247: The SEO Effect within Listings, with Jonathan Best

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Listings aren’t just names, addresses, and phone numbers anymore. They now have a SEO effect.

Jonathan Best, Uberall’s new Chief Revenue Officer, is our guest this week on the Conquer Local Podcast. Our audience can’t get enough insight into how to sell the value of consistent listing data for a local business. Jonathan explains that Listings now need to include voice search capability and how that is impacting things like how it integrates into online reputation. The standard “Can I find you?” is now very closely matched with, “Can I trust you?”

Jonathan Best is responsible for all revenue generating functions of the location marketing leader. Prior to Uberall, he was Senior Vice President and General Manager for Europe and Africa at Kony Inc. Earlier in his career, Jonathan served in various sales leadership roles at SAP, Oracle and a range of startups.



George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith, your host, and I just don’t think that we can get enough insight into selling the value of consistent listing data for local business. Because this space isn’t just name, address, phone number anymore. It’s now basically your content, it’s voice search and how that’s impacting things, and then it all marries into online reputation. Can I find you is now very closely matched up with, can I trust you? So we’re going to get some more insights into this space from the new Chief Revenue Officer at Uberall. Jonathan Best is our guest, and he’s coming up next all about local listing data on the Conquer Local podcast.


George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local podcast, and joining us on the line, the Chief Revenue Officer for Uberall, Jonathan Best. Hello Jonathan. How are you doing today?


Jonathan: Hey George, doing great. Thank you. How are you?


George: I’m fantastic. I’m excited to have you on the show. I’m actually going to be in your offices here in a couple of weeks when I travel to Berlin, so I was pumped to get you on the line. But Uberall, head office in Berlin, but you’re all over the world.


Jonathan: Oh, we are all over the world. I’m in London today, but I’m often in Berlin, San Francisco, New York, Cape Town, South Africa, Paris, and London as well. So yeah, we’re pretty well spread, and we’re growing rapidly, and opening new offices all the time. So …


George: Good. Well, you live the life that I live. Planes and Hilton hotels. Let’s dig into Uberall. Give us the elevator pitch on Uberall, who you are, and what your organization does.


Jonathan: Well, the first thing that people typically ask me when we say the name Uberall is that you guys, some part of Uber, which is the first piece that we have to dispel. We’re not. Uberall actually means everywhere in German, is the closest translation. And it’s a pretty apt title given that what we’re trying to do is help local businesses get found everywhere online. So that’s the genesis, the title.


Jonathan: We’ve got a pretty interesting background. We’re a seven-year-old company. We were started in Berlin, as you said, by … actually by two friends who met in grade school, and said, as far back as that, that they were going to start a business together someday. And 20, 30 years later they actually got around to wanting to do that and set up in Berlin together to start a business. And of course, being in an interesting city, trying to figure out how to start a business, the thing that they did a lot was go sit in bars, and drink beer, and try and come up with the inspiration or idea for a business.


Jonathan: And one of the problems in Berlin that you may know because I know you’ve spent some time here is there’s so many cool bars. They’re opening all the time. But actually keeping up with them, and finding which are the new cool ones to try and go to is quite difficult.


Jonathan: And back in 2012, when I found … as David and Florian were trying to come up with their business concept, they decided that that was a pretty neat problem to try and solve. 2012, when Apple Maps was just getting started to challenge Google Maps, Foursquare was starting to get a lot of traction. So there were plenty of platforms that you could go to and look to find new, interesting places. But the content of the places that was listed on those platforms was pretty crappy. So that’s the problem that we set up the company to solve. And seven years later, we’re one of the major global players in that. And we work with a lot of small SMBs. So those individual bars now get themselves found online using our services. And we also work with some huge enterprises, like McDonald’s and KFC, Shell, BP, who’ve obviously got hundreds and thousands of brick and mortar locations that they need to get found online, and we help them do that.


Jonathan: So we started in Europe where we’ve still got most of our operations. But we operate and sell globally around the world now.


Accurate Listings = More Opportunities for Success

George: So Jonathan, I want to really dig into listings because our audience, the salespeople that listen to the Conquer Local podcast, as part of that local marketing stack, we all know that listings are a very important piece of the puzzle. But it’s often difficult to explain the value to a local businessperson on why they need to be doing this, and why they need to constantly pay attention to make sure that that data is correct. Can we talk a little bit about the impact on a local business by getting this information correct? And then, what are some of the common problems with maintaining that correct data?


Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, sure. You’re alluding to the kind of SEO effect, and that’s definitely one of the big reasons that people are trying to invest in these technologies today. But actually, there’s … when we focus on SEO, and I’ll talk about that a bit in a minute, people often overlook some of the even more foundational, kind of fundamental challenges that people have with this plethora of online publishers that they want to get listed in.


Jonathan: And the first one is that one that I just talked about. There’s a ton of platforms now that are out there. People are looking for local businesses and services across a range of platforms. Definitely Google, but Yelp, or the local Yellow Page directory. If you’re looking for a restaurant or a hotel, you might be checking things like TripAdvisor. A lot of local cities and regions have got pretty decent directories that people search for businesses in. Folk want to have their businesses advertised on Facebook and Instagram because we know that there’s a ton of people that are on those platforms.


Jonathan: So the first question for a local business is, if you want to be found online, you’ve got to be on all of those directories. And the fundamental problem, if you’re the guy that’s running the bar, or the restaurant, or the dental surgery, or whatever it may be is, your business is about doing something that isn’t listing your business all over the place and ensuring that you’ve got great, consistent data. None of these directories make it super easy for small businesses to do that. They all have their own ways of collecting data and harmonizing it. They all ask you for different things in different formats.


Jonathan: So fundamentally, if you’re sales folk, you’re listening to the podcast and talking to small local businesses, the easy way to start the conversation is to ask that business what kind of platforms, publishers they actually can be found on. And if they are well represented across a bunch of different people, then typically that’s because they’re spending a lot of time and effort doing that. And listing solutions like ours really reduce that manual effort.


Jonathan: Or if they’re not, then you can get into a conversation really quickly about how much business may you be losing if folk don’t find you on the relevant platform or directory that they’re looking in.


Simplify Listing Maintenance and Save Time with Listings Solutions

George: I want to jump in on that because I think you hit on something that was really important for reps. Because I have people, when I’m out training salespeople, they’re saying to me, “Well, if they’ve got good listings, they don’t need some sort of a solution to continue to push that data.” But that might just be the business person that needs a solution the most, because if they’ve got good listings, they probably did it by hand, which is very expensive, time-consuming, and painful. And if you could give them something that just is going to give them peace of mind, there’s enormous value there. So the fact that, if you’re using some sort of a grading tool on the business that you’re calling on, and it throws an A, that might be because they are doing it by hand. And if we could get a robot to do that, that’d be much better.


George: The other piece you’re talking about is the fear of loss, where you walk in and you know that they aren’t listed properly, they have that discrepancy, and then we prey on the fact that they’re missing out on business. So two very important approaches. Because what I have found is the business that has great listing data sometimes is not doing that work in an automated fashion or doesn’t even know that that’s a possibility. So let’s go further down the road now on this whole listing value proposition.


Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, you hit it exactly right. Folk either have really good data online, and it’s consistent, or they don’t. If they do, then they’re either spending a ton of time and effort getting it there and then maintaining it, or they’re already using some kind of listings provider. And obviously, if it’s the latter, then you’re into potentially a replacement situation. But I’ll talk a little bit later on about the kind of overall penetration in the market. The vast majority of people that you’re going to run into, folk listening to the podcast might run into, they definitely have not solved this problem.


Jonathan: Maintenance is the next thing. If you get all of that data proliferated well, and consistent across a bunch of platforms, that’s great. Right up to the point when you change your opening hours, or you want to promote a different offer. At which point, now, you’ve got to push all of that new data out to the range of platforms. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword. Businesses know that they need to have their data on all of these platforms, so they do a bunch of work to get it there. But then once it’s there, you have a bunch more work to keep it all consistent and updated. There’s nothing worse, obviously, than somebody coming to your store at 6:00 pm because they saw on Facebook that that’s what time you’re open until, but actually you changed and you now close at 5:00, but you didn’t update your Facebook page. So solving the problem of getting listed is only part of the battle. Then you have the subsequent problem of keeping everything consistent.


George: When we step out of name, address, phone number, and hours of operation, there’s a bunch of other stuff that we want to have out there. Short, long descriptions. I guess the example that I always like to talk about is the person that’s looking for a pet-friendly apartment with a swimming pool. And they do that search … and there’s a chance that they’ll do that search, not into a keyboard now, they’ll do that search into voice assistance. So there’s more data that I need to be concerned about as a businessperson because people are doing more specific searches for the things that they’re looking for online.


Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely right. And obviously, if there’s any one element of that data that isn’t on your online listings, then that person is not going to come to you. They’re going to come to somebody who does have that. And as people get more and more familiar with searching online, and expect that there will be a provider out there that has got exactly what they want, those searches are going to get more and more specific. And therefore, the data that you hold is only ever going to need to get more. It will get greater as time passes. And therefore, anybody who’s doing this well today and isn’t using a listings technology to do it, is just going down a path which is going to pretty rapidly become unsustainable.


Winning vs Losing the Search Game: It’s All About the Keywords

George: So we’re missing out on business, and new leads coming into our business if we’re not putting the correct data out there, because we’re just losing at the search game, then. We also aren’t able to change our data as our offer changes. We may not have positioned all of the value propositions that we have in the marketplace, and that could come right down to a product that you sell.


George: So I like to use Aveda hair products, and I will go into Google when I’m out … maybe I’m running out while I’m on the road, and I’ll say, “Show me a salon with the Aveda” … Oh, I don’t type it, by the way. I just say, “Siri, show me a hair salon with Aveda hair products nearby.” That’s the search that a local business needs to be winning, isn’t it?


Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely right. And you pick up Aveda hair products. We do a huge amount of work with Schwarzkopf, who are one of the big hair care companies over here in Europe. And they were our founder client for doing exactly that. They wanted to have their products listed in every local store in Europe that stocked them so that folk like you who are on the road and need to get their fix of shampoo and conditioner know exactly where, nearby, they can pick it up from. It’s a huge new area that large enterprise are working into. And it’s of course imperative that those local businesses that stock those products are able to have their listings reflect that.


George: Jonathan, I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying, because I think what I heard you say is, “Schwarzkopf is a brand, and they are paying you to make sure that all the places that sell Schwarzkopf have that information inside some sort of their dataset.” Is that what I heard?


Jonathan: Absolutely right. It’s one of the biggest developments in our market. More and more of the brands that don’t necessarily have physical locations are looking to ensure that the locations that stock their products have their products listed within the local listing of that physical location. So yeah, it’s a …


George: So they offer the listing solution, then, as just a bonus to their vendor?


Jonathan: Yeah, no. Absolutely. They use a couple of different products from us to do that.


George: Salesperson in me thinks: enormous opportunity. It’s the first time that I’ve heard of that.


Jonathan: Well, it’s certainly a very large opportunity that we’re seeing grow very, very rapidly in our business at the moment.


Voice Search Is a New Medium Using Traditional Algorithms

George: Interesting. So the manufacturers and distributors of certain products, making sure that that data shows up in the various businesses that are out there that offer it. Voice search. Lots of people talking about it. I’m sure lots of us are … we’ve got a Google Home, we got an Alexa, we got Cortana, we’ve got Siri, condescending voice on my phone. Tell us how to navigate that space as a local business person. Like, how concerned do I need to be about voice search?


Jonathan: Well, it depends what you’ve done with your existing listings. If you’ve done a pretty bang up job already of getting your data listed online, then you’re actually in pretty good shape. We just ran a big survey. We surveyed every business location in Boston for a big piece of marketing research that we called the Voice Readiness Study, that we just released. It’s available on Uberall.com for anyone that’s interested. Which was essentially saying, how ready are businesses in Boston for voice search? And there were some really interesting conclusions, which I won’t shove down your throat now.


Jonathan: The thing about search that kind of gets misleading is that people think it’s a whole different technology. It really isn’t. What Siri, or Cortana, or Alexa are doing when they record your voice question, is going off and picking the words out of your question, and going in and looking for them in a traditional search. So if you’re asking for a hotel that’s good with pets and has a swimming pool, then the keywords are going to get picked out of that and run through a fairly traditional search algorithm. Of course, what that means is, you’ve got to have those search terms listed in your locations listing in order for Siri, or Alexa, or Cortana to return that result.


Jonathan: The reason why voice makes it super important is that of course, unlike a typical online or phone-based search where you get a list of answers, and you’re hopefully coming high up on that list of answers, your voice assistant is going to give you a single answer. It doesn’t give you five different options, it gives you one. So it just makes it even more important that your latest, greatest data, with all of the attributes of the products and services you provide are really accurately listed for your business.


Pictures Are Worth 1,000 Words – Show People Your Business

George: I’ve always wondered about the photos and video portion of that data that lives around … We’re at my buddy, T-bone’s, studio here recording the podcast, as we do every week. And he’s got a pretty nice place here. He’s got this new monitor that he just bought, probably costs a lot of money. He’s got new speakers. He’s got a new haircut. He wants people to see that and have a virtual tour of the studio, and check … maybe I’m coming here to film a movie from China to … T-bone’s studio is sitting here, I want to check it out. I want to look at it before I ever talk to him on the phone because we all know that we don’t like talking to humans anymore. So tell me about the photos and the video portion of that listing data. Because I think listings … I think name, address, phone number, maybe hours of operation, maybe business category, but more and more of the photo and video piece is becoming important.


Jonathan: Yeah, no. It completely is. And for all the reasons that you say. I mean … by the way, your buddy T-bone was only ever going to operate a recording studio or a tattoo parlor with a name like that, wasn’t he? So I think the great thing about pictures and videos is the old saying, right, it’s worth a thousand words. If somebody can get a sense of what you do with some great pictures or video, then they’re going to get much more of a sense for your business. But how do you get people to look at those pictures and videos, right? It goes back to the same thing. You’ve got to get found first. Then when people have found you, the content that you show them, be that pictures, video, text, or anything else has got to to be great. And obviously, that means that you want to be able to constantly update and promote the latest, greatest pictures of your studio. If T-bone just got some new, fancy piece of kit in, he needs that to be reflected not just in his search terms, but also in the pictures that he’s showing.


Jonathan: And obviously then there’s the … so you want to manage that positively. The thing you also need to be able to manage is any user-generated content. User-generated content can be fantastic, but if somebody takes a really terrible photo of T-bone’s studio, and it really looks awful, you want to know that that’s up online. You want your listings provider to help you identify that. You probably want to get that removed from your listing fairly quickly if it’s an image that isn’t necessarily reflecting the attributes of your business that you would want to.


The Million Dollar Question for Business Owners Comes Back to the Return on Investment

George: I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I do. When you’re talking to a local businessperson, because I know that you folks work through partners, but then you get to speak to lots of business people. And they say to you, “Jonathan, how much money am I going to make if I do this listing work that you want me to do? You’ve convinced me that there may be some value here. What is the ROI for my business if I take you up on this?”


Jonathan: So I just hired a really smart guy in Berlin who’s job is Head of Value Engineering. And the reason we hired him, that is the most common question that we get from SMB customers who want to know, generically how good is this going to be? And obviously for the large enterprises that our partners sell to on our behalf, they really want to understand what’s this worth? Of course, when you put me on the spot, I can’t give you a direct answer, because the value for any individual business is a function of what they’re doing, how well they do this already, and what kind of investment they’re able to make. Not in our tools, but in using our tools in really smart ways to do a great job of ensuring that the content is consistent, it’s well-updated. Because we know those are the things that are strongly affiliated with good ranking results and driving more business.


Jonathan: But I can tell you that the majority of customers that we work with, be they SMBs or enterprises, are seeing a positive return on the investment that they make with us in a small number of months. Three to six months, most people are seeing a positive return on investment. We found some smart ways that we can measure increases of impressions, increases in clicks to call. We can correlate that to in-store visits. We can correlate that, if folk have got a fairly good understanding of average basket size to the revenue they gain. The thing that we can never figure out, and the thing that, frankly, a lot of folk are most interested to understand is, how much business am I losing today because I don’t have this kind of technology in place? And of course that’s a difficult question to answer. But most folk, when you talk to them a little bit about the types of publishers that their competitors are probably listing on with a listings provider like ours, realize that if they’re not already across all of those different platforms, then they’re probably missing some eyeballs that they ought to be trying to capture.


George: Yeah, so the ROI discussion in digital marketing always has been a challenge. And I don’t understand why people who were used to buying radio ads, you can’t measure the ROI on that, or even measuring a directory ad back in the day … like why it’s so important to get this thing that we’ve never really been able to get. So what you’re saying there is, we’ve got to keep … as salespeople, because that’s our audience of the Conquer Local podcast, working with local businesses. We always need to be throwing that fear of loss out there, that by not doing this, your competitor that’s doing it better is going to get the business.


George: Number two, isn’t there a way to take the information inside GMB, in the Google My Business Insights, and show a correlation, where before I started working with you, you weren’t getting any search results, you weren’t getting any clicks on the map button, you weren’t getting any clicks to call. And since we started working together and got all this right, those numbers have went up and to the right. Is that the one way that we could tell that story?


From Listings to Reviews, All Data Play a Role

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve got some great, specific customer data, and we’ve some great aggregated data across customers that really reflects that. Which is why I’m able to give you some kind of high level, generic ROI returns. The thing that’s super interesting that we haven’t talked about, which kind of relates to that question is, the … I guess five years ago when we started this business, we thought that this was going to be kind of a game-changing technology that would really allow people to kind of move the needle by being online and across a whole bunch of different platforms, and getting a really positive ranking effect because of doing that well. Today, five years later, pretty much most people are aware that they need to do this. Doesn’t mean everybody’s doing it. But at least people are aware that listings is a foundation technology that they should have.


Jonathan: The thing that’s really interesting, and it’s going to be the next generation, and is the other great talking point for your sales audience when they’re out talking to customers is, we already talked about voice search. You can’t really be ready for voice if you haven’t already solved this problem. But there’s a bunch of other interesting things that are coming down the pike as well. And probably the biggest of them is reviews. For folk who follow what Google are doing with the algorithm, increasingly, the most important factor that Google will use to rank your business is the positivity of reviews and recommendations that you have. And a lot of folk are building on top of the listings foundation that they have the capability now to manage reviews across all of those platforms, to aggregate them using a tool like ours, to turn them into a single stream. So you don’t have to go to each individual platform in turn, look at the different reviews that you’ve got, answer them and manage them. But actually to be able to do that in a much more simple flow.


Jonathan: The only thing worse than having bad reviews is having bad reviews that you don’t do anything about. And that’s why people are now moving from the focus on just the foundational listings product to really managing reviews, recommendations, getting ready for voice search, and all of the other technologies that are really going to require every business to have a really good management of the digital content and the digital information that they push out.


George: So when you’re talking to your sales organizations that you deal with, what do you think is one of the biggest challenges in speaking to a local business about the value behind this? What’s the piece you really need to drive home?


Jonathan: To be honest, George, the hard part of this is just getting in front of enough local businesses. The thing that’s kind of crazy, a lot of folk, especially our investors, ask us about the total addressable market for this kind of technology. Which is pretty difficult to define, because obviously, the total market is every physical business location that exists on the planet. So getting an account of how many organizations there are out there that might need this stuff is difficult to do. But the best guess that anybody’s able to provide us with, somewhere between seven and 10% of the physical locations that are out there in the world are already managing their physical location data well online. So there’s 90 something percent of businesses that don’t do this well.


Jonathan: This is not a difficult conversation to have. And I’d really encourage your listeners to go, when they’re talking to local businesses about whatever other solutions they sell to them, ask them about this stuff. Which platforms are you on? I’m pretty sure most businesses will be aware of Google My Business. But are they on Facebook? Are they on Instagram? Are they on Foursquare? Are they managing stuff on TripAdvisor and Yelp. If they are, then they’ve got this kind of manual challenge that we already talked about. If they’re not, then how much business are they losing? That’s the start of the conversation. You can get real sophisticated if you want to from there, but this is a foundational, fundamentally simple product that everybody should be confident in talking about to a local business. And confident also that pretty much every local business you talk to is going to need it.


George: No, I think that that’s … you’re absolutely right. And that’s where we’ve transitioned in the last six and a half years in this space is, the business people know that they need to do this. It’s just, they’re looking for a trusted provider. And there has been some snake oil out there when it comes to the listing sites, and getting a fix, and having them maintained. It’s good to have folks like you that have nailed it. And when you press that button on the fantastic solution that you folks offer, the data is right, and you have the ability to continue to communicate with those sites.



George: So we’ve been speaking today to Jonathan Best, the Chief Revenue Officer of Uberall. And Jonathan, we really appreciate your time. I know it’s early evening there, so we’ll let you get back to watching … I guess it’s football. So watching football or whatever you’re going to do on a Wednesday evening, and thanks for joining us in the Conquer Local podcast.


Jonathan: Thanks George. Appreciate it. Take care.


George: It’s interesting to listen to Jonathan. He arrived at Uberall about eight months ago, and he’s been out working with their channel partners, and talking to SMBs, and it’s interesting to hear his take on where this space is going. You heard him talk about Schwarzkopf, and utilizing the correct listing data with the Schwarzkopf branding, and with their products and services for businesses that they don’t even own. It’s businesses that distribute their products and services. I’m interested to learn more about how that might move forward as a revenue line that we, the folks that are listening to this broadcast, might be able to exploit.


George: The other thing that we keep hearing about is the value of having that correct data around voice search. And voice search, as you heard Jonathan mention, you’re going to have to be exactly what they’re looking for, because when we do a voice search, we ask for way more information about the business. That business has to be populated across the wide array of sources where you need consistent listing data. And now for listing data, not just name, address, phone number, hours of operation, business category. It’s what products and services do you sell? What’s your unique value proposition? In the case of our examples that we gave you, you heard the pet-friendly apartment building with the swimming pool, or the hotel that’s close to the airport, that has a fitness center. Something like that where it’s not just, show me a good hotel nearby. It’s, show me a good hotel nearby with these attributes that I’m looking for.


George: So we always like to keep educating, and there’s some new tidbits from the new Chief Revenue Officer at Uberall. Jonathan Best, our guest this week on the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.

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