Been thinking a bit this morning about the challenges of local. The SEO challenge will always be there, but even greater than that is the fragmentation challenge. How do you make sense of the whole thing? I was scanning through recent developments as reported on Greg Sterling’s home page and my brain hit the frying pan with a sizzle.

How do consumers make sense of it? How do advertisers make sense of it? How do you make sense of it?

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20 Response Comments

  • Chris  May 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I think you’re right – fragmentation is absolutely the biggest problem advertisers face.

    Marketers really want to measure how things work, and put more $/effort into the more effective venues. But if there are too many options, it’s hard for small players to even try/understand every possibility – and impossible get enough data on all of them to make an informed decision.

    It hurts the consumers too – it used to be so easy to just go to the phone book, but now it’s hard to know where a business can most easily be found. How is the average person supposed to know whether to search on Google or (and pity those of us who can’t even find their phonebook)

  • Ben Saren  May 4, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Local is an iceberg. The waters are barely receding and we’ve just begun to see the tip of it. What’s beneath the water level is a much much much bigger iceberg than any of us even foresee.

    Or perhaps Local is a glacier, slowly tearing away at the granite below it, slowly creating gaps, ravines, lakes, even oceans, and along with it creating lots of destruction.

    OK, I’ve totally exhausted my metaphors for today.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Is the glacier v. iceberg thing in the same vein as rhombus v. square?

  • Ben Saren  May 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Oh get real – they’re both parallelograms…

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    But a square is always a rhombus, yet a rhombus is not always a square.

  • Ben Saren  May 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Yet both are always parallelograms. Let’s cut to the chase here though – are you somehow insinuating that my glaciers and icebergs hold no water??

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I was thinking what’s the difference between a glacier & an iceberg?

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    And it occurred to me that a glacier is always an iceberg but an iceberg is not always a glacier

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    So you can see that my mind has truly been blown

  • Ben Saren  May 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    “Icebergs and glaciers are both enormous masses of snow, built up over the years through natural processes. However, they are both different from each other in form and structure, as well process of formation. Glaciers are formed over continual deposition of snow at a place where it does not melt. When a chunk of this glacier breaks off and floats in the water, it is known as an iceberg.” – from

    Icebergs can be massive, and typically an iceberg only reveals 10% of its mass above the surface. – From Ben Saren (verified by NASA)

  • Andrew Shotland  May 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    So you are saying that it’s the either way around. An iceberg is always a glacier, but a glacier is not always an iceberg.

    This should be helpful to the chiropractor reading this trying to figure out how to rank in Google Maps.

  • Ben Saren  May 4, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    What the chiropractor should realize is that if he/she optimizes for “L5/S1 disc rupture cure in Northpoint Cambridge MA” I would be his first click-through or phone call.

    Notice how we haven’t even mentioned the polar bears!? How insensitive of us. Perhaps the polar bears are the print yellow pages? (bring it PETA, bring it! Wait no, don’t… DON’T!)

  • Stever  May 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Andrew, I feel your pain. The strain is getting to me as well. Seems the fragmentation is accelerating at an exponential clip lately. I can’t follow all the latest happenings and still expect to get any work done for my clients.

    I think I need to sip on a few beers tonight. Those brewed with water from glacier fed streams, no doubt.

  • David Mihm  May 4, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    In lieu of completing my 90%-written blog post where I try to make some sense of it, I think I’ll join Stever & head to the bar for a nice IPA. But I fully agree with your sentiment, Andrew. Not sure whether your thread with Ben, or Local Search in general, has caused more confusion for me at the moment.

  • Jim Rudnick  May 5, 2010 at 6:11 am

    ahh….okay. read all this. aint’ digested it yet, but I’ll be with Stever & Davig over at the bar…first round of Keiths’ IPAs is on me….a good east coast canuck beer, eh!



  • David Portney  May 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Well, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who’s head is spinning; but, if OUR heads our spinning, then how must the local business owner feel if s/he’s trying to keep up and make sense out of all of the fast-moving changes. Certainly that simply presents opportunity to us working in the SEM field, yes?


  • Stever  May 5, 2010 at 10:49 am

    @David P.

    It’s probably not making that many small business owners heads spin like it is ours. It’s going right over their heads as they dont even know much of this is occurring. Like Andrews previous post about his dentist who said, “what’s Yelp?”

    But when they do start seeking out online marketing opportunities they inevitably stumble across stuff that’s too new and unproven or land right into the den of thievery that exists inside a market in so much flux (the influx of shady marketers), like the wild west that is local right now.

  • Will Scott  May 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm


    You’re totally right – straight over their heads. And not just the part about Icebergs, Goldbergs and Romulans either.

    Which reminds me of a bad joke which I can only tell in person with no recording devices present.


  • Michelle Tukachinsky  May 15, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Local search has built up my piano business immensely. Without my blog in the local searches my business would not be what it is today.

    I have decided to help local business build a stronger online presence. Local SEO, SEM, along with other forms of SEO is a a great challenge.

    Love your blog.. thanks 🙂

  • Pavlicko  May 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Local search gives me a constant headache.

    Over the last 6 months especially, it’s been like the freaking wild west – sometimes the results will be completely off target, not even related to the search – other times, it seems to be using age of the domain as the primary factor – and now this past week, it seems to be favoring based on the specific referral sites that provide certifications. This, on top of the personalization and geo-location targeting issues.

    I have a client who gets roughly 100 visits a month to his website sent directly from his maps listing (about 10% of all visits) – this last week, it dropped to about 30 visits. nothing spammy with his listing – all valid reviews from multiple review sites:,, and google maps.

    The worst thing about this is there is no way that I know of to get accurate information about where (location-wise) the maps listing for my client is appearing for these different long tail search queries.

    How the hell am I supposed to solve a problem I can’t isolate!?