Monday, February 27, 2012

Why You Need a Google Places Expert as Explained by a Google Places Expert

A Google Places Expert Tells Why Every Small Business Owner Should Hire a Google Places Expert

I am educated as an attorney.  In fact, I have a law degree from UCLA, which when I graduated, was the 10th best law school in the US.  When I make minor legal decisions, I generally count on my own knowledge.  However, it is a true statement that "a lawyer who has himself as a client, has a fool for an attorney."

I would say that for almost all small business owners today, the decision to go it alone on internet marketing, and especially Google Places, would render the owner of that business the same distinction as the above attorney.  Here's why?

1.  Most Google Places Experts can be hired for $100 an hour or so.  Their knowledge should allow them to create the correct optimization of Google Places many times faster than the business owner.  So, lets say that the cost would be $800 total.  If it takes the business owner 40 hours to do the same work, he is paying himself $20 an hour.  If your time is only worth $20 an hour, go to work for someone instead of risking your time and treasure on your own business.

2.  You cannot possibly keep up on changes in Google Search or Google Places.  You can see from this blog that we are experts in Google Places.  We spend hours per week researching, analyzing, and working in the Google Places world.  If you are doing the same effort, you are taking those hours away from the proper management of your enterprise.  Use your time to improve elements of your business that are in your own area of expertise.

3.  You will undoubtedly get it wrong at some point.  Google Places Black Hat methods or just plain wrong methods can get you punished severely.  Any such bad decision that gets you suspended or ranked on page 2 or 3 or worse, can end up costing you $1000's of dollars in lost sales.

4.  The ROI on an expert job on Google Places is huge.  How long will it take to get back your $800 if the phone starts ringing more?  Two days?  A week?  A month?  Sure, you can't pay the $800 and then not have some maintenance, but I'm going to suggest that paying $800 a month will still give you a huge return. 

We at Randy Kirk and Associates charge $845 a month.  But you get Google Places Expert direction and execution, plus a huge list of other marketing help.  Would you pay $845 for five professional YouTube videos?  We include 5 per month in our offer.  Would you pay $150 or more per month to have someone manage your email campaigns?  Included.  Would you pay $500 a month to have someone set up and manage your blog, FB, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn?  Included.  Would you pay $3000 a month for a comprehensive marketing consulting firm to address the full range of your marketing needs?  Included.  And there is back link support, SEO for your website, citation support, press releases, and the list goes on.  All for $845 a month. 

For some of you, one extra customer per month would cover that entire investment.  For others it might take 10.  And the coolest part of all.  Almost everything we do for you is permanent.  Not like Yelp or YP or PPC or Print advertising.  Your YouTube videos, blog posts, Google Places and more will still be sending you business years from now.

Call me.  Randy Kirk.  310-910-1848

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Google Places Plusbox + Now Back as Reported by Blumenthal

Mike Blumenthal reports and shows that the Plusbox.  Read the entire post to get the best possible understanding of the current state of flux on Google Places and this specific feature.  But here is the salient paragraph:
The PlusBox has always gotten its geo clues from a range of sources but it often appeared to be most influenced by website associated with a geo location rather than the Places Dashboard. It makes sense, if you want it to show, to be sure that your site gives the Google bots as many geo signals (kml files, rich snippet address formatting, location specific pages, geo rich contact us and about us pages, claimed listing) as possible. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on a KML file and geositemap as a very trusted signal but there are likely multiple signals that Google can use to generate the result.
 The picture on this page is also from the Blumenthal blog.  As always, a major HT to Mike for all he does for this category.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Google Places Is Important for SMB. Yelp, Facebook, Too! But . . .

Google Places Is Important for Small Business (SMB)! Yelp, Facebook, YouTube and Blogging too!  But….  

it is important to remember that even today more than half of all your new business and referrals are probably coming from traditional, other-than-online, marketing methods.  Print advertising, catalogs, tradeshows, in-store promotions, cross promotions, promotional products, outdoor signage, and many more traditional methods are still creating huge ROI for almost every kind of small business.

Add to that list:

1.  Hiring, training, and motivating of salespeople in the shop, in the field, and over the phone is a major part of most small businesses today. Getting this right can commonly be significantly more important than your ranking on Google places or how well your Facebook page is doing.  Getting it wrong can be a major disaster.
2.  Customer service is reigning supreme.  Why even spend time and money getting new clients if your employees are driving them away with bad attitudes or rude behavior.
3.  Brand and product selection, packaging, display, and in store signage is yet another part of the basics of marketing that may be getting overlooked. Are you offering high button shoes in a Nike world?
4.  Cost of goods or services, on time delivery, inventory control, turns are all a part of marketing.  While you are having fun figuring out how to get more Likes and G+, and followers, you can be losing money because your retail, wholesale or manufacturing warehouse has become a museum.
5.  Community involvement can be your number one source of new customers.  For local product and service providers, active participation in the chamber, rotary, LeTip, Boy Scouts, Little League, etc., can result in so much community good will that you never have to advertise at all.

This post is not designed to dissuade you from the importance of the online world, but rather to refocus your attention on things not internet.  By the way, my company can help with all of the above.  Call anytime at 310-910-1848.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Was My Business Suspended on Google Places?

One of the most important frequently asked questions we get at Randy Kirk and Associates is "I've been suspended from Google Places, now what do I do?" or "they've taken down all my listings on Google Places, what do I do?" I have clients or people that call me on the phone that have multiple locations. Sometimes those locations are real brick and mortar places where they have real business going on.  Sometimes those locations are UPS boxes or faux offices. But whatever they are, as long as they are legitimate locations, you should be able to maintain multiple locations without being suspended.

I have people with multiple locations that get suspended, and I also have people with individual locations that get suspended.  Typically, you're going to get suspended because you're doing something black hat; black hat approaches such as using a location that isn't real. Black hat might be using a name that isn't real or not the real name of your business.

So let's say the name of your business really is "Joe's Pizza," but you put "Joe's Pizza of Downtown Long Beach Serving Wine and Cheese" in order to try and get a lot of keywords. You can't do that unless you want to risk suspension.  You need to use the real name of your business. Sometimes you can throw in one more keyword without getting caught. Maybe you shouldn't do that either.  Maybe you should change the name of your business if you care enough about those keywords. But that's a good reason why you might be suspended.

You might also be suspended because you're using an inappropriate phone number in order to do tracking. You can't do tracking with Google Places. Your phone number needs to be the same on Google Places as it is on your website, and the same one should be used on your Yelp! and your Twitter and your Facebook. The same phone number needs to be used everywhere or you could end up being suspended by Google.

There's also things that you can do within your setup that might cause suspension. Your description might overuse certain keywords or use lots of capitals or do other things that Google doesn't like, and some of those are described in their rules. You might also do something wrong in your categories. I see a lot of folks trying to add their city to the category. So if your category is bakery, you can't put "bakery Diamond Bar." You have to just put "bakery." If you add the city, you have the potential to be suspended.

Be sure that you aren't doing the things that Google specifically says you shouldn't do. And then, as I say to so many folks, if you think it might be black hat, it probably is, so don't do it. If you're really unsure, and you think it's in the grey area, call me. I'll be happy to spend a minute with you on the phone and we can discuss whether what you want to do is black hat or not. We can help you get unsuspended. It's possible that even if you've been completely kicked off we can get you started over again. It's a much more difficult process than you probably want to tackle on your own, but once you're suspended, we can take a  look, and we can get in there and we can usually fix 100% of whatever is going on.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Google Places Has My Listing All Screwed Up - Can You Help Me?!

My Google Places Listing is Gone.  My Google Places Reviews Are Gone.  Google Has Messed Up  Google Places Listing

I only work with about 100 clients per year, so my total exposure to Google Places is not statistically significant for making pronouncements about the details.  Between my own experience and reading and discussing with other pundits, I know the trends and the latest developments, but the details is another thing. 

Here is a detail that might be due to just the fact that I'm getting more total calls, but I don't think so.  Google seems to have been creating a lot of messes lately.  My incoming calls are now almost all:  "Help! My Google Places Listing ....." Reviews gone, reviews going to duplicate listings, removed listings populating new listings with old information, and many, many more such nonsense. 

To be honest, it isn't always Google's fault 100%, but sometimes it really is.  I hear reports that Google is getting better at solving these through the various help resources, but most DIY business owners aren't even able to get to the point in the analysis where they can ask the right question. 

Currently I'm trying to help folks under my normal fee structure, but I know others consultants have found they need to charge $1500 minimum or $300 an hour to chase these problems down.  I'm hoping to keep my rates more reasonable.  Yes.  I can help.

Citations Rule On Google Places Ranking Results Says Google Places Expert

Rank At the Top on Google Places.  Citations Are the Answer

Just got through reading a 3 1/2 year old post by David Nihm, one of the top guru's of the game.  In the post and the dozens of comments to follow, he made the claim that citations a major ranking factor in Google Places.  He noted, and I agree with him, that citations are to local ranking what back links are to national ranking.  A lot has happened since May of 2008.

One of the major changes has been that Nihm and other pundits relegated citations to the "if you have the time" category of ranking factors for Google Places in their May 31 2011 report.  It is the humble opinion of this Google Places expert that Citations are once again a major ranking factor for Google Places.  For all of the reasons sited in 2008 and more, this is the best way for Google to determine the relevance, reality, and importance of one local business vs another.  It won't stop spam, but it will up the ante on getting high rankings if you aren't a real business or if your address is a vacant lot.

And, in fact, it may be the very return to citations that has helped the locksmiths and emergency plumbers get back their rightful standings.  It may explain why Google no longer shows the citations on your Google Places Listing for the whole world to see.  It may explain why some businesses who have not even claimed their listing, who are not near the city center, and who have no reviews rank higher than some well optimized listings.

So, go get those citations.  Sorry to say this, but finding citations is an art all in itself.  This might be the biggest boon to consultants ever.  I will be posting some of the methods in future posts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Business Blog Webinar Free - Feb 21, 1:00 PST

 Of all the various ways that you can increase your visibility online, none is quite as overwhelming to most folks as blogging.  Raise your hand if your favorite class in school was composition.  LOL.

Now you can learn to blog to help your small business grow.

Since it is harder than Facebook or Twitter (easier than YouTube, but maybe not as fun), blogging is the last thing many small business owners do.  BUT, as of 2012, it has become the 4th most important things you should be doing.  Here are the priorities:

1.  Fantastic Website, fully optimized, with great action items, and updated often.
2.  Major directory campaign including Google Places, Yelp, etc.
3.  YouTube videos
4.  Blog

The good news is that the results will be measurable and that blogging is easier than it looks.  Sign up today for a webinar on Feb 21 at 1:00 PST that will take you step by step through the process and show you how you can generate 3000 page views per month in as little as 5 hours work per month.

What is Google Places? If You Are a SMB, You Need to Care

What is Google Places?

You have come to the right place for the answer to the question What is Google Places.  As far as I know there is no other site on the internet that gives a more fundamental and foundational understanding of the issue What is Google Places.  There are plenty of sites like Mike Blumenthal's that are outstanding for pundits and experts to find out the tiniest details of how Google Places works.  Unfortunately, in order for them to be useful for the trained experts, they become hard to understand for the business owner or manager who can't devote countless hours to the subject.

But if you are just an average guy or gal trying to find your way through the maize, we answer the question What is Google Places for folks like you.  Layman's terms, videos, tutorials, pictures, and step-by-step instructions.  Google Places doesn't even provide this service.  And it is all free.  What you can find on this site.

    1.    How to get a Google Account.
    2.    What Google Accounts you shouldn't use for your Google Places Listing
    3.    What to do about your business name.  Should you change it?
    4.    What is NAP, and why must it be the same across the entire internet?
    5.    What is a citation, and why does it effect your ranking
    6.    Why the Google Everything Search is the important place to rank
    7.    How to get top rankings on the Google Everything Search
    8.    How to get more reviews and get your review stars lit up
    9.    How your website effects your Google Places ranking

And more and more and more and more.  You can get a book on this subject and it will not be as detailed, easy to read or up to date.  You can pay a consultant to help you, but how will you know who to hire?  There are plenty of really bad SEO consultants out there.  Of course, if you need help, you could always hire a trusted source who clearly shows they know their stuff.  WHO could I be talking about?  : )

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 2012 Google Places Set Up and Optimization Update from Google Places Help Blog

Are you Setting Up Google Places Listing in February 2012?

For Google Search and Google Places Local Business Directory Listings, the operative word is change, and the chances are good that anyone who owns a small business that depends on Google Places and the Google Everything Search for its very existence, paying consultants like me is going to be a way of life.

In the past 90 days I have seen one of my clients in an extremely competitive category in a huge metro area, go from #3 on Google Everything and #1 on Google Places to off the page entirely, and then back again to #1 on Places.  However, now that he is #1 on Places again, there are three websites ranking above Places on the everything page, giving him a 4th place overall just barely above the fold. 

But to shore up my client's situation, we added backlinks to his website, citations in general, and worked hard get some more reviews.  We are constantly blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, and creating YouTube videos.  The client is very happy, because in an industry especially hard hit by the recession, his phone is ringing like crazy.

On another front, I've owned the search term Google Places Optimization for a long time.  But I owned the top spot using a press release from  But got hurt with the Panda change last year.  At first, I kept my spot., but then it started to slip.  With some hard work, I now own  How to Optimize Google Places Listings, and every shorter version of that phrase.  And I own the top spot with a blog post. 

Would you want to hire someone to get you top rankings for Google Places or for a critical search like Google Places Optimization who was ranked lower than me, or who wasn't even on the first page? 

But I know some of you would rather do it yourself.  So, I will continue to help you through this blog.  My personal suggestion is that you do as I am do.  I pay other people to do my own seo, my own social media, and my own websites.  I'm too close to it, and I can pay others much less per hour than I charge for my personal time. 

    ✓    What should you do right now if you are still doing it yourself.
    ✓    Change your website content.  Refresh it. 
    ✓    Make sure your Website SEO is amazing, and that your NAP is on every page. 
    ✓    Create at least 5 - 10 backlinks per month. 
    ✓    Get on every possible directory, yp, and listing you can find. 
    ✓    Put videos and pictures on your Google Places listing. 
    ✓    Set up all social media, including Google +, and actively add content.
    ✓    Create YouTube videos and a great YouTube Channel. 
    ✓    Then put those videos up on all the other sites like Vimeo and DailyMotion.
    ✓    Make sure everything you do like this has best possible SEO and SEM methods. 
    ✓    Don't do anything black hat.  If you think it is black hat it probably is.  If you want to be sure, email me or leave a comment.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Google Places vs Yelp - How The Battle Effects Your Small Business

I would not have predicted this.  It seemed that Google Places had all the ammo, the money, the power.  But possibly it was the fear of the Feds and a potential claim of anti competitive advantage that caused Google to pull way, way back.  The big winner in all this has been Yelp.  Combined with the seeming glee that the Yelp reviewers get from admiring their favorite shopping haunts and destroying those who don't treat them right, many of my clients are now more concerned about Yelp than Google Places. 

Yelp now has higher placement on many "Everything Page" searches than the Google Place listings.  Moreover, Google Places isn't always showing on obvious searches for what would be local businesses.  Therefore Yelp owns those pages along with other YP's and directories.

To make matters a lot worse, Siri is favoring Yelp over Google Places on iPhone search.  No clue at this time what Google can do about that.  As a iPhone user, I don't want Yelp results as they are not nearly as accurate as Google Places.  But my concern probably won't change anything.

And last, Yelp has more reviews that Google Places and they don't seem to be losing the race at this time to maintain that lead.  Their reviews tend to be much more detailed and interesting.  Possibly do to the fact that the environment is more fun and interesting.

Google probably has an answer to all of this, and there is no doubt that your website and your Google Places ranking are still more important than Yelp.  But keeping your Yelp site up and making sure your reputation is excellent at both Yelp and Google Places is critical.