How to Set Up your Business in Google Plus

Considering today’s announcement that Google is doing away with Google Places and replacing it with  new feature that combines its Google Plus social site and renowned restaurant reviewers Zagat.  For those of you who don’t remember, Google purchased Zagat in September 2011, check out our article on elocalrocks.com about the acquisition.

For those of you who weren’t old enough to carry a little Zagat’s book when you went on vacation or to select a restaurant (yes, Virginia there was a time before Yelp), Zagat was formed in 1979 by a couple in New York who felt that diners and travelers needed a way to review restaurants and hotels prior to actually going to them.  The little purple book was a main stay for people of my generation and the first of its kind to offer reviews by actual customers in order to help others make decisions.

That all being said, it seems that Google is finally going to put Zagat to good use and to make yet another push at taking the Social Networking dominance from Facebook (good luck there).  So really despite all of the shock and dismay being expressed on line about the demise of Google Places, it really should have been read in the proverbial tea leafs.

With the announcement, it seems timely that not only do I add MyLocally to Google Plus, but that we let our readers know that it is definitely time to embrace Google Plus as a business network.  We will keep you posted on any future developments or the impact this change will have on small businesses and Local Search, but in the mean time, we are advising that advising that you add a business account to Google Plus and am including a link on how to do so from the Social Examiner.

 

 

 

 

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Are Citations an Important Part of Your Local SEO Strategy?

Local Search SEO Checklist

With all the talk about links; too many links, not enough links, good links, bad links, natural links, unnatural links, links as Penguin food … it is easy for people to forget that good Local SEO should include citation management.

What are Citations?

Citations are “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages, usually directories.  Citations are also known as web references.  Citations are not necessarily links and citations are not necessarily a direct result of your efforts.  There are thousands of directories that include your business information without your knowledge and if the data is inaccurate it can lead to confusion among potential customers and could potentially harm your ranking.

Citations are a key component of ranking algorithms used by the major Search Engines.  If all other factors were equal, businesses with a greater number of citations with an exact (or close) match, will probably rank higher than a business with fewer citations.

The Best Citations

Citations from well-indexed directories such as Yelp, Superpages.com, MerchantCircle.com, MyLocally.com and YellowPages.com can improve your Local Search Engine rankings.   Don’t forget to add and claim your business in Google Places, Yahoo! Local Listings and Bing Local Listings.

Citations are a great way for both customers and Search Engines to authenticate your validity.  Membership in associations, chambers of commerce, groups, business directories, and local newspapers or popular blogs are great citations.

Citations are important for ALL industries, but have a greater impact for industries where business owners are less SEO savvy and often don’t have a website for themselves.  Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find and citations are a great source.

Managing Citations

You don’t often get to decide what online properties your business will show up in or how accurate the information is.  But that doesn’t mean as a business owner you should just throw your hands up in frustration, you should make it part of your (or whoever is managing your online presence) Local SEO check list.

One suggestion for managing your on line citations is to periodically search your business name.  Check how and where your business is listed and make certain it is accurate.  Don’t forget to also search your business address and phone number, you might be surprised with what you discover.

Claim and update it as many places as you can.  Be certain to take a few minutes to analyze the features of these directories and create a strategy for which ones provide value and warrant your attention.

Now search your competitors listing and determine if they show up in industry directories and whether you should add your business.

Don’t forget to search for directories using a local search query for your industry, ie. Plumber in Temecula, CA.

Conclusion

The latest changes to Google’s algorithm reinforces good old fashioned network building, but in addition to old fashioned hand shaking in the community, today’s business owners need to make sure that their name is consistent and ever present on the Internet through careful management of business citations.

 

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5 Tips for Using Facebook to Increase Your Business

Many businesses do not use social networking and social media to their advantage. For example, Facebook can be an effective way of increasing business.

If you want to increase business through Facebook, there are a few tips you can use to ensure you get the most from social media.

1. Offer customers something for liking your Facebook page. For example, make certain promotions exclusive to Facebook users. Give your customers a reason to go to your Facebook page by offering discounts on products or services.

2. Don’t make your Facebook difficult to read. Make getting information from your Facebook page easy for customers. Don’t use confusing jargon, and keep it straight to the point.

3. Give customers information about the company, as well as trivia facts. You want to build a trusting relationship with customers by offering honest information.

4. Place a share button on the Facebook page. With a share button, customers who visit the page can share information you post with other people.

5. Keep the Facebook page updated on a regular basis. An important aspect of maintaining and increasing business is keeping your customers updated on new happenings with the company.

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Facebook Freak Out!

The speakers at last Wednesday’s f8 conference were barraged with complaints about Facebook’s new features.  Facebook’s answer: “people will get used to it.” Interesting response, but I guess when you have 750 million users you can dictate how the market SHOULD respond to your initiatives!  I wonder if while at Harvard Zuckerberg learned about the fall of the Roman Empire or the old adage, “Before pride comes a fall… “

Regardless, they are Facebook and it appears that the changes are here to stay.  I do have to admit that MyLocally is including some of these features in our new online directory, so hopefully Zuckerberg is right that people will get used to features like tickers and activity news feeds.

While I doubt that Facebook sees MySpace as a threat to domineer the world of Social Media, it does look at its rise and fall as a lesson they should choose not to follow.  According to a Facebook executive, as a company they realize that in order to survive and thrive they must change and adapt.  I recall just last week, when a musician friend of mine, Adam Bubert, wrote a post on Facebook about his MySpace page, some bewildered 20 year old asked ½ tongue in cheek what MySpace was!  I guess Justin Timberlake isn’t “bringing MySpace back” quite yet.

While many of these changes were in the works before the introduction of Google +, its meteoric rise (and slide) certainly gave notice to Facebook that they weren’t the only game in town.  That being said, according to eMarketer, Facebook has $3.8 billion in worldwide advertising this year and a predicted $5.8 billion in 2012 – so they are doing something right.

I wrote this blog last week on my way to the Lake Tahoe Marathon and never posted it, so a week has passed since “Black Wednesday” when many of us Facebookers woke up to find our beloved home pages altered.  Since that time I can tell you that I have gotten used to the changes, and the ticker on the side has some interesting features that I like, such as scrolling down and seeing someone’s post appear with images and the thread!  But I did find it a bit disturbing that Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com was listening to some band I have never heard of and NOT returning my calls…can you say “Facebook stalking” Andrew?

 

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It’s Google’s world; we just live in it!

As I began to do research on Google’s gobbling up of Zagat, I found a quote from Paul Saffo, Managing Director of Discern Analytics, that I just couldn’t resist “borrowing”.

In its continued effort to capture more of the online local marketplace, Google announced the acquisition of Zagat for an estimated 200 million dollars.

For those of you who may not know, Zagat was the Yelp of yesteryear whose reviews could make or break a business.  Formed three decades ago by Tim and Nina Zagat with the notion that “normal” people could review a restaurant or hotel, it revolutionized the way consumers made choices.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when travelers would never think of venturing on vacation or to a restaurant without their little burgundy book and its short and witty reviews.

This acquisition of Zagat is another sign that Google wants to (control the world), I mean to crack the local business market and to keep competitors like Facebook from gobbling up a share of the estimated $140 billion that small businesses spend on local advertising each year.  Google wants to become the go-to guide for consumers researching local businesses.

 It also reinforces Google’s emphasis on unique, relevant content; reviews; and consumer participation as part of a good user experience.  Marissa Mayer, in charge of Google’s local strategy, comments that “Zagat is something where the Google spirit, format and process of reviews come together, I just love the user-generated content nature of it.”

What this will mean to those of us who focus on Local SEO is still unknown.  My hunch is that those SEO companies that focus on good, unique content and on providing a good user experience for both small businesses and consumers will probably fare ok with this new acquisition and the on-going strategy changes at Google.

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MyLocally on track with Local Search and Social Media Trends

As the launch of MyLocally.com fast approaches, we see affirmation that our strategy combining Local Search and Social Media into one product is in line with current Search trends every day and we grow increasingly more excited for its launch.

BIA/Kelsey recently launched their Social Local Media (SLM) advisory service, focused on the “growing significance of social platforms” and has appointed Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com to act as their associate program director.  Mr. Shotland is a respected social and local SEO expert, and consults for eLocal Listing with our new product offerings such as MyLocally.com. BIA/Kelsey’s SLM advisory service will focus on monetization models for social networks (something SMBs have been struggling with for years), metrics that measure social transactions, social commerce, and Facebook’s continued evolution as an effective online marketing tool.

Another sign that MyLocally is on track with current Search and Social Media trends, especially with our focus on its community Market Place pages, is the introduction of BuddyPress; Social Networking in a box. This new free and open source web product allows communities to build an integrated solution in which participants are connected through blogs, updates, messaging, and more. Exactly the direction that MyLocally.com is taking.

MyLocally.com is a new online community that allows its participants, both businesses and consumers, to actively participate in deals, reviews, blog posts, and Q&A.  The more they participate, the higher you appear on the Market Place Page or the better deals you will receive!

Our current launch date is September 25, 2011; until then, keep coming back for more updates.

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MyLocally setting trends in Local Search and Social Media

As the launch of MyLocally.com fast approaches, we see continue affirmation that our strategy of combining Local Search and Social Media into our new online directory product called MyLocally.

BIA/Kelsey has recently launched their Social Local Media (SLM) advisory service, focused on the “growing significance of social platforms” and has appointed Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com to act as their associate program director.  Mr. Shotland is a respected social and local SEO expert, and is an integral part of developing MyLocally.com, consulting and working with us from the inception of our new one of a kind directory product.

BIA/Kelsey’s SLM will focus on monetization models for social networks (something SMBs have been struggling with for years), metrics that measure social transactions, social commerce, and Facebook’s continued evolution.

Another sign that MyLocally is in line with current Search and Social Media trends, especially with our focus on its community Market Place pages, is the introduction of BuddyPress; Social Networking in a box. This new free and open source web product allows communities to build an integrated solution in which participants are connected through blogs, updates, messaging, and more.

Exactly the direction that MyLocally.com is taking.  We are excited to be presenting the market place with a new online community that allows its participants, both businesses and consumers, to actively participate in deals, reviews, blog posts, and Q&A.  The more they participate, the better the experience.

 Our current launch date is September 25, 2011; until then, keep coming back for more updates.

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Where Search Meets Social

Someone just asked me to explain MyLocally, and I immediately said “It is merging of Local Search and Social” (a slogan in the making somewhere).. The person said “Oh cool”, then said, “But what does that mean?”  To which I replied “Well, it is the best of everything ‘hot’ in Internet Marketing; social media, reviews, e-business and deals”.

Here I was trying to explain what we were creating, and while I can’t let out all the secrets, I thought I would attempt to define what “it is” by defining all the components in this revolutionary new product.

 I work for eLocal Listing, so I have to start with Local Search:

A Local Search is performed when someone uses a local search engine (or online directory) to find products or services in a particular area.

With Local Searches, the user enters “what” they are looking for (such as keywords, business name, consumer product, or business category), and geographical information indicating “where” (street address, city, country, zip code) they want to find it.

Once the query has been submitted, search engines (or directories) return results closely matching the inquiry.  The closer the better!

 OK, one down – five to go; Social Media:

The phrase ‘Social Media’ is being tossed around a lot these days, and when people hear the phrase, they think Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Linkedin. But Social Media is (or should be) defined with a broader brush stroke to include Social Book Marking, Social News, Blogs, Photos, Video Sharing, Wikis, Google+, and the list goes on.

I am going to try to paraphrase a definition of Social Media in this way: Social Media is an online platform or network that creates a two-way street (and in many cases much more) that gives users of an online community the ability to participate in online activity.

Next is Internet Yellow Pages or IYPs:

The “Dinosaur” of print advertising resurrected itself in the 90s as an Internet Yellow Pages or IYPs.  Like their print counterparts, IYPs are directories where businesses are listed and categorized so that consumers can easily find a business listing.

The best examples are SuperPages, Yellowpages.com, Merchant Circle, Dexonline, and Local.com.

Blogs, images, videos and more:

It is impossible to define these, and you know what they are anyway. I can tell you this – lots of us start blogs and few of us follow up and update them, but search engines love them. They are a great way to promote a business, expand your brand, and reach your targeted audience. We got ‘em, and you’ll love them!

Videos- I remember when we announced that we would be including videos on our profile pages, it was revolutionary at the time, probably not as much now, but nothing tells a story like a video.  Sure there is Vimeo, but there is no one like YouTube.  YouTube announced in May 2011 that it had hit 3 billion views per day! Not sure that any of ours will go viral; but we will use the power of video … how did that song go? “Video killed the radio star..” Ok, showing my age.

Images- A picture is worth a thousand words. You have heard of Flickr and Panoramio; uploading, commenting on, sharing and viewing images is part of our Internet experience.

Reviews – We live and die by the sword.. Not sure why I just said that, but the reality is that reviews are becoming increasingly more important to businesses.  The old word of mouth recommendations from friends of friends of friends has been replaced with reviews.  Even Clark Howard on CNN (who I watch at 4am each day!) told me to check out Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and Kudzu reviews before bringing my car to an auto repair company.  Why he didn’t mention Google Reviews I don’t know, but I may just change my opinion of him when he recommends viewers to check out MyLocally reviews.

Check out these stats – Yelp is now reporting 50 million users a month and boasts 17 million reviews.  Customer reviews have the biggest impact on the decision to buy: 90 percent of people said reviews have an impact on their decision; 60 percent say they are the most important factor.

 Deals -  OK, I have to admit I hate them, am not sure I really understand how to use them, and am overwhelmed by the amount of email I get about deals and coupons.  Now I must also confess that I was never a coupon cutter, and that my Money Mailer, Valu-Pack and Local Community deals always went straight into the trash. So I wasn’t part of the old coupon/deal phenomena, why would I think I would be part of the new world of online deals and coupons?

But the reality is that Google felt a certain coupon site was worth 5.3 billion dollars, and LivingSocial recently announced that they plan to raise $1 billion in an IPO. Those stats and these numbers speak for themselves: 50+ million subscribers to Groupon, 22 million Groupons sold in North America and $980 million saved in North America.

I do admit I love the way that they build the community of sharing and promoting deals – I like it a lot!  (Hint, Hint!)

So that is us … well all that and more … like climbing the wall, badges and more …

So that is mylocally.com – pretty exciting huh?

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Seasonal Search Trends

eLocal Listing provides Local Search solutions to over 100,000 small businesses nationwide, so it would be fair to say we know a thing or two about Local Search.   We understand that many businesses see a fluctuation in seasonal demand for their product or services.  As a result, when consulting with these customers we often utilize Google’s Insight trending tool and we also have a program that allows businesses to only pay for calls.  This program means that businesses don’t need to incur the cost of marketing/advertising in lean months. 

Another guy who knows a thing or two about Local Search is Andrew Shotland whose blog Loc@l SEO Guide is read by many and is seen as one of the premiere blogs on the subject of Local Search.  In Andrew’s most recent article he posts a calendar of the industries and products that get the most local searches. 

According to this calendar back to school shopping for supplies and apparel top the list for July – September 15th, with events, party supplies, and travel dominate local searches from July through mid September.  It certainly seems logical and it makes sense that savvy business owners should target their marketing around these key phrases by updating content, writing blogs, purchasing paid online marketing campaigns and participating in Social Media.

Come to think of it – Halloween is around the corner – I think maybe I will call our friends at Frisco’s Halloween Shop in La Puente, CA and remind them that costume buying season is upon us.

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