My how time flies when you are spamming improving Google’s results. Time again for my take on what’s in store for all of you localsearcharati in ’010. And check out how my seo predictions did for 2009. Drum roll please…
- The Open Source Yellow Pages Will Emerge
Business listing data online has traditionally been severely fragmented. Different sites have different business names, phone numbers, website URLs, hours of operations, services, etc. The backend data suppliers like Localeze, InfoUSA & Acxiom have done an ok job of trying to become the source of truth for business listings, but ultimately the world really needs a single source for the so-called golden record for each business. Twitter looks like it’s about to become that source. It’s recent purchase of MixerLabs and their GeoAPI product is the yellow pages API I have been whining about for the past year or so. If this rolls out the way I think it will, Twitter will now become the central clearinghouse for a huge portion of local data. The data providers, yellow pages publishers, ad agencies will still play a part, controlling what proprietary info they feed into the system, but pretty much any application that involves local businesses will use the Twitter system, so much so that if you aren’t using it, your product will seem deficient. Mastering the inputs and outputs of this system will become a key differentiator for local marketers in ’010.
What else is there to say on this subject? GOOG will continue on its long march to local search domination. More organic results will lead to more Maps results in more ways than ever before, continuing to put the organic squeeze on any sites that are not true local businesses. The Favorite Places window sticker thing won’t do much for traffic but GOOG will send them out to more businesses just because they can. Now that the Yelp deal may have passed GOOG will leak that they are setting up a call center to target SMB advertisers in a few markets as a test further freaking out everybody else in local. GOOG voice search on mobile will start to show some serious growth. Audio SEO aka Voice Search Optimization will be a minor development with huge ramifications. As I said last year, it’s a Google world and we all just search in it.
- What’s Our Demand Media Strategy?
I almost put this ahead of Google because while the Great GOOG will be where a lot of the action is, it seems like everyone I talk to is fixated on the Demand Media strategy of creating content based on actual demand instead of editorial judgment. Expect to see big brands creating large amounts of content around hot keywords clogging up the organic SERPs and social media sites. This has been a time-honored strategy used by spammers. The big difference here is that big companies with big budgets are starting to play in this game churning out more content than ever before. If you run a company that provides cheap article writing in the Philippines, this could be good.
Ranking Tip: See Brent D Payne’s great presentation on How To Connect Journalism with the Greatest Possible Audience.
- Attack of the Guides
Given that it’s getting harder for yellow pages publishers to rank well for local queries, expect to see a lot of how-to guides emerge from the various players in an attempt to expand their “search footprint”™. I expect within 3-6 months pretty much everybody is going to have a wedding guide, a home improvement guide, etc.
Ranking Tip: Don’t fish where everyone else is. Go after a relatively uncontested niche – maybe start with a funeral guide?
- Invasion of the Lame Local Games
Foursquare and GoWalla have attracted attention for creating games that have a virtual local component. There is something very cool and futuro about this. Problem is everybody is going to try and copy this because the potential is insanely huge. So expect an onslaught of local gaming lameness.
Darkhorse Tip: A company like Zynga has the potential to do something out of control with this concept which will totally take the industry by surprise.
- AdSense for Local
Adsense performs well on local search sites. Big local search sites are some of the top local advertisers on Adsense. They would rather not give their $ to GOOG. They have a lot of advertisers. Why haven’t they done this yet?
Strategy Tip: Companies like Localeze & Yext claim they are already on their ways to a system like this. We’ll keep an eye on them.
- Reputation Management Wars
It seems like everybody’s working on a reputation management system to help SMBs get a handle on how they are being presented on relevant sites across the Web. Merchant Circle, Marchex, GetListed, Palore have all either rolled out or announced efforts in this area. Expect to see big publishers and SMB ad sellers like ReachLocal, Webvisible, Yodle, etc. try to figure out how they can play in this space to create more value for advertisers.
- SMB SEO Budgets Will Increase Dramatically
A number of misguided souls are predicting that personalized search renders SEO obsolete. Bottom line: most SMBs don’t know what they are doing with search, are going nuts because some spammer or the guy down the street outranks them, want to spend more time with their kids and are ready to hire someone to make the problem go away.
- GLBC Will Institute An Agency of Record User
There are all sorts of complicated reasons why Google Local Business Center does not allow for an “agency” user. Google wants to discourage mass spamming and perhaps they want to force more businesses to claim their own profile and actually engage with the Google. The best response I heard from Google is that if businesses aren’t signing up on their own then that’s a problem with the product and they need to improve the product to get them to do so. Hopefully this is the year that Google admits that most businesses just won’t do it on their own.
- M&A Activity in Local Search Will Take Off
There’s a reason I have started including M&A services as part of my consulting work. The Yelp/Google deal, the ReachLocal IPO, the Twitter/Mixerlabs deal – these events create a growing sense that local search is starting to congeal – meaning that there are a set of services that are starting to show the ability to break away from the fragmented local search pack and have the potential to grab relatively large shares of their markets. Expect to see a domino effect with a number of large and small acquisitions over the next year.
- SEO Consultants Will Become Better Known as Marketers
2009 seemed like the year when a lot of SMBs woke up to the fact that SEO actually existed and could be an important part of the marketing mix. In 2010 more businesses are going to start to realize that search and social media could be the biggest area of potential for their companies and they will pour more resources into these channels. As a result search marketers are going to take on bigger roles helping drive comprehensive marketing strategies. SEOs will be the Na’vi 2010 – whatever that means.
Ranking Tip: increase your business’ presence on Google Maps citation sources such as Panoramio, Flickr, Wikipedia & YouTube. Be the first on your block to discover new sources and get a gold star
Oblique Strategy for 2010: Short circuit (example; a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)
Great Local Search/SEO Sites To Stay on Top of in 2010:
Local Search Twitterers
Local SEO Tweets
The Kelsey Group
The Local Onliner
Understanding Google Maps & Local Search
Yellow Pages Commando
feel free to email me with additions to the list and enjoy the decade.