2018 Local Marketing Year in Review

Reviewing My 2018 Predictions

Despite annual protestations from my friend Will Scott that I shouldn’t be allowed to grade my own predictions, I’m going to continue my tradition of summarizing the major developments of the past year in the context of what I thought would happen a year ago.

For more on the important developments of 2018, and where we might be headed in 2019, join our free Local U webinar on Thursday, December 13!


SPOT ON

“Ads & Knowledge Panels”

The trend of “zero-click searches” continued apace in 2018, with better than 60% of mobile searches (which of course have a higher local¬† propensity) yielding no clicks to a website. The number of Local Pack results has even jumped relative to its already-significant level.

When searchers DO click, organic results now receive an outright minority of those clicks in SERPs where Local Service Ads are present — oh by the way, these are now present in more and more industries and locales.

Reserve with Google in even more industries

The trend towards a fully-transactional local SERP is accelerating as Google expanded its list of partners and moved the “book” button to the primary SERP.

Maps becomes a new frontier of monetization for Google

We’ve seen Google ramp up its local ad programs to the point that 35% of local packs now contain ads and even for searches as critical as emergency room. Just like Facebook, if Google is going to continue to keep Wall Street happy they’re going to have to find more inventory to grow revenue.

Amazon makes a major SMB push

Amazon’s release of storefronts was dramatically under-reported in the tech media IMO — multiple merchants in Portland have mentioned to me that Amazon reached out to them in the last 12 months — though as usual Greg Sterling did his best to highlight it.

Given Amazon’s dominant position as a product search channel, if I were Google I’d be pretty worried that Amazon and Facebook/Instagram will capture more and more small-ecommerce mindshare and advertising dollars — particularly since Product Listing Ads are so (relatively) complicated to set up.

The beginning of the end of Yelp

The chickens began to come home to roost on Yelp’s Q3 earnings call. Yelp’s stock is now down over 60% from its February 2014 position. For comparison, GOOG is up almost 80% over the same timeframe.

GMB slows down a bit

I don’t think 2018 will be remembered for major feature releases the way 2017 was.

Most major new features around local Knowledge Panels Business Profiles this year were already part of GMB, or not actually part of GMB (think the new “follow” buttons, tabbed interfaces surfacing existing GMB content, Reserve integrations, hotel filters).

The team put a lot of work into its Agency Dashboard and upgraded APIs. In terms of GMB-specific features, the most relevant seem to be around local product inventory.

My sense is that Google’s going to continue to push businesses to engage with the existing features they’ve already built in GMB in 2019 (Posts, videos, menus/products in particular) as opposed to releasing them at the same pace they did a year ago.

(I do see one area that feels like it’s ripe for a significant feature push — more on that in my 2019 predictions).


RIGHT IN SPIRIT BUT WRONG IN OUTCOME

Twitter’s “Promote Mode” product is a complete and utter failure

Despite less-than-positive experiences across the board, Twitter’s still trying to force this product on unsophisticated advertisers, so it’s hard to characterize the product as a “complete” failure. I continue to suspect it’ll be discontinued & replaced by something better in 2019.

Amazon maintains at least a 40-point voice device lead over Google

With around 37.5 million Echo devices in the US today, Amazon still holds a substantial lead on Google, but it’s probably not 40 points any longer.

Google’s 2017 holiday push was impressive, and while Amazon is still selling more devices, the landscape looks much more competitive than it did a year ago.


SWING-AND-A-MISS

Etsy makes positive headlines with major partnership or as an acquisition

I wouldn’t characterize this acquisition as major, and frankly there still seems to be a lot of executive turnover — not an ideal environment to execute partnerships or acquisitions under.¬† The small-merchant exodus continued when Etsy raised its fees mid-year.

Google actually fights back against fake reviews

Yes, Google did institute a policy against review gating this year, but we’re still seeing loads of easily-detected fake reviews with very little pushback.

Facebook discontinues broadcast Messenger ads by the end of 2018

Uh, nope. Still alive and well.


Disclosure: I own a tiny number of public shares of Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.



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