6 Things Affiliates Need from Your Affiliate Software

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for an affiliate program, you’ll have to choose whether to run your program in-house or through a third party affiliate network. Each has it’s pros and cons, and the choice that’s right for you will depend on your pre-existing business model: (1) how much affiliate marketing factors into your acquisition strategy, (2) your marketing budget, and (2) the IT resources at your disposal.

Regardless of the choice that’s right for your business, you should ensure that your affiliates will have the resources they need to successfully promote your products. Essentially, the software powering your affiliate program (either network or in-house) should feature a variety of tools to help affiliates save time on administrative and technical tasks, and allow them to focus more on generating referrals.

There are a lot of features that affiliate software can offer to help affiliates do this. And they vary in importance according to the products your affiliates are promoting and the market they’re targeting. But there are six essential tools that your affiliates must have if your affiliate program is going to succeed.

1) Geo-Targeting: allows affiliates to target users with offers and banners that are relevant to their location and language; the affiliate simply drops some banner code on their page, and your software uses the user’s IP addresses to determine their location, and then shows them a banner that’s pertinent to them.

2) Banner Rotator: you should also be able to offer affiliates javascript that automatically rotates banners so affiliates can always show their users fresh content according to the offers that a particular affiliate is promoting — e.g. an affiliate is promoting 3 of your 5 products, and your software offers them a code that will rotate banners that feature those 3 products.

3) Banner Groups: your affiliates should be able to create banner groups to be rotated on different campaigns — e.g. if they want a certain set of banners to rotate on one of their sites/pages, and a completely different set of banners to rotate on another one of their sites/pages, they should be able to create these groups of banners and then have your software generate different sets of javascript that can manage this.

4) Affiliate Custom Tracking: essential for your PPC affiliates, it help them segment and track different campaigns by letting them add additional variables to their affiliate tracking URLs; it lets them determine how well each keyword/campaign converts by tracking users from the click straight through to the conversion on your site.

5) Deep Linking Tool: lets your affiliates to choose the landing page/URL of their affiliate links; after all, they know their traffic better than anyone, and this helps them provide calls-to-action that resonate and convert with their own user-base.

6) Widget Support: this takes banner rotating to the next level and lets affiliates show their users fresh, dynamic, and interactive content that increases both user-engagement and conversions; you might not offer widgets when you first launch your program, but you will need to consider doing so eventually to help your affiliate combat banner blindness, so it’s imperative that the software powering your program can do so when the time is ripe.

Whether you launch your affiliate program in-house or through a third party affiliate network will depend on several things:

  • Is your business model built more around vertical integration or horizontal integration?
  • Is affiliate marketing a key component of your acquisition strategy, or are you just testing it out?
  • Do you have a strong in-house IT team, or do you generally rely on outsourced technical support?

No matter the path you choose, you still need to ensure that your affiliates have the tools they need to succeed. Affiliates are marketers first, and webmasters second. So if you want them to successfully promote your products, you should prevent them from being bogged down in administrative or technical tasks.

The software you choose to power your program (in-house or network), then, should support their needs and offer them tools that can save them time.

Shawn Collins Chats Affiliate Marketing @ Pubcon 2009

We also ran into Shawn Collins at Pubcon 2009. Shawn is the orgranizer of another conference, Affiliate Summit, as well as the publisher of FeedFront Magazine.

Shawn sat down with us to discuss how affiliate marketing has evolved over the last year, as well as how it’s responding to the economy. In a nutshell, Shawn sees an increase in social media activity and overall growth for the industry.

Charles on the European Online Market

This is the second half of our interview with Charles Calabrese, the Product Manager for buy.at. In it, Charles discusses how the European and North American online markets are both different and similar. The main point of divergence, in fact, turns out to be the most popular ad models.

Charles also offers a bit of insight into the upcoming buy.at party at Affiliate Summit West 2010. For those of you who don’t know, these parties are legendary in the affiliate community. But then again, what else can you expect from one of the largest affiliate networks in the world?

Charles Calabrese Chats Affiliate Marketing @ Pubcon 2009

Charles Calabrese is the Product Manager for buy.at, one of the largest affiliate networks in the world. We caught up with him at Pubcon 2009, and decided to ask him how the affiliate space was shaping up in the tail-end of 2009. In this clip, Charles shares his thoughts on how the affiliate marketing industry performed in 2009, and what verticals have been affected the most, either for the better or the worst.

Pubcon 2009 Live Blogging: Four Reasons to Start an Affiliate Program

Moderator: Chuck Hamrick
Durk Price, President, eAccountableOPM
Karen Garcia, Partner & Co-Founder, GTO Management
Jamie Birch, Owner, JEBCommerce
Karen White, Vice President of Marketing, SquirtGun Media Group

This session was less about why to launch an affiliate program, and more about how to properly launch and manage one. So in a sense, the title was a bit misleading, but the content was still very helpful. The panelists took us through how to launch a program straight through to the day-to-day management.

As for the reasons why to launch an affiliate program, it pretty came down to how affiliate programs are highly cost effective and performance-based — meaning that you do not have to pay for advertising until it actually converts into a sale. In other words, it is like having a fleet of freelance admen and salesmen that work on a commission basis only.

The panelists also suggested using affiliates to fill in the gaps of your online acquisition strategy. Basically, affiliate marketing is not only cost-effective, but can complement and support your other online marketing activities.

That being said, the first thing that panelist covered was what to do prior to launching a program. First, merchants need to know (1) their margins, (2) their average cost of acquisition, and (3) the average lifetime value of their customers. This allows merchants to calculate the kind of commission that they can offer affiliates.

The next thing that merchants need to do, according to the panelists, is a competitive analysis. Specifically, they should look at competing programs and compare cookie duration, commissions, pay-out frequency, and terms of service. This will help them create a program that will actually appeal to affiliates.

Merchants should also make sure that their site converts before launching an affiliate program. According to the panelists, 3% is the minimum conversion rate merchants need to run a program successfully, so if their conversion is less than that, merchants should work on increasing it before launching an affiliate program.

On a related note, once the program is up and running, it should account for somewhere between 10-20% of their online sales. Any less, and you are not getting the most from your program, and any more means that you are too reliant on affiliates and not getting enough out of your other acquisition channels.

The panelists also covered PPC affiliates, and emphasized that merchant need to consider what terms they’re going to let their PPC affiliates bid on. They need to clearly outline what they expect from PPC affiliates in their program’s terms and conditions. One PPC element that merchants need to consider is what position they will let their affiliates bid on. For example, if PPC is a major component of your acquisition strategy, then you might want to restrict affiliates from bidding on the top positions. Alternatively, if PPC is not a top acquisition channel for you, then it makes more sense to let affiliates get into a bidding war with your competition.

Another thing that merchants need to set-out in their PPC policy is whether or not you will let affiliates use your brand name in their PPC ad copy. If you have a well known brand, on the one hand you will want to control you brand image, but on the ohter hand, that brand name might also be what attracted affiliates to your program in the first place. After all, what attracts affiliates to big brand affiliate programs is that trusted, well known brands help them increase conversions. So if you are going to let affiliates use branded terms in their ad copy, you will want to decide in advance how they can and cannot use your brand name, and make it very clear in your programs terms.

Alternatively, if you’re not yet a well known brand, you should consider how to leverage PPC affiliates in getting your brand name out there. By letting affiliates use your brand name in their PPC ads, you can simultaneously support any branding efforts you are pushing.

Finally, once you have a PPC policy in place for affiliates, you will have to monitor PPC ads. Several panelists use a tool called Brandverity, and one panelist used a tool called Search Monitor. These tools can tell you who’s bidding on your brand at what time of the day. This data allows you to avoid paying commissions on PPC referrals that violated your PPC policy.

Unrelated to PPC, the panelists also advised merchants that they diversify their base of affiliates. This will insulate them from sudden changes in the marketplace. For example, relying on PPC affiliates means that when Google changes their adwords TOS, your sales can take a hit until affiliates re-adjust their strategies. So in addition to PPC affiliates, you will also want to work with organic search affiliates, as well as loyalty-program affiliates.

Merchants should also respect that affiliate marketing is very relationship-based. In essense, when you treat your affiliates like business partners rather than just another number, they’ll reciprocate. This is particularly important for not losing your affiliates to you competitors. For example, when you have a good relationship with an affiliate, and your competitors try to poach that affiliate, they’ll be more likely to let you know what they’ve been offered, rather than just jumping ship without giving you a chance to counter-offer.

Also, top affiliates get hundreds of emails, so it’s better if they know who you are. Similarly, you should know their preferred method of being contacted. This will help you (1) protect your relationship with them, and (2) actually get a response when you need one.

All in all, affiliate marketing is part internet marketing and part relationship marketing. So it’s important to have someone dedicated to building and maintaining that relationship on behalf of your brand. That person can be either an in-house affiliate manager, or an outsourced program manager (an agency). What is important is that there is someone monitoring program performance and communicating with affiliates on a regular basis.

In a nutshell, this session was great for anyone looking to start an affiliate program. It covered all of the important basics and underscored what factors have a big effect on whether a program flops or prospers. The only thing I think they could have addressed more was tracking software. Basically, merchants need to choose an affiliate software or network with reliable tracking. After all, if affiliates do not receive their commissions, they will quickly abandon your program, and there was nothing said about how to evaluate whether a particular affiliate software or network has accurate and dependable tracking.

Pubcon 2009 Live Blogging: Hot Topics and Trends in the Affiliate Space

Moderator: Jim Boykin
Steve Schaffer, Publisher, Offers.com
Elisabeth Archambault, Freelance Affiliate Marketer, Wedding-Resources
Rae Hoffman, CEO, Outspoken Media
Jerry West, President, SEORevolution

Given the way this session unfolded, the title of the session was a little misleading. Rather than focusing on actual “hot topics and trends,” the panelist either focused on affiliate strategies or just took the opportunity to talk about themselves.

The first speaker was Jerry West of SEORevolution.com, and he explored how affiliates can get more out of their relationship with affiliate managers. The first thing that Jerry emphasized was that affiliate managers are over-worked, over-stressed, and under-paid, so affiliates should be mindful of this when dealing with them. Jerry then went on to explain how affiliates could respect this fact in three different areas: communication, cooperation, and compensation.

On the communication front, Jerry explained that affiliates should build a strong relationship with their affiliate managers, and work to improve it as much as possible. Some of the ways that they can improve it, moreover, included (1) respecting that affiliate managers are pressed for time and keeping their inquiries concise and to the point so that they do not take up too much time, (2) respecting their ability and not pushing them for unreasonable commitments, and (3) respecting the trust that their affiliate managers place in them by following through on what they tell their affiliate managers they are going to do.

On the cooperation front, Jeremy suggested affiliate inquire how they can make it easier for their affiliate managers to work with them. Finally, on the compensation front, Jeremy reminded affiliates that money is not everything, and that by having a stress-free relationship with their managers, both of their creativity will flow more freely, translating into better campaign execution all around.

The next speaker was Rae Hoffman of OutSpokenMedia.com, and she explored how modern affiliates have evolved. First, she emphasized how serious affiliates are concerned more with branding than ever, and that they are trying to build sites that rank on their own, and earn the trust of users — because if users trust you, they will come and stay, and you will be able to find a way to monetize them afterward. Rae also underscored how evolved affiliates ARE NOT spammers who are willing to do whatever to make a quick buck.

The way that evolved affiliates are focusing more on building a brand is also reflected in their choice of domain — i.e. choosing one with branding potential rather than one that is keyword rich. And once they have that domain, they pursue a Content Strategy that includes UGC and unique content. They also produce killer content that makes for good linkbait, and use such content when they first launch their properties. Finally they also plan for future expansion, whether it is vertical or horizontal expansion (or both), because one niche will leave them too vulnerable to shifts in the marketplace.

To complement their content strategy, such affiliates pursue an SEO strategy that includes both onsite and offsite tactics. They also develop a Social Strategy, registering account with all major social sites, and then choosing a few that can support their business goals and really pushing their content and participation on those select social channels. Along the same line, these evolved affiliates will add a PR Strategy, and network with influencers and peers, issuing press releases, implementing a link building strategy that will raise the visibility of their killer content, and conducting “social pushes” on that content.

On the monetization side, evolved affiliates will not rely on a single affiliate program, but will rather diversify. They will also place affiliate links in their content, but make sure that that content is composed of honest reviews and user reviews. Furthermore, as their traffic grows, they will pursue CPM deals with recurring payment structures so that these ad deals auto-renew themselves. Finally, the evolved affiliate will also consider other distribution channels, such as mailing lists, RSS feed (with ads in them), and Twitter — which is good for the aforementioned trust building.

The next speaker up was Steve Schaffer of Offers.com. Eventhough his presentation was called “Creating Quality Editorial Content,” there was nothing in his presentation about that. Rather, all he did was say that Offers.com does create good content. In fact, the presentation seemed a lot like a pitch for his website — even though he explicitly said it would not be a pitch.

One benefit of his presentation, though, was that he illustrated how non-editorial content can increase user-experience. Such content included pulling video in from other sites and featuring handy info such as stats in strategic places like the sidebar.

The last speaker to present was Elisabeth Archambault, a work from home affiliate, and she started out by saying she would approach the topic from “a personal side.” Well, it was very personal, almost to the point of being her own story. It did feature a lot of helpful tips for affiliates who might just be starting out, but that was not really appropriate given the session topic and audience. Overall, it was like a “Marketing 101″ talk, with a lot of anecdotes on what it is like to be an affiliate.

In a nutshell, the first half of this session was interesting, and the second half was off the mark. But even the first half did not really reflect the title and description of the session, so I guess I missed not being able to get more info on what is really hot in the world of affiliate marketing today.

Are You Ready for an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program, for the uninitiated, is basically an interface between you as an online merchant and affiliates. Affiliates are typically webmasters who want to “monetize their traffic” by placing your advertisements on their blog or website. Payouts to affiliates are typically based on performance, usually on a cost-per-action (CPA) or Revenue Share commission model.

So you have a great product that you are selling online from a professional and functional website, but you’re not moving as many units as you would like. You know that affiliate marketing pulls in millions of dollars for some online merchants, and you think your product is ready for a piece of the action.

You may be right, but are affiliates ready for you?

Affiliate marketing can become a key revenue source for your online business, but before you consider joining an affiliate network and forking out for cost of the initial setup, you have some things to consider. First, you want become as familiar with the affiliate landscape you want to enter as possible then try to determine exactly where your product fits in. You would be surprised at how often this important step is bypassed. If you skip this step, you are going in blind.

Take the time to scope out blogs, aggregators, review sites and other sites that would attract visitors in your target market. Ask yourself:

  • Where do you see your product offering fitting in?
  • Is your target audience going to visit these sites?
  • Will they be in a buying mode?
  • How are you going to convince them to click through to your buying pages?

Why should an affiliate promote your product over another product?

You need to ask yourself the above question because you can guarantee the affiliates you intend to court will be asking themselves this very same question. In fact, why should an affiliate take the time to join your affiliate program at all?

Affiliate marketing presents a unique challenge amongst the various marketing channels in that, before you can start convincing consumers to buy your product, you first must convince affiliates to promote your product. Unless you’re entering into a paid tenancy deal (website placement in exchange for up-front cash payment) affiliate marketing is a shared-risk venture between the merchant and the affiliate; therefore, you are going to have to earn some credibility before your affiliate program really takes off.

Making your new and unknown affiliate program stand out – and pitching it to affiliates – is a topic worthy of its own article. Here are some factors that will go a long way in setting your affiliate program apart from the rest and also improving your overall pitch to potential affiliates:

  • Have a marketable product that has already been proven successful online. Highlight your product USP’s and “sellability”.
  • Set a competitive and attractive commission model to kickstart the program.
  • Offer regular promotions to your affiliate base to keep your program fresh. New affiliate programs pop up constantly – you don’t want your hard-earned affiliate base moving on to the next new thing and forgetting about you. When your program launches, kick it off with a bang. Tell prospective affiliates about the great promotions you can offer them and their website visitors.
  • Since many affiliates select placement based on earnings-per-click (EPC), high conversion ratios are an important factor. If your conversions are strong, highlight this.
  • Ensuring that you are providing high-quality marketing materials such as GIF and Flash banner creatives in a variety of sizes and styles, written content such as product descriptions and reviews, and conversions-optimized landing pages.

If you want a successful affiliate program, your main job is to earn trust.

Trust is a hot topic in affiliate marketing, on both sides of the fence. An affiliate partnership – the relationship between you as a merchant and the affiliate – is based on mutual trust. It is a shared-risk venture. Consider this: when an affiliate places your offer on their website instead of another merchant’s offer, they have made that choice based on the fact that they trust that your offer will earn them more commission than another offer. They risk lost commission if your product does not convert on their website.

There are many other things you will need to do to earn trust:

  • Be proactive in your communication with affiliates, keep in touch, and build a personal rapport.
  • Answer emails from affiliates quickly and professionally, and provide excellent service.
  • Ensure that your tracking and reporting is accurate and consistent.
  • Establish a regular commission payment schedule and stick to it. Always make sure payments are accurate and on-time – never pay affiliates late.
  • Be completely transparent. For example, if you experience a reporting error that has caused erratic figures, be up-front and tell your affiliates before they notice it themselves.

Are you prepared to be patient?

The big attraction of affiliate marketing is that it is performance-based, meaning that you pay commission only on criteria you set, such as a certain kind of lead or revenue earned. However, the affiliate landscape is a highly competitive and complex environment. Beyond the initial set-up investment, your affiliate program will require constant management and a dynamic and comprehensive strategy to grow and become viable in the long run. Until you begin earning affiliate trust and gain placement on websites that are sending you buying traffic, your affiliate program will likely not be drawing significant revenues. Be prepared to invest yourself fully into your affiliate program, and don’t be dismayed if it is still not profitable after many months.

Are you ready for an affiliate program?

Remember that affiliate partners should be thought of as (and often are) companies who are in the business to make money and maximize profit, and by starting an affiliate program you are establishing a multitude of new business partnerships. Every business partnership requires management on many levels.

Merchants are often tempted to simply join an affiliate network, create some banners, and watch the leads roll in with little or no invested effort. In fact, there is no guarantee that affiliates are going to pick up your offer and, without affiliates, your affiliate program is naught but an empty revenue-less shell. When you start an affiliate program, you’re going to be the new guy on the block. If you want to make an impression, you will need to shake some hands and immerse yourself in the community.

You are ready to step into the world of affiliate marketing when:

  • Your business is already moving units online and generating strong revenues.
  • You have scoped out the affiliate landscape and have determined exactly where your offer is going to fit in.
  • You are confident that you can not only sell your product to consumers, but that you can sell your affiliate program to affiliates.
  • You are ready to work at earning the trust of affiliates by providing excellent dedicated service and building relationships.
  • And you are prepared to invest yourself fully into your affiliate program, constantly evaluate and adjust strategy, and be patient.

If that is all true, then yes, you are ready for a piece of the affiliate marketing action!

Preparing to Optimize for BingHoo!

It’s been about a month since Microsoft and Yahoo finalized a deal to consolidate search products. Through this deal, (1) Microsoft’s new search engine Bing will power Yahoo’s search results, (2) self-serve PPC ads will be handled through Microsoft’s Ad Center, and (3) Yahoo will sell “premium search advertiser” services for both companies. And with this deal estimated to be worth 28% of the US search market, it’s one that can’t be ignored by serious marketers.

Granted, optimizing for an entirely new search algorithm is one that takes time, research, and testing. As AdAge reports, there’s good news and bad news. The good news for marketers is that they do have a window of opportunity before Bing results are being served to over a quarter of search users. The bad news is that what marketers learn about and do for Bing today might be obsolete tomorrow.

It will be at least nine months — and probably closer to a year — before Microsoft takes over Yahoo’s search infrastructure, theoretically consolidating 28% of the U.S. search market and mounting the first credible challenge on Google in a decade.

[…] Bing is quite a bit different from Google and Yahoo, both in the way it ranks pages and the way it presents results on the page. And if search becomes more of a two-player market, it could mean a return to the late ’90s, when it was common for marketers to create separate pages optimized for Yahoo, Google, Lycos and AltaVista, and as they do now for the iPhone or other mobile devices.

“You’d effectively have two pages, one for Google and one for Bing,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com. If all goes according to plan, Yahoo will make the switch to Bing’s organic search results in the third quarter of next year, and then fold in Bing’s paid search results soon after.
Fundamentally, Google’s algorithms give more weight to inbound links, while Bing focuses more on the content or the keywords contained on pages. That said, Microsoft is still tweaking Bing, so any strategy formed today might have to change when the integration with Yahoo takes place.

So it seems like search marketing budgets will undergo some changes over the next year while marketers determine how much (1) to divert toward the R&D of a Bing optimization strategy, (2) to subsequently invest in Bing optimization, and (3) of their PPC budget to invest in BingHoo paid search listings.

That being said, there are already a number of tools available to marketers who need to easily compare search results form Google and Bing while they figure out what works where. As Search Engine Journal reports:

1. Google / Bing Comparison searches both Bing and Google or either of them.

The best thing about the tool is that it enables you to click through international versions of both search engines and compare regional results.
2. Bingle – Bing + Google (as you might have guessed). It allows to see both search engines results side by side and also switch to either of them with one click.
3. Bing and Google is the simplest of three. All it does is comparing the two search engines side by side.

So while some challenges lie ahead for search marketers, they aren’t exactly insurmountable ones. Yes, there are going to be some growing pains while Bing finalizes its algorithm and marketers finalize their budgets. But in the not-so-long-run, it’s going to mean greater opportunities for search marketers.

As BingHoo rolls out, more competition in the search market is going to lead to more innovation. And this is going to translate into more targeted organic search results and better paid search products. So as the BingHoo dust settles, I wouldn’t be surprised if marketers find themselve able to (1) better target potential customers and (2) manager their PPC budgets more efficiently.

PubCon live blogging: Local Search Engine Optimization

Moderator: Jake Baillie
Justin Sanger, Founder & President, LocalLaunch!
Michael Dorausch, President & Founder, Planet Chiropractic
Eric Bramlett, Mover/Shaker, EricBramlett.com
Google Representative, decided to skip out actually

Eric Bramlett – a local Austin SEO

Eric starts off by talking about the heart of it, the keyword “Area Industry”, like Austin dentist, Austin chiropractor.

SEO 101 says, keyword = “area business”, so get links from topical websites. Topic 1 is ‘area’, topic 2 is ‘business’.

Old-school ways to get links:

  • Reciprocal link exchanges – usually these links just don’t make sense. Google has devalued these significantly in the past few years
  • Directory submissions – the problem is they don’t drive traffic, and they’re often not relevant.
  • Article directory submission – once again, they have lost value
  • Advertised link buys – Google doesn’t like it, especially if the site advertises that they sell links
  • Buy, Sell, Trade forum threads – rarely good long term

Defensible methods to get links locally:

  • Legitimate link buys
  • Legit directories
  • Natural reciprocated links
  • Guest blogging
  • Editorial links
  • Create interesting content that others will naturally link to

Legit link buys:

  • Local charities
  • Local business association
  • Local managed directories – search for ‘austin links’ or ‘austin directory

Natural links: there are only so many charities, local directories etc., but getting more links is hard – No one wants to link to my boring local real estate site. Solution, incorporate a blog and write about local topics.

  • Naturally reciprocated links: link out to bloggers, notify them (smoothly), wait for them to return the favour. Just be persistent, and eventually people will start to link back
  • Guest blogging: Bloggers like to feel important. Let one know his/her blog is important enough to take on guest bloggers, namely you, stroke the blogger’s ego. Write great content, include and author bio with a link. Rinse and repeat.

Next up Michael Dorausch

This guy is actually an LA based chiropractor who has learned over the years how to rank locally for his business. Local search is not only about ranking but also about conversions. Michael’s advice is to get granular. Don’t just put ‘austin texas’ in your title tags, start creating your content based heavily around your community. Make sure every variation of local search phrases make it on to your site: Say downtown Austin, use your full address, use different ways to write out your address, in fact, even if you’re a dentist, you can talk about how great the downtown Austin area is and how they went green with neon.

Michael’s approach really is heavily investing in creating local content. He recommends finding out what kind of local things people are searching for, and start writing about it on your blog. You want as much local exposure as you can get (even someone searching for ‘Austin marathon road closures’ – they’re local, they should know your dentist office exists, just be sure to tell them what roads are closed during the Austin marathon!).

Location + Events – write about this local stuff on your Austindentist.com/blog blog, because it’s what people are searching for:

  • Austin boat show
  • Austin carnival
  • PubCon
  • South by Southwest (SXSW)
  • Austin Reggae Festival
  • Austin Marathon

Be an evangelist for your community. These are the types of practices that will earn your standard boring dentist site local links. Michael goes on for some time about the Austin marathon as an opportunity for local businesses to get involved in the community. People are searching for long-tail queries like Austin Marathon and their own name, to see the results. If you can find the results, write a post that is a congratulations to everyone who finished the Austin marathon, and list all the names. Link out, people might link back.

For events do posts about:

  • Maps
  • Highlights on volunteers
  • Photos (post on flickr and blog, use descriptive words)
  • Videos (post to youtube, embed on blog, use descriptive words)
  • Race results (blog post with links)
  • Success stories (focused on the community)

Location and landmarks:

Google maps are becoming more and more popular. Do a detailed post about ‘how to get from here to here’, include links to business along the way, namely yours. We write blog posts about how to get to our office from starbucks, from home depo, from whatever places people are searching for. See what people are searching for: monuments, state capitols, airports, the haunted hotel – talk about these things, or include the airport code that’s local to you JFK, LAX, YUL in your posts and title tags.

Universal search rocks for what we’re talking about. We want to show up in the SERPS for local photos, videos, etc.

Next up Justin Sanger from locallaunch – bought by HRDonnelly, who invented the yellow pages

Justin’s presentation is much less based in the practical, much more based in the the big picture. In local search there are three segments: the user, the publisher and the advertiser.

Kelsey Group reports that 70% of local cunsumers are using the internet to find products and services locally. That’s a lot. 2.2 billion monthly search queries that are local.

In the past we had: word of mouth, yellow pages, classifieds and local newspaper. Static, stale settings. Contrary to the modern online arena. Now people reference search engines, internet yellow pages sites, and local search sites.

People are going to the internet very early in the buying cycle and very late in the buying cycle. When they start by researching online, and eventually once they’ve decided what to buy, they perform a local search for where to buy it.

Publishers include:

  • pure local search engines like google local
  • search engines and local paid search Google geo target
  • internet yellow page sites like superpages.com
  • local shopping loke shoplocal or krillion
  • vertical search like housevalues.com
  • online classifieds like craigslist
  • city.com like boston.com
  • local media sites like the Chicago tribune or metromix.com
  • socal networking like facebook insider pages angieslist or yelp

How do advertisers succeed in local search?

There are hundreds of ways, local, social, vertical that you can be found in. ‘Atomization’ is about spreading out your business information irregardless of you even having a website.
At least he admits he is speaking in abstracts – this is not a presentation for people who want to rank locally, it’s for people who want to think about how people think about things like local search. Reign it back in Justin… because you’re too far out there. The audience is admitted to being half local businesses, they want to know what to do.

You must put your local business information in whatever site will let you – google maps and yahoo local and local.com.

Justin’s advice is to do all of the long-tail searches out there, and instead of trying to outrank who is there, just buy space on their sites. Look for seattle dentists shows superpages number one, yelp in the top five – just get on those pages. Here’s a practical tip, finally: look at the SERPs before you pay for a yellowpages or superpages listing, and see which category is ranking, choose that category to be included in.

Finally someone is talking about an explicit local query and Google’s local business results. Bah, they’re not talking about ranking factors though! That’s what people want to know!

In the google maps settings, use google’s local overview, details, reviews, web pages section. This is where we should study things that affect google local listings rankings.

Future of local search: tomorrow local search will be about being part of the conversation, and taking control of your identities, regardless of where they live on the web
Local, social, mobile and vertical will converge. We will move from collective intelligence to smart agents and AI. Fortunately, he didn’t go on and on about this. On to the questions!

The Q & A

Q: how does google’s local rankings work (see, told you the audience wanted to know this!)

A: based on immature things – businesses brick and mortar location, number of comments and ratings, keyword stuffing in tags can have an effect. For most cities the A listing is the center of the city, and it takes from work to shift that. How did he do that? Old domain, a hundred reviews on places like yelp and stuff, have a lot of content. A cumulating effect of those things. Ask your good clients to write a review on Google local.

Maps.google.com is different – proximity or distance is important. The local algo looks for consistency and accurate core business address in multiple sources. In local your address is a cornerstone. They take into account things like yellow page sites that list your address, yelp page with your address, etc. Put as many pages up as possible that have your address listed.Get on google business center, claim your business, add information to it, upload pictures.