Browsing "local search"
Contrary to what some corners of the internet like to share, that Google, Bing and all the other search engines are trying to steal you away, they really have no interest in keeping you on their search pages long term. They want you searching for answers and clicking on your chosen result, not hanging out on a blank page with a search box in it. But what does that do for a local business, maybe a little mom and pop store that only has one or two employees? Regardless of your size, you can still leverage the search engines to help grow your business, and believe it or not on the internet everyone has a shot at being number one.
One of the big changes in the last couple of months has been the drive towards semantic natural searching by the search engines. It is an approach and change designed to make searching a simpler affair for the user, the goal for example being “what is the best restaurant 6 blocks from here”. Smart phones and tablets are very good at what they do and with how convenient they are to carry and use this sort of search isn’t that far off in the future. You can already use a search like “best restaurant in winnipeg” and get a fairly decent set of results based on both consumer and editorialized reviews. So what can you do as a mom and pop to take advatage?
For starters if you have a website with a brick and mortar location then you should have your Google+ local listing filled out and attributed to you. Formerly known as Google Places, the local listings are the results you see that show up on the map with the lettered marker points directing you exactly where to go. It allows Google to verify your listing and location with you and tells the search engine that you’re a real business with doors and walls and everything! It’s a very simple step to take which only helps your visibility and actually leads into the next point – customer reviews.
Having an A+ rating is great where the local better business bureau is concerned, but even better for yourself is when you can encourage your customers to post a review to your local listings. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon, or even on your Google+ local profile it serves two fold for your business needs. First it lets visitors who find your site have a little bit of insight into how you conduct your business and how you might treat your customers. Even the negative reviews can be extremely helpful in this case, provided of course you can properly remedy the situation. And secondly it is like adding a notch on your belt for the search engines, just another way you’ve proven to them that you have an active visitor/customer base.
A final, and one of the more obvious steps that you’d be surprised to learn gets missed is to ensure you have your physical address on both your website, and your local profile. It’s a surprisingly often missed step where site owners are concerned which is sometimes lost with the addition of a contact form added to a website. It is assumed that a site visitor will automatically use a form or page to get a message or question into a site owner, but what if they would rather walk in your door and talk to a person? Or call and talk to someone to have their questions answered? You need to make sure your location and contact information is included in your website, your local profile listings and in doing so you’re likely to see increased foot traffic, as well as web traffic. The easier you are to find, the more likely you are to make a sale.
It’s reassuring, that even though some businesses out there are slow to improve their websites or their online marketing toolset, the trend is slowly but surely shifting. While still only a fraction of the marketing dollars spent out there, the numbers are showing that around 17% of most businesses marketing budgests are being spent on online marketing. Any positive growth is good for everyone involved.
A great graphic depicting some of these changes has been put together, which outlines some of the changes coming about in the marketing world. In the US, 70% of the businesses out there have indicated that they will be increasing spending on social media advertising (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and 64% also chimed in to add their budget is increasing for SEO as well. With consumers spending more and more time searching online for their next purchase, it’s much more advantageous to get into the game now, as opposed to later. The longer you wait, the greater your costs are going to be. Surprisingly however, it came back that 17% of businesses out there planned on increasing their marketing budgets on print media, which is much like buying stock in Yahoo these days. I kid, I kid, all jokes aside however, almost anyone out there who has a job has access to the internet. It should be no surprise that on average people spend 3+ hours browsing the internet. 84% of people who use the internet, spend their time searching for information on what has caught their interest, there are billions of searches per day.
There’s a great deal more information which can be gleaned from the stats, have a look and take a moment to conisder your marketing plans. Are you on the side of innovation and forward thinking? Or trying to cling to an outdated, unmeasurable stand by. Just remember that the longer you wait, the more difficult the game becomes.
It really shouldn’t have to be said, but search is changing, it’s evolving into a faster, finer tuned machine than it was 10 years ago. Within all of those changes, there are different focal points which are constantly being tweaked. Recently, MDGadvertising produced a great graphic outlining the current and future trend of local search.
The term ‘local search’ shouldn’t be an unfamiliar one, any business owner with a website absolutely needs to be concerned with their online exposure. The image which MDG produced puts a lot of the research gathered about local search into an easily digestible format. And some of the information while straight forward, is still exciting to read.
There are a number of factors directly affecting current local search growth. One is business owners and search engines for that matter, are getting better are targetting where it is you’re conducting your search from. If you’re searching in Winnipeg there’s no reason for Google/Bing/Yahoo to give you results for Regina for example if you’re looking for a new car or home repairs. A second large metric to consider is the widely increased use of mobile phones to conduct searches while on the go. It’s estimated that on average 33% of all mobile subscribers use their phones to conduct searches, and 20% of those do it on a daily basis.
All of this local search business has a lot of value in it, especially when you work hard at becoming a leader locally in your niche. It’s estimated that this year nearly $6 billion will be generated by local search and by 2015 that number will be over the $8 billion dollar range. A huge amount of cash flow, that seems to be going largely untapped. Because at present,
less than 40% of businesses have a local search presence on the SERPs. Local search is only starting to pick up, soon the game will be running a full speed. Have you taken the proper local search optimization steps?
This is not a tribute to Steve Jobs directly. Although in the end it may be one of his greatest legacies.
I have been in the technology field for over 30 years. I have seen a number of radical changes that became metaphors for how things were supposed to be done. Many, but certainly not all, of these metaphors were created at the hands of Steve Jobs.
QWERTY defined the keyboard. The Apple II defined a generation of PCs. Sony defined what the home video recorder should be. The Mac defined what a Window and Window based programs should behave like. The iPhone defined how touch functions on a smartphone and what a smartphone is.
These defining products and the companies that produce them don’t always win the battle in the market place for various reasons but the idea sticks. The technology becomes iconic and lays the path for others to follow. Sometimes the followers overtake the creators, sometimes the creators win. The market is a brutal overseer.
Siri, the natural language interface for the new iPhone 4s, is one such product. It may not be the product that wins the battle in the market place, it may not be the specific product feature that everybody has to have in their pockets in 2015 but if it isn’t, whatever is there will be like Siri.
Imagine a world where you say to your phone: Find me the best Asian restaurant within 25 miles. Or: Text my wife to meet me at 21. Or: Schedule an appointment for me with Joe the PR Guy and send him a text. Or: Tell my friends on Facebook that our team won!
All of the sudden the only thing that matters is the answer. Nothing else. You won’t be looking at a search box, you won’t be landing on someone’s home page, you won’t be looking at an ad…In fact you won’t be looking at anything.
You won’t need to. Not all of your interaction will be voice driven but depending on your mobile needs a large portion of it could be. You no longer need to look at your phone to enter a query in a search box. You just ask for the answer and it will just give it to you.
The answer can come from a single source or a range of sources. The brand of search engine is no longer important, the brand of phone that you are asking the question on is. Your only relationship is with the phone. Either it works or it doesn’t. Search engines and web brands could potentially fade in importance.
The winner in this next interface battle gets to pick where and who it gets the answer from. If it needs three data sources, it uses three data sources. If it needs four, it looks at four. That complexity is all hidden and the user not only doesn’t need to visit multiple websites, the user doesn’t even need a special app. Siri, or something like it, becomes the great equalizer for data sources. An OS for voice as it were. It handles the complexities. You just need to ask it.
Will it do what Apple says it will? There was a time when you couldn’t trust what Apple or any technology firm said. You had to have it proven to you. Even though this is a new Apple, one molded by the demanding perfectionism of Steve Jobs, this is one of those times when you will need to know that the natural language interface works and it works seamlessly.
If it does, it becomes THE WAY that you want to interact with the device. The new QWERTY as it were. Maybe not all all the time but certainly with mobile search and more frequently than not with mobile local search.
It also become the great disintermediator in mobile. It may be the greatest disintermediator of all time. If it works.
In the last couple of days in the world of search there’s been a bit of a rumbling about Google’s latest acquisition. Google is punching out the numbers to pick up Zagat survey, basically the first version of Yelp. Yelp if for some reason you haven’t heard, is a site which allows visitors to post and read reviews about businesses locally. Yelp has been around for the last 7 years or so while Zagat has been around for 30 years and climbing. Their chief difference? Zagat offers their reviews in print as opposed to purely an online offering.
Google places already has a minor version of a local review offering when you start drilling down into results, but nothing as in depth as Yelp was able to offer. With their picking up the tab for Zagat, it could very well give them the nudge they need to push hard into local review and advertising markets globally. Google in the past little while has garnered the ire of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor for basically scraping their reviews to have them on the Places profiles pages, so Googles current offerings have significantly waned.
Besides restaurants, Zagat also offers ratings of entertainment venues, wine and travel. The online version of the site has an established community, so there’s a social networking dimension to consider as well as the content being purchased.
Zagat co-founders Tim and Nina Zagat said that they “will continue to be active in the business as co-Chairs, however, the merger of our resources, expertise and platforms with those of Google will give us the opportunity to greatly expand.”
Google said in its blog post that “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering.” It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise or stretch to see Google pulling the Zagat ratings and reviews onto their Places profiles pages in time so as not to hurt the name brand of Zagat.
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.
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.
With the rapid advancement of the web, the technologies that control it and the methods that people interact with it, it makes me wonder sometimes what’s going to happen by 2020.
*cue time warp*
Your morning might be something like while getting ready for work, you’re receiving all of your local newsfeeds directly to your 3D/Holo television already sorted and delivered relevant to your interests. News snippets, weather announcements followed by sports results all fully controllable should you desire more information. The commute to work, in a hands free car navigating itself to your meetings. No one works in offices anymore, the instant web and cloud offices makes physical locations a throwback to the previous centuries way of doing business.
With cloud computing being fully integrated into mainstream business, social and common use, communication has never been simpler, or faster. Terabit internet in the sprawling cities ensures that there’s always enough bandwidth. And for those with pockets full of money, neural interactivity direct to a focusing lens you wear like glasses; providing a vast, interactive surface with which to work and play.
Online search, commerce and social activities will most likely be completely merged; think of a mega company the likes of a Google and Facebook merger. We’ll call it GoogleBook. A complete portal, with news, social feeds from friends and family, shopping via search and instant messaging for friends, family and clients. Micro-blogging sites like Twitter, would be absorbed and added to the already potent offerings provided by such a massive company. The idea of privacy online has matured and changed with the baby boomer generation gone offline to relax in peace, and the tech savvy information generation coming into it’s prime as the dominant work force population.
The web will be faster, cleaner and more relevant to each individual as the Google algorithm, Facebook social algorithm, and the Amazon shopping algorithm all become written together into a do it all super algorithm. With signing in online, it will deliver the content you’re interested in, show you what your friends have been doing the last few days and find the local best deals for the new television you were thinking of buying.
*end time warp*
It’s going to be an exciting time to be online, even in the next few years let alone in the next 10. The web and it’s technologies are growing at an exponential rate, what we’ve learned and discovered over the last 25 years online, will be doubled in the next 3-4 years; and then that time will be cut again and again. Until discoveries are coming at such a rate, that it’ll be expected to have new tech every week, instead of every couple of months.
You could also subscibe to the theory that it’s game over in December 2012 as well. No one knos what’s to come in the next few days, let alone years. Here’s hoping the web continues to grow, mature and evolve as quickly as it has been.
In the past, the most natural way for a small business to grow was with a solid reputation within it’s community. Spending a little cash here and there for a mail stuffer, newspaper ad and the obligatory ad in the yellow pages. The hard work, strong ethics, positive attitude and positive customer relationships could make a good business into a great one.
Time has shifted a little bit since then, but the basics remain the same. Treat your customers right, and it will help you attract clients in the future. Think about how being out with a friend you ask their opinion on a restuarant you’re curious about trying. Or about the local mechanic who started in his garage and found he needed more room so he opened a shop locally. Local reputation is very important to small and/or new businesses.
In 2011. it is expected that local online advertising efforts will grow north of $20 billion. Definitely much more than just chump change, local business owners seemingly are starting to realize that the yellowpages print ad they’ve used just isn’t cutting it anymore. But as an aside, brand management, or online reputation management, has become increasingly important. Where word of mouth has been increasingly become ‘world of mouth’ being able to manage your own business online has become a more important affair, becoming much more than just taking care of your AdWords account. And active blog tied to your company can help push you up the SERPs, so long as it’s kept active. Allowing comments to be posted onto the blog as well can help boost your positions, but it’s a double edged sword. Diligent management of the comments section is very important, to ensure you’re not having your competitors posting links back to their site, and piggy backing your climb up the rankings.
Online brand management has become more and more important as the world comes more to the online store to conduct business. The danger in improperly managing yourself online can drive your business to the ground if false company reviews are made to climb higher in the rankings than you rank organically.
Where are you Winnipeg? You’re at the geographic center (more or less) of North America, in a position that with a little work could and should be home to every global corporations office. All because of where you are. Costs aren’t extravagant, the weather is tolerable so long as you dress appropriately and the people are friendly (like our license plates!). But where are you?
Winnipeg businesses are few and far between in the new world. The internet, the world wide web, the 24/7 storefront of the entire world. There’s been money pumped into ‘Selling the city’ yet I mention Winnipeg in conversations and get a lot of ‘Where’s that?’. The most apalling time to get the token response is when you’re speaking to Canadians. So what’s the problem, what’s the solution? You’re running against yourselves Winnipeg, you’re trying to play catch up to the rest of the world, who has already been in the race online for years now. This isn’t a ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ metaphor, it’s not a post with a moral message. It’s plain, blank truth.
It’s a race online, as it is in any business metric to be noticed. And the harsh reality of it is, Winnipeg still doesn’t get it. There are a few, a handful of sparks who have taken up the charge for themselves online to be found. To shake the tree of the SERPs and claw their way to the top. It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s not something that costs $250 and a week of keyword stuffing into urls for your website. It takes the skills, experience and knowledge of the SEO experts in your home town Winnipeg.
You need to be found Winnipeg, and who better to get you where you need to be than your local SEO experts at Fresh Traffic. It’s time to pick up your socks and get to running, because the pack won’t wait for you, they’re just getting further and further ahead.