Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Google Places Listings Double - What Impact Will That Have on Ranking

The total number of claimed Google Places Listings by small local businesses has doubled in 2011, according to QuickRegister.net.  You might correctly guess that this makes it twice as hard to get an above the fold ranking or even a page 1 ranking on Google Places.  Just math, nothing more sophisticated than that. 

My expectation is that this trend will only continue in 2012.  Google seems to be upping their game on every platform, and many pundits are expecting more crossovers between various media owned by Google.  In particular, Google + is getting a huge amount of attention from top Google staff.  Google Places has been the most complex product on the web.  All of this is only going to add complexity.  That may be good for consultants like me, but not so great for the average business trying to stay in business.

I get calls almost every day from companies who can point specifically to Google Places as the reason for their success or lack of it.  What we are seeing right now is that righteousness is paying off.  Black hat, scammers, and spammers are losing rank and being suspended.  This is helping a lot, but for every bad guy they kick out, two legit guys figure out they need to be listed.  That's better for the consumer, but not so great for you.

What is the answer?  As best I can, you've got the answers I know about contained here on the blog.  But my business is double what it was last year and it is getting harder and harder to keep this blog current.  Please leave your questions in the comment section of this post and I'll do my best to deal specifically with the issues you raise.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Page One for Google Places Gets Harder and Harder


Mike Blumenthal and 145 other commenters on his blog have noted that there are now far fewer Google Places listings showing up on the blended "Everything" search.  Where there has commonly been seven, the most common number is now three.  Some searches have four or five, but seven has become rare. 

My goal on this blog is to make it possible for small business owners to Do It Themselves when it comes to Google Places strategy.  If the three pack becomes the standard, and with the addition of Google+ effecting search results, and and and, it may be time for me to change my recommendation to:  Don't try this at home. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SEO, SEM, SMBs Be Very Afraid of 2012

I'm not afraid of Global Warming.  I'm not afraid of Barack Obama or Newt or even Ron Paul.  I don't fear Bird Flu or Aztec Calendars or even trans fats.  But as a internet marketing consultant who helps small business owners to get their phones to ring and their doors to swing through the use of internet SEO and SEM, 2012 is likely to change almost everything.  Those who are not getting professional help this year are likely to fall way, way behind.

Google+ (Plus).  I was early to this phenomenon, but having been burned by Google's forays into social media a few times, I backed off my effort to keep abreast of this category.  But with 90,000,000 folks on board and more coming all the time, I took a second look this week.  OMG!  Twitter better get an answer fast and Linked In has maybe two years to respond.  Facebook will undoubtedly have the smarts and the cash to keep up.  The functionality and the integration with the rest of Google's vast tool kit are not to be lightly brushed aside.  Google Plus be a major game changer in 2012.

Siri.  38,000,000 iPhones in one quarter.  24,000,000 iPads in the same period.  Apple TV certainly coming.  Siri in your car, your boat, Siri everywhere.  Have you noticed that Siri and your iPhone don't necessarily use Google for search?  Hmmmm.  My non-restaurant clients are getting around 15% of their traffic from mobile, almost all IOS.  My restaurant clients are up around 25%.  Any guesses as to what those numbers will look like with 100,000,000 new iPhones and 75,000,000 new iPads added in 2012.....At least!  Oh sure, Android will be there and be competitive and have a talking assistant.  But for the first time in a long time, the small business owner can't be sure your client is looking for you on Google!!!!  Siri and Apple have already changed internet search.

Reviews.  Add to the above, the ever increasing use of reviews by those searching the web, and you have a perfect storm.  You have to have great customer service EVERY DAY.  And if you blow it, you need to KISS A.. !  Just get over it.  Put your ego, your righteous indignation, and your anger management problem in a box somewhere and seal it with super glue.  Or Don't do business.  Get a job where you have no public contact.   You must manage your small business reputation in 2012.

Steps to success in 2012.  Get on Google +.  Learn how to optimize your status there.  Start using it.
Get a professional to help you with Google + and with Siri (Apple Mobile), and Android.  You will need a mobile website and maybe an App.  Don't Do it Yourself.  Talk about customer service every day.  Put up signs.  Ask for reviews.  Deal with bad reviews in a professional manner.  If you have a rating of 3 stars or less, call a professional reputation manager or SEM company.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Google Places 2012 News - Best Practices Working Again

I have been fighting and fussing with Google Places since it was called Google Maps or Google Business Center.  Over those 4 years, there have been times when Google Places was predictable and someone with basic SEO understanding could generally get a high rank for their clients.  Then there were days when things seemed pretty upside down.  Other times it appeared the spammers would rule.
New Grey Pin on Google Places

The Google Places of 2012 is thus far doing better.  I might even give them a B+.  While there are still tons of rediculous results with tiny companies with no online presence who haven't even claimed their listing on Google Places that are ranked highly, the ranking seems more reasonable today than at almost anytime in 2011. 

While there are still spammers winning a battle here and there, a locksmith told me the other day that he thought Google Places had done a good job of cleaning up the worst category on the web.

So, what does it take in 2012 to get a top ranking on Google Places.  Hard work at backlinks for the website and citations for the Google Places listing.  What is the number one thing to be aware of in trying to get your phone to ring based on Google search in 2012.  Make sure you are highly ranked on the Everything page.  Sometimes your Google Places listing will be showing on the Everything search, sometimes not.  Most consumers are not going to change the default and go look on Places. 

So, until the next major change, we are back to basics.  Your website must be well optimized for your keywords.  You must have solid backlinks to create cred for the website.  Then you must fill out the Google Places listing using the rules seen on this blog as completely as possible.  Then find the best possible citations starting with supplier dealer locators, local search engine listings, YP listings, and directory listings in your industry and your local area.  Do that right, avoid black hat tricks, and you can probably do this yourself, and save yourself the cost of calling me.  310-910-1848 for those who would rather trust a pro.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Google Places Secrets - Mistakes People Make - Ignoring Citations

Most of the serious pundits of the craft of Google Places Optimization have insisted that Google uses over 100 "cues" to determine your placement.  I agree with this.  Each year there is a survey prepared by David Nihm that checks with a number of these pundits to see what they think is happening at Goog in terms of algorithm changes regarding Places that might effect rankings.  The combined scores of these pundits is then published to provide some idea of where to concentrate your SEM firepower.

We have seen that city centroid, NAP placement and consistency, number of reviews, keywords in description, keywords in title, and so much more were part of the equation.  But we also knew that Google was checking out our story all over the web.  Were we who we said we are?  Did anyone agree that we were "all that?"  How many folks were visiting our website or providing back links? 

Last year, there started to be a few pundit suggesting that the "back links" of Places, namely citations, were moving up in importance.  Then, like magic, Google Places stopped listing the citations the were using to "judge" a listing.  This move made it harder for SEO consultants to check out what the competition was being cited on (harder, not impossible). 

Google then stated some things that mattered.  BBB and local Chambers were specifically noted as good citations.  I can tell you that the very best citations are dealer locators from major suppliers.  (Also these are the best possible back links.)

So if backlinks matter to Goog, then surely citations do and will matter to Places.  And sometimes it is possible to get a citation and backlink in one (dealer locators.)  Being listed on every possible directory, YP, local search engine, micro local search engine, industry specific search engine, and review cite is a great place to start. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Google Places Secrets - Mistakes People Make - No Website SEO

No matter how closely you watch the changing world of how to rank on Google Places, it is a major mistake to take your eye off the main prize, and that is being highly ranked on the Everything search for keywords you care about.  And in the months since Google has blended Places results into the Everything page for key words they believe are associated with local businesses, the value of your website SEO has become the new again road to ranking success.

In other words, if you've stopped paying attention to the SEO recommendations coming from Google themselves, the tools they are providing, or the updates of pundits filling in the blanks where Google is still unwilling to share, you could have fallen behind.  Get Google webmaster tools and use them.  Get Google analytics and review them.  Add your sitemap to your Google webmaster tools, and resubmit it after any substantive change.

Make sure you are doing all the basics well.  Title Tags, keyworded H1 and H2, excellent keywording in your text, footer keywords, NAP on page 1, Google location map on page 1, excellent backlinks, and so on.  And since Panda, relevant, original, and new content on your website.  The more the better.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Google Places Secrets - Mistakes People Make - Location Setting

I've been saying for three years that Google Places is the most complicated tool on the internet.  No one has ever sent me a comment on any such post saying:  "You are all wet, Randy.  Here is a more complex or difficult aspect of the internet."  If you think you have something that qualifies, please add your comment below.

I'm going to be posting a list of little known or used or understood Google Places Secrets that confuse most who only dabble in the Google Places world, and even some who are claiming to be experts.  The first is the issue of location - where your computer is vs where your business location is, and where your customer base is.  You see, Google knows or thinks it knows where you are.  And when you do a search, it tells you where it thinks you are.  Look at the left hand column and you will see that my computer correctly surmises that I am in Kihei HI.  I'm on vacation, and the computer has communicated with Google that my trusty laptop is now with me on the trip.

Also note that under the City and State, there is a spot where you can "Enter Location."  It is as simple as it appears, you merely enter the zip code or city state you wish to "be in" for purposes of search, and Google will oblige you.

Why would you want to change your location.  Well my vacation example is a good one.  My business is not in Kihei, so if I want to review my ranking under Google Places or the Everything search, I am going to need to change my location to the city or zip code where my store is located.  I can, of course, use a search term such as "marketing consultant los angeles" which will give me geotargeted results.  However, as you undoubtedly know or expect, this will not be the same result as changing your location and using "marketing consultant" as the search term.

You can also use this tool to check the search results for suburbs or zip codes in your service area.  In Los Angeles, a 20 mile radius can include 5 cities or 10 zip codes.  If you are expecting to reach clients beyond your primary city or zip code, you need to know what you are competing with.  Using the location tool will help you get more accurate readings.