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A Guide to Franchise SEO



A Guide to Franchise SEO

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

As franchises can have a large number of locations by nature, search marketers are faced with the ever present hurdle of scale. More locations means more content and landing pages to manage, and a much bigger chance of running into technical SEO issues. These challenges can be even more daunting when combined with an older CMS, franchisee-generated content, and tracking issues.

At Go Fish Digital, we’ve been able to work with quite a few franchise businesses and advise on their SEO strategies. Over time, we’ve been able to identify common problems with these campaigns, and ways to solve these issues, the framework for which I’ll cover in this piece.

What is franchise SEO?

Franchise SEO is a set of initiatives to improve the search engine visibility of franchise websites, which are websites that promote an overall brand while at the same time offering localized pages for multiple locations of that brand. Strategies include scaling keyword research, creating localized landing pages, and removing duplicate content.

Broadly, franchise SEOs need to always be thinking about scalable approaches, local page quality, and technical issues that are common on these types of sites. Below I’ll cover some of our favorite approaches when handling a franchise site.

Franchise SEO best practices

Scaling keyword research

To start your franchise SEO campaign, you’ll want to identify and track the keywords that are most valuable to your business. Tracking your core keywords will allow you to monitor a couple of things:

  1. Visibility changes for individual keywords

  2. Aggregate rankings to see the overall SEO health of your website

The issue that most franchises face is that they offer a wide variety of service offerings across a large number of geographic areas. For instance, a national plumber may provide 20 different types of services (water leaks, sump pumps, etc.) across 50 high priority markets. This can make keyword research extremely difficult, as you’ll want to be sure you’re tracking your site’s visibility across all of these different service/geographic combinations.

For this type of analysis, we love using the tool MergeWords. Once you identify the combinations of services and locations, you can easily plug this information into the tool to ensure that you’re creating queries for every combination.

This process allows you to more easily scale the keyword research process to ensure that there are no gaps in your rank tracking data.

Localize and segment your keyword tracking

With franchises, there is no such thing as a “national” ranking. Even queries with geographic modifiers such as “commercial cleaning” will have inherent local intent. A search for a query like this will bring up results that are specific to your area without you having to specify that information to Google. Tracking your keywords at a “national” level won’t provide you much insight as to how visible you are when real users perform a search.

Most rank tracking solutions will come with some type of location feature that will allow you to monitor a particular keyword in a specific geographic area. Many tools will allow you to get as granular as defining the exact ZIP code of the area that you want to track. We enjoy using tools such as STAT (pictured here) for this type of rank tracking.

Screenshot of STAT rank tracking

This can still be useful even if you’re a business that has customers in a wide geographic area, but don’t have a physical location in each one. For example, a cleaning business might only have a few locations, but serve an entire state. In these situations, it can be beneficial to identify your highest priority/highest populated areas and set up localized keyword tracking for each one.

If you wanted to track all across the state of North Carolina, you could track keywords in geographic areas such as:

  1. Charlotte

  2. Raleigh

  3. Durham

  4. Chapel Hill

  5. Winston-Salem

Once tracking your geo-specific keywords, you can then utilize keyword segments to monitor how you perform in a specific location. Keyword segments will allow you to drill down to analyze aggregate local rankings. You can do this by creating a segment for all of the queries you’re monitoring for a particular location.

For example, here you can see how a particular site ranks on the first page in Chapel Hill, NC:

Screenshot of bar graph showing ranking distribution for location in Chapel Hill.

Review high priority geographic areas

Now with segmented rank tracking set up, you’ll be in a great position to benchmark where you stand across your different locations. Doing this can help you better analyze the highest priority geographical areas. This can help you better focus your strategy, even if you’re managing a large number of locations.

For example, in our location in Chapel Hill, NC, we can see that 67% of our tracked keywords are ranking on the first page:

Same screenshot as above.

However, when we look at visibility in Fairfax, VA, we can see that only 36% of our tracked queries rank in the same positions.

Bar graph showing ranking distribution for Fairfax location.

This data allows us to see that we don’t rank as well in Fairfax when compared to Chapel Hill. If Fairfax is a high priority area for us, we might want to focus our efforts specifically on reviews for this market. Maybe our content isn’t as strong here or maybe that landscape is much more competitive. Whatever the case is, keyword segmentation has given us the knowledge of where we need to focus our efforts moving forward.

Create location-based pages

Another critical element of a franchise SEO campaign is to ensure that you have built out location pages for every area that you serve. This will give your site the opportunity to appear for geo-specific queries for your core keywords. As previously mentioned, Google naturally localizes the results in many industries, which means these pages could also appear for general keywords that don’t utilize geographic modifiers (“lawn care services”).

Unfortunately, most franchises heavily underinvest in this area. The vast majority of local landing pages contain fairly generic content that doesn’t add much value for users. Oftentimes, this involves general descriptions of a particular area. Even worse, these pages are notorious for having the same templates with just the location name replaced.

Ideally, your location pages would contain the following elements:

  1. Optimized title tags and content for that specific location

  2. Customized on-page content for that area

  3. The address, phone number, and contact information (if a physical address exists)

  4. Structured data markup from the most specific category in the library

  5. Reviews specific to that individual area

  6. External links to relevant local resources

For example, the Lawn Love franchise does a really good job of creating local landing pages for each area that they’re active in.

Screenshot of the Lawn Love homepage for the Philadelphia location.

As a result, they rank well for “lawn care service” queries in a large spread of markets such as Philadelphia, Raleigh, and Pittsburgh.

What if you don’t have physical locations in the area you serve?

Even if your brand doesn’t have physical locations in the geographic area you’re targeting, it’s still definitely encouraged to create localized landing pages, as long as you provide services to that specific area. This can be a really useful strategy, especially if you only have a small number of locations but serve a much larger geographic area such as an entire state.

Below you can see the “Locations” page of a social security lawyer based in Pittsburgh, PA. While they only have a single physical location in the city of Pittsburgh, their business is regional and extends beyond the city into other parts of western Pennsylvania and even Ohio.

To improve the reach of their business, they’ve created location-based pages for all of the most popular cities and towns that they serve in these areas.

Screenshot of location page showing lists of service locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

This gives their SEO the ability to cover a much wider geographic area than they normally would be able to with just a single location.

When performing any multi-location SEO campaign, we recommend one of the first things you do is assess all the major geographic markets that you serve. Next, you should audit your existing landing pages assets to ensure that you have a location page mapped to any high priority area. You can use tools such as CRM data or conversions in Google Analytics to determine what your most important locations are.

However, if you don’t have this information, another way to do it would be by evaluating populations. If we were working with a business in Texas, we could utilize municipality population data in order to determine which landing pages need to be created first based on where the majority of people are located. This provides a data-based way of informing where to focus your content generation strategies.

Create and optimize Google Business Profiles

For any locations where you have a physical address, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve created and claimed a Google Business Profile (GBP). These profiles integrate directly with Google Maps and Google’s local 3-pack results. This means that in order to be eligible to rank in Google’s map packs, you’ll need to have an active GBP that’s been properly verified:

Screenshot of the map pack for "commercial cleaning services".

Across all of your physical locations, you’ll want to audit your GBPs to ensure that the following information is accurate:

  1. Primary category (most important)

  2. Secondary categories (filled out as completely as possible)

  3. Name

  4. Address

  5. Phone number

  6. Hours of operation

The most crucial part of this step is ensuring that your primary and secondary categories for each location are filled out as completely as possible. If your business isn’t categorized properly, you could potentially be missing out on local pack visibility for relevant search queries for your franchise. To get a better understanding of how to categorize your GBPs, you can read Miriam Ellis’s excellent guide.

Ensure NAP consistency

Another great step to optimize your local pack rankings is to ensure there’s NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency across all of your physical locations. The more consistent this information is across the web, the more likely you are to appear in the map pack results. Since franchises face the challenge of scale, doing this manually is out of the question. Tools like Moz Local can help automate this process by improving each location’s NAP consistency in the most prominent data aggregators.

E-A-T optimizations

If you’ve already set up location pages but are looking to take their on-page optimizations to the next level, you can look for ways to improve the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of their content.

Google has a responsibility to try to improve the visibility of sites that they feel will provide accurate information to users. For this reason, it needs to factor in how trustworthy a particular source is. While optimizations for E-A-T will be most relevant to sites in the health and finance verticals, multi-location sites can also leverage these concepts to improve their on-page content.

Here are some of our favorite content elements to utilize E-A-T concepts on your franchise location pages:

  1. Information about laws and government regulations

  2. External links to helpful local resources

  3. Facts about a particular geographic area

  4. Data points relevant to the local area

  5. Profiles and information about specific employees at that location

Going back to the Lawn Love example, on their location pages, they provide users with specific data points about a particular area such as mowing costs, average yard sizes, and how frequently lawns are mowed.

Screen shot of extra FAQ information Lawn Love provides on their location pages.

Looking at another industry, the chiropractor franchise The Joint provides biographies of each doctor for each individual location, as well as information such as how many years of experience they have:

Screenshot of The Joint doctor bio.

On-page optimizations like this may help improve the trustworthiness of your content to both users and search engines. Utilizing original data, linking to trusted government sites, and providing information about your specific location are all potential ways of sending additional trust signals. This type of content helps demonstrate your business’s knowledge of the local market and differentiate your website from competitors that will likely have generic information.

Structured data

You’ll want to be sure that you’re marking up your location based landing pages with structured data. Structured data is simply code that you place on a website to give search engines a better understanding about the context or the intent of that page.

Generally, structured data will be placed on a particular page template, such as your location pages. This makes schema markup a great way to improve the optimization of a website at scale.

One of the best things about schema markup is that, depending on your business, there might already be a schema type that closely describes what your business does. The vast majority of franchises will use some subtype of LocalBusiness structured data to markup individual location pages. While there are too many to list, below you can see some of the most common types of schema for franchise businesses:

You can see that Two Men and a Truck have marked up all of their “Moving” location pages with the MovingCompany structured data type that highlights information such as the name, address, phone number, hours, and reviews.

Screenshot of the MovingCompany structured data type and what it includes.

Which schema you choose will vary greatly depending on the overall topic of your business. Your franchise should definitely be reviewing the library to see what the most specific type of structured data is for your location pages.

Review duplicate content issues

One of the biggest technical issues with large franchise sites is duplicate content. This is more likely to happen when steps have been taken in order to scale localized content initiatives. If not done properly, this can lead to pages that are too thin to be indexed or that Google has identified as duplicate.

As an example, here you can see a franchise that’s using templated content across a variety of pages:

Screenshot of a SERP for "plumbers near me" showing various locations.

As a result, Google may choose to ignore these pages and exclude them from the index entirely. If your pages are based on a template with little variation in content, this review is absolutely critical. To find pages this might be impacting, you can perform the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Google Search Console

  2. Go to the “Coverage” report

  3. Select the “Excluded” tab

  4. Review both the “Crawled – currently not indexed” and “Discovered – currently not indexed” reports

Screenshot showing pages that are currently not indexed.

If you see pages that are built from a template getting flagged in these reports, there is a good chance that it’s due to a duplicate or thin content issue. These can be great pages to prioritize new content creation on as these changes could result in high converting pages getting indexed by Google.

Another method is to use a tool like Siteliner to identify duplicate content at scale. Siteliner crawls through your site and flags any duplicate/similar content that it finds. Pages with high match percentages can be audited and potentially adjusted to be more unique.

Screenshot of Siteliner duplicate content list

Create content that solves user problems

A great long term approach to franchise SEO campaigns is to connect with your customers before they’re ready to make a purchase. An effective way to do this is to identify queries that users would be searching before engaging with your franchise, and then create a content strategy around targeting those topics.

For example, a common reason to go to an auto repair franchise would be when you see the ominous check engine light appear on your car. In this situation, it’s likely that the user would seek to learn more about the issue and even try to fix it themselves before enlisting the help of a service.

The company AutoZone wisely understands this trend, and has created a page that provides information about reasons why the check engine light may appear. As a result, they rank on the first page for the query “check engine light”:

Screenshot of "check engine light" SERP with auto zone result.

When analyzing the data more closely, AutoZone has clearly been investing in this type of content in recent years. As a result, it’s estimated that they’re generating over 580,000 organic sessions a month to these types of pages:

Chart showing Auto Zone organic growth over time.

A particular type of content that I believe franchise owners should be paying attention to is video. This is especially true if your franchise provides some type of service that would be considered DIY. More and more we’re seeing SERPs around DIY queries where the bulk of the first page results are YouTube videos.

If you’re a franchise with existing video assets, it’s worth ensuring that any content you’ve uploaded to YouTube is optimized for relevant keywords. Doing this could provide more visibility through both YouTube and the Google search results, as they’re becoming more and more integrated.

A brand that positioned themselves very well for this trend is Ace Hardware. They’ve built up an extensive catalog of videos that directly integrate their products and teach users how to accomplish different projects. As a result, they often receive an embedded result directly on the SERPs for queries around their core products.

Screenshot of "how to use a caulk gun" SERP with a video tutorial at the top.

A brief franchise SEO case study

Applying these frameworks can be extremely powerful for franchise businesses, and we’ve seen some strong results when doing so.

For one environmental services client, we were able to identify that they didn’t have localized landing page content that targeted many of their core geographic areas. As a result, they were extremely limited in the number of markets their content was able to appear in.

By reviewing old versions of the site, we were able to create a plan to recreate many localized landing pages that had once existed, and utilize local content best practices. Doing this allowed them to experience a +270% improvement in the number of tracked queries that were ranking on the first page in the span of two years. 

Bar graph showing ranking averages and distribution increasing over time.


When working on franchise SEO, marketers need to be aware of the contextual and technical considerations that apply most to these sites. Franchises need to be aware of the technical issues that come along with multiple locations such as duplicate content, indexation consistency, structured data, and more.

Google is placing a greater emphasis on quality localized content and more brands are starting to invest in these initiatives. By following the steps above, hopefully you’re able to think about your franchise’s search initiatives in a different way, and strengthen the quality of your site.

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Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat



Building Customer Trust: Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.

Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.

The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.

However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.

In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.

The Rise of Chatbots

Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.

Advantages of Chatbots

24/7 Availability

One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.


Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.


Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.


Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.

Disadvantages of Chatbots

Limited Understanding

Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.

Initial Setup Costs

Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.

The Role of Live Chat Support

Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.

Advantages of Live Chat

Human Touch

Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.

Complex Issues

For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.

Trust Building

Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.


Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.

Disadvantages of Live Chat

Limited Availability

Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.

Response Time

The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.


Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.

Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor

When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.

Building Trust with Chatbots

Chatbots can build trust in various ways:


Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.

Quick Responses

Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.

Data Security

Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.

However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.

Building Trust with Live Chat Support

Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:


Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.

Tailored Solutions

Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.


Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.

However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.

Finding the Right Balance

The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:

Initial Interaction

Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.

Escalation to Live Chat

Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.


In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.

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The Rise in Retail Media Networks



A shopping cart holding the Amazon logo to represent the rise in retail media network advertising.

As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”

Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.

Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.

But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:

GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.

Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.

What’s a retail media network?

On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.

GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year.  Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.

“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.

You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.

Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.

But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.

Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.

Think about these 2 things in 2024

That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?   

Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.

For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.

However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.

Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.

The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.

You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.   

“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.

As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions



AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions

The martech landscape is expanding and AI is the prime driving force. That’s the topline news from the “Martech 2024” report released today. And, while that will get the headline, the report contains much more.

Since the release of the most recent Martech Landscape in May 2023, 2,042 new marketing technology tools have surfaced, bringing the total to 13,080 — an 18.5% increase. Of those, 1,498 (73%) were AI-based. 

Screenshot 2023 12 05 110428 800x553

“But where did it land?” said Frans Riemersma of Martech Tribe during a joint video conference call with Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot. “And the usual suspect, of course, is content. But the truth is you can build an empire with all the genAI that has been surfacing — and by an empire, I mean, of course, a business.”

Content tools accounted for 34% of all the new AI tools, far ahead of video, the second-place category, which had only 4.85%. U.S. companies were responsible for 61% of these tools — not surprising given that most of the generative AI dynamos, like OpenAI, are based here. Next up was the U.K. at 5.7%, but third place was a big surprise: Iceland — with a population of 373,000 — launched 4.6% of all AI martech tools. That’s significantly ahead of fourth place India (3.5%), whose population is 1.4 billion and which has a significant tech industry. 

Dig deeper: 3 ways email marketers should actually use AI

The global development of these tools shows the desire for solutions that natively understand the place they are being used. 

“These regional products in their particular country…they’re fantastic,” said Brinker. “They’re loved, and part of it is because they understand the culture, they’ve got the right thing in the language, the support is in that language.”

Now that we’ve looked at the headline stuff, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating body of the report.

The report: A deeper dive

Marketing technology “is a study in contradictions,” according to Brinker and Riemersma. 

In the new report they embrace these contradictions, telling readers that, while they support “discipline and fiscal responsibility” in martech management, failure to innovate might mean “missing out on opportunities for competitive advantage.” By all means, edit your stack meticulously to ensure it meets business value use cases — but sure, spend 5-10% of your time playing with “cool” new tools that don’t yet have a use case. That seems like a lot of time.

Similarly, while you mustn’t be “carried away” by new technology hype cycles, you mustn’t ignore them either. You need to make “deliberate choices” in the realm of technological change, but be agile about implementing them. Be excited by martech innovation, in other words, but be sensible about it.

The growing landscape

Consolidation for the martech space is not in sight, Brinker and Riemersma say. Despite many mergers and acquisitions, and a steadily increasing number of bankruptcies and dissolutions, the exponentially increasing launch of new start-ups powers continuing growth.

It should be observed, of course, that this is almost entirely a cloud-based, subscription-based commercial space. To launch a martech start-up doesn’t require manufacturing, storage and distribution capabilities, or necessarily a workforce; it just requires uploading an app to the cloud. That is surely one reason new start-ups appear at such a startling rate. 

Dig deeper: AI ad spending has skyrocketed this year

As the authors admit, “(i)f we measure by revenue and/or install base, the graph of all martech companies is a ‘long tail’ distribution.” What’s more, focus on the 200 or so leading companies in the space and consolidation can certainly be seen.

Long-tail tools are certainly not under-utilized, however. Based on a survey of over 1,000 real-world stacks, the report finds long-tail tools constitute about half of the solutions portfolios — a proportion that has remained fairly consistent since 2017. The authors see long-tail adoption where users perceive feature gaps — or subpar feature performance — in their core solutions.

Composability and aggregation

The other two trends covered in detail in the report are composability and aggregation. In brief, a composable view of a martech stack means seeing it as a collection of features and functions rather than a collection of software products. A composable “architecture” is one where apps, workflows, customer experiences, etc., are developed using features of multiple products to serve a specific use case.

Indeed, some martech vendors are now describing their own offerings as composable, meaning that their proprietary features are designed to be used in tandem with third-party solutions that integrate with them. This is an evolution of the core-suite-plus-app-marketplace framework.

That framework is what Brinker and Riemersma refer to as “vertical aggregation.” “Horizontal aggregation,” they write, is “a newer model” where aggregation of software is seen not around certain business functions (marketing, sales, etc.) but around a layer of the tech stack. An obvious example is the data layer, fed from numerous sources and consumed by a range of applications. They correctly observe that this has been an important trend over the past year.

Build it yourself

Finally, and consistent with Brinker’s long-time advocacy for the citizen developer, the report detects a nascent trend towards teams creating their own software — a trend that will doubtless be accelerated by support from AI.

So far, the apps that are being created internally may be no more than “simple workflows and automations.” But come the day that app development is so democratized that it will be available to a wide range of users, the software will be a “reflection of the way they want their company to operate and the experiences they want to deliver to customers. This will be a powerful dimension for competitive advantage.”

Constantine von Hoffman contributed to this report.

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