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12 Local Search Developments You Need to Know About from Q3 2023

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Takeaways from an Irish Locksmith Listing Spam Scandal

The author’s views are entirely their own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

The previous quarter in local search has felt slightly more mellow than the first two of this year, but industry experts have definitely made some noteworthy discoveries, and Google has made one major move.

With the holiday shopping season up next, now is the time to examine any emerging opportunities or learn about new rules, before things get too busy for the local businesses you market. Let’s hop right in!

1. No second reinstatement chances from Google

    Screenshot of appeals process in Google

    Ben Fisher wins the quarter with his detailed breakdown of the biggest Google local news. Already launched in the EU and coming to us all globally at an unspecified date is a set of changes to the Google Business Profile reinstatement process.

    The main improvement Ben highlights is somewhat more transparency in the process, offering some clues as to why your listing was suspended. The biggest fly in the ointment is that you have just one chance to make this application for reinstatement. Ben shares these two useful links:

    Google may continue to tweak this process in the coming months. In the meantime, if a listing you’re managing gets suspended, you’ll be better equipped to handle reinstatement if you’ve bookmarked Ben’s article.

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    2. Try out “&near=[ZIP]” remote location emulation

    Tweet of adding & near = zip code to query string to emulate local results

    Take 60 seconds to watch Chris Long’s useful video on emulating zip code location by editing the URL of your query. Chris offers this process:

    1. Copy the ZIP code of the geography you want to emulate

    2. Search for your target query (e.g.. “fence repair near me”)

    3. At the end of the URL, append “&near=[ZIP]”

    4. Click enter and analyze the local search results

    While it’s important to remember that Google’s results can be hyperlocal to the searcher, meaning that any emulation tool or tactic may not exactly represent what a unique searcher sees as they move about town, try Chris’ tip next time you want a general idea of what rankings look like in a remote location. Fast and quite fun!

    3. Review tests, spam, and warnings

    We’ve got three different items of note in this category this quarter.

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    1. Inline reviews test

      Google listing with third party reviews

      Mike Blumenthal has captured this interesting test in which reviews do not stem from individual reviewers but from third parties like Best Company and Home Advisor. Historically, Google has sometimes showcased third-party reviews in sections labeled “Reviews from the web” or similar lingo. But, this test mixes platform reviews right in with customer’s direct reviews. Keep your eye out for this test in your area.

      2. No lasting consequences for Google review spam

        Tweet in which Joy Hawkins explained that spam reviewers experienced no lasting consequences despite being reported three times.

        To understand why Joy Hawkins calls reporting review spam to Google “as about as effective as trying to teach a goldfish to play piano,” watch her video on the frustration she experienced in repeatedly reporting purchased reviews. Joy documents how each report resulted in some reviews being removed from the errant company’s listings, but then they simply bought more, creating an endless cycle of tomfoolery. If Google doesn’t ban brands that violate guidelines by buying reviews, consumers will continue to be taken in by unearned high-star ratings, and the local search results will remain untrustworthy. On that note…

        3. Spammers, en garde in France!

        Warning to reviewer whose review isn't being posted due to potential guideline violations.

        We take our hats off again to Mike Blumenthal for sharing this screenshot of a French reviewer being warned that their review isn’t being posted because it may violate Google’s policies. It remains to be seen whether this is EU-wide (if you know, please @ me), but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case yet in the US, where we’ve gotten into a sad pattern of lagging behind Europe in anything regulatory-related. Wouldn’t it be fantastique if Google would roll this out globally, and publish such warnings not just to the reviewer, but on the profiles of brands that have been repeatedly caught violating review guidelines?

        4. Interesting GBP Developments

        We’ve got several wondrous things to ponder in the world of Google listings this past quarter, including:

        1. Footnotes in overviews?

          A local listing overview description contains mysterious footnotes that don't link to anything.

          I don’t often feature myself in these quarterly roundups, but look at this weird thing I came across in the local packs! My Twitter (ugh, ‘X’) thread compiles a bunch of instances I saw of what appear to be numbered footnotes within overview descriptions within the local pack. Look at this example, where the numbers go as high as 9:

          A screenshot showing a number of footnotes within a local pack

          And here’s another curious one on GBP that claims to be linking to a menu:

          A mysterious foot note claims to be a menu link but doesn't click to anything

          The trouble is, none of these footnotes are actionable. They don’t link to anything, and they aren’t explained. There appears to be no point to them, so they almost feel like a bug. But… they do have a familiar tone. Don’t these sound rather like AI of the kind we’ve been previewing in experiments like SGE? I’m wondering now if what I spotted presages an AI/local mashup ahead. Keep watching!

          2. You can’t list services as GBP products anymore

            Google now rejects services from being uploaded as products and gives an unsupported content message.

            I think we all share Claire Carlile’s disappointment that you can apparently no longer add services as GBP products. Until recently, it appeared fine to do so, but that’s Google local search for you: a dynamic environment in which today’s best practice is tomorrow’s bad hair day (which is why reading columns like this one becomes necessary just to keep up with the changes). I wish Google would reverse course on this. For SABs, their services are what they sell; they are their products.

            3. Getting the “Provides” local justification to show on your listing

              One type of local justification is the

              Speaking of SABs, who wouldn’t want this awesome Provides local justification to appear on their local pack listings, catching the eyes of potential customers? I don’t know what wizardly work my friend Colan Nielsen has been up to lately in the deep recesses of GBP, but when a Local Search Forum member asked why she couldn’t get this justification to show up on her listing, his reply got my attention. Colan indicated that if you want that justification to appear, you need to contact Google support to ask them to completely remove the “on-site services” attribute from your profile and that this can help you get the Provides option, instead. That was news to me, and I’d love to hear more stories like this.

              4. New Google policies bring some transparency to formerly-secret processes

              Screenshot of Google's updated policies page

              This document makes public Google’s formerly secret policies on why and when they might suspend an account, and I highly recommend watching Near Media’s full commentary on what we’ve learned from this disclosure. I quote:

              Google rolled out a number of new policy statements regarding the rules guiding suspensions and content takedowns affecting Google Business Profiles (GBP). These guidelines, long the working rules that affected listings and listing content, now make explicit how user accounts, and abuses affect whether a business continues to have access to any given listing or whether that listing will be removed from Google. While this increased clarity is welcome, the devil is in the details.

              Local search depends on authenticity, and I warmly welcome any public declarations of this kind by Google.

              4. Grab bag ‘o other local finds

              1. What’s your blue zone?

                A blue zone overlay on the Google Map indicates walking or driving radius

                Check out what Andy Simpson noticed when looking at the map for “nearby searches”: an unusual blue zone none of us seem to have seen before. It indicates both a walking and driving distance, and as Andy said, could be useful in helping you choose a new location for a business, given Google’s penchant for user-to-business proximity. How great to be running a business that customers can walk to.

                2. What are you mentioned in?

                  A rich result in the organic SERPs shows several external sources that mention the listed organization.

                  While not specifically local, getting this “Mentioned in” treatment captured by Brodie Clark could be good for any local business, especially if the recent loss of FAQ-rich results impacted you. Google appears to be testing different versions of this result, and it strikes me as a reminder of how the Authoritativeness signal of E-E-A-T works in action. Who is mentioning your brand, and how can you get more mentions from top sources?

                  3. Is your Performance data spooky enough for Hallowe’en?

                  A screenshot shows a storage business being shown in response to restaurant-related searches

                  We’re finishing up with a notable case study from Joy Hawkins that was kicked off when an attendee of a LocalU event asked why his storage client’s GBP Performance section was showing him ranking for restaurant queries. Dismissing the notion that people safeguard leftover meatloaf in storage units, and getting no insight directly from Google on the mystery, Joy posited and confirmed a theory: the client was participating in the paid Performance Max Google Ads program, which gives you a little branded pin on Google Maps… often for queries that are totally unrelated to your business.

                  As Joy explains, this Performance Max data then transfers over to your GBP Performance stats, convoluting paid with organic info. Joy was able to confirm that a branch of this business not participating in the Performance Max program was not getting this weird data, giving good credence to her theory. She also offers a warning that you shouldn’t immediately blame SEO if you see performance drops being reported to you by Google – it could be coming from your paid ads.

                  And that’s it for Q3 in local search marketing. Now we’re headed for the wild and wonderful holiday shopping season, my friends. Please, come back in January to see how it all played out!

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

As we march closer to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, CMOs and marketing leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. Election years have always posed unique challenges for advertisers, but the growing dominance of digital media has made the impact more profound than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that will shape the advertising environment in the coming months and provide actionable insights to help you navigate these turbulent waters.

The Digital Battleground

The rise of cord-cutting and the shift towards digital media consumption have fundamentally altered the advertising landscape in recent years. As traditional TV viewership declines, political campaigns have had to adapt their strategies to reach voters where they are spending their time: on digital platforms.

1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

According to a recent report by eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. is expected to reach 65.1 million by the end of 2023, representing a 6.9% increase from 2022. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of cord-cutters reaching 72.2 million by 2025.

Moreover, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 62% of U.S. adults do not have a cable or satellite TV subscription, up from 61% in 2022 and 50% in 2019. This data further underscores the accelerating shift away from traditional TV and towards streaming and digital media platforms.

As these trends continue, political advertisers will have no choice but to follow their audiences to digital channels. In the 2022 midterm elections, digital ad spending by political campaigns reached $1.2 billion, a 50% increase from the 2018 midterms. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, this figure is expected to grow exponentially, as campaigns compete for the attention of an increasingly digital-first electorate.

For brands and advertisers, this means that the competition for digital ad space will be fiercer than ever before. As political ad spending continues to migrate to platforms like Meta, YouTube, and connected TV, the cost of advertising will likely surge, making it more challenging for non-political advertisers to reach their target audiences.

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To navigate this complex and constantly evolving landscape, CMOs and their teams will need to be proactive, data-driven, and willing to experiment with new strategies and channels. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to the changing media consumption habits of their audiences, brands can position themselves for success in the face of the electoral advertising onslaught.

Rising Costs and Limited Inventory

As political advertisers flood the digital market, the cost of advertising is expected to skyrocket. CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) will likely experience a steady climb throughout the year, with significant spikes anticipated in May, as college students come home from school and become more engaged in political conversations, and around major campaign events like presidential debates.

1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

For media buyers and their teams, this means that the tried-and-true strategies of years past may no longer be sufficient. Brands will need to be nimble, adaptable, and willing to explore new tactics to stay ahead of the game.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Perfect Storm

The challenges of election year advertising will be particularly acute during the critical holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have historically been goldmines for advertisers, will be more expensive and competitive than ever in 2024, as they coincide with the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

To avoid being drowned out by the political noise, brands will need to start planning their holiday campaigns earlier than usual. Building up audiences and crafting compelling creative assets well in advance will be essential to success, as will a willingness to explore alternative channels and tactics. Relying on cold audiences come Q4 will lead to exceptionally high costs that may be detrimental to many businesses.

Navigating the Chaos

While the challenges of election year advertising can seem daunting, there are steps that media buyers and their teams can take to mitigate the impact and even thrive in this environment. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

Start early and plan for contingencies: Begin planning your Q3 and Q4 campaigns as early as possible, with a focus on building up your target audiences and developing a robust library of creative assets.

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Be sure to build in contingency budgets to account for potential cost increases, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as the landscape evolves.

1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 197 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Embrace alternative channels: Consider diversifying your media mix to include channels that may be less impacted by political ad spending, such as influencer marketing, podcast advertising, or sponsored content. Investing in owned media channels, like email marketing and mobile apps, can also provide a direct line to your customers without the need to compete for ad space.

Owned channels will be more important than ever. Use cheaper months leading up to the election to build your email lists and existing customer base so that your BF/CM can leverage your owned channels and warm audiences.

Craft compelling, shareable content: In a crowded and noisy advertising environment, creating content that resonates with your target audience will be more important than ever. Focus on developing authentic, engaging content that aligns with your brand values and speaks directly to your customers’ needs and desires.

By tapping into the power of emotional triggers and social proof, you can create content that not only cuts through the clutter but also inspires organic sharing and amplification.

Reflections

The 2024 election year will undoubtedly bring new challenges and complexities to the world of digital advertising. But by staying informed, adaptable, and strategic in your approach, you can navigate this landscape successfully and even find new opportunities for growth and engagement.

As a media buyer or agnecy, your role in steering your brand through these uncharted waters will be critical. By starting your planning early, embracing alternative channels and tactics, and focusing on creating authentic, resonant content, you can not only survive but thrive in the face of election year disruptions.

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So while the road ahead may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the brands that approach this challenge with creativity, agility, and a steadfast commitment to their customers will be the ones that emerge stronger on the other side.


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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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By Tinuiti Team

Rapid Media Mix Modeling and Proprietary Tech Transform Brand Performance

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Tinuiti, the largest independent full-funnel performance marketing agency, has been included in a recent Forrester Research report titled, “The Marketing Analytics Landscape, Q2 2024.” This report comprehensively overviews marketing analytics markets, use cases, and capabilities. B2C marketing leaders can use this research by Principal Analyst Tina Moffett to understand the intersection of marketing analytics capabilities and use cases to determine the vendor or service provider best positioned for their analytics and insights needs. Moffett describes the top marketing analytics markets as advertising agencies, marketing dashboards and business intelligence tools, marketing measurement and optimization platforms and service providers, and media analytics tools.

As an advertising agency, we believe Tinuiti is uniquely positioned to manage advertising campaigns for brands including buying, targeting, and measurement. Our proprietary measurement technology, Bliss Point by Tinuiti, allows us to measure the optimal level of investment to maximize impact and efficiency. According to the Forrester report, “only 30% of B2C marketing decision-makers say their organization uses marketing or media mix modeling (MMM),” so having a partner that knows, embraces, and utilizes MMM is important. As Tina astutely explains, data-driven agencies have amplified their marketing analytics competencies with data science expertise; and proprietary tools; and tailored their marketing analytics techniques based on industry, business, and data challenges. 

Our Rapid Media Mix Modeling sets a new standard in the market with its exceptional speed, precision, and transparency. Our patented tech includes Rapid Media Mix Modeling, Always-on Incrementality, Brand Equity, Creative Insights, and Forecasting – it will get you to your Marketing Bliss Point in each channel, across your entire media mix, and your overall brand performance. 

As a marketing leader you may ask yourself: 

  • How much of our marketing budget should we allocate to driving store traffic versus e-commerce traffic?
  • How should we allocate our budget by channel to generate the most traffic and revenue possible?
  • How many customers did we acquire in a specific region with our media spend?
  • What is the impact of seasonality on our media mix?
  • How should we adjust our budget accordingly?
  • What is the optimal marketing channel mix to maximize brand awareness? 

These are just a few of the questions that Bliss Point by Tinuiti can help you answer.

Learn more about our customer-obsessed, product-enabled, and fully integrated approach and how we’ve helped fuel full-funnel outcomes for the world’s most digital-forward brands like Poppi & Toms.

The Landscape report is available online to Forrester customers or for purchase here

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

Understanding convergence 

B2B and B2C ecommerce are two distinct models of online selling. B2B ecommerce is between businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. B2C ecommerce refers to transactions between businesses like retailers and consumer brands, directly to individual shoppers. 

However, in recent years, the boundaries between these two models have started to fade. This is known as the convergence between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how they are becoming more similar and integrated. 

Source: White Paper: The evolution of the B2B Consumer Buyer (ClientPoint, Jan 2024)

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What’s driving this change? 

Ever increasing customer expectations  

Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels.

Forrester, 68% of buyers prefer to research on their own, online . Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels

Technology and omnichannel strategies

Technology enables B2B and B2C ecommerce platforms to offer more features and functionalities, such as mobile optimization, chatbots, AI, and augmented reality. Omnichannel strategies allow B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across different touchpoints, such as websites, social media, email, and physical stores. 

However, with every great leap forward comes its own set of challenges. The convergence of B2B and B2C markets means increased competition.  Businesses now not only have to compete with their traditional rivals, but also with new entrants and disruptors from different sectors. For example, Amazon Business, a B2B ecommerce platform, has become a major threat to many B2B ecommerce businesses, as it offers a wide range of products, low prices, and fast delivery

“Amazon Business has proven that B2B ecommerce can leverage popular B2C-like functionality” argues Joe Albrecht, CEO / Managing Partner, Xngage. . With features like Subscribe-and-Save (auto-replenishment), one-click buying, and curated assortments by job role or work location, they make it easy for B2B buyers to go to their website and never leave. Plus, with exceptional customer service and promotional incentives like Amazon Business Prime Days, they have created a reinforcing loyalty loop.

And yet, according to Barron’s, Amazon Business is only expected to capture 1.5% of the $5.7 Trillion addressable business market by 2025. If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can compete and win in this fragmented space, too.” 

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If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can also compete and win in this fragmented space

Joe Albrecht
CEO/Managing Partner, XNGAGE

Increasing complexity 

Another challenge is the increased complexity and cost of managing a converging ecommerce business. Businesses have to deal with different customer segments, requirements, and expectations, which may require different strategies, processes, and systems. For instance, B2B ecommerce businesses may have to handle more complex transactions, such as bulk orders, contract negotiations, and invoicing, while B2C ecommerce businesses may have to handle more customer service, returns, and loyalty programs. Moreover, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses must invest in technology and infrastructure to support their convergence efforts, which may increase their operational and maintenance costs. 

How to win

Here are a few ways companies can get ahead of the game:

Adopt B2C-like features in B2B platforms

User-friendly design, easy navigation, product reviews, personalization, recommendations, and ratings can help B2B ecommerce businesses to attract and retain more customers, as well as to increase their conversion and retention rates.  

According to McKinsey, ecommerce businesses that offer B2C-like features like personalization can increase their revenues by 15% and reduce their costs by 20%. You can do this through personalization of your website with tools like Product Recommendations that help suggest related products to increase sales. 

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Focus on personalization and customer experience

B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, and tailor their offerings and interactions accordingly. Personalization and customer experience can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, as well as to improve their brand reputation and competitive advantage. According to a Salesforce report, 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

Related: Redefining personalization for B2B commerce

Market based on customer insights

Data and analytics can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to gain insights into their customers, markets, competitors, and performance, and to optimize their strategies and operations accordingly. Data and analytics can also help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to identify new opportunities, trends, and innovations, and to anticipate and respond to customer needs and expectations. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable. 

What’s next? 

The convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce is not a temporary phenomenon, but a long-term trend that will continue to shape the future of ecommerce. According to Statista, the global B2B ecommerce market is expected to reach $20.9 trillion by 2027, surpassing the B2C ecommerce market, which is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2027. Moreover, the report predicts that the convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce will create new business models, such as B2B2C, B2A (business to anyone), and C2B (consumer to business). 

Therefore, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to prepare for the converging ecommerce landscape and take advantage of the opportunities and challenges it presents. Here are some recommendations for B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to navigate the converging landscape: 

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your customers, competitors, and market, and identify the gaps and opportunities for convergence. 
  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for convergence, and align your goals, objectives, and metrics with it. 
  • Invest in technology and infrastructure that can support your convergence efforts, such as cloud, mobile, AI, and omnichannel platforms. 
  • Implement B2C-like features in your B2B platforms, and vice versa, to enhance your customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Personalize your offerings and interactions with your customers, and provide them with relevant and valuable content and solutions.
  • Leverage data and analytics to optimize your performance and decision making, and to innovate and differentiate your business.
  • Collaborate and partner with other B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses, as well as with other stakeholders, such as suppliers, distributors, and customers, to create value and synergy.
  • Monitor and evaluate your convergence efforts, and adapt and improve them as needed. 

By following these recommendations, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses can bridge the gap between their models and create a more integrated and seamless ecommerce experience for their customers and themselves. 

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