Thursday, May 31, 2012

Google Places Serious About No UPS. Wrong Answer to Big Problem

 No UPS Addresses for Google Places or Get Slapped!

Please don't heckle me in the comments that I'm really late to this debate.  I was busy.  But one of my clients is definitely unhappy to lose this method of location selection.  A brief history.  Google Places, back when it was called Google Maps Business Center, was ok with even PO Box listings.  However these quickly became a proscribed address in the written rules.  By leaving out UPS boxes, there was an "assumption" that these were ok.  And to be certain, lots and lots of companies used these locations as legitimate addresses and not so legit.

Because so many so-called locksmiths and others were using UPS locations, Google formally announced they were no longer acceptable.  The rub on this is that plenty of companies run their entire business from a UPS store.  35 years ago, I had a mini storage warehouse and a UPS location to run a $200,000 a month distribution company.

UPS Not A Google Place Anymore
Ok.  So what is happening now is that slowly, but surely, Google is suspending or warning folks to get off the UPS habit or face the consequences.  Some are turning to shared office space, aka virtual offices.  Others are using private mail box centers.  Still others are asking help from friends or relatives to use their home or business addresses.  And there are a few other ideas out there, but I can't share those with you as they are proprietary to my clever clients.

I have stated before that I understand that Google has its work cut out for it in the effort to tell us about every "Place" on earth, and somehow keep out the spammers and scammers.  I think this solution deserves a D grade. 

I have a client who is a personal trainer in Los Angeles.  Her location is in Brentwood, one of the many villages in the City of Los Angeles.  There is also a Brentwood in Northern California.  So if you type in personal trainer Brentwood, you are just as likely to get Norther California as Southern.

To make matters worse, she lives 5 miles from nowhere.  I know that you think Los Angeles is packed really tight, but we have many highlands and rural areas within the city limits.  So she has trouble even ranking for Brentwood.  The real business comes from Personal Trainer Los Angeles or personal trainer Santa Monica.  Now you are dealing with competitive areas, competitive keyword, and her address being far from the center of those cities. 

We've been successful at getting her some decent ranking, but it would have been much easier to get her a UPS box in downtown Los Angeles and another one in Santa Monica. 

Do you have any methods around these rules that you are willing to share?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tips for Google Places and Google Search from the Wall Street Journal

  The Wall Street Journal article that I pointed to the other day offered this succinct set of tips for Google Places Optimization.

Tips for Small Businesses That Count on Google's Search Engine to Survive:

  • Stay informed. Keep track of changes to Google's algorithms by following its Webmaster Central Blog.
  • Content is king. Make sure your website has original and accurate information. Google places the greatest value on sites providing the best possible user experience.
  • Perform check-ups. The search terms users enter most to find your business can change. Monitor traffic from Google regularly using free Webmaster tools and make refinements.
  • Use social media. Post links to content on your site from Twitter, Facebook and other social-media profiles. Your fans may repost the information.
  • Spread your wings. Don't rely just on Google. Look for other ways to attract people to your website, such as by running special promotions or buying ads.
  • Seek help. If your site consistently ranks low, consider having it audited by an expert in search-engine optimization.

I may have already brought this up the other day, but it bears repeating.  Websites now need to be big and well constructed.  In an example where I have created a $3500 website for a client, his Los AngelesMortgage Broker business, he has been able to achieve amazing results in a very competitive area.  Smaller $1000 websites struggle to keep rank in much less competitive situations.
Are you seeing the same thing?

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Google Places Pictures: Idea from New Book

    Earlier I gave a review of this new book on how to set up Google Places and how to create the best chance to get great rankings on Google Places.  Today I want to give you another reason to spend 99¢ and get your Kindle copy of this book.  SEO for Google Places – The Secret To Crushing Your Competition with Local SEO and Google Places offered a few good ideas that I hadn't heard before.

    One of those ideas had to do with the use of the pictures.  I had heard others suggest using the pictures to offer a special offer.  But now came another idea.  Take a snippet of a testimonial, turn it into a picture and put that up.  I think that is a very cool idea to increase conversions.

    That resulted in my own creative juices getting started.  Why not use for other kinds of pitches.  "Lowest prices guaranteed."  "Best Selection in Chicagoland."  "30 Years in Lincoln."  You could do these as power point slides or pdf's.  But you could literally create a sign in the store and then take a picture of it. 

    I have a client with a bike shop in Los Angeles that undoubtedly has the biggest inventory of any bike shop in Los Angeles County.  So there is a great use for the sign. 

    Let me know if you have other ideas of how to use these pictures.  Or send me an example of something that has worked for you.

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    The WSJ has done an outstanding job here of pointing out the scope and consequences of the recent changes by Google search.  If you are in the trenches on this as a consultant or as a business owner, you will get a much better picture of the complexity of the Google Places and Google everything search.

    As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web

    "Keep track of changes to Google's algorithms by following its Webmaster Central Blog. Content is king. Make sure your website has original and accurate information. Google places the greatest value on sites providing the best possible user experience.Wall Street Journal"
    We have employed only white hat approaches at Randy Kirk and Associates up until February of 2012.  In February we experimented with some inexpensive backlinking approaches.  We saw some great improvements until Venice and Penguin hit.  These wiped out our improvements in most cases, but because our underlying work was so strong, none of our clients got truely slapped.
    In fact some clients that are now vying for positions in highly contested territory, like our computer consulting client in LA, are seeing steady major improvements with strong white hat backlinking and citation approaches.
    Tell us about your experiences since these big changes took place?  What new have you learned that is helping you improve your Google Places rankings?

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    How to Set Up and Get Great Rankings on Google Places Book

    Those of us in the Google Places consulting business, and those who read this blog and have decided to set up Google Places and attempt to optimize Google Places all on their own, now have a succinct, if somewhat tame book to help them.  To be honest, I've been planning to write this book for a while, but who has the time?

    First the good news.  SEO for Google Places – The Secret To Crushing Your Competition with Local SEO and Google Places   is well written, easy to follow, and I didn't see any glaring errors.  Therefore if you want to spend $.99 and you have a Kindle, you are set.  I didn't have a Kindle, so I downloaded Kindle for Mac (FREE!), and paid my $.99.  I read the book in about 30 minutes or so.

    Now the not so good news.  It was very, very basic.  You will get far more information reading every article on this blog than you will in the book.  But the book is way, way better organized.  And it is basically free at 99¢.  it is definitely worth that much.  And more.

    There were at least a half dozen things in the book that are not on this blog.  I intend to correct most of those over the next few weeks.  So you may want to get an RSS feed to this blog or merely follow it or my Twitter.  I will, of course, give author James Dreeson full credit each time.

    To be real, he wrote the book to sell his company services, which is why I would have written the book, if I had written the book.  He isn't going to get rich at 99¢ a copy.  And I am happy to help him line up more clients.  He seems to be a solid guy and knows his stuff.  There is so much business to go around that I can't possibly handle it all.

    One of the things I got from the book was a list of great Canadian primary citations.  I have been having a heck of a time getting my limousine service in Toronto to rank.  There seems to be some kind of a glitch.  But having those additional citations should help a bunch. 

    If you haven't bought my latest book yet, it was written for the bicycle business, but you can be sure it will have ideas on every page that will apply to your business.  Find it at

    Local Search and Google Places Domination to Continue As Smart Phones Become Major Source of Information

    Who knew?  Local Google Search including Google Places business listings, Google Maps, and just the emphasis place by Google on local businesses, association, and more now dominate many searches, where just five short years ago, a local business could hardly be found.

    Google Places, Social Authority & Keyword Translation: Tips From ISS London

    "Lisa Myers did a presentation on Google Places from a global perspective. Google Places now operates in over 100 countries and local results have started to dominate listings. With the proliferation of smartphones we'll only see local searches rising ...Multilingual Search"
    I'm not prepared to say that local will grow even more dominent, but clearly this article has it right that with the smart phone taking over, local is forever.  The result is that for some businesses who wish to stretch their territories like a lawyer in Bergen County who may wish to cover all of NJ, the goal is, and will continue to be, elusive.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    How to Rank On Google Places for 100 Keywords or More

     How to Rank on Google Places for Hundreds of Keywords

    Over the past four years or so, I have worked with hundreds of companies who wanted to get to number one on Google Places.  And it would be a breeze if they only wanted to have great ranking for one Google Places keyword.   Fortunately in most cases there are only 2 or 3 keywords combined with two or three cities.  But already you are now up to 9 combinations.  The more keywords, the harder it is to get all of those covered.

    Sometimes, however, the client is in so many critical businesses, but all related, that the list is almost endless.  One example is a audio-visual equipment rental company in Brooklyn,  That's one keyword:  "Audio-visual equipment rental in Brooklyn."  As with any major city, however, the client wants to be found in NYC, Queens, Manhattan, and Long Island.  So each keyword has 5 geo variations.  Now some folks call what he does DJ equipment rentals.  Some call it Sound equipment rentals.  Others call it PA equipment rentals.  Then there are the various products.  An important one is speakers.  Then we get into the brands, such as Technics, Pioneer, Rane, QSC, Mackie, JBL, and Serato.  Within those brands there are models that are very well known like the DJM-800. 

    The question becomes, how does one set all this up so that you can rank for 100 or even hundreds of keyword and geo combinations like speaker rentals nyc.  Especially when many seo articles will tell you that you can only optimize the website home page for five keywords at the most...preferably only one.  For those of you who are loyal followers, I'm going to give away a tightly guarded secret that I'm unlikely to repeat anywhere else on this blog:  The optimization of the website home page rule of five maximum is for national accounts hoping to score the most critical and competitive keywords.  I can show you case after case where my clients are ranking top 1-3 on 20 or more important keywords.   

    Set up the home page with five major headings.  Each of those headings should tackle one major category such as "Sound Equipment Rental Company in Brooklyn Serves NYC, Queens, Manhattan, and Long Island."

    Within the paragraph below cover some keywords regarding speakers, including specific brands and models.  Link some of the keywords to internal pages.  Now repeat with a headline about DJ Equipment.

    At the bottom of the page, set up a 50 word footer.  It should look something like this.  DJ Equipment Rental NYC | DJ Equipment Rental Manhattan | Sound Equipment Rental Queens | Speaker Rentals NYC     And you can set up links on these to inside pages.  You get the idea.

    What does all of this have to do with Google Places.  Google looks at your website and your Google Places listing together to determine what you should be ranked under.  Sure, you want to use these keywords in your categories, descriptions and detail sections.  But you also need to optimize your website.

    Do you use these techniques for multiple keywords?  Do you have other suggestions?


    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Mother's Day, Google Places, and Smart Phones - A New World AGAIN!

    There's a whole new thing you might have heard about it.  You can carry a computer around in your pocket that has more power than a NASA computer did 20 years ago, and can do far more things you really care about.  Oh!  You knew that?  LOL

    I got my IPhone when SIRI became the new buzzword.  I didn't know if I needed an IPhone.  I just knew I wanted one.  Now, I am like the rest of you smart phone owners.  Siri sleeps just inches from my head.  As one pundit reported:  What else do humans possess that is never more than 6" away 23.5 hours a day?

    So Google, always ahead of the pack (not) has finally begun to give merchants a way to create mobile offers online.  This is through Google Places.  You merely sign into your account, go to "offers" and fill in the forms.  NOTE:  Goog says this is free "for now." 

    So I have a client who has a maid service in Cincinnati.  His client is upscale marrieds and single professionals.  Maybe 99% of those have at least one smart phone.  He just started his business  He would love to rank for maid Cincinnati or housekeeper Cincinnati, and we'll get him there eventually.  But in the meantime, he can circumvent the process by offering a coupon or special, like a Mother's Day deal, that will show up on mobile phones. 

    It's brand new.  I haven't even tested it yet.  Just telling you about it early.  Tell me what you think about it.  Have you tried it?  Did anyone call?  Were there any problems with it?

    Saturday, May 12, 2012

    Google Places Reviews Effect More Than Rankings

    Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of how to optimize Google Places or do perfect SEO on our Website, YouTube video, or blog, that we lose sight of the very reason this stuff exists.  There would be no Google Places if there were no customers trying to find your local business online.  So Google places was designed for them, not for you.  Reviews intrigue potential customers and reviews drive decisions.

    Try it yourself.  I did.  Pick any subject you care about.  Google a business that provides goods or services related to that interest.  Quick!  Which business are you going to call?  The one with the cute name?  The one whose listed first?  For many it will be the one with a lot of good reviews.  And for a big percentage of those, it will be about how many stars are lit up, not a detailed look at the content of the reviews.

    This is the biggest no-brainer in the history of man.  Why aren't you spending massive time and energy getting great reviews.  You'll drop $500 to some slick guy on the phone promising you ranking or to get you listed on a bunch of directories.  You'll pay $1000's for a great website.  How much have you paid for Google Adwords?  But, I can assure you that those reviews on Google Places and Yelp are worth more than your great website.  They will find the Google Places listing before they will find your website in most cases.

    For example, my client has a bike shop in Rolling Hills CA, and he is ranked very high on every keyword having Rolling Hills in it.  However, the big population center is Torrance, right next door.  He want a high ranking for bike shop Torrance, bicycle Torrance, and bicycle fittings Torrance.  There are quite a few shops in Torrance, so this is hard.  His website is on page 1, but Google Places is not.  However, when you look at his beautiful stars all lit up and twice as many reviews as anyone on the page, he is going to get a first look. Check him out at

    What is keeping you from getting more reviews?  Have you had a different experience than I have when looking for a supplier?  Tell me about it.  

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    How Long Does It Take to Get Great Ranking on Google Search and Google Places

    The headline blares:  "We will get you page 1 ranking on Google Places in 30 days or your money back!"  And the great thing about this headline is that it is not always a scam.  On a day to day basis, I suspect that I am able to meet that promise at least half the time.  So if this company is any good and is successful on every bakery in Bettendorf Iowa or piano teacher in Culver City CA, they will have 33% really satisfied customers who will recommend them highly.  For those they can't get, like maybe Miami lawyer or Computer Repair Los Angeles, they take the loss if the customer complains, or they talk the client into giving them more money.  Good gig, huh. 

    So how long does it really take to get ranked on page one for Google Search?  How long does it take to rank number one on Google Places?  It is all about competition, and where you are starting.  If you are that Criminal Lawyer in Miami and you're website is five years-old, and you already rank 15 for criminal lawyer in Miami, a good SEO job should get you to page 1 pretty quickly.  Maybe even 30 - 60 days.  But what if you are currently at #500 or even #150.  It might take 120 days or longer to get to page 1.  What about number 1 on the page.  That might take a year for a competitive keyword in a competitive city. 

    What has to be done to achieve these seemingly impossible rankings? 
    • On page SEO has to be great.  Title Tags, Headlines, body copy, footer, links.  
    • White hat back links have to be even better.  BBB, Chamber, AVVO, City Bar, State Bar for lawyers.  Other great links for others.
    • Content on the website well written, original, with citations, pictures, and great navigation.
    • User friendly website that keeps people on board.  Videos, interactive elements, attractive buttons and other elements to keep the visitor involved.
    • Site map well constructed and loaded up to Google Webmaster Tools
    • Constant evaluation of traffic and patterns to improve results.
    What would you add to this list?  Did I get anything wrong?  Have you had any experiences, good or bad, with the folks who offer the guarantees?  Tell me your story in the comments. 

    PS.  If they are all so good, how come I'm at the top of Google Places Expert, and numbers 1, 2, and 3 under secrets of Google Places.

    Google and Panda, Venice, and Penguin Changes - SEO and Google Places Effect

    Since February of 2011 Google has declared all out war on weak content, and has tightened it's localization approach.  Three major algorithm changes with code names of Panda, Venice, and most recently, Penguin, have wrecked more than a few expensive SEO efforts and driven website traffic down by large percentages for those counting on suspect back link campaigns.

    While I have commented on some of this in prior posts, I have been waiting out this most recent Penguin change to see what the impact really was or is.  The last two weeks have seen the return to normal fluctuations in rankings for websites, Google Places and other media.  In fact, it would appear that the various bots are being very, very conservative over that period, with changes given only grudgingly for improvements in content, linking, layout, etc.

    The big takeaway according to almost all pundits that I follow and my own observation:  The White Hat SEO strategies have won, and won big.  In fact, being 100% honest, this is going to be a huge benefit to SEO marketing guys like me.  The $1000 website is history.  The skinny, 3 post a month blog is useless.  The strategic media play is no longer going to provide a good return on investment.

    What will give great ROI online?  Great content, properly optimized, that provides a great user experience.  It will cost more and require more careful execution. 

    Websites and Blogs

    The most immediate and direct effect is on websites and blogs.  I think it isn't that productive to  talk about what won't work anymore.  Rather, the important thing to stress is what Google is going to reward.  Not surprisingly, what Google wants you to put in your website or blog is to provide relevant information, the more and better written the better, outstanding navigation including internal links, and engaging overall presentation that results in a great visitor experience.  They also want the site to load in under four seconds.

    Our clients who have been willing to spend $3000 or more for such content, navigation, and customer satisfaction are finding their rankings solid and improving.  Those clients who have had sites built by others that are templated, lacking in written content, and/or having poor navigation are now having serious traction problems.  Worst of all are those sites that relied on cheap back links to prop them up.

    One such example would be a home remodeling contractor in Dallas that I consult with.  His Google Places ranking is fantastic for keywords like kitchen remodel Dallas or remodeling Dallas.  But because the content of his website is kind of skinny, he has seen slippage of his website at  We are going to add a bunch of new content to the website, and we expect to see it quickly move up in rank.  We also expect that this effort will help already amazing ranking on Google Places. 

    Google Places

    In that Google Places rankings have always been effected by website ranking and content, one would expect these changes to effect Google Places ranking.  Unfortunately it is really hard to track this aspect, since Google Places has had multiple changes in that same period.  We certainly have seen massive shifts in ranking, and many categories are much "cleaner" than they were a year ago.  However, I can't substantiate and direct linkage of Panda and Penguin to Google Places.

    What have you seen?  What impact have the changes had on your site?