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Posts Tagged ‘Search Engine Marketing’

Google Steps Up the Local Effort

Google has been making (its own) news over the past two weeks, but it’s all been good news. Google is calling more attention to the efforts it has put in to streamlining the local search experience from the business owner perspective. While Google has always been the leader of local search, it has been no secret that many in the SEO industry, as well as business owners, have had more than their share of frustrations trying to optimize and manage their local profiles. Now, it would seem those times are a-changin’.

First Google announced that it was introducing a new support feature for its Google Places page. For place page owners and operators, this new help system provides a walk-through of possible errors that could be wrong with your listing. The checklist will help owners troubleshoot. For the more experienced local optimization types out there, there will also be the ability to send a note to a Google Analyst who will respond to the issue. Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have had service support in place already; though neither have the volume of searches that Google sees.

Next, Google unveiled another new feature that will pre-emptively help Place page users. Google will now send an email that will notify of changes being made to the listing by outside sources. Google has always used valuable data providers like Yelp or Insider Pages to gather information about a business, as well as feedback or changes provided by any Google user on the local pages themselves. Now, when impending changes will alter a listing, a business owner will receive an email explaining the impending changes. Google says this is to keep business owners from having to log in to places every time there is an update, in an effort to keep the most recent and relevant information at the pages forefront. Business owners will still have the opportunity to log-in and manually override these changes with the edit option.

These changes come at the end of a long summer of Google Places in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. As Google tried to promote a new feature regarding businesses open or closed statuses, the story that actually got called into question was how easy it was to report a listing closed. With no support at the time, business owners would have to check in often with their listing to learn if a disgruntled or misinformed customer or competitor took it upon themselves to close their business (on the Places page). After a stunt by a local expert, Google addressed the flaws. But with these new support systems in place, these flaws should be much fewer.

With all of the changes happening to the local world lately, Google may be protecting its position as the leader with these support features. Google has never ignored its users; it simply just doesn’t have the manpower to handle every request that is asked of local support. The real hard pill to swallow was that it seemed as though it was ignoring users helpless against never ending “pending review” statuses, never arriving verification postcards, and unheard cries for help in the forums. While it will take a while to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts, local users should appreciate that the efforts are being made, at least for now.

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SEO You Should Know: Volume 3, Duplicate Listings

In the last two posts of SEO You Should Know: Local Edition, we’ve discussed how you can begin to establish and manage your presence in the increasingly important world of local search. In just a few hours, you can locate, claim, build, and maintain your company’s profiles on Google, Yelp and Bing.

Those are only three of hundreds of online directories, search engines, and review sites that could have your company’s info. If you have the time (and patience), you can find these directories and complete the similar processes of getting your company listed. The more references and links to your site, the better. You could also hire an experienced SEO firm to focus on developing this local presence for you. And with the obligatory pitch out of the way, on to this week’s post.

A problem you will probably come across as you scour the web for these (mostly free) local directories is the issue of duplicate listings. It can happen on the lesser known directories and even on the heavy hitters like Google, Yelp, and Bing. You would think having more references and pages talking about and directing to your site would be a good thing right? It is, but not in this case.

Duplicate listings can occur when the search engine’s bots crawl the web after each query is submitted and they bring back all of the information they find to the searcher.  In the vastness of the internet, there are bound to be some discrepancies. These could occur when a customer cites the wrong address or phone number on a review site. Or maybe your company moved years ago, but some engines still have the old address and number. Possibly your URL or email address have changed. The reason we claim these business listings to remove discrepancies and manage your local profiles is the same reason we remove duplicate listings.

First, we don’t want incorrect information about your business feeding the search engine bots. In the last two posts, we talked about NAP. It is very important from a local standpoint that your NAP is accurate and matching the NAP that could be found at any corner of the internet in regards to your company.

Second, it is important that you leave the competition to your actual competition. You don’t want to be competing with yourself. Some of our clients have had duplicate Yelp or Google profiles with slight variations. Your potential customers won’t put too much thought into uncovering the correct listing or the incorrect one. Your gamble will be hoping they pick the one you’ve spent the time carefully selecting pictures, writing great descriptions, and developing your image. So we want to remove these duplicates to make sure when they click on your business name, they are getting the best first impression.

The tricky part is the actual removal of these listings. Some directories and engines are better than others. As we’ve mentioned before, Google has very little (if anything) in the way of customer service. If you come across multiple listings on Google for the same location, you will have to go through the claiming process again. Once you verify that you are the owner, update the information in the profile and then suspend the listing. (Note: Don’t delete it from your places, just the Google Results…you’ll still want to be able to manage it). Every once in a while, do a Google Places search for your company and make sure no other duplicates pop up. Popular or larger companies have this happen often.

Most of the other directories are easier, but are not uniform. For the most part, it is a matter of tracking down the customer support section of the directory, and sending an email to the support team to help you by manually removing the listing. Other times there will be an FAQ section, and in many cases you can find support there by selecting “Duplicate Listing Error” or something similar and submitting a request to have the duplicates removed. It helps if you know the URL’s of the duplicates, so have those ready or open in separate tabs.

Then it’s just a matter of time and patience. Keep up with your emails sent out to these support teams and check back every so often. There are a ton of directories out there, so your work is never completely done. Justify this with the knowledge that every little bit really does help. And again, if you’d rather leave it to the SEO pros, there’s always that option.

We’ve come to the end of our local advice for now. Stay tuned for the next edition of SEO You Should Know, and we’ll tackle another element of search engine optimization that will help you grow your online presence. As always, if you have any questions, email us at moc.evitcaretnignivlovenull@ofni, call us, or sound off in the comment section.

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Google Ditches Radio and Print Ads

In the past few weeks Google announced that they were no longer offering Radio and Print ads. Just another reason why Search Engine Marketing is here to stay. The inventory that Google was providing for these services were on a remnant basis and when we approached clients that may have been opened to these advertising outlets, they were not confident that these inventory sources would help them reach their goals.

The services did not offer attractive pricing for clients that have used print and radio in the past. The fact that they were not able to get choice positioning was also a negative factor that could have contributed to the downfall of Google Radio and Print ads. It was a good effort on Google’s part to try to bring in more revenue, but the fact remains that Search Engine Marketing still remains to be the best ROI producers for most companies and businesses that advertise. This is simply why print ad revenue continues to dive down year after year.

What we thought was attractive about these two particular services was the reporting capabilities that Google so often emphasized. It is hard to measure these advertising sources and even with Google’s cool tools and gadgets, it was hard to correlate the results to the advertising.

The main lesson learned from this endeavor: Search Engine Marketing is the best bang for your buck.

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Easy Fixes to Make Your Website More Marketable

Many businesses invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars into their websites, hoping that it will generate sales and leads. Far too often, pros in Search Engine Marketing come across websites that, plain and simple, are not conducive to maximizing their business goals. Here are some quick tips to help enhance your user experience that should result in an increase in conversions.

  1. Calls To Action — Sites that lack calls to action tend to receive a lower conversion rate than ones that plaster their website directing searchers to actions. It could be as simple as adding buttons that say, “Sign Up Now,” “Request Info,” etc. From our experience when these simple additions make it on to webpages the conversion rate dramatically increases. Searchers need to be “told” what to do, or you risk losing that sale or lead and your visitor will bounce off your site.
  2. Forms — If your goal is to increase leads, it is a good idea to have a simple form on every page. When a form is on every page it increases your chances of capturing your visitor. You want to make it very easy for people to contact you without having to search the whole website.
  3. Make your site “sticky” — It is one thing to have an attractive site, but you also need to make sure that your site is sticky. The longer you can keep a visitor on your website, the better your chances of having your visitor complete your goal. When evaluating whether or not your site is sticky, first take a look at your analytics. Analyze the “top content” pages to identify entry and exit pages. Another way to increase site stickiness is to provide a summary of the topic and have the visitor click on a link to “learn more” or to add a call to action at the end of the your summary.
  4. Content — Yes, content is still king, but you need to separate content on your main site vs the content you would include on a landing page. Landing pages should provide enough information to get your point across, but shouldn’t be a novel. When people are looking for answers, they want instant answers that they can get from a glance. Bullet points are especially helpful for landing pages. Just make sure you don’t forget your calls to action and forms!
  5. Fix Dead Links — You may not be aware of dead links but fix these issues ASAP. Dead links can make your website look unreliable and unprofessional. Regularly check on your website on your own to catch these sandtraps. The last thing you want is a malfunctioning “submit” button.

With a little time and some quick fixes, you should be able to increase sales and leads.

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Advertising in a Troubled Economy

When the economy is in a state of turmoil businesses tend to cut their advertising budgets first. The following is a list of examples of why this is not a good idea:

  • In 1981-82, businesses that maintained or increased their ad spend averaged higher sales growth throughout the recession and in the following three years.
  • By 1985, sales of the businesses that maintained or increased their ad spend during that recession had risen 256% over those that had cut back on advertising.
  • In 2001, a study found that companies that aggressively advertise during recessions increased their market share 2 ½ times the average for all businesses in the post-recession.

That being said, companies still may find it necessary to cut back on advertising spend. If you are an advertiser and are looking for an affordable solution to spend your limited advertising budget, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising may be exactly what you’re looking for. PPC advertising is a relatively low cost solution for generating traffic to your website; it allows you to see initial results; it is highly measurable and it can give you an immediate return on your investment (ROI) – especially if you’re an e-commerce site.

While it’s important to continuously update your site’s content and optimize it in order to rank organically, it is equally important to have a presence on the search engine results page (SERP) for those keywords that are highly competitive and will take time, through the use of proper search engine optimization (SEO) practices, to have any sort of presence. PPC advertising allows us to have a presence on these competitive queries.

If you decide to use PPC advertising you will not only be limited to the SERPs and keyword bidding game. If you are looking to create a buzz about your site or are just looking to generate more traffic, PPC allows you to create ads (using your own unique and creative ad copy and/or image ad) to display across the web on sites that have similar content as yours through the use of the content network. The content network can be helpful for generating a lot of traffic at a fraction of the cost. It can also be used as a valuable branding tool. (I will discuss the pros and cons of the content network in a future post)

We may all have to make sacrifices during these troubling economic times. If you’re a business owner it is in your best interest to think about the importance of advertising. And if cutting some of your advertising budget is necessary, you may want to consider PPC, which is a viable alternative and more cost effective approach to the traditional forms of advertising you might be used to.

Disclosure: the above statistics were taken from Paul Dunay’s post in Marketing Blog – Daily Fix (11.21.08) http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2008/11/statistics_on_advertising_duri.html

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