Google Places Optimization Checklist, Part 2

Guest Post:  Adam Steele is the CEO at Nightlite Media. His expertise includes SEO, social media and email marketing. This is Part 2 of Google Local Results Changed the Game.

Overview

97% of consumers search for local businesses online. You definitely want to be there when they’re looking for you with Google Places for business.

Google wants to show its users the most relevant, up-to-date, quality information (including companies) possible. This is its mission and just one reason it is the biggest. As such, when it comes to optimizing your Google Places page, you should keep this in mind.

The following are some simple tips and guidelines to a successful Google Places page optimization. The quick tweaks will improve your chances of securing better positions for your business. Please keep in mind that Google Places is constantly changing, and what works at the time of this checklist may change dramatically in 30 days. Saying that, we have tried to keep to the things that have remained a constant for some time now.

Initial Process

  • Select the area/city you wish to target
  • Keyword Search: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Put in a word that you “think” the average person would type in Google when looking for a business in your city. (NOT the name of a business, but a word or phrase.) Example: ‘Dallas electrician’. Google will suggest other popular words below that term. View the ones that are popular and record them. Make sure you deselect broad and select exact (on the left) and focus your attention on local volume/searches, not global.
  • Identify keywords you would like to dominate in your local town/city and search them for yourself. Not all keywords will trigger Google Places. So, you need to make sure the ones you go forward with bring up Google Places results when you search for them.
  • Record on a piece of paper the top 5 -10 keywords and rank them in order of priority (keep on hand).

Submission

  • Set up a Gmail account if you don’t have one already .
  • Search for your company to see if an existing Google Places page is already setup. Go to http://maps.google.com and put in your phone number with area code to see what comes up. Try more than one phone number if you have more than one for your business.
  • If after you check, you DO have a page, then you will simply want to “Edit Page” if there is anything you want to change (check below to see if your current Google Places page has the appropriate content listed below.) If you do NOT have a page after entering your phone numbers, then you will want to create one!

Creating A Google Places Page

  • After you have created a Google account, you will want to set up your Page. Answer every question (Leave nothing undone – Google views this as “incomplete”.)
  • Company Name (Without keywords) DO NOT get fancy here. Stuffing your title with keywords is just going to get you in trouble. In the past, stuffing the title offered an SEO advantage, but now it is both risky and unnecessary. Simply put your business name here as it is recognized everywhere else.
  • Street Address: Your business address as it occurs everywhere else online and offline. Consistency and accuracy are KEY. If your business has existed for some time, try and search your own address. Look for the most popular address for yourself and go with that one if it’s applicable–otherwise update it. You would be wise to go back and adjust all those addresses that are different than what you use in your Google Places page. NOTE: If later you decide to make any changes to your address, Google will very likely request to send you a post card before updating.
  • City/Town: Self Explanatory. NOTE: This is the city that you will have the best chance of ranking in for your keywords.
  • Main phone: Same principle as your street address. Take a look how your phone number appears already online. Is it in (xxx) or xxx? You want it to appear in Google Places the same way it does elsewhere online.
  • Website: Use http://www. You want it to be hyperlinked.
  • Description: I would typically suggest using the same one that occurs in your site’s meta data (description tag) for consistency. Keyword rich is fine, but don’t make it spammy. Also, consider your click through rate (CTR). Searchers will see this, and decide whether they want to click or not so don’t be afraid to be a bit ‘salesy.’
  • Category: Few things to know here. Stay the heck away from city modifiers. That is, your category should be ‘electrician’, NOT ‘Dallas electrician.’ Doing the latter will get you in trouble. Google gives you 4 custom categories and one pre-defined. Make good use of them and align them with the keywords you want to rank for. Similar to the Company/Organization field, categories are being screened and the same sensitive keywords apply. Custom categories don’t really have to be too coherent. If you have a lot of keywords you are targeting, try and combine them with other keywords, but again, not too spammy.
  • Service Area and Location Settings: Pretty self explanatory. It is commonly used if you are using an address outside of the city/cities that you want to rank in OR you want to rank in all your surrounding cities. Use this function to define your service area(s). NOTE: You aren’t going to rank in San Fran, if your address is in Austin. Obvious, I hope. However, if your address is in the suburb of San Fran and you want to rank in San Fran and its surrounding suburbs is doable. Being outside of the city you want to rank in puts you at a disadvantage. If you are trying to rank for a competitive keyword and you are not located in the city you want to rank in, you could be hooped.
  • Hours & Payment: Just make sure this is consistent with everything else that is published online.
  • Photos: Yes, you should add photos. Photos uploaded should be saved as ‘cityname-state-keyword’ and then uploaded. Google also gives you the option to “Add a photo from the web.” I like to add a picture from the website. This creates a connection between your Google Places page and your website. This is a good thing.
  • Videos: Yes, you should add video preferably of a testimonial like a customer (not you). These can be YouTube videos. Remember to make sure your files are named after a keyword.

Verification: More than likely Google will want to send a post card. The post card typically takes 5-8 business days to arrive. When it arrives, log back into your Google Places dashboard and enter a PIN code to verify and activate your listing.

Similar to my last post, there is a perk for reading. This articles perk is 3 months of FREE Google Places page optimization…a $300 value!! To enter the draw, send your answer to the following question to adam.steele@nightlitemedia.com. Also, if you like some of the tips above, follow me on twitter for more at http://twitter.com/nightlitemedia.

Question: In the categories section of your Google Places page, doing what can get you in trouble?

4 Steps to Getting (or Keeping) Your Business on the Right Track

traintrackGuest Post – Arpy Dragffy is a marketing strategist and customer experience specialist with over 10 years of corporate event planning, enterprise retention strategies, and customer research experience.

In this gloom and doom economy, every small business owner is looking for ways to slash their bottom line while growing their business. Who wouldn’t want to keep their costs down, increase profits, and boost loyalty among their customer base?

Often, entrepreneurs become so focused on closing sales and locking down new partnerships that their obsession with growth becomes blinding.

Take a step back.

A massive growth phase is an amazing thing, but it can come with side effects: resources that are stretched too thin, or even worse, a company that somehow ends up moving in a different direction than originally planned. Once you have turned your idea into a business, how do you create long-term relationships with your customers that will bring you sustainable revenue?
Read More

Top 10: Our Best Small Business Blogposts

david-letterman_l

Over the last year we’ve written a few articles on running an online business (hopefully you’ve found some of them to be helpful!). We have also had a few terrific guest bloggers and reviewed some expert speakers. Because our customers often email us with similar questions – about SEO, paid search, and the like, we thought it would be helpful to compile some of this information in one place. You might want to bookmark this post for reference!

#10 How to Boost Holiday Sales

#9 How to Optimize Your Website for Local Search

#8 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Success

#7 10 Free Software Apps to Manage your Business and Cut Costs

#6 10 Website Mistakes to Avoid

#5 Thoughts on Customer Service with Shep Hyken

#4 3 Secrets to Getting More Customers

#3 Using Paid Search to Increase Your Traffic

#2 How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists (guest blog by Jonathan Kay)

And presenting the #1 blogpost of the past year…. *drum roll*

Basics of Search Engine Optimization (John Lyotier of MarketingClinics.com)

**Bonus** 3 Ways to Convert Website Traffic into Customers

What is an Avatar and Why Does it Matter?

avatarOver the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about using social media to grow your online business. But there’s one thing we haven’t yet covered: your avatar.

If you only know the word “avatar” in relation to the movie, that’s ok. According to Wikipedia, an avatar is:

“…a computer user’s representation of himself/herself or alter ego whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities.”

So, kind of like how in the movie Jake is represented by his blue Na’vi character, you can use an image and a name to represent yourself online in social media environments like Facebook or Twitter.

How to Choose an Avatar

Your avatar is literally an online representation of you or your business, so choosing one should be done with a little thought. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it, but you should keep in mind how the image you choose might impact you or your business in real life.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1.    Use a clear “headshot”.
Social media and online communication is about establishing relationships – people want to know who you are. The exception to this rule is if you are participating as a company, where multiple people will be handling the account. For example, a few of us manage the CityMax.com Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we use our mascot “Max” for our avatar.

2.    Consider the size.
Avatar images are generally shrunk down pretty small, so make sure that your image is clearly identifiable even when tiny. Try aiming for a very plain background for your headshot.

3.    Use the same avatar for all your online interactions.
That’s not to say you can’t change it from time to time, but consistency is good as far as branding yourself or your business.

Although you want to keep to these guidelines, don’t be afraid to show some personality in your avatar – it can help garner a bit more interest in what you have to say.

Have you seen any great avatars lately? Either personal or for business?

How To Market a Unique Product Online

mattfriesenGuest blogger: Matt Friesen is the founder and CEO of Thirdi, a Vancouver Software Development and Internet Marketing company.

What do you do if you are selling something new and original: like a hoodie designed to look like a monster. Even if you captured 100% of the people looking for “Hoodies that make you look like a monster”, you likely aren’t going to have a substantial business. Search advertising can’t capture that intent. Display advertising is too easily ignored, and lacks the necessary credibility, to sell someone on a radically new idea. To make someone take the leap into buying something silly the best way is to have a personal, human recommendation.

Unique products require a human touch and a personal connection. Unique products must fit into communities or they will not be appreciated. Here are 3 questions we ask ourselves, at Thirdi, before starting to market a unique product:

1. What specific groups would enjoy this product?

Don’t cop out and say that your audience is ‘everyone’. Some groups will always be better suited to your product than others. Are you looking for kooky soccer moms or under-18 scenesters. Maybe your audience has an obscure profession, like cartographers or jugglers. You have to have a clear idea of the answer to this question before you can proceed.

2. Where do these groups congregate online?

Start doing Google searches for key terms related to your audience. Make lots of bookmarks using tools like Delicious or Faviki and keep them organized. You’ll also want to qualify these groups by their scale and influence somehow as well, to make sure you aren’t wasting time on communities of 20 people. Two easy ways to do this are to use the Google Toolbar to measure the a site’s pagerank or a service like Alexa.com to measure (rough) size. The details aren’t important, you just need to establish a set of priorities.

3. Who are the most important members of the group?

Every group has a leader. Spend a bit of time digging through each of these crowds and a clear leader will start to emerge. Usually, you can just look through 20 or 30 random posts and start to notice that one name keeps popping up over and over. These leaders will write 10X the post of average users, and command 50X the influence. If you can win them over, the rest of the group will take notice.

Finding these individuals may seem like a lot of work, especially since these efforts may only lead to a handful of immediate sales. What they do offer you is a great place to test your marketing messages. Start a conversation with these individuals and see if your message is resonating. If they like it, they’ll tell their friends and your product will start to catch on. If they don’t, you will have received free marketing feedback from your exact target consumer. Either way, you will have gained some valuable data and possibly a few helpful allies.