SES Chicago Interview: Jeff Ferguson

Todd Mintz

In conjunction with the upcoming SES Chicago Search Conference next week, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to ask questions of a Local Search Industry Leader Jeff Ferguson from Local.com. Local Search is one of the hottest “need to know” trends in search marketing and if you’re not familiar with local search SEO, you and your clients are the worse for it.

Please give me your background and tell me what you do for a living.

Jeff Ferguson
Local.com Sr. Director, Online Marketing

 Jeff Ferguson currently directs all online marketing efforts for Local.com via a variety of channels including SEO/SEM, affiliate programs, display, and social media. With over 14 years of online marketing experience, Ferguson has led the online marketing efforts for companies such as Hilton Hotels, Kimberly-Clark, InterActiveCorp, Experian, and Napster. No stranger to the industry speaking circuits throughout the US, Europe, and Asia, Ferguson is a regular at Digital Hollywood, the Online Marketing Summit (OMS), Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Ad:tech and Search Engine Strategies (SES), where he is also a member of the Board of Directors.

As a consumer looking for a local business, why would I go to Local.com instead of Google?

One of the best reasons is that Local.com is focused solely on the local business. For instance, if you type “Chicago pizza” into Google, you’ll get some listings for pizza places in Chicago, but you’ll also get a ton of recipes for Chicago-style pizza, pictures of Chicago-style pizza, and even the ads will be for places like Dominos or even Amazon.

How do you see social networking / social search impacting the local search space?

I think this is just getting warmed up, really.  There was a report recently that stated that about 9% of small businesses are using Twitter. Some saw that as a big number, some saw it as an “only”. Internally, we saw it as inflated because other reports state that only about 50% of small businesses even have a website at all, so we can’t see them really adopting Twitter just yet. 

The following questions are from Local SEO Expert and fellow SEMpdx Board Member David Mihm:

How has the Google Universal 10-pack / 7-pack affected your traffic strategy?

Our traffic strategy has not been affected at all by the 10-pack/7-pack, in fact, various teams throughout our organization have embraced it and made it another service we can provide to our customers. We plan on continuing our own tests with the new paid ads that are part of the latest revisions to determine if they can work with our current strategies.

Fragmentation in Local is a major dilemma for companies of all sizes…do you see any initiatives or developments on the horizon that might minimize this problem?

Unfortunately, this might get worse before it gets better.  There are new sites focused on the local market entering the game all the time, some of them are legit, some of them are just copies of existing sites that are better at SEO and SEM.  With our recent ranking as one of the top 10 search engines in the US, Local.com is rising to the top as one of the better ways to get ahead of the pack, but local advertisers will always need to be wary of the new comers that promise the world for a price.

What Local Search tips would you give individual small business owners?

-          Sign up to advertise with a local search provider like Local.com (Naturally! Zing!)

-          Develop your profile page using SEO/SEM friendly content – Adding this specific information about your business will not only help you reach potential customers, but it also will help to improve your rankings on the major search engines.

-          Determine your target customers and regional reach. Don’t overshoot your target, you’re a local advertiser, don’t try to compete with the national advertiser set.

-          Select the right targeted categories, keywords and search phrases that will help consumers find you. Do a lot of research in this area and ask not only your staff, but your customers – everybody searches differently.

-          Pay attention to your bidding strategy, especially if you have shifting seasonal or even weekly and monthly usage patterns for your product or service.  Search is not a set it and forget it channel.

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