If a Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words, a Good Story’s Worth a Million Pictures

What is your story? I’m always on the lookout for tips and techniques that help improve my clients’ digital effectiveness. Because my firm specializes in “local,” we work tirelessly to uncover tactics and techniques to improve the position of local listings; better and more efficient bidding models for localized PPC media, and any approach to gain trial of, or sell one more widget or service call.

Some days I feel like I’m in commercial real estate when I pronounce, “It’s all about location, location, location.” And while position and placement of local ads are the most important first steps to getting consumer consideration to buy from your firm or brand, the second is the story you tell them once you have their attention.

So this past weekend, I spent a few hours Saturday morning on the couch, iPad in hand, reading local display ads, listing descriptions, websites, etc. to gain a greater understanding of how well businesses differentiate themselves in the local marketplace.

Below are actual local listing descriptions for a few business queries:

“Plumbers” + geography

“Whether you are a homeowner or contractor, Neves Plumbing Service, LLC is your answer to all your plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs. 24/7 emergency service available.” (Rank No. 2)

“Ben Franklin Plumbing in Dallas is a full service plumbing company. We specialize in Leak detection, Drain cleaning, Sewer line repair and tankless water heaters. Emergency plumbing repairs everyday” (Rank No. 5)

“DrainRight Products Faucets & Fixtures Garbage Disposal Gas Lines Gas Water Heater Green Solutions Instant Hot Water Pipe Repair Plumbing Problems Sewer Ejector Pumps” (Rank – not on page one)

“Restaurant Los Angeles”

“75 years after answering its first emergency call in 1913, Engine Co. No. 28 reopened as a unique downtown eatery complete with an original brass fire pole and complimentary red fire shuttle. Indulge!” (Rank No. 1)

“French Dipped Sandwiches” (Rank No. 2)

“Designed by Philippe Starck, Katsuya LA LIVE offers an unparalleled selection of Japanese cuisine by Chef Katsuya Uechi with signature dishes such as Kobe filet with foie gras and grilled lamb chops” (Rank No. 6)

“Dentist Los Angeles”

“At Wilshire Dental Care, our experienced dentists take care of your dental care needs in one convenient location, and we provide various dental treatments to ensure your oral health.” (Rank No. 1)

“The UCLA Store in Ackerman Union is the flagship bookstore on campus. Operated since 1919 by the Associated Students UCLA. Sales directly support student jobs, programs, and services on campus.” (Rank No. 2) (*Yes Google has a campus bookstore appearing as the number two listing for the query “Dentist Los Angeles.” It looks like Apple is not the only one challenged by Local and Maps.)

“At our dental practice in the neighboring Los Angeles – Beverly Hills area, we provide high quality cosmetic dental procedures like porcelain veneers, Invisalign, teeth whitening, dental implants.” (Rank – not on page one)

When observing the various local listing descriptions, I noted a pattern: businesses that simply “keyword stuffed” their description didn’t always benefit from the tactic. And while the Google bookstore example is clearly a categorization/ontological error, it does suggest the optimization importance of the business description is limited in its power to significantly improve listing position. So is the space better used to help consumers learn the story of your business with differentiating reasons for them to choose you? I think yes.

It’s important to note that there is a large number of listing optimization tactics that are interrelated related to local listing positioning, so simply observing one aspect wouldn’t prove to be a solid optimization schema. If you’re interested, you can find more information about “Local Business Listing Management” in one of my older columns.

Getting It Right

I would like to share an example of a business that understands the power of the story to differentiate their business in a very crowded market, travel. Here is a local display ad that leads to the landing page content listed below the ad:


“We hate taking tours. There’s just something about being herded from one tourist trap to another that makes us cringe. Honestly, do you believe that travelers get an authentic New York experience by eating a [sic] chain restaurant in Times Square? (We hope not – if so, we’re probably not the right tour for you).

We believe that most visitors come in search of the same seven subjects:

  1. Dance & Music
  2. Food & Drink
  3. Local Life
  4. Nature & Animals
  5. Relaxation
  6. Sights
  7. Sports

We take an ‘alternative’ approach to standard tours & self-travel by providing an experience in each topic, on every trip.

Take Sports in Buenos Aires for example. Some tours will include a stadium tour as part of their Sports package. In contrast, we’ll actually take you to a soccer match. To add to the experience, we’ll bring a local sports writer to explain the nuances of Argentine soccer culture. For more information, be sure to check out the comparison page, where we categorize some of our experiences for each trip.”

So, What’s the Point?

The point is, in your zest to leverage every possible optimization point for SEO, local, and mobile, don’t forget that you need to tell the story of your business/brand to the customer. The engagement path that the consumer takes from initial purchase stimulus on to discovery, leading to trial, and then hopefully advocacy is a long path – one with many entry and exit points. Don’t forget that we’re communicating with humans (the story) and not just machines (the optimization).

And the moral of the story: Gregg needs to get up off the couch and take a walk on Saturday morning.

Related reading

Website landing page vector graphic
Hand holding smartphone with city map and store location on screen and store icon.