All posts in General Marketing

If you’re a business owner even slightly aware of your online local business presence, you have noticed some changes in the local world over these last few months. Not all of these changes are for the better (I’m squarely looking at you Google).  I want to talk briefly about what these changes could mean in the next few months.

Google – Let’s get the big one out of the way first. A few months ago Google made the change from its Google Places platform, a platform we all knew and …well we knew it. They started migrating thousands and thousands of businesses to the new Google Plus Local platform. To Google’s credit, most made the transition smoothly, with the accurate description, NAP (name, address, and phone number), and photos making the switch. Getting to the profile isn’t as easy as it used to be, however. It isn’t a matter of clicking on the teardrop and seeing all of the business info. Now, once you click on the teardrop, you are taken to the maps page. When you click on the listing on the map, and ask for more info, then you are taken to the new Google Plus Local page for the business.

That’s if your business made the cut. Since the transition, hundreds of business owners have flooded the forums and help blogs looking for a solution. The switch has left these businesses in the cold, with the dreaded message “We Currently Do Not Support This Location.

Yesterday, Google made a pretty big change to their local business pages. That is to say, they removed them. As of this morning, all of the local pages are in transition to a new page hosted by the Google + platform. Google has several reasons for making the change, which they explain will create a simpler experience for customers. This simpler experience includes a more proficient rating system, using ratings from Zagat when applicable. Google says it will also make it easier for searchers to leave reviews and recommend businesses to the friends in their circles while logged in to their Google Plus account.

The transition seems to be fairly smooth in terms of bringing over content, though for now it is still recommended that business owners manage their listing through the Places for Business. Right now, the changes have created new plus pages for the business that you can navigate to through the maps listing. For businesses that already have created and manage a local Google Plus page, Google’s instructions is to “hold tight

Today on the Evolving Interactive SEO Blog, we feature a guest post about how to optimize your Facebook profile in a few easy steps. Social media management is a key element to optimizing your business for search engines, a point our guest blogger points out.

Whether you’re running a business or you’re trying to promote yourself, you need to use social networks like Facebook to reach new audiences. Here are a few tips for quickly gaining new followers on Facebook.

1. Engage your followers

Don’t be afraid to ask your readers questions or to offer prizes and contests through your Facebook page. When you make an attempt to communicate with your page’s fans, you bring a lot of positive attention to your page and increase your chances of a viral post.

When you engage your followers, make your posts short and sweet. Try to hook your audience’s attention. If you’re having a lot of trouble getting followers, you might even offer a prize to viewers who share your Facebook page with their friends.

2. Don’t self-promote too frequently

Once you have visitors coming in from shared posts, ads and links, you need to make sure that the first thing that visitors see is a page that offers some value to them. If all of your posts promote your business, band or self, you won’t win too many new followers.

Vary your posts and try to give your visitors a reason to come back. Post interesting links and invite discussion in the comments of each post. You’ll stand a much better chance of getting a viral post that can drive more attention to your page. Remember to check your Facebook page’s Insights to see whether visitors are responding well to a specific type of post.

3. Optimize your page

One of the easiest ways to get quick traffic is to make sure that your page looks impressive. Pay a professional graphic design company to make appropriately sized images for your page. Use an optimized URL by visiting the settings of your Facebook page and make sure that the new URL is easy for your visitors to remember. Delete boring or irrelevant posts and make sure that your page looks professional.

When you have a good Facebook page, you can add your URL to your email signature, put it on business cards and promote it directly, but wait to take this step until you’ve optimized every element. Eventually, growing your base of Facebook followers will be as easy as posting regular updates and including your URL wherever you can, but first you need to understand your audience to make the type of page that people follow regularly.

Guest post courtesy of Shai Atanelov, the Client Services Director for New Edge Design, a web design company in New York.

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Recently, one of our customers asked me about Google and Yelp reviews, and how you can get them to show more prominently. This is a great question, as these interactions from customers can factor into and appear alongside your business name on the search results. It’s more than good SEO, it’s good for business to see other customers excited about your company.  Here are some tips for featuring reviews, and how to handle the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Encourage Satisfied Customers to Leave Reviews

It seems like a no brainer, but you can see why this gets overlooked. The job is done, the business is paid, it’s all wrapped up nicely. But what about next time? If your customer is happy with you, approach this with two methods of thinking. Create leave-behinds, a pamphlet-card or handout with your company contact info. On the other side, offer something to the customer in exchange for a review on Google or Yelp. Maybe 10% off the next repair, a free cookie, something that will not only make them a return customer, but encourage them to get on the web and talk about your company.  A positive review goes a long way in terms of boosting your branding to other customers and the search engines.

Respond to The Negative Reviews

Not every review you get will be a good one. In fact, I’ve heard a satisfied customer tells maybe 4 people, and a disgruntled one will tell more than 12. If a customer is upset enough to take to the web, you’re going to want to deal with it head on (line). Yelp graciously allows business owners to respond to the individual reviews, giving you a chance to explain your case. Angry customers tend to exaggerate, and customers will understand that nobody’s perfect. So despite the negative press and insults being hurled your way on your profile, show compassion and respect, and you can turn this into a positive. The best way is to apologize for their negative experience, and explain what went wrong. Offer the customer a direct line to speak to someone that can help them, and maybe even a discount on the next service, or refund for their current issue. Potential customers will like that your company cares enough to interact and offer a solution.

Burying Bad Reviews

I’ve gotten this question a few times. Yelp is sensitive to fake reviews, either to give companies a five-star boost, or to destroy a company’s reputation. It isn’t always accurate though, and we’ve seen perfectly legitimate reviews get filtered down into no-man’s land. There isn’t really an easy way to combat this. If you’re getting too many 5 star reviews, Yelp will take factors into consideration to decide whether or not it’s legitimate. Is the Yelper a new member? Has the Yelper reviewed only select companies, and given them all glowing reviews? This is why we want you to encourage your real customers to leave real reviews, and why we want you to respond to the negative ones. Plus, fake reviews are in the spotlight, and not in a good way. It goes against Google’s  Terms of Service and can lead to penalties.

So whether your customers are interacting with your business through reviews on Google or Yelp, or through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, the important thing is that your customers care enough to talk about it. With a little boost to this idea, you can help your business reach new potential customers.

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Some of the questions I get around the time of our monthly client reports are about a website’s bounce rate. What is it, does it affect rankings, etc. When we explain what it is, we are asked how SEO can improve this rate. The answer is simple. SEO gets users to the site. Now what is your site offering to keep them?

Bounce Rate is a common term in internet marketing, referring to the amount of users who land on your site, only to hit the back button and continue searching or moving on to another domain, instead of searching through the website. There are plenty of factors that are common with sites with higher bounce rates.

It comes down to your website’s first impression, which is the home page in most instances. Once a user is staring at a link to your url at the top of the search results page, your SEO has worked. This is the true test of how ready your site is for prime search engine real estate. The searcher clicks on your link, and is taken to your home page. Will they find what they need right away, and is it easy to navigate through your site to find what they are looking for?

This comes down to the golden rule for SEO, which is to optimize your site for the searcher first, and the search engines second. Remember, the end goal of the SEO game is to bring in new customers and more customers. Having a site that looks like perfect bait for the search engines may get you where you need to be in the rankings, but that’s it, and that won’t matter when staring down the barrel of ROI.

Think about your new customers coming to your site for the first time. What do they want to see? What would you want to see? Simple, easy-to-use navigation is a big plus. Relevant photos used within a clean layout helps. You want a good amount of content of course, as this will attract the search engines. But you also want this content to be well written and in a voice that is representative of your business. The main content on your homepage should be your elevator sales pitch. Having a blog on your site also gives you a chance to update content regularly (an SEO plus) which will let users know that you are updating the site often.

Just as search engines take into consideration hundreds of signals when ranking websites, your potential customers also have their own personal signals; red flags, light bulbs, tastes, dislikes, and etc. that will keep them on your site or cause them to bounce right back in the opposite direction. There is nothing wrong with trial and error. If you are unhappy with your bounce rate one month, shake up your home page a bit. Try adding content, adding photos, reducing some of the businesses, etc. Compare the bounce rate from one month to the next until you see improvements.

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