Dogs Chewing Toffee

I have an American Bulldog who will eat absolutely anything…there is nothing funnier than watch her chew a toffee….it’s a lot like watching politicians trying to do technology.

I was reminded of this when looking at the efforts of one of our local politicians Mayor of LA Eric Garcetti. In tech terms he’s far ahead of the crowd in many ways, he has a tech background, he’s generally tech friendly and God bless he’s really trying to get the nuts and bolts of local government in his part of California. Having lived and worked in both the North East and now California I’d say he has an uphill task. I saw a recent terrific example where the LA Cops are now going to crack down on “road safety” which is code for more and more BS tickets for us poor SoCal residents. You can bet that the Cops will be using absolute state of the art technology to ding the poor tax payers on LA. It’s ironic that in LA the actual roads are literally falling apart under our cars but the parking meters are fully automated and you can pay by debit card….and if your meter expires it could cost you $300 for going 25 cents over time. California is a nightmare…it’s very sunny and has great views….but a nightmare none the less. Technology seems to be applied aggressively against the citizens for the purposes of taxation or enforcement but where it could make our lives easier or make those same politicians more accountable tech adoption seems less enthusiastic.  

Mr. Garcetti will be speaking this week at the Democratic Municipal Officials conference in DC.  DMO’s goal is to create visibility and elective success for local Democratic officials of all stripes #NationalDMO. They are pretty adept at using new media to drive their campaign machine, much as did the national DNC and RNC in 2012. Clearly politicians have embraced many aspects of new media to target and get out the vote.  The broader question I believe is will they be as aggressive in the adoption of technology which makes their constituents lives less stressful and more fulfilling…we will see.

Welcome to the Casino…Have a Nice Day

I’m not good with Casinos….I’ve been to Vegas any number of times and on the last half dozen visits I don’t think I’ve gambled more than five bucks.  It’s partly that I don’t trust myself to get into something that addictive…part that I worked hard for that money and part that I’m just not good at it. There is a giant casino out there where the punters are playing marketing dollars for sales and it’s called Google. Historically Google has largely been the resort for large rich companies with teams of marketing professionals like us pitting their wits against the house.
Whilst Google has been doing very well of late with ad revenue up nicely in Q4 last year, the average click value declined 11% in the same period. What’s diluting the click price is the massive growth in mobile device clicks which (as yet) aren’t as valuable as desktop clicks. The problem Google has is that mobile clicks have already surpassed desktop and show no sign of slowing down.
So whats a giant Casino to do when the punters are growing in volume but avoiding the high stakes tables. The Casino either gets the same punters to spend more time at the high stakes table…or attract a bunch of new punters…hopefully without as much expertise as the existing crowd. I live in SoCal and we have an amazingly large number of Indian Casinos in our region (I know a guy who services slot machines and he has over 100 locations he serves within driving distance). What the Casinos do is bus punters from location to location all day long.
Yesterday Google’s Chief Business Officer made some interesting statements to the financial world at a Morgan Stanley Conference. Disambiguating these kind of statements is tricky…but several points seem to be emerging through the linguistic fog of Google speak.  
Google sees small local businesses looking to reach local customers looking for local customers on their mobile devices as the next influx of fresh meat to their Casino
It thinks this influx will drive the value of mobile clicks to “become a multiple” of the comparable desktop clicks…..which would nicely solve the problem of mobile clicks driving down average click value.
That’s a really interesting set of statements. We already see the impact in local businesses (most of whom aren’t online marketing experts) joining the casino. Online advertising isn’t a sport for the inexperienced…it’s incredibly easy to put money down and blow through it in perhaps seconds without the advertiser seeing a single cent of return on their investment. We know from our own efforts that tracking the ROI for local businesses can sobering.
The risk is that Google will continue to market aggressively to local businesses who will show up at their Casino slap the college fund down and leave never to return because they simply didn’t see the value. Google has recently been telling the cohorts of marketing professionals who have been spending with them for many years to look beyond the obvious conversion event and look for value driven by search all over the web. It’s possibly a good argument to make to Nike or Apple…it’s much tougher to convince a roofer or dentist of almost invisible value.  

Our business is based on driving proven ROI in the form of tracked calls.  The mess created by local businesses headed into the Google casino is likely to make businesses even more suspicious of everything online…which might be great for us long term it puts many of the tables out of reach for the professional gamblers amongst us.

The Internet of Now

Those of us old enough to remember the first desktop computers have watched the Internet emerge as perhaps the defining technology of this generation, the one thing that mankind has invented to date which far exceeds the ability of any one person to understand or encompass. It has put large parts of the recorded wisdom of the ages at the disposal of us all, it allows us to keep up with our high school classmates and watch adorable kittens problem solve on demand. To date it has reordered communication, research, education and entertainment to name but a few.

However it’s not done yet. There are two emerging trends which overlap and complement each other which will further disrupt and perhaps enrich our lives. As an example let me take you through an hour or so of last Saturday evening: I arrived back from a business trip on a United flight from New Orleans to San Diego. On the last leg connecting through Denver the gate was changed on me three times, prompting much confusion and several weary exoduses by other hopeful travelers through the vast airport. On the flight I had a snack and a glass of wine. The stewardess didn’t know what snacks she had on the cart, it took two attempts to run my new debit card. After fumbling through a menu and the cart I eventually paid for the culinary delight and continued to watch the movie which I had previously downloaded to my iPad. I hadn’t checked luggage but if I had I would have been searching the displays and baggage belt for my bag…which looks exactly like every other bag on the plane.  When I arrived at the airport I fished the parking card out of my wallet and paid with my Amex at the barrier. All the way home my radar detector beeped and burped at every potential cop (an essential addition to life in SoCal) as my Wayze ap gave feedback from fellow travelers on 15 north.

What’s impressive to a relatively old coot like myself is how well much of that stuff worked. I was able to pay for everything electronically, I could download the movie (albeit at home as the WiFi in the terminal or on the plane is lamentably slow). I did check in on line, I did download the movie, I didn’t get a speeding ticket.  What is also striking is how much better most of that could have been.  The next big online waves are visible on the horizon and headed our way.

As the internet of things crystallizes most of our personal and domestic technology will get connected to the Internet. That will likely mean that I’d be alerted to those gate changes as they happened, see what’s available on the cart and pay for it perhaps by just putting my finger on the payment pad, my car will know I’m down and might be warming the engine up while I wait for the bag which I can clearly see is only moments away. I would then drive out (no need for parking tickets) my radar detector would contribute seamlessly to the network of fellow citizens seeking to stay one step ahead of the fuzz, indeed with the right smart car perhaps it could drive me home while I nap at the wheel, on the way home my refrigerator might remind me we were out of half and half (we were). On long trips I tend to use a car service as it’s cheaper than parking and sometimes it’s good not to have to stress the journey after the flight. Saturday evening I could have used my Uber app on my phone to magically summons a town car the moment I hit curb side I could also have used my phone to turn up my Nest smart thermostat at home.  What’s interesting about the last two items is that both of those companies are regarded as ground breaking in the next wave…and both of them have recently received stratospherically high valuations and investments. So there is clearly something going on and someone values that very highly.

What’s happening is that more and more of our devices are getting online and the time it takes to get something done or delivered is also dropping dramatically. We are only a few short years away from being able to routinely talk to our devices and have them give us useful data back. That data might be linked to suppliers so that the stuff I need is already on its way from my Amazon (perhaps by drone).

As our devices come on line and out world becomes increasingly more convenient and real time so some aspects of our lives are likely to get more and more real time too. Have you ever broken down roadside and spent what feels like hours negotiating rescue from AAA or Bob’s Tow ‘n’ Go. Have you ever looked at the mess after that great dinner party and thought “I need a maid and I need her now!”  Have you ever had a spare slot in your schedule and thought “Hair…I have to get my hair cut before that interview tomorrow…who can see me now”…or stared at the lake of backed up sewage in your guests bathroom and prayed for a big red “plumber” button on your phone. It’s going to happen…and sooner than you think. Along with the rise of the internet came the fall of traditional media…especially local media. Local businesses have largely lost faith with the traditional which used to bring them new clients but have entirely failed to come to grips with the complex and potentially disastrously expensive mess of new media. In the same way you wish you had a big red “Plumber” button there are thousands of plumbers out there with gaps in their schedules wishing they had a big red “customer” button…and they will…soon.

The sea change has already happened, we just haven quite understood the magnitude of it yet.  Pretty much everyone with an income has a smart phone with internet access.  We are well used to talking to service providers to book jobs…what’s stopping us from smoothing out the last points of contact between customer and provider to produce the Internet of “Now” for all kinds of service providers. The answer is money, technology, vision and delivery…which is where Search Initiatives comes in…we have all four.   What we do today is connect tens of thousands of service providers (Doctors, lawyers, plumbers, landscapers, electricians and beauty spas with millions of thousands of potential customers. We do that by exposing carefully crafted and targeted ads through the crazy matrix of search, social media, real time display re-targeting to customers with a real need. We do that in real time and at enormous scale. The person to person contact is delivered through the good old fashioned phone call…the one medium understood and trusted by all those involved.  What we are doing right now is very fast…is it real-time-on-demand and now to the point where we are able to immediately match need to provider so that all the clients who need plumbers are perfectly match immediately with the nearest plumber with immediate availability…not quite. But it’s coming and when it does you may rest assured that Search Initiatives will be the folk behind the big “NOW” button on your phone…and on your plumbers phone.

So as you get used to the idea of your refrigerator reminding you to pick up milk, or your watch telling you that you are 1,000 paces short of your exercise goal, get used to the idea that waiting to get help with all of the other things your life throws at you is going to be a thing of the past. Welcome to the Internet of Now.

Local Online Confusion

rsz_local_open (1)

The chances are that you are reading this on your smart phone or tablet or perhaps you are taking a break from your phone to read this on your computer or even on that charming ‘dead tree product’ called a magazine.  So much of how we live and shop has moved online.  Large companies with massive marketing budgets now have teams of online experts figuring out how to reach their audience through the complex web of new media often in tandem with traditional media.

Now answer this question: When was the last time you interacted with your yellow pages?  I don’t mean when you picked it up and walked it straight to your recycling bin, I mean when you last used it to find a local business. Thought so…me neither.  There was a time quite recently when your Sunday paper had to be lowered buy winch onto your front porch…now, if you still get it all, it’s clearly been on a severe diet.  We have been living through a massive realignment of media…print media has been vaporizing before our eyes.

What hasn’t changed anywhere near as much is the rest of our every-day issues.  We still get tooth aches, leaks in our pipes, pest infestations and we get married.  We still use dentists, plumbers, rat catchers and party rental stores.  The massive real world operation which is the twenty million local businesses in the US still do business every day.  What went away is the way those businesses use to get new clients.

It used to be that owning a home and sending your kids to college was the American Dream.  Those have become much closer to the new normal for many Americans, now owning your own business has become for many a new part of that dream.  The BIA Kelsey organization, experts in all things local, tells us that each year roughly half of all business done by local businesses is new business.  Local businesses get that and are desperately trying to come to terms with a radically altered local advertising environment.  It’s no longer good enough just to have a basic website, local businesses really need a social media plan, they may have to manage their online reputation, they may even tweet!  The complex and rapidly changing world of online media is tough for a freshly minted MBA who went to school to learn this stuff – it’s simply impossible for the average local business to navigate.

Clearly this presents a problem to a large and growing segment of the US economy.  Interestingly, a solution has emerged in recent years and Search Initiatives, Inc. is leading that revolution.

Most local businesses don’t value “clicks” to their websites, “likes,” “tweets,” or “reviews.”  Most would much rather get a telephone call from a potential customer looking for a quote or to schedule a service.  People certainly do research online but when it comes to get serious about the project at hand many shoppers would rather speak to the company involved.  That makes the 100 year old telephone a critical part of the new media economy.  Local businesses have figured out that rather than pay a marketing company, yellow pages or newspaper for websites or clicks they would rather pay for calls from potential customers.  Those customers may well have come from ads seen on search engines, social media even banner ads…but that’s not the concern of the local business who only pays when the phone rings.  Those businesses are more than happy to pay a premium for those calls.  A dentist may pay $40 for a new customer a home security company may pay over $100 for a call from a potential client because they recognize at a profound level that the potential customer on the phone is a much better prospect than any other kind.

Interestingly, these local businesses are still being sold to by the same yellow page or news print reps but instead of just selling print they are being sold online visibility packages which typically include a website, social media management and most importantly a certain number of leads delivered by tracked telephone calls.  This has driven a massive growth in the “Pay per Call” industry and Search Initiatives is leading that sea change.

Local businesses need to advertise, yet they are unable to navigate the complex world of new media effectively.  There is a pent up demand in the form of the billions of dollars which have fled traditional print media and have not yet found a place in the new media world.  What Search Initiatives does is use the complex and challenging tools presented by new media such as SEO, SEM, RTB, FBX, PPC and a dozen other acronyms which you will hopefully never have to come to terms with to drive new customers to local businesses via the paid phone lead.  It’s a concept which any local business can understand and embrace.  They only get changed if a potential new client is brought to them…if we can’t deliver we don’t get paid.

Search Initiatives has deep roots in new media and local business.  We work with the people who sell to local business to deliver the calls they need.  That means we have almost no cost to acquire a new customer.  Our millions of advertisers are managed by our marketing partners.  They provide all the customer support to our advertisers.  That leaves us free to focus on what we do best; driving thousands of valuable leads to local businesses in massive volume.

This new version of local advertising uses the kaleidoscope of new media to drive customers to local locations   Search Initiatives is ideally placed to be the one stop solution for all things local.  It’s a multi-billion dollar opportunity which represents the last green field opportunity in new media and Search Initiatives is ideally placed to lead that revolution.

A Very San Fran Thing?

I have just returned from the BIA Kelsey conference in San Fransisco. I won’t waste your time with the details, but it was interesting to watch the smoking remains of the Yellow Book industry meet to stare at the entrails and try to guess the next disaster which will befall them.

While I was there I had a couple of moments which I thought nicely illustrated how things have changed. San Fransisco (as you no doubt know) is at the beating heart of all that we know of as new media and beyond. Indeed attend a tech conference there and you could be forgiven for believing that the rest of the world, let alone America, doesn’t actually exist.

the world according to san fran

In any event, if you had any doubt of the impact social media has had on our world (admittedly from a SF perspective) then look no further.

Example 1 Starbucks

I ordered my usual Starbucks coffee and croissant from the store opposite my hotel. When I got to the cashier she smiled sweetly and told me that their cash registers were off line… so breakfast was on them. They didn’t shut the store, demand cash only or ask people to leave, they just gave breakfast away. All they asked was that we maybe tell or friend or mention it on Facebook.

Example 2 Fang Chinese Restaurant

San Fran was packed, so getting into any decent Chinese place near the hotel was tougher than you might expect. I managed to get a spot for 3 at Fang, which was a block or two from my hotel. We arrived a little early and watched as about two dozen people who arrived after us (in many cases without reservations) were seated while we waited quietly starving. I’m guessing that the front desk was told to fill seats, and 3 people can’t fit into a four seat table so we were waiting for the one 3 person table to clear. In any event, front desk wasn’t interested in seating us any time soon. Thirty minutes in I took out my phone and started to compose a one star review on Yelp. At that point the manager passed by and saw me on my phone. She asked what I was doing on yelp and I told her. She then literally whisked us off to a table (which seated 5) and showered us with complimentary appetizers… all of which was in the (successful) attempt of heading off a one star review.

It’s interesting to note that in two service related situations, a national chain and a single location restaurant, the folks in charge had internalized at a pretty profound level that social engagement and reputation management have to be absolutely front and center… almost at any cost. It may be a very San Fran phenomena right now… but I have to believe it’s a trend with a future.

Gordon Ramsay’s Own Kitchen Nightmare

Gordon Ramsey's Own Kitchen NightmareI took a few days off last week to celebrate yet another year getting away from me. My wife and I went to Vegas, not for the gambling but for the entertainment and food. We stayed at Caesars Palace and one evening we thought we’d try the “Gastro Pub” experience offered by none other than Brit Bad Boy, Gordon Ramsay. Truth be told, although I love to cook, I’m not a huge fan of cooking shows, and shows where Mr. Ramsay makes a buck by humiliating what are often hardworking (albeit out of their depth) restaurateurs I find less than edifying. As a fellow reasonably foul-mouthed Brit bad boy who has been known to yell on occasion, maybe I just find it too close for comfort.

In any event, I love good Pub Grub so we gave it a shot. In their defense, the beer menu was excellent and the chips (French Fries for our US cousins) were authentically soggy and British… but beyond that, the food was just horrible… by far the worst we had all week. What was especially galling was the pretense that this was in some way Great British cuisine. Let’s all agree on something… much (if not most) British food is horrible… really horrible. It’s food made by poor people from less than great ingredients, typically over cooked under spiced and dull. It may have won us the British Empire… but it would get one star on Yelp on a good day. It is possible to do British staple dishes really well, with great ingredients and proper care Bangers and Mash or Fish and Chips can be killer… that’s what’s behind the current craze of “Gastro Pubs.” Unfortunately, done poorly Brit Grub just sucks… as did the Fare at Mr. Ramsay’s Caesars Palace joint.

To start with the bread was stale. I had the fish and chips with mushy peas; my darling wife had the “mixed grill”. The fish bore absolutely no resemblance to real Fish and Chips, and the mushy peas were simply green peas which had been pulsed in a blender for a couple of seconds… not remotely authentic. The mixed grill (to phrase it how Gordon himself might) was “F*@king atrocious”. The steak was perhaps passable (though over-cooked and served cold), the weird pork belly thing was a revolting gelatinous mess, and the lame lone shrimp was either horribly spiced or perhaps spoiled. The waitperson did her best, and when I pointed out the shortcoming she apologized but made no effort to resolve.

Mr. Ramsay, if you are going to use your brand and our heritage to foist over priced high concept but poorly executed crap to an unsuspecting world, would you at least take the “British” part out of your promotion to save us the national embarrassment.  There are a thousand chip shops or hole-in-the-wall cafes up and down our damp nation which wouldn’t dream of serving up the swill you deal out in Vegas. It is (by the way) entirely possible to do that kind of fare well in a Vegas context, Todd English proves that to be true every day of the week. If the menu at Caesars was ever decent, it is being betrayed by your team there… sort it out!

If this makes it to your hallowed halls, we ate on September 10th and our check number was 1884527.

Hop On The Local Carousel

Google restaurants in temecula ca

If you ever needed proof of the impact that the smart phone/tablet has had on all aspects of search, you need look no further than Google’s release today of the carousel implementation for local search on Google desktop results. These only come up for restaurants and bars (as far as I can tell so far) but the presentation is interesting. The carousel puts images and reviews into a slot above the results page, which can be slid in either direction. If you click on a selection from the carousel, Google rewrites the query to bring in all the results for that location. Google+ is clearly a big factor in getting onto the part of the carousel that appears on the front page. Having a Google+ account with lots of images and reviews seems to be the critical factor. Certainly if I were a local business and I hadn’t quite gotten round to adopting my Google+ profile, this would push me over the edge.

I have a couple of concerns with this presentation. Like many users, I’m very used to reading the snippet for the result, which typically contains the phone number and enough info to act on. This presentation requires that you click on the result to get that info. The problem is that when you do that, the query is rewritten so that all the detailed results are for just that one listing. If I wanted to look at the snippet info for a bunch of locations, I’d have to click on each one in turn… and it’s easy loose track in the process.

Another artifact of this approach is that it further escalates how critical it is to get on the front page (or in this case early carousel placement) to get anything from Google. It essentially creates a new elite… the first 8 in the carousel.  Getting into that elite group, and especially getting that click, turns the entire front page into results about just that one location. It doesn’t just feature the Google+ info prominently, it turns the entire results set into just that location; which is awesome if you are the lucky winner, but if not you are done. It will be fascinating to see the fallout from these changes.

Is Yahoo Loosing it?

I was at the Adtech show last week, meeting with the great and the good of the online advertising world, and it was to say the very least a very interesting few days. The largest single topic of discussion could be broadly characterized as “what’s up with Yahoo?” The current excitement comes from the changes we have all seen since their new fearless leader took charge. For the longest time, Yahoo and Google have pursued quite different search growth strategies. Google has focused on growing the Google.com brand, driving as much traffic to the mother ship whilst offering only the breadcrumbs of revenue represented by AdSense to the wider world. It is theoretically possible to get hold of a real Google search feed to offer to end users, but you have a stronger chance of being elected the next Pope after this new one than getting hold of one.

At the same time, Yahoo built a syndication network; where at one point, pretty much any site or tool with a pulse could offer Yahoo powered results to online searchers.  The results of the strategies speak for themselves… Google search giant… Yahoo not so much. Obviously that’s not the only thing that made the difference, but it was a factor. Yahoo, having taken the syndication route, did a pretty good job of doing that and in so doing spawned an entire industry of folk dedicated to offering Yahoo results to all comers getting chubby at the Yahoo buffet… then came regime change.

Marissa Mayer is a very smart cookie, and as an original Googler is no doubt used to the Google way. She shocked pundits early in her rein by down playing the importance of search in the future plans of Yahoo (search …smerch…who needs it!?), and supposedly spurred on by the denizens at Bing (who power Yahoo search), she has “set her cap” (I’m watching a lot of Game of Thrones right now so tend to lapse into old English on occasion) against syndication. High quality search traffic which used to score 8 all day long now scores 5 one day, then 7 the next, then 4.5, then nine. Clicks jump from 30 cents to 3, and back for no obvious reason. It’s not just us seeing this… all over AdTech sharp young men with shaved heads, and intense women with power purses were hurling themselves out of high windows or could be seen sobbing into their third Martini at lunch.

The net result of all this weirdness has to be that syndication revenues are cratering at Yahoo. That wouldn’t matter if they already had 68% of the market like Google has, but for a relatively distant third place which has relied on syndication for so many years, this change in strategy is a lot like the Republicans deciding that they don’t need the Old White Guy vote in favor of a rainbow TuTu… it’s cute… but the other guys already have that model and who is going to pay the bills? The hope in the conference was that someone would get bored or freaked out and things would return to normal… but if the new normal is this, the next AdTech San Fran may well be five guys outside the Starbucks at the Moscone center.

Targeting Twitter

Good news from Twitter today for those of us looking to reach potential customers where they hang out online. The explosive growth of social media in recent years should (in theory anyway) have been a Godsend to any advertiser looking to make a personal, and hopefully effective, connection. The problem is that despite all the hoopla and excitement, the verdict still seems to be out on social engagement as an effective medium. Today’s announcement from Twitter that it will allow advertisers, especially small businesses, to target by interest, gender and device represents another step in the right direction. The use case they point to is (for example) a golf products company who might want to target people who follow Tiger Woods.

It certainly seems like a good idea. My concern is that, as far as I can see so far anyway, it doesn’t allow for geo targeting which would be problematic for a bricks and mortar local business looking to drive foot traffic or a plumber looking for more clients in their service area. In our experience, a good majority of local businesses only want local clients… running a national campaign would be potentially wasteful. We have tested with social media multiple times, but for the kind of results we are looking for it simply doesn’t convert as well as search does by significant margins… orders of magnitude in some cases. Is it likely that this Twitter approach will work any better, only time will tell. There are some reasonably good stats out there, which indicate that for the kind of local and time sensitive clients we serve the more immediate level of Twitter engagement scores better than the more passive Facebook engagement.

Whether either will rise to anywhere near the level and target-ability of search remains to be seen. The complicating factor here is of course as always, mobile. As mobile usage continues to explode, the available real estate for any kind of advertising declines. Social media has sprinted to mobile devices; indeed so, that Facebook was caught so flat-footed with mobile contributed to their stock problems last year. All the signs are that end users are resistant to ads in their mobile social experience. They don’t mind it quite as much in search, as frequently the commercial result is the right answer to the question. It will be interesting to see if squeezing albeit targeted ads into the limited Twitter real estate on mobile devices will fly. We will certainly test it out and we will keep you posted.

“Twas the Blog Before Christmas”

It’s nearly that time…I don’t think I’ll be posting much over the break, so here’s what probably amounts to my final post for 2012. Looking back over close to 100 blogs throughout the year it’s striking (to me anyway) just how much happens in our space and how much that impacts the real world around us.

This year we have seen mobile usage and commerce explode worldwide but especially in the US. We typically lag the front runners by a year or two and this year mobile finally made it happen. Over all mobile search volume went from less than 10% to (by some reports) closer to 25% of traffic and it’s possible that mobile will outstrip desktop next year..a full year earlier than expected. At the same time local traffic grew dramatically. That’s perhaps not that surprising given the growth in mobile, but as the guys who have been saying that local is the next big thing I take a certain amount of satisfaction in the 30-50% local intent query numbers we are seeing.

2012 saw the reshaping of social after the debacle of the Facebook IPO. There is still a lot of opportunity in social and more recently there has been some encouraging data on how social may eventually monetize. What I find most intriguing is the idea of using social signals from the relatively few who do engage socially with a product or service to generate a profile of what a customer might look like then target that potential customer in volume through search and social media….it’s complicated and sometimes slightly creepy stuff.

In 2012 Google continued to rule supreme in spite of multiple assaults for “evil” behavior at home and abroad. As I type the FTC is wrapping up it’s investigation into Google and it looks like big G will skate unharmed on their home turf, they may yet have a tougher job convincing their tougher critics in the EU. I feels like almost every day there is some new announcement or development which makes out engagement with the real world as expressed through the virtual world of search and mobile deeper, richer and sometimes scarier.

The world we serve, that of driving new clients to huge numbers of local businesses through search and all kinds of new media has become both more exciting and much more complicated. Given the plethora of media the choose from (search, SEM,SEO, social, local display and mobile to name but a few) and the continued decline of traditional media it’s becoming almost impossible for the average SMB to navigate that complexity. We solve for that by using all those new media on a massive scale to drive the high quality leads the local businesses need. We spent much of 2012 developing the machines needed to make that happen reliably and at scale, 2013 will be the year that hits big.

On the grander scale our industry has enabled revolution and reform and has been attacked by tyrants around the world. We have created enormous amounts of new wealth (and destroyed quite a bit with Facebook). Search is becoming pervasive and in some ways invasive. The mobile device is becoming the prime way of engagement for many more activities and with recent developments in both Apple and Android location based commerce (L-Commerce) will likely become ubiquitous in 2013 changing our world yet again.

For my self, on Leap Day I married my last and final wife, saw my oldest son graduate college and working with our team of hard working, inspired and inspiring people we reshaped our business to lead the upcoming local revolution. I trust your year was equally happy and productive. I wish you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season….Merry Christmas to all…. and to all a good night.