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A Simple Local Marketing Strategy for Uber Vancouver & My Thoughts

Marketing, Search Engine Optimization | 15 May 2012

uber vancouver
I like Uber – I like them a lot.

In fact, when I first heard of them I thought: “I could definitely bring a service like this to Vancouver”. Like the other services I’ve launched in the past, a bit of business know-how plus my local/organic marketing expertise proved to be enough to get off the ground rather quickly.

For a good while, the gears in my head were turning. I started learning everything I could about Uber, their technology and most importantly, what it would take to launch a similar service here. I believe Hire Winston over in Toronto went through this same process – except they actually launched : )

However, I was too late—Uber has already landed in Vancouver.

I didn’t honestly think that Uber would come to Vancouver, or that little Vancouver could even support it. Though, that would never have stopped me from launching and finding out for myself. For me, it’s always been about providing something that isn’t already being offered to people who want it. In this case, ‘people’ was me. I like town cars. But more so, I like town cars, “Uber-style.”

So, scratch that plan and on to my next plan for world domination : ) No, actually I am not done yet. The saying goes: if you can’t beat them, join them. While I have no intention of joining Uber, I recognize awesomeness, and I want to help, contribute or share.

Having said that, this blog post will outline how I would’ve gotten Uber off the ground in Vancouver via search engines. I’m going to use Toronto as my example, as the search volume is typically quadruple what it is here in Vancouver.

My first instincts pointed me toward leveraging Local Search (or more specifically, Google Places), to get this campaign off the ground. The problem with using Google Places (GP) for Uber is that (and maybe I do crappy research), Uber doesn’t have a physical location nor local phone in many of the cities it services. Because Google Places requires that, and going around it would break TOS, we have a bit of a pickle.

On second thought, I suppose you could put a number, and when someone calls it, one is prompted with a message that tells them to “download the Uber app…” ect. Hmm…actually, this is probably how I would of done it and then done my best to find a way to measure how many callers downloaded the app vs. how many didn’t, telling me if I was pissing people off or were they curious enough to go through the process.

I would get around this by renting out a shared space, and using their address. That is the easy part; the tricky part is the phone number. Uber doesn’t do phone numbers. As soon as you put a phone number down for them, you are going to get a ton of local calls, which Uber clearly doesn’t want. That isn’t part of their model. That being said, this problem rules out Google Places.

Update: I just found out via Uber’s Vancouver Twitter feed that they set up in Gastown. Therefore, we might just use that address.

Although, on second thought, I suppose you could use a number. Perhaps, when someone calls it, a prompted message could be played asking them to download the app. Hmm…actually, this is probably how I would have done it, and then done my best to find a way to measure how many callers downloaded the app vs. how many didn’t. This would tell me if I was pissing people off, or if they were curious enough to go through the process.

Alternatively, we could go the organic route, and rank them in natural search alongside Google Places. While this wouldn’t be ideal in many cases (Google Places would be above organic listings), it would still work.

For this, I would very likely go the inner page route, ranking this page for Toronto keywords:, a PR6, with over 27k external backlinks, would fly through the SERPs with just a bit of direction from on-page changes—in Toronto anyways. In more competitive markets like NYC, you would likely need a wee bit more of a push.

After spending some time looking at keyword opportunities in Toronto, our best bet looks to be going the longer tail and more specific query route. Even in Toronto, there isn’t a ton of search volume, and thus we want to get the best bang for our effort by ranking for keywords that will deliver the best quality traffic. Terms like: Toronto town car, car service to Toronto airport, Toronto car services, private driver Toronto etc. While they may not have much volume, you’ll be doing just fine if you rank for 50 of them.

What we want to stay the heck away from is: taxi Toronto, Toronto limo, etc. Toronto doesn’t know Uber well enough yet to disassociate their service from regular taxis/limos. To direct this unknowing traffic would be a waste, causing more confusion than conversions.

Collectively, I suspect we could drive 1k/mo (many unique) people to, with the goal of attracting a super quality client. For a newer company, this could contribute a fair bit to their bottom line while also creating awareness and word-of-mouth.

I expect that an SEO effort would never be their leading marketing effort. However, a good marketing plan is a diverse one, and this could certainly be a strong contributor.

Finally, I wanted to share my thoughts on my first and certainly not last, Uber experience. The app itself is simply genius. The technology itself isn’t particularly new, but how they’ve applied it, and also the way the app interacts with you is brilliant. I remember requesting the car, and sitting there watching it get closer to me on my iPhone. Maybe I was bored, but it was fun.

Outside of the technology component, the town car was on time and the driver was courteous. The car itself needed a little work, though. Before I got in, I envisioned a very well-manicured interior, spotless and in no disrepair. However, there was scotch tape holding together the interior panels of the doors…and the floors and mats were pretty dirty.

Had this been my car service, I would have liked it to have been more like the washroom at nicer night clubs. You know, with the dude inside offering you a fresh towel, cologne, gum, etc. I realize this will chip away a fair bit if every fare takes a pack of gum, but I believe there is something there. Something that is currently missing that Uber’s riders would like to see.

Of course, keep in mind that Uber was VERY clear that this was a ‘Secret’ or beta ride.

All in all though, a wicked good service: polite driver and solid experience.

Way to go Uber! Stoked to have you in Vancouver : )

Check out Uber at or reach out to them on Twitter at @uber OR @uber_van

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