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Automation is Transforming Local Advertising for the Better

These days, many SMB owners struggle with building an effective presence for their business across the growing number of local media platforms. There’s no question that local advertising providers are working hard to help SMB owners overcome the challenges of creating and implementing an integrated approach. However, the costs associated with maintaining labor-intensive management platforms, managing campaigns and fulfilling sales commissions often hinder the ability of providers to offer SMB owners with adequate solutions that fit within their limited budgets.

The automation phenomenon stands out as a potential solution for struggling SMBs and local advertising providers because it helps to lower the costs of developing and fulfilling local media campaigns. It’s a trend that is quickly catching on in the industry, representing approximately 20% of all digital advertising revenue today and still on the rise, according to the IAB.

There are several exciting automated local solutions making their way to market. For instance, Connectivity recently introduced a new product that automates the list-building of customer emails and phone numbers – with the end goal of enabling complete marketing automation.  Additionally, companies like The Search Agency, Rio SEO and Sightly are using automation to make search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO) and video advertising, respectively, more affordable for SMBs and national brands alike.

In a recent white paper, The Search Agency said that automation is an attractive solution because it “offers…the ability to both lower the cost of on-boarding new customers and dramatically lower the costs of ownership, in a marketplace that will become increasingly competitive as search becomes the dominant source of directional leads for all levels of SMBs.”

In an October 2013 article, Street Fight outlined notable corporate partnerships in today’s local marketing landscape. The story illustrated the current shift from targeting specific media types towards enabling a more technology- and data-driven approach. Partnerships like Yelp and Booker are allowing more efficient local ad solutions that bring together massive amounts of consumer data. This creates an opportunity to automate and therefore, drive downs the costs of implementing ad solutions.

“…What’s shaking up the industry is the introduction of cloud-based business management systems…into the marketing mix,” said the editors here at Street Fight. “Marketers can write algorithms to connect supply and demand, automating the way businesses and consumers interact locally.”

The Search Agency is doing that already with AdMax® Local, its automated SEM solution for SMBs. According to Chris Travers of Universal Business Listing – who recently judged this solution for the Local Search Association’s Ad to Action Awards competition – AdMax Local “automates the targeting for the advertiser by using the available technologies in SEM and then interprets it for them. I expect this would be a popular tool for advertisers who are baffled by the complexity, and for the resellers who have struggled with selling SEM to small businesses.”

Separately, Rio SEO has developed an automated process that helps multi-location businesses improve their SEO.  Given the unique challenges associated with managing, optimizing and distributing local business listing information within search results, accuracy is critical for every business, and automation helps achieve that.

Rio SEO offers a local CMS platform to serve as a single point of contact for optimizing and correcting listings on all major platforms, including Google, Bing and Yahoo. According to a recent Search Engine Watch post by the company’s Bill Connard, “automating the process of populating, verifying, and updating your listings on these networks makes this a far less daunting task with a higher quality outcome.”

Finally, automation also has the ability to more effectively manage the mix of high spend/low volume and low spend/high volume advertisers. While agencies have traditionally put their eggs in big brand baskets, there is an opportunity to develop better and cheaper ways of engaging SMB populations with smarter solutions.

Sightly is making waves in this area with its new TargetView solution.  While automation in video is not necessarily a new idea, Sightly has developed an automated video ad buying system that allows SMBs and their marketing partners to reach prospective customers with video ads tailored just for them on the devices, in the locations and at the moments they are watching.

Sightly’s offering provides affordable, locally relevant video advertising to SMBs at scale. As consumers continue to increase consumption of online video and, therefore, video ads – online video ad views totaled 28.7 billion in March 2014, according to comScore – automation will enable SMBs to improve their traction in video.

As more local solutions enter the marketplace, raising visibility for solutions across all forms of local advertising will be critical in helping both local advertising providers and SMBs achieve success. With approximately 28 million SMBs nationwide, there is a huge opportunity for providers to create effective and profitable automated solutions that benefit these businesses everywhere.

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