Sunday, January 9, 2011

Google Places Quality Guidelines

We get calls from people wanting ideas on how to set-up their Google Places account. The process is really quite simple - be truthful and fill-out as much info as possible. Google provides Google Places Quality Guidelines which can keep you on track and prevent you from taking liberties that might harm your ability to be included on search results.

While following these guidelines will technically get you through the process there are some ways to (legally) optimize the relevance of your listing for your placement. We routinely help clients find the absolute optimum content to help their online ranking viability. As a general place to start we offer the following information.

Ownership: A Google Places listing should be claimed or set-up by only the business owner or their representative. (NEVER try to claim the name of a competing business!)

Business Name To Be Displayed: Should be exactly as it would appear on a sign or business card. Don't try keyword stuffing anywhere in your listing! I know that you see competitors doing it but it will eventually cause a problem.

Business Location: Use exact information to enable the map functionality to work properly. There is an option to "not display my address" if there is a need to not disclose your location (i.e., home based business where you cannot receive customers) Any Google Places listing MUST be a physical office location - not a P.O. Box or general office park address.

Multiple Locations: You may hand type or submit a spreadsheet (in a proper format) if you have multiple locations. Do not create multiple listings for a single location, which includes using multiple city names.

Content Suggestions:
- Phone number should be a local number (land or cell). You have an option to add a toll free number.
- Website Address should be a complete URL to your home page.
- Categories should include at least one suggested category. You may create your own categories for the remaining four spaces. Do not add a city/state to any category name.
- Business Description should be "factual" and not ad/marketing content. Do not duplicate categories or other info previously provided. used in your content.ns) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
- Service Area should be a defined radius as this seems to work better that defining "points of reference".
- Photos, up to 10 can be uploaded, and will be displayed in the order that you upload. Your first image should be a powerful image such as your BBB logo, logo, or image that represents your business.
- Video content can be uploaded if it is your content. Google favore video content so we definitely recommend uploading at least one video.
- Content Fields are provided for noteworthy content such as brands carried, specialties, accreditations, etc.
- Google Tags are available to help your Places listing stand out from the pack. These are the "yellow arrows" that you have seen on some listings. The cost from Google is $25 per month and the Tag can be used as a link to your website, your location map and a few other choices.

For more information please feel free to get in touch with us or visit our page on Local Search Marketing

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Social Media Marketing

We don't deny that there is a huge social media movement. What we question is the (current) frenzy to drive it into business settings. We would like to hear from you on your thoughts.

From our perspective, social media is the modern version of the old party-line telephone. Everybody can check in and catch up on the latest gossip, friends can keep in touch regardless of distance, and people can express their opinions to a wider audience. The issue to be debated is how this medium can really benefit businesses.

We are users of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linkedin and others social media sites. We honestly cannot assign a single lead or order to our social media efforts. Living in the Obamaconomy it may have been useful to let our clients know that we are doing well in a less than stellar economy. But is the hype really worth the time commitment?

Brand development and PR are our top reason for using social media. All of the "experts" put forth theories on how to monetize social media sites. Has anyone truly found business success on social media sites? Does the average person really care about your latest office move, product launch or self promotion? Are social media sites really driven by self absorption and an overstated sense of self worth?

Stepping back it is easy to see social media sites as a place for people of common interests to congregate, then entice business owners with the opportunty to "get in front of the masses", and then sell advertising space. Our company, and clients, spend a lot of time on social media marketing. We have not found any overwhelming endorsements for the business use of social media. We are hoping that all of our efforts will deliver a measurable benefit in the near future . . . otherwise social media is just a new version of the old paryt-line telephone line. What are your thoughts on social media?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Video Marketing Services

If your business has not started to leverage video marketing services you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Video content is a regular part of search engine results pages (SERP's) and a tremendous way to get your business in front of more prospects.

Videos for the internet and websites are not necessarily expensive. We have a strategic partnership with a very accomplished production studio that can create high-end videos, complete with model/spokespeople and script writing. For other customers our Level I video production is a very affordable way to create web quality videos.

The Level I video is done on-site with a usual piece being 1-2 minutes long. Eliminating the cost of models, editing and production crews means that in about two hours you can have four to five good videos for about $600. Our Premium video services have costs that can range from $2,500 to $28,000 depending upon the costs for production crews, models, scripting, lighting, travel, editing, etc. Obviously a Premium video requires much more planning however the end result is a TV quality video.

Video marketing services are best used to introduce an interesting venue, retail store or professional services including attorney videos, dental videos and medical videos. Other uses are client testimonial videos, demo or training videos, and general promotional videos.

Video marketing services can provide your business with powerful, personalized content that can be displayed on your website, uploaded to viral channels like YouTube, or reproduced onto DVD's for use as mailers.

Contact us for more information on our video marketing services including video production, video marketing and integration of videos on a website.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Local Search Marketing & Local Search Optimization

I think that by now most business owners have developed an appreciation for the necessity of having competitive placement in local search listings. These same business owners are coming to understand that much like their website, they need local search optimization.

For those that don't know, local search marketing largely centers around business listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. There are numerous other local search listings, including directories, however the aforementioned are the big 3 for any business.

Business owners should know that "Local Search" means just that . . . local. Your local listing will not be displayed, even if optimized, for searches of towns where the business is not located.

Local search optimization is the application of specific techniques to make your local search listing be selected for higher placement among peer listings (business listings in your local area). The options to maximize optimization of your local search listing vary between sites. These limitations, and the competitive landscape, are the biggest factors in what action you need to take for local search optimization.

While placement is the top concern, the content of your local search listing is what will "optimize" your conversion rates. As with SEO and website design, getting found is one thing - getting contacted is another.

Local search ranking factors generally boil down to quality of content. The basic rule of thumb for local search optimization is to provide complete and accurate information. Don't be "salesy" or try to manipulate the system. There are formulas for creating effective content which are too involved to explain here.

A bit of good news for business owners is that local search optimization generally is a "do it right once and leave it alone" proposition. You may need to occasionally update your listing however it won't require much ongoing time or expense. The cost to have an internet marketing firm create and optimize your local search listing is dwarfed by the benefits.

Contact us to learn more about our affordable services for creating local search listings and local search optimization. You may also choose to read more at this local search marketing web page.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Website Redesign Process - Get Going in 2011!

There's no time like the present to get started on your website redesign project. If your website is over 3-4 years old it probably needs a facelift and some serious attention to on-page SEO. Chances are that a website redesign can cost far less than you expect, and you will capture sales within 1-2 that pay for the website redesign many times over.

You can click the link to find a very helpful Website Redesign Planning Guide available as a PDF download. This planning guide can help you to work through a methodical website redesign process and avoid common mistakes.

A few highlights from the Guide are how to select a qualified website redesign company, Web 2.0 user considerations, desireable functionalities and a link to an absolutely awesome color scheme selector.

We hope that your business has a superb 2011. Seriously consider the benefits of a website redesign and get started early in 2011!!!