Local Search Factors... Keep It Close

It's impossible to do a search on Google today with local listings popping up.  This has been a real challenge for those of us in SEO but an opportunity as well.  When I wrote the second edition of SEO Made Simple, I dedicated a number of pages to this phenomenon that we call local search.  This is because of the tremendous impact local search has had on website traffic.

The good news is that you're not at the mercy of Google (a.k.a. Google Places) or other local search results.  In fact, you can do a lot to optimize your local results on major search engines.  
Here are some tips for making the most out of your Google Places and other local search results.

Please note that if you don't claim your Google Places page, Google will likely compile one for you, by bringing in information from Internet Yellow Pages, Yelp, localeze, and other sites.  This is not ideal however because you want to control the information you are sharing with the world.

Focus on these factors: 
1. Include your physical address.  Make sure that it matches the city where you're located.
2. Manually verify your ownership of the company's Google Places page via the confirmation email.
3. Use the proper categories for your Google Places page.
4. Complete other listings online that Google will use to verify your local listing (ex: Internet yellow pages).
5. Include your address and local phone number, including area code, on your website.  Be sure to render as text, not as an image.  Google can't read what's inside images, only image tags.
6. Build inbound links to your Google Places listing in addition to your website.  Treat your Places page as as a primary page that is deserving of inbound links.

    A few things to remember:
    When putting together your Google Places listing, there are a number of things to keep in mind.  The first is to sure to publish information that is accurate and complete.  I have seen that local businesses that take the time to fill out all of the information on the Google Places profile, even including hours of operation, tend to do better in local search results.

    As is true with any optimization effort, focus on your primarx keywords for local search.  Generally, this might include your service type followed by city, town, or region.  Keep in mind who your primary audience is and how they are likely to find you.

    One effective strategy is to include the name of your service in your listing title.  A great example would be Mikes Farmers Market instead of Mike's Market.  This way, your listing will come up for searches focused on "Farmers markets" in the local area.

    Reviews are very important to local listings.  Even though many small business owners know just how important they are, rarely, if ever, do they ask their customers to help them out.  If you want to improve the ranking of your local results, you must ask for and get positive reviews.

    The last point I want to make is that if your business provides services versus your traditional retail shop, it might be beneficial to provide would-be customer with access to service areas on your Google Places page. Also referred to as "enhanced listings", the service area gives you many more options to enrich your listing.  Additional features like photos, links, videos, etc. make your listing stand out.  Google charges $25 per month for the advanced features but it could be well worth it.

    Local search is not going away.  Claim your Google Places page today at http://www.google.com/places/.  Once you do, you'll be well on your way to improving local traffic.  Even if you don't have a brick and mortar establishment, consider using local places to drive additional traffic to your website and create awareness for your business.

    How To Survive The Social Media Jungle

    Keeping up with Social Media can seem like a full time job.  I'm not talking about tweeting, making Facebook posts or checking out what your network is up to on LinkedIn. Rather, I'm referring to knowing how to use social media effectively as part of your overall marketing strategy.

    The fact is that Social Media is an inescapable, all-consuming, non-stop form of communication that has taken over our society. It's constantly in our hands as we walk down the street with a steely grip on our smart phones and other mobile devices. Social Media is reaching across generation gaps and forever changing effective marketing. 

    In a world where online communication is the norm and commercial messaging is intrusive and annoying, traditional marketers may have trouble doing their jobs. That's where my latest read comes in.  A friend recommended "Think Small, Grow Big: A Social Media Survival Guide for the Marketing Professional."  

    Written by Ab Kuijer, this book answered a number of questions for me when it comes to leveraging social media.  It can help marketers and entrepreneurs utilize social media in a way that boosts sales and brings in customers.

    One of the perks of social media (or perhaps one of the downsides) is the ability users have to share their opinion in real time with large networks of like-minded individuals. If a consumer just bought a new product, only to find it doesn't work, that consumer now has the ability to share their dissatisfaction with all their social media friends...IMMEDIATELY. This can be a disastrous scenario for any marketer!   

    So what do you do?

    Kuijer illustrates how to deal with such problems in Think Small, Grow Big. He also and
    provides Facebook and Twitter tutorials. He covers many different aspects of marketing, including the history of advertising and how to effectively bring traffic to your website or blog.

    Establishing your brand in the online market, is a smart way to market your product, service, or business. I don't recommend a lot of marketing books but have to say that this baby is a "must-read" for both seasoned and novice marketers seeking to understand and navigate the new world of social media. 

    Here are a few things you'll get from the book: How to appreciate current customer’s needs, instead of constantly searching for new clients; keeping customers happy so they will become ambassadors to the brand; focusing on customer service through dialogue marketing and social networking techniques; how to be successful by building relationships beyond a sale; building brand awareness through trust and friendly recommendations; and tons of other social media stuff that's very much on point.

    So pick up this quick,informative read and take your Social Media to the next level.

    Internet Marketing Performance Measures

    Marketing is getting so complex that sometimes it makes more sense to take a step back and get a clear idea of what really matters.  I was reminded of this after reading a recent article (online) from eMarketer.com.

    As marketers, we need to constantly think about and provide tangible metrics that prove our worth.  It's not all bad though.  By being forced to pay attention to metrics, we can do our jobs better - focusing on the tactics that work and moving away from those that don't.

    As was noted in the article, "Marketers are desperate for a clear, comprehensive and effective set of metrics and measurement systems for driving marketing performance."  I couldn't agree more.  In fact, without an understanding of performance metrics, I wonder how you can tell if you're successful.

    Measuring Performance
    There are only a handful of key metrics you need to evaluate to determine the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaigns.  There are tons of other distractions, but if you're not focused on these primary metrics, you're missing the boat.

    Qualified Reach or Visits: Qualified reach captures two important dimensions of internet marketing that no other measurement does and that's quantity (number of individuals) and quality (the users have performed a desired interaction).  When users take an action, their behavior suggests a true desire or interest.  This type of quality is essential for identifying real prospects.

    Clickthrough rates: One of the more popular metrics, clickthrough is the primary metric used by online advertisers. Click through rate, a.k.a. "CTR" should continue to be used to measure the effectiveness of direct response initiatives but shouldn't be the only metric used.
    Brand perception lift: The actual metric of "lift" is calculated by determining the change in brand perception among a specific audience.  Results can be compared to a control group or previous studies.  This metric is a little more difficult to calculate without market research or a carefully designed survey.  Even though it takes more work and can be costly, it's quite valuable.

    Engagement Score: I love engagement.  In fact, engagement score is one of the most valuable metrics you'll find.  It's built upon a set of integrated metrics that captures the degree of interest with your content. Engagement score works across all digital media, from videos and mobile apps to landing pages and social media.

    End Action Rate and efficiency metrics are also important.  However, I tend to rely more on ROI as a key measure.  When you walk into the CEO's office, that's what they want to hear.  What is the return on our marketing investment?  Tt's a critical financial metric that indicates the value created by your marketing initiatives. 

    The most effective marketers are focused on utilizing metrics that improve the results of their campaigns and validates their marketing initiatives.  If you want to be a successful marketer, take the time to learn more about measuring and tracking your marketing activities.