UX Designer at a Marketing Conference — Four Learnings from Localogy NYC 2018

It was an intimate conference held at Yelp’s office in NYC

We had the opportunity to send a representative from my company, ExpandTheRoom to Localogy, a one day conference centered on local marketing hosted by Yelp in NYC, so I decided to go. My relationship with marketing previously had been a few semesters of classes towards a minor that I later gave up on because I’m a creative, not a marketer. But when you’re out of college and working, marketing becomes a bit more interesting. It is vital for a business, vital for users to know you even exist, and I wanted the know-how on how to help ETR, as well as our clients, succeed in this world.

And I learned a ton. The event was filled with interesting topics and speakers from top companies, I found myself furiously typing notes and on the lookout for an outlet should I need to charge my laptop, I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I think it’s very valuable for a UX designer to understand the marketing end of things because our “users” often include our clients. A lesser talked about soft skill of UX is the ability to compromise, our job is about finding the best balance between user and business needs.

I’d like to share a few things that I learned at Localogy. A couple things to note: 1) I’m a UX designer, not a marketer, so some of these ideas might seem obvious to some but they were really eye opening to me, and 2) This event was about local marketing for brick and mortar businesses and businesses that serve a particular area, so keep that context in mind.

The presenters at the event were:

Christina Miazgowicz, Seer Interactive

Russ Jones, Moz, Principal Search Scientist

Drew Canniff and Darnell Holloway, Yelp

Phillip Rather, Head of Local, Facebook

Emi Wayner, Google

Meenakshi Kapil, Senior Manager, WordStream

Jamie Boardman, Partnerships Manager, Mailchimp

Sana Khan, Microsoft

1. Taking Advantage of Location Based Searching

Have you ever searched for “food near me”, or something similar? I bet you have, and so do a lot of other internet users. Turns out as I learned from Christina Miazgowicz’s talk, there are tools out there, like Stat Search Analytics and Places Scout that can give you valuable location based data on your business and the area you operate in, such as regional search terms, the average distance of the searcher from your business, and the types of pages that attract customers. You can even use the data to determine gaps in the market. If you or your client owns a burger joint, you can easily generate data visualizations that show where people are searching for burgers locally versus where you or your competitors are. A lot of searches in an area and no burger joints = time to consider expanding there. It’s crazy simple but something I didn’t realize you could get the data for.

Google Trends results for searches containing “near me” in the past 5 years

So once your business does show up on that “near me” search, what are users going to see? Before attending, I had no idea what “Google My Business” was, but now I see how important it can be for businesses. You’ve most likely seen the product of GMB before, it’s that large panel that appears on Google Search and Maps when you search for a business. It’s basically a free, giant advertisement for your business that dominates the search results page.

An unclaimed listing vs a claimed listing — the latter provides a much better experience

Claiming your GMB panel and filling in the right information is an easy way to provide searchers with the information they need and cultivate trust and authority for your business. It’s an easy win to claim this listing and add all the relevant information you can — hours, description, menus, photos, etc. All of it will give the user more context and provide them a better experience after only just learning you exist.

2. Reviews help your business — even the bad ones

93% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad (source) so they are obviously really, really important. Just as I asked above if you have made “near me” searches, I’m sure you’ve paid attention to reviews before making a purchase or deciding to visit a business. At Localogy, I learned some Do’s and Don’ts about online reviews that weren’t obvious to me.

Create Content from Reviews and Questions

If customers repeatedly call out something about your business in reviews, or ask the same questions, there’s a good opportunity for useful site content. Make sure new users know that your food is extremely Instagram-worthy , or add the answers to questions that keep coming up.

Respond to Reviews and Make Negatives Positive

I learned that responding to reviews can have a big impact on a business’s perceived trustworthiness and reliability. Responding to both positive and negative reviews can help a customer feel heard, especially with the negative. Often, a customer may revise a negative review if someone from the business responds politely and attempts to fix the problem. For other customers, seeing a response to a negative review shows good customer support and a willingness to improve. The presenter, name, from Yelp, cautioned the importance of taking the high road, and while you can respond to complaints or inaccuracies in public, handle the angry rant messages with a private message if possible.

Courtesy of Yelp, an example of a rant review turned around for the better

It’s actually illegal to incentivize reviews without disclosing it

The Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on endorsement regulations in the US. Apparently, in recent years, 79% of consumers have read a fake review, and 84% can’t always spot them (source). Not that incentivized reviews are fake necessarily, but there is outside influence that might sway the credibility of a review. An incentivized review is basically a review of a product or service given in exchange for something of value, whether the product itself, a discount, or otherwise. They are allowed, but only if the review explicitly states that an incentive was given for the review, even if the review is allowed to be negative.

3. Creating useful, SEO friendly content for a business with multiple locations

For medium size businesses that have multiple locations, SEO can start to become a little more difficult. You want to rank for those “near me” searches, but creating a page for all locations or a carbon copy page for each location doesn’t do well.

Russ Jones from Moz had a brilliant solution for this, “data driven local pages”. Local brick and mortar stores with one location do best on searches because the page they want to drive traffic to is their homepage, which is more likely to have unique content and more backlinks. Local pages are pages created for specific locations. Jones believes that in order to be successful, a local page must to relevant and useful, be linked to, and have unique content. When a business has tens if not hundreds of locations, how can this be done without copy and pasting the same content edited only slightly (a bad SEO technique)?

Jones suggests Natural Language Generation, which is essentially generating content automatically that feels natural and human, kind of like the Google Assistant making phone calls for you. Well, maybe a little less advanced for now.

The key to this is to stay organized in some sort of spreadsheet, and get researching. Find out the key terms that are searched for in the regions your business operates in, and brainstorm unique content ideas that provide value. Jones gives the example of a car tire company. If it’s winter time, the content could be centered on the weather and any winter advisories that would warrant the purchase of snow tires. Before getting to the sales pitch of “Buy our snow tires!!” The page provides useful information about the weather and why snow tires are needed.

Slide courtesy of Moz, showing a content fragment from a local page, with arrows pointing to the programmatic elements

This content can be automatically generated by connecting the page to a relevant API, which gets it updated and fresh, another marker of good SEO. If two pages are close enough that they might be pulling similar API data, it’s important to differentiate the pages in other ways — maybe one page includes a feature that another doesn’t. Lastly, be sure to proofread the robots’ work. Automated text, chatbots, and the like have gotten better, but they’re still no substitute for the human mind.

Speaking of robot takeover…

4. Smarter Marketing Through Automation and AI

Automation and AI are making things a lot smarter, personal, and accurate in the marketing world.

Jamie Boardman from Mailchimp talked about email automation, and getting the right content, to the right person, at the right place and right time. I’ve heard that sentiment a few times before, referring to content strategy. It’s true that this intelligent placement of content, anticipating when a user will need something, is a cornerstone of successful automation and AI.

Jamie’s talk specifically talked about email automation — automatically send emails, or even physical postcards, after a certain trigger — new sign up, cart abandonment, a birthday, etc. However, I think there’s room for a lot of other marketing and design work to be automated in a way that saves time, money, and allows us to move on to more interesting problems.

Google Ads are getting more intelligent, too. Responsive ads are taking away the guesswork and meticulous analysis of discovering which ads perform best for a business. Instead of manually A/B testing multiple ads to determine which ones converts best, with Responsive ads, you can add up to 15 headline snippets and 4 descriptions, and Google will mix, match, and test to find which combo works best. Google has seen up to a 15% click through rate increase compared to regular ads, with less work from you to boot!

I’ve always believed that a breadth of knowledge in many disciplines makes you a more well rounded and experienced person, so I’m glad to have learned more about local marketing tactics at Localogy. Thanks for reading, check out the organization that put in this event, The Local Search Association to learn more about the events they put on, and ExpandTheRoom if you’re interested in partnering with us to up your marketing game.