I hope that you’ve all been enjoying my blog interview series, thus far. I know that I have! I truly feel honored to have the opportunity to speak to the best of the best about industry related topics that are near and dear to my geeky, internet marketing loving heart. In the next three weeks, leading up to our upcoming webinar entitled “Go Local or Go Home” which will be given on July 15th by our very own Sarah Moraes and Jason Hendricks. I will be speaking to experts of the Local Search realm. As always, I plan to kick it off with a bang.
Therefore, this week I spoke to Mat Siltala the owner of the well known SEO firm Dream Systems Media. He is also an avid SEO blogger and has been heavily involved in the Internet marketing world for several years. He has consulted with thousands of companies around the world. It’s easy to see that Matt simply loves what he does for a living, which makes us kindred spirits.
Elise Redlin-Cook: There are many local search sites out there. Do you see the market continuing to grow, or narrowing down to a few key players?
Mat Siltala: As more people switch to “app phones” I think we are going to only see more and more of “geo specific” type apps/websites/business emerge. However; that does not mean all of them are going to survive. Right now the obvious front runner in local is Yelp (and that is because of their app), and with them adding badges, regular programs and additional features to compete with location based gaming sites such as Foursquare they will just continue to gain in popularity. There is a growing group of people out there that hate Yelp, so there will always be room for others, but I don’t see them being over taken anytime soon.
Other major players would include sites like City Search, Foursquare, Groupon, GoWalla. Watch for coupon based sites like Groupon to get bigger and stronger too in the future. I would also suggest keeping an eye out for companies that are creating services that compliment these sites I mention above – an example would be Snacksquare that goes hand in hand with what Foursquare is doing with their advertising program. As everyone in this industry knows, things change rapidly – I bet MySpace would not have thought in a few short years they would be the laughing stock of social media. With that said, my guess is Yelp, Foursquare & Groupon will be the big winners for the next couple of years.
Elise: That’s an interesting prediction. So, in your opinion, what currently are the best free local search sites today?
Mat: Google Places, Yahoo & Bing Local, Yelp, CitySearch, Groupon & Foursquare
Elise: Great, and how about the paid local search sites – which do you prefer?
Mat: If you are going to pay for any local service, I would pay into a site like GetListed.org that makes sure you are on the top ones. Yelp is free, but they do have an advertising option that has brought many results to my clients too, and well worth looking into. Angies list is growing some awesome momentum too – I kind of feel like they are the paid version of what most people who love Yelp wish it were.
Elise: What about businesses with multiple locations?
Mat: Most all of these services allow you to do batch uploads that make it easy.
Elise: I know that Merchant Circle allows you to add coupons, reviews, blog posts, etc. Will the other local search sites continue to adopt this trend of allowing more user generated content?
Mat: The dominate player in this group is Groupon, but with the things that Yelp is doing lately (as well as places like Foursquare) I see most location based services to be adding these kind of features and the main part of their programs in the future. This is going to end up being big in the future of local.
Elise: Is it more important to be listed on niche sites that are specific to your industry, or the big sites with lots of traffic?
Mat: I think both – especially if you live in a bigger city where some of the more niche sites exist. I am an SEO by nature and only look at is as more citations, more links, more traffic etc. So I am going to suggest getting everywhere you can!
Elise: What local search sites MUST a business be listed with today?
If you are not listed with Google you are dead in the water (according to Google) If you do not have an app you are dead in the water (according to Steve Jobs) SO it depends on who you ask, but I would do everything to get my site listed in normal search sites as well as those sites who have apps.
Elise: Do you see value in the paid listings versus the free listings?
Mat: If you are good with ad copy and conversions then YES, there is always value in paid listings, but to just chose one or the other I think is a mistake. You have to evaluate the bottom line and what it means for your business.
Elise: There are mass distribution sites that blast your listing out to various search sites. Are there any that you’d recommend or that you’d recommend staying away from?
Mat: None that I would recommend here 🙂
Elise: That’s probably a good answer. 🙂 Well then, Lets get a little personal. Do you have any exciting projects that your involved in right now?
Mat: About the only thing I have time for right now is growing my companies and doing everything I can to get our name “out” there in the real world! I guess its not completely honest to say we don’t have any “big” things going on, but nothing we can really talk about right now (how is that for a teaser?)
Elise: I know what you mean. If only there was more time in the day! So, are you driven by any great passions outside of the business arena?
Mat: I love the NFL, Apple & gadgets, but my first passion is my family and spending time with them. I love the opportunity this industry gives me to be able to spend as much time as possible with them and for that, I am very grateful!
I think I’d second just about everything that Mat had to say here. How about you?