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 Updates AdWords Traffic Estimates Algorithm

19 05 2011

In the ever-changing world known as Google products and services, Google has announced yet another algorithm update.  However, this time around it isn’t Panda 3.0 – the update doesn’t even apply to search.  The newest update has been applied to the traffic estimates you see in AdWords.  According to Dan Friedman from the Inside AdWords Team:

“Today we’re announcing an update to the algorithm behind the traffic estimates you see in AdWords. As a result of our updates, we hope to provide you with better statistics for estimated clicks, cost, and ad position. This change is effective now and affects all AdWords accounts globally.”

Nothing exciting has been done to update the actual interface, just the behind the scenes interpolation.  One of the primary differences I first noticed was that you are now required to enter a number in the “Max CPC $” field illustrated below:

Other than a keyword and a max CPC you are not required to enter any other information in order to get an estimate for the global monthly searches, local monthly searches, estimated average CPC, estimated ad position, estimated daily clicks, estimated daily cost, competition or local search trends.

However, the biggest benefit of the updated algorithm is the fact that you are able to more accurately estimate traffic and bid structure when you are building your campaign.  More info from Dan and the AdWords team:

“In order to determine if you’re setting an appropriate target bid, try entering a few different values in the Max CPC field the next time you use the Traffic Estimator. Look at how these different bids affect your statistics, and then decide which bid gives you the best return on investment. You can use the same process for trying out new budgets.”

So have at it, test out the new algorithm to refine your bidding & keyword strategy and better optimize your campaign performance.

Do what you do best

19 05 2011

As the Account Director of Formic Media my responsibilities include team management, partnership development, business development/sales, a sprinkle of account work and many other things. Throughout my day I speak with a lot of companies, some interested in our services, others interested in potential partnerships.

I was on the phone with a potential client, discussing their goals/objectives and how Formic might be able to help fill their void. The question came up about creating new, fresh content for the search engines and what our process was. I mentioned to the prospect that we don’t do copywriting in-house, which seemed to surprise them. I went on to explain that we have several partners we turn to for copywriting services, but don’t actually have anyone focusing solely on copywriting. I told them it comes down to our core services. We prefer to do what we’re good at, which is search engine and social media marketing, with a dab of web design/development in there as well. Copywriting is a big piece of SEO, and who knows, maybe someday we’ll bring in a copywriter. For now, however, we’re going to stick to what we’re good at, and leave the “words” to those who know how to write in an effective manner for SEO. Our team is excellent at working with copywriters and helping them write for the web, but none of us would fancy ourselves a copywriter.

I think this is where Formic differs from a lot of other agencies, especially the bigger ones. Many of these big agencies (I won’t name names), most of them more traditional in nature, have seen how effective digital agencies have become, and the need that we’re filling for clients. Clients are asking for services like SEO, PPC and social media marketing, and these bigger agencies, not wanting to lose the work/client, have started to provide these services. I think this is a mistake to a certain extent. I can understand if you plan to hire a search marketing manager/director to build a team, but what I don’t understand is an agency asking their employees to just “jump in because we now offer these services.” With traditional marketing seeing a steep decline, and online/digital marketing going in the opposite direction, some of these agencies think they don’t have a choice, but I think they do. Partnerships.

I know a lot of traditional agencies are already partnering with digital agencies, and that’s great. I’m speaking more to the traditional ad agencies that decide to test their hand at search and social. Everyone thinks they can do social. I mean, how hard is it? You post a few updates on Facebook and tweet to a few key folks and call it good, right? Um, no. I won’t go into it, but there’s so much that goes into a search and/or social campaign; it isn’t something you can pick up overnight and suddenly see great success. These agencies dabbling in search/social need to take a long look at what they’re good at. For example, if you have years of experience getting placements in magazines, stick to that, but be knowledgeable about how to track your efforts online. If anything, this is where the traditional agencies are falling short, they aren’t able to measure how effective their ad buy was by monitoring website visits. Encourage the client to build a landing page for your specific ad buy, create a vanity URL and ensure you can track the performance. This is how traditional agencies should be thinking, not trying to create a whole new side of the business that they have no experience in. There is room for both traditional and digital agencies, especially since we’re able to track nearly everything that happens online. Traditional agencies need to reach out and partner with digital agencies, or they at least need to ensure they are educated on how to track offline campaigns effectively.

The point I’m trying to make is do what you’re good at. Don’t cross over into an area where you aren’t the expert, there are too many things that could go wrong. Take your core services and be the absolute best, that’s how you’ll succeed. If there are other strategies you want to get into, reach out to folks to form partnerships, but don’t rush into something where you could produce more harm than good. I’ll also make the point that this isn’t just for marketing agencies, but for any business/industry. If you’re Nike, you’re great at making sports shoes/apparel, but that doesn’t mean you should start making suits. Sometimes I think companies are trying way too hard to reach too many people, and many times forget what they do best and spread themselves too thin. This hurts the brand more than anything, which would obviously lead to losses in revenue and the decline of the entire company. Be comfortable doing what you do best, and do it.

How To Discover If Your Website Content Has Been Stolen [Case Study]

18 05 2011

With the recent Google Panda/Farmer updates continuing to roll out, the focus for search engine marketing efforts is now to create unique content.  It’s not all about having sound code, the perfectly optimized title, and alt tags on your images (although those are still very important).  You also have to have great content that’s original and helps your visitors – content that will keep them coming back (hopefully buy whatever you’re selling) and even share it on major social media networks.

But sometimes website owners are too busy to create that content themselves and end up using copy writers and free lancers for help.  While this is perfectly fine, you still want to ensure that your content is original.  Many of the websites negatively affected just scraped content from other sites and republished it.  In one of our first tool reviews ever, we’re taking a look at one tool that can help you verify how original content is – Un.Co.Ver.  This free desktop tool from TextBroker allows you to check for content and copyright infringement on a single URL, entire website, or manually entered text:

After you’ve entered in your source, Uncover checks that content against millions of websites for duplications.  In return, you’ll see a percentage of words that matches your source – the higher the number the more your content has been copied:

uncover tool results

In our testing, this tool worked so well we actually discovered someone stealing 54.4% of the Formic Media website.  Take a look at the first result in the screenshot above…a jemcintosh.com has 204 copied words and a 54.4% match. We found that quite extreme, given that we knew the other sites in the list were okay.  Already a little concerned, we took a closer look at Mr. James E. McIntosh’s site and discovered something even worse:

Notice a resemblance?

Now let’s see just where exactly we’ve been aggrieved:

  • Aside from the glaringly similar design (changing everything to blue doesn’t make it unique), the image slider at the top rotates in pieces exactly like ours,
  • The text under “Social Media Marketing” and “Website Design” actually links to our Website Design page,
  • The icons, which our designer worked tirelessly to create, still show a little of our orange behind the blue,
  • And on his “Social Media Marketing” page, he forgot to remove our name completely.

If you’re going to copy our site, at least do it well.  It appears as if all they did was copy our source code (which explains the links still pointing to our site).  The image slider loads way off-center, there are a lot of broken links, and the social media icons at the top link to brand new profiles that don’t have any content. Now our initial reaction was to broadcast to the whole world about getting ripped off, but we contacted Mr. McIntosh first and asked him to take down the current version or pay a licensing fee because of the copyright.  With no answer after a follow-up email and 6 full days, there is still a nearly duplicate site live (it now appears that the site has been taken down). The website is now up again, this time with his own name misspelled.

We shared Uncover with you in hopes that others might discover similar rip offs and take appropriate action.  We’re still waiting the hear from Mr. McIntosh, so in the meantime we would love to see if this has happened to anyone else.  Have you ever had your site or content stolen?

Formic Media Seminar Series: Website Clinic

18 05 2011

Is your website floundering? Perhaps you’re starting to see a decline in site performance, online rankings and leads/sales. If this is happening to you and you aren’t sure why, let the Formic Media team help. Formic is hosting a website clinic/hot seat to provide insightful feedback to those folks who volunteer their website. The Formic team will review search engine optimization (SEO) factors that may be affecting site rankings, usability factors that may be affecting conversions and any other observations that could be impeding your overall website performance. Don’t miss this opportunity to receive free website feedback from the Formic team.

Date: June 8, 2011

Time: 5:30pm

Location: Formic Media Inc;, 300 NE Failing St. Portland, OR 97212 (just off MLK, 2 blocks North of Fremont St.)

Cost: Free

URL: http://www.formicmedia.com/seminars

Phone: 503-517-9059

Email: seminars@formicmedia.com

Mobile Strategies

5 05 2011

Mobile has moved to the forefront of many company’s advertising strategies, as its reach has increased dramatically in the past few years, partly due to the mainstreaming of smart phones.  Among consumers aged 18-29, 65% are already accessing the internet via a mobile device.  When taking the leap to mobile, there are a few strategies and recommendations most company’s should adhere to:

  • Use video.  According to a report from Dynamic Logic in June 2010, the video format does the most of any online ad format to raise customer purchase intent.
  • Take advantage of the latest and greatest. For instance, use new technology, capabilities, such as the Ipad and HTML5.
  • Utilize ads within apps.  You will find users are more targeted and are subjected to longer impressions of your ads.
  • Mobilize your site with a universal url.  Universal url’s provide a single site address that displays the right content, automatically for whatever device someone is using at the time.
  • Use rich media across all distribution channels.  For instance send a follow up video after a user test drives a car.
  • Market during live events.  For instance utilizing tweets and hashtags for certain events.

Utilizing these strategies can give your company a great head start into competitiveness in the mobile market.

stats from limelight reach

Focus on Increasing Customer Loyalty to Increase Small Business Revenue (Formic on iMedia Connection)

22 04 2011

Generating brand, product and service advocates is paramount for small businesses seeking to grow company revenue and meet long-term growth goals.  Working with small businesses on a daily basis has given me a deep appreciation for the impact that loyal customers and brand advocates can have on a business.  It is important for small businesses to use their resources and time to keep their loyal customers loyal.

A study conducted by Fred Reicheld of Bain & Company, Inc. stated that “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit”.  For many companies, this correlation between customer retention and profit could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue gained.  And, not only do loyal customers mean continual revenue, but they can become a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion for a company or brand.

Read the full post on iMedia Connection.

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