Many small business owners wonder whether or not it is possible to rank locally and globally at the same time for the same keywords. The answer is, yes. But you may not want to rank globally at all.
If you sell shoes in a retail shop in Wayzata and don’t do any selling through an online store, then ranking globally makes no sense. You should stick to local Internet marketing. But what if you are a regional or national shoe store chain? Then you can rank locally for each store in your chain and pursue global search rankings as well.
My best advice is to claim your Google Places and Bing Local listings for each store in your chain. You should pursue those local rankings in Maps.
To achieve high global rankings, optimize your website using the best practices of onsite SEO and offsite SEO. That means, use the best on-page ranking strategies and do some link building. Push your content out on social media and drive traffic back to your website. It’s search engine optimization. Global = local, and vice-versa.
Google’s, and Bing’s, policies will ferret out web pages that don’t belong. For both local and global rankings. Your job is to put your best foot forward on both fronts. If you do that well, you’ll rank where you should rank.
Matt McGee has done it again. Provided food for thought where local blogging is concerned.
If you are a local business and you want to create content that will attract local customers, then creating content with geotargeted terms may seem like a good idea. In actuality, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand you can get a lot of traffic related to your local area. On the other hand, much of it can be untargeted traffic if you write about the wrong geotargeted stuff.
For instance, if you are a local auto mechanic, do you really want to write a post about an upcoming carnival in your local area? If you can’t tie it into the core service of your business, it’s better to stay away from it.
Matt McGee says it succinctly:
As you create local blog posts and content, think about what type of visitor each piece of content is going to attract. If it’s a visitor that can be converted, try to convert them. If it’s not, either don’t create the content at all, or make sure those won’t-ever-convert visitors don’t get in the way of running your business.
So, here’s the takeaway for your local blog: Create content that is designed to attract targeted traffic from your local area and convert that traffic into a sale.
If you run an off line retail shop and you’re wondering how you can compete with your online counterparts, well, don’t think you can’t. You might actually have an advantage.
Online-only stores have no way to take cash payments. If a customer prefers to pay cash, that’s too bad. The options are a credit card, wire transfer, or online pay service such as PayPal. There is no “pay cash and I’ll pick it up at the store” option.
The brick and mortar retailer, however, can market themselves online and take payments off line – even in cash – which gives you a stealthy advantage over your online counterparts. Don’t believe me? Then just ask Wal-Mart, which has been offering a “pick up and pay at the store” service for a short while now. The service is quite popular. And with some old fogies still distrustful of online payment systems, credit card fraud, identity theft, and other digital crimes, it’s a welcome service for many consumers.
This advantage doesn’t just extend to large retailers. Small businesses can also set up a cash option for pick up orders. This gives you a distinct local advantage and, by the way, why not list that as a benefit for doing business with you on your website? Encourage your customers to buy local – from you.
If you’ve been online for very long, then you know one thing: Things change. A lot.
Google, in particular, is well known for changing things. They add new services and take them away. And word has it that they go through hundreds of search algorithm changes every month. That’s a lot of change.
Well, one of the things that has changed about Google in the last year is a strong emphasis on a social media service called Google+. Or Google Plus. In the first month of its existence Google+ became the fastest growing social media website ever. But many of the people who signed up for an account didn’t go back. Not many people really wanted to leave Facebook and most people who didn’t own a website or weren’t into following the latest tech advances didn’t see the value. All of that is changing too.
How Google Places Became Google Local
Recently, Google migrated its Google Places service into Google+ and started calling it Google Local instead. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Well, the Google Local part does. After all, the focus is on listing local businesses and providing information about them for people who are searching locally for businesses to patronize. So Google Local is a good name. But what’s up with moving it into Google+?
As a business owner, you can still use Google Places to manage your business. As a user, you can now rate, review and upload photos through our new local search experience, Google+ Local.
If you have to sign up for a Google+ account in order to reap the benefits of having a Google Local listing, then Google believes you will sign up for a Google+ account. But what are the benefits of that? Actually, there are some.
Why You Should Use Google+
As a business owner, you can improve your search engine rankings by posting regularly to Google+. But it’s not as simple as Google+ = SEO. Rather, what you’ll notice if you use the service often is that your Google profile will rise to the top of the search engine rankings, so it’s a great reputation management tool. It’s also Google’s way of controlling web spam, but that’s another story.
By building relationships with people around sets of interests through Google+ you can influence how people view your business overall, and that includes on the local scene. What you should realize is that people who are in your Google+ social circles are more likely to see your content if it matches a search query they enter into Google and they haven’t turned their personalization features off. This gives you a competitive search advantage over your local competition if they are not using Google+.
Google wants the whole world to use Google+. That’s why they are integrating all their services into one platform. That platform is Google+. In the future, if you want to interact with Google, you’ll have to do it through Google+. Like it or not, that’s where Google is headed.
So what should you do? Sign up for a Google+ account, manage your local business listing through Google Places, and play around with Google Local.
Do you provide a service to customer at your business, away from your business, or a combination of both? For businesses that use a go-to-client business model, you may wake up one day to find your business’s listing has disappeared from Google’s local search results. That will hurt your business and how much will rely on the amount of business you generally receive through local search. For some businesses, they could find they suddenly have no clients.
Google’s instructions for businesses when filling in their details included the following:
Don’t receive customers at your location? Serve customers at their location? Select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard — if you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.
The problem is, most businesses have ignored this instruction, mainly because it was not made obvious when a business entered its data. An added problem is the set-and-forget mentality that most business owners take (most web users actually). Have you claimed your business through Google Places and filled in all of your business details? Have you been back to check its accuracy, or to update information such as address, telephone, or website details? Most people don’t.
Google is now checking businesses and those that predominantly serve customers away from their premises, and who haven’t hidden their addresses, are dropping off the search results. If you do use a go-to-client business model, and you have a Google Places listing, it only takes a couple of minutes to check your data, and to check the ‘Do not show my business address on my Maps listing’. It could be better than losing access to a channel that delivers a lot of customers. Of course, if you don’t receive any customers through Google local search, you don’t really need to do anything. Mirriam Ellis has more on this issue at SEOMOZ.
I came across an interesting statement recently and it has been fermenting in my mind ever since. The article on Search Engine Watch related to Pinterest and how to get the best from the new social media site. However, the contents in general were not what got me thinking. It was really one line near the end of the article, namely:
Gerencser said he doesn’t care about bounce rates all that much ………. “I’d rather have them come to the site and leave than never have come at all,”
Do you agree with that statement? In this particular case, there was a qualifier in that sales often occurred a month after a person first visited their site. If you think carefully, how many visitors actually buy from you the first time they visit? For most online businesses, it would be very few. It’s not until their second, third, or seventh, visit that they actually buy. Those who are ready to buy generally do so unless your price, product or service is very poor. If that’s the case, you will probably not have a high traffic flow anyway.
We can sometimes get caught up in terminology, especially when it comes to search engine optimization and social media marketing. Those two activities are all about getting people through your door. The more targeted that traffic, the more likely you are to seal a sale. However, traffic is traffic, and while they may not buy today, they may do so tomorrow. Are bounce rates really that important to your business, or do they tell a false story?
Are online coupons good for small businesses? Like every marketing strategy, coupons have good points and bad points. It all comes back to management and control – lose control and you can cause serious damage to your business. That was the case with one (of many according to social gossip) business who decided to run a campaign through Groupon. While much has been said about Groupon’s role in the demise of this business, the business owner has to take some responsibility. In this case, they failed to put a cap on the number of coupons sold, and when Groupon sold 450, the cost was enough to break the business.
Group deals do need careful attention. The particular deal in question was a $15 coupon for $30 of product. Groupon charged $7.50 leaving the retailer with $7.50 for $30 worth of goods – a loss of $22.50 for every transaction. With 450 deals sold, that was a loss of over $10,000 to the business. Coupons can be an ideal marketing tool, however, if you’re a small business, you need to limit your costs. In this case, it may have been wise to cap the coupons at 50 or 100 – better yet, to rethink the whole process. The Groupon deal was clearly not going to favor a small business such as this.
Twitter has been an ideal channel for the promotion of coupon type deals. Through Twitter (and Facebook) you can announce short deals; for example, you can offer a decent discount for all lunchtime (11:30 am – 1:30 pm) transactions. You can also announce similar deals – one day, five days, the first 100 customers are good examples. The important consideration here is that you, the small business owner, have a lot of control of the costs – the downside, you are generally promoting to existing customers.
You can use independent coupon sites, however, you do need to be in a position to control the number of coupons that are in the marketplace, and you do need to set firm expiration dates. Don’t fool customers by hiding dates in small print in obscure places – be up front. If the coupon expires, they’ll need to wait for the next coupon issue.
Online coupons are great promotion tools for new products, new shopfronts or websites, or for increasing traffic flow during quiet times. As a business owner, you need to maintain as much control as possible over the issuing of coupons; otherwise, you’ll have cost blow-outs that could cripple your business. On a side note, this business was lucky, the local community worked together to revitalize the business, but that’s a story for another day.
How does Google Maps rank your business for searches conducted? Here’s a short video that explains how that happens. HINT: In a nutshell, it’s based on three ranking factors.
Watch the video, then we’ll talk about it.
Location, Location, Location
Even online, location is important. But your Google Maps listing will be ranked based on a user’s search query and your location from their search location. For instance, if you search Google Maps for “small business marketing wayzata, mn,” then you’ll find Small Business Mavericks in the No. 1 position. Conduct a similar search, however, for small business marketing companies in Minnetonka and we drop to the No. 2 position. Make that search for Apple Valley and we drop to No. 10.
As the searcher is farther and farther away from our location, the less relevant we become for their search query. That’s an important criteria in some industries such as hotels and restaurants where services cannot be delivered online. Location is very important.
The Relevance Factor
Relevance has to do with placing your business in the right category. If you are an automotive shop that performs tune ups and oil changes but do not do body repair, then you’ll want to make sure you list your business in the right categories. After all, you want to be found for the search queries people make and relevance is a key factor.
What Is Prominence?
Prominence is a different matter. It has to do with how important your business appears to be within your niche. This is likely judged on the basis of your reviews and ratings and whether or not other Google Maps users save you in their searches and add you to their maps.
What Do You Have Control Over?
To a certain degree, you have control over some aspects of each of these criteria, but there are other aspects of them that you do not have control over – particularly location and prominence.
You do not have control, for instance, over the location of the searcher. You do, however, have control over where you say you are located in your profile. Be honest and don’t try to game the system or it could hurt you. List your business location and see how it affects your rankings in Google Maps.
With prominence, you can ask your customers to review and rate your business, but you have no control over what they say. Just provide a good service and you won’t have to worry about bad reviews.
When it comes to relevance, you have a lot of control. If you place your business in the right category, use keywords in your description, and use traditional SEO tactics to a certain degree, then you can influence the relevance factor in the Google Maps algorithm.
If you’ve been wondering just when Google Places was going to get its act together and starting being social in a social media world, it’s time to relax. They’re actually getting there.
For the record, I’ve kind of been wondering myself. Just when is Google Places going to allow you to do more than list your business and rate other businesses in a website environment that looks like it was built in 1998? Well, take a look at Google Places now.
Google has made it easy for you to upload a photo to your Google Places profile, which is now linked to your Google account profile in a very obvious way. You can also see all of your reviews on a single page, making the review process simpler and a lot more fun (I love the way that Google has formatted the reviews pages so that users can easily give their favorite places stars and easily write and edit reviews).
When users log into their Google Places account, they’ll now receive recommendations based on past places visited and location. If you are an existing business near another business that has been reviewed, there’s a good chance that you’ll be reviewed too.
Another nice feature is the ability, and the ease of it, of adding friends to your Google Places profile. I really like that feature!
There is no better time than now to encourage your customers to stop by Google Places and give you an honest review. Make sure you stress “honest.”
One of the ways to ensure that your website ranks well for local geo-phrases is to write about local events and places, but you have to be careful how you do it. If your blog is for a local brick and mortar business that is trying to attract customers from within a specific geographic area, then one way to “humanize” that blog is to write about the people and places in your area – in a good way, of course.
First and foremost, you want to build good will with the people in your community. One way to do that is with customer spotlights, or feature stories.
Look at your local newspaper to see how this is done. Most community newspapers devote a part of their story space each issue for local features. These usually include a photo with a write up of a local person. It can be a celebrity, a person in the community who is active in real social work or community improvement, or it can be someone who is doing, or has done, something extraordinary.
Here are five different types of stories about people in your community that you could write for your blog no matter what product or service you offer:
Someone who has used your produce or service in an unusual way or who has done something extraordinary with your product or service.
As a community service, you could highlight people in your community that you think are performing a valuable service to the community. It could be a business person, a politician, or a community organizer.
If you have a prospective customer profile, choose someone who fits your target group but who is not a customer and ask them to try your product for free, then solicit their feedback and report it with brutal honesty.
You can also write up a personality profile of your 100th customer for the day, or think up another fun event where one person can be a winner and just write up a 300-500 word personality profile on the person telling who they are, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, etc. Expect nothing in return for this. It’s a fun community service idea.
Hold a contest. Write about the winner on your blog.
There are more ways to use local people and organizations to geotarget your blog. These are just a few fun ways.