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?

Bing’s New Portal for Your Local Business

Google has its Places and Bing now has its Business Portal.

If you’re looking for another effective (and free) way to enhance your local business’ online presence, you should take advantage of Bing’s new feature. Just like with Google or Yahoo, you can claim and verify your business listing online.

Social Media Links

Next, you can fill out all the details of your business. There’s all the usual things: hours, logo, services, photos but you can also add links to your social media profiles – which is pretty cool!

Mobile Options and Specialties

If you happen to own a restaurant, Bing has a feature that I’ve never seen before: optimizing a menu for mobile devices.
For any business owner, you can also go into more detail about what products and services you offer by choosing a category and adding specialties. The keywords you add here will help with your SEO efforts.

Promotions

And of course, no local listings should be complete without an option for promotions. With Bing Business Portal, you can add coupons and other special deals that will help bring traffic to your place of business.  You also have the extra option of promoting these deals in Bing search results, your business listing and even on your Facebook Page!

If you’re a local business owner and haven’t taken advantage of this free tool yet, what are you waiting for?

Your Local Search Optimization Checklist for Success

checklistWhen it comes to search engine optimization for small businesses, local search is more important than ever. If your content isn’t focused on geo-specific keywords, it’s time to follow this simple checklist that will help you succeed. Remember, this content spans across your website, blogs, and even social media profiles!

  1. Are you on Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp local listings? If not, get on that NOW! It’s free and fill out as much information as possible. Descriptions are a great place to sprinkle in some of your local keywords for that extra SEO boost.
  2. Get visual. How about some pictures of your place of business or neighborhood to spruce up your site or social profile? Adding visuals of your business and/or employees adds a personal touch to your products/services. It will also give your potential customers a chance to “meet” you.
  3. Emphasize your local loyalty. Wherever possible, be sure to include a local phone number with the area code for your location.  I’ve seen plenty of SEO and web design sites with 800 numbers, no physical address – essentially making it impossible to find out where they’re located. No thank you – next.
  4. Use the right keywords. And I can’t stress this one enough! You’ll want to be using relevant keywords to your business that have a good amount of traffic so that you can capture some of that volume. What’s the point of ranking #1 for a term that  only gets 100 or so hits a month? Another thing, be thorough when choosing your location keywords. Are we talking about Glendale, CA or Glendale, AZ?
  5. Track your results. For the more SEO-savvy, SEJ just came out with a helpful article about how to track your progress.

If you think these extra steps are time consuming, think again. Properly optimized content will be a valuable asset for your business in the long run. What are some of your favorite, easy tips for local search optimization?

Yelp Can Help Your Small Business

YelpAre you feeling the Yelp love? As of January 2011, Yelp has received over 12 million unique visitors and that number is growing steadily every month. As a small business owner, it’s important to take charge of your Yelp profile and use it to your advantage.

Google Places is another prominent tool for local listings but many business owners feel that Yelp is more useful in helping them understand customers and find new clients. Because let’s face it, if you’re looking for a new hairdresser or reviews on an unfamiliar restaurant, you’re going to jump on Yelp way before Google Places.

Staking your claim: If your business is already on Yelp, it only takes a few minutes to officially claim it as your own. You’ll need to fill out some information and your profile will be verified by a call to your business phone number.
If you’re new to Yelp, creating a profile is just as easy and you’ll go through the same verification process.

Your information, please: Remember to check the accuracy of your business information and to fill as many information fields as possible. Your description and categories are also a great place to throw in those desired keywords that you want linked for your business. This is helpful for customers as well as SEO.

Don’t be afraid: So many businesses are afraid of Yelp because they fear bad reviews and “losing” customers. If you have products and services you can stand behind, there’s no need to worry. You can only GAIN customers and new business through another form of online exposure. Beauty Utopia in Eagle Rock is a great example of a business that thrives solely through word of mouth and Yelp reviews.
Sure, negative reviews are inevitable but it also gives you another perspective and way to understand your customers – where you wouldn’t even know that something is wrong if you’re not on Yelp. Take a look at our previous post on reputation management.

People talk about Facebook and Twitter as an extension of your online site but Yelp is another site that can’t be missed. Whereas other social media sites help with conveying your brand personality, Yelp boils down to the information and reviews that will really help you get more business.

Thursday Topics: Over Optimization & Social Media Marketing

Optimization Strategies
What happens if you overkill your optimization strategy? I just saw a short interview clip with Matt Cutts on a SEOBook article about this very subject. Although Matt claims that you won’t necessarily get penalized, it’s obviously not ideal to over optimize. Google optimization is a delicate task and the key is to make your efforts look as natural as possible. This means doing away with duplicate content (your own and content “borrowed” elsewhere) and mixing up the keywords you use on a single page. If you feel like you’re using a particular word a little too much, you probably are. This not only looks spammy but it makes it annoying for your average reader.

Have You Checked in with Foursquare?
Whether you love or hate social media marketing, you’ll certainly be at a disadvantage if you ignore it. The internet is abuzz over the Foursquare phenomenon and that’s cool, but I don’t really get it. I mean I “get it” from a marketer’s point of view so I guess we’ll expand on that note. Like local search, Foursquare pulls in customers to drive business. But, how does it work? The jist of it is that customers “check-in” on their smart phone using the application to keep track of the various locations they’ve visited. Depending on the amount and variety of places you’ve visited, users can earn badges that showcase their accomplishments.
Interesting… but what’s the point? Social Media Examiner shows how businesses can implement loyalty programs and build relationships using the app. By using the ‘check-in’ feature, customers can take advantage coupons and promotions available for locals. It’s beneficial for all, so why not? Foursquare, and the lesser-mentioned Gowalla, are fun and engaging new ways to use location based services to connect with customers.

Coming Up with a Plan for Organic SEO

Do you ever come across the label, “One size fits all”? Not only is it frustrating but most of the time, it doesn’t even hold true! Instead of opting for a generic plan for tackling SEO, why not take the time to see what will work best for you? The biggest problem that many have is not knowing where to start or what efforts are enough to help your success. Although a reputable SEO company can’t guarantee your success, your hard work and consistency will pay off in the end.

Investing in Keyword Research
This is an important starting place. Maybe you want to set aside 5, 10, or even 20 keywords that you’d like to concentrate on. Instead of going for a wide variety of words, it can be beneficial to focus on some top terms if there is not a lot of competition in your field. The opposite holds true if you want to get more aggressive with your efforts. Lisa Barone wrote an easy-to-follow article for beginning your keyword research. With free tools from Google and unlimited online resources, there’s no reason for you NOT to get started today.

Moving Onto SEO Content
Now that you know what keywords you want to optimize, it’s time to focus on SEO content. It may be difficult to deliver a steady stream of relevant content. Many companies find it more efficient to enlist the help of copywriters who are knowledgeable in the field. Whether it is keeping up with industry news, voicing your opinion, or plain FAQ’s, these textual gems will help link your site to the significant keywords that you want to be associated with. Marketing experts can’t stress this enough – content is king.

Let’s Get Technical
Search engine optimization works to help your site gain more visibility. This doesn’t happen out of happenstance and you should familiarize yourself with the more technical aspects of organic SEO. Don’t know the difference between title and meta tags? Forget to add relevant keywords to your headings? Did you know you can even add alt tags to make your pictures more search engine friendly? If you aren’t utilizing these fields, just think of all the potential visibility you’re missing out on!

3 Social Media Problems

Social media marketing isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. I’ve recently ran into a couple problems and it’s taken me awhile to

1) Problem: You want to clean up your Twitter account but are stuck with too many inactive, irrelevant followers. Maybe, you’re following too many people who aren’t reciprocating.
Resource: With ManageTwitter, you can quickly go through your followers and weed out the inactive ones. It’s a handy tool and sure beats doing it manually.

2) Problem: Your business isn’t showing up right in Google’s Local Business Center.
Resource: Check out the Google forums and you’ll see how many other business owners are in the same boat. We haven’t figured out a better/fast solution so if you have any insight, please let us know!

3) Problem: You don’t know where to start with link building
Resources: Look no further than Lee Odden’s open letter to spammers and 101 ways to build link popularity