Are Your Reviews For Real?

Local business reviews are a big deal.

Many of your prospects will read reviews others have left about your company and use them as a major factor in deciding whether to do business with your local business or not.

And, as you might expect, when it comes to something that can have such a big impact on a business, there are unscrupulous people out there trying to game the system. In this case it’s either paying for fake reviews or having friends/family members/employees write fake ones.

An interesting article from the New York Times gets into the issue of fake reviews and the problem it’s posing for review sites like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor. It also describes work being done by some Cornell researchers who have developed an algorithm that can supposedly tell real reviews from the fake ones (not surprisingly Google has already asked at least one of the members of this team for a resume!).

You can read the New York Times article on fake reviews here.

We’ll be talking a lot about reviews in the coming months…how to get good ones (ethically), what to do if you get some bad ones, what sites you want to get reviews one, etc.

The important thing for now is to understand that reviews are a big deal and, if you haven’t already, check out review site like Google, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch and others to see what your clients are saying about your business (and your competitors’ businesses).

I Really Want to Recommend Google AdWords Express, But…

The other week I posted an article with some words of warning about Google AdWords Express.

I really want to be able to recommend it to small business owners. Truly I do.

Google AdWords is a great marketing tool and having an easy, efficient and effective way to use it would be a huge help for many small local businesses.

Since writing that last article, however, my view of Adwords Editor has not gotten any better. Two reasons why…

1. A very pushy Google AdWords Express rep called a client of mine. The rep had my client on the phone for a long time and, despite the client telling the rep he was already using AdWords, the rep persisted. More to get him off the phone than anything, my client relented and signed up for Express.

But here’s what really got me about this situation…

AdWords Express targets searchers in your local area. 99.5{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of my client’s customers come from outside his local area so spending money advertising on a local level does him little good.

Google’s pushing this service really hard, but, unfortunately, at least some of the reps are just looking for the sale and don’t even take the time to see if Express can actually help a local business get clients or not.

2. Take a look at this screen capture…

These are the results of a Google search I did for the term “drug crime lawyer” (and, in case you’re wondering, this was for research purposes for a client NOT because of any drug crime I committed!).

Notice that last result on the bottom right with the blue pushpin looking icon next to it? That’s a Google AdWords Express ad…and it’s for a bankruptcy lawyer.

Yet the AdWords Express algorithm is showing this ad for a search related to drug crime lawyers. Not the best targeting there!

And, unfortunately, there’s nothing this lawyer can do about it because, unlike with “regular” AdWords, in AdWords Express you can’t go in and tell Google not to show your ads when certain words show up in the search query a user types into Google.

I do have faith in Google and believe(hope!) that this algorithm will improve over time.

Until then, I can’t recommend Google AdWords Express for the small local business owner.

The Ninja Keyword Trick for Finding Local Keywords Your Prospects Are Typing Into Google (Even if Google Tells You They’re Not!)

You’ve done your local keyword research and found a keyword that would be awesome for your business.

Problem is, the Google Keyword Tool indicates that keyword gets zero search each month. Bummer? Maybe not.

Especially for relatively low traffic local keywords, the data you get from the keyword tool can be highly inaccurate.

This video shows you a simple, yet powerful, trick you can use to see if people are actually searching for that keyword or not.

How to Use the Google Keyword Tool To Find the Best Local Keywords

So where do you go digging to find the best local keywords for your business?

The place to start (and in some cases, perhaps the only place you need to go) is the Google Keyword Tool. It’s part of the Google AdWords program, but you don’t have to use AdWords to use this awesome tool…for free!

It will help you uncover the best local keywords that your customers are typing into Google to find the products and services you offer.

This video shows you how to make the most of this tool and some tricks to help you find keywords your competitors may be missing!

The 3 Key Uncovering the Golden Local Keywords for Your Business

I won’t make a big stink about it here. But if you’ve been following us at all, you know how important keyword research is to your local search engine marketing efforts.

But when doing your local keyword research, what should you be looking for?

What are the factors that make for the best keywords?

As you’ll see in this short video, there are 3 main factors to be looking for when researching keywords.

Two of them have to do with numbers, or the “science” of keyword research.

The third, and arguably most important, is all about the “art” of keyword research.

Watch the video to see what they are…

local keyword research

Dude, Where’s My Place Page Information?

The changes from Google keep on a-comin’.

The latest ones to Google Places sent many local business owners into a panic when they looked at their business’ local listing on Google and noticed their number of reviews dropped like the United States’ credit rating.

The reviews are not gone, however. Google just decided that the review counts next to a business’ local listing will only include reviews left directly on Google.

You can see in the screenshot below that the review count in the margin is only reviews from Google and ignores the counts from and

Reviews from sites like Yelp, Yahoo!, and others still matter, they’re just not included in the review count next to your listing on the search results page.

A few other changes to note on the Places Page itself…

First, the More Details section no longer gets displayed. This section showed custom categories a business owner could add to their Places page such as “Products Sold”, “Brands Carried”, “Awards”, etc.

You can still enter these additional details in your Places account even though they’re not being displayed at the moment.

Why bother? Because there’s reason to believe they may reappear at some point. Also, Google is likely still looking at that data to help it determine how to categorize and rank your business.

Also gone is the “More About This Place” section. This was particularly useful for “spying” on your competitors to find out what sites they were getting citations from that you could use to get citations for your business.

This section was nice for local search nerds (guilty as charge) but didn’t do much to enhance the Place Page for users. Good riddance as far as I’m concerned. (And, if you’re looking for a source to identify citations, go to WhiteSpark.)

Lastly, Google has added a section of descriptive terms toward the top of your page.  These are terms that appear in reviews customers have left about your business.

Here’s an example from the Place page of a divorce attorney in New York…

This is all the more reason to encourage happy customers to leave reviews because the last thing you want is your descriptive terms to include words like “doesn’t care”, “bad experience” or “sucks.”

The bottom line for local business owners:

  1. Encourage customers to leave reviews for you on Google to get your review count up. Just don’t ignore the 3rd party review sites completely because having reviews from a variety of sources is still important.
  2. This is not going to be the last major change to Places. I see some more big ones coming later this year as Google integrates Google+ and Google Offers with Places.
  3. We’ll keep you posted on what you need to know so check back here frequently and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Dirty Diapers and Google AdWords Express (formerly Google Boost)

It sounded good like a good idea.

Before our first daughter was born my wife and I thought we were going to use cloth diapers on our daughter.

We’d be doing our part for the environment, they’re supposed to be better for the baby, and we wouldn’t be plopping (pun intended) $1000s into the Diaper Industrial Complex. After doing our research into cloth diapers we were excited (or, at least as excited you can be about changing diapers) to go the cloth diaper route.

What sounded good in theory turned out to be not so great in practice. With the cloth diapers there were lots of leaks, they were inconvenient when we were out of the house and they required us doing lots and lots and lots of laundry.

So we changed course and went the disposable diaper route.

And that brings us to Google AdWords Express. But before I explain why, we need…

A Little Background on AdWords Express

Google’s rebranded their Google Boost program for local businesses and is now calling it Google AdWords Express.

Google AdWords Express is a ultra-simplified way for local businesses to advertise through Adwords (Google’s Pay Per Click advertising program).

AdWords is a powerful way to target local prospects searching for the products and services you offer… and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad (compare that to TV, newspaper or magazine advertising where you pay a set price no matter how many eyeballs fall on your ad or how many of those who see your ad care about what you offer).

AdWords is also a complex beast that’s hard enough for those of us who use it every day to keep up with, let alone a small, the local business owner who has plenty else to worry about.

That’s where AdWords Express comes in. You set a budget, write an ad and then Google runs things for you. Easy peasy.

Sounds great, right?

Well, like the decision about using cloth diapers, what sounds good in theory may not be so good in practice.

With AdWords Express you get simplicity, but that comes at a price. In this case, that price is control. And control is one of the biggest benefits of using AdWords.

When you manage your own AdWords campaign (or have someone manage it for you) you have control over…

  • The keywords you target
  • What you’re willing to pay for each keyword in your campaign
  • When your ads appear (24/7, only during the week, only on weekends, from 10:30 to 1PM to promote a lunch special, etc.)
  • Where your ads appear geographically (a state, a metro area, specific cities, a 20 mile radius around your office, etc.)
  • What keywords you DON’T want your ads to appear for (ie. A dentist that only works with adult patients can prevent their ads from appearing when the words “kids”, “children”, or “Pediatric” appears in the search term
  • Testing of different ad copy to see which one gets the best response
  • Tracking of conversions to better measure the effectiveness of the campaign

Using AdWords Express, Google controls all these things. You’re largely leaving these important marketing decisions that affect the quality of the traffic coming to your website up to Google’s algorithm.

The Bottom Line for Local Businesses

AdWords is a great way to generate leads and local businesses should definitely try adding it to their marketing mix.

If you have a very small budget, then I’d definitely recommend giving Google AdWords Express a try to test the AdWords waters.

But if you’re going to spend more than a few hundred dollars a month on clicks, then learn how to manage it yourself or hire an expert to do it for you. It should end up saving you money (I’ve seen accounts where keywords cost 50{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} more in Boost compared to the exact same keyword in a “regular” AdWords campaign) and you’ll ensure you’re getting the most highly relevant traffic to your website.

Otherwise you risk paying for some traffic that’s a pile of, well, the stuff that ends up in diapers (whether they’re cloth or disposable!).


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 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!)

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