MullenLowe Client Interview

Ezekireal (Zeek) Thomas is a Strategist with Mediahub. In this interview-based post, he shares tips and advice to help enterprise brands make the most of their local search partner relationship.

Zeek Thomas of MullenLoweThe local search and listings issues that brands face at the enterprise level are substantial, but Zeek Thomas loves the challenge of the search industry. As a strategist with Mediahub, he works with Wyndham Worldwide and the 14 hotel chains within its brand. 

Zeek’s focus is on driving traffic to locations across the US, as well as monitoring international locations, as well. We asked him to share his enterprise local experience with Local Marketing Blog readers and here’s what we came up with!

Q: What is it that gets you excited about SEO?

Thomas: It’s exciting to be a part of this industry. SEO is a problem-solving job where the solutions and answers can change daily. How you arrive at those answers and evolve your strategy while staying true to your longer-term business goals is really key. 

When I joined Mediahub two years ago, Rio SEO was already in place as the local search partner for the Wyndham brand. I say partner instead of “technology solution” or platform because although Rio SEO is both of these things, our relationship is really so much more than that. Coming on board to find that we had this knowledgeable, experienced extension of our own team in place was huge.

Q: What do you find most challenging about enterprise SEO?

Thomas: A large part of my job is interpreting data, and I can tell you it’s a nightmare when there’s no organization to the information you need to analyze. A lot of us came up in search through a time in which you had no other choice but to use multiple tools and platforms that didn’t “talk to each other” or even play well together. Walking into a local search setup where everything we need to collect and interpret our data for over 100,000 locations within a single platform was massive. Part of my onboarding process was getting to know the Rio SEO team. Over the course of our relationship, our Account Director has helped us understand the platform but also our place in the larger local search ecosystem. We have access to a full team of proactive, passionate local search experts, which is huge when challenges and questions inevitably come up.

Q: That’s great, and how do you manage all of that location data from thousands of properties? 

Thomas: We use Data Studios, a data visualization tool. It makes it easier for us to present the information our clients need to see. We need to pull data in from a multitude of different APIs and have it format into one area. We use Rio SEO for Local Listings management as well as MapPack Insights and Local Reporting. So we know that the technology is in place to monitor our local listings across the enterprise and that we have insight into what’s happening both at a very high level and more granularly at the regional and local level, as well. Rio’s reporting integrates seamlessly so we use it to back-fill our first-party data and incorporate that into our reporting.

Q: How important is it that you have access to local search experts in addition to the technology you use?

Thomas: Rio’s team is a huge help to us in triaging local search problems. For example, there was an algorithm change a while ago that created a canonicalization issue. When you see a sudden drop in traffic, it’s really important to get that figured out right away—and to avoid making any assumptions or drawing the wrong conclusions about it.

We contacted the Rio SEO team right away and together were able to figure out what the issue was. Armed with that knowledge, we knew what to expect and how to adjust while it self-corrected. When these things happen, you can waste a lot of time and money trying to figure out what is causing your issue and in the meantime, you have all of these locations to reassure that you’re on it. Having access to a team of experts who have the contacts and industry insight to discover these things proactively and recognize best practice solutions as quickly as Rio does is a game-changer.

Q: How do you collaborate with local owners and managers on Local Listings management?

Thomas: We are monitoring the brand as a whole and looking for any outliers in performance. We’ll run quality audits, for example, and see if there are any outliers that perhaps need adjustments to their name, address, URL, or description. 

When it comes to relaying issues with listings we monitor, we do so on a case-to-case basis. Usually, listing owners notify us if there are any discrepancies or problems. We created a dedicated Wyndham Inbox for two-way communications between us and local managers. 

Q: How important is it that your technology partner is an active part of the search industry?

Thomas: I feel it is a necessity, especially for us where we sometimes have our head—we tend to have blinders on so we can focus on the task at hand. Occasionally, we do need to come up for air and see what’s going on outside of our own operations and our place in the market. 

Regular team meetings can be a time-suck, but only if you’re going over things you could have sent in an email. In our weekly meetings, Rio brings us up to speed on the latest developments and updates on Google, Apple Maps, Yelp, and anywhere else our local listings may be affected. We have this resource constantly working in the background to make sure we’re prepared for what comes next, so we don’t end up playing catch-up. We’re also able to tune out a lot of industry “noise” as we know we have local search experts evaluating potential updates—we find out quickly whether an update concerns us or not.

Enterprise Local Search Comes with Unique Challenges… and Opportunities

Taking advantage of the myriad opportunities to appear and engage across hundreds or even thousands of markets requires equal parts creativity and analytical prowess—and local search expertise. How do you ensure that each and every customer is recognized and their need fulfilled across all of the platforms, devices, and networks consumers frequent today? How can you collect and activate the data those many touchpoints produce, separating insight from noise on such a massive scale?

These are challenges, for sure—but they are not insurmountable. In fact, brands with the right mix of technology, creativity, and expert supports are winning at local in big ways.

Learn more about the local marketing challenges brands face and how to meet them head-on: