The world absolutely cannot beat a proverbial path to your door if they can’t even find you. That’s where your smart local search marketing straegies comes into play. When it comes to “being found” ask yourself whether you want to be a dot or a pushpin on Google Maps? It makes a huge difference especially to the people who are in the buying mode.
Here are a few tips to get you started on the road to adding Google Maps local search to your marketing repertoire.
1. Let your fingers do the walking, as the Yellow Pages campaigns used to tout, and walk them right over to your keyboard and find your Google browser, using Firefox, of course. Find your Places page in Google Maps, and claim your listing.
This is your first step toward becoming a savvy local search marketer. You need an owner-verified listing. You will find a page already populated for you by Google. The information may be wrong. Sign in with your G-mail account.
2. Keyword research applies to your traditional search strategy for your website. The rules and parameters for local search are completely different and a traditional search engine optimization (SEO) consulting firm may not understand local search at all.
Think like a prospect looking for your business from their phone. How would you find yourself? Your company name, business address and primary phone should be correct. Referred to as NAP, this information must always be consistent across the Internet; in Web directories, on other sites and on your own website. If people come to your place of business, then do not use P.O. boxes in your listing.
3.Choose at least one business category from the list of choices offered by Google. This will help Google legitimize and properly list your business. You can add others, using smart keyword choices that describe your business offerings.
4. On your Google Places dashboard, add a couple of Internet coupons. I suggest unique offers so you can track results. Equally important, Google’s algorithm supposedly gives your listing a boost if you have coupons.
5. Citations and reviews from Web sources across the Internet will automatically feed into your Google Places page and give you a boost in landing in Google’s Lucky Seven listings, or in their blended listings in a Web search.
Want a real life example? Go to Google Maps and search for coffee shops in Marlborough. Starbucks has claimed their Places pages. Dunkin Donuts has not, and you can see the difference when you look at their pages. Some are marked as pushpins, others as dots on the map. Some well-known haunts such as Main Street Cafe or even Panera don’t even show up!
Unless you have been living under a rock like the guy in the Geico commercial, the value of “local search” to your business should be fairly obvious. While most baby boomers are still catching on to the new world of digital marketing (and many more are hopelessly lost) the Gen-Xs, Gen-Ys and the echo boomers certainly know how to find just about everything they need right from their smart phone.
In the last few days there’s been a small problem for some Gmail users, as we’ve mentioned here. And Google has come out and said “Oops, our bad” and are working on correcting the error. In the last couple of weeks in addition, the search algorithm driving the Google machine was tweaked to try and clean up the search results.
The tweak, nicknamed “Farmer” is basically designed to begin weeding content farm, scraper sites and spam sites from the search results. These websites typically abuse the current hot trends on line to drive false SEO campaigns to themselves and/or their clients for visibility. The coding change however, has had a rather unwanted side effect as well however. There’s a handful of sites which have been mistakenly affected by the new algorithm change. And again, Google is saying “Oops, our bad” and manually correcting any mistaken rankings changes. So if your site has been affected recently, say the last 2 weeks or so, by the algorithm shift, it may be worth your while to hit your webmaster tools and submit for a reconsideration.
In a recent case of the big kid throwing their weight around, Yelp has spoken out against Google Places pages, saying that it’s in direct competition with Yelps services. Now in the past, Google tried to snatch up Yelp for a cool $500 million, and after they declined Google went out and voila! Google Places makes it’s appearance. The way it works currently, is on Google Places you’ll find Yelp reviews, properly linked back to their site and Yelp hasn’t said anything about it. But Google as of late (according to Yelp) has decided that it’s not enough and have decided to invoke the playground rule of “play my way, it’s my ball”. So as of this writing Yelp faces the possibility of being taken from the index, Google Places listings and all, unless they bow to the Google Giant. The most troubling part about the whole affair however I think, is with everything considered Google will be completely crushing it’s own mantra of “Don’t be evil” by kicking a valid competitor from the index. Here’s hoping they actually decide to take the high road and get that stick out of their you know what.
It shouldn’t be any real surprise that Charlie Sheen is a member in the trending topics of the day much like he has in the last few days. There’s also the trending topic of the Dior designer who’s being dropped by the fashion icon for their ranting of Jews and love of Hitler. It’s never a large surprise personally to find strange topics dominating the trending lists, but there are some news topics that surprise me from time to time.
Take for instance, the news from Statcounter that Yahoo has fallen to last place in the search wars, overtaken by Bing. At just under 4% search share, Yahoo reportedly fell to Bing who came in with 4.3% search share. Statcounter showed Google’s search dominance flying at it’s average of 89.9% of the search market. These are global search numbers, so they’re talking in the billions of queries. When you get a little closer to home, Yahoo is still leading Bing in the US.
The reason why all of these numbers don’t mean a thing, is there are really only 2 players now in the search market; Bing and Google. In 2009 Yahoo announced that Bing would power it’s search results and that they were going to join forces to try and take on the Google machine. Currently Bing is giving Yahoo results in the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. It’s Bing search pages and results, with a bright shiny Yahoo wrapper on it. It doesn’t matter how you try and portray it, it’s Bing and Google in the search game now.
Google says it is “very sorry” for a glitch that inexplicably deleted the accounts of thousands of Gmail users during the weekend, a problem the company says is now fixed.
As of Tuesday morning, Google’s App Status dashboard, a website the company maintains to keep clients updated about issues with its various services, reported no problems with Gmail. Full Story here
If you logged into your Gmail account to find your inbox empty, you’re not alone.
More than 100,000 users of Google Inc.’s email service had their accounts accidentally deleted, including all records of sent and received messages.
Google says it began investigating reports of problems Sunday after users complained that emails, folders and contact lists going back years had completely disappeared, as if their accounts had been reset.
As of Monday morning, Google said it is continuing to investigate the problem. It is not known when full service for affected users will be restored.
Strategizing localized search is an emerging search engine optimization trend.
Businesses that are listed on Google Maps and Google Places become one step ahead of the competition. These listings also lay down the foundation for a mobile marketing campaign, which is predicted to become a major force the search industry.
Google is planning to install a Google Instant-like function for portable devices, which could make localized search even more relevant.
J.C. Penney has had their hand slapped obviously since they were caught breaking the good guy rules, as they should have. But it’s like there’s a white elephant in the room, that topic that no one wants to talk about. The ‘but how couldn’t they know’ side of the equation of their online marketing strategy.
It’s a dangerous loop to become trapped in when there are too many channels for information to pass through. And just like the game of Telephone when you’re a child (the passing of a phrase down a line of people), the message becomes lost in the end. The higher ups in the J.C. Penney organization deny that they knew of any shady business from their search engine marketing company and because of the way information travels it’s (unfortunately) probably true. The most unfortunate part of their whole marketing debacle is it’s just going to encourage the chain to bring all of their SEO efforts in house.
There’s two sides to this issue of course, and both have their pros and their cons. Bringing all of the tech and knowledge in house provides an exceptionally high level of control over the execution of their SEO strategy and much faster implementation of any changes they may desire. Out sourcing has the added benefit of not having to add to your staff and the cost can be offset to marketing, or worse, place the hands of your companies SEO into someone who thinks they can handle it. The very real, and unfortunate result of placing SEO into the hands of someone already within the company who only has an idea as to how best proceed is the likely outcome.
JCP is having their website manually checked on because they broke the rules of the search game. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on their website for some time to come I would imagine. But the violation which put them into this position, would have a very real chance to happen again if they should go the route to bring all of their SEO in house only and delegate it to a current employee who has an inkling of an idea.
Because when you take it down to brass tacks, the real SEO experts aren’t for hire by one company to stake their claim in one place. And a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing to have.
Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.
The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.
Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.
JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.
In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.
Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.
Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).
A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.
Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.
The newest hype to hit the tech wire would have to be the talks which have been occuring with Twitter, Facebook and Google. Rumor has it that the seriousness of the talks hasn’t reached a fevered pitch as of yet, but that Twitter is courting the two giants is enough to make the industry ears twitch.
The current evaluation of Twitter is somewhere in the $10 billion range, a solid improvement from it’s worth last year being tagged at just short of $4 billion. Whether or not the search, or social media giant will actually pay this amount is in doubt. Twitter has tried only a handful of money making schemes, but on the whole the media which Twitter introduced to the world doesn’t have a lot of marketing punch. It’s a useful tool for some industries and aspects of day to day interaction, but with having to reduce your world to 140 characters at a time, it can leave you short on the information side. Speculation around the talks has been springing up which supports the idea that because Twitter is running out of ideas to market itself and make it’s own money, it’ll instead sell it’s idea and worth to continue on.
Which giant could benefit the most from the purchase of Twitter isn’t a question, as Facebook already has it’s own micro-blogging idea built in in status updates. Google most definitely would have the most to gain with the purchase of the site, it might even provide the search giant with the social boost it needs to begin carving it’s own tiny niche in the social arena.
The drama between Bing and Google is dieing down, it seems that both sides have thrown the punches at each other and the name calling is dieing down. There’s been shots fired across each others respective bows, the evidence however is still rather difficult to deny.
Google setup some search results in order to determine if their hunch was correct about Bing skimming reseults. It can be construed as underhanded to setup a competitor, realisitcally though it proved their point. What Google found was that when a user searched using the Google engine, in the IE8 browser those results are (allegedly) being used as data to build the Bing search results. Bing fired back with the examples of the image search, search results layout and a few other technological upgrades that Google has incorporated into their search.
You can find more than enough information about the row between the two search giants anywhere online with a quick search ironically. Everyone has an opinion on the matter of course, but I think the white elephant in the room has to be mentioned. Tech companies always borrow, beg and steal ideas and methods from each other, especially if those methods work and draw an audience. Google realized from a visual perspective, that the elements Bing had incorporated into their results pages were popular to users. On the other side of the fence, Bing used user data and click throughs from the IE8 browser and use of the Bing bar to help build their results pages.
One company borrows visual elements to a search page, the other company borrows the actual contents of the search results pages. Apples and oranges in my opinion, but as I said earlier we all have one.