March 27, 2015

Digital: Disruption or Opportunity for the Insurance Industry?

By Jill Linsenberg

For the insurance industry, disruption has arrived in the form of a category 4 storm. According to Ellen Carney of Forrester Research, insurance companies are being rocked by a combination of forces: rising expectations from increasingly sophisticated customers, the entrance of new competitors, and an explosion in available product options. For insurers and the agents who sell for them, it’s time to batten down the hatches and change course or risk near certain peril. And digital is key to change.

Forward thinking enterprise brands see these changes collectively as an amazing opportunity to go where their customers are and make digital a key component of the customer journey instead of viewing digital as another force of disruption. These changes in the industry are revealing new opportunities for brands to use digital technology to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape and scale efforts at the local level in partnership with the agents who sell for them.

And increasingly, local search is essential to acquiring and keeping customers along the journey. A well-formulated and executed local search program can help an enterprise brand with multiple locations achieve reach and scale quickly. Local search can help insurance brands not only level the playing field against new entrants but also build customer relationships effectively by sharing relevant content at key moments throughout the customer journey.

Photo credit:

In a recently published blog post, Ellen Carney says insurance companies cannot afford to take the “wait and see” approach with digital and must act now. She notes how digital is a double-edged sword, too. “Digital technology has done more than simply enable the insurance customer in 2015: Your customers and agents have been emboldened by the speed at which they can consume find information and share their experiences,” she writes. Note that even as digital makes customers more savvy, digital also creates an opportunity for agents to up their game.

What is your insurance brand doing to integrate a local/digital approach into the customer journey?

March 26, 2015

SIM Partners Joins Factual’s Trusted Data Contributor Program

By Gib Olander

You often hear local search described as an ecosystem of interrelated stakeholders and technologies, with the brand and consumer residing at the center. When one member of the ecosystem changes — such as when Google announces an algorithm update — the entire chain is affected. Today, SIM Partners received some recognition for helping our clients extend their reach across the local marketing ecosystem: we have been named an official partner for Factual’s Trusted Data Contributor Program.

Factual is a location platform that makes it possible for brands to harness global data to provide personalized and contextually relevant mobile experiences at the local level. (The company was recently cited as one of the hottest start-ups in Los Angeles, too.) SIM Partners works with Factual to disseminate customer data across the entire Factual network. Being a member of the Factual program means that Factual trusts SIM Partners to contribute, on our clients’ behalf, authoritative customer data. (The only other way a brand can provide data to Factual is via Factual’s own application programming interface.)

Distributing business data to the foundational layer of local search is a core component of a brand’s long-term successful local marketing strategy. Deepening our partnership with Factual makes sense for SIM Partners because Factual is already an important part of the local search ecosystem owing to the companies already using Factual data for local marketing.

Factual also does a great job of making data easily available to new and emerging local search or mobile app developers. Our partnership means that the next wave of great local search utilities that are launched will have access to our clients accurate, complete, and fresh business listing data as those emerging utilities gain users.

SIM Partners is one of 13 new partners in the program. As Factual noted, “This select number of partners provide high-quality data to Factual and equally excellent service to their customers. These organizations have a large number of SMBs and national brands under their belt, and we gladly help them disseminate their customer’s data with fidelity across our network.”

We are proud to strengthen our ties to the Factual ecosystem.

March 24, 2015

Twitter and Foursquare Partner to Add Geo-Specific Locations to Tweets

By Adam Dorfman

Location and context just became more important to brands. On March 23, Twitter disclosed a relationship with Foursquare to make it possible for people to add specific locations to their Tweets. In other words, you can give your tweets additional context by sharing your location (e.g., “Starbucks, 123 Mission Street. San Francisco”) along with your activity. The relationship underscores how important it is for brands to create personal, contextual relationships with customers at the local level — such as by offering location-specific offers targeted to Twitter users based on their location and activity.

Twitter users are already able to add cities or neighborhoods to their tweets. But as explained on the Twitter website, soon users will be able to add specific locations– such as restaurants, businesses, and retail stores. As Twitter notes, “You can choose to add a location to your Tweets using Twitter for Android, Twitter for iOS, or other mobile applications.” The mobile applicability is crucial: mobile searches are expected to surpass desktop searches in 2015, per eMarketer.

The Twitter/Foursquare relationship creates an opportunity for businesses (such as large enterprises with multiple locations) to create more location-relevant information, such as offers and recommendations. For instance, if you Tweet about the lunch you are having in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, the Banana Republic Twitter account that you follow just might want to let you know about a sale going on at the nearby Banana Republic in the Financial Center. But retailers are not the only brands that can benefit. For instance, a medical practice might share with you information about the doctors at its location depending on where you are and what you are doing.

The relationship is also a huge win for Foursquare because Foursquare extends its reach as a source of business data for third-party applications. Foursquare already supplies data to Uber and Pinterest to make those apps more locally relevant. Partnering with Twitter makes Foursquare a more influential player in local search.

For brands to succeed, they should consider carefully the importance of context. Brands that tweet offers willy-nilly based on someone’s location may alienate customers and prospects. Brands that take into account a person’s context — such as the time of day a tweet is shared, the actual content and tone of the tweet — will win by being relevant.

Photo Credit: TechCrunch 

March 17, 2015

A Local Search Roadmap for Enterprise Automotive Brands

By Kevin Hill

With more competition from major OEM companies and digitally savvy mom-and-pop shops, driving incremental leads to multi-location automotive service, parts, and repair brands is becoming increasingly difficult. However, changes in the marketplace are fueling new opportunities for enterprise brands that have a solid local search strategy in place to drive visibility and engagement at scale across hundreds or even thousands of locations.

More Competition, Better Service

Read more »

March 13, 2015

SMX West Recap: The Evolution of Google SERPs Continues…

By Julie Piatek

Last week Adam Dorfman, senior vice president of product and technology, attended SMX West, and gleaned some great insights regarding the future of search. His key takeaway: Google SERPs are continuing to evolve in ways that feel small today, but will feel big tomorrow.

Check out his Search Engine Land article that highlights his three takeaways from SMX West 2015 on the changing Google SERP and what it means to your brand.

What are your predictions for what’s to come for Google SERPs?

Why the Apple Watch Matters to Local Search

By Jay Hawkinson

Will your business be easily found or discovered by wearers of the Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch is more than Apple’s first new consumer product in years. With its rich functionality and feature set, the Apple Watch creates an even stronger need for businesses to a local presence, too. More than 75 percent of local-mobile searches on a smartphone result in a purchase, and 56 percent of “on-the-go” searches have a local intent. The Apple Watch, as a natural extension of the iPhone, will help increase the level of this type of local search behavior. Now more than ever, businesses need to cleanse and organize their local data to be visible where and when their customers are looking for them, especially on the go, when visibility matters the most.

Photo Credit: Business Insider 

Read more »

March 5, 2015

A Better Way to Measure Converged Media

By Jon Schepke

A Better Way to Measure Converged Media

“If you build it, they will come” is a poor philosophy for managing local search. To gain visibility at scale, marketers need to complement the local content they create on their own spaces with a strong paid and earned media strategy. An effective paid, earned, and owned strategy will drive traffic to your local listings and help you create customers with compelling content. My latest Search Engine Watch column discusses how a converged media strategy also results in an improved bended cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquisition (CPA) across paid, earned, and owned media. My column provides more insight into how blended CPL and CPA are a more effective metric for assessing the value of converged media. What metrics do you use? We’d love to talk with you to compare notes.

March 4, 2015

Road Trip: Gas Station Locations Along Google and Apple Maps Routes

By Kevin Hill

Daydreaming of a weekend or summer road trip? Google and Apple might be making filling up “on-the-go” easier by showing nearby gas stations along your route.

As recently reported by Engadget, “Numerous drivers have noticed that Google Now is showing a ‘gas stations on your route’ card that highlights fill-ups based on the direction you’re driving.” The Google card shows the name of the gas station, its distance from the driver, and how to get there. While drivers don’t have to have a destination plugged into their maps for the stations to appear, many people have already seen this card appear while they were driving; meaning, that Google could be predicting routes and where people are going.

Road Trip: Gas Station Locations Along Google and Apple Maps Routes

Photo Credit: Engadget  Read more »

March 3, 2015

SMX West 2015: Deconstructing Pigeon, Google’s Local Search Algorithm

By Ashley Sandal

In July of 2014, Google released the Pigeon algorithm. While it was designed to provide more useful, accurate and relevant local search results to Google’s users, many multi-location brands were affected.

Deconstruct what the Pigeon update means to your multi-location brand with Adam Dorfman, senior vice president of product and technology, during a panel session this week at SMX West:

“Deconstructing Pigeon, Google’s Local Search Algorithm”

Google’s Pigeon algorithm is designed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. The core changes are behind the scenes, but do impact local search results rankings. If your business has been affected, what should you do?

The session will be moderated by Matt McGee, Editor in Chief, Search Engine Land & Marketing Land. Adam (@phixed) will be joined by co-panelists Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide) of Local SEO Guide, and Greg Gifford (@GregGiford) of AutoRevo.

Session details are below, along with a link to the full SMX West 2015 agenda. If you are not able to attend SMX West this year, be sure to follow the hashtag #smx on Twitter, as well as these three panelists for live updates, statistics, and more.

“Deconstructing Pigeon, Google’s Local Search Algorithm”
Wednesday, March 4th
1:30p – 2:45p
Click here to view to full agenda

February 27, 2015

Creating Intuitive UI: An evening with UXPA Chicago and Everett McKay

By Tricia LoPiccolo

Tuesday evening, SIM Partners hosted a MeetUp for the User Experience Professionals Organization (UXPA) Chicago chapter. Everett McKay, author of UI Is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication, presented a wealth of material to over 80 Chicago-area user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) professionals. I wanted to touch on just one of the many points I found particularly interesting — creating “intuitive UI.”

One of the top goals for any UX project is to have an “intuitive UI.” As UX professionals, we strive to achieve this goal. McKay began his talk by saying, “describing a UI as intuitive is among the highest praise users can bestow.” He challenged that if we were to actually ask our clients what their interpretation of “intuitive” is, we would get answers ranging from “it just is” to “it just works” to “it’s simpler,” but would find no actual clear or consistent definition. (I have to admit as a long-time UX professional, I was having trouble coming up with words to describe “intuitive” myself.)

McKay posed his own dictionary definition of “intuitive UI” as this:

“UI is intuitive when users understand its behavior and effect without use of reason, experimentation, assistance, or special training.”

He went on to say “intuitive UI” should include an appropriate combination of the following:

  • Affordance: The UI provides visual clues that indicate what it is going to do. Users don’t have to experiment or deduce the interaction. Affordances are based on real-world experiences or standard UI conventions.

  • Expectation: The UI delivers expected and predictable results with no surprises. User expectations are based on labels, real-world experiences, or standard UI conventions.

  • Efficiency: The UI enables users to perform actions with minimal effort. If the intention is clear, the UI delivers the expected results the first time so that users don’t have to repeat the action (perhaps with variations) to get what they want.

  • Responsiveness: The UI gives clear, immediate feedback to indicate an action is taking place, and was either successful or unsuccessful.

  • Forgiveness: If users make a mistake they need the ability to fix or undo the action with ease.

  • Explorability: Users can navigate throughout the UI without fear of penalty or unintended consequences, without getting lost.

As a UX/UI professional, I was inspired by McKay’s presentation as well as the discussion among the group. I walked away thinking a bit differently about UI and expect other attendees did as well. Thanks to the UXPA Chicago and the People Foundry for the opportunity to co-host the event, as well as to Everett McKay and all those who attended.

Here’s a link to the photos from the event.