Yelp! I Need Somebody (Help, Not Just Anybody)

Customer reviews and testimonials have always been important and Yelp is one of the first sites that come to mind. Potential customers may visit your Yelp page even before they come to your website or place of business. Here are some tips to help with reviews:

Make it easy for customers to find your business on Yelp by officially claiming it and filling it with all the right information and categories. Name, address and phone number changes could lead to duplicate listings, which is confusing.

Add your listing to crucial places like your website, Facebook profile, email signature and more. Also add stickers and decals on your windows, counter etc.

Encourage natural customer reviews. This means absolutely no fake reviews, incentives or compensation. Yelp’s filter is good at detecting and hiding fake or suspicious reviews.

Reach out to active and power users. Like the title of this post suggests, getting a positive Yelp review is great. But ideally, you don’t want just anyone to leave a review. And there’s a good reason too. If a n00b signs up for a Yelp account and leaves your business a positive review (and no reviews for other businesses), it might not even show up due to Yelp’s filter. If possible, you want those good reviews to come from someone who has authority in the local community and influence across different social networking sites.

Although this sounds difficult, it’s where being a business owner helps. Encourage Yelp check-ins for specials and coupons, this way, you can actually interact with customers and dig a little deeper to find out if they’re active on Yelp. Providing excellent service is key regardless.

Don’t appear too desperate or pushy for reviews. Instead, create open engagement by encouraging happy customers (and hopefully active users) to visit your Yelp page.

Stay on top of the mobile game. If you’ve used Yelp’s phone app, you’ll know that the “local” aspect isn’t completely accurate. Most of the time, top reviewed business listings will get preference, unless you specifically set the filter to display businesses by physical location.

Helpful Articles:
What We Can Learn About Taking Criticism & Reputation Management
Yelp in Your Words: Negative Review? Stop, Drop and Roll
- 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Yelp
5 Tips To Get More Online Customer Reviews
Buy Reviews on Yelp, Get Black Mark

Local Search Marketing: A Few Do’s & Don’ts

As if organic search isn’t frustrating enough, there’s also the issue of local search aka those A through G map listings that show up within blended results. These listings are based on a different algorithm than normal search, although it’s often thought that the two influence each other.

Check out some resources as you’re working on creating or updating your business and don’t forget these important do’s and don’ts. Make sure to read carefully because one wrong move can seriously screw up your local listing!

Do’s
– Use a standard format of all your contact information, including business name, URL, phone number, address (using st. versus street or suite vs. # & etc.)
– Create only one listing for each physical location
– Use a real phone number (although it’s tempting to use an 800 or tracking number to track calls)
– Use the same information/format and claim other non-Google listings (Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, YellowPages etc.). Google often pulls information from these sources to create or validate your business listing
– Use the correct categories and optimize your descriptions, photos

Don’t
– Create multiple listings for a single physical location
– Use virtual offices and use  different information for different listings
– Hijack competitor listings with false information
– Post fake reviews for your business or solicit an unnatural amount of reviews during a short time period
– Let local search marketing “experts” control your local accounts. Some companies use tracking numbers that could jeopardize your listing and might not even give you logins if you eventually decide to discontinue their service. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for!

If you’re lucky enough to have just one real location, you don’t have much to worry about. It’s a problem once you move, have multiple locations, have listings that have merged with incorrect information. Local listings can be a pain but patience and consistency are the key to getting things figure out. Read more about troubleshooting for Places here.

Website Audit: 7 Factors to Look Out For in 2013

Tomorrow marks the first day of December but it’s not too early to audit your website for the new year. It’s been a tumultuous year for search but all aspects of online marketing have been affected. As cliche as it is to talk about the changing world of the interwebs, 2012 really showed SEOs how much the landscape can change and that we need to be quick on our feet in order to survive.

Although there are many, many more, here are 7 things to look out for when analyzing your website’s effectiveness. Be sure to share your ideas with us too!

seo-2013

1) Keyword Usage: In most cases, the best advice is to cut back on using keyword rich anchor text, diversify phrases and use more branded terms.

Long gone are the days where you need a exact match domain in order to rank well for a certain term. Not only do the incredibly long, hyphenated URLs look spammy but Google has removed the benefit that they have long received in order to level the playing field for everyone.

Cutting back on linking exact match anchor text isn’t enough, as it’s important to also check pages for high keyword density. Even if you’re selling something specific like red tube socks, it isn’t necessary to see that phrase (or very similar) 100 times on one page. This also means cutting back on aggressive keyword use in meta elements, alternative text and image titles.

2) Number of Links: The less number of links you have on a page, the better. Around 100 is the goal but even less will be even better. When we talk about number of links on a page, we don’t just mean links in the content. Think about the links in your side navigation, drop down menus and links in the footer. It’s unnecessary for most of these to be on EVERY page of your site and will only slow it down. This is where utilizing an SEO-friendly content management system is helpful because you can control the links from one location and initiate site wide changes.

3) Navigation: Help users find what they’re looking for. But this doesn’t mean showing them all the content on your site at once! Make sure your pages are using appropriate breadcrumbs and even add jump-to links that will show up in search snippets.

4) Social Media Integration: Google, Facebook, Twitter are a must. But are they really? If no one is Tweeting, why not use LinkedIn shares? If no one is Liking, what about Google +? More buttons = more load time = more frustrated visitors, so choose the ones that are relevant to your business. It’s amazing to see that some sites are riddled with every social media share button possible including ones that might not be extremely mainstream/important such as Digg and Reddit.

5) Mobile Website: Have you thought about how failing to optimize for mobile phones and tablets could drive users away from your business? Check out our previous post: Elements of Effective Mobile Website Design. Keep things simple and take the rule of thumb literally: people don’t want to swipe multiple times to find what they’re looking for!

6) Utilization of Local: Local businesses need to make their contact information easy to find. Many contact pages still don’t have maps to their location or just have a toll-free number. This isn’t just crucial to the user experience, but Google+ Local relies on the contact info on your site and citations from other relevant local sites to make the connection to your physical location.

When it comes to mobile devices, use local strategies to your advantage by offering coupons, click to call options and supplying user-generated content like reviews. These will all help with conversion and bring customers into your business.

7) User Experience: Including all the things we’ve already talked about, it’s crucial to address basic things like having no pop-ups (or very few if necessary). Some sites also utilize user crushing experiences such as too many ads above the fold, auto-play videos/music or even making it hard to find your business’ contact information.

47.3 % of Brands Plan to Invest More in Local for 2013

It might be too early to start thinking about your online marketing budget for next year… but think again! According to Balihoo’s study of nearly 400 national US brands, 47.3 % of them plan to invest more in local marketing in 2013 from what they spent in 2012.

Although all the companies surveyed had an annual revenue of at least $100 million, it can also be a strong indicator of trends that small businesses are going to follow in the years to come. Take a look:

A surprising find was that “Other Social Media” was the top digital tactic for 2012 with Facebook second and SEO third. For 2013, marketers plan to add mobile, local blogs and customer reviews to the marketing mix.

The bigger a business is, the more likely it is that they’ll use different digital tactics in 2013. And that makes sense… especially in the volatile world of organic search nowadays, it’s important to not put all your eggs in once basket and diversify.

Here are some more helpful articles related to local and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about local marketing for your small business:

Google Introduces Targeting Improvements To Help More Marketers “Get Local” For Holidays
U.S. Mobile Local Ad Revenue Will Reach $5.8 Billion by 2016
Why Big Brands Are Going Local In 2013

Is Your Business Using Maps the Right Way?

emarketed

A website’s contact page is one of the most important things you can optimize. Many times, these pages aren’t properly optimized because let’s face it, how often do you see a company’s contact page/form in search engine results pages? Here are 2 ways you want to ensure maximum visibility and conversion:

Making it Easy for Humans
Having a map of your location shows that your business is real and tangible. Nowadays, virtual office spaces and other placeholder addresses are very common. The actual address of your physical storefront shows that you are a part of the community and a place that potential customers can check out if they please. Maps also have customer reviews and lead to your Google + Local business page. Even though this action leads them off-page, it helps provide credibility and trust.

Optimizing for Search Engines
We’ve talked about the importance of local citations before, so it’s no surprise that you can go the extra step and make your contact page more search engine friendly. Having a map shows a connection between your company and a physical location. Google also crawls other authoritative local listing sites and makes a connection to your address.  Using Schema.org’s code also helps search engines better read your address and categorize your business.

There’s nothing worse than landing on a contact page to find a generic form, an 800 number and a P.O. box address. If you have a real, physical location, it’s time to take advantage of that fact and differentiate yourself from competitors (especially in a field of professional services like SEO web design and internet marketing). And once again, don’t forget to optimize with maps!

Google + Local: What Does it Mean?

Why The Sudden Change?
Get ready to say goodbye to Google Places and hello to Google + Local. This latest Google update is a push towards further integrating Google + into search engine results. And as you guessed, it’s a push to help local businesses become more connected to their customers through their Page via promotions and reviews.

Zagat Reviews
For all the restaurant owners out there, Google + Local will be integrating Zagat reviews. While the thought of more reviews and scoring sounds scary, the positive side is that there are different scores for food, atmosphere and service so that it isn’t all lumped into one rating on a “normal” point scale. (Remember, Google acquired Zagat in September 2011, so it’s no surprise that it’s being used!)

SEO Benefits
Of course, this update can’t be announced without benefits for search engine optimization. The great potential here is that Google+ Local pages will be indexed by search engines. Did you know that Google Places pages weren’t? This will give business owners a greater voice that gives tangible benefits via SERPs.

Time to Get Serious About Social
“With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.”

If this isn’t enough incentive for you to create a Google + business page, we don’t know what is!

What Beginners Need to Know About Local Citations for SEO

seo citationsOh, citations. Remember how annoying they were to do in college? And how you would often leave them until the last minute to complete? In the world of SEO, local citations can be equally annoying but just as important! Local citations are one of the first things (if not the first thing) your small business should do.

What are citations?
Citations are mentions of your business name and contact information throughout the internet. Many people underestimate the power of citations and the key that they hold to your search engine rankings. Getting citations from reliable sources boosts your online credibility and trustworthiness. But here is where many people get it wrong… at the very first step! This means establishing a uniform way to input your company name, phone number, address and website. Is it floor, building, suite or plain #? Do you use a local area code or 800 number? Don’t miss out in the details as a small mistake can cause a big headache later on.

Where can I get citations?
Yelp, CitySearch, YellowPages, Angie’s List, Insider Pages, Merchant Circle, BBB, local blogs and niche directories are all credible places. Like directory submissions, there are paid options, as well as many paid ones. Of course, we can’t forget about Google, Yahoo! and Bing’s local business center. Because those are the most important places to first get citations, right? Wrong. Many believe that infoUSA, Acxiom, Localeze and Super Pages are the best places to get citations when starting out. Why? Because Google Places pulls information from throughout the internet and these are their most reputable sources. This can help your listing get verified sooner and help prevent it from becoming suspended for “inaccurate” information.

How should I submit citations?
Of the few citation resources I listed above, it won’t be surprising to know that there are a lot more. This is why many small business may be interested in hiring someone to complete citations for them. It’s understandable if you don’t have the time or know-how to do your local citations. But before hiring a company to do so, make sure that they will have someone do it manually.

There are some companies and software out there that claim they can submit your information to hundreds of sites in one smooth automated process. But buyer beware. This automated process means that the information never gets seen or confirmed by a human being. There are horror stories of submission forms or information getting cut off before being sent. And there’s nothing worse than having dozens, if not hundreds, of incorrect of half-filled submissions. In short, this information is not only useless, but it will be extremely difficult and time consuming to go back and undo the mess that the automatic process created.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about local citations? Be sure to leave us a message or tweet us @emarketed.

Where Do You Promote Your Local Blog?

Sometimes, your small business blog needs a helping hand. After all, you want as many locals as possible to get their eyes on your content. While social media marketing does its part, it’s very time sensitive and the clicks you’ll get are likely to bleed out over time (per post) – that’s why blog content is more useful in the long run.

Local news/blog sites are important for small businesses and their blogs. Patch.com is a great example of a community-specific news site that you can use to directly and indirectly promote your blog. You can participate on relevant news stories by commenting or just browsing to learn more about your customers and what they do and do not like. Each neighborhood Patch has a section where you can promote your events and invite others. Patch sites give local businesses the best of both worlds in terms of online promotion and the opportunity to meet with customers face to face.

Placeblogger.com is another site where you can submit your local blog. Let’s say for example, that you’re a real estate agent looking for a place to submit your local blog. Straight from their FAQs section, it states, “If your blog is simply new listings, there are many sites for you to use to spread the word — but Placeblogger is not one of them.” Simply put, this is a place for community driven news that’s actually helpful and interesting to people, not just search engines.

Check out these other location based sites and let us know what you think of “hyperlocal” sites:

Outside.In
LOCQL
Spot.us
EveryBlock
Fwix

Google Places Gets an Update


Last week, Google made a big update to its Places Pages and even more additions are expected to come! Why the sudden change? Google is trying to keep the focus on itself and focus on reviews made by Google users instead of other review sites. Before the update, Google Places showed snippets of reviews from Urbanspoon, Citysearch and even Yelp. As you can imagine, these other local-centric sites weren’t too happy.

Placing a stronger emphasis on customer reviews and business details will help owners reach out to locals. If you’re still not maximizing the use of local business directories, here’s what you’re missing out on (and you can definitely expect that number to grow):

- Local searches grew by 14 percent from last year.
– About 61% of local searches result in a purchase.
– At least 20% of online searches have local intent.
– 53% of mobile searches have local intent.

This update is important for small business owners because it means that you’ll have a better opportunity to marketing and analyze customer interaction with your brand. In their own words, Google describes the new Places as an “ongoing evolution”. Is your business ready for it?

This Week in Social Media: Twitpics, Hamburgers, & You

Do You Know What Happens to Your Twitpics?

Last week, we discussed Twitter’s photo search. This week, I came across an interesting article about Twitpic’s terms of service. Many people may not know or care all together. Apparently, when you use this service to upload and share your photos, Twitpic has permission (or rather, given itself permission) to pass your photos off to third parties. Many people speculate that Twitpic has added this to its terms in an attempt to make money from photos tweeted by celebrities or photos tweeted of celebrities. Or maybe even breaking news stories? Although it’s slogan is, “Share photos on Twitter”… it should be more like, “Share photos with Twitter”! In other words: before you Twitpic, think carefully!

Everyone Loves Burger Week

No holidays to promote your business? Make one up! This wOinkster burger weekeek is official Burger Week at a local Eagle Rock hotspot. The Oinkster, has made quite a name for itself by taking on signature classics of other famous hamburger joints – such as the Big Mac and Umami Burger. With CBS, LA Weekly, LAist and more picking up on this story, The Oinkster has reached above and beyond in the world of local news and social media. If you check out Twitter search results, there are non-stop tweets as eager fans await another tasty burger of the day.

This is a great promotional campaign because it can be translated well into so many different mediums. Although word spreads quickly through social media, this will also spark word of mouth recommendations. And when it’s over, the buzz still won’t stop. I look forward to people posting blog posts, Yelp reviews and Flickr pictures based on this magical burger experience. Remember, these will all help your business SEO-wise in the long run!

On Display at Your Very Own Museum

Speaking of magic, have you seen Intel’s creative Museum of Me? It has been a top social media news story this week and for good reason. Whether it’s intrigue or just plain fun, social media users love to feel like they are part of something more. Intel’s campaign does a fantastic job of showcasing users’ connections to their social network in a simple way. (Oh yeah, and they also promise not to store your Facebook information). This ad campaign is successful because it reminds users WHY they want to use your product in the first place.

Do you have any favorite social media stories of the week?