Small Businesses are Going Mobile

28 06 2011

There is so much talk about mobile these days, which is one topic I am particularly interested in.  Combine that with our client focus towards SMBs, this recent infographic stood out.  Titled “How Small Businesses Rely on Mobile“, it breaks down how SMBs are utilizing their phones from motivations, top markets, and more.

smb mobile use

One particular stat stood out to me because it’s a valid question we get from clients sometime.  As a SMB owner with daily operations to worry about, how do they find time to conduct social media marketing?  Where do they find the time to sit down at their computer to tweet, post videos, or interact with Facebook fans?  Well based off the stats above, the second most popular use of mobile phones by SMB owners is for social media.  It’s hard to find excuses these days for not participating in social media.  Use a team of employees, use the latest tools that allow a centralized dashboard of all your profiles (update from one location, schedule many updates in advance, etc), and use your phone.  Post while waiting in line somewhere or post while on public transportation.  With the continued rise of smart phones, I would expect that 26% to increase.

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59% of Internet Users Search Google to find a Local Business

26 05 2011

If you’re a local business, you want to know where people go to find your business and other businesses like yours online.  According to a research study conducted by CityGrid Media and Harris Interactive, Google continues to be the top place on the web that US consumers look to find local business information.  In fact, 43% of US consumers turn to local search to find local businesses, while BrightLocal found that a staggering 59% of internet users in general search on Google at least once a month to find a business.

eMarketer, March 2011

In addition, the study found that:

  • At 43%, Google Places beat out Yellow Pages (30%), Review Sites (13%), Facebook (12%) and Twitter (2%) as the top online source US consumers check before visiting a business.
  • A recommendation from a friend influenced 52% of US consumers to try a local business.
  • The location of the business was a factor for 10% of US consumers in deciding whether or not to visit a business, while 8% said that a deal influenced their decision.

eMarketer, March 2011

What this means for Local Businesses

While Google Places is a hugely important place for local businesses to be in order to be found online, it’s the word-of-mouth (friend) recommendations that have the ability to influence 52% of US consumers to visit a particular business.  First, in order to be found on Google, a business needs to address local SEO opportunities such as claiming and optimizing their Google Place Page, and a myriad of other items which this local SEO presentation outlines.

Secondarily, a local business needs to focus their attention on creating and retaining happy, loyal customers, who will become word-of-mouth marketers for the company (and pass along their recommendation to a friend).  And, if you take leaf out of this business’s book, as noted in Andy Sernovitz’s blog, they actually educate their customers on how to become word-of-mouth marketers for the company.  Either way, it’s a process that should become a core piece of any local business’s online strategy – the numbers speak for themselves.





Google Playing with Hotel Price Ads…Again

14 04 2011

Google is, again, testing hotel prices in the search results. This first surfaced back in June/July of 2010. Google began to include prices in Google Maps/Local search results for hotels. I thought this was cool and interesting back then, but my how my mind has changed since this feature has resurfaced.

So Google tested this feature for a few months, then it disappeared. Well, now they are back again, as was noted in this Search Engine Land article written by Matt McGee. This time, instead of the hotel prices residing just in Google Maps, the pricing is being included in the “7 Pack”, “O Pack” and the OneBox. as seen in the following images (taken from the same Search Engine Land Article).

This is groovy for consumers seeking to find the best hotel prices quickly, without having to visit the multitude of OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) in their initial searches. At first thought, I assumed the OTAs wouldn’t be very happy, but this actually gives several OTAs a nice boost in visibility. I see Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com and Priceline popping up the most. A user just simply needs to click on the price and you are whisked away to that hotel’s “profile” page on that particular site. OK, that’s great from a consumer/OTA perspective, but what I’m concerned about is the affect this feature will have on each hotelier if this feature actually moves out of beta and is rolled out.

This feature could potentially cost hoteliers a lot of money. Each hotel that sells rooms through an OTA has to pay a significant “commission” on every room/night booked. These can range from 10%, all the way up to 20%. This is a big chunk of change for hotels to give up. Now, the argument could made that without the OTAs these hotels wouldn’t reach full capacity (marketing themselves), and maybe that’s true, but if the large majority of consumers are purchasing rooms via OTAs, and not direct through the hotel’s website, the hotelier is dropping a lot of cash (and usually at discounted rates) which affects bottom lines and revenue. When searching for hotel rooms the user would generally click through to the hotel’s website from the search results (talking specifically about the local search results), but with this new feature Google is directing users from the search results directly to the OTAs if they click on the price dropdown. The hotelier’s website is included in the dropdowns, but it does not include price, and it’s always listed at the bottom.

If this feature does roll out, I think there are going to be many, many upset hoteliers as they’ll be dishing out lots of cash to the likes of Expedia, Hotels.com, etc. I didn’t even touch on those hotels that don’t participate with the OTAs because it is just too expensive for them. What does this mean for them? If a price dropdown isn’t next to their name, will that hurt credibility and reduce clicks to their sites? I guess we’ll see, but I don’t like this feature if I’m a hotelier.





7 SEM Trends for 2011

8 02 2011

After spending the last month reading list after list making SEM predictions for 2011 I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  When you truly look at predicting anything, the best case scenario is you’re right and the worst case scenario, well at least you made an effort.  So, without further ado, here are my top 7 SEM predictions for 2011:

1.  Above the Fold Content Becomes Less Crucial

One of the biggest things to take away from the infographic craze is that users are willing to scroll if you have engaging content.  Virtually every mouse has a scroll feature; create amazing content so I want to use it.



2.  HTML5 and CSS3 Will Begin to Go Mainstream

The general population is afraid of change.  Most tech people are early adopters and embrace change.  Now we just need the people building sites for clients that are still using IE6 to let them do it the right way.  Listen to Smashing and start using HTML 5 and CSS3 today.

3.  The Death of Foursquare: As big players integrate location-based services better, the smaller pioneers will fade.

Let me start by saying I’ve never been into letting people know where I’m at so they can go to my house and kidnap my dog while I’m out drinking.  Therefore, I may not be the authority on any this issue.  However, I do hate having to juggle four different apps in order to let everyone know what I’m having for dinner, where I’m having it, that I just became the Mayor and that I checked in to save 20% on appetizers.

4.  Google’s Disdain for RSS Will Continue to Grow

With rumors already swirling about Google moving resources away from Google Reader, it’s likely that support for RSS will fade overall.  Personally, I used to be into RSS as it’s an excellent way to keep abreast to the latest news and industry blogs, however that all went away when Twitter became my professional social vehicle and Facebook became my personal social vehicle.  Using Twitter and using it right helps to filter out all the fluff and only read content that is valued by people who know more than I do.

5.   Blekko Will Become an Important FREE Tool for SEO Professionals

Blekko has already made efforts to supply SEO data to users.  I think the next step in the process is to allow the data to be exported and manipulated.  Stay Tuned…

6.  Local Search Will Drive More Customers to Brick & Mortar Stores

Yelp reported that in December of 2010 35% of all searches on Yelp.com came from a mobile app. Please take into account that this number doesn’t even include the people who go directly to the site through their mobile browser instead of using the app.  People are searching locally and on the go because they want to spend locally.  Looking at Google’s shift towards local content only reinforces the fact.

7.  Customer Reviews Will Take Center Stage

One of the biggest obstacles working with companies that are just now jumping on the local bandwagon is that it’s difficult to get an influx of reviews.  As local businesses begin to optimize for local search, expect to be asked to review a business more and more as you’re walking out the door with your lunch.

In the end, there were a million different predictions I could have thrown out there. Check back next year and we’ll see how I did.

 

What are your thoughts/predictions for 2011 and beyond?





Google Boost Gets Its Launch

25 01 2011

Back in October we took a look at announcements about Place Search and Google Boost, and the impact they could potentially have on small businesses.  While it was initially rolled out to a few select cities, Google has just revealed today that Boost ads will now appear in search results across all U.S. cities to select businesses.  By logging in to your Google Places account, you can see if you are eligible.

Once you log-in, there is a very simple process to creating your ads – you write the ad description, destination page, select which categories you would like to appear, and set a budget.  If you already have an AdWords account, Google can find billing information already on file.  Here is what a sample ad looks like:

Google Boost

Image from Google.

Boost ads will appear in Google and Google Maps search results, and can access important performance data in the same Places dashboard you currently have.  Also revealed today was that Google Boost ads will show up in mobile searches for iPhone and Android phones, greatly expanding your potential reach.





Google Puts Spotlight on Location with New Boost & Place Search

28 10 2010

This blog has certainly been no stranger to the importance of Google Places, its useful connection to AdWords, and the importance of building relevant citations to improve your local rankings.  Local search engine optimization is incredibly powerful for small businesses to increase their visibility online and foot-traffic to their brick and mortal locations.  Well Google just keeps on rolling, introducing two new features in the past two days that will place an even greater emphasis on Local SEO.

Place Search

Yesterday Google announced the release of Place Search, a new and easier way to find local businesses.  Before, searchers had to either look through the coveted 7-Pack above organic search results to find a Place listing, or click-through to Google Maps and compare listings along the left-hand side.  The new Place Search however, is a hybrid of the two:

  • The 7-pack is now gone and local results are now included in the main results section.
  • The results themselves are richer and include an image, description, address, phone number, Sitelinks, a brief review quote, and links to 3rd party review sites.
  • To the right of each listing is an average rating, number of reviews, and a link to its Place Page.
  • The results map is now displayed on the far right and floats along as you scroll up or down on the page.
  • Organic results are now pushed all the way to the bottom and only show 4-6 results instead.

Small Business Impact

These changes will most likely influence the way sites handle Local SEO.  Overall Place Search will make it even more important for small businesses to claim and fully optimize their Place Pages:

  • It is critical that you continue to seek reviews because these are highlighted the most on the new search results.  Get reviews not only for your Place Page, but 3rd party sites like Yelp and Citysearch as well.
  • Always be looking to build citations, especially relevant local websites in your area.
  • Ensure your site is optimized for your location and includes relevant keywords within the title tags, meta descriptions, and throughout content.
  • Because Sitelinks appear, be sure to access your site’s Google Webmaster Tools account and specify any pages you don’t want included (Google will generate Sitelinks automatically and exclude ones you specify).

Google Boost

On Monday, Google announced the testing of a new advertising solution specifically designed for Google Place Pages.  Boost is designed as a quick and easy way to create search ads right from their own Google Places account that will appear in the Sponsored Links section of either the main Google search page or Google Maps.  These ads can include the ever important NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), average rating, and display the number of reviews you have received.  Boost ads will also be highlighted by a blue pin.

Google Boost

Boost ads will be easy to set up.  All you need is an ad description, a link to either your website or Place Page, relevant business categories, and a monthly budget.  Once the ad is complete, no ongoing management is required.  Google will optimize your budget for the most relevant keywords that can trigger the ad.  And just like AdWords, you only pay per click.  While this program is being tested only in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago, business owners can sign up to receive alerts of when it will be available in their area.

It is almost certain that Place Search will tie in with the new Boost solution, Google Tags for Place Pages, or even AdWords location extensions.  Put all these tools together and there is great potential for small businesses to reach out and find new customers.





5 simple fixes to Optimize your website

1 10 2010

Search Engine Optimization can be a long process that can take quite a bit of time and effort from professionals to accomplish meaningful results. That said, there are a few ways for you to gain results with minimal time and knowledge. Here’s a list of 5 simple and quick fixes that can help you boost your search rankings.

  • Optimize your Title Tags
    • By Inserting specific keywords in your page title tags, you can instantly rank higher.  If you are in a field or profession where these keywords are oversaturated, this will be just one of many things you should be doing.
    • To do this you simply need to place them within your code between the <title> tags.
  • Include your address on your site
    • By doing this you can help boost your rankings in Google Maps.
  • Insert keyword specific anchor text
    • Google takes anchor text into consideration when ranking search results.  These will not make or break your site like title tags can, but they can put you over the top if you are in a market with other well optimized sites.
    • To do this simply find a keyword you want to optimize, ie. Search Engine Optimization.  In your code you would wrap this with <a href=”THE URL YOU WANT IT TO GO TO”>Search Engine Optimization</a>
  • Write Good Content…often
    • Search Engines love dynamic content.  An active blog or news page that hosts compelling content is a great way to draw in visitors and ultimately boost your search results.  Submitting these articles to sites like digg, sphinn, reddit, etc. can further your cause.
  • Build  Up quality links
    • This isn’t necessarily “Quick”, but it can be painless if you pace yourself.  Linking building equates to 70% of SEO efforts.  By building quality links over time you can dramatically influence your search rankings.







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