Posted on October 28th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

Google Place Search Ups the Importance of Local Listings

Hot off the press! Today Google announced a fundamental change in the way they display local listings. Called Google Place Search, it’s set to dramatically increase the importance of small businesses having a well-optimized Google Places listing.

Here’s how the new service works:

When you type in a general search like ‘IT support’, Google will continue to display listings in the same way it always has. But if you type in a locally-focused search like “IT support Chicago,” Google will automatically change its display to a Google Place Search page. Here’s what it looks like:

Google Place Search example

As you can see, it shares a lot of similarities with the Google Places “onebox” that currently appears: local business listings appear next to a map, with a corresponding red pin indicating where they’re located in that geographic area. The big difference is, the new Google Place Search page eliminates all the non-local listings from the page and includes a lot more information for the local listings that are displayed.

What this means for you: since Google is displaying a lot more local listing content on its Place Search pages, it stands to reason that they’ll give strong preference to displaying Places pages that already have lots of content first. It also stands to reason that if your small business’s website appears at #1 in the organic search results for a local query, but has no Google Places listing (or a poorly-optimized local listing), you’re about to lose a lot of market reach.

We’ve recommended that small businesses optimize their local search listings for a long time on Small Business Tech Tips – the new Google Place Search results are a perfect illustration of the benefits of having a well-optimized local listing. If you haven’t claimed and optimized your business, do it! And keep in mind, it’s not just about optimizing the Google Local Business listing itself – the more directories across the web that include your listing, and the more reviews your business has garnered at various different sites, the more content Google will pull in.

The read the full announcement from Google, click here.

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Posted on September 24th, 2010 by Mike Cooch  |  No Comments »

Site brings online social networking to the “real world”

Online social networking has been all the rage for the last couple of years – some people practically live on Facebook and Twitter now.

But what about those of us who still like to make connections in the “real” world?  I am often traveling to one city or another – and have many friends that are frequent travelers as well – and frequently think that it would be nice if I had a service that let all of my friends know where I was going to be so that we could connect if they happen to be in the same city.

I found a site the other day – Plancast – that does just that.

Plancast integrates with my major social networking accounts – like Facebook – and allows me to publish events I am attending and places I will be to subscribers of my account.  I have full ability to block people that want to follow me and determine where and when I want to share my plans, so privacy is pretty much a non-issue.

I’m just getting started with the service, but I think it’s got some really interesting potential.  Services that connect the online world to the offline world have cool opportunities for individuals and small businesses to make new connections and nurture current ones.

Check it out!


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Posted on July 27th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

Miss Shirley’s Foursquare Checkins Up 427%

…and hot on the heels of our last post comes a story that illustrates the potential of Foursquare for local online marketers.

If you live in Baltimore, you may know Miss Shirley’s Cafe. This popular brunch spot is particularly hard to get into – on Sundays, the wait often passes 2 hours to get a table.

Miss Shirley's Cafe LogoMiss Shirley’s also shares the honor of having perhaps the best Foursquare Mayor incentive we’ve ever heard: If you’re the mayor at Miss Shirley’s, you get to skip the line.

(In other words, you get automatic rockstar treatment. It’s a great way to impress your friends/girlfriend/whomever, and a great way to tick off the other poor schmoes who’ve been waiting there since 8am).

Since introducing the campaign, Miss Shirley’s has seen a 427% increase in the number of people checking into their 2 locations. This gives them a better chance of showing up in the ‘What’s Hot’ pages of Foursquare, which can have a ripple effect throughout the web (provided their page is well-optimized).

They’ve also heard from several people who say they’ve been coming by more often to check in, just to try and secure a Mayorship. Proving that there’s nothing like adding a little competition to the mix to increase customer loyalty.

Although there’s no good way to correlate an increase in checkins to an increase in business, we see another benefit of being a first mover on Foursquare: the press and awareness Miss Shirley’s has gotten from this campaign has been significant. If their local small business can create this much buzz, yours could, too.

You can read more on the campaign here.

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Posted on July 27th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

Foursquare, Marketers, & Why We Disagree with Forrester Research

In a study released today, Forrester Research recommends marketers should stay away from location-based services like Foursquare.

The reason? As reported by Ad Age, after finding that only 4% of U.S. Adults have ever used location-based services, Forrester’s study also revealed that:

Almost 80% of location-based service users are male. Close to 70% of them are between the ages of 19 and 35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Forrester also found these location-app users to be influential (the report finds they’re 38% more likely to say friends and family ask their opinions before a purchase) and they are especially receptive to mobile coupons and offers. This set is up to 20% more likely to consult their phones before a purchase, and are far more likely to research products and services and read customer reviews.

Their conclusion? That because the current user-base is dominated by one demographic, marketers should steer clear of Foursquare and other location-based services for now (with the exception of certain demographically-targeted verticals such as gaming, sportswear manufacturers, and consumer electronics companies).

Forrester is, of course, a leader in online market research, and tends to know their stuff. That being said, I respectfully disagree.

Foursquare Girl Logo

Forrester’s recommendation that male-oriented marketers should blaze the trail (and that other marketers should wait until location-based services attract more users) is a good one — provided they’re not talking about local businesses. After all, those are the businesses that services like Foursquare and Gowalla are designed for.

If you run a local restaurant, bar, or even a clothing store, it seems to me that a 19-to-35 year-old man who’s an early adopter and whose friends consult him for shopping recommendations is an ideal target market. Sure, if you’re a store that sells mostly to women, it might not be as useful (excepting maybe Victoria’s Secret), but most small local businesses will find this market to be a good fit.

A local business stands a lot to gain, simply by claiming its listing and promoting itself on these services. Even if a company’s location-aware efforts only bring in one customer at first, the long-term effects will likely snowball over time. That customer may become a customer for life, and tell all his/her friends about your business. If you claim your listing early and get involved, you’ll already have recommendations and other user-generated content attached to your listing by the time your competitors take notice.

And all of this for a small bit of work to get yourself set up and regularly maintain your offers.

In short, I think along the lines of the first commenter on the Ad Age article, who said,

This is the equivalent of saying, in 1994, that the internet skews male, so real marketers should avoid it…this is an incredibly short-sighted view.

I couldn’t agree more. For local storefront-style businesses, it can only help to be a first-mover on these platforms.

Sure, the returns might not be huge at first. But the cost of entry is negligible (at least for now), and over time, it’s easy to see that those who adopt early will be the ones who reap the most benefits.

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Posted on July 12th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

AdWords Location Extensions – Now With More Locations

If you’re using AdWords to market your local small business, you should already know about location extensions. They allow you to show your location to potential customers before they click through your ad.

Numerous advertisers have experienced exceptional results after adding ad extensions to their local advertising campaigns. From pizza delivery companies to paint stores, they allow bricks-and-mortar retailers to more effectively compete in the online marketing world.

At the end of last week, Google made a significant change with their location extensions system – you can now show up to 4 locations in your ad. As seen in the screenshot below, clicking on an ad with location extensions now reveals a pull-down menu with a map that has multiple nearby locations targeted.

Locations can be added by hand, but the more effective approach is to simply link your AdWords campaigns to your Google Places account. Doing so makes adding location extensions a one-click process.

For local retailers with multiple bricks-and-mortar locations, this new addition is a huge step forward. By combining this functionality with geotargeted ad campaigns, you can deliver much more relevant ads to potential customers at the exact moment they’re looking for your services. Even better, you can let them see whether the location is close to them before they click through your ad, thus better-qualifying your leads.

For those with multiple locations, we recommend revising your AdWords ad groups to take advantage of this new feature immediately.

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Posted on June 19th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

DealMap and Goby – Two Internet Marketing Resources for Local Businesses

On Thursday, Robert Scoble posted a blog about two new services that illustrate the direction the local internet marketing world is headed.

Dealmap and Goby are both taking the social out of local internet marketing. In its place, they’re providing something of much more tangible value to the user.

Goby helps its users find things to do in different locations. If you’re looking for an art class in Boulder, CO, for instance, it will offer you a number of related options – from art classes to galleries to lectures at museums, complete with schedules. It does this by searching the web and finding relevant events, then adding them to its database.

Dealmap, on the other hand, is a clearinghouse for local deals. Whereas it’s cool to check in on Foursquare and see a deal that’s nearby for the Mayor of Starbucks, this service gives you an idea of any available sale, promotion or deal near a certain location. It’s a great way for users to save money – and for local businesses to market their products and services.

As Scoble points out, these two services both show you what location-based marketing is capable of. Current services like Foursquare and Gowalla primarily appeal to people’s social nature – they let you check in, find friends nearby, see what’s happening in your circle (and occasionally get a deal). But imagine if Foursquare was to partner with Dealmap – its users would gain a whole lot more than just an occasional free drink or discount at Starbucks. The service would retain its social networking functionality, but gain a HUGE value proposition for its users.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to drive traffic to your local small business, it would be an excellent idea to submit a deal or two to and see what comes of it.

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Posted on June 17th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

A Social Media Cheatsheet

When you think about it, social media is just an organized extension of the way the web has worked since the beginning. You would see something you liked, then copy and paste it into an email and send it to your friends. Services like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. just automate the process for you.

It’s really kind-of remarkable, when you think about us living in an age where we can broadcast to the entire world…and yet relationships are made and leads are generated primarily by word of mouth. Even in an increasingly-interconnected world, a recommendation still goes a lot further than outright advertising.

This is why services like Twitter and Facebook are so popular – they allow people to be social animals (which we are, by nature), and they allow them to sort through the noise and find what they’re looking for, often largely based on what their friends are sharing.

Social media has become an essential part of local internet marketing – and its influence is growing. This is also why it’s imperative that businesses, small to large, establish a social media presence. But how do you get started?

You’re in luck. Eloqua, a marketing automation company, has just posted their social media playbook for anyone to download and read. It’s an amazingly-detailed reference for how to succeed on various social networks, from Facebook to Twitter to blogs to LinkedIn…and more.

Drop by their blog and pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.

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Posted on June 14th, 2010 by Mike Cooch  |  1 Comment »

What’s old is new again – Direct mail up 16% in Q1 2010

One of the things I stress with local businesses I am working with is that online marketing isn’t the only way to generate leads, as many search marketing consultants would have them believe.  In many cases, direct mail will work better than online campaigns, and in all cases where it is affordable, I recommend an integrated approach.

According to direct marketing intelligence firm Mintel Comperemedia, direct mail volume is up 16% in Q1 2010.  Obviously direct mail is still working for a lot of businesses!

Amazingly, insurance-related mailings account for 43% of all direct mail volume!


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Posted on June 7th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

Local Search Ranking Factors 2010

We’ve mentioned David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors article before – it’s a crucial guide to the ins and outs of how Google (in particular) determines where in the Google Places results a local listing will show up.

Each year David Mihm surveys a number of top SEO practitioners regarding the local listing results they’ve seen, and compiles all the data into a list. The result is a comprehensive explanation of almost all the factors that contribute to a local business’s Google Places position.

Today, Mr. Mihm released the 2010 Local Search Ranking Factors. Anyone in the business of local internet marketing should stop what you’re doing right now and give it a read. You’ll learn a lot.

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Posted on May 17th, 2010 by Kipp  |  No Comments »

Twitter for Local Lead Generation

We’ve spoken a lot about how Twitter is a great medium to build relationships with your customers and prospects…but Twitter can also be an effective tool for generating local leads.

As Jonathan Volk points out, you can even automate the process. By feeding various articles to a locally-targeted Twitter feed, you can direct prospects to a trackable phone number or a local landing page to capture their info.

Granted, you’ll see much better results if you participate on a regular basis, since a 100% automated Twitter feed is fairly easy to spot (even for novice Twitterers). You’ll pick up more followers if you at least give the impression that you’re a real person.

But for the amount of effort required, Twitter can be extremely effective way to drive traffic and leads towards you or a client’s local business.

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Posted on May 14th, 2010 by Kipp  |  1 Comment »

Yelp for Business: Meet ChoiceVendor

If you’re in any way social media-savvy, you’ve probably encountered Yelp before. (If you haven’t, it’s one of the leading review sites on the web. Users can post reviews of various businesses and interact with people who post other reviews. If you’re working with a B2C company and they’re not on Yelp, drop what you’re doing right now and get them on it!)

Last week, a new service called ChoiceVendor launched. Essentially, it’s the Yelp for B2B companies. Businesses of any size can create an account on ChoiceVendor and review other businesses they’ve worked with.

The implications for small and medium-sized businesses here are huge. As you know, Google Places leverages reviews from across the web to determine a company’s star ranking (hence, the importance of sites like Yelp for locally-focused businesses). Every positive review on Yelp can be extremely valuable to a company’s local search ranking, since Google places extra weight on listings with reviews.

Additionally, there’s an intangible value – the value of trust. If a customer finds a company where customers have gone out of their way to write 4- and 5-star reviews, they’re more likely to consider that company to do business with.

Which brings us back to ChoiceVendor. Up until now, small businesses haven’t had a great venue for their clients and customers to post reviews. With the deployment of this new service, that all changes. We expect to see Google indexing ChoiceVendor’s reviews sometime in the near future. If you have clients who operate in the B2B world, they would do well to make sure they have a claimed listing on ChoiceVendor, and try and solicit reviews from happy clients.

In the long run, the dividends will be huge.

**UPDATE 9/23/2010 – Looks like we weren’t the only ones to take notice – as of today, the ChoiceVendor team has announced that they’ve been acquired by LinkedIn. Congrats, Yanda and Rama!

Although the service is no longer available, we wouldn’t be surprised to see something coming from LinkedIn leveraging their data and technology soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet claimed your business on LinkedIn, now’s an excellent time to do it!

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