Archive for the ‘local search’ category

The Creativity of SEO

July 17th, 2012

Obviously in an open market of ideas, the Web, which requires a search engine like Google or others to organize it, some will game the system. Some will try to finagle their pages’ code to make it seem like something it isn’t to Google. But for those publishing to the Web on the side of authenticity, SEO can be thought of as the acid test for quality.

 

A recent movement in SEO has responded to Google’s hawkishness towards overly-SEO-laden pages. The search giant has developed algorithms that not only detect those pages (they may be legitimate or they may be posers), but also recognise when verified keywords are being used naturally in the text.

Google has gone far beyond merely indexing the Web. It is a judge of style now, with the advanced analytics and SEO screening to do it.

It is not going to turn back into a SEO-less world, but, the imperative to publish quality content (because that is what Google is able to see) is highest now. This is actually a great thing, not only because worldwide content will improve, but because SEO can now provide guidance to content producers that makes sense in terms of quality.

 

When You’ve Got Lemons

SEO should not be thought of as a dreadful bore, something so tricky it’s irksome. It can be looked at as a kind of online style guide — which will benefit your creative process. Really! Let’s take a look a key example.

 

Formatting

You know, one of the easiest SEO tactics, and one that could never be misinterpreted by Google as spammy, is simply to employ sensible formatting of text. When we say formatting, we’re thinking not only of typography (how the font looks), but also headings, the font size of sub-heads, complexity of text (simpler sentences are best) and the inclusion of images and links.

These are the natural ingredients of proper, legitimate webpage content that is search-engine optimised. Guess what! Those are also the ingredients of good text. Good text is clear and well thought out, with plenty of breathing space written into it.

 

Ever Important Text

It is difficult or impossible, in other words, to take bad text (poorly considered text) and to cram it into good SEO form. In order to have SEO results, you have to start with text that makes sense and that is well written.

We repeat: The traits of that sort of content are exactly what Google’s bots have apparently learned to recognize.

An example of an industry that employs SEO is the current phenomenon of online casino entertainment, particularly guide sites that help players match up with the right casinos. Certain sites that cover no deposit casinos where you can play for free have ceased to pack in keywords, allowing their writers to take a more natural conversational approach with visitors. Google ranks this kind of content higher than pages with more than enough keyword repetitions.

Yext Reviews

March 2nd, 2012

A while back, we told you about Yext Advertising, a new way for small businesses to be found online through local search.  At the time, Yext was offering highlighted listings on some of the top local directories – all managed from one single Yext dashboard – for $99.95 per month.  Well now, Yext has tweaked their platform and is offering what they are calling PowerListings.

Yext’s PowerListings

According to Yext,

PowerListings™ are premium listings on local search websites, mobile and navigation devices, centrally controlled by the Yext PowerListings system. With PowerListings, your local search results are enhanced with description, photographs, other rich content, and a highlighted Special Offer. PowerListings are available on leading local search sites like Yahoo!, MapQuest, and Yelp and
mobile apps such as Foursquare, HopStop and Co-Pilot.

The price for these PowerListings is $499.00 per year.  You can create and manage your listings on all of the Yext partners in the single Yext dashboard – so it is quite a time saver.  As anyone who has created listings on online directories knows, it is a very time consuming process.  So is the price worth what you get?

Yext Reviews

Recognized local SEO expert Mike Blumenthal conducted a very thorough review of Yext’s PowerListings platform, which rather than repeat here we strongly suggest that your read.  Through his personal experience using Yext PowerListings for two clients, he concluded that the time saved and the efficiencies gained provided a real value, but many small businesses will likely find the cost too prohibitive.  Yext works best for businesses that can recoup their cost from a single, or couple of, transactions generated by the service.  He thought this was a valuable service that is probably a good option for some, but not all types of, businesses.

We agree with Mike.  While Yext may not be the best solution for smaller mom and pop type businesses, it could prove very well for businesses such as wedding and event venues, lawyers, jewelers, car dealers, web developers and the like whose return on investment from one or two transactions could be great.

List of Free Online Directories

February 15th, 2012

Make Sure Your Company is On Them

If you are a small local business, it is important that prospective customers can find you when they do a local search, ex. “farm market vernon nj or bookkeeping chester ny.” Adding your business to free online directories is a great way to enhance your web visibility.  Take a look at the graphic below.  Because of online directories, our client is in EVERY single result on the first page of Google for the term preschool pine island ny.

Local Directory Graphic

Our Top 10 – OK 13 – List of Free Online Directories

You don’t need to upgrade your listings in online directories to gain a benefit.  All of the directory listing results in the graphic with the exception of one are FREE basic listings.  Some directories play a greater role in visibility than others.  Here is our top 13 list of free online directories – not in any specific order – that you should submit your business to:

  • Google Places
    Yahoo Local
    Bing Local
    Insiderpages.com
    Citysearch.com
    Local.com
    Localeze.com
    Superpages.com
    Yelp.com
    Merchantcircle.com
    Yellopages.com
    Yellowbook.com
    DMOZ.org
  • We recommend that you also submit your business to any local, regional and industry related directories.  Some of these may require a fee, such as warwickinfo.net in our graphic, but their visibility may make the expense worthwhile.

    Google Places PO Box Update

    February 9th, 2012

    PO Boxes Picture

    As we covered in our previous post Can I Use a PO Box As My Google Places Address?, Google does not approve of using a PO Box as an address in you’re your Google Places listing. Google reaffirmed this position in an update to the Google Places Quality Guideline stating:

    Do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. If you operate from a location but receive mail at a mail box there, please list your physical address in Address Line 1, and put your mail box or suite number in Address Line 2.

    Thankfully, this revision makes it easier for businesses who receive mail via PO Boxes rather than at their physical location. So while a PO Box cannot be your sole Google Places address, it can now be included in your address – hopefully without any issues.

    Claiming Google Places Listing

    December 15th, 2011

    Although businesses have been able to claim their Google Places Listings since 2005, the number of businesses claiming them since April of 2010 is tremendous. Over 1 1/2 years ago, only 4 million listings had been claimed. Last March the number jumped to 6 million, and now just nine months later the number has jumped to 8 million. According to Google, that is 16% of all the business locations throughout the world.

    A Google Places listing doesn’t just include your address, phone number and a link to your website. You can describe your services and products and upload logos, pictures and videos. Customers also have the ability to write reviews, which can greatly help with your rankings.

    Claiming Google Places Graphic

    If you haven’t claimed your Google Places listing, what are your waiting for. It is FREE web visibility.

    Local SEO For Small Business

    August 31st, 2011

    You have heard it all before. If you want to be found online by prospects, you need to optimize your website with search terms related to your products and services AND your local target market. Maybe you have put off doing so because you weren’t sure how much you bought into the whole idea of search engine optimization (SEO). Or perhaps you thought it was too expensive or not worth the return on investment. Well, here is an interesting fact that just might change your mind!

    According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Americans trust small business owners over 13 other institutions! A whopping 71% of those polled said they trusted small business. Only 25% trust large corporations. And only 25% trust the federal government.

    Pew Research Center

    In this tumultuous climate, people trust local small business for a reason. Why? Because you are not some large inaccessible corporation. You are their neighbor, their son’s little league coach, and a face. But you need to get that face seen if you want to be recognized. So join your local chamber of commerce, volunteer for local organizations, join local networking groups. AND make sure your business can be found online.

    That’s Where Local SEO For Small Business Comes In


    You don’t have to tell people to shop local, this study already shows that people WANT to shop local. So make sure they can easily find your website when they are searching for your products and services. Don’t just rely on what you think your ranking is – remember personalized search can inflate your search engine rankings. Get a website visibility analysis and see how you are fairing. Learn how you can improve your site’s Internet presence and then do it! Here are some tips:

    1. Make sure you are targeting terms that people are actually searching for
    2. Don’t forget to include your market, such as dry cleaners warwick ny
    3. Then make sure those terms are placed in the website’s coding and on the page itself
    4. Create local business listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local and optimize them with the appropriate search terms as well
    5. Submit your website to the top directories – Yelp, SuperPages, InsiderPages, and more
    6. Submit your website to any local directories
    7. Submit your website to industry specific directories
    8. Create a Facebook page, optimize it, and post often

    Local SEO for small business is important and it doesn’t have to be break the bank expensive. The local business listings are free. The directory listings are free. Facebook is free. If you’re tech savvy, you can attempt creating your listings and optimizing your website yourself. If you’re not, you should find an SEO consultant who can help. Depending upon the size of your website, SEO services can be minimal with great ROI.

    Local residents want to support your small business, so make sure they can find it.

    What Happened To Google Tags?

    April 21st, 2011

    Those bright yellow Google Tags that highlighted your business will soon be history.

    According to an email from Google, the company will be retiring the tags on April 29th. If you currently run a Google Tags campaign and you didn’t get the email – hopefully you will – let this posting serve as your notice. While we received an email notification for one of our client’s, we did not receive one for our own account. Instead, we received the following email:

    According to an email from Google, the company will be retiring the tags on April 29th. If you currently run a Google Tags campaign and you didn’t get the email – hopefully you will – let this posting serve as your notice. While we received an email notification for one of our client’s, we did not receive one for our own account. Instead, we received the following email:

    “This is to notify you that the following offers in your Google Places account will expire in 13 days on 4/30/11.

    15% Off SEO Services

    We are sorry to bother you but we thought we’d let you know early, in case you wished to extend their lifetime or replace them. Please visit Google Places to extend the expiry date of your offers or to replace them with new ones. After expiration, the offers will no longer be displayed until they are renewed.

    Thanks,”

    Kind of confusing, huh? Perhaps you also received this email. But it is official. The Google Tags will soon be no more. Once we logged into our Google Places account, there was a notification up top saying:

    What Happened to Google Tags?

    What Happened to Google Tags?

    It appears that Google is trying to push its new Google Boost – a very simplified version of AdWords that you supposedly “don’t” have to manage, in place of Tags, which will make them money (as Google Tags was a nominal fee), but cost you more. Google mentioned Boost – and even offered a $100 Boost credit for Tags users for the month of May – in its email and in our Places dashboard. When Google first started Tags, it offered its users a free month credit, i.e., $25. So it seems Google wants you to spend at least $100 per month on Boost.

    Google Tags worked well for our clients, both in terms of visibility and cost of conversion. It’s a shame that it will no longer be available.

    So if you notice that your Google Tag is no longer showing, or if you finally decided to try Google Tags and logged into your Places account and see no option for it, you will no longer have to wonder what happened to Google Tags.

    Google Hotpot Reviews Now Rolled Into Google Places

    April 12th, 2011

    Hotpot is a recommendation engine that displays reviews and ratings of local businesses and establishments. Until last week, Google Hotpot reviews were integrated with Google Places in the iPhone and Android Google Places apps when users were searching Google Maps or Google.com. You set a geographical location and local reviews were displayed. Now Google has rolled Hotpot into Google Places.

    According to Google, the Hotpot “community has quickly expanded to millions of users who are rating more than one million times per month and enjoying a truly personalized view of the world.” So they are making Hotpot a permanent part of Google Places. They also plan to add more features to Google Places to make it even easier to rate, discover and share.

    How does merging Google Hotpot Reviews into Google Places affect you?

    If you have a Google Places account, make sure it is complete and optimized. If you don’t have one, create one. You have to be found in order to be reviewed!

    Marketing Training for Success

    March 9th, 2011

    Any marketer can tell you that retention is just as important to a business as performance management. While the latter focuses on employee satisfaction, the former focuses on the means to increase the sales and customer satisfaction. The list of those means starts at the marketing training plan. The employees of an insurance company, those of a land-based casino or those of a transportation company… they all need to be trained to build the skills they then have to use in the best interest of the business they are part of.

    Identifying the marketing training needs

    Every good marketing training plan starts with the proper identification of the marketing training needs. Let’s assume you own one of the businesses mentioned above. Best case scenario is you own a casino. You may have recruited new staff that have very little experience in gambling or the performance levels of your staff may have dropped for some reason. Of course, unless those reasons are reasons you cannot control, you can avoid the latter by rewarding your employees. Casinos often reward their customers for their choice by offering them attractive casino bonuses, for instance, so there is no reason why the employees should not have their own reward system too. If you want to get an idea of just how attractive those casino bonuses can be, you can do it here. Anyway, a reward system will prevent your employees from feeling tempted to steal from you. Also, you may need to keep your staff up-to-date on the regulatory modifications, which are quite common in the casino industry.

    Identifying the business objectives

    Marketing training is only effective if it focuses on a business achieving its goals. The marketing budget may be limited, in which case priorities need to be set. Some businesses have to focus on sales, while others have to focus on their employees. If you own a casino, you will fit in the second category. You need to improve your employees’ skills, which vary from their attitude toward the customers to their contribution to the casino making profit despite the incentives they are offered like casino bonuses or progressive jackpots.
     
    As mentioned just now, a marketing training plan is only effective if it helps a business obtain results. Of course, these should be measurable or establish performance standards. For instance, the employees may be given targets to achieve. In case those targets are not achieved, their rewards are off the table. It should be noted that the business outcomes and the training plan are very much related in terms of value. However, your training plan may serve to motivate your employees to achieve performance rather than feel drawn to the casino bonuses and the other piles of cash they are surrounded by, but the costs usually involve more.

    Identifying the marketing training techniques

    Finally, you may be aware of the business goals and outcomes, but as a business owner, you have to make sure you find the best training methods. Of course, your employees will learn a great deal doing their actual work, but you can also try workshops, conferences or seminars. This will make your training more effective. In the end, whether there is a casino involved or some other business, it all comes down to acknowledging the value of training. This is how performance is boosted. And then, finally, you have training evaluation to consider, which leads the way to the identification of new opportunities and needs.

    Can I Use a PO Box as My Google Places Address?

    January 31st, 2011

    Clients with home businesses often ask if they can use a PO Box as their address in the Google Places listing. The short answer – not a good idea.

    Google has seemed to waffle back and forth in this area. When Google Maps was first created, businesses without a brick and mortar address could not create a business listing because the Google Map was unable to display a listing without a pinpoint address. Then Google Maps started incorporating business listings from data partners and began showing a floating dot, rather than a pinpoint, to represent those businesses with no “actual” address – but that information had to come from data partners rather than a listing.

    When confronted with how businesses with no brick and mortar address could get on Google Maps back in 2008, the Google Earth VP suggested that those businesses get a PO Box. Hence, people started doing so. Acknowledging that not all businesses have brick and mortar addresses, in April 2010, Google rolled out the ability to add service areas to your listing AND hide your address.

    A few months later Google seemed to do an about face. In a December 2010 blog post on tips for creating a business listing in Google Places, a Google rep wrote:

    “Google Places is meant to facilitate customer interaction with brick-and-mortar businesses and service providers. Therefore, the business owner or employee who is officially authorized to represent their particular business location must have a physical address in order to comply with our guidelines.”

    The guidelines the rep is referring to state: “P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.

    Some of those listings have been removed and some have not. But there are plenty of Google Places Help questions out there regarding people being penalized for using a P.O. Box as an address.

    What are your options? Some places let you get a P.O. Box that is not listed as a P.O. Box address, but rather as a suite number. Use your home address but don’t display it. Try to partner with another business to use their address – but remember that there cannot be two businesses at the same address so you would need to have a suite number.

    Can I use a PO Box as my google places address?
    If you want your Google Places listing to be shown, DON’T use a P.O. Box!