dotdigital Summit 2019: an interview with Adam Baylis

Adam Baylis

At the dotdigital
Summit 2019, we’ll be hosting breakout sessions hearing from Marketers who are
blowing us away with their outstanding customer engagements, including Adam
Baylis, Group CRM & Insights Manager at The Jockey Club.

We sat down with Adam to get an exclusive insight into how they’re listening to customers and talking to them on channels that resonate.

Adam, can you give us some background about The Jockey Club and your role?

The Jockey Club,
established in 1750, stages thrilling sporting occasions including the Randox
Health Grand National, The Cheltenham Festival presented by Magners and The
Investec Derby.

As one of the UK’s
leading leisure companies we also play host to some of the biggest names in
music at our The Jockey Club Live events. This year we’re looking forward to
welcoming the likes of Madness, Jess Glynne and – rather appropriately – dotdigital
Summit headline speaker, Nile Rodgers.

My role as Group CRM & Insights Manager sits within the wider Group Marketing team at The Jockey Club. We support the marketing teams in each of the four ‘regions’ that encompass our 15 racecourses.

What has been your biggest challenge over the past year?

Outdoor events are
a massive part of the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry. Going to the
races is usually a big part of that for a lot of people. It’s a chance to get
outside, get some sunshine and generally have some fun.

But, with the
never-ending heatwave last year, and the unexpected success of the England
football team in the FIFA World Cup, we found ourselves facing some stiff
competition for people’s time.

This was a challenge
for the whole of the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry, not just us at
The Jockey Club.

The knock-on effect
of this was that, as summer drew to a close, we had to discover new ways to
connect and engage with our customers again.

How did you go about overcoming this challenge?

With 15 courses
around the country, we needed to make sure we weren’t adopting a
‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. We needed to apply our group tone-of-voice in an
appropriate manner in order to reconnect with our audience, particularly the
local communities near to our courses.  

This is especially important
for us, because in a single region, like the North-West, we have three courses
– Aintree, Carlisle and Haydock – which are all about three hours apart. There
isn’t as big an overlap among their audiences as we see at some of our London
courses – so maintaining strong relationships with our local communities is vital.

We knew we needed
to find a new, powerful channel that could deliver close and personal messages.

What do you think customers will gain from your talk?

I hope people leave
my talk excited to try the new channels that are ready and waiting for
marketers to tap into.

I think it’s really
important that we try and experiment with different channels to discover what
works for different audiences.

With the complexity
of the modern world there is a vital need for marketers to be nimble. We’re
never talking to one single audience. Every audience has groups within it that
will respond in different ways to different channels. For example, for us, the audiences
at Haydock racecourse responded really strongly to SMS.

If someone’s main
touchpoint with your brand is through your app, then speak to them on your app.
If they interact with your SMS, talk to them there.

We’ve worked hard
to understand our audiences and discover more effective and dynamic ways to
engage them and I hope people leave my session planning to do the same.

What are your plans for the future?

We go into
everything we do open to every opportunity.

One thing that we will
continue to be committed to is understanding what works for audiences. Today,
there are so many channels, that connections are made on an individual level.
What channels work best can’t be narrowed down to demographics or age ranges,
and this is what we plan to explore in the future.

At this point, it is impossible to get away from mobile messaging. It’s just sitting there, in the customers pocket. We need to figure out which channels work and target those segments accordingly. Whether that’s SMS, WhatsApp, or push, it’s all about going where the customer wants you.


Join Adam Baylis for his breakout session at the dotdigital Summit on Wednesday 20 March. Not got your tickets yet? Get them today.

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dotdigital Summit 2019: an interview with Mark Roberts

Ahead of the 2019 dotdigital Summit, we sat down with Mark Roberts, co-founder of Beer Hawk. Leading the charge of our ‘brilliant fundamentals’ breakout sessions, we wanted to know a little bit more about Mark, where he’s come from and get a little insight into the wisdom he’ll be sharing at the Summit.

Mark Roberts, Co-founder of Beer Hawk

So, you and Chris France founded Beer Hawk around 6 years ago, what were you doing before then?

After I graduated in 2000, I joined the Grad team
at Procter & Gamble. After working there in various sales & marketing
roles for 5 years, I moved into consultancy where I specialized in marketing
and innovation, advising brands such as Coca-Cola and Kimberly Clark, before
moving into the finance industry around the time of the financial crisis. Great
timing! During my time at HBOS and then Lloyds Banking Group, I was involved in
a number of different areas including innovation, existing customers and customer
marketing.

It was during my time as Marketing Director at Laithwaite’s Wine that I got the inspiration to start Beer Hawk. Not satisfied with the beer offerings of the supermarkets, there was a growing demand for unknown and undiscovered craft beer brands. With so many small, amazing craft breweries out there, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a similar offering to Laithwaites, but for beer drinkers. So that’s what I did.

And why were you interested in marketing in the first place?

My interest in marketing is two-fold. Generally,
I’ve always been interested in psychology and in particular the psychology
behind consumer behavior. The other side that really interests me is the way great
consumer brands make things, especially the new and adaptive ways they innovate.

Could you explain what your job entails?

It’s a good question, as one of the things I like
to do is continually try to make myself redundant, by hiring better people than
me!  I always find up with something new
to do!  At Beer Hawk, I now look after
all our Marketing, B2B Sales, Product, Tech and Finance.  My business partner, Chris, looks after our
Customer Service, Operations and Buying teams. On a day to day basis, I really
spend my time thinking about our People, how are team is working, and the big
strategic things that we need to do differently.

Do you have a favorite experience from your career so far, I know you’ve won quite a few awards so that might be quite difficult for you to choose?

It is. It’s a really difficult question, but if I
had to choose something, it would be the moment someone really credible
promoted our brand for the first time.

In six weeks, Chris and I had taken Beer Hawk from
an idea, to a fully functioning website selling craft beers from around the
world. We were using social media, door drops and visiting product fairs to
spread the word about our new business. We were doing well, but we knew we
needed someone with a significant customer base to give us a much-needed boost.

And that was when we signed a deal with East Coast
Main Line trains (now LNER). As part of their rewards scheme, the train line
offered deals and discounts to customers who racked up points with every
journey – and Beer Hawk was now part of it.

I still remember the day they announced that we
were part of their rewards scheme. Chris and I had sold our cars to finance the
business, so we were walking back home from our (very small!) office. At this
time, we were still getting personal notifications every time an order was
placed, and we were lucky to get ten of these a day. So, you can imagine our
surprise when our phones started going crazy in our pockets.

East Coast’s email had gone out, and orders were
flooding in. Our feelings quickly changed from “cool, new orders”, to elation,
before dropping to dread. There were too many orders! How were we supposed to
fulfil these orders? Would we even be able to?!

We didn’t have enough beer, packaging or people. But that wasn’t going to stop us, because if that moment showed us anything, it was that we were really onto something. We were offering something that people really wanted.

What are your biggest work goals currently?

The accelerated speed of Beer Hawk has massively
increased the complexity of the environs we’re working in. Our customers are
very different, there’s no single persona we can tailor our marketing to. We
don’t just sell craft beers, but we offer gifts, homebrew kits, and draft beer
appliances. We’re operating in the B2C, B2B markets and we’re planning on
opening our first omnichannel bar experience. And our rapid growth has led to
our workforce expanding and becoming increasingly diverse and varied.

I want the audience to leave our talk understanding that it’s still possible to grow and expand, no matter the complexities. I want them to leave thinking, not of the struggle complexity presents, but the amazing opportunities it holds in store and the amazing innovations just waiting to be discovered.

What are 3 top tips for success?

  1. Know what you want to do. Have a clear purpose and goals about something your passionate about, because it would be rubbish to be successful in something you’re not passionate about.
  2. Surround yourself with brilliant people. Better yet, surround yourself with brilliant people who compliment your strengths, and, more importantly, your weaknesses. Teamwork is everything behind success. Nobody is perfect, and you will need people who challenge you if you really want to be successful.
  3. Belief. Have massive belief in yourself, in your team and in what you’re doing. Success is never simple; the road is never smooth. You will experience so many setbacks and moments where you will feel like you can’t do it, that, without belief and belief in what you do, you never will.

What has been your biggest challenge over the last year?

Beer Hawk is still an incredibly young business,
and over the past year, we’ve been experiencing some specific growing pains
about being such a fast-growing business.

Our first employee joined the company 5 years ago. Our latest employee joined 5 weeks ago. We now have over 80 employees and continue to expand. Making sure everyone knew what they were doing, and how to communicate across teams is essential. For a long time, we had just enough processes in place to stop from falling over. Managing these growing pains was one of our biggest challenges over the last year.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself to start earlier, younger. I always knew that I wanted to start my own business, but I held myself back for years. I would tell myself to go into the ‘doing’ stage sooner.  

And finally, we have to know, what is your favorite beer?

Well, that all depends on where I am, what mood I’m
in and what time of year it is!

My favorite ever beer would probably be a Scheider Weisse Eisbock, sat in the amazing Schneider Brauhaus in Munich. But that’s not a beer I would enjoy on a hot summer’s day. For that I would probably prefer a cold, crisp IPA, like a Goose Island.


Join Mark Roberts for his breakout session at the dotdigital Summit on Wednesday 20 March. Not got your tickets yet?

Get them now.

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Music legend, Nile Rodgers, joins the 2019 Summit

Nile Rodgers Summit

Not a stranger to complex situations, Nile was born in New
York to his 14-year-old mother, Beverley Goodman, and father Nile Rodgers Sr.
who worked for the John Glanzrock who would later become his white and Jewish
stepfather. Growing up, his life was anything but smooth-sailing, but it was
also the making of him.

An incredibly skilled musician, his own band, CHIC, was
catapulted into the pop charts in at the beginning of the disco movement and
changed the face of pop music forever. Unable to keep his talent from the
world, Rodgers and CHIC co-founder, Bernard Edwards, established CHIC
Organization Ltd. for the music they produced within CHIC for artists outside
of the group.

With over 200 production credits to his name, including Let’s Dance by David Bowie, Notorious by Duran Duran and Like a Virgin by Madonna, his work has
sold over 200 million albums and 50 million singles worldwide. Having worked
with artists such as Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, INXS, Debbie Harry, Avicii and
Sam Smith (to name just a few) you’ve undoubtedly heard this maestro at work.

To complement his work in the music industry, Rodgers has
scored soundtracks for a number of Hollywood blockbusters including Coming to
America, White Hot, Thelma and Louise, and Beverly Hill Cops III to name a few.

Aside from his insanely successful career, Nile has had to
overcome his fair share of personal obstacles. From addiction to cancer, there’s
nothing that can hold him back. Since his first gig when he was 19-years-old to
today, Rodgers has only missed two performances in his 47-year career.  

Nile Rogers continues to be a force for unity around the
world through his music and humanitarian work. He was one of 75 acts to perform
at Live Aid and released a unifying re-recording of We Are Family with over 200 musicians and celebrities in response to
the tragedies on 9/11. His We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) is dedicated to the
vision of creating a global family through programs that promote cultural
diversity while nurturing the vision, talents, and ideas of young people who
are changing the world.

This article has barely scratched the surface of the
extraordinary life of Grammy-winning composer, producer and guitarist, Nile
Rodgers.

Join us and Nile on 20 March to learn more. Haven’t got your tickets yet?

Get them today.

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2019: The year of stop, start, continue.

New Year’s resolutions – let’s be honest – hardly ever work. Research suggests that they are achieved by just 8% of people. New Year’s resolutions are usually over-ambitious and, by their very nature, are unlikely to be achieved instantly.

In reality, change and progress are usually a result of small steps and time. To help your professional year get off to the best possible start, we’ve rounded up our favorite new features from 2018, organized them by hot topic, and listed how you can put them to good use in a ‘stop, start, and continue’ format.

 

Good data-driven marketing is customer-centric

To be data-driven or customer-driven? The truth is, they should go hand in hand.

2018 saw us take an innovative approach to data that lets us scale our platform in ways we could never have hoped to before. This means we can process data and return segmentation queries at scale and speed. Leveraging vast amounts of (customer) data couldn’t be easier.

  • Stop sending communications that are off-brand. Transactional messages triggered by customer actions are often hard-coded and as a result, unrecognisable and damaging to the brand reputation you’ve worked so hard to achieve. This doesn’t have to be the case. Our first release of 2018 (18one) empowered you to take control of your operational messaging – Magento users can design transactional campaigns in EasyEditor, for example.
  • Start running your ecommerce and marketing platform better together, and on autopilot. Whichever ecommerce platform you’re on – we offer a range of triggers which let you respond to customer activity with relevant, timely messages. The very latest addition to our toolbox is our Shopify Flow integration. Based on actions (maybe your customer has requested a refund or just placed their second order) you can add them to a marketing program or update their contact record.
  • Continue syncing your business systems. Two thirds of companies believe siloed data prevents them from making the most effective use of their marketing (Econsultancy). We couldn’t agree more. Without bias, we are committed to maintaining and improving our core integrations across CRM and ecommerce landscapes.

 

Engagement is the word

Another addition is our integration with our newly acquired CPaaS team. Using their API technology, we have extended our reach. Today, you can build intelligent marketing programs featuring SMS, Facebook Messenger, Push Notifications, and more. In 2019 we are committed to bringing even more engagement channels into the fold.

  • Stop thinking of marketing programs in channel-specific terms. Most marketers are already aware of the value of an email campaign. It gets interesting when you create cross-channel programs which allow you to be in multiple places at once.  Customer journeys are increasingly fragmented, so having this flexibility is super-important.
  • Start experimenting with new channels. We launched Google Ads and Facebook Audience connectors in 18three. With these, you can automate a program to funnel contacts (based on data or actions) to audiences. In doing so, you’re dynamically improving the quality of your audience and very directly impacting ad relevancy across the Google Ad network, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Continue building programs to your heart’s content. Besides the visible improvements to our program builder, we also continuously make changes under the hood. Program builder today is faster, smarter, and more powerful than ever before.

 

Doing right by your customers is good for your business

We launched a comprehensive suite of functionality to help you manage consent obligations effectively. It’s so simple to use, but underneath we had to build smart new ways of working with our existing data to ensure everything works smoothly.

  • Stop fretting about consent. With ConsentInsight you have an informed view of a contact’s consent and can even segment and target by it. As a responsible data processor, we have state-of-the-art security data centers in place to ensure the data you need to store is available, encrypted, and secure.
  • Start capturing marketing preferences. Our recently launched marketing preference feature lets you build preference centers in minutes. Once you know what your subscribers like, you can send them relevant content across campaigns, programs, and more.
  • Continue to monitor customer engagement. The popularity of your marketing preferences is tracked in account reports so you know what topics and products should be central to your content marketing strategy.

 

Buzzword alert!

  • Stop waiting by the AI side-lines. It’s here. AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) may have joined the realm of over-used buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean we should stop believing in their power. 2018 was the year we officially brought AI to our users. Now that we’re armed with a dedicated data science team, we can promise there is a lot more to come in 2019.
  • Start simple. Even though product recommendations are smart bottom-line boosters, they’re not hard to use. If you’re already syncing your product and order data with us – you can get started with bestseller and trending recommendations right away. Ready for something more advanced? Choose from one of our machine-learning models.
  • Continue investing time in your data. We’re particularly proud of our data enrichment feature which will help you achieve this. Data enrichment is a simple toggle in your accounts. When activated, our AI can read images, meta data, and more. The output of any AI tactic can only be as good as the data you put in.

 

Feel like you missed a memo last year?

Here are some quick tips to keep you up to speed in 2019:

  • Continue to read our newsletter – if you haven’t already signed up, you can do so here.
  • Start keeping an eye on our public roadmap: the first place we talk about upcoming features. You can follow your favorites and will be notified when they are released.
  • Stop by our extensive Knowledge Base, where you can access hundreds of articles that will help you get the most out of Engagement Cloud.

 

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Karina Hollekim to speak at dotdigital Summit 2019

SummitLet’s delve into this year’s second speaker for the dotdigital Summit 2019.

About Karina:

Karina Hollekim, in her own words, is not an extraordinary girl, but she’s done extraordinary things. She is a female pioneer and was the first women in the world to perform a skibase.

Her last jump – November 2006 in Switzerland – was “super-safe”. A routine skydive, from a plane, over water, with friends.

It almost killed her.

Karina’s near-fatal skydiving accident turned her life upside down: she was left in a wheelchair with the cruel prediction that she’d never be able to walk again. She endured 20 surgeries and had to relearn how to walk. But with an inspirational lust for life, Karina has returned to skiing and is living every day to the fullest.

Karina believes there is a drive in us all to follow our dreams and entertain the kid that still lives within us. In her inspirational talk, she describes a life of no regrets and always taking action. Her story is one of finding passion, choosing the life you want, and then never giving up on that dream. Karina’s ability to push the boundaries, stay focused, and have the power to re-mobilize through hardship, will leave you motivated to leave the fear behind and pursue the life you want.

Our time on earth is limited, so you better start making it happen.

Karina believes that fear shouldn’t be getting in your way of this.

Her autobiography, ‘The Wonderful Feeling of Fear’, is internationally published and her speech is part of the exclusive TedX talks.

Join us on the 20th March to hear this electrifying talk, which will leave you inspired to achieve as much as you can in your working and personal life. Register for dotdigital Summit 2019 here.

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Speaker announcement for dotdigital Summit 2019

Let’s delve into this year’s first speaker for the dotdigital Summit 2019.

About Tim

Tim is a senior columnist for the Financial Times. His long-running column, ‘The Undercover Economist’, reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences. He also writes op-eds, interviews, and long feature articles for the daily newspaper. He’s an evangelist for the power of economics and has spoken at TED, PopTech, and Sydney Opera House.

He is author of ‘Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy’, ‘Messy’, and the million-selling ‘The Undercover Economist’. As well as a senior columnist at the Financial Times, Tim is the presenter of Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ and the iTunes-topping series, ‘Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy’.

 

 

The keynote

During Tim’s presentation he will be investigating how certain kinds of complexities and obstacles can actually improve our performance. He will be covering the topics of cognitive psychology, complexity science, social psychology, and, of course, throwing ‘Rock n Roll’ into the mix for good measure.

Can disruption, mess, and crazy moves actually help solve some of our most complex problems? Tim examines this and talks about how we shouldn’t be scared of complexity, as it can in fact make us more creative! Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t helping you!

Don’t miss out!

Join us on the 20th March 2019: don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear a great speaker with exceptional insight into the complexities of everyday experiences, and how we can thrive in them!

Register for the Summit here.

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Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

My predictions for marketing in 2019

As I sit in the office trying to muster my last ounce of motivation before breaking up for Christmas, I think to myself: what’s marketing going to look like in a year’s time? For marketers like myself it’s a difficult question to answer, simply because our intelligence-driven world is changing at lightening speed. Brands are finding it harder to differentiate themselves and gain trust from consumers, who similarly are trying to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.

For those of you who’d like some light reading and no-nonsense content, here are my predictions for what’s to come.

1. Understanding customers should be top on the agenda

Consumers have so many channels to chose from nowadays so, as marketers, you’ve got to get the channel right. Brands are now more empowered than ever to track customer behavior and decipher that Customer X would prefer an SMS, while Customer Y, who hates receiving text messages, would much prefer email.

In 2019, remember that communication preferences matter. Did you know that some analysts foresee around 50% of searches to be made via voice search by 2020? Predictions like this one may seem outlandish, but the kids of today are growing up with the expectation that they’ll be able to contact whoever they like, however they like.

2. AI is poised to smarten up your marketing

To some, Artificial Intelligence sounds a bit like a horror movie. If I weren’t a marketer, my first thoughts of AI might have conjured images of 1984 or fanatical robots on the rampage. The latter aren’t too dissimilar to Elon Musk’s recent predictions that AI might kill us all. Jokes aside, AI is going to empower brands to do much more in less time, and with half the effort. Machine learning is causing quite the stir, enabling marketers to deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences across a multitude of channels like web, mobile, and in store. A great example are relevant product recommendations in email and landing pages.

3. Customers want relevant content, not irrelevant ads

Tell, don’t sell. That’s my mantra. If you’re like me, then you’ll respect brands more if they offer up some inspirational content that actually makes you think, rather than mind-numbing, generic ads that have nothing to do with you. Don’t get me wrong, ads can be exceptionally targeted if brands understand their customers and pay attention to data. However, rich editorial content is proving to be a worthy cause for investment, as customers continue to differentiate brands more on experience, rather than product and price.

4. Automation will enhance your brand authenticity

If you’re not already automating your marketing communications in 2018, you’re falling seriously behind. Intelligent messages will put your brand in a good light because customers appreciate (and are even impressed by) them. They’ll think your brand more authentic and reputable than competitors, and will think of you when they come to purchase next.

To nail your automation in 2019, you’ll have to have to be able to recall and act on important data quickly. If I’m browsing some flights to New York because I’m thinking about going with my boyfriend, and later receive a triggered email prompting me to book before prices sky-rocket, the likelihood is that I will.

5. AR and VR will transform the shopping experience

Customers have long complained about shopping. Inattentive store assistants, dimly-lit dressing rooms, and inaccurate product information have all contributed to many disheartened experiences. For retailers, it’s always been a challenge to control every irritating factor, but not for much longer.

As consumers ride the mobile wave, retailers are dipping their toes in digital signage, which is set to take off among luxury brands. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are on course to revolutionize the shopping experience, arming retailers with the tech they need to provide seamless shopping experiences that are both informative and entertaining.

With AR, customers will be able to view themselves donning their new attire in store via a digital projection. VR goes even further; ever wanted to see what your new bathing costume would look like on a speed boat? No, me neither. But it sounds pretty cool!

Goldman Sachs predicts that the market for AR and VR in retail will reach $1.6 billion by 2025, so watch this space!

 

If these predictions have inspired you to spice up your marketing, please contact your account manager or watch a quick demo.

That’s a wrap. I’m checking out now – see you all in 2019!

 

 

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Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019

Posted by MiriamEllis

64% of 1,411 surveyed local business marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

…but please don’t come away with the wrong storyline from this statistic.

As local brands and their marketers watch Google play Trojan horse, shifting from top benefactor to top competitor by replacing former “free” publicity with paid packs, Local Service Ads, zero-click SERPs, and related structures, it’s no surprise to see forum members asking, “Do I even need a website anymore?”

Our answer to this question is,“Yes, you’ve never needed a website more than you will in 2019.” In this post, we’ll examine:

  • Why it looks like local businesses don’t need websites
  • Statistical proofs of why local businesses need websites now more than ever
  • The current status of local business websites and most-needed improvements

How Google stopped bearing so many gifts

Within recent memory, a Google query with local intent brought up a big pack of ten nearby businesses, with each entry taking the user directly to these brands’ websites for all of their next steps. A modest amount of marketing effort was rewarded with a shower of Google gifts in the form of rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Then these generous SERPs shrank to seven spots, and then three, with the mobile sea change thrown into the bargain and consisting of layers and layers of Google-owned interfaces instead of direct-to-website links. In 2018, when we rustle through the wrapping paper, the presents we find from Google look cheaper, smaller, and less magnificent.

Consider these five key developments:

1) Zero-click mobile SERPs

This slide from a recent presentation by Rand Fishkin encapsulateshis findings regarding the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016–2018. Mobile users have experienced a 20% increase in delivery of search engine results that don’t require them to go any deeper than Google’s own interface.

2) The encroachment of paid ads into local packs

When Dr. Peter J. Myers surveyed 11,000 SERPs in 2018, he found that 35% of competitive local packs feature ads.

3) Google becoming a lead gen agency

At last count, Google’s Local Service Ads program via which they interposition themselves as the paid lead gen agent between businesses and consumers has taken over 23 business categories in 77 US cities.

4) Even your branded SERPs don’t belong to you

When a user specifically searches for your brand and your Google Knowledge Panel pops up, you can likely cope with the long-standing “People Also Search For” set of competitors at the bottom of it. But that’s not the same as Google allowing Groupon to advertise at the top of your KP, or putting lead gen from Doordash and GrubHub front and center to nickel and dime you on your own customers’ orders.

5) Google is being called the new “homepage” for local businesses

As highlighted at the beginning of this post, 64% of marketers agree that Google is becoming the new “homepage” for local businesses. This concept, coined by Mike Blumenthal, signifies that a user looking at a Google Knowledge Panel can get basic business info, make a phone call, get directions, book something, ask a question, take a virtual tour, read microblog posts, see hours of operation, thumb through photos, see busy times, read and leave reviews. Without ever having to click through to a brand’s domain, the user may be fully satisfied.

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”
– Epicurus

There are many more examples we could gather, but they can all be summed up in one way: None of Google’s most recent local initiatives are about driving customers to brands’ own websites. Local SERPs have shrunk and have been re-engineered to keep users within Google’s platforms to generate maximum revenue for Google and their partners.

You may be as philosophical as Epicurus about this and say that Google has every right to be as profitable as they can with their own product, even if they don’t really need to siphon more revenue off local businesses. But if Google’s recent trajectory causes your brand or agency to conclude that websites have become obsolete in this heavily controlled environment, please keep reading.

Your website is your bedrock

“65% of 1,411 surveyed marketers observe strong correlation between organic and local rank.” – Via Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report

What this means is that businesses which rank highly organically are very likely to have high associated local pack rankings. In the following screenshot, if you take away the directory-type platforms, you will see how the brand websites ranking on page 1 for “deli athens ga” are also the two businesses that have made it into Google’s local pack:

How often do the top 3 Google local pack results also have a 1st page organic rankings?

In a small study, we looked at 15 head keywords across 7 US cities and towns. This yielded 315 possible entries in Google’s local pack. Of that 315, 235 of the businesses ranking in the local packs also had page 1 organic rankings. That’s a 75% correlation between organic website rankings and local pack presence.

*It’s worth noting that where local and organic results did not correlate, it was sometimes due the presence of spam GMB listings, or to mystery SERPs that did not make sense at first glance — perhaps as a result of Google testing, in some cases.

Additionally, many local businesses are not making it to the first page of Google anymore in some categories because the organic SERPs are inundated with best-of lists and directories. Often, local business websites were pushed down to the second page of the organic results. In other words, if spam, “best-ofs,” and mysteries were removed, the local-organic correlation would likely be much higher than 75%.

Further, one recent study found that even when Google’s Local Service Ads are present, 43.9% of clicks went to the organic SERPs. Obviously, if you can make it to the top of the organic SERPs, this puts you in very good CTR shape from a purely organic standpoint.

Your takeaway from this

The local businesses you market may not be able to stave off the onslaught of Google’s zero-click SERPs, paid SERPs, and lead gen features, but where “free” local 3-packs still exist, your very best bet for being included in them is to have the strongest possible website. Moreover, organic SERPs remain a substantial source of clicks.

Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.

This calls for an industry-wide doubling down on organic metrics that matter most.

Bridging the local-organic gap

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Aristotle

A 2017 CNBC survey found that 45% of small businesses have no website, and, while most large enterprises have websites, many local businesses qualify as “small.”

Moreover, a recent audit of 9,392 Google My Business listings found that 27% have no website link.

When asked which one task 1,411 marketers want clients to devote more resources to, it’s no coincidence that 66% listed a website-oriented asset. This includes local content development, on-site optimization, local link building, technical analysis of rankings/traffic/conversions, and website design as shown in the following Moz survey graphic:

In an environment in which websites are table stakes for competitive local pack rankings, virtually all local businesses not only need one, but they need it to be as strong as possible so that it achieves maximum organic rankings.

What makes a website strong?

The Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers incredibly detailed guidelines for creating the best possible website. While we recommend that everyone marketing a local business read through this in-depth guide, we can sum up its contents here by stating that strong websites combine:

  • Technical basics
  • Excellent usability
  • On-site optimization
  • Relevant content publication
  • Publicity

For our present purpose, let’s take a special look at those last three elements.

On-site optimization and relevant content publication

There was a time when on-site SEO and content development were treated almost independently of one another. And while local businesses will need a make a little extra effort to put their basic contact information in prominent places on their websites (such as the footer and Contact Us page), publication and optimization should be viewed as a single topic. A modern strategy takes all of the following into account:

  • Keyword and real-world research tell a local business what consumers want
  • These consumer desires are then reflected in what the business publishes on its website, including its homepage, location landing pages, about page, blog and other components
  • Full reflection of consumer desires includes ensuring that human language (discovered via keyword and real-world research) is implemented in all elements of each page, including its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and in some cases, markup

What we’re describing here isn’t a set of disconnected efforts. It’s a single effort that’s integral to researching, writing, and publishing the website. Far from stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content, focus has shifted to building topical authority in the eyes of search engines like Google by building an authoritative resource for a particular consumer demographic. The more closely a business is able to reflect customers’ needs (including the language of their needs), in every possible component of its website, the more relevant it becomes.

A hypothetical example of this would be a large medical clinic in Dallas. Last year, their phone staff was inundated with basic questions about flu shots, like where and when to get them, what they cost, would they cause side effects, what about side effects on people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. This year, the medical center’s marketing team took a look at Moz Keyword Explorer and saw that there’s an enormous volume of questions surrounding flu shots:

This tiny segment of the findings of the free keyword research tool, Answer the Public, further illustrates how many questions people have about flu shots:

The medical clinic need not compete nationally for these topics, but at a local level, a page on the website can answer nearly every question a nearby patient could have about this subject. The page, created properly, will reflect human language in its tags, headings, descriptions, text, and markup. It will tell all patients where to come and when to come for this procedure. It has the potential to cut down on time-consuming phone calls.

And, finally, it will build topical authority in the eyes of Google to strengthen the clinic’s chances of ranking well organically… which can then translate to improved local rankings.

It’s important to note that keyword research tools typically do not reflect location very accurately, so research is typically done at a national level, and then adjusted to reflect regional or local language differences and geographic terms, after the fact. In other words, a keyword tool may not accurately reflect exactly how many local consumers in Dallas are asking “Where do I get a flu shot?”, but keyword and real-world research signals that this type of question is definitely being asked. The local business website can reflect this question while also adding in the necessary geographic terms.

Local link building must be brought to the fore of publicity efforts

Moz’s industry survey found that more than one-third of respondents had no local link building strategy in place. Meanwhile, link building was listed as one of the top three tasks to which marketers want their clients to devote more resources. There’s clearly a disconnect going on here. Given the fundamental role links play in building Domain Authority, organic rankings, and subsequent local rankings, building strong websites means bridging this gap.

First, it might help to examine old prejudices that could cause local business marketers and their clients to feel dubious about link building. These most likely stem from link spam which has gotten so out of hand in the general world of SEO that Google has had to penalize it and filter it to the best of their ability.

Not long ago, many digital-only businesses were having a heyday with paid links, link farms, reciprocal links, abusive link anchor text and the like. An online company might accrue thousands of links from completely irrelevant sources, all in hopes of escalating rank. Clearly, these practices aren’t ones an ethical business can feel good about investing in, but they do serve as an interesting object lesson, especially when a local marketer can point out to a client, that best local links are typically going to result from real-world relationship-building.

Local businesses are truly special because they serve a distinct, physical community made up of their own neighbors. The more involved a local business is in its own community, the more naturally link opportunities arise from things like local:

  • Sponsorships
  • Event participation and hosting
  • Online news
  • Blogs
  • Business associations
  • B2B cross-promotions

There are so many ways a local business can build genuine topical and domain authority in a given community by dint of the relationships it develops with neighbors.

An excellent way to get started on this effort is to look at high-ranking local businesses in the same or similar business categories to discover what work they’ve put in to achieve a supportive backlink profile. Moz Link Intersect is an extremely actionable resource for this, enabling a business to input its top competitors to find who is linking to them.

In the following example, a small B&B in Albuquerque looks up two luxurious Tribal resorts in its city:

Link Intersect then lists out a blueprint of opportunities, showing which links one or both competitors have earned. Drilling down, the B&B finds that Marriott.com is linking to both Tribal resorts on an Albuquerque things-to-do page:

The small B&B can then try to earn a spot on that same page, because it hosts lavish tea parties as a thing-to-do. Outreach could depend on the B&B owner knowing someone who works at the local Marriott personally. It could include meeting with them in person, or on the phone, or even via email. If this outreach succeeds, an excellent, relevant link will have been earned to boost organic rank, underpinning local rank.

Then, repeat the process. Aristotle might well have been speaking of link building when he said we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is a habit. Good marketers can teach customers to have excellent habits in recognizing a good link opportunity when they see it.

Taken altogether

Without a website, a local business lacks the brand-controlled publishing and link-earning platform that so strongly influences organic rankings. In the absence of this, the chances of ranking well in competitive local packs will be significantly less. Taken altogether, the case is clear for local businesses investing substantially in their websites.

Acting now is actually a strategy for the future

“There is nothing permanent except change.”
– Heraclitus

You’ve now determined that strong websites are fundamental to local rankings in competitive markets. You’ve absorbed numerous reasons to encourage local businesses you market to prioritize care of their domains. But there’s one more thing you’ll need to be able to convey, and that’s a sense of urgency.

Right now, every single customer you can still earn from a free local pack listing is immensely valuable for the future.

This isn’t a customer you’ve had to pay Google for, as you very well might six months, a year, or five years from now. Yes, you’ve had to invest plenty in developing the strong website that contributed to the high local ranking, but you haven’t paid a penny directly to Google for this particular lead. Soon, you may be having to fork over commissions to Google for a large portion of your new customers, so acting now is like insurance against future spend.

For this to work out properly, local businesses must take the leads Google is sending them right now for free, and convert them into long-term, loyal customers, with an ultimate value of multiple future transactions without Google as a the middle man. And if these freely won customers can be inspired to act as word-of-mouth advocates for your brand, you will have done something substantial to develop a stream of non-Google-dependent revenue.

This offer may well expire as time goes by. When it comes to the capricious local SERPs, marketers resemble the Greek philosophers who knew that change is the only constant. The Trojan horse has rolled into every US city, and it’s a gift with a questionable shelf life. We can’t predict if or when free packs might become obsolete, but we share your concerns about the way the wind is blowing.

What we can see clearly right now is that websites will be anything but obsolete in 2019. Rather, they are the building blocks of local rankings, precious free leads, and loyal revenue, regardless of how SERPs may alter in future.

For more insights into where local businesses should focus in 2019, be sure to explore the Moz State of Local SEO industry report:

Read the State of Local SEO industry report

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