AdWords Location Extensions Get a Makeover for Multiple Locations

25 08 2010

Google recently introduced its newest upgrade to the location extensions feature, in a makeover that allows advertisers to showcase multiple business locations beneath their sponsored listing, within a relevant area.  For local businesses running paid search campaigns, this feature extends the capability of a sponsored listing to include up to four nearby business locations shown on a Google map alongside their PPC ad and gives searchers the ability to search for the location nearest to their address (within that paid ad).  This upgrade comes as an improvement to last year’s debut of the first generation location extension feature, which allowed advertisers to dynamically attach just a single business address to their paid ads using location extensions (note: location extensions replaced the previous “local business ads”).

In short, location extensions enhance a typical PPC text ad beyond the traditional two lines of ad copy and headline.  Here are the key features that benefit local businesses tremendously:

  • Enhances a text ad with relevant and nearby location information (business address, phone number, option to get directions).
  • Grabs additional top-of-the-page real estate (adds a Google map and multiple locations below the text ad, which is fantastic if the current Google Place Page is not ranking in the local 7-pack).
  • Business location results update dynamically when a user searches for locations near their specific address.
    • For larger companies with a high volume of locations, be cognizant when utilizing location extensions (currently limited to the four most relevant locations) as it may result in an uneven display of store locations.
    • Potential to improve CTR (click through rate), based on additional, eye-grabbing location information.
    • In certain instances, location extension ads can be displayed on the Search Network, Display Network and on Google Maps.

Take the search query “seattle moving company” for example, which returns the following result, shown in figure 1.  By searching for locations closest to a specific address, the paid listing dynamically updates to also show the nearby Tacoma location (with the ability to show up to four locations, if a local business has that many).  There is no additional fee, and an advertiser only pays for the click, based on the typical CPC bidding through AdWords.

Figure 1: AdWords Location Extensions for Multiple Locations

AdWords location extensions for multiple=

AdWords location extensions for multiple locations

And, if your ad is not capturing the first position, don’t worry.  By utilizing location extensions your ad can still look like figure 2, where the most relevant business address is dynamically attached to the bottom of your text ad.

Figure 2: AdWords Location Extensions for an ad not in the #1 position

AdWords location extensions

AdWords location extensions

How to Implement Location Extensions in your AdWords Account:

AdWords gives local advertisers the option to automatically (business owners only) or manually include business locations in ads.  To automatically include information, you must be a business owner.  This allows you to link your existing Google Places account to your AdWords account to populate your local extensions.  If you are not a business owner, you have the option to manually enter business location information for your location extensions through the AdWords interface.  Follow these easy steps from Google (shown below) to implement location extensions in your AdWords account:

  • Sign in to your AdWords account.
  • Click the campaign you want to edit.
  • Click the Settings tab for that campaign.
  • Under Ad extensions > Locations, select one of the following options:
    • Business owners – Use addresses from Google Places: Select this option to link an existing Google Places account to your campaign. Eligible addresses from your Google Places account may be shown with your ad when relevant.
    • Non-business owners – Use manually entered addresses: You can manually enter up to 9 business addresses. Again, the address may be shown with your ad when relevant.
  • Click Save settings.

And finally, Google has hinted that they will soon be adding a feature to AdWords Editor to support location extensions.  However, for now advertisers have to stick with editing and managing location extensions through the new AdWords interface.





Facebook Places, the Growing Check-In Culture, and Small Business

23 08 2010

Last week, Facebook debuted its newest and highly anticipated location-based product – Facebook Places.  Much like Foursquare, Yelp and others, Facebook Places allows users to “check-in” to various businesses and locations, and share with everyone in their network where they are or what they’re doing.  They have even produced a fancy video to explain all about it.  However, a recent study has shown that still only 4% of the Internet population uses any of these location-based programs, and even less use it more than once per week.  If that’s the case, it might not matter if Facebook joined the check-in party late because it could be the service that finally makes location-based social networks main-stream.  Here’s why:

  1. User base – Over 500 million people use Facebook worldwide.  This is a staggering number of potential users, and coupled with the growing use of smartphones we’ll definitely see the rise in check-ins across the globe.
  2. Simplicity – Facebook has kept Places simple and easy to use from the start, focusing on three essential ideas: sharing with your friends where you are, connecting with your friends nearby, and discovering new places.  And they included what makes personal connections happen on the site – tagging.  Much like the photos you upload to your profile, Places allows you to tag your friends as you are checking in.
  3. Partners – Facebook didn’t throw everything into this new product hoping to compete with all the various services already out there.  Instead, they partnered with them.  Foursquare, Yelp and a couple of others were included in the press conference and revealed how they would be integrating with Places.  At least for now, you won’t earn badges using Places.  You will still have to use Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, etc. to get those.  Facebook wants to concentrate on personal connections and memories people form, and their partners will hope to grow their user bases from the increased exposure being on all those Newsfeeds.
  4. Privacy –  Facebook wanted to make sure they didn’t receive the backlash they’ve gotten for past changes.  Users can opt-out of friends tagging them, set exactly who will see their check-ins and much more.  If these setting are good enough for users, adoption could be high.

So with all this potential, what’s a small business to do?  First, join the coming land-grab and claim the Places Page for your business.  Search for your business in the search box at the top.  If it exists, look for the simple question “Is this your business?”.  Click the link and follow the instructions which include phone verification and uploading a certificate or licence.  If your business is not listed yet, add it yourself on either the iPhone app or touch.facebook.com.  While it might seem confusing now to have both Fan Pages and Places Pages, the two pages will eventually merge once the Places Page has been claimed.  And Facebook also hints that business with multiple locations and Pages might be merged together as well in the future.





Increase Local Search Results with Local Citation Finder

19 08 2010

At Formic, we work with many small businesses who are seeking to increase their local search presence through their Google Place page. Let’s briefly review what the local search results are and where they reside. For this article we’ll focus specifically on Google.

Here are a couple of examples where Google shows results on the 1st page (in the Universal, or Blended, search results). Click on images to see a larger version.

The 2nd example shows fewer local results as the search query is more detailed, and Google was able to identify only two quality matches for this query.

So, how does a business get listed in these local results? Well, there are many factors that affect local search rankings, of which I won’t go into as David Mihm has compiled an excellent list of local SEO ranking factors.

I want to dig further into citations, which are a major part of the local ranking algorithm.

What are citations?

A citation acts much like an inbound link. Both are considered a “vote” of confidence from another site/source. The more citations you have, the more credible you are in Google’s eyes, much like inbound links. A citation’s quality is taken into account, much like an inbound link. It’s more important to receive a citation/inbound link from a highly credible source than a low quality one. So, what’s the difference? An inbound link must actually be a link from one site to another, whereas a citation only need the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Citations don’t even need a link to your site to count.

How do you obtain more citations?

You can obtain citations through many different avenues:

  • Manual submission to directories and major data providers
  • Syndication through tools/services like Universal Business Listings (UBL)
  • Mine competitor data to see where they are getting citations from
  • Outreach to bloggers to write an article about your business/product/service, which includes NAP
  • Press releases can count, as long as the NAP is included

I won’t go through the exhaustive list of additional ways, but I think you get the idea. There’s one of those tactics I’d like to discuss more, can you guess which one?

Mining Competitor Citations

If you were working to obtain more citations, the process used to be that you’d seek out those ranking for your particular keyword, see where they were getting citations from by mining each individual competitor and citation. Well, I’m ecstatic to tell you about the Local Citation Finder. This is a new tool by Whitespark that does much of the initial heavy lifting for you.

Here’s a quick look at the interface:

It’s simple to use. Choose the engine, enter in a keyword phrase and click “search”. This is where the magic happens. Within about 40 minutes or so you’ll receive an email with your citation gold.

The above image shows all of the unique domains where citations were found for top competitors (those ranking in the local 7 pack for the term you entered). The bottom image shows the actual URL where the citation resides. No more mining individual competitor pages for citations!

After you receive this data, I would recommend pulling all of your own citations to compare what you already have, versus what your competition has. After you cross reference you’ll know which citations you need to obtain. Then manual process of actually submitting a listing or contacting a blogger begins.

I said this tool removed most of the up front heavy lifting, not all of it. You still need to put in some work, but when your citations begin to increase, you’ll most likely see your local search ranking begin to increase as well (assuming everything else with your Place page is in good order).

Has anyone used this tool? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Do you like it?





Formic Media Seminar Series: Website Clinic

16 08 2010

Have you ever wondered why your site doesn’t perform like you think it should? Have you racked your brain and spent countless hours trying to understand how to increase your search engine rankings to drive more visits and sales? Curious as to why your social media efforts aren’t generating customers? As part of Formic Media’s free seminar series, the team will be hosting a free website clinic on September 8th to provide insight into all of these questions. The Formic team will take volunteers from the audience, and review their sites in real-time (or you can request a site review upon registration) to uncover valuable insights on how to increase your website traffic, sales/leads or increase social media engagement.

Join us for this must attend event. Visit our website for more details, and sign up now as space is limited.

When: September 8th, 2010

Cost: FREE

Where: 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR, 97212





Down and Dirty with .htaccess files

12 08 2010

The .htaccess file can play an important role in SEO and usability. The file is placed at the base level of your website within your ftp or hosting folder and can be edited through a text editor such as notepad.

There are many things that can be accomplished within this simple text file.  Some of them are:

Canonicalizing URLs. Canonicalizing your URLs will help eliminate duplicate content that will ding you in the mind of google.  There’s a few ways of doing this, but the easiest way is through your .htaccess file.  You can do this by adding this code snippet:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^MYWEBSITE.COM [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.MYWEBSITE.COM/$1 [r=301,l]

Setup a 404 Error Page. Setting up a custom 404 error page will allow you to redirect traffic back to your site if a visitor encounters an error. You can do this by simply adding this line of code and pointing it to your custom designed error page:

ErrorDocument 404 /MYERRORPAGE.html

Block a Bad Site. With this snippet you can block all redirects from a site that may be giving you unwanted or inappropriate traffic.  There have been occasions where international sites can actually parse your site and plagiarize your content.  Using this snippet can help prevent these things from happening:

RewriteEngine on
# Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} BADSITE\.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* – [F]

Push a different version of your site live. If you need to temporarily host a different version of your site, for instance if you want to setup some quick AB testing or have a special micro site for the holidays, you can do so easily by using this snippet and simply pointing to the new homepage:

DirectoryIndex FILENAME.html

Prevent Directory Listings of Files. For many large sites there are always some files that make it onto your server that you’d rather not have publicly accessible.  You can disable these with this snippet:

IndexIgnore *.zip *.txt

If you are having trouble implementing these or just wish to save some time, you can also check out this handy .htaccess generator.

There are many things that can be accomplished within this simple text file.  Some of them are:

1. Canonicalizing URLs. Canonicalizing your URLs will help eliminate duplicate content that will ding you in the mind of google.  There’s a few ways of doing this, but the easiest way is through your .htaccess file.  You can do this by adding this code snippet:

Options +FollowSymlinks

RewriteEngine on

rewritecond %{http_host} ^MYWEBSITE.COM [nc]

rewriterule ^(.*)$ http://www.MYWEBSITE.COM/$1 [r=301,l]

2. Setup a 404 Error Page. Setting up a custom 404 error page will allow you to redirect traffic back to your site if a visitor encounters an error. You can do this by simply adding this line of code and pointing it to your custom designed error page.

ErrorDocument 404 /MYERRORPAGE.html

3. Block a Bad Site. With this snippet you can block all redirects from a site that may be giving you unwanted or inappropriate traffic.  There have been occasions where international sites can actually parse your site and plagiarize your content.  Using this snippet can help prevent these things from happening.

RewriteEngine on

# Options +FollowSymlinks

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} BADSITE\.com [NC]

RewriteRule .* – [F]

4. Push a different version of your site live. If you need to temporarily host a different version of your site, for instance if you want to setup some quick AB testing or have a special micro site for the holidays, you can do so easily by using this snippet and simply pointing to the new homepage:

DirectoryIndex FILENAME.html
5.       Prevent Directory Listings of Files.  For many large sites there are always some files that make it onto your server that you'd rather not have publicly accessible.  You can disable these with this snippet:
IndexIgnore *.zip *.txt

If you are having trouble implementing these or just wish to save some time, you can also check out this handy .htaccess generator.








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