Category Archives for "Local Internet Marketing"

Own a Local Business? Then You MUST See This Screenshot From Google!

Last weekend I was in a rush to take my daughter to an event at a local school I’d never been to before.

So I headed over to the computer, typed the school’s address into Google Maps and was met with a screen and short slide show welcoming me to the NEW Google Maps.

As I started fast-forwarding through the slide show so I could get the directions I needed, one slide leaped out at me and I froze. Not having much time, I took a screenshot of what I say and want to share it with you here.

highest rated biz

Now if you blink, you might miss what the bid deal is here.

See, this slide is about how Google is making it easier for you to make “smarter” choices when you’re looking for local businesses.

The most important piece of this that local business owners should be paying close attention to is this

“… find the highest-rated shops nearby.”

That’s right, the number and quality of the ratings your customers leave about your business on Google may well determine whether they find your business or not.

Online reviews have long been important for local businesses and now seem to be getting even more so.

If you’re struggling to get more reviews for your business, a good friend of mine has developed software that makes it dirt simple.

All you need is a customer’s name and email address and the software does the rest. And does it really well.

One of my clients has been using it for about 6 months. When they started, they had 2 just reviews for their business on Google. Now they’re the most reviewed, highest rated business in their local niche on Google and the other major review sites (and almost all the reviews are 5 star reviews from very happy customers!).

And his results are common. The software’s been around for about a year now and the businesses using it are dominating their local market when it comes to reviews and referrals (and at $49/month, find it an incredible bargain for the results they get)!

Now this software is not for everyone. But if you think it might be a good fit for your business and would like to know about it, send me an email with the subject line “More Local Reviews” and I’ll put you in touch with my friend to see if his software can help your business become the most reviewed business in your town (which, as you can see from the image above, is more important than ever!)

So if you want to become the most reviewed, highest rated business in your niche/area, email me now – adam (at) wordsthatclick (dot) com!

The One Number That Makes the Case For Why You Should Care About Online Reviews

I find this statistic astounding.

Last year, a study published by BrightLocal asked consumers this:

Do you trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations?

The results?

72{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} said yes!

That’s right, when it comes to assessing a local business, 72{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of people said they trust the reviews from people on the Internet as much as they trust personal recommendations from people they know!

There is a little bit of nuance to the results.

Of the 72{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} who said yes…

  • 28{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} said yes IF there are multiple reviews to read about the business.
  • 24{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} said yes IF they believe the reviews are authentic (I wonder how good people are at truly assessing this).
  • 20{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} said yes BUT only for some types of businesses.

Still 72{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} is a BIG number and demonstrates as much as anything the importance of having a system in place for getting positive reviews.

A close friend of mine has spent the past year developing an incredible system to do that and is currently in Beta. If you’re interested in finding out more, shoot me an email and I can get you on the waiting list for this incredible system.

3 Under The Radar Local Search Tools

My most recent post on The Daily Egg has created a bit of controversy.

In the article, I share 3 relatively little known tools for optimizing a business’ Local Search presence that we use for our customers.

It’s the first one, using a call tracking number, that’s generated most of the controversy.

In the Local Search world, the NAP reigns supreme.

NAP stands for your business’ Name, Address and Phone number. And they are critical to your success in Local Search marketing.

To understand why, we need to talk a little about what’s known as a citation. A citation is a mention of your business’ name, address and phone number on a website. Think of it as a vote for your business in Google’s eye.

The more citations you have as well as making sure your NAP is consistent everywhere it appears online has always been one of the most important factors in determining where your business ranks in the local listing results on Google (these are the listings that appear for local businesses with the lettered pushpin icons next to them as seen in the screenshot below).

 

The common thinking when it comes to NAP in the Local Search world is that it has to be consistent everywhere. And it does…for the most part.

And because of that, using a call tracking number is frowned upon and it’s generally considered to be a practice that is sure to hurt your rankings. In fact, there have been some comments on the post (and on some Local Search message boards) from Local Search pros that are not convinced that it’s a smart strategy.

But as I describe in the article on The Daily Egg and the Comment section of the article, we’ve been doing it successfully for many of our clients (including some in highly competitive industries like mortgage and legal) and it’s working quite well. And it gives our clients the huge benefit of being able to more accurately track the results of their Local Search to measure the ROI.

Also in the article, I talk about a new (for most businesses) Local Search tool that very few people know about…Single Platform. This one already is providing some interesting opportunities for businesses and, as described in the article, has the chance to be a game changer in 2013.

To learn about the benefits of using a call tracking number and how Single Platform could reshape Local Search marketing, head over to The Daily Egg to read the article.

Of course, if you’d just like to have us optimize your business’ Local Search presence using all the advanced strategies and tools we have up our sleeves, check out our Local SEO packages here.

 

 

A Sneaky (Yet Ethical) Trick To Get More Customers To Review Your Business Online

People are lazy.

Online they’re even lazier.

Any extra effort you put between someone online and the action you want them to take (like leaving a review for your business) greatly decreases the chances they’re going to do it.

Here’s a sneaky little trick you can use to make things as easy as pie for people to leave reviews for your business at local review sites.

First, you have to understand something important about these review sites. Most of them, and all of the important ones, require a login in order to leave a review.

This can be tricky for a local business owner. If you send someone to a review site and they don’t have a username and password for that site already, chances are between slim and none they’re going to take the time to set  up a new account just to write a review for you.

But you can stack the deck in your favor. Here’s how…

If you’re asking for reviews by email, use your customers’ email address to send them to the appropriate review site.

Sending an email to someone with a Gmail account (ie. customername@gmail.com)?

Send them a link to your Google+ Local page to leave a review there. If they’re checking Gmail, then they have to be logged into Google. Once they go to your Places Page, all they need to do is give you your 5 star rating, leave a review and they’re done.

Sending an email to someone with a Yahoo! account? These can end in @yahoo.com, @ymail.com, @rocketmail.com or, because of Yahoo!’s partnership with AT&T any of the following:

  • @Att.net
  • @Ameritech.net
  • @Bellsouth.net
  • @Pacbell.net
  • @Prodigy.net
  • @Nvbell.net
  • @Sbcglobal.net
  • @Snet.net
  • @Swbell.net

See any of those extensions in an email and send them to your Yahoo! Local page to leave a review.

Now, here’s the extra credit. If you have a Facebook Fan Page, you can link from that page to your review sites. The thing to know here is that many of the local review sites like CitySearch, YellowPages.com, SuperPages and others allow users to sign in through Facebook. Once they see your review request on Facebook, they’re just a click away from leaving a review for you on any of those sites.

Hey, you’re not going to know the best place to send everyone to make leaving reviews as easy as possible for them, but using the strategy above, you can stack the odds in your favor more often than not!

Yelp Cracking Down on Paid Reviews

Gotta give credit where credit is due.

trashed Yelp pretty hard a few weeks ago. While I don’t like many of their business practices, in that article I did mention the unenviable task Yelp has of sorting out the good reviews from the bad.

One of the factors making this so difficult is that some business owners, knowing how important a good review can be for their business, will have fake positive reviews added to local review sites like Yelp.

While review sites (especially Yelp) don’t like business owners to pay for reviews, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a business to offer incentives to customers to leave online reviews. These review sites have become so powerful for generating business you can’t fault a business owner for wanting to do all they can to promote their business.

What isn’t okay, however, is paying people who have never set foot in your store to leave good reviews for your business online. That’s just downright unethical.

So in an effort to crack down on business owners who are paying for reviews, Yelp has reportedly been conducting sting operations. And, if they catch you, it looks like they are now taking to public shame to penalize businesses doing this and to make an example out of them.

A recent New York Times article reports that Yelp has started adding “consumer alerts” on the Yelp pages of companies that have been caught trying to pay for reviews. The alert says “We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business.

Not only that, but Yelp is making the evidence available and letting potential customers for the business see the “incriminating emails trying to hire a reviewer.”

While I still don’t like many of Yelp’s business practices, I applaud the concept behind this one. If businesses are trying to purchase reviews from strangers they should be penalized.

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Yelp: The Good, The Bad, The Despicably Ugly

If you own a local business, the game’s changed.

It used to be Google+ Local (or Google Places or Google Maps or whatever it’s called this week) was the only game in town and got the lion’s share of the Local Search action.

And because of its prime real estate on Google and on Android smart phones, local business owners still need to focus most of their attention on Google+ Local.

But, with some major recent developments, Yelp has positioned itself to be almost as important to local business marketing as Google.

While there’s a lot to like about Yelp, there’s also a lot to watch out for as one of my clients recently discovered (and, unfortunately, he’s not alone).

Let’s take a closer look at the good, the bad and the despicably ugly when it comes to Yelp…

The Good

The two huge developments driving Yelp’s rise are:

1. A deal with Bing which makes Yelp’s reviews and content a big part of Bing Local’s search results. Bing isn’t huge, but it’s still about 16{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of the search engine market (and rising) which makes it hard to ignore if you’re a local biz owner.

2. Yelp’s integration into Apple Maps and Siri. With the recent OS upgrade, most Apple users will be relying on Apple Maps instead of Google Maps to find local businesses (despite the initial problems with Apple Maps). And Yelp, which had already been a key source of data for Siri, is going to be a big part of the local business results Apple Maps users will see.

Here’s what else to like here:

  • Yelp has over 30 million reviews, 78 million unique monthly visitors and its mobile app is viewed on more than 7.2 million unique smartphones. Those numbers should only grow with the Bing and Apple deals, making Yelp a key hub for people to find local businesses.
  • The mindset of Yelp users. People are on Yelp toward the end of the buying process. They’re actively looking for a local business to spend their moolah in. That makes it more appealing than say, Facebook paid ads, where people are looking to be entertained, not buy.
  • If you own a local business you could (and should!) claim your business’ Yelp listing for free. Add photos, a description, hours, etc. to make your listing more appealing. This will help it get found by others and make it more attractive to those who do land on your Yelp listing.
  • Having a lot of positive reviews on Yelp can have a very positive impact on the financial performance of your business. A recent study published by professors from UC – Berkeley found that restaurants with higher Yelp ratings were fully booked about half the time while those with lower ratings were only fully booked about a third of the time.

The Bad

Speaking of reviews, that brings us to the bad. I’ll split this into 2 sections…reviews and paid advertising.

Reviews

Getting good reviews can be great for a business. But overall, reviews on Yelp are a mess. Here’s why…

  • Yelp doesn’t want business owners asking customers for reviews, they want the reviews to happen “naturally”. But, if I’m a business owner and know positive reviews can help my business grow, how the hell can you expect me NOT to ask happy customers to leave a review for my business? It’s a dumb, unrealistic policy.
  • There’s also the issue of fake reviews. Knowing the positive influence great reviews can have, some business owners go out (unethically) and try to game the system to boost their business’ reputations.  Some get friends, family and/or employees to leave reviews. Others will actually pay for good ones.
  • There are also fake negative reviews. These could be posted by competitors or by others who, for whatever reason, are looking to shred a business’ reputation on Yelp.

To try to address these issues, Yelp has an algorithm that “filters” reviews from their system that they don’t think are legitimate.

I don’t envy the job Yelp has here. It’s got to be darn near impossible to truly figure out which reviews are legitimate and which aren’t.

And this problem isn’t unique to Yelp. It’s something that all review sites deal with and is why reputation management has become such a big deal for local businesses.

But, as they try to sort all this stuff out, business’ reputations are at stake…as are the livelihoods of the business owners and employees. And Yelp does seem to draw more ire about the way they handle reviews than the other local review sites.

We’ll get back to reviews shortly in the despicably ugly section, but first a word about Yelp’s advertising platform…

Paid Advertising

The good thing about Yelp’s advertising program is it can position you highly in Yelp’s search results. (If competing businesses advertise on Yelp, they’ll essentially be in a rotation at the top of the rankings according to a Yelp advertising rep I spoke to.)

That’s all well and good but I still put their program under the “Bad” section of this post for a few reasons.

Cost

500 impressions per month will cost you at least $325. That’s over $1.50 per impression (NOT click, impression) which is very high.

Long term contract

You have to sign up for at least 3 months and the rep I talked to about one of my clients was pushing a 12 month contract.

I’m not a fan of companies being locked into long term advertising packages. If your advertising really works and you can show advertisers it works, then they’ll keep advertising with you. If not, let them move on.

Removal of competitor’s ads from your Yelp page

One of the other “benefits” they tout for advertising on Yelp is that they’ll remove your competitors’ ads from your Yelp page.

Yes, that’s right, if you have a Yelp page and your competitors sign up for advertising, their ads can appear on your page! But if you pay Yelp, those ads can be removed.

Hey, it’s their platform and their rules but, personally, this rubs me the wrong way.

Poor data tracking

I also wasn’t very impressed with the data tracking they provide. They don’t seem to provide good tracking data to help you determine whether your advertising is generating an ROI or not.

The Despicably Ugly

This is where advertising meets reviews. Let me share a story with you…

I have a client who, for a long time, had four 5 Star reviews on Yelp. Last month, however, he got a call from a Yelp rep asking if he wanted to advertise with them. During the conversation she mentioned the negative rating on his Yelp page.

When my client looked on Yelp, all his 5 star reviews were gone and the only one that was there was a brand new 1 star review (and one that, after a lot of research, doesn’t even appear to be legitimate).

The rep explained that the reason the 5 star reviews (some of which had been there for years) had been removed was likely because they were the only reviews those people had ever left on Yelp and, in Yelp’s eyes, that’s a sign those reviews may not be legit.

Then, according to my client, the rep went on to say there are a lot of factors that go into the algorithm that determines which reviews show up and which ones don’t. And she basically made it sound like advertising with Yelp could help promote his positive ratings and bury the negative one.

Last year a class action lawsuit was filed against Yelp for this sort of thing. There were a number of ways business owners alleged Yelp manipulated ratings and reviews including:

  • Businesses that stopped advertising with Yelp saw negative reviews, which had been knocked to the bottom of their page when they were paying for advertising, spring back up to the top.
  • Some claimed Yelp offered to move or remove bad reviews if they advertised.
  • Others claimed that positive reviews disappeared when they rebuffed Yelp’s sales team.

This lawsuit was dismissed pretty quickly so the court didn’t see the merit in it. However, allegations of these sorts of practices still get reported all the time. Though every time they come up, Yelp strongly denies that reviews are influenced by whether or not you advertise with them.

I want to make it clear that in my conversation with the Yelp rep, she did not make any sort of statement that made it sound like my client could make the positive reviews come back and/or bad one go away by advertising on Yelp.

She just said that by promoting the site through paid advertising, we could encourage more positive interaction with customers which could, in theory, lead to more positive reviews.

Should You Advertise on Yelp?

Yelp has a lot of potential. And the site’s prominence in the local space is only going to grow.

However, their advertising program, in its current form, isn’t particularly attractive. And, with their seemingly underhanded practices, they rub me (and plenty of other business owners) the wrong way.

My client may very well end up holding his nose and advertising on Yelp. But, for now, we’re going to hold off and focus on some campaigns we’re running on other platforms. Bing and Yahoo! send about 50 times more traffic to his site than Yelp does so it makes sense to focus there before trying Yelp.

So is Yelp advertising right for your business? Well, as with all forms of advertising you have to test it out, measure the results as best you can and determine if the ROI is there.

And it may very well be there with Yelp, especially in light of their deals with Bing and Apple.

However, I’d be much more likely to recommend it if they made their advertising program seem more like advertising and less like extortion.

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.

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!

 

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{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} 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{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} just a year ago)
  • 87{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of respondents agreed that reading a positive review has confirmed their decision to purchase
  • 85{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} 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{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} 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.

 

 

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{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e}) rely on the Internet for information about restaurants and other local business than any other source. Newspapers are the 2nd preferred source (around 17{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e}-18{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e}) and Word of Mouth was 3rd (13{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e}).
  • 55{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of adults surveyed said that, at least occasionally, they get information about restaurants, clubs or bars from the Internet. That figure was 60{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} 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{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of respondents cited social media, compared to 21{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} for search engines and 9{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of the special topics sites. For “other local businesses”, only 1{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} cited social media (21{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} for search engines and 10{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} 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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