June 28, 2017

Seize the Video Advantage

By Adam Dorfman

If mobile is the king of online advertising, then video is a powerful prince. As we discussed on our blog, mobile advertising spend now accounts for more than half of all digital ad spend, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. But online video is surging in popularity, which underscores how important it is for businesses to use a rich content palette in their location marketing.

Couple watches video on mobile phone

The IAB’s annual Internet Advertising Report says that of all the ad formats measured – mobile, paid search, digital video, and banners – only mobile and desktop video saw an increase in revenue from 2016. As the IAB noted, desktop video revenues increased 16 percent, but its percentage of total revenues remained constant as a percentage. Other interesting points:

  • Total digital video, including mobile and desktop, rose to $9.1 billion, up 53 percent.
  • Digital video on smartphones and tablets continued strong triple-digit growth.
  • Forty-six percent of video ads were displayed on a mobile device, up from 29 percent the prior year.

The data suggests that businesses are getting more sophisticated about investing into digital video across different devices. This omnichannel approach is understandable because consumers have become more omnichannel, consuming content across different media, such as video, image, text-based content, GIFs, and emoji. Brands are reacting to a more visually oriented consumer experience (as I noted in a recent Search Engine Land column).

Video will continue to grow. As Mary Meeker’s recently published Internet Trends 2017 report indicates, technology developments such as the bundling of video into Amazon Echo Show will continue to make video a mainstream consumer behavior, and the rise of video gaming also underpins how comfortable consumers are interacting with video like drinking water. So when businesses create good video content, people are receptive, as Mary Meeker suggests:

IAB Video Image 2017-06-26

To succeed with video, I suggest that brands:

  • Understand how to use both paid and organic video content. On the paid side, for instance, brands use six-second bumper ads to create a quick impression, while an in-stream video ad provides more content but is skippable after five seconds. On the other hand, brands might use video organically to drive traffic to their sites and raise awareness for brick-and-mortar stores, such as a “how-to” car maintenance video that a brand like NAPA Auto Parts might use to boost interest in its brick-and-mortar locations. Depending on how you use it, video can generate awareness, reach, and engagement.
  • Understand how video will help you as opposed other forms of visual storytelling. For instance, GIFs are often used to create short bursts of whimsical content. The example I cited in Search Engine Land was Starbucks using humorous GIFs to promote its drinks. But in the same column I also noted that video, whether recorded or livestreamed, is better for longer-form visual storytelling and engagement. A brand can also chop up videos into smaller morsels to distribute across multiple platforms, as Tiffany & Co. did recently.  

A great way to get started with video is to match your customers’ journeys against your own brand’s objectives. First understand your customers’ omnichannel journeys across platforms and devices. And then figure out the right content for the platform and journey that best supports your brand. Facebook, for example, may lend itself to longer-form how-to video and livestreams than Instagram. But whether you take advantage on Facebook depends on how important Facebook is to your customers’ journeys.

Contact SIM Partners to figure out how to create engaging content that drives revenue at the local level.

June 26, 2017

SIM’s Adventure in the PanIQ Escape Room

By Charley Vail

PanIQ Escape Room Chicago

panIQ Escape RoomSIM Partners put their teamwork and communication skills to the test when they entered the PanIQ Escape Room Chicago in the West Loop. The PanIQ Escape Room sets up escape room courses where teams of 6 have 1 hour to solve puzzles and work together to escape the room. The SIM Partners team saw an opportunity to grow as a team and build on skills that are vital in the workplace such as direct communication, critical thinking and problem solving. You can use a walkie-talkie to ask the attendant for clues if you come to a roadblock, but using this lifeline too frequently results in vague responses from the attendant.

Three teams of 6 split into three different rooms and competed in friendly competition. The rooms were themed accordingly; there was an infection room, a mob scene and the room I was placed in, the jail cell. You and your team get a backstory as to why you are locked in the room, and the door shuts, starting the timer. My squad was split into two different jail cells with only a hole in the wall to use for communication and exchanging verbal and physical clues.

It was a mental workout as my team began to gradually solve puzzles based off the information we had within our respective jail cells. We completed a crossword, a wall puzzle that involved delicately passing a key back and forth with lock picks, and our intern Hudson drove a remote control RV to the other side of the room and used a magnet to retrieve another key. It was equally exhilarating as it was satisfying, and I got to spend time with co-workers I don’t normally speak to on a regular basis. All SIM teams escaped their respective rooms and were completely satisfied with our results. Immediately we began discussing plans about coming back and conquering different rooms in a rematch. We learned valuable team building lessons and discussed them in a debriefing meeting back at the office. We grew close together, and it was an amazing start to our weekend.
PaniQ Escape Room Chicago

Here are some of the lessons we learned that we can use in office when helping out clients:


  • If you have a piece of information, share it with the entire team because it’s probably useful for other teammates to know.


  • If your team is lost and have tried all options, something that you don’t know about must be wrong. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a third party.


  • Have patience when problem-solving. Rushing through the process won’t bring you to the resolution any faster.


  • If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, remove yourself and take a step back to observe and cause less confusion.


  • Ask direct questions. Don’t ask open-ended questions.


  • The team leader should delegate tasks when necessary and know when to bring the team together to regroup.


  • Trust your teammates to do your job and focus solely on yours unless they ask for help.


  • Take time to reevaluate and find out what is important and what is a distraction. Only focus on the important tasks first.


  • Do we have all of the information we need to solve this puzzle?
    • a.k.a. “Do we have all of the information needed to complete this client ticket request?”

The winning team:
Image uploaded from iOS (2)

June 21, 2017

Meet SIM’s Summer Interns

By Hannah Wilson


This summer we’ve taken on three interns at SIM Partners. All three of these college students have chosen to spend their summer vacation with us to broaden their horizons in the business world and to learn a thing or two about Search Engine Optimization.

lauren resized

Our Graphic Design Intern, Lauren, studies graphic design at DePaul University where she will graduate from in December. She is a Chicagoland area native, hailing from Carol Stream, Illinois.  While she spends her summer with us, she will be updating, creating and organizing graphics for the company. From business cards to eblasts, she formats it all. She has also been working tirelessly on the backdrops for our tradeshow booths!In her spare time she loves watching rom coms with her roommates.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.27.46 PM

Our Sales Intern, Hudson, had never been to Chicago before this summer! A native of Tyler, Texas, he will be spending the summer assisting the sales team. He has mainly been working on projects such as acquiring intel on all the major competitors and applying that information into a spreadsheet, as well as making notes on webinars for everyone to be able to access. Also he has been involved in sales conferences and trainings to better understand what thought processes and mindsets needed when communicating to prospect. Hudson enjoys the outdoors and finding good places to eat. He will be a sophomore in the Fall at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where he studies Political Science.

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 3.41.33 PM

Our Marketing and Social Media Specialist, Hannah, commutes from River Forest, Illinois, this summer. She is in charge of maintaining our blog, sharing our content and finding other relevant content for our Twitter pages. She has also been working to help the development of our concepts for the trade shows we will be participating in later this year. Although she is a Chicagoland native, she will be graduating in December with a degree in Marketing from LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hannah enjoys dogs, Trader Joe’s and camping. She loves cheering on the Tigers and earlier this month she actually went to the Super Regionals that were held in Baton Rouge when her fighting tigers beat Mississippi State and moved on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.


June 19, 2017

Don’t Let Your Website Get in the Way of Your Practice

By Hannah Wilson

Healthcare websites are doing it wrong

When a physician’s location information and content is inaccurate that it adds to the confusion of potential and current clients — however it is not always a priority of physician practices. This issue seems urgent, however many practices chose to put this on the back burner and wait until the provider is done with a major website redesign. Website redesigns are difficult. They consume energy and time like an unstoppable force of nature. It’s understandable that a provider takes the mentality of “I’ll fix the data as soon as I get my website ready.” But this kind of mentality undermines the reason that providers have an online presence in the first place: to create and keep patients.

Continue reading more in Mike Hill’s new post, where he discusses what happens when you put off improving your location data and content.




June 8, 2017

Giving Back for the Anixter Center

By Hannah Wilson

Give Back Resized

On June 6, some of the SIM Partner employees volunteered their morning with the clients of the Anixter Center in Lakeview on Chicago’s north side. It is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the Chicagoland area that has different programming for all ages to help people with disabilities and the challenges that come with those disabilities.

From the moment we arrived that morning, we could feel the energy and support that this place offers all of its clients. Everyone that was getting dropped off was smiling and excited for the days activities. We followed Jen, who’s the head of volunteer services, and started setting up the clients favorite game, Bingo.

We set up a craft corner, a photo booth and the main event, Bingo. This way everyone could switch around and try different things. When the clients came in, you could sense the excitement. SIM Partner employees each helped a handful of the Anixter Center clients with filling up their boards, crafts, and even posing for pictures together in the photo booth. All of the clients were excited we were there and eager to tell us about themselves.

The biggest take away from this particular Give Back, was that you can get just as much out of volunteering and the people and organizations we help out do. We started off the day with the mindset that we were going into this event to help the clients of the Anixter Center, but they also helped us recognize that we need to appreciate the little things. Whenever anyone got a Bingo, they would go up to the front of the room and pick a prize from the table. Whether it was a pen or a lei, they were also so excited and happy to receive even the smallest prize. It demonstrated to us that taking a step back each day and enjoying the little things can greatly improve your point of view.

Amazon is a Search Giant

By Jon Schepke

Amazon Packages

I’m sure you heard the news by now: on May 30th, Amazon became just the 14th member of the “$1,000 stock club.” The company’s incredible earnings growth is probably Wall Street’s biggest story of the year.  To put things in perspective: if you invested $10,000 into the Amazon IPO, today it would be worth $4.8M.  But Amazon is much more than a cash cow for its investors. The company is a business disruptor. Amazon has certainly changed the retail experience forever. And now it’s a search giant, as noted by Forrester analyst Collin Colburn in a recent blog post.

Is “Google’s Biggest Threat? Amazon,” Colburn cites reasons why Amazon is encroaching on Google’s position as one of the dominant players in consumer search. One factor that resonates for me is how Amazon search moves customers along the product lifecycle.

“Google has long dominated the discover stage of the customer life cycle,” he writes. “But Amazon is playing an increasingly large role in how customers find products. In fact, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 31% of US online adults who made a purchase in the past three months started their shopping research on Amazon. And it doesn’t end there. Amazon is also a place for customers to research product choices and even transact.”

Amazon, like Facebook, has built its own search-and-discovery platform. And with its ability to filter and personalize results through its own algorithm, Amazon makes it easier to find and purchase products with a few clicks. In fact, with the roll-out of voice-activated products such as the Echo, Amazon is changing the way we search, from clicking to talking. As I wrote earlier this week, Google also has a say in the evolution of voice search, but Amazon’s products dominate the market for voice-activated speakers.

Brick-and-mortar stores correctly perceive Amazon as a threat. But businesses can also succeed in Amazon’s world by treating Amazon’s success as a lesson in how consumers discover products and services:

  • We live in an omnichannel world in which people discover brand on multiple platforms such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, and Google, and devices ranging from laptops to mobile phones. Succeeding in an omnichannel world means being present on multiple platforms (including your own website) and creating content appropriate for each. Create visual content to capture searches on Instagram and to lead those searches to your stores. Go deep with descriptive content completed by accurate location data to win on Google – and so on.
  • Be flexible. Search is changing into a voice-activated and visually oriented experience. Make sure your location pages are optimized for voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and that your inventory makes effective use of visual content to make your product descriptions pop.
  • Encourage next moments, or the moment of purchase that occurs after you find a product online. One of Amazon’s greatest strengths is its shopping cart feature. Once you find something you like, Amazon makes it easy for you to buy and ship. Brick-and-mortar stores can get a lot more savvy about creating next moments as Amazon does. For example, as my colleague Adam Dorfman wrote recently in Search Engine Land, businesses can make better use of their store locators to turn search into revenue. I urge you to read his column.

Learn from Amazon. Get better at creating a search-and-discovery process that leads to revenue in your store. Read my earlier post, Apple Steps Up Its Game in the Voice Economy, for more on voice search following the WWDC news. Contact us. We can help you succeed with location marketing.

June 6, 2017

Apple Steps Up Its Game in the Voice Economy

By Jon Schepke

The battle for the voice-based economy starts in consumers’ homes.

Within the past month, three publishing giants have made major announcements about products that rely on voice commands to manage consumers’ lives, ranging from getting sports and weather reports to searching for things to do and buy. To wit:

  • Amazon recently built upon its dominance of voice-activated devices by releasing a new version of its popular Echo device. Echo Show integrates voice commands with visual content, making it possible for consumers to not only use their voices to find what they want but also to see what they want, too. On Amazon’s website, the company boasts about users being able to call up weather forecasts for the day and see the details represented onscreen. Interestingly, Amazon had earlier released a version of Echo (Echo Look) with which people can take selfies of their clothing and get feedback from Amazon on their sartorial choices – sort of like Amazon appointing itself as a fashion consultant. Here we see Amazon expanding the scope of Echo beyond voice, while still making voice central to the experience.
  • Not to be outdone, within weeks Google made its Google Home voice-activated speaker smarter and more visually oriented. Google, which holds a (very distant) Number Two ranking in the smart speaker market, is under pressure to make Google Home more useful. As my colleague Adam Dorfman blogged recently, Google is doing just that. As Adam blogged, Google, building off its search ecosystem, has made more visual and proactive. So, just like Echo Show, Google Home will display visual content to complement voice results – say a route to a restaurant displayed on Google Maps. But Google is also making content more proactive by suggesting content to you through Google Home. So, for example, if Google knows you have reserved tickets to see Hamilton, Google will remind you when the date and time approach.
  • Apple, which has both pioneered and followed the market for voice assistants, made a big move in voice at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 5 by releasing its long-anticipated HomePod smart speaker. The release of HomePod was a catch-up move by Apple. After being an earlier leader in voice with the development of Siri, Apple watched as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft developed their own voice assistants and stole Apple’s leadership. But Apple made a gutsy statement June 5 by releasing a smart speaker that is far more expensive than Amazon Echo and Google Home. HomePod, like Echo and Google Home, is a device to manage your life. But HomePod also features a high-fidelity sound akin to a Sonos stereo speaker designed to deliver crisp sound but with smart features. At WWDC Apple stressed how well HomePod integrates with the Apple Music streaming service, which is an interesting strategy that places home entertainment above functional search and discovery.

These product announcements underscore how big voice-activated discovery has become in just a short amount of time. eMarketer estimates that in 2017, “35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month. That’s a jump of 128.9% over last year.” A year ago, how many of you could have predicted that kind of growth?

But the movements of Amazon, Apple, and Google also demonstrate how nuanced voice-activated discovery is becoming, too. For many months, the talk about voice has focused on the mobile, on-the-go experience. And yet, three influential brands are focusing their attention on the home. If you are a business that manages multiple locations, it’s important that you take a step back and assess how your customers are relying on multiple devices and channels to learn about you, find you, and do business with you.

We live in an increasingly complicated omnichannel world. Consumers use voice, images, and video to get what they want in the home, on the go, and at your store. The challenge for brands: creating content and managing data that moves them along the journey.

June 2, 2017

On-Demand Healthcare Inspires Compelling Partnerships

By Hannah Wilson

BCBSA & Lyft

Brian Westrick shares about how the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the ride-sharing company has recently joined forces to combat a problem that’s affecting physicians and patients all across America, transportation barriers. Transportation barriers result in over 3.5 million missed or delayed appointments in the U.S. every year. These missed or delayed appointments can cause more complications for patients down the road if they do not get the right medical attention, but Lyft and BCBSA are aiming to improve the quality of life for these patients.

Click here to continue reading the rest of this post.

Attribution for an Omnichannel World?

By Jay Hawkinson

Omnichannel world

In the run-up to Memorial Day, Google unleashed an avalanche of data at Marketing Next, Google’s annual event for advertisers. In case you missed it, here are some of the gems Google laid before us to understand consumer behavior:

  • 87 percent of smartphone owners turn to search in a moment of need.
  • 20 percent of searches in the Google app are by voice.
  • 70 percent of those who bought in store first used device like phone to find relevant information.
  • 91 percent of smartphone owners bought or said they were going to after seeing ad they described as relevant.
  • 30 percent of people use five or more devices.

The data underscore some important realities we’ve been discussing with our clients for quite some time:

  • Optimizing your experience for mobile is just table stakes to be effective with location marketing. The vast majority of consumers are using their smartphones to find what they want, including information about products in your store. If you are not optimizing your location data and content for the mobile experience, you might as well not exist, especially as Google continues to reward mobile-optimized content in search results.
  • Location data makes you findable. But content – compelling offers, descriptive information, video, images, and the like – brings people into your store. People complain about ads until they find them relevant. Good data about your customers – their behaviors and preferences – creates the foundation for creating relevant content. The more you know about your customers, the more contextual your content is to their seasonal interests, the time of day they are shopping, and other factors that shape the purchase decision. Brands’ need for contextual data is what has made Foursquare the data powerhouse it is today.
  • With 30 percent of people owning five or more devices, the shopping journey is becoming increasingly omnichannel in nature. Consumers can order a pizza on Amazon Echo, buy clothing on Pinterest, and use their cars as search engines to find a cup of coffee. Shoppers comfortably navigate multiple devices and channels to find brands. Businesses that operate multiple locations need to create a smooth journey across channels and devices to attract omnichannel consumers.

Now, for a challenge: attributing sales to an increasingly complex shopping journey. Google has faced criticism for failing to effectively measure all the touchpoints that influence a purchase decision – or multi-touch attribution. At Marketing Next, Google said it intends to do something about that shortcoming. Google announced it will soon make available Google Attribution, a product that uses machine learning to do multi-touch attribution.

As Google announced on its blog, “For the first time, Google Attribution makes it possible for every marketer to measure the impact of their marketing across devices and across channels — all in one place, and at no additional cost.”

The product, in beta, will be free although a fee-based product will be available as well for more in-depth attribution. Google Attribution is not a magic bullet, as it is limited to measuring consumer behavior that occurs in the Google universe, but Google’s universe is vast, and the fact that the product exists is a sign of better things to come for measuring consumer behavior in an omnichannel world.

Omnichannel is getting more measurable and real. To discuss how to thrive in an omnichannel environment and measure your performance effectively, contact SIM Partners.

May 23, 2017

How Location Marketing Supports the Red Wing Shoes Marketing Stack

By Jay Hawkinson

Location marketing works best when it’s part of a larger ecosystem to support a brand. That’s one lesson learned from Red Wing Shoes winning a Stackie award from Third Door Media, publisher of sites such as Marketing Land and Search Engine Land.

The Stackie Awards are given to companies that create the most effective visual depictions of their marketing technology stacks (or the technologies that companies use to support their marketing). Red Wing Shoes, a SIM Partners client, was one of six winners among the 57 entrants for the following depiction:

red wing marketing stack

The Red Wing martech stack shows how the footwear retailer harnesses and automates data to drive customer personalization through the right channel, with the right message, to the right person, at the right time. And the SIM Partners Velocity platform is an important part of that stack, as you can see in the Web/Content section of the graphic.

For the past few years, SIM Partners has been working with Red Wing Shoes to turn consumers’ “near me” searches into in-store purchases. Red Wing Shoes maximizes visibility for its hundreds of stores by relying on the SIM Partners Velocity to optimize content and data for its location pages. As we announced in 2016,

Velocity Location Data Management manages, distributes and monitors Red Wing’s store location data (including name, address, phone, store hours, and other key attributes) to ensure store locations are visible when and where consumers are looking for footwear or workwear. With Velocity Publishing, store locations are able to create contextually relevant content and experiences to convert searches into store customers. One-to-many publishing enables store managers to update their pages, including localized content on services provided and brands carried, while custom workflows and moderation ensures content and messaging stays on-brand.

Through our relationship, we help Red Wing make its brand more relevant and personal especially to mobile shoppers, who use their mobile devices to find the right location at the right time when shoppers need to replace their footwear. In turn, Red Wing Shoes relies on myriad technologies to manage the marketing automation, sales enablement, and analytics required to plan inventory, fulfill orders, and manage a host of other functions.

SIM Partners is proud to support Red Wing Shoes as the company builds a powerful brand based on data, insight, and great products. For more information about how your company can enhance their marketing stack with Velocity, contact us