Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Second of Ten Google+ Local Optimization Tips You Can Count On

If you didn't read my post on June 25 here http://googleplaceshelp.blogspot.com/2012/06/top-ten-google-local-optimization-tips.html  you may want to go back and read it.  This was the most important aspect of Optimizing your Google Search Effort in the post Panda, post Google+ Google Places merger.   Now we will look at the second most important element that you should be paying attention to.

2.  Quality content is king on Google.  Don't play games with the Goog.  There will always be opportunities to go the black hat route and try to game the system with useless product, useless blogs, spam, scams, and tricks.  And some of these approaches will actually work FOR A WHILE!  If there is one consistent aspect of my experience with the web and Google search over the past almost two decades, it is this.  You will get great long term results if you abide by the rules of fair play and the stated rules of Google.  And the corollary, you will get slapped or worse if you go black hat.

I recently had a potential client ask me about hiding keywords by making them small, black on black, or way down on the page with no continuity.  I couldn't help laugh.  This was smacked by Google 15 years ago. 

Quality content means that it is meaningful to the individual searcher.  They are Google's customer.  If Google doesn't serve them with fantastic content on page 1in ways that are relevant to the keywords that searchers are using, the entire business model fails.

Quality content therefore means that it is original, useful, and well written.  However, that isn't enough.  The content must still be written with search in mind.  You can have the best restaurant in town, but if you locate it in a remote area with no signage or advertising, you will fail.  You can write a Pulitzer Prize worth article, but if there are no keywords, links in or out, or other signals to Google, it will be just one more among millions of articles that are lost forever.

Some who read this might say, "Randy, this is so fundamental, so common knowledge, so common sense."  Well, if it's so common sense, how come there is so much garbage being written, and so much excellent content residing on page 10.  As a researcher I commonly go 10 or more pages deep looking for the gems, and find them. 

Do you think quality content qualifies as the second most critical aspect of Google search optimization after the big merge between Google Places and Google+ Local

If you don't have anyone in your organization that can write content suitable for Google Search, hire someone who does.  We'd be happy to discuss this with you at 310-910-1848.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Top Ten Google+ Local Optimization Tips You Can Count On

As the dust settles on Google's move to create Google+ Pages and merge them with Google Places, there are certain aspects of the effort that we can know almost for certain as to the methods you should be using to get the highest possible ranking on Google search.  I have read hundreds of articles on this subject over the past four weeks and the following is not being reported.

1.  The Google "Web" search is the most important search tool.  Almost all searches by consumers looking for local SMB's (small businesses) providing goods and services are done in the Everything search.  It is the default search, and only a tiny minority of searchers are going to the side bar and choosing Places or Maps for their search.  My best guess that most of those who are using Places or Maps are consultants and small businesses trying to see how they are doing on Places or Maps.

The content on the Google Web Search is blended.  Any type of media can show up in the Everything Search, that is why it has that name.  Over the past month or so, the top 30 ranking has dramatically changed, even though the top ten has not changed very much.  What has changed is that there are less keywords that provide any Google+ Local listing results and some that do now have fewer than before.  The obvious local businesses still generally have seven Google+ Local listings.

Therefore, the number one most important thing to know about optimizing after the Google+ Local decision - Continue to optimize all channels and media with the goal of having a above the fold, page one position on keywords you care about.  That might be a YouTube video, your website, your Yelp Listing, a press release, a blog, or your Google+ Local listing.

Creating quality media content across a huge range of channels has been our headline offering at Randy Kirk & Associates since Local Search began.  We encourage every SMB to create YouTube Videos, great websites, press releases, articles, and blogs.

Next.  What do you think is #2 on the list?  Do you agree with our #1 Optimization tip for Google Search after the Google+ - Google Places merger?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Google+ Local Business Listings and My Emotional Breakdown

I love a challenge.  And I love new stuff.  I should love the change from Google Places to Google+ Local.  Why am I having such a hard time with it?

I was there at the beginning of the internet.  Al baby called to tell me about his cool new invention, and my partner and I (at that time I owned a manufacturing business), knew we would be among the first to have a website on this newfangled thing called the www.

After selling that business almost five years ago, I delved into the exciting new world of local.  Google Local Business Center, Yelp, and others were just fledglings, and any local business had to compete for visibility on the same page with billion dollar corporations for important keywords.  In fact, the factory had sold promotional products where imprinted anything was so competitive that even those huge companies had a hard time getting a spot.  A local distributor?  Forgedaboutit.

When Google Places was announced, I was all over it.  This blog is the most extensive DIY blog on the internet for understanding Google Places.  I don't compare myself to guys like Mike Blumenthal.  His blog is for guys like me, not a local flower shop who barely has time to deal with customers, employees, and suppliers.  This blog was designed to help that flower shop get his Google Places set up and get it right.   I spent 50 hours in April 2010 putting up the first 50 posts and creating 20 YouTube videos to make sure I was the firstest with the mostest.

Two years later we get another major change.  I should be happy.  I spent the 50 hours this time just trying to get my arms around the change.  Am I slowing down intellectually?  Or is it really as complicated as it seems?  Be kind in how you answer that.  I haven't written about Google+ Local in any detail yet.  The early birds have all grabbed the top ten spots on the keywords.

Whine, whine, whine.  Some of you are thinking, "get out of your own way, Randy, and create the next great site."  Easy for you to say.  : /

Well, thanks for listening.  I will be writing about Google +.  I actually like the circles part of it a lot better than Facebook.  Can I say this outloud?  It is just more man friendly.  

Much good has already been written about Google+ Local.  We are already setting up our clients with great Google+ Local Pages.  We are ready to help those clients become active in the social media side of Google+.   Maybe if Google would promise not to make another major change for at least 3 years this time, I'd be more into it.

What do you think about all this?  Are you burned out by Google? 

Now I've gone to ranting.  Check it out via http://www.prlog.org/11948635-google-local-business-page-or-google-places-or-google-maps-local-business-google-expert-rant.html

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Using Video in Post Google Places Era - YouTube and Google+ Local

Google+ Local aka Google Places has eliminated YouTube videos from it's content for the time being.  Don't be misled or concerned.  When Google finalized the merger of Places and Plus, you can be certain that YouTube will be a major player.

First of all, they have just announced with much fanfare that watching YouTube videos could be a grand and fun thing to do in a Google Hangout.  You can automatically record your Hangout sessions and immediately upload them to YouTube, and/or you can stream them through YouTube.

Part of our efforts for clients includes the production of lots and lots of YouTube videos.  We find that this is a great way to get highly ranked for keywords that even a great website can't achieve.  Sometimes we video the owner or staff member explaining products or services, other times we do interviews through Skype.  Sometimes neither option is available and we create our own home made videos.  We have a maid service in Cincinnati who really had no other way to get these done, so we created three videos for them.   http://youtu.be/bjl-_wDnjcE    http://youtu.be/PcdoUidfhvA   and   http://youtu.be/9kTSRO9fEBk

You can easily create videos like this with very little equipment and an editing program like iMovie.  To date we have created approximately 1500 little videos like this for our clients, and many of them bring in more business than the Google Places aka Google+ Local listings.

What has your experience been using videos to get great internet visibility?  What do you expect Google+ Local to do with videos to create better information for the user?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Internet Marketing Secrets - Case Studies Tell All - Nothing Held Back on SEO, SEM, Google Places, Google+ Local

Using YouTube in combination with other channels and social media to quickly create buzz about our client's new Emergency App.

We had never had a client that was more important to our future.  And the product, in this case an App, was such a clear winner that we wanted to make sure that we gave it every possible opportunity for success.  To make the case more interesting, the client had used all his money developing the app and getting it to this point.  So keeping the costs to a minimum was essential.

My Emergency App
The app is called MyEmergencyApp, and rather than describe it in detail here, you can go take a quick look at the concept on the website we created for them at, what else, http://www.MyEmergencyApp.com.

Obviously there is an opportunity to get consumers to download the app.  The client had originally planned to give the app away, and rely on income from advertisers on the app as the only revenue stream.  But everyone agreed that there was great value in the app itself, and so the sell on the app was set at the nominal figure of $1.99.  This established a value proposition, and also allowed for the option of coupons or promotions for discounts or even to make the app free.

The major revenue source was to come from the advertisers on the app.  There are twelve possible advertisers on the app.  Plumbers, locksmiths, urgent care, dentists, emergency hospitals, towing services, roofers, electricians, window repair, garage door companies, and appliance repair service.  We needed to have a method for reaching those potential advertisers.

Our key pitch would be as follows:  These types of businesses rely heavily on Google Places, now known as Google+ Local.  If they aren't highly ranked on the Google Everything Search or the Google Places Search, their phone doesn't ring.  As all marketers know and all emergency service providers know, it cost real time and money to stay highly ranked for these categories. 

MyEmergencyApp would be a work around.  Instead of competing on Google and having to share the space with competitors, the advertiser would have an exclusive spot on an app.  In order to tell that story we created a video that you can watch below or go to YouTube and watch here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIa-W86JOMA . 

So, now we needed to get eyeballs on these videos.  The most obvious way was to send links by email, or just get on the phone and call the companies.  But we wanted some fail safe approaches in case the sales force was not effective.  We wanted clients coming to us, ready to buy. 

We wanted our videos to be highly ranked on YouTube, Google video search, and Google Everything Search for such categories as Locksmith Marketing or How To Market an Emergency Plumber

To do that, we decided to create separate videos for each category.  Here is an example of the one we did for emergency locksmiths.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkY7Hd6IdP4

Once having created these videos, we needed to promote them.  We created a press release at PRlog.org for each one, and did blog posts about them on our various blogs.  We also put the videos up on Daily Motion, Revver, and other sites using different Titles.  With 12 videos, 12 press releases, 24 blog posts, and 120 videos, we felt there was a good chance that the phone would ring.

Our blog posts automatically result in content on all social media, but we supplemented this with additional content about our launch on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+

What do you think about our approach?  What might you have done differently?  Stay tuned.  In a future post we'll let you know the outcome of all this.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Google Places - Google Plus Local Pages Review Process Is Really Slick

While I reported earlier today that reviews would be more difficult to get, they will certainly be easier for one class of reviewer; those that are always signed into their Google Account.  One could surmise that for those who have a Google Plus account it will also be a bunch easier.  Check out the process.

Here is the new view in search when you're logged in to your Google account.  Ok.  Not all the time.  Because things are in flux, you might not see this on every search or the same in every browser.  And it could all look different tomorrow.  So for now:

My client is only in second place here.  Not bad for acting school NYC.  In any case, you'll note some of these show the new rating system, some say they have Google+ page, some only tell how many reviews.  Now, if you click the reviews portion, you go to the rest of the listing.  This is still an oddity to me.  Google makes it very hard for the user to go to the listing.  This is not bad for the business owner, as most active links related to the site take you to the website.

You'll note some rearrangement of things on this listing page.  But in blue, you have the write a review button. 

If you click on the blue button you get this prompt.

After you agree, you are then given a template to prepare your review, and it is then posted to your Google Plus stream.

Over 100 million folks are now members of Google +, but many who signed up have never used it.  This could easily create more usage, which is, of course, something Google is counting on.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Setting Up and Optimizing Google Places After May 30, 2012

What Changes After the Google Plus Local Business Pages Update?  

Setting Up and Optimizing Your Listing on Google Places or Plus

  1. If you are setting up your first location and a brand new business or you are finally claiming a business that is already showing on Google Places, proceed if nothing had changed.  You will go to your Google Account if you have one or set one up if you don't.  You can click on Places and set up your business listing.  Or you can go to Places.Google.com.  Don't bother with videos or posting any news.  These are not operating at this time. 
  2. If you already have a listing, you will still find your analytics and set up page in the same place.  You can make changes, but not much is really working at this time.  So pictures, videos, details are not having any effect.  I think pictures will come back first.
  3. If you have a listing and need to add a new location or another store, the same thing applies.  No real change.  Log in and add a location.
This part of Google is likely to be very fluid.  So you may want to subscribe to this blog for updates.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Google+ Plus Local Pages aka Google Places aka Google Maps Local Business Center aka Google Maps

Game Changer:  Google Plus Local Pages Is the New Home of Google Places Business Listings

Biggest Effect is on Reviews - No More Red Stars All Lit Up

What is Google thinking?  They are barely getting traction on the brand, Google Places.  Now they will change it to Google Plus Local or Google Plus Pages or Local Google Plus Pages.  For all of the size, scope and profitability of Google, you'd think they could afford the very best brand managers.  But somehow in the course of creating and establishing the tool/product which could eventually be a massive income producer, Google seems changes the name every two years.  And even then, there is tons of confusion over the actual brand name.

Can you imagine GM changing its brands every two years?  How about Apple?  Is it a MacBook Pro or Pro MacBook?  Never!  To make matters worse, the search aspect of this tool also gets changed weekly, making it a constantly ticking time bomb for local businesses who certainly might appreciate that the service is free, while at the same time curse the roller coaster ride.

The announcement earlier this week that Google Places will be no more, but will be moved and integrated into Google+ was deemed an important news story.  But in the world of internet marketing, it was just another whipsaw in the game of staying up with the critical category of local SEM or Search Engine Marketing for SMB or Small Businesses.

This particular change was quite shock, but most businesses woke up the next morning to find that their Google Places Listing hadn't changed a lot in position or ranking on the default Google Everything Search compared to the day before.  In fact, as of today, the search options on the Google Search Page still offers "Places."  And with quiet calm the leadership at Google suggested that local businesses needn't panic.  Do they understand that a 10% drop in business during this economy can wipe out profits and even the owners take home pay?

Clearly just one element of the change could cost many business owners that very 10%.  Smart local businesses have been working hard at generating reviews on Google Places.  These reviews used to offer a fantastic rewards when the SMB reached five reviews.  Their stars would light up bright red on their listing.  These stars were clearly a big conversion factor.  Many consumers would simply look at the companies that had the stars, see how many were lit on a scale of five, then make a phone call.

But in a major turn, those reviews are now on a scale of 30 similar to Zagat, a restaurant directory and review site bought out by Google in 2011.  The scores no read  16/30 or 25/30 which while still helpful, can't compare to those red stars.

Google now has four ways for consumers to find local businesses.  The default way is a Google Search on the Everything Search which is a blended search.  This may include websites, other directories, videos, social media updates, news, products pictures and pricing, and any other media type that Google includes in search.  As of now, there is still a Places Search.

There is also a Map search which when the keywords being used are relevant to a small local business, will return somewhat of the same result as the Everything or the Places search results.  Now added to these methods is a "local" link on the Google + page.  If a Google+ user clicks on this, they are immediately provided with a seemingly random group of businesses in the geographic area of the user.  Only time will clear up how those listings get to that spot.
 Personal Local Search Option on Google Plus

This local search area within Google +  has the common type and location fields where the user can indicate Italian Restaurant in Chicago, and they will be provided a list of businesses meeting that description.  Ranking in this personal search engine within Google + may be using the same algorithm as the old Google Places, Maps, or who knows?

To make all of this substantially more interesting, any and all of these searches will be effected by your own previous searches, and if you are using Google +, it will also have social signals from those who are in your Google + Circles.  In other words, when a consumer does a search for Italian Restaurant, they will get a result that is skewed by any previous actions you have taken relevant to the search for Italian Restaurants, and if one of your friends has visited an Italian Restaurant and reviewed same, that will also show up in your search.
Note: Red Stars Are Gone.  27/30 Is the New Rating Method

Which brings us back to reviews.  Reviews will no longer be created in a special review page, but will now need to be created as a post on the consumer's Google + account.  This is a fantastic way to insure less fraud in the reviews, as the reviewers will now all be identifiable.  At least the shop owner will know the nasty review was his ex girlfriend.  On the other hand, it will make it substantially harder in the short term to get reviews, as the reviewer must have a Google+ account.  These are easy enough to set up, but it is just one more hurdle for the business owner when trying to persuade his best clients to review him.

These are the big changes for now.  There are other changes having to do with the way the public can change the information, pictures and such on the listing, the look of the actual listing, and more.  Is this a cause for panic or alarm to a local business owner?  Only if they have come to rely on Google Places for revenue.  Is this a major opportunity for those same business owners to get out ahead of the new developments and find ways to outgun the competition in Google+ land?  Absolutely.

What is your take on all this?  Has it effected your business?  Any thoughts on what might happen next?

Google Places Pictures: How to Get More Than 10 Pictures on Google Places

Would You Like to Have More than Ten Pictures on Google Places? 

For some business owners, trying to figure out how to get 10 pictures on Google Places is a strain.  They already have a picture of the store, one of Ma, and one of the front desk.  What else can you think of to put up there.  

First let's address the case of the owner who has many product lines, designs, food choices, or some other reason why ten would be a starting point, not the end point.  How can you get past the magic 10 allowed by Google.  According to author James Dreeson who wrote

SEO for Google Places - The Secret to Crushing Your Competition with Local SEO and Google Places [Kindle Edition]

the answer is to call in your friends.  They can add pictures to your site as customers or just part of the crowd that is helping Google be complete.  Imagine a bike shop in Orange County California, like my client at A Road Bike 4U.  He carries about 30 different models of bikes from 5 different brands, and those are just road bikes.  That doesn't count the potential for putting up pictures of his state-of-the-art interior or his hi-tech professional bicycle fitting room.


Friday, June 1, 2012

10 Tips on Google Places Reviews: Critical, But Don't Go Fake

 Fake Reviews a NO NO on Google Places

Most of the business owners that I talk to are so worried about rank that they fail to consider the critical  issue of reviews and the huge impact on their business.  So here begins a series on Google Places reviews.  For the first one, let's give a hat tip to Michael Bloomenthal, the head guru of all gurus on the Google Places subject. 
Eric Goldman of te Technology & Marketing Law reports out a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling that upheld a jury award of $150,00 against an ex-partner that wrote 3 fake reviews on Yahoo & Google about his former business. The ruling should cause competitors leaving fake reviews to take note as it substantially eases the burden on the defamed business to not have to demonstrate direct losses (which is impossible on the interent).
 How many ways can we create a mess or be the victim of a mess created by fake reviews?  Let me count the ways.
  1.  Don't create fake reviews for your own listing.  You can certainly get real clever and use all kinds of methods to fool Google, but WHY?  Ask your best customers, suppliers, and associates to write the reviews.  They will sound more real, and they will not be a cause for a problem down the road.
  2. Don't write reviews on your competitors.  Don't ask others to write slamming reviews on your competitors.  You will open yourself up to the law of retribution and karma.  You can just count on the fact that this will end badly.  Not to mention that you may lose privileges if you get caught.  Or, how about the lawsuit above that might cost you BIG money.
  3. If a competitor, disgruntled ex-employee, competing supplier, or other individual who is not a customer, writes a negative review about you, you do have recourse.  A.  Most directories offering reviews also provide a way to complain that a revue is inappropriate.  Start there.  B.  If there is the slightest chance that the reviewer will back down, give them a shout and try to be reasonable.  Don't make idle threats or even threats you intend to carry out.  Take the high ground.  C.  If the information rises to libel, have your attorney write them a letter.  D.  Yelp and Google Places both allow you to respond to all reviews.  Do so with dignity.  Your clients aren't interested in your war.  They are interested in how you handle yourself under duress.
Have you had issues with fake reviews?  What were the results?  Any advice you'd like to share?

Randy Kirk and Associates provides a robust effort in reputation management for its clients.  If you have need of responding appropriately to bad reviews, give us a call at 310-910-1848