Boosting Business+Profits Online

Getting Better Rankings in Google Local Listings

The following is a great post from SEOMoz on how to get your local Google business listing to rank better. The tactic essentially involves doing some competitive intelligence on your higher ranked competitors and replicating their proven strategies. I have been taking this approach with our client listings and can attest that it absolutely works. So go do it!

This post is short and easy to follow, just like the tactic it recommends. Most everyone who optimizes for Google Local (aka Google Maps) is familar with David Mihm’s excellent and oft-referenced Local Search Ranking Factors. In that document, and in many places where local results are analyzed, it’s clear that getting your business/website into more listings, in a consistent fashion is a very good thing.

Yet, somehow, this obvious tactic has gone missing from many GG Local optimization recommendations. Either that or it’s so obvious that no one feels the need to mention it. Whatever the case, it’s available now :-)

Step 1: Do Lots of Searches Related to Your Business & Region

Searches in Google

Let’s say you’re working on local SEO for a Thai restaurant in Seattle, WA. Searches you might perform include:

You’re seeking results that show competing or closely related businesses, so get creative.

Step 2: Identify a Handful (or a Few Dozen) Businesses that Consistently Get Top Rankings

Thai Restaurants Consistently in the Local Listings

You could build a formal spreadsheet and perform tracking to identify these or start with gut feel and expand later on in the process. For less competitive listings, an informal approach may work just fine.

Step 3: Go to the Local Business Profile for Each of These

Links to Click for Profiles

Don’t click the name of the listing itself. Instead, follow the links to the “reviews” about each of your competitors’ businesses. You’ll get a page with information about the business, reviews and lists of data that Google has found about them.

Step 4: Click on the Links to “More About this Place”

More About Thaiku on Google Local

The “more about this place” section of the business listing shows brief snippets, titles and URLs where Google has found relevant information pertaining to the business. This is your potential goldmine for discovering listing sources.

Step 5: Go to those Sites & Get Your Business Added/Updated

Listing Opportunities via Thaiku's Sources

 The domains that are listed are places where Google is pulling information about your business. This is where the Maps algorithm comes into play – it relies on not only the number of listings, but the quality of the sources and the consistency between them. You want every listing to perfectly match one another, right down the the suffix on the reservations phone number and the formatting of your suite number (e.g. 1221 E Pike Street vs. 1221 East Pike Street vs. 1221 E Pike Street Suite 200 vs. 1221 East Pike Street #200 are all DIFFERENT – don’t make that mistake).

As an example, I visited a link from Thaiku’s listing in the example above to Intuit’s Local Business Directory (I didn’t even know they had one until now) and could then add/edit SEOmoz’s listing:

Intuit's Local Business Directory

In addition to the potential local ranking boost, a majority of these sources offer the potential to earn links! Even if you don’t care much about the local results themselves, this is a pretty terrific way to get some good quality, trusted sites linking to you.

Step 6: Repeat Step 4 & 5 for the ”Reviews” and “User Content” Sections

Thaiku Listings of Reviews and User Content

If you’re hungry for even more sources, you can look at where listings come from on other competitors and/or go back to the business listing’s page in Google Maps/Local and choose from the “reviews” and “user content” sections for even more potential spots. Much like manual link building back in the late ’90’s, perseverance and careful attention to detail will take you far.

There are automated services out there to help with this process, but I haven’t yet seen one I feel completely comfortable about. The biggest issue is the dramatic value of and need for consistency in the listings. When automated systems submit, they can mix in a suite number in the wrong place, cut off a phone number because the form doesn’t accept hyphens or confirm a URL that doesn’t match what you’ve submitted elsewhere. For now, I recommend playing it safe and spending the hours (even if that’s a dozen or two) to get those 50-250 listings correct. Google will reward you with local rankings and high quality traffic.

p.s. Next week I’m down in Portland for SEMpdx’s Searchfest and hope to spend time with some true local search experts and perhaps share some more cutting edge tactics :-)

Posted via web from Kym Wong’s posterous

Most Effective Search Engine Marketing Strategies to Get More Leads and Customers

most effective search engine marketingToday, over 95% of Internet users use the major search engines – Google, Yahoo! and Bing – to find the products and services they need. Internet Marketing is not just for big business anymore – the Internet is increasingly used to look for local businesses.

The Kelsey Group, a market research firm, reported that in 2008 “83% of U.S. households used the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services… the Internet will soon surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource.”

The Number 1 Challenge for Businesses Online

While the volume of Internet searches continues to increase, businesses who want to tap into this marketing opportunity face some significant challenges online. First, the web has become an increasingly competitive space. The number of websites has proliferated over the years and according to some estimates there are now over 180 million websites and about 9 billion indexed pages on Google.

In addition, web browsers have become increasing sophisticated users of the Internet. 84% do not even go beyond the first page of search engine results. Indeed, a Cornell study found that online searchers focused primarily on the top 5 results on the first page with the top 3 Google results getting 79% of all clicks. Given these two factors, the number one challenge facing all businesses today is getting found online.

Getting on Page One of Google

So how can your business be found by searchers looking for what you have to offer? In order to tap into the huge volume of local searches each month, your business website must appear ideally on the first page of the search engine results to get noticed and to get clicks.

By appearing on page one, your offerings will be placed right in front of prospective clients at exactly that key moment when they are actively searching for your service. Since Google is the dominant search engine (with 65% of the search market vs Yahoo and Bing), lets take a look at the 3 major ways in which your business can be positioned on page one of the search engine results.

1. Local Business Listings

The cheapest way to get on page one is to create your business listing using Google’s Local Business Center. This service is free and should absolutely be a ‘must do’ for all business website owners. Because Google is placing these local business listings first in the search results (i.e. before showing other web matches), it is critically important that you create your listing and position your business in the top 7.

This can be done with proper use of keywords. When setting up your Google local listing, be sure to select the right category for your business.  In addition, inserting the keywords or search phrases that you want to rank for in your business listing (especially in the title) will also improve your search rankings.

2. Pay Per Click Advertising or Paid Search

Pay per click (PPC), also known as Google AdWords, is the quickest way to get on Page One of Google. Paying the search engines for top placement gets fast results and generates immediate traffic to your business. Unlike the Yellow Pages and other forms of print advertising, business owners pay only for results (when their ad is clicked), can measure the ROI on their advertising dollars, and can track results efficiently.

3. Search Engine Marketing or SEO

The 3rd way to be found on page one of Google, and the best way to generate high quality leads online, is by having your business appear in the top 10 search results. Search Engine Optimization (SEO or organic search) is aimed at achieving the highest possible search engine results page (SERP) rank for a web site/page. SEO is an art not a science as the algorithmic elements that comprise search engine rankings are constantly being adjusted by the search engines.

Boosting Your Search Engine Rankings

Keywords and links are two of the biggest factors in terms of boosting your search rankings. “On Page” SEO refers to the optimization of your website page elements and content so the Search Engine can find your webpage for your targeted keywords.

“Off Page” SEO refers to the text and “inbound” linking from other web site pages to your web site pages. Since it takes time to build links in an organic way and to show results (usually several months depending on the competitiveness of your keyword), SEO is a longer term investment relative to PPC. Compared to traditional print advertising, SEO still offers a higher ROI especially for businesses that have high customer lifetime values.

By effectively combining these 3 lead generation strategies (local listings, paid search, and organic search) you can create a dominant presence for your business online. Your enhanced web visibility will allow you to capture active prospects, improve brand awareness, build a loyal following, and be recognized as the eminent authority and leader in your local market.

Marketing Spending Pays Off for Small Business

Small businesses spending more on marketing are also expecting increases in revenues. E-marketer also reports that businesses are shifting their budgets away from traditional to cheaper digital advertising, including social media and search engine marketing.

Another survey reported by Small Business Trends asked respondents to identify what they felt would be the MOST important tools for SMBs in the New Year. The top 4 responses were:

  • Search engine marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media

According to the report, more than 68% of small business owners will be increasing their social media spending. This appears to indicate that small businesses are seeing positive ROIs and gaining confidence in using social media marketing to get results.

Posted via web from Kym Wong’s posterous

Google Local Business Center

Google has made a significant change to its Local Business Center listings.

As you can see in the image below, instead of displaying the top 10 local business listings, Google is now only showing the top 7.

google local business center

This makes it just that much more difficult for local businesses to show up on the first page of a local business search in competitive markets.

This change also re-emphasizes the importance of optimizing your business listing so that you can improve your business’ local search ranking position.

Make sure you use the appropriate categories and keywords in your local business center descriptions and try and get additional citations from local directories as well.

It looks Google made this change in order to free up real estate on the first page for their new Local Listing Ads service. For a flat monthly fee, Google will display your business ad in the sponsored search section as shown below.

google local listing ad

This service is currently only available in San Francisco and San Diego.

You can learn more about the Google Local Listing Ad service in the video:

Most Effective Internet Marketing Strategies

Most local businesses focus on paid search or pay-per-click advertising, such as Google Adwords,  because the results are immediate.

most-effective-online-marketing-tacticAccording to a Forbes/E-Marketer study however, the most effective online marketing tactic, for both small and large firms, is SEO or search engine optimization. This was followed by email marketing, then pay-per-click advertising.

The results are not surprising given that 88% of Internet search traffic flows through organic search results (Forbes) so the opportunity to attract more visitors and website traffic by ranking organically in the search engines is huge.

The downside is that it does take time (usually several months) to get a site ranked and the results are never guaranteed.  Organic rankings depends on a great number of factors, including back links to the website which can take time to accumulate. Link building is a gradual ongoing process that takes much time and effort.

Business owners who are willing to invest in the search engine optimization and marketing effort will reap significant rewards:

“Instead of spending advertising dollars on newspaper and magazine ads, focusing on acquiring more organic search traffic as a key pillar of advertising strategy should become mainstream in the next 12 months. Thus, I see organic as the next big frontier in online advertising” – Forbes 5/09

Boosting Business+Profits Online