization, content creation, customer service, business operations, even product development. In addition, as the Signal Discovery announcement indicates, call tracking is evolving beyond simple attribution into much more sophisticated “conversational intelligence.”

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Nextdoor’s ‘Local Deals’ ads let SMBs target specific neighborhoods /nextdoors-local-deals-ads-let-smbs-target-specific-neighborhoods-323072 Tue, 08 Oct 2019 13:20:54 +0000 /?p=323072 Appearing in multiple places, it's both a paid search and display ad in one.

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Nextdoor is launching a new ad product called “Local Deals.” While the company has shown ads from local businesses for some time those have come largely through partners; this is the first broad-based self-service offering for small businesses (SMBs) on the site.

Simple ad creation. In order to set up a Local Deal, SMBs need to create free Business Page. They are then guided through the simple ad-creation process in a wizard. They choose a radius from a business location using a slider and adjust to reach or opt-out of specific neighborhoods. They pick an expiration time frame (e.g., 14 days), create a redemption code, upload images from their phones/computers or provided stock images, enter payment credentials and publish.

Pricing right now is fixed (impression-based) and depends on the number of neighborhoods targeted and the population density of those areas. There’s no bidding and competition doesn’t impact pricing, according to Nextdoor’s Head of Product, Tatyana Mamut. 

Search and display. Local Deals will appear in several places on Nextdoor: in residents’ feeds, on Business Pages, in the Business section and in search results. There’s also a Local Deals area on the site that displays all deals in a consumer’s area (see graphic below).

There are two buttons for consumers to engage with: save and redeem. Redemption can be online or in-store. Nextdoor is tracking and reporting these actions by consumers. Currently, it’s not tracking offline store visits, although a possibility for the future.

(Don’t miss: Full-day track for local search marketers at SMX East)

Mamut told me that Local Deals was created to respond to a common request from local business owners, “The ability to communicate directly with their neighbors.” 

According to Nextdoor data, there are 40 million neighbor recommendations on the site and “76% of members [have] been influenced by a neighbor’s suggestion on Nextdoor.” Indeed, asking for and recommending local businesses and service providers is a very common activity on Nextdoor.

I asked Mamut about user search behavior; Nextdoor has recently started putting sponsored listings in search results. She said that consumers display a range of behaviors on the site: engaging with their feeds, browsing and searching. She added, “Members go to the search box when there’s immediacy involved.”

What’s very interesting here, because of the multiple placements for Local Deals, is that it winds up being both a paid search and display ad product in one. It’s available today in the U.S. and will be rolling out to other geographies in the near future.

Why we should care. As I previously wrote, Nextdoor is one of the few really interesting consumer offerings going on in local right now. The company operates in 248,000 neighborhoods and 11 countries. It’s heading for an inevitable IPO unless a larger entity tries to buy it before it gets there.

Nextdoor is also in a position to be disruptive, to varying degrees, to Facebook, Google and Yelp from a local advertising standpoint. Google Ads are too complicated for many small businesses; Facebook never developed a culture of search behavior and many business owners are profoundly ambivalent about Yelp.

Nextdoor has a culture of local business recommendations and, increasingly, local search. It’s also highly trusted because its members are verified neighbors. It will be fascinating to see where the site goes from here and how it tries to further monetize its audience and traffic.

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Revenge of the small business website /revenge-of-the-small-business-website-322992 Mon, 07 Oct 2019 12:34:04 +0000 /?p=322992 VC investments in Wordpress' parent and Duda, plus a new Yahoo website offering, show that SMB sites are still big business.

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For several years, many SEOs have been proclaiming the end of small business (SMB) websites. The theory is that third party destinations (GMB, Facebook, Yelp, etc.) have taken over and SMB sites will rarely see consumer visits if at all. GMB now is so widely used and so complete, the argument goes, that consumers never need to visit the underlying SMB site.

Recent investments and M&A. That description of consumer behavior is partly correct but not entirely. Websites continue to be a critical SMB asset and content anchor. That fact is underscored by WordPress parent Automattic’s most recent funding round of $300 million (at a $3+ billion valuation) and Square’s April 2018 roughly $365 million acquisition of site builder Weebly.

On a smaller scale, ten-year old web design platform Duda recently raised $25 million (for just under $50 million in total funding). Duda has a network of more than 6,000 third party resellers and agencies that work with SMBs. It will continue to focus on websites and presence management rather than expand horizontally into other marketing channels.

New Yahoo web design service. In addition, late last week Verizon-owned Yahoo launched a new web design product for SMBs. There are two service tiers ($99 and $299 per month). The offering includes design consultation, ongoing maintenance and content updates (it’s a SaaS product).

Yahoo Small Business was at one time the premier hosting company for SMBs. During a long period of somnambulance, it was surpassed by GoDaddy and others. But following Verizon’s $4+ billion acquisition of Yahoo in 2016, the company has sought to invest and develop new small business products and services and regain momentum. Its brand has remained relatively strong among SMBs across the U.S. despite the decline of Yahoo itself.

Now, Yahoo is developing a new generation of marketing products and services for SMBs. The web design service is just the first announcement.

SMB sites more trusted, still visited. A May 2019 consumer survey from BrightLocal found nearly twice as many respondents (56%) expected SMB websites to be accurate compared with Google My Business (32%). This was a surprise. However, a 2018 survey from the SEO firm found that the most common consumer action by a fairly significant margin, after reading a positive review, was to visit the SMB’s website.

Why we should care. The Small Business Administration says (.pdf) there are now roughly 30 million SMBs in the U.S. The SBA defines “small business” as having a headcount of up to 499 employees. There’s a massive difference between a firm with three or even 20 employees and one that has 300. Regardless, well over 90% of U.S. SMBs have fewer than 10 employees.

While a majority of SMBs in theory, now have websites — 64% according to a 2018 Clutch survey — there’s still a significant opportunity for providers of websites. New businesses form and fail every quarter. And even with shrinking reach in organic search and social, websites are likely remain to the anchor of SMB digital marketing into the foreseeable future.

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