Marketing tech and services, location and audience targeting, online-to-offline, local commerce solutions and tools, national-to-local and local search all introduce varying levels of complexity and nuance that leaves even experienced marketers feeling like novices. Now imagine how the small business or even the national brand feels.

One of the strategies businesses in the “local” space use to win new clients is highlight the complexity of the specific area they operate in and then explain how their organization can help. While this may have yielded positive results in the past, it might be time to move away from it and communicate understanding and simplification instead.

That is precisely what Rio SEO did in the graphic above by attempting to bring more order to the local search space. Though not intended for broad industry use and more of a brand “asset,” this is an interesting take as it communicates a taming of the ecosystem, understanding and expertise which is in turn reflected upon the brand.

Rio’s diagram highlights the many players involved in local search, and with some organization and categorization the space appears more approachable/attainable. Motivated by the idea that the local search ecosystem doesn’t need to be portrayed as complex, Rio developed this graphic to show more harmony.

Moz offers the local search ecosystem diagram below which has been one of the most widely used. This isn’t to compare the two as each has different intentions and motivations behind their existence. Where Moz’s diagram communicates the complexity of the space, Rio’s is more of a “brand builder.”

local_search_ecosystem_us - Copy

Without getting into the accuracy of either diagram, each generates a reaction or perception. One communicates order and the other complexity. The question is, does one offer a better in-road to the hearts and minds of advertisers?

From the small business perspective, a Constant Contact study from earlier this year found that SMBs have an appetite for trying new things, learning and being in charge. Positioning something as too complex to do alone, immediately puts the seller in competition with the DIY mentality of the SMB.

SMBs instead should be engaged in the decision making process. Otherwise they are being asked to accept that the space is way too complex to navigate alone, that they shouldn’t try, and that they should trust the unknown vendor trying to sell them a new solution. Basically, they are being asked to be something they aren’t.

Educating and empowering local entrepreneurs may ultimately be more satisfying for them and successful for providers. There is no doubt that many, especially in the SMB segment, sit on marketing dollars or churn because they feel ostracized by complexity. And this complexity is felt by multi-location brands too, and isn’t confined to local search alone.


The fragmentation in the SMB marketing space (above) and marketing tech provider space (below) leaves businesses wondering who they “should” work with, likely resulting in no decision at all. Just last week, a new study found that this year the marketing technology landscape almost doubled in the number of businesses currently in the space compared to last.


Complexity in “local” is widely recognized and documented. The question is does talking about how complex things are make an organization appear more knowledgeable/trustworthy or does this simply contribute to the confusion? I would argue that simplification has the potential to prevent spending indecision while simultaneously educating and empowering businesses. Plus, it would be a welcomed departure from the current industry narrative.

– Originally posted on LSA Insider.