For my latest interview I had a chat with Brian Combs, owner of ionadas local in Austin, Texas.
WR: What is ionadas local all about?
BC: ionadas local is a search marketing and social media firm dedicated to helping local business owners promote their products and services. Our primary specialty is optimization for Google Maps listings. If you were to search for “Austin coffee shops,” for example, there might be 7 items that pop up next to the map at the top of the search results page. I help customers get found in those listings by helping them use the right keywords.
WR: How important is geography in getting your business found on the Web?
BC: It’s critically important in relation to certain keywords. About a year and half ago I was called in to help a client in the travel industry. That company was experiencing a 20% drop in Google-based traffic and about a 25% drop in sales from Google. Meanwhile, all of their ranking tools indicated that everything was fine, that they were still ranking second for this keyword or third for that keyword over the past month. We discovered that for a very large proportion of their keywords, Google was now returning the map listing. Because of the size of the map image, their listing was now being displayed “below the fold,” meaning that people wouldn’t even see it without scrolling down. This was causing a substantial drop in their search effectiveness and a disproportionately big drop in sales.
WR: So, is now the time for local companies to get onboard with Google Maps optimization to make sure they’re seen at the top of that results page?
BC: Yes. Eventually Google Maps may lose some of its value if it becomes overrun and overused, but at the moment it’s relatively unburdened by the big lead aggregators, the companies that buy leads and then sell them off — for example, Lending Tree distributes mortgage information to 3 or 4 companies. These lead aggregators have a financial advantage over an individual mortgage company that can only capture the value of that lead one time. But with Google Maps you have to have an actual physical address to get a listing, and that extra detail has kept the lead aggregators from dominating in that arena. So it’s the good old-fashioned local companies that are coming up on those queries.
WR: Tell me about your company’s setup and training services for businesses who want to manage their own social media and online marketing campaigns.
BC: Well, it makes more financial sense for these businesses to run their own search and social media marketing than to outsource it. We teach them how to fish, rather than doing the fishing for them. Also, I believe a lot of the value of social media comes from the interface between the company and its prospective customers. You can’t really outsource that direct dialogue, you have to conduct it yourself. We come up with strategic plans and train our clients on how to implement those plans.
Social media for business is very different from just chatting with your friends online — it has a lot of value as a marketing tool, but only if you take it seriously and engage the right people to come up with the right plan.