Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reach Local, Yodle and Dex: Better Way to Buy Search?

As I have been looking for lawyers that are interested in ExpertHub's legal advertising network, I have stumbled upon a handful of attorneys that are using Reach Local, Yodle and Dex's search advertising service. I've been following them for a while . . . as all of them have invested heavily into the local search space with a relatively similiar product offering.

How and Why They Work

As we've discussed in previous posts, SEM, while much more effective for the average local business owner than say spot TV purchases, is incredibly complicated. You must set up campaigns, generate keywords, manage your bids, write and optmize ad copy and optimize landing pages. The dynamic nature of the marketplace requires constant attention - or you can easily overspend or be bounced off of page 1 and not get any traffic.

These 3 companies all entered the market with the goal of automating the entire process so that the local attorney can just focus on how many leads they are getting and what they are spending. They will set up and manage your campaigns, build a custom landing page and then their technology go to work on optimizing the entire thing. The story is good enough to justify the capital investment from some well known VC's.

The Risk

The biggest risk for these companies and their customers is that aren't solving the #1 problem in Internet marketing: controlling distribution. All 3 companies and their customers are still relying on Google and other search engines for traffic. And every time another local lawyer comes online and bids, prices go up. In fact, one could argue that the primary beneficiary of the investment in these 3 companies is Google itself.

IMO, the #1 thing that keeps lawyers from spending more money online to generate clients is the lack of certainty with respect to their advertising investment. While better tools can help you manage it better, they don't protect you from the ultra competitive paid search market.

14 comments:

  1. Steve,
    Some of your information on ReachLocal is incorrect:

    No custom landing page is created - using a proxy page (completely identical website except url + phone number). This is not a mirrored site (big difference as it does not impact organic placement negatively. Whether it can improve is up for debate.

    Secondly, ReachLocal is the only company that does COMPLETELY automate the process of bidding keywords. Yodel, Dex, AT&T all have manual aspects to it. (Have many of their former employees on our account support teams.)

    Respectfully, the CPC prices aren't going up because of local attorneys jumping on the bandwagon. Many lead aggregators are making it virtually impossible for small firms to get any sort of presence in some areas of practice. The CPC is an auction. The more competition drives that price up. (That's why Mesothelioma is $50+ a click!)

    The thing is, we're finding that as searchers/consumers continue to get more savvy, so are their searches. The average length of a search query has gone from 2 words 10 years ago (like 'dui attorney') to now more than 4 words (Aggressive DUI Attorney Alpharetta). Those long-tail keywords are cheaper and lead to a higher conversion rate (and when I say conversion, I mean phone calls/form submissions, not clicks.)

    Local search does work. The number of local searches is increasing every month. Of course people have to use the Search Engines - but in 'the old days' they also had to open up the yellow pages and find the right heading...

    It's not perfect - there are numerous variables that impact the performance of a campaign. From how it is set up, to proper budgeting, to having a solid website and a clearly visible phone number with strong call to action.

    Yes, Google is making ridiculous amounts of money. But, I'm happy to say that my clients are darn skippy with the results I've delivered. It's in the numbers:
    Client A (doing his own Google/Yahoo campaign) $1500/mo - 20-30 calls/month. With ReachLocal 229 calls first month. Now over 500 calls/month.
    Client B (former AT&T client) $2200/mo got 11 phone calls (his top 3 keywords weren't even main services he wanted). Same budget with me - 60-90 calls a month.
    Client C (was lured by Yodel who claimed they could do it cheaper. He had spent $2000/mo with me, gotten in excess of 200/calls month. Yodel - spent $1000 and got 33 calls his best month. He has come back to me.

    Numbers don't lie.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. @anon If you are so confident in your results how come you won't sign your real name or provide your company name?

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  4. @Alex It would appear to me that it is obvious where they work...and 2nd, the 3 companies listed above would not allow their employees to post their names.

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  6. I ran across this post and had to chime in. We have had many customers on the reachlocal platform many complaining of the same thing. The service barely pays for itself.

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  7. I run a CRM tool for doctors that recently started integrating ReachLocal accounts. Our tool helps doctor's offices become better and lead conversion. About 8 months ago we have 3 clients using ReachLocal and each was questioning how many leads they were truly getting from ReachLocal. The calls are easy to track but when a lead comes from the forms, it is much harder.

    Only one of the three practices was listening to their phone calls. After a few months of integrating the ReachLocal phone and form leads into www.MyMedLeads.com all three doctors were shocked to see how many leads they were truly getting. For some reason, ReachLocal's reporting has a few flaws that we were able to eliminate. They have my vote!

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  8. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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  9. When a client learns to manage their leads effectively, they will get get results from PPC campaigns. Look at the results of this ReachLocal client after they implemented a system to manage leads effectively. Too many times, clients blame the lead sourcerather than their internal process for managing leads: http://mymedleadsblog.com/other/calculating-return-on-investment-from-reach-local-leads/

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  10. Pretty interesting read as I was trying to determine if they provide the same service. We had comtemplated spreading our client work load around, but just dont see the value of who they have handling our decisions verse our own skill set here.

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  11. www.reachlocal.com/case-studies

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