Local Marketing Online: Part 3: Google Places

In Part 2: Web & Map Listings, I explained in detail the importance of claiming and managing your web and map listings. Well, Google Places is chief among those listings that you need to claim or ‘verify’ if you expect to enhance your local marketing search results.

For those of you who still may not know what it is, Google Places for Business is a free service that allows business owners to update and manage their physical business location information. Updating and managing this information ensures that it will post accurately to correlated services such as Google Maps as well as associated Google properties and search and Display Network sites that make up Google’s vast advertising network. If a general search in Google’s engine is either location-specific or made using a mobile device platform like iPhone or Android, local results are displayed along with the other results.

For the same reasons you ask site visitors to complete an online form so that you get the information about them that you need,  your Google Places page, which is really a mini website, acts as a verification tool for Google (hence Google’s request to ‘verify’ your information) to ensure your company is being indexed the right way. Google will aggregate listing information it finds on other listing sites about your company to see if the content – profile description, local phone numbers, and addresses in particular – matches up. If it does not, it could hurt your chances to list prominently in the search results for the terms corresponding to your listing.

All of the preparation work I mentioned in Part 2 of this series is used to develop your Google Places page as well. Google, as well as Bing and Yahoo, are looking for consistency across the web. As I have stated previously, you are trying to establish your authority for the search terms that correspond to what you offer. So you must ensure your Google Places page includes as much of your optimized company information as can be added, including images and video if you have them. Because Google indexes these items, they could also appear in a relevant search result below your local listing information.

In order to get the most mileage out of your Google Places page remember to encourage your happy customers to leave reviews. Customer comments and reviews are published and heavily factored in search engine results ranking. Double lucky for you if you happen to be a local business that is also using Google CheckOut for online orders. If customers are giving you 4 or 5 star ratings on Google CheckOut as well as positive comments on Google Places you are greatly strengthening your chances for organic top ranking and lead generating.

The last item I want to mention is paid advertising. Surely you are all familiar with AdWords – Google’s pay per click search engine advertising program that displays your relevant ads in Google Search, Google Maps and across Google’s vast Display Network based on competitive bidding and the number of clicks your ads receive. Well Google has introduced a similar program called Boost. Google Boost is a form of pay per click search engine marketing that delivers an enhanced version of your Places listing in relevant Sponsored listing results on Google search and Google Maps (including Mobile). The ad content includes:

  • Name of your business
  • Address and phone number of your business as specified in your Google Places account
  • Short description of your business (Google will automatically generate an editable description based on your Google Places listing description)
  • Snippet from the Place Page detailing the average star rating and the number of reviews
  • Link to your business’ Place Page

I have helped many clients verify and develop optimized content for their Google Places page that has worked to achieve better rankings for local search. If you haven’t done so yet, verify your Google Places page. Remember to be consistent. Stick to your optimization plan!



In Part 4 of the Local Marketing Online series I will explain the inter-relationship between Search and Social Media and how you can improve your rankings by building and managing your authority score for the search terms corresponding to what you offer.

Read the Series:

Local Marketing Online: Part 1: Intro
Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings
Local Marketing Online: Part 3: Google Place
Local Marketing Online: Part 4: Search & Social Media
Local Marketing Online: Part 5: City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations
Local Marketing Online: Part 6: Share Content
Local Marketing Online: Part 7: Email Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 8: Pay Per Click Integration
Local Marketing Online: Part 9: Mobile Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 10: Optimized Web Design


Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings

Maintaining consistency across the web is absolutely essential if you want to take advantage of the local marketing opportunities online. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of web directories and map listing services on the internet that have acquired your business information from either a contacts list provider or an outdated, cached web page. More often than not this information is inaccurate and simply does not reflect your current business strategy. Why is this important? For two very important reasons which I will explain.

First of all, search engines are now aggregating information across the internet from a variety of sources in an attempt to accurately identify the relevant companies whose web pages they are indexing and delivering in search results. So, for example, if you cannot easily be identified because your address and/or phone number information is different in the web or map listings from your website, or the listing contains either no link or a dead link to your website, or the Profile Description doesn’t match up with your website profile, search engines will not feel confident to deliver your listing as a relevant match to the search made.

Secondly, inaccurate or misleading web and map listing information may cause you to lose prospective customers. I have told this story once before but it remains relevant. We helped a high end, local brick-and-mortar retailer client claim web listings that not only inaccurately categorized and described his company as a charity but also listed a phone number that was no longer in service. How did the web directories get the wrong information? They probably found it on a list of companies that had donated money to a charity.

Claiming and strategically managing your web and map listing information is a critical component to your success. Here’s what we typically find when we claim listings for clients:

  • Phone numbers that are wrong or incomplete
  • Addresses that are wrong
  • Inaccurate or incomplete company name
  • Listed in wrong categories
  • Inaccurate Profile Description or none at all
  • Information missing
  • Irrelevant images or none at all
  • Dead links to web pages
  • No link to website
  • No listing or wrong listing in Google Maps or Map Quest

You get the picture. So how do you know where to find these directories and how do you go about making changes? Well, that’s going to take a lot of your time so get a big cup of coffee for yourself and a comfy chair! But before you go online to search for the gaggle of directories in which you are listed, you have to work out your business strategy. The goal is always to achieve and maintain consistency across the internet so that you can begin to develop your online profile across multiple web directories and map listing sites.

What you will need to do to prepare:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive keyword research and development to determine the terms that accurately identify what you offer as well as reflect the language used by your targeted audience groups to search for what you offer. The keywords you select will be used to develop your listings and should correspond to the content you present on your website and elsewhere on the web. They are the foundation for the development of your online authority.
  2. Write out your Company Name exactly how you want it to appear on each directory site.
  3. Using one or two search terms from your keyword research, develop a highly focused Profile of no more than 150 characters.
  4. Develop another one of no more than 200 characters.
  5. Prepare 1 to 10 professional, web-ready digital images that accurately reflect what you offer and name each one using one of your search terms from your keyword research. Although each web directory or Map listing site has different requirements, typically each digital image must be smaller than 1MB (and 1024 x 1024 pixels), and must be in one of these file formats:  JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, BMP. Since Logos are images, follow these same guidelines.
  6. Although each directory has its own naming structure for Categories, using your search terms from your research as a guide, identify no more than 10 categories under which you would expect prospective customers to find you.
  7. Make a list of your hours of operation for every day of the week.
  8. Write down each location address. Indicate which one is your principle location.
  9. Write down each telephone number, clearly identifying the principle phone number. Something to consider if you are using a toll-free number is local listing results prefer local numbers with area codes that correspond to the locale.
  10. Write down the fax number.
  11. Write down each email address, clearly identifying the principle one.
  12. Write down your web address.
  13. List each of your services exactly as you want them to appear.
  14. List your principle product categories exactly as you want them to appear.
  15. List any special items you want your prospective customers to know such as the principle Brands you represent, special Qualifications, Certifications, Professional Memberships, Awards, or other relevant information.

The above list represents the information you need to Claim Your Listings and ensure the information you present is consistent across all collateral web directory and map listing sites.

The benefits to maintaining consistency across web directory and map listing sites are many and include:

  • Supports the building of your online authority
  • Search engines can easily index and deliver your listing in search results
  • Prospective customers can find you and are clear about what you offer
  • Reach mobile users searching on portable phones and devices

In my next installation of the Local Marketing Online series I will take a close look at Google Places. You will learn why it is important to claim your account and how to take full advantage of all it offers.

Read the Series:

Local Marketing Online: Part 1: Intro
Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings
Local Marketing Online: Part 3: Google Place
Local Marketing Online: Part 4: Search & Social Media
Local Marketing Online: Part 5: City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations
Local Marketing Online: Part 6: Share Content
Local Marketing Online: Part 7: Email Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 8: Pay Per Click Integration
Local Marketing Online: Part 9: Mobile Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 10: Optimized Web Design

Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings

Local Marketing Online: Part 1: Intro

Local marketing has become one of the most powerful ways to reach and convert customers online.  With more than 2.5 billion local searches a month on Google alone, Google has taken notice of this fact and recently initiated a direct marketing campaign in targeted regions throughout the US to promote its local marketing opportunities. The company sent, by FEDEX, to select businesses a white box containing brochures and offers about the benefits of Google Places and the company’s online advertising programs.

Google is smart. They’re taking advantage of the trend and so should you.  Why? Because local searches are easier and less costly to convert as prospects are typically further along in the buying cycle. The key is making sure:

  • You can be easily found by your targeted audience groups
  • They can trust you because others have said so
  • You deliver the right message at the right time
  • They can easily contact you or visit your location
  • You’re easily identified online as an ‘authority’ for what you offer
  • You follow up in an appropriate manner with the appropriate communications
  • You deliver on what you promise, and maybe a little extra!

In this eight part series I will explain the multiple facets of local marketing online and how its various components are now cross-referenced by the search engines to determine an ‘authority score’ which affects web page rankings. This multi-part series will cover:

  1. Web & Map Listings
  2. Google Places
  3. Search & Social Media
  4. City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations
  5. Share Your Content
  6. Email Marketing
  7. Pay Per Click Integration
  8. Mobile Marketing
  9. Optimized Web Design
  10. Tracking & Reporting

Look for Part 2: Web & Map Listings, where you will learn about Google Places, web directories, maps, and the importance of claiming your online listings.

Read the Series:

Local Marketing Online: Part 1: Intro
Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings
Local Marketing Online: Part 3: Google Place
Local Marketing Online: Part 4: Search & Social Media
Local Marketing Online: Part 5: City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations
Local Marketing Online: Part 6: Share Content
Local Marketing Online: Part 7: Email Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 8: Pay Per Click Integration
Local Marketing Online: Part 9: Mobile Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 10: Optimized Web Design

Benefitting from LinkedIn Company Pages

For those of you who may not be familiar with Company Pages on the professional networking site LinkedIn, they are a great tool to share information about your brand and the individuals who represent it. If you’re researching companies, these pages also provide you with a way to familiarize yourself with others with whom you may want to work or even those that represent your competition.

The process for setting up your Company Page is pretty straightforward and you can begin here.

The best strategy when creating your Company Profile is to remain consistent with the keywords and phrases you have used in your print collateral and online marketing efforts. If you are using terms you uncovered via comprehensive keyword research (please don’t take keyword research lightly), that  accurately represent phrasing used by your target audience when searching for what you offer, then you should stick with them.

Consistency is always important for best results.

The Products & Services tab offers some powerful features that not only allow you to list your Products and Services but also to associate links, relevant information, and even promotional offers. For example, you can associate links to videos on your YouTube.com channel. You can also specify your product/service related web page address. If your employees are listed in LinkedIn, you can add the relevant one(s) to the Contact section. You can also create a Promotional offer to entice new users. And remember to continue using your keywords as you fill out the Profile title, description, image text, and disclaimer.

Additional marketing tools are available to upgraded account holders only. The first is a simple admin tool that enables you to upload up to three static banners (JPEG, GIF or PNG), 640×220 pixels in size, that link to the url (web page address) you specify. This powerful internet advertising feature can be used to sell, promote, and inform, or even to generate donations, registrants, attendees, or fulfill any number of targeted objectives.

For best conversion results, make sure your landing page (where the respondent will arrive after clicking the banner link) is focused exclusively on the message communicated in the banner.

Another great feature is the Recommendations tool. You’ve seen this in the personal LinkedIn accounts. Soliciting comments and recommendations from customers and colleagues is of tremendous value. People are influenced by what others say. And in this case, the user has the opportunity to learn something about the person making the statement so the recommendation or comment carries more weight.

This next tool takes a little strategic planning because it has to do with how you want to target your various Audience groups. Developing unique content for each of your targeted audience groups will always produce the best results because it is not diluted in any way that detracts from what is engaging to them. Before you create an audience segment, identify and plan how you want to approach each one. Then select the criteria and edit your company profile to ensure the strongest response.

If you are interested in paid advertising on LinkedIn you can do that here as well. The Campaign tool is pretty straightforward and allows you to advertise any web page you like, which may or may not be your Company Profile.

Lastly, I want to mention the Analytics tool. It is to your advantage to spend some time to learn and understand your performance in terms of page views, visitors, and clicks on content by industry and followers so you can make informed ‘next step’ decisions. The tool also offers you a benchmark comparison with companies similar to yours.

Once again, you can click here to set up your Company Page on LinkedIn. Click on the Upgrade My Account link at the bottom of the page for additional marketing tools and features.

How Google’s Recent Changes Affect Your Business

Google recently announced important updates to its ranking algorithm (nicknamed “Farmer’s Update”) that will likely adversely affect website owners who do not provide users with a high quality and relevant search experience. The company stated:

“Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible.”

Currently released exclusively in the US, the latest Google update impacts 11.8% of user queries. The company stated the update is specifically targeting low-quality sites identified as “low-value add for users, copy content from other websites, or sites that are just not very useful” to reduce their rankings. At the same time, the new algorithm is designed to allow the “cream to rise to the top” as it were, specifically awarding higher rankings to high quality sites with “original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis, and so on.”

As always, if you want to be among the high quality sites rewarded with high rankings, you have to help Google to achieve their goal as stated above as well as support their efforts “to encourage a healthy web ecosystem.” So how do you do that? Here are some considerations:

  • Conduct comprehensive research to identify the language used by your targeted audience groups to search for what you offer
  • Conduct market research – send out surveys, study your (Google ;)) Web Analytics, study your inquiry and sales reports, monitor conversations and topics on social media related to your site / industry, monitor the news and trade journals that write about topics of interest to your targeted groups, etc. – to identify the interests of each of your targeted audience groups
  • Write professional, compelling, search engine optimized webcopy that covers the interests of your targeted audience groups
  • Include search engine optimized professional images that support your copy and allow users to identify their areas of interest
  • Create search engine optimized, user-friendly web pages that are designed to accurately represent what you offer as well as your professional image
  • Create search engine optimized calls-to-action (CTA’s) that guide users seamlessly through the conversion process to complete the action(s) you want them to complete.
  • Develop a flexible, search engine optimized site architecture that makes it easy for users (and search engine spiders) to visit (and “understand”) every page of your website
  • Develop search engine optimized off-site content (on websites other than yours such as social media sites or relevant third-party sites like news sites, journals, professional organizations, etc.) that establishes your authority for, and links to, the content represented in your search engine optimized website pages.

Google is working on many more changes that they believe “will substantially improve the quality of the pages” in the engine’s search results.

The key is to optimize for Google and for your targeted audience groups. An intelligent strategy requires the right mix of research, content development, and presentation.

Know who and what you’re targeting and present the highest quality possible to remain competitive. The formula is simple, but is takes discipline and ongoing commitment to be successful.

Danny Sullivan has a great write-up on the  topic as well on SearchEngineLand’s site.