Google+ for Business Has Arrived

So Google launched Google+ for Business yesterday and, at the moment, I’m just not that excited about it. And, if I’m not excited about it as an online marketing professional, most of you

And that’s fine. Right now, I don’t think there’s much benefit to a business to signing up.

BUT (you knew that was coming), as I said when Google+ first launched for individuals, it’s not what it’s about right now, but what it will become. I don’t need to tell you what kind of reach Google has online. From the search engine to AdWords to Places to Android to the Chrome browser to YouTube to Gmail and more, millions interact with Google everyday.

It’s smartly tying all these components together with Plus that will make it worth your time and attention.

For now, just create a Plus page for your business, watch the promotional video below and wait. We’ll let you know when it’s time to take a closer look at Google+ for Business.

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2 Startling Images All Local Business Owners Must See!

 

Ever wish you could get inside your prospects’ brain and see the world as they do?

Well while that might not be possible, you can see how they view the Internet through the use of eyetracking studies.

These types of studies use super-cool technology to track what people look at when surfing the web. And when you combine the results from all those who have participated in the study you end up with one extremely enlightening “heatmap” that shows you where people focus their attention when online.

SEOMoz recently did an eyetracking survey and the results are particularly revealing for local business owners. The study tracked what people look at when on the first page of Google.

Here’s image #1:

Notice how most people’s eyes are drawn to the “7-Pack” of local businesses (also called Google Map results or local search results) even though they are not the first results on the page?

Now take a look at the second image, which I find even more revealing…

Notice how even with a Google AdWords ad and other results pushing the local listings even further down the screen, people’s eyes gravitate toward the “3-Pack” of local results?

These two images clearly illustrate what a powerful magnet these local listings are for your customers (and while these images are from a desktop/laptop, these Google Maps listings get a lot of attention on Smartphones too).

The businesses that get to the top of the Google Maps rankings, win the lion’s share of prospects’ eyeballs (and business).

The first step to getting there is to simply claim your business listing on Google. There’s a ton of great free information on how to do that, and optimize your local search listing, on VizOnTheNet.com.

So if you’re not at the top of the Google Maps listings for the keywords your prospects are typing into Google to find you, head over to that site, start optimizing your local listings today!

 

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Do Local Business Reviews Matter?

 

There’s a lot of buzz in the Internet marketing world these days about reviews.

And it’s also a big topic of conversation for local business owners as well. Hardly a week passes without me having a conversation with a business owner who’s ticked off about a negative review of their business and wants to know how to get rid of it or who wants to know how their competition is getting so many more reviews than they are or who want to know how to rack up the 5 star reviews.

But are reviews worth all the fuss?

If the data from a recent study from Cone LLC (a PR and marketing agency) are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

Here’s a few key pieces of data from their study

  • 89% of consumers say they find online reviews sites as honest and trustworthy sources to get product/service reviews
  • (Here’s a biggie!) The report finds that 4 in 5 consumers have changed their minds about a purchase decision based solely on negative information they’ve found online (that’s up from around 67% just a year ago)
  • 87% of respondents agreed that reading a positive review has confirmed their decision to purchase
  • 85% consumers say they are more likely to “open their wallet” when they can find online recommendations to support offline advice they get (as opposed to 77% last year)
It’s important to note that this data does not just apply to local businesses, but to products as well. While I would like to see just local business focused data, reviews are clearly a key factor (and one that’s getting even more important) consumers use to make purchasing decisions.
If your business does not have a plan in place to get reviews (ethically!) and address any negative reviews you may have, you’re ignoring one of the most influential factors for prospects when it comes to your business.
We’ll have a lot more on reviews in the future. In the meantime, if you’re not sure where to get started when it comes to managing reviews for your business, sign up here to talk with one of the Main Street Marketing Community experts.

 

 

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Where Do People Turn for Info About Their Local Community (Surprising Results?)

Found this interesting report put out by the Pew Research Center titled “How People Learn About Their Local Community“.

Among the interesting findings of particular interest to local business owners…

  • Internet rules for local restaurants and businesses. More adults (28%) rely on the Internet for information about restaurants and other local business than any other source. Newspapers are the 2nd preferred source (around 17%-18%) and Word of Mouth was 3rd (13%).
  • 55% of adults surveyed said that, at least occasionally, they get information about restaurants, clubs or bars from the Internet. That figure was 60% for “other local businesses”.
  • While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were included in the above “Internet” category, they run a distant third to search engines and special topics sites (like Yelp and Craigslist) as a source people rely on for this information. For restaurants, only 2% of respondents cited social media, compared to 21% for search engines and 9% of the special topics sites. For “other local businesses”, only 1% cited social media (21% for search engines and 10% for special topic sites).
  • Not surprisingly, the percentages of people who relied on the Internet for this information was much higher for respondents who were younger, wealthier and had lived in their city for a shorter period of time.
  • Print is not dead. Local newspapers are the #1 source people rely on for 11 of the 16 types of local information the research looked at.  (Though most of these topics are not followed by most people on a regular basis.)
Takeways?
Most people are looking for your local business on the Internet (though we here at Main Street Marketing Community have known that for a while!). However, don’t forget about newspapers. Especially if you’re targeting an older demographic, paying some attention to newspaper coverage/advertising may be worth your while (especially if your competition is ONLY focused on the Internet).

 

 

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Google+ Now Open to All

Earlier this week, Google’s infant (but fast growing ) social network, Google+, was opened up to everyone. Up until this week, you had to have an invitation in order to join.

Google made it pretty obvious to those who went to Google.com where to go to sign up (good marketing lesson here, by the way)…

We wrote about what Google+ means for small business owners a few months ago and, nothing has changed in our recommendations since then.

Sign up for a personal account (no business accounts are available yet, but look for them to come sooner, rather than later), play around with it a little (it has some very cool features), and watch as Google adds more features and integrates it more and more with other products and services.

Google+ is not a huge factor for small businesses right now, but look for that to change quickly!

 

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This Place Is Permanently Closed On Google

Business Permanently Closed on GoogleOr Is It?

A whole new wave of bad karma is blanketing the Local Search Marketing world with people informing Google that “This place is permanently closed,” when in fact, it is not.

The New York Times published an article in their September 5, 2011 issue entitled: “Closed, Says Google, But Shop’s Signs Say Open” The article was about two business which Google showed as permanently closed, when they were actually alive and thriving, that was until something bad happened. And that something bad had to do with competitors or dissatisfied customers or dissatisfied employees informing Google that each business had been permanently closed. Like I said, Bad Karma.

How did this happen and what can you do about it if it happens to you?

Before you read another word, please go to your business place page on Google and see if your business has been permanently closed. If it has, I’m going to show you what to do to get it back on line. If your business is still open, I’m going to show you how to insure that it stays open.

Back To The NYT Article

The instant I read the NYT article, I contacted Charlene Cowan, the owner of the Macadamia Meadows Farm, a bed-and-breakfast in Naalehu, Hawaii, which had been tagged as “permanently closed.” I wanted to find out from her first hand what happened and what, if anything, she had done to get her business back on line with Google.

According to Charlene, her bookings for the month of September plummeted and she couldn’t figure out why, that was until she discovered that her business was permanently closed on Google. She tried to contact Google on multiple occasions for a resolution, which did not come. Fortunately for her, a NYT writer discovered her request on the Google Place Page help forum and wrote an article that was seen by millions of readers and the people in charge of Google Maps in Mountain View, California. At that point Charlene told me that Google jumped on her issue and she was back on line in short order.

I know what you’re thinking. Good for Charlene, but I doubt if the NYT is going to write an article about my business being permanently closed on Google, and you would be right. So, here’s what you can to do.

Solution

Google seems to be much more attentive to this issue after the NTY article exposed this kink in their Local Search armor. Last week I received a call Anne Oishi, the owner of Island Honda here on Maui. She told me that her business had been tagged as permanently closed by Google and asked me what to do. Here’s the good news. We were able to get her business back on line in less that 24 hours. And here’s more good news. It was not that hard to do.

If your business listing is off line, you will see one of two things when you go to your Google Place page.

  • “Reported to be closed. Not true?”
  • “This place is permanently closed. Not true?”

In both cases you have an opportunity to click on the “Not true?” link and tell Google that your business is still open. In the event of Island Honda, I asked the owner to ask her friends to click on this link and indicate to Google that there was an error. In less than 24 hours, Island Honda was back on-line (and showing up very high in the search results for all of their primary keywords). It’s really that easy.

And, If Your Business Is OK?

Please, do not be apathetic about visiting your Google Place page. In the case of Island Honda, they caught the error early. If you don’t check your place page frequently, you will not know that there’s a problem until your business declines.

Bob Sommers
VisOnTheNet.com

For more information about getting your business listed high on Google Maps and generating tons of 5 star reviews, go to VisOnTheNet.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Local Business Owners Ignore Bing?

Bing logoBelieve it or not, there are other search engines besides Google!

With around 65% of all U.S. searches taking place on the Big G, it certainly makes sense for business owners to focus their search engine marketing efforts where most people are searching.

However, you shouldn’t completely forget about the other search engines, especially Bing.

A few years ago Bing and Yahoo! combined their search engines so that Bing now powers searches performed on both Bing AND Yahoo!. Combined, these two search engines get about 29% of all U.S. searches on the web.

Looking at the search traffic patterns for most of my local business clients, I see they’re getting about 20% of their organic search engine traffic from Bing and Yahoo!. It’s not 29% (and your mileage may vary), but that’s still nothing to sneeze at.

So what does this mean for you as a local business owner?

Three important takeaways…

1. Pay attention to where you rank for your top keywords on Bing and Yahoo!. Once a month, look at the Analytics data for your site and see what keywords people are typing into Bing and Yahoo! that are leading them to your site. There may be some good keywords there that you could further optimize and climb higher in the Bing/Yahoo! rankings for (and with relatively less competition on Bing/Yahoo!, it may be easier to claim the top spots for choice keywords for your local business there than on Google).

2. Get your local business listed on the Bing Business Portal. It’s Bing’s equivalent to Google Places and there’s a lot to love about the features it offers. At the very least it’s a good place to get another citation to help you in the Google local rankings but, again, with Bing accounting for 29% of search engine traffic, the Portal may be a good place to pick up some extra visibility for your business.

3. If you’re using Google AdWords, it’s worth testing Microsoft AdCenter (Bing is a Microsoft product). It’s not nearly as slick as AdWords and doesn’t get nearly as much traffic, but with a 30% market share, you could be losing out on a lot of business by not being there.

There used to be a time when I’d tell local business owners to forget about Bing. I can’t do that any more. While I’ve yet to hear stories of Bing/Yahoo! rankings making or breaking a local business (Google can and does), don’t ignore Bing.

Especially if your competition is just focusing all their efforts on Google, spending a bit of time focusing on Bing may give you a few extra leads your competitors are missing!

 

 

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Why Blog? The Eyebrow Raising Discovery That’s Got a Local Attorney Back on the Blogging Bandwagon

“I can’t write.”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
“I’m too busy.”

Mention blogging and most business owners immediately come up with one or more of excuses above on why they don’t want to blog.

There are a number of reasons blogging helps your business but I want to share a story today that highlights one of the biggies.

A few weeks ago I was sitting down with one of my clients, Alex, who’s a tax attorney in St Louis.

When Alex set up the website for his firm last year, he added a blog. Between October 2010 (when his site launched) and April 2011 wrote 13 blog posts, which is about 2 a month. Then, like most business owners who start blogging, he stopped. His practice was growing and he had other priorities so blogging got pushed down the To Do List.

During our meeting, I pulled up Google Analytics for Alex’s site. (Analytics is free software from Google that lets you gather information about traffic to your website.) One of interesting tidbits of info you see in Analytics is the exact search terms that people typed into Google to find your site.

As we started looking at the terms that got people to Alex’s site, he noticed (much to his surprise!) keywords related to various tax laws and regulations that he had blogged about months ago.

The simple act of sitting down and writing a blog post about a tax law was enough to get him high enough in the search engines for people to find his site!

Seeing that data and seeing that his blog posts had a real effect on driving traffic to his site was enough for Alex to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

Adding a blog to your site is one of the best things you can do to help your site’s ranking on Google.  And blogging is not as bad or as painful as it seems.

Every day you have little conversations and interactions with clients that can easily turn into a blog post. In fact, sharing this story about Alex to a new client who was resistant to blogging led me to write this post!

And, remember, Alex got results from just 13 blog posts spread over 6 months so you don’t even have to blog that often!

The Bottom Line

Blogging is not a difficult, time-consuming endeavor. Add a blog to your site, add a few posts a month and, like Alex, you may be very surprised to see more people finding your blog and website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 30 Day Challenge Starts Today

This post is just for those of you who are Do-It-Yourselfers and/or want to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of Internet Marketing.

Since 2005, one of the true gurus (and we don’t use that term lightly) when it comes to online marketing, Ed Dale, has been running the 30 Day Challenge.

The Challenge is a completely free, 30 day course that takes you through the steps of setting up and running an Internet marketing campaign. The goal is to simply make your first $1 online.

While the focus of The Challenge is not local, the tools and techniques covered can very easily be applied to marketing your local business on the Internet.

I’ve taken part in a number of past Challenges and have always learned a lot and had a ton of fun in the process. And the really cool thing, especially for busy local business owners, is that each day of The Challenge will only take you 30 minutes to complete from watching the training video to completing any actions required.

If you have 30 minutes a day to spare, like to do this sort of thing yourself and would like some top notch training (other than what you’ll find here of course!), I can’t recommend The Challenge highly enough!

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