N.B. This is the second in a two-part series of predictions for 2017. Read Part I here.

As you know from Part I of this year’s predictions, I’m a little bearish on search as a universally successful, universally cost-effective marketing channel moving forward.  Here are some thoughts on what we might see in adjacent markets in 2017.

Spectacles will be an even bigger hit than Google Home and Amazon Echo and will be the #1 selling holiday item of 2017. They’re the first piece of technology I’ve seen in a long time that actually has the chance to increase connections between parents and kids rather than create a barrier. My guess is that Snap does a deal with a major gaming company (possibly Niantic Labs itself) to release something like Pokemon Go before the end of the year also.

Facebook’s been more successful than any previous technology company at activating SMBs and tapping into their budgets. Most of them are not full-time marketers, though, and the time-suck of Messenger as a 1:1 communications channel is going to be too great.

There have been a lot of entrants to this space over the last seven years, and many of them aren’t actually doing reputation management, but reputation monitoring. Margins are dropping as a result of the competition, and demand is nowhere near what vendors think it is.  There are still plenty of vertical opportunities, but my guess is that less profitable players will merge, acquire, or be acquired by faster-growing ones.

The excellent Camilyo/LSA whitepaper from earlier this year laid bare the missed opportunities of retention and conversion marketing among many SMBs. While I’m not convinced most SMBs have the time or desire to engage with full-featured CRM tools, automated segmentation of customer lists is a major product opportunity. I suspect we’ll see companies targeting “mass-market” accounting software like Quickbooks Online and Freshbooks with integrations along these lines.

I first came across Litmus as a result of Justine Jordan’s excellent presentation at MozCon Local earlier this year. After following them for the rest of 2016, I’m convinced Litmus is THE player to know in the mid-market/enterprise email marketing space. Their partnership with Outlook was a pretty big deal and I expect to see another similarly-sized partnership this year.

11 comments on “2017 Local Marketing Predictions: Part II, Beyond Search

  • Hi David, having just read both parts of your stunning article on the state of local SEO, as well as Andrew Shotland’s piece today commenting on your predictions, I am blown away . . . Like that, the pursuit of organic links for website pages goes poof, the main business objective anyone in the SEO business has strived for over many years.

    And I am sitting here thinking how on earth to explain what has happened to a group of local business owners in a seminar setting, again with the core ‘website first’ mentality being overtaken. I have been a videos-first proponent for the past few years on a local business’s site and social pages, so that’s one thing in hand, but the rest?

    And Google? “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”, 1 Timothy 6:10. My heart used to leap when I saw the fresh minds of early Google stating, “Don’t be evil.” Well when you’re a senior executive at any business and you are not moving the money meter up, you won’t be there long . . . Thx for this powerful information and best wishes. Tim

    • Hey Tim,
      Thanks for stopping by. I wouldn’t say that the pursuit of organic links will go away, but the returns will start to diminish and make both agencies and clients question whether that’s what they should be investing in (which, to be fair, is what Google has been expounding for years).

      I would also say that ‘website first’ is still a reasonably good mental model. Whether it’s Google or Apple, the website is still going to show up #1 for searchers looking for a specific business, and you definitely want to convert those visitors with a good experience.

      All the best for 2017!

  • Hi David,

    I wouldn’t give up on FB’s SMB products too soon. They copy what works for other apps and then iterate very quickly and very well and of course have the leverage of the massive user base already on the platform.

    I so hope you are right about SMB customer segmentation and especially about integrating with the accounting software because all we have at the moment is segmentation for bloggers that has to be adapted – and that is a pain.

    At times like these, I wish I was an Engineer!

    • Not giving up on FB’s SMB products at all. As I said, I think their SMB products have by and large been wildly successful so far. It’s just that business messaging won’t take off the way Facebook wants it to because it’s a channel that has to be constantly monitored.

      • What are your thoughts on the push for bots and AI in this space? Legitimate opportunity, or flash that won’t have enough substance to actually meet consumers’ unique demands in a 1:1 messaging space?

        • For now, a flash. It’s possible they get good enough to answer super-FAQs like “are you open,” “do you have a table available for 4 at 7pm,” etc. But right now too immature to take seriously. Possibly in 2018.

  • Hey David

    There has been so much focus on the spam fighting algorithm components over the last four or so years that folks have missed the real war on organic – ads and page layout.

    I completely agree that the value of organic, particularly for local businesses will plummet – even when rank trackers report no change. Equally, the wins over the next few years will be in smart, multi channel campaigns that blend paid, organic, social, email, lead gen etc. The real trick though is developing exactly the right mix for each business without breaking the bank for budget challenged small businesses. Understanding the customer journey is critical to developing that plan.

    Small businesses won’t be able to live of just a strong local presence any longer. It will need more of a mix of tactics. So, for the agencies that adapt and understand these other channels and can design and implement these multi channel programs there is a greater opportunity than ever.

    It will be an interesting year. 🙂


  • Interesting points, David! Good take on SNAPCHAT. What I’ve seen is lack of understanding of SMB owners using the apps. There’s a lack of connection. They don’t use many of the platforms so they don’t see the relevance. They’re busy doing their work and when they’re done, they…are…done! Last thing they want to do is go online for anything. So, there’s a huge disconnect, but fortunately haven’t needed it.

    Re Reputation Management, I agree. For the most part, providers have devolved into monitoring. Like anything, those who don’t adapt shall perish. Those who see segments of need never have a problem.

    Great stuff, love your posts!


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