Local SEO: How to be Present

Google has reported that over the last two years, mobile “open now near me” searches have increased 200%, and searches containing “buy” terms have increased over 500%.  Additionally, 82% of smartphone shoppers conduct ‘near me’ searches and 76% of local mobile searches result in a store visit within 24 hours

It is clear that current and potential customers are on the go, on their phone and looking for specific locations.

Local SEO is different from SEO or paid search as it is based on a unique algorithm and set of conditions. Even with a robust SEO and SEM program, there can still be gaps in the search engine results when it comes to local search.

For local information and results, Google relies primarily on information through the Google My Business platform. Apple Maps is powered by primary data partners and other third-party sites, Siri uses Google as a data source and Amazon’s Alexa gets a good portion of location data from Yelp. Additionally, each of these platforms check and verify the location information with other platforms.

The foundation of local search centers on basic information: name, address, phone number and website URL. This information powers what appears in the listings, however, the NAP (name, address, phone) is only the foundation of local SEO.  Additional strategies such as location information syndication across the local ecosystem, content-rich individual location pages on the website, sponsorship and links to local organizations, location-based social media and review management are all key components to the local ranking algorithm.

A local search program is no longer an option for retailers; brands that are not present online for most consumers is equal to not existing.

For more information on utilizing Local SEO in your campaigns, contact us here.

Keeping Google My Business Listings Safe From Hijackers

The issue of hijacked Google My Business (GMB) listings — when a person other than a business owner or representative gains control of the local profile — continues to grow. 

Unethical marketers are phishing through many listings in the hopes of hijacking, ultimately succeeding through using the “claim this business” or “manage this listing” link on a local profile. Clicking on this link generates an email request for control over the listing that is sent to the registered owner of the profile. Business owners that are unaware of what these emails mean could unwittingly surrender control of their business listing and find their location marked as closed, as well as other objectionable changes to their local information.

Google is aware of the growing issue and advises business owners to remain cautious. A Google spokesperson recently told Search Engine Land, “If a merchant ever receives a request to manage or to transfer ownership from an unknown person, they should decline the request.  The rights to own or manage a Business Profile can only be granted if the verified merchant accepts the request or the requester proves their affiliation with the business.”

Why does it matter?

It is obvious to say that any form of false information in Google Maps and Search is not ideal for both companies or consumers. However, these phishing attempts in order to hijack Google My Business listings are significantly bad for small businesses. False online information can lead to a negative impact on sales, especially during COVID when the majority of consumers are obtaining information through a Google search.

How can you be proactive about this issue?

To start, as Google suggests, decline any request to manage or transfer ownership from an unknown person. Beyond that, this growing trend highlights the importance of a strong local SEO management program and agency partnership that can keep on top of listing status and puts your business’ security first.

For more information about True Media’s Google Search and Local Search marketing capabilities, contact us.

Connected TV in Your Media Strategy

As the media industry continues to be unpredictable with the disruption of COVID-19, advertisers are finding it harder to connect with their core audiences. 

Connected TV has continued to see an increase in viewership since the beginning of this year and it’s expected to continue to rise while paid TV households (those with a subscription to traditional paid TV services) continue to decrease. By 2023, according to eMarketer, non-pay-tv households (cord-cutters) will hit 68.2MM users (vs 56.3 in 2021), while pay-tv households dip to 63.4 (vs 73.7 in 2021). Ad spending in this space by 2021 is showing to be $11.36 billion dollars and by 2022, $14.11 billion. 

As the incline in Connected TV users grows, advertisers should start to strategically think about how to utilize this service to its fullest potential to reach their core audiences. Knowing that a majority of the population is going to be consuming content within this format, this type of targeting should undoubtedly be a successful tactic in advertising efforts and future strategies. 

Outside of traditional video, CTV buys and layering core audiences, there are additional opportunities and publishers that you can tap into that allow for expanded advertising. Examples like VideoAmp and Tremor/Alphonso, publishers that have ACR data, allow advertisers to target audiences who have seen a competitor’s TV ads and then target those users in real-time with their own advertising. Another example of expanded advertising opportunities with CTV is utilizing Origin, which is an offering within our programmatic efforts that gives you the ability to send trivia questions about your brand to your core audience as a different approach to capture consumer attention. Publishers, such as Hulu, can build out branded slates that live at the end video ads that allow for an additional call to action type of brand advertising.

When thinking about the next strategy approach for clients, it is important to include innovative ways to not just reach your audience, but also keep their attention. With the high consumption rate for Connected TV expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future, utilizing this format could serve as an excellent solution to target your core audience.

At True Media, we will continue to utilize resources and research to help determine the best approach within this tactic to capture consumer attention and ultimately convert them to favor your brand.  For more insights on Connect TV advertising in your media strategy, contact us.

New Google Testing for Local Ad Options

Google continues to evolve with its local campaign options, which in turn continues to improve the value for advertisers. Earlier in the year Google added call clicks and driving directions as additional conversion options to original store visits. Additionally, they introduced the option of audience targeting or exclusion — a change that offered additional controls for advertisers. Most recently Google has been testing auto-suggest results within Google Maps.

On October 15, Thibault Adda tweeted that as he typed a search for “seafood restaurant” in the search bar, an ad for the seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster appeared in the auto-suggest results before his search query was even complete (see photo example).

Tests such as this are nothing new to Google, but it does seem to signal that local campaigns are now a permanent part of the Google suite of Paid Search campaign types. This is good news, as several True Media clients have already seen incredible results with local campaigns.

When examining results for Q3 year over year, one Farm and Home client saw a 1,250% increase in impressions, as well as a 86% increase in-store visits with 98% of all impressions coming from the local campaign.  Another client in the same industry saw similar results with a 2,623% increase in impressions.  Additionally, a Regional Banking client testing local campaigns saw similar results with September 2020 impressions showing a 236% increase over the previous year.

While advertisers do still need to be ‘whitelisted’ for Google local campaigns, retailers with physical locations who want to drive store contact via visits or calls, local campaigns can provide an unparalleled opportunity for brand reach and exposure.

For more information on implementing Local Search Campaigns in your media strategy, contact us.

Google Limits Search Terms Reporting

Earlier this month, Google announced a new policy change to limit Search Terms reporting. This shift is aimed at increasing user privacy, but the response from practitioners in the SEM world has been swift citing concern over losing visibility into advertiser spend.

While Google has shared limited information so far, here’s what was released in a recent statement: 

In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.”

searchengineland.com

While this change will bring more freedom to Google’s Smart Bidding algorithms to enhance performance and take steps to protect user privacy, this change will prevent advertisers to see exactly where their Paid Search spend is going. Advertisers won’t be able to see all searches that trigger their Paid Search Ads, rather they’ll only be able to monitor searches made by a significant (as defined by Google) number of people.

There is no opt-out option at this time, but we’re working closely to monitor the situation with our Google Premier Partner Reps to better understand the changes and proactively ensure limited client impact.

If you have any questions or concerns about your paid search campaigns in the meantime, please contact us.

Search Trends During COVID-19

Businesses around the world have been working quickly to adapt to the dramatic changes in consumer demand, behavior and expectations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true in the Healthcare space, which has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. Patients and health care professionals alike have been turning to Google during these unprecedented times for information.

The graph below shows the volume of Coronavirus searches. A steady increase in February & March, after the World Health Organization declared a Global Health Emergency, with volume peaking in the US around mid-March, when a national emergency was declared.

As to be expected, this year telemedicine has seen 4x the search volume so far compared to the same time frame in 2019. While the overall volume has increased, it is also important to call out that the tone of the queries has changed. In early 2020, queries were education-focused and information seeking (what is coronavirus, how is coronavirus spread). However, as time progressed the queries shifted to take a tone of more concern, preparation and statistics (how many people have died from coronavirus, how many cases in the us, when will coronavirus end). 

The symptoms and treatment category search volume, particularly related to COVID, has increased in the first 6 months of the year, with cold & flu category seeing +125% YoY growth, seasonal allergies seeing +37% YoY growth, multivitamins seeing +49% YoY growth, vaccines & immunizations seeing +48% YoY increase and trauma & stress disorders seeing +40% search volume growth. 

Conversely, categories including dental health, lupus, arthritis, and certain types of cancer have seen YoY decreases in Search volume. 
For more information on paid search strategy and your campaigns, contact us here.

Why You Need to Have a Mobile-Friendly Website

Mobile devices have changed the way people Search.​ In 2019, Mobile devices accounted for 65% of Google searches while the use of personal computers continues to decline. Having a mobile-friendly site is an absolute necessity for both your SEO and SEM efforts.

Why is having a mobile-friendly website so important?

  • SEO ranking — In 2015, Google announced that they will be making mobile-friendliness and mobile site speed ranking signals for SEO. Five years later and they are two of the most significant factors in how your website ranks. If your website doesn’t perform well in these areas, you could be penalized.
  • Your customers are using a mobile device — As mentioned above, 65% of Google searches are via mobile devices.
  • Your competitors are mobile-friendly — According to Google, 70% of websites are now offering a mobile experience.
  • Build trust with your customers — 57% of online users have said they won’t recommend a business with a poor mobile experience.
  • Keep your customer’s attention — Attention spans are shorter than ever and if your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, 57% of mobile visitors will abandon your website. And when these mobile visitors leave, 41% of customers go directly to a competitor’s site.
  • Improve conversion rates — A mobile-friendly website means a better browsing experience which ultimately leads to more conversions.
  • Be seen locally -— 97% of searches for services or products in a customer’s local area are on a mobile device. 49% of those searches are done without a specific business in mind. This is a high intent search as the majority of customers act on the search results within an hour.

What makes up a mobile-friendly website?

  • Fast loading time
    • Load time of 3 seconds or less.
    • Compress your images and CSS. Compressing your image file sizes will improve loading time without hurting the quality of what people see on your website.
    • Don’t use Flash. This will slow down your loading speed and there are many browsers where it doesn’t work.
  • A responsive website
    • Automatically resizes the website to fit the device of the user.
  • Information is easy to find
    • Think about the information that people on mobile devices are most likely to be looking for when visiting your website. Make that information easily accessible.
    • Contact information would be a key example of information you would want to make easily accessible. Consider using a click-to-call button.
  • Large font sizes
    • It’s recommended to use a font of at least 14px.
  • Buttons are large enough to click on mobile devices
    • Test this out yourself on a variety of devices, if you had trouble, it’s time for an update. This can save your customers from a frustrating experience.
  • The option to switch to desktop view
    • Some of your customers may actually prefer the desktop option. Give them the option to view your website in a way that enhances their experience.

How to ensure your website is operating as mobile-friendly?

  • Browse your website and ask employees to do the same. Assess your experience as if you were one of your customers and gather feedback from employees. Test this out on tablets and mobile devices. Discuss what could be done to improve the mobile experience.
  • Check your site speed in Google Analytics
    • Page load time for a sample of page views. Can view how your pages loaded through different perspectives such as different browsers or countries. Available in the ​Page Timings​ report.
    • Load time of any hit, event, or user interaction that you want to track (how quickly images load, response time to button clicks). Available in the ​User Timings​ report.
    • Review the speed suggestions report. Tips tailored to your website to make your pages load faster. Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions.
  • Google offers tools that will tell you within seconds if your website is mobile-friendly and what you can do to improve.

The End of the TV Upfront?

June 2020- No big parties, no celebrity photo ops, no late nights, no trip to New York, less hype about new shows, few(er) clients making commitments to linear TV a year out (with no media plan), no rushed buying with “revised rate cards” going up every week (with audiences going the other way).

Has the antiquated and overhyped TV Upfront, which saw 60-70% of annual TV dollars invested in a 4 week period, finally gasped it’s last breath?

If so, what is the new buying and selling process? How are “traditional” broadcasters evolving and what are the key takeaways from the Non-Upfront.

TV and Video Futures

We evolved the discussion from TV buying to Video buying 10 years ago to better reflect the reality of consumer behavior. While “linear” TV remains the cornerstone of driving reach quickly and coverage for any video buy, each year as linear TV audiences decline, audiences must be repatriated via an increased spend allocation to VOD, ad-supported streaming services that don’t require a cable subscription (eg CTV Throwback, Hayyu, GEM), YouTube, Facebook video and others.

TV is projected to see a 15.6% decline in advertising investment in 2020 (eMarketer).

Most of the spend decline has happened in the months April through July; no sports playoffs, no Olympics, and many categories /clients are cutting, reducing or shifting TV spend to the fall or to digital. However, with sports (NHL, NBA, MLS playoffs, Golf and tennis Majors) returning in August/September and the easing of COVID-19 related brakes on ad spending, the fall YOY investment levels with TV broadcasters will be similar to fall 2019 (-1 to -3%).

In fact, the same eMarketer forecast has TV rebounding 9% in 2021 vs 2020, a net loss of 6% vs 2019.

What Innovation did the Non–TV Upfront Bring?

First, it is important to note that 70% of Canadian households still have a Pay TV subscription (i.e. cable or satellite) and 30% of those services are now delivered via IPTV Next generation Platforms (like Rogers Ignite). Although penetration has been declining 2-3% annually, Pay TV HH’s are still dominant and provide the basis for any video buy (note: Gen –Z target or budget limitations may drive a non-linear TV strategy). Long-form video (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Crave) has grown quickly to 20% of Video viewing, however, most aren’t ad-supported, so it has actually increased demand, and costs, for the audiences to Linear TV /AVOD.

Major English Broadcasters Agree on Audience Segments

In a truly Canadian collaboration, Bell, Rogers and Corus have all agreed to sell inventory based on the same 19 Environics audience segments, with the first collaboration anywhere in the world. This will allow media buyers to buy near-live inventory via a self-serve platform (Cynch for Corus and Rogers, SAM for Bell) against a much richer profile that incorporates behavioural data with traditional demographics for a more robust picture of the viewing audience. 

Bell is also offering the ability to buy digital and outdoor against the same in-depth segments, as well as a first in market TV Attribution service which will report TV impact on website visitors.

VOD, in App and Streaming Options

All major broadcasters continue to provide options to buy their programming delivered via an app/online (you must authenticate that you have a Pay TV subscription). There are now more opportunities to reach cord-cutters via services like CTV Throwback, Corus shows on YouTube or STACKTV and connected TV (Samsung).

VOD viewing continues to rise and Bell, Corus, and Rogers have more hours, more shows and more geo coverage allowing them to extend unique reach by up to 17% over a Linear only buy in an on-demand, non-skippable, reduced commercial load environment.

CBC’s Gem offers Canadians various levels of programming. All Canadians can access, without any paid subscription, the same level of programs offered through conventional television. A free authenticated subscription (ad-supported) unlocks on-demand current and past seasons, live streams of CBC TV (including local channels). Further paid premium subscriptions allow for early access to exclusive content. During Covid-19, Gem’s average weekly video views soared by 84% (mostly on the strength of news content).

How Do We Envision a Better “Non-Upfront” Market?

Our True Media approach is more about partnerships and is driven by client needs and client focused buying.

Clients have an increased need for agility which means we will pursue more flexibility in buying commitments, cancellation clauses, shifts in timing and platforms.

Every discussion should start with sharing business KPI’s and then a collaboration on measurement strategies, and on innovation. Agencies should share the creative strategy (and ideally the concepts/execution) to better amplify the message in the right content.

Negotiations happen once a quarter, with a monthly optimization, across Linear and Digital, AVOD and OTT, seamlessly and simultaneously with, soon we hope, one standard measurement.

For more information on how True Media can help you reach your audience and meet your goals, contact us.


As president at True Media Canada, Bruce Neve is setting a new standard for how media is approached and purchased, and his commitment to advertising is changing the way the growth of Canadian-first companies is addressed. He brings with him more than thirty years of experience leading major media agencies; driving strategy, planning and buying across all platforms for both English and French Canada.

The Post-Pandemic Trend Toward Localism

According to recent research from Kantar, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a surge in ‘localism’ around the world — that is a preference for one’s own area or region. This move toward localism was signaled by an increase in local consumption of goods and services and is being driven to some extent by concerns about the safety of imported goods. While this trend was in place among sustainability-conscious consumers before the pandemic, the sentiment has become more mainstream as more consumers now think that the brands they use should bring production back to their own country. 

National marketers may shift budgets to local marketing as communities enter the post-pandemic period at different times. Cost efficiency and effectiveness are even more important today as brands look for outlets to build or re-build their brands and share of voice. Minimizing waste and maximizing impact is critical during a recession. Identifying customers when and where they are actively looking for goods and services is key.

This trend toward localism is being applied at an even more granular level within local communities. The personal and economic disruption experienced by Americans over the past several months has created a personal desire to support local communities and local businesses first — supporting friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Periods of disruption — whether a recession, natural disaster, or pandemic like the coronavirus — accelerate change, and it only takes a month or two for changes to stick and become new habits. This trend toward localism will likely become even more important to consumers in the post-pandemic recovery period, which means marketers should prepare to follow it closely. 

Local marketers too should continue to have a presence in their communities and work to establish trust and loyalty. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed the media landscape and shifted consumers’ media habits. Marketers during this time need to be nimble in order to be successful. Brands need to be able to shift strategies to target their customers, as well as engage with them in the channels they are choosing to trust for information and entertainment as they navigate the new normal. As many workers return to work and businesses reopen, media consumption will continue to change. Agile marketers that connect with their consumers on a local level have the best chance of recovery and growth.

Today’s new normal is very different from our pre-pandemic normal. My local market’s new normal is likely different from your local market’s new normal. At True Media, we will continue to help brands navigate these unique local marketplaces, trends, and changes in media habits. One of our goals is to identify relevant opportunities to deliver above and beyond established KPIs on a local market basis to help brands grow.


As SVP Activation Strategy, Vaughn provides strategic direction to our agency, playing a crucial role in planning for the future growth of the agency, including molding and training activation teams.  He understands the correlation between brand, content, and channel to drive incremental, measurable results. His background in media strategy from start to finish allows him to lead his team in focusing on the acquisition of the most efficient, relevant, engaging and effective media touchpoints for client media plans, while always looking for innovative solutions along the way.