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John: If you own a local business and are trying to attract local clients you must listen to this interview David Mihm, check it out.
This episode of the Duct Tape marketing podcast is brought to you by Active Campaign. This is really my new go-to CRM, ESP, marketing automation, really low cost. Any size business can get into it, starting at like $19 a month, you can keep track of your clients, you can see who is visiting your websites, you can follow-up based on behavior. Check out Active Campaign, there will be a link in the show notes but it’s ducttape.me/dtmactive.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is David Mihm, he’s a digital marketing expert for small businesses, founder of getlisted.org, a company he sold to Moz about five-six years ago, and he’s also co-founder of the local university conference series and currently he’s got a new thing going, start-up called Tidings, which I’m going to butcher the description but he can come back and tell you more.So David thanks for joining me. How’s that?
David: That’s pretty good. Thanks John. Great to be with you again and great to be with your audience again.
John: So I guess I’ll start off with because you write so much about local digital marketing, local search stuff. What’s going on right now in local that we need to know about that you don’t think enough people are aware of or are talking about?
David: Yup. So I’d say there are two or three things that come to mind. In fact I was actually tweeting with a few people, both yesterday and this morning about this exact topic. I would say that the first thing is that at a broad level, Google is essentially trying to keep as many people on the Google SERP as they can, that’s the Google results page. And so they are devouring click-throughs that used to go to either a small business website or even a big brand website that might have a local presence. A lot of that activity is just staying on the Google SERP right now and I think that’s a big change in the last two or three years that not enough — certainly not enough businesses and even not enough marketers are really aware of.
John: Yeah there’s almost not a question that you can ask Google right now that they don’t have the answer right there in the knowledge box right?
David: That’s exactly right and you know the — not only are they getting better at answering questions with knowledge boxes instead of websites but the amount of information and the kind of information they’re presenting there is really robust and especially for local businesses. I mean if you look at some of the later, more recently features that they’ve released are things like the hours that a business is busy versus empty, so that if you’re on a busy schedule you know hey maybe I should go to this pizza joint in the lunch hour I should wait until 3 o’clock when things have died down a little bit. They’re pulling in things like critical reviews so if a business is on [00:03:32] or Eater or some of these other — depending on your industry you know maybe it’s something like Superlawyers if you’re a lawyer. They’re pulling in the list of human curated list of successful local businesses and showing those right in the knowledge panel. So kind of as much information as you want to know about a business they’re trying to present on the Google SERP, which you know as a small business you may still be getting those customers but I think from a website standpoint, your website is really — it’s becoming a way inform Google about your business but not necessarily something that as many customers are seeing these days.
John: Yeah so that leads me to my next question where’s the best place to hide a dead body?
John: It’s the second listing on page one.
David: Okay. Very good. Yes. For sure and especially if you think about you know, so many local searches are actually mobile and in an industry like food and beverage or even healthcare, two out of three or three out of four of those searches are happening on mobile devices. And sure enough, I mean the second listing on Google on a mobile phone is often four or five scrolls down your phone and so if you’re not — as I’ve been saying for the last six months or so it used to be if you’re not on page one of Google you’re invisible, well now it’s like almost exactly what you just said if you’re not number one in Google you might be invisible because of how much space these knowledge boxes and knowledge panels are eating.
John: And where does voice search go with that? What results are you getting from voice search?
David: That’s exactly right and I think voice is — it’s certainly informing a lot of the product decisions that Google is making. I mean voice search in our car and we don’t have access to a screen, even if we do have access to a screen that’s not something Google wants to distract people from driving right? And so the number of results they can “show” or read back to you is inherently limited by that form factor. And so I think you’re starting to see — it’s not like Google is using a different algorithm for desktop, for mobile, for voice, they’re using the same algorithm so you’re starting to see the same kinds of interfaces that you might see happening in voice search also happening on mobile and desktop.
John: What do you think about the trend to blend organic and paid. You know you’re seeing it in the — what do we call that thing now, the three pack?
David: Sure. Yeah.
John: And we’re also seeing an ad that has reviews in it and all kinds of snippets in it now an extension. Is there going to be a point where we can’t tell the different?
David: Yeah I mean I think it’s pretty — the line is getting pretty blurry that’s for sure and I think you’re right. I assume you’re talking about what Google calls home services ads? Where you have a — in most cases a manual application process in order to get included in the set of business that are eligible for these home services ads but if you look at the interface that’s presented I mean it looks almost exactly the same as the three pack and so from a consumer’s perspective they don’t necessarily know that these businesses have paid to get in there and certainly given where it’s positioned on the page, number one, you know I have to think those things are devouring a lot of clicks in the markets where there are currently piloting it in San Francisco and San Diego.
So I think that that’s one area where we’re seeing Google — again as you said blending the natural or organic results with paid results and they’ve been doing this in a lot of different industries as well. I think over the years the Google hotel finder has eaten a ton of organic traffic that’s now part of a — sort of a paid inclusion product. They’ve done insurance comparisons, they’ve done local inventory ads for car dealers. So they’ve definitely been experimenting in a lot of different industries and I think it’s only a matter of time before these kinds of hybrid ad units are rolled out across almost every industry and almost every metro area so I think it’s definitely something to pay attention to.
John: Well I’ve even seen — I can’t remember what the search was or where but I’ve even seen some three packs with one paid, two organic.
David: Yep. That’s something they’ve just rolled out. In fact Hawkings who — brilliant local search marketer just started her new business Sterling Sky, she actually tweeted a great example the other day, a screenshot of a search where a competitor is advertising on another small businesses name and actually showing in the three pack which is kind of for that business, a specific what we would call a recovery search for a specific business and so it’s kind of amazing that Google is allowing these kinds of things to happen but absolutely, they’re just blending in — they’re definitely blurring the line between paid and organic as much as they can get away with.
John: Do we both optimizing for the three pack anymore? Or has proximity pretty much taken that away?
David: Yeah I disagree with the whole proximity premise. It’s certainly important right I mean it’s certainly — you have to be close enough to a given searcher for Google to consider your business relevant but I think there’s plenty of other ways that Google’s evaluating businesses these days and the three pack certainly still has tons and tons of value. I mean I’m not really consulting that much anymore but I still have access to a lot of analytics from former clients and I see the visibility they’re getting from three packs and from maps results as provided by the Google my business analytics. They’re still getting a phenomenal number of impressions and click-throughs and interactions from customers. It’s certainly not something that I’m encouraging anyone to kind of give up on organic search or give up on local search, I just think that increasingly the number of winners have been decreasing and as you said Google is kind of blending more paid ads means fewer organic clicks so I think it’s just — until when — well you’ve been in this business longer than I have but when I go stated in the late 2000’s you know local SEO was a phenomenally — just a phenomenally positive ROI. It was very little effort and huge upside and I think it’s gotten much harder, it’s gotten more competitive and the number of businesses for whom that’s true is declining so I think if you’re not one of these top three in some cases top one, organic search is just — it’s going to be a very hard nut to crack for you as a small business.
John: So let’s talk about snippets. That’s one of those things that I think you know there’s a little knowledge of location snippets and some of that stuff has just kind of gotten built in. But it seems to me like there’s almost a sort of strategic snippet you know, channel that I think we have to be playing today. What’s your take on that?
David: Absolutely. I think the guy that I look to for a lot of the snippet research is my former colleague at [00:11:07] Dr. Pete Myers. So he’s done a lot of research and has published a lot of examples around what he calls ranking in position zero right? So position zero is these answer boxes were Google is showing a snippet, whether it’s a bulleted list that answers a question or in some cases just a sentence that’s marked up with the keywords in bold lettering or a table of options, all these kinds of things. Google is essentially extracting the key pieces of information from a given organic webpage and populating right on the search result. And so it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge panel it’s just the knowledge panel for semantic knowledge as opposed to physical entities when it comes to local. So there’s certainly — I think in terms of SEO, it’s absolutely a discipline within SEO that is gaining — gaining prominence. Practically speaking it goes hand-in-hand with what you would do as far as best practice for marketing, which is answer the questions that your customers are asking you and do so in a manner that Google can crawl, and have a relevant enough website that Google sees you as authoritative to answer this question. So it’s really — from a ranking perspective — or from a ranking tactics perspective, it’s a lot of the same stuff but I think being smart and being intentional about the kinds of questions your answering and how you’re answering those questions is really going to put you at the forefront of this “new” area of SEO.
John: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to your by Thriveleads. This is a tool that we use on the Duct Tape Marketing website thoroughly for content updates, for slide in boxes. Actually we even use the visual editor for all the pages and landing pages that we design so go check it out at ducttapemarketing.com we’ll have a special line in the show notes for today and check it out.
I’m going to quote you, “Unless you are a traditional publisher you should prepare for a time when no one ever visits your website.” That sounds terrible.
David: Well, does it? Do you really care as a small business if somebody sees your website? Or do you care that they click your phone number from a mobile SERP or click for driving directions to your business or have their self-driving care take you to the front door. So I think you know — you’re still going to get those customers, I mean I’m sure there are pure traditional marketers out there who want to control the conversion experience but increasingly Google is doing that right? They’re doing all the stuff — you can now book a table through open table right from the Google SERP so why would you click through to a restaurant website. In medicine they have a pilot going with [00:14:03] where you can book a medical appointment through [00:14:06] in fitness they’re working with MyTime and Booker and a few of these other booking engines where you can schedule a class right from the Google SERP so that’s really what I mean by that is to prepare for a time when all of these interactions are happening right there at Google and they’re not necessarily happening on your website.
John: And that’s really your analogy of thinking your website like an API, I mean the website still has to have this great information, it has to deliver that information if you will to go Google, so it’s not that you’re abandoning the website it’s just how it is maybe seen or where it is in the journey.
David: Exactly and I think your website is still at the center of your overall digital marketing presence right. I think [00:14:48] graphic from six years ago still largely holds true the website is one of the core pieces of digital equity that you can build and just because people aren’t seeing it as much doesn’t make it any less valuable. How is Google going to learn about your business if not from the data that you’re presenting on your website. And so I think it’s still a really critical piece and the other thing to keep in mind is you know, I see what’s happening in technology more broadly, I would see Google as having a smaller market share in three to four years than they have today, I think you’re seeing Amazon make a huge play, especially if you’re a brick and mortar retailer, for example I think there’s going to be Amazon SEO in the future with everything they’re doing with Alexa and the Echo device, I think Facebook is a sleeping giant in local search. I think they have a lot of great data and it’s just a matter of time before people start using Facebook for search. Apple we haven’t even talked about but everyone knows they have Siri apple maps as a third of Google maps. And so I think just because Google is devouring more of these click-throughs it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get visitors from these other channels and especially from your own direct marketing whether that’s direct mail or email or those kinds of things. So I think your website is still important and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to think of it as anything but that.
John: I want to visit a couple of just random topics, you may say I don’t really know much about that. But I’d love to hear it, what’s your take on chat bots?
David: Chat bots… okay so I don’t know a ton about them. However, I think at this point not only is the technology a little bit too nascent to really kind of sink your teeth into. But I’m not sure that the consumer awareness and consumer demand is really there from a chat bot perspective. I think one of the great advantages you as a small business have over somebody like a national brand or a national retailer is that personalized service. And so there may come a time when chat bots really help a small business save time and talking to customers and all these kinds of things but I think for right now it’s a little bit early to jump in and start experimenting with that stuff, especially since it kind of to some extent eats away at your core differentiator.
John: Yeah and I wonder if it’s going to be a day when email too, nobody wants that stuff in Facebook messenger or whatever because now there are thousands —
David: There’s too many. Exactly.
John: So a recent act of congress kind of scared some folks on this whole net security and NSA spying and stuff. What’s your take on — I mean do we all need VPN’s?
David: Yes. Absolutely. And I’m not a technical guy but I certainly — I am very much a strong advocate of consumer privacy and I think the recent congressional decision was just appalling. I think that — particularly when you see like the Verizon and Yahoo merger/acquisition — I mean the amount of data that companies that Verizon and Comcast and AT&T all have access to I think it’s a tremendous privacy invasion and if you’re the least bit concerned about corporations knowing what you’re doing and selling your data to anyone, I think everyone should get a VPN. Dark times I have to say, dark times.
John: You didn’t hesitate on that one.
John: Okay so this late in the show I’m going to open up a really big topic that we could do a whole show on but maybe you could just tease this a little bit and send people and we’ll have it in the show notes. You have a graphic that I think you call the graphic the local stack that you’ve written a lot really about — just about how to analyse your whole local marketing — digital marketing play, operations, customer service, presence, organic marketing, paid marketing, attribution, do you want to kind of unpack that a little bit and tell people what you think is in that for them to go and visit and figure it out?
David: Yeah for sure thanks for bringing that up. So the graphic is at [00:19:10] and as you said it’s you know — kind of my vision — my attempt anyway to visualise sort of a marketing stack priority checklist and so the idea is you start with things that every small business needs, things like accounting software and a domain name and a website and those kinds of things. And you kind of check off everything — it’s sort of loosely drawn on the analogy of a mass transit map where you have kind of zone one, that’s the stuff everybody needs, zone two you can graduate to that one you’ve checked all the boxes in zone one and so on and so forth. By the end you get to things in zone six like chatbots you know, like beacons, some of this technology that’s really bleeding edge it might be a little too early to start thinking about. That’s kind of the idea behind that graphic and essentially kind of plot your journey and look for marketing technology, marketing software, even marketing — just offline marketing tactics to plug in at each stage of your journey.
John: One of the most compelling elements of it for me is the entire layer of attribution. I think that is one that is terribly misunderstood but I think also just terribly underutilized by most businesses and I think that you’ve sort of built it squarely into the strategic consideration.
David: Absolutely. It’s the top one in the graph and there’s — even if you as a small business don’t have the time or the expertise to understand what your attribution software is telling you, just collecting that data can make a huge difference if you ever bring in a consultant or someone to help you understand that data, that’s kind of the first point so things like not having Google Analytics installed on your website or sending your email newsletter on a one too many basis instead of using an ESP like Constant Contact or Mailchimp or [00:21:14] or anybody and getting the analytics around who’s opening and what’s driving them, to which product pages, those kinds of things. I think the amount of data you can collect about who’s coming to your site and how [00:21:27] your business and it doesn’t have to be a website, any digital profile that you have and who they are and what they’re doing can give you tremendous insight into what marketing techniques are working and where you can improve.
John: Yeah and I’d add webmaster or the search console on top of that one too as an absolute given as well.
David: Absolutely. Yep.
John: So tell us a little bit about tidings. What’s your — well first I guess maybe give the overview of what the product actually is but I’d love to hear a little bit of your thinking on what you’re trying to accomplish.
David: Yeah for sure. I guess — so currently I would say the best way to describe — you did a great job. Essentially it’s a web app that allows you to create an email newsletter instantly based on all of the existing social media content that you’re creating so basically we ask you to connect your Facebook page and then week to week or month to month if you prefer a monthly newsletter, we automatically pull in anything that you’ve shared from Facebook, so it’s just a way to leverage your existing social media activity into a channel that is by all accounts much more productive in terms of ROI than social media. I think people who’ve been around on your podcast for a while probably know that Facebook is really pinching the organic reach of business page posts and so right now at this point, if you look at the stats from Mailchimp and get response and these big email providers, you’re looking at probably 8/1 in terms of the number of people who open an email versus see a post on Facebook and so the really — I think a lot of small businesses still think of Facebook first and this is — Tidings is really geared to not disrupt that but leverage what you’re doing on Facebook into a more productive channel.
John: Yeah and it automatically formats it in a very pleasing way. But I think the other thing that’s kind of neat about it is a lot of people or at least a lot of the people that I advise, we’re sharing some of their content as well as other peoples content and so it almost acts as a curation device because even if you have great organic reach there’s a good chance that a lot of people aren’t seeing 90% of it just because they didn’t see that days post. So being able to collect it and I know that from my years of doing this that my blog readers are different people than my newsletter or my email readers and so it kind of allows you to really — probably the key is of course it’s very simple so it’s not a real time suck but it also allows you to do some things that are really valuable.
David: Yeah cool, that’s definitely the idea I think you explained it better than I could have so I’ll just leave it at that.
John: And we’ll have some links and what not in the show notes and there’s a way to try it out as a way to subscribe when you go to [00:24:20]
David: It’s a three week trail so no credit card until you try to send the fourth time.
John: Well David, always great to catch up with you, we could — I could probably do this weekly there’s so much to talk about.
David: I know it feels like it.
John: On this front, but hopefully — I was just — you’re in Portland right?
David: I am yeah.
John: I was there just a couple of weeks ago actually for a conference and had some really tasty Bluestar donuts.
David: Oh yeah. The donuts, the coffee and the beer out here are all pretty top notch, it’s pretty good.
John: Awesome. Well thanks again David, hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road.
David: Cool. Sounds good. Thanks again John.