Why Local Business Owners Can’t Ignore Google+

Take a close look at this screenshot from a Google search for “google keyword tool” I did and you’ll know everything you need to know about why Google+ is a big deal…

Notice the #4 and #7 results (the ones with the little thumbnail picture with someone’s name next to it)…

#4 is a 2010 blog post by my friend (and Main Street Marketing Expert) Russ Henneberry. Russ and I are connected on Google+.

#7 is a blog post shared by Leslie Clark who I am connected to on Google+ as well (and, unlike with Russ, Google+ is the only social network Leslie and I are connected on).

If I am not logged into Google, the search results page for the exact same search for the keyword “Google Keyword Tool” looks like this…

Notice Russ and Leslie’s post are nowhere to be found.

This is the direction that search is headed.

For better or worse, your connections on Google+ and other social media sites are going to influence the results you see when doing searches. We knew this was coming, I’m just surprised at how quickly these changes seem to be happening.

What’s the bottom line for you as a local business owner?

Right now, you don’t have to worry much about Google+. It’s not adopted by enough people to make much difference. But that will change sooner, rather than later.

Think of a prospect of yours doing a search looking for a local (insert your industry here) and one of their friends has shared your website, blog post, reviewed your business, etc. That instantly makes your business rank higher on Google and be the most compelling result on the page to the person performing the search.

What I also see happening is that as more people come on board with Google+, the activity of Google+ users will become a bigger factor in where your business ranks in the search results for everyone…not just those we’re connected to through social media.

Google+ Action Steps for the Local Business Owner

1. Sign up for Google+ (it’s by invitation only right now and if you send me an email at adam [at] wordsthatclick [dot] com with the headline “Google+ invite” I’m happy to send one your way) so you have a front row seat as this evolves.

(Note: Only individuals can sign up for Google+ right now, business accounts are coming later this year.)

2. Get familiar with how it works – create some Circles, +1 some sites, make a few posts.

3.  Check back with us here at the Main Street Marketing Community and we’ll keep you informed of how to use Google+ to market your local business.

You can start (whether you have a Google+ account or not, by hitting the +1 button right below this post!



The Most Accurate Local Keyword Tool on the Planet

One of my clients has a good size Google AdWords campaign for his business running in a few major cities. I don’t want to give away confidential information here, so for this example, let’s say one of the services he offers sword fighting classes in Miami.

In Adwords, you get an enormous amount of data about your campaign…more than most people know what to do with! One of the more interesting and helpful bits of data you can get is the exact search terms people have typed into Google that resulted in one or more of your ads being displayed.

The other day I was reviewing the list of search terms for this campaign and noticed there were a number of searches for “ninja sword fighting classes coral gables” and “ninja sword fighting classes coral gables fl” (FYI – Coral Gables is a suburb of Miami).

Go the a keyword research tool, like the free one from Google, and they’ll tell you that no one is typing the keyword+city combination, ninja sword fighting classes coral gables” into Google each month. However, because of the data available in our AdWords campaign we now know there are actually a few hundred searches per month centered around that keyword+city combination.

There is no other way that we could have discovered this information.

And it’s key information that’s going to have a very meaningful impact on this company. Because now that we know there’s a decent amount of traffic centered around “ninja sword fighting classes coral gables”, we’ve started to do some website optimization around that keyword to get his website ranked at the top of the organic search engine rankings.

Most of his competitors don’t have this information, which means there’s not much competition for “ninja sword fighting classes coral gables” so…getting to the top of Google and capturing the majority of traffic for that term should not be terribly difficult!

It doesn’t get much more important than keyword research when it comes to online marketing. Find the right keywords and you position yourself for success. Guess or do a bad job at keyword research and your search marketing efforts are pretty much doomed to failure.

While keyword research tools are great, they don’t give you the whole story.

Data from a Google AdWords campaign gives you more accurate keyword data which gives you a competitive advantage over those who don’t have that data (ie. most, if not all, of your competitors).

And for a local business, using that data to find a niche you can exploit to get 50, 100 or more visitors to your site each month can have a very meaningful impact on your bottom line.


The Most Important Local Business Owners Should Know About Google’s New +1 Button

Google officially announced its answer to the Facebook Like button yesterday, the +1 button.

This button will appear next to the organic search listings, next to the pay per click ads as well as on websites that choose to add the +1 button to them.

Here are a few screenshots from Google that show what it will look like in the organic rankings (notice the +1 button next to the listing’s title and then, under the listing, how many people +1′d the site and/or specific people in your social network who +1′d it)…

Why should you care?

Because +1 can affect where you rank in the search engines.

How big an effect, time will only tell. (It will likely make only a very small difference in the short term, but become much more of a factor in the future.)

This +1 button seems ripe for abuse (how many people can you find in India, the Philippines, on even on Craigslist, etc. to click on your site’s +1 button for a few cents each?) and it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.

For now, it’s just important to understand that it’s out there and that social media is becoming more and more of a factor in where your business ranks on Google.

Oh, and when you start seeing the +1 button pop up the next time you’re on Google, be sure to click it for your website (and it probably wouldn’t hurt to have your clients and friends do the same thing!)