The major web platforms are looking at targeting users with local functionality. Many see this as a major growth opportunity in 2011 due to the higher use of smart phones. Google is especially focused in this area as of late, arguably more than ever before. As online retailers, who may not have heavy connectivity with their brick and mortar counterparts, local SEO may not seem like something that provides much – if any – online traffic. But it does. Especially with recent Google changes.
If you haven’t noticed, Google changed the way they display their local searches. They appear to show up more often, and resemble traditional natural search listings. The result is that other non-local listings are getting pushed down under the fold, and more local listings are being clicked.
Each listing provides 2 destination links: the main link (which leads to your main site), and a places page.
When you show up in the local searches, the main link provides pretty good traffic. In most cases, the searchers that click a local link were looking for local information. The destination of this link doesn’t satisfy, but it’s a chance for your homepage to capture the users interest and maybe persuade them from getting off their couch and driving to the store to buying online.
The other link, Places (formerly called Local Business Center), is a nice thing to have because it provides opportunity to really sell your local store. You can provide an exclusive coupon, or promotion. Within the Places page, there’s yet another link that you can control.
There’s opportunity with this link since you control it. Maybe design a landing page displaying synergies between your web and brick and mortar stores. Can you buy online and return the product in the store if you’re not satisfied? Promote that here. Do you have exclusive in-store printable coupons? Display that here. Experiment with this traffic, and develop something special knowing that these are local-minded shoppers (at least they were at the time of entering their first query into Google.
I remember it well, about 5 years ago, when it was released to AdWords. I could qualify the work I’ve been doing for an old eCcommerce employer. He was very ROI focused because he was, well, cheap (not at all generalizing a business who rightfully cares about revenue as cheap). This boss didn’t buy into internet marketing even though he was running an internet store. So this code – which I had to map cart variables too – helped me justified the good work I was doing in my job. While many industry peers were frustrated by the extra scrutiny they were getting, I was actually saved.
But conversion code isn’t everything. It’s not supposed to be. It has its place.
Online analytics is still really young. Now, we have great conversion tracking, and more advanced attribution modeling. But only a few years ago, it was all about impressions and CTR. Basic analytics told us a little of the story, and forced us to take chances. Now, with more of the story, I truly believe many of us find ourselves backed into an ROI corner in which we are afraid to press against. Did these better bullets make us cocky?
“Bullets are great. But you don’t win a war with firepower. It’s with strategy and tactics.”
I had three fortune cookies today with lunch, and this is what they said:
I think for many conversion tracking created and atmosphere for marketers to worry about performance to the dollar versus creativity on the web. On the web, creativity is vital and clearly yields bigger results when you strike gold. Creativity with focus speaks to more segmented audiences, which we now know are even more plentiful than we did before the web. General analytics and demos let us focus on those audiences, but data on whether they convert on the last click does not tell the full story. It answers the immediate need of passing a report to your boss, but it doesn’t always lead to the lifetime value.
Marketing is, and should always be about risk taking. If you’re not taking risks, you’re playing on the same level as not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands of other tepid companies. Marketing is also about developing strategies as you build. Tying yourself to ROI alone hurts you in the long run if you’re the kind of company that needs to be competitive. If you disagree, are you really being effective marketers and doing the w0rk the internet demands? Is it our job to encourage options and opportunity? Or is our job to keep stay in a box?
Would love your opinions.
ATG (a large commerce platform) just put out some interesting studies. 53% (of 1,002 total people) cited search engines as their key source for discovering new products.
Is this news? Not really. But I was interested to see how competitive email still is. I was also interested to see where social media (as a channel) resides. Social is under In-store displays and offline signs. Wow. Even though it’s fertile, this is a reminder that social still has a long road until full maturity.
Check out Search Engine Land for more stats.
You know the Old Spice social media campaign that exploded in the end of July? Lots of online views, and low ROI (well, according to the preliminary reports from outside of the Old Spice camp). I’ve read enough articles calling this a failure for the low impact to revenue. Whether true or not***, all I know is that Old Spice, which I always considered (for whatever reason) a low quality, old fashioned product, is now on my radar. This is momentum, and this is a rare gem today. A lot of marketing fails to gain any attention at all. When you succeed, and cut through some noise, consider that a success. Now, in 2010, you need to ‘level up’ on that success, or you might as well have not even tried. Some success isn’t enough success.
SEO is marketing and branding, too. Getting routine rankings for similar queries helps the searcher buy into your brand. Your customers spend a lot of time in Google. Typically more unique visitors come to your site from a Google search than any other medium. Maybe you’re not getting the sales you’re hoping for from natural search, but you may be building your mindshare just by appearing frequently in the search engine result pages. A lot of searchers trust Google. If Google constantly shows your webpage to the same searcher, the perception may be that Google knows something you don’t know. A lot of people actually think that Google ranks based on traffic and popularity. Whatever the reason, that semi-conscious thought goes a long way in online marketing. It could even influence offline foot traffic or sales through your other online marketing channels. With good rankings comes good brand visibility.
My goal isn’t to convince you to ignore ROI in SEO (or any online marketing), but I do want to help you think about it differently if you’re one of the people who say, “my campaign failed because it didn’t turn a profit.” I want you to remember that marketing is more than just immediate sales. Sales is an important piece dependent on the components of your strategy. Brands that concentrate on branding do so because they know the value. Just because we’re online with amazing abilities to cookie and track, doesn’t mean we should forget the original definition of marketing and branding.
As a postscript, and as far as Old Spice goes, I was walking through the grocery store last week. I did stop and pause at the deodorant. I didn’t need any. But I was semi-consciously influenced, and I this time I caught it. If Old Spice keeps up their momentum, I might stop next and buy when I am in the market for deodorant. If they don’t keep it up, that stop may have been it for me.
***Update – Per the beginning of this article, it looks like the reports I was reading of low ROI for the Old Spice campaign have been, well, wrong. Hard stats are in. According to BrandWeek, Old Spice’s sales increased 107% over last month and 55% over the course of the past 3 months. Nice.