Archive for the ‘Local Search’ Category

Search + Social: Why Reviews Matter

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Testimonials and Recommendations matter!

This is simply a fact for any business be it word of mouth or online reviews. Personal recommendations are extremely powerful with regard to growing your business and bringing in new clients and patients. Are people leaving your business positive reviews? Do enough people look closely at what is said in reviews to help your online business grow?

The Role of Online Reviews

google-local-denver-dentistOnline review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Places, and Bing Local give people fast access to location facts and ratings for local neighborhood businesses.  Every year, a growing number of online visitors are using reviews to build their trust in local businesses.

According to a BrightLocal study done in 2013, 85% of consumers said they read online reviews for local businesses.  79% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  And 73% of consumers said that positive reviews online make them trust a local business more.  There is no denying that customer reviews help you engage with your potential clients and also help you understand potential customer needs.  Reviews also help you improve your online visibility in search results by increasing trust and click-through rates for your website.  This actually helps push your site higher in the rankings if enough people continue to engage with the content they find on your site.

The Role of Social Media

So, how do search engines use reviews in their search results?  At first glance, it’s easy to see that Google and Bing both show the amount of reviews a business has in its local results. With the growing popularity of social networking websites, online searchers have more access than ever to attitudes, opinions, and viewpoints of people who have interacted with a business.  Search engines are realizing how trustworthy and useful this information is by incorporating activity on these sites as favorable ranking factors.  Google utilizes +1s in its algo.  Bing recently rolled out their new Smart Search feature which incorporates reviews from places like Facebook, Mapquest, and Yelp in local results.  Reviews are increasingly becoming more about personal interactivity on social platforms, and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are playing a bigger role in how a website ranks in search.

How to Best Leverage Social & Online Reviews

With social and review sites in mind, what is the best way to incorporate those reviews and interactions into your greater web marketing plan?  First, if you don’t already have listings or pages on these sites, then, you will want to actively work on claiming and optimizing those listings.  Make sure your business name, address, phone number, business hours, and website url are up to date and current so people can find you and contact you.

Create an outlet where you can expertly provide advice and information about your business.  Promote your special services.  Offer something that “the other guys” do not.  What makes you stand out from the crowd?  Create value, and share it on these pages with potential new clients and customers.

Share and engage with your audience, don’t just spew information (I call this “soap-boxing” – this will lose you followers faster than it will gain them).  When customers feel engaged, they tend to be more loyal to your products and services.  Loyal clients become advocates for your business. With social media, engaged clients and patients can (and probably will) endorse your company for everyone to see.  When that happens, it can be a very powerful tool to enhance your online presence.

Denver Dentist Search Results on Google (with reviews)

Additionally, local businesses with negative reviews will want to respond openly to negative reviews.  A bad review is not necessarily a bad thing.  If used the right way, it can become a positive influencer.  Use the opportunity to reach out and change that reviewer’s experience into something positive.  If the reviewer is not interested in responding, it at least shows future visitors that you are concerned about the experience people have when visiting your business or using your products.  It also shows that you are willing to go that extra mile to make amends.

You will also want to continually generate new reviews from happy clients promoting what you do best.  In doing this you can drive any negative reviews further down the page and keep the newer, positive reviews higher up.  Reviews don’t just affect the impressions a potential client has on your business; it can affect how your business website ranks on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Claimed Google Local Listings and Satellite Office Locations

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Dominate your local market!  This is my daily SEO mantra, and one of the first and most basic ways to tackle local SEO is by claiming your Google local listing.  This is nothing new.  However, an issue I’ve seen a lot lately stems from Google cracking down on what it considers to be ineligible local business listings.  Google has always said that you cannot claim a business listing if you don’t actually own the business.  That’s obvious – I can understand that.  But the line becomes little blurry for my lawyers and physicians who practice and do business out of several satellite or shared office locations.  What can you actually claim in this case?  The past month I’ve seen a lot of my clients’ claimed satellite office listings disappear.

Here are some guidelines that may help you figure out if you can claim a business location as yours or if Google will consider it against their guidelines and yank your listing.

  1. Ownership – this is key – are you the owner of the business location you are trying to claim?  If not, then you cannot claim it as your own.  This means no virtual offices, no executive suites that aren’t normally staffed, and no rented office spaces that you use only when you have client appointments.
  2. Service Area Listings – If you provide services from a shared office, or several shared office spaces, you can consider setting up a service area listing instead of a business listing with a listed address.  It is my personal observance and opinion, however, that these listings do not show up as strongly in search results as business listings with a physical address that is visible.  So, I tend to stay away from them unless I have a mobile-only business (landscape service, dog groomer, tow truck, locksmith, glass installer, etc…) that will drive to a location to provide their service.  In the case of lawyers and doctors, 9 times out of 10, there will always be a home office and that is the location I would claim.
  3. Rented Space – If you do have a rented office space and you are the ONLY one who does business from that particular office, then you can ask your landlord to give you a separate and unique suite number.  It is possible that you can claim your business listing this way.  Every other person doing business from this location will also need their own unique suite number for this to work correctly.  And, of course, there is no guarantee that Google will see this as a separate entity.  So, until Google provides specific guidelines for these types of business setups, be prepared – you may see your listing disappear anyway.

So, if you DO have shared office space that you cannot legally claim in Google places, here are some things you CAN do to help beef up your local presence at your shared location:

  1. Add schema markup  and hcard formatting to all your addresses on your website so search engines know your business information should be associated with that particular location.  Be sure to have it on a Contact or Maps & Locations page.
  2. Be sure to list your Home Office Locations and Satellite Offices – making the distinction helps everyone.
  3. Create a Google+ Business page for each office and satellite office location.  Add information to each page that specifies your contact information, office hours (or “by Appointment” if you don’t have regular hours), and alternate ways to reach you if you are not at that location on a daily basis.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Google’s Problems with Virtual or Satellite Office Locations

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Although businesses may have many legitimate reasons to utilize a virtual office, also referred to as a satellite office, Google frowns upon their use in Google+Local/Google Places. According to Google’s guidelines, business listings must have a unique address and phone number. Many providers of virtual offices (which include UPS, Regus, and many more) promise that you will be provided with a unique suite number and telephone, but business need to be careful to ensure this is the case. Even with a unique phone number and address, Google has issues with listings that do not conduct face-to-face business at a location (unless specified, which ruins the point of the office), or that do not have staff on hand at least part of the day at the specific listing.

How did these offices come about? Once it was determined that the distance from a business to the city’s centroid, or center point in Google’s eyes, was a ranking factor for certain searches, businesses began buying up virtual offices closer to the city’s centroid in an effort to rank higher for a given term. While Google has downplayed the importance of distance to the centroid, businesses haven’t slowed in their aggressive use of virtual offices. This is essentially spamming Google Maps with listings that are not always serving clients at that specific location.

Google doesn’t specifically outline this issue in their Guidelines, but recently we heard this straight from a Googler’s mouth. We had worked with a Google support member to help clear up an issue with one of our clients’ Adwords Express campaigns, which had been paused due to our Places account being marked “Suspended”. Many internet marketers have been through this hell, having to clean up listings or waiting weeks or months at a time for any updates to be made from Google’s end. As most of us know, Google provides outstanding customer support for their paying customers that utilize Adwords or related services such as Adwords Express, however at the same time they provide little to no support for other Google services such as Places.

We decided to take this as an opportunity to speak with a Google support member about the Express campaign being paused, to see if they could somehow help us sort out the issue with our Places account. We figured once that was cleared up, the Express campaign could be activated again.

So, we reached out to Google Adwords Support, and were connected with a very nice and very helpful team member that understood our issue. After a few back-and-forths, the Googler reached out to another employee within the Places team, who then forwarded the following questions to us:

  • Are any of the locations in this account by-appointment only locations?
  • Are any of these offices which do not have the ability to take customers coming in from the street?
  • To clarify further, are there any offices they rent only by appointment to make it easier for their clients to meet them?
  • Are there any offices that are not their permanent location (i.e. they don’t have staff there at all most of the week?) (The bold emphasis was provided by the Googler.)

To help clarify the questions, the team member followed with:  Again, I know these questions may seem odd, but the goal is just to ensure that the client is representing locations where the business permanently exists and not appointment-only locations rented on an hourly or quarterly basis. ”

Notice that Google didn’t use the terminology for “virtual” or “satellite” office. Unfortunatley, our client had been utilizing two by-appointment only offices that were essentially the definition of a virtual office. We responded truthfully and deleted the two “offending” listings from our account. They then responded with the following:

“I’m glad to report that you’re now operating within our guidelines after having removed those listings.  We’re only concerned with showing the permanent physical locations for businesses that advertisers have the authority to represent and are not meeting-only locations, so we really appreciate your efforts here!”

The account was cleared up and we were able to run our Adwords Express campaigns again, while also having our business listings published live once again.

The big takeaway? No, it’s not to call Google with all of your problems. Rather it’s that Google doesn’t specifically outline all of their issues with using virtual office locations in Google Maps in their Guidelines document, but they certainly are looking out for these listings and are looking to pounce on them once found. Be careful when your business or client is moving forward with virtual offices!

How Is Mobile Search Different from a Desktop Search?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

It is estimated that more people will be accessing Internet information via a mobile device than a personal computer by the year 2013 (that’s not very far away, folks). As we know, most standard websites do not render well on a smartphone screen due to the smaller screen size, or use of incompatible plug-ins (such as flash). As many businesses opt for a mobile website to complement their standard website, one wonders what this means for keyword optimization and search trends? Do smartphone users search the same way desktop searchers do?

Interestingly enough, mobile search is used and rendered very different from a desktop search. Here are my Top 5 reasons why this is so:

  • Mobile search is highly geared toward local information. Statistically 9 out of 10 smartphone searches result in an action. Chances are, if you are looking for for something on your phone’s browser (like a food, a museum, or a bike repair shop) it is because you want to purchase, find, or visit the searched item. Desktop searches tend to be less action oriented overall and more information oriented in nature. Because of this pages like Google Local Listings are positioned to rank higher than pages that are not locally oriented. Domains with geo-targeted keywords will also rank well in this system.
  • Google has 97% of the mobile search market share, and their algorithm is different for mobile devices than desktops.
  • Smartphone screen size is much smaller than a PC’s screen size, so it will be even more important to snag the top few spots on a mobile search in order to be on the first page.
  • Site loading speed becomes critical in a mobile search. A site that takes too long to load when on-the-go information is needed quickly, will lead to higher bounce rates than a standard desktop site search.
  • Android users are always logged in to Google on their mobile system.  This means that Android users will always be served personalized results more often than folks searching on a PC who may not have logged in. This will obviously change as more and more people begin to use Google+ or who search when logged into their Google accounts.  Most users aren’t aware if they are logged in or not, and personalized results definitely have an impact on what you will see in your search results.

These are key points to keep in mind when conducting a search on either platform, and even more important to keep in mind when positioning yourself and your business for the future, whether or not you have a mobile website. Keeping a claimed and optimized local listing has always been an important piece in your overall SEO strategy. But now, it seems as if listings such as Google Places and Bing Local could have even more impact on your search results in the future.

by Tammy Smith SEO Analyst, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Yet Another Algo Change: What Google Previews Is and What it Means to You

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It is a well known fact that Google changes its algorithm a lot. They have changed it over 500 times this year alone. Usually those changes are pretty small and will only be noticed by the most scrupulous of eyes.

More recently, Google has been experimenting with larger changes. Some of the highlights from the recent months include:

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Blended Google Places Search Results: What You Need To Know

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We’ve been watching Google test integrated Places search results for a month or two now, and today they began rolling it out systemwide. What has changed and what does it mean for you and your business? In this post, I’ll walk through some of the changes and their implications.

Your search results look different.

And actually, they don’t just look different – they really are different results. Take a look at a before shot from the Do’s and Don’ts article we posted last week.

Before today’s rollout, search results were broken into three distinct and separate areas: Local (pictured above), Organic (the ten results below the map) and Sponsored (PPC above the map and along the right hand side of the page). Local and Organic each had their own unique algorithms to serve up results. There were anywhere from 10 to 17 non-paid search results on the first page for any given search query.

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Why Facebook Places is doomed

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

When Facebook launched its new geosocial check-in service one week ago, I was convinced it was going to blow its stand-alone competitors completely out of the water simply because it lives where the vast majority of social networking addicts already spend large chunks of time. That would make it hugely accessible and convenient – no need to leave Facebook to broadcast your location such as is necessary with Foursquare or Gowalla. Why go out of your way when it was already right there?

As an SEO, I was excited about it. Check-ins provide another avenue of brand exposure for my clients, and Facebook was telling business owners to claim their profiles. We scouted out the process for our clients by claiming our own company profile.  Now, a mere week after Facebook Places was launched, I am ready to predict that it is doomed to fail without some fairly major adjustments. Here’s why.

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Dentists in NYC do breast implants? No, it’s just a Yahoo! Local FAIL.

Friday, June 11th, 2010

A search via Yahoo! Local for “breast augmentation” in “New York, NY” rendered a result in which the first six organic listings belonged to dentists.

Breast Augmentation NYC

Dentists in NYC do breast implants?? Click image to view full size version.

And yet, Yahoo! clearly knows the difference between breasts and teeth, since all of the sponsored ads are for breast augmentation.

Yahoo! FAIL

I’ve posted a question about it in Yahoo’s forums. Awhile back, a Yahoo! Local search for “breast augmentation” in “St. Louis, MO” turned up a children’s hospital, but that seems to have been fixed. So maybe someone is listening. I’ll be sure to make an update if I get any feedback from Yahoo! on the matter.

5 Lessons from the Road: Address Your Audience!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Whew! Just got back from a whirlwind wedding, honeymoon and road trip combo – and of course, being the web junkie that I am, I couldn’t help but think about work. (Bad Tara, bad!) Here are some lessons from the road on how to address your online audience!

5. If they want X, they’ll probably want Y. One thing that really impressed me about our honeymoon cruise to Ensenada was how well our cruise liner had thought of everything we could possibly want to do (or spend money on). For example, they plan on doing a formal night on the cruise, which is great for fools like me who like to make anything romantic. Then, as you make your way to your formal dinner, feeling dressed to the nines, there’s a staff of professional photographers waiting to take your portrait. I couldn’t turn them down! Even with the $20/print pricetag.

You can take this lesson and apply it to your website by really thinking about which services or products your clients will want in addition to what they’re offering on the page. For example, a cosmetic surgeon’s page on liposuction might be a great place to put a Call-to-Action for brachioplasty (arm lift) or buttock augmentation. This helps your bounce rate, time on site and helps convert visitors to patients.

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Seven Reasons Why You Need a BBB.org Listing

Monday, April 5th, 2010

There are many of us who see the BBB sticker posted on trucks and business buildings around town, and the meaning of it kind of surpasses those of us who are less savvy with internet marketing. Yes, the Better Business Bureau has some awesome implications for your business in the physical world, if anyone knows what it is or what it stands for. But the real power of the BBB can be seen in your web presence. Being a member of the BBB and having a listing on BBB.org can be one of the strongest things you can do for your online presence. The most important “person” to see your online influence with the BBB is Google, and other search engines. Here’s seven reasons why your BBB listing will improve your search engine results!

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