Smoke Signals

March 8th, 2012

Welcome to the Tribal DDB weekly Smoke Signals trend report, news from the frontier of digital marketing. We’ve scoured the net to bring you the hottest stories in the digital, media, and marketing space. Have any thoughts on any of these stories? We want to hear what you think!

Click here for the PDF version of this weekly report.

In this issue:
Local is the New Black
Why Google Won’t Let Google Plus Fail

Local is the New Black

One of the biggest pieces of news of last week was Yelp’s IPO. It raised over $100 million in stock, and the newly minted company has a value of just over $1 billion as of this writing.

Local Search is hot. The reason for this is simple: more people are walking around with smartphones. Google reported in 2011 that 20% of Google searches have local intent (more than double on mobile devices). On Valentine’s Day 2012, they reported impressive search data on local and mobile.

Big corporations that don’t see local search as relevant to them should think again. Customers for a wide range of companies and industries from Wal-Mart to Exxon Mobil to General Motors ultimately transact on the local level.

Ironically, while Google has been trying desperately to compete with Yelp, they ultimately depend on Yelp to be successful, as they rely on sites like it to inform their own search algorithm. Apple’s Siri, likewise, relies heavily on sites like Yelp. So expect a lot of success for companies like Yelp as long as they can maintain accurate, helpful, and trusted results.

Implications: In addition to enterprise SEO, big companies that do business on a local level (e.g., multiple locations, store locations, franchised locations, local retailers) must understand theimportance of Local SEO and how they can leverage it to their advantage.

Why Google Won’t Let Google Plus Fail

Last week, ComScore released data that showed that Google+ users spend about 3.3 minutes on the site. Headlines in recent months have ranged from the Mounting Minuses of Google+ to Google+ Is Dead.

While most of the mainstream press seems to be counting down to the demise of Google+, I wouldn’t count it out just yet.

Most people see Google+ as an attempt to challenge Facebook and dominate a new industry. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story.

Since it was founded, Google has ranked sites based on how much it trusts them, based on the data to which it has access to: content, links, and user behavior on Google properties. But some SEO companies have gotten proficient at gaming the system (the most notorious being the kinds of link schemes exemplified by J.C. Penney and Overstock), which has compromised the integrity of Google’s results.

Facebook, on the other hand, has mountains of data at its disposal, happily given to it by its users. With recent developments like Timeline and Open Graph apps, they plan to build and organize even more of their wealth of data. Google wants a piece of the action.

Implications: Google+ will not go quietly into the night. If they do not start growing users organically, expect them to use the only leverage they have—their search results—as a hook to get web sites to adopt them. It started last year with the Plus One button and again with enhanced search results display for authors. While companies don’t necessarily need to jump on immediately, they should continue to keep an eye on what carrots Google will dangle next.

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