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

While You Were Busy Complaining That SEO Is Dead…

Will marketing firms be gone before we know it? HOLD ON. Before you go on about how “SEO is dead”, here are 3 aspects of internet marketing that you should really be focused on:

Local CitationsGetlisted.org recently posted a tool showing the best citation sources by city. Interesting how this stuff all works! Besides the major ones, you’d better be familiar with: Manta, Citysearch, Superpages, and the LA Times if your business is in or near Los Angeles. Other credible citation sources include Dex Knows and Augusta.com. If you don’t think these sites are important, it’s time to seriously reconsider as Google takes signals from these major sites and takes them into account when ranking.

Social Signals – As SEO is no longer about “pleasing” search engines, SEO content has to be aimed at helping people. In fact, this has been the primary goal of search marketing for a long while now.  But it’s not just about coming up with useful content, which is why viral campaigns, infographics and video are being lauded for their share ability. The easier content can be shared, the more your business can benefit from social sites.

SEO Growth – The bottom line is that SEO is growing and becoming more integrated with other marketing strategies. Check out this infographic by Blue Caribu which shows that:
– There are roughly 863 million Google results for SEO, while social media has about 385 million.
– 2.24 million Americans search for SEO every month.
– Every second, 3.5 people look up SEO on Google.

If you aren’t entirely convinced, don’t look at it as if SEO is a dying breed (which it isn’t)… but as a segment of marketing that is ready to transform.

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.

Are You Guilty of SEO Overkill?

Google PandaEven though it’s 2011, it’s amazing how many people still associate keyword stuffing with effective SEO. Sometimes, being too results-driven can cloud your thoughts and make you forget the most important thing – effective content is written for people not robots.

Optimization could involve brand new content or pages that already exist. Whatever the case, keyword research is always the first step. This will help you determine the keywords you want to use for meta descriptions, titles and tags. It’s also important to incorporate these chosen keywords into H1 tags. They key here is to do so sparingly. When you have natural and well-optimized content, your site will rank better and become more trustworthy to human readers as well as search engines.

In honor of the recent Google Panda Updates here’s an example of a paragraph that has gone too far (hopefully, content like this doesn’t remind you of your own!):

Panda Toy Palace – the best online store for panda toys! As a panda toy store in Los Angeles, we offer the best in panda accessories, panda clothing, and panda supplies! If you can think of a panda-related product, we have it! We love panda toys and are happy to share our love of panda products with all our fans. Panda Toy Palace is the only Panda toy place that you’ll ever need!

We get it. If your key products are panda toys posting content like this is neither helpful or relevant. It’s just a really long and drawn out way to promote your products and Panda Instead, you can write about natural or “natural” panda toys. Maybe a post about panda toys to coincide with upcoming holidays like Halloween and Christmas? You can even highlight a few products and ask customers for their opinions. Your content needs a good reason to exist!

Panda Updates are cracking down on “spammy” content that is overstuffed with keywords. Many legitimate sites have had trouble because of these updates and it’s just a reminder for everyone else to be mindful of their optimization tactics. Remember to keep your eye out for signs of over optimization and overkill – the Panda is always watching!

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

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?

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.

Social Media Tips Learned from Groupon

One aspect of a group + one aspect of a coupon = Groupon. So, have you used it yet?

It Pays to be Social
As we all know, social media advertising depends effective communication. Did you know you can log onto Groupon through Facebook and not have to create a new account? It pays to be social and make things easy for customers.
When Groupon first started, a local daily deal would need a certain number of buyers in order for it to be valid. For example, 500 people needed to score a dozen cupcakes at a bakery for 75% off. People would pass this Groupon to their friends and family via social media or email. Nowadays, so many people use Groupon that I rarely see a deal that hasn’t met its buyer requirement. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to pass on great deals.

Who Doesn’t Love a Great Deal?

Whether you’re a serious shopaholic or frugal foodie, Groupon is a great way to find deals throughout your city. It’s a fun way to try restaurants you’re skeptical about and they also make great gifts. Most recently, a national retailer gave Groupon a try. GAP offered $50 worth of apparel for $25 and over 200,000 people jumped on the deal. That’s 10 sales per second! What’s the lesson learned here? Offer good deals and the customers will come.

People Love Good Customer Service

I recently saw a deal for Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs: $30 of BBQ for $15 – doesn’t seem so bad. I checked out their reviews on Yelp and saw some less than flattering reviews. When so many people are going to be doing their research on your business, you’d better be prepared. I saw that a manager at Mr. Cecil’s was personally responding to negative reviews and offering customers a gift certificate so that they would try the restaurant again. Lesson: learn from your mistakes and offer superb customer service.

Have you learned anything else from Groupon? If your business is interested in giving Groupon a go, it’s a great way to bring in new locals.

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.