Believe it or not, Google has done it again. Just when Raleigh-Durham businesses were getting comfortable with local search, Google flipped everything on its head with the introduction of Place Search.
"We're introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world's information around places. We've clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go". - Google Blog, October 28
Seven Changes to Google Search
Elimination of the 7-Pack Google Map listing
Ranking algorithm for local listings have been updated
Google Places pages have greater visibility in new search result layout
Local results surrounded by more information like including 3rd party review sites
Information is grouped conveniently to make it easier to digest and compare
New link for "Places" in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want
Google map now on the right side above the paid search listings, which scrolls as you scroll down the page
Google is Building in Local Web Intelligence
A Google Place Search result will begin appearing automatically on Google when they predict you're looking for local information. Their goal is make it faster and easier for searchers to find the local information they are looking for that will ultimately help them decide where they want to go. For example, if you live in Raleigh, NC and you are searching a Raleigh roofing company or a public golf course in the Raleigh-Durham area the results should be better at producing search results that are more relevant for you location.
What this Means for Local Businesses in Raleigh-Durham, NC
If you are a business doing business locally and are search engine optimizing your products and services using local Raleigh area keywords, the new Google Places Search will definitely impact how your business offerings appear in the organic listings. It is important for you to be well educated on the changes being made by Google. Local businesses must understand what they need to do to ensure their local listing is optimized effectively. Doing it right can have a very positive impact for local businesses.
Special Webinar: How Google's New "Place Search" Feature Impacts Your Business - Learn to Stay Competitive
Think about everything you do from an advertising perspective. Think about what your competition is doing. Think about advertisements that you see for any business. Don’t the majority of them refer people to the company website?
It doesn’t matter if it is offline or online advertisement:
TV commercials, radio spots, newspaper ads, direct mail, yellow page listings, billboards, business cards, and brochures
In most advertising campaigns they all have links or should have links to your company’s website.
A huge percentage of consumers go to company websites before making a buying decision. Your website needs to be easy to find and once found it needs to represent your business well. Placing your website URL in all of your advertising media is a best practice for driving qualified traffic to your website and improving the overall effectiveness of your entire marketing campaign. But does your website represent your business well or does it turn people away?
If your website is the hub of your advertising spend it needs to be worthy of being the center of attention.
Is it designed to represent your business visually?
Does it enhance your reputation?
Is it easy to navigate so your prospects and clients can easily find what they are looking for?
Is the content compelling enough to drive calls to action?
Not having your website URL in all of your ads will certainly hurt the effectiveness of your overall marketing mix. However, if you can’t honestly answer yes to all of the questions above your website is not worthy of being the center of your advertising universe. In fact, it can negatively impact your return on investment for your entire marketing budget.
The sights, colors, sounds and graphics offered by video truly have a positive impact. The combination of visual and audio elements as found in videos leads to recall of 50% of delivered information versus only 10% recall of information that is read.
Video can provide a big boost in your website search engine optimization (SEO) efforts
Videos can be optimized to show up in the search engines for keywords critical to your business success. The Forrester Group says videos are 50x more likely to be on page one of Google and other search engines as compared to other materials found on the Internet.
Web videos are affordable to develop and offer more flexibility than TV ads
The price of developing an online marketing video is comparable to producing a local cable television commercial. However, with web videos you don’t have to buy the expensive impression-based airtime. Web videos are not restricted to 30 seconds so you can tell a better story about your business.
Internet videos do not require interrupting your target audience
Watching television is a passive activity. Viewers are not actively seeking your business and they must be interrupted to hear your message. When you advertise on TV you are hoping some small percentage of viewers watch your ad need your offerings. Even if they are interested they probably go to the Internet to see what you are all about. If they don’t find you they’ll use your competition.
A well-produced and optimized web video can more effectively communicate your message because the average viewer is far more interested in hearing your message. With the internet they are actually looking for your service or product. If somebody searches for “Dog Boarding Raleigh NC” they are probably very interested in finding dog boarding services in Raleigh, NC.
Web videos can be used and promoted in many different ways
Your business video can be placed on your website. Your video can be optimized with your business key words and descriptions to improve your SEO efforts.
In addition to your website, your video can be distributed via your social media network, in email links to potential clients and on other popular websites like Google Maps.
An unprofessional video on your website can hurt your brand image
A poorly produced business video creates a poor image of your business. Just like misspelled words in a brochure reflect poorly on a business, the same is true if you have bad lighting, sound, or composition in your commercial web video. Professional editing is critical to creating a video with a professional image. Selecting the right scene transitions, perfect timing, and well-placed, appropriate music make all the difference. This is your online image, you want your video to be dynamic and captivating!
The term, “search engine optimization” is often referred to as an acronym, “SEO.” When executed correctly, a well-researched SEO web site will generate massive amounts of traffic. However, if you’re not familiar with SEO tactics and you do something incorrectly with your web site, you could get penalized by the search engines and that would mean diminished traffic to your site.
To help you not make those newbie-type mistakes, this article attempts to give you several fast track lessons of what not to do.
If you’re not using a site map to inform the search engines of what’s included on your site, make sure you don’t link many lines of hyperlinked keyword phrases in the footer of your web site, especially if each of those linked pages contains less than 300 words of fresh content. Pages without sufficient content stand a chance of not getting indexed.
It’s a tedious task, but it’s important that you don’t forget to check the internal and external links to your site. If your hyperlinks are broken or do not point to a live web page, it’s very common that your site will not get indexed into the search engines.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your SEO efforts is to skimp on web content on your pages and to display mainly banners, affiliate links, or pay-per-click advertisements. The search engines will not deem your site as helpful to visitors if all that’s displayed in 90 percent of adverts rather than written content that will help the customer.
When you do not work at getting back links from high page ranking sites that contain the same keyword that’s included in your HTML source code, the value of your site sinks rapidly.
Do not try to manipulate the keywords on your web site to get more recognized hits by using a famous person’s name or a product’s brand name when the products or services you offer have nothing to do with famous people or products. Google especially looks down on that type of misrepresentation.
Be careful with your page’s naming conventions. Avoid using abbreviations, shortened versions of words, or words that don’t pertain to the content or products on a specific page. For example, if your page is about golf lessons, then create a web page with the name: golf-lessons.html rather than lessons.html.
The secret with e-mail marketing is to not blast out announcements every day or several times a week, otherwise your customer will unsubscribe from your list because you’re contacting them too often.
Make sure to put your company’s name or the name of your product in the subject line so your potential customer doesn’t delete your message before reading it. Let’s face it, with all the unsolicited e-mail that jumps into our Inboxes at all hours of the day, you’re hard pressed to quickly decide what you read and what you delete.
That’s why it’s important not to use the “bait-and-switch” tactic of tricking your customer into opening your e-mail based on a curious subject, only to find that you’re just trying to sell them the next latest and greatest tool, software, or package that everyone else is promoting.
You don’t want to lose credibility with your customers, either through your initial e-mails or when communicating with them six months later. Consider it a privilege if you have customers on your list that signed up more than three months prior if you frequently send out sales messages. That means they trust you.
Most e-mail marketing companies that offer autoresponder accounts give you the option (and some companies make it mandatory) for the new customer to complete a double-opt-in process. That just means that after they fill in your form with their e-mail address, they will receive a confirmation e-mail that requires them to click a link, which says that they have willingly given you their e-mail address and they’re eager to receive additional messages from you.
So today you’ve learned quite a bit about e-mail marketing, but perhaps your head is spinning with uncertainty about all this information. If this is you and you would rather hire someone to do your e-mail marketing promotions, you can outsource those tasks to freelancers or to other business professionals who can write the e-mails for you in such a way that customers click the links and buy your products.
By choosing to hire out this aspect of your business, you can dedicate more time to other areas that will be more productive than handling all the administrative tasks. Besides, whatever amount of money you pay someone to handle this for you, it’s usually recouped with one or two sales on your web site. That makes it much more attractive when you think in terms of the return on your investment.
Whether you’re working a physical trade show in a distant city, or you’re selling your products or services through an online store, the goal is always the same: get the person’s name and e-mail address so you can sell them your products and services after they’ve left the area. Once that’s accomplished, you can send them e-mail marketing promotions and varied information whenever you choose to do so.
What is e-mail marketing then? Used correctly, it is the most often overlooked advertising tool that quietly gives your customers product news, information, and sales offers before anyone else learns about them, and all your customer had to do was give you their e-mail address.
If you’ve ever purchased something online from a large, well-known company, they most likely have asked for your e-mail address so they could notify you about your product’s shipping status. Then shortly thereafter, you opened your Inbox and found a sales brochure from them announcing an e-mail only special price event on similar products to the one you just purchased.
Brick-and-mortar stores do the same thing by alerting you of an in-store special deal that is not advertised through print media. It’s one way that the company is able to thank you for your business by telling you about special sale items that the public is unaware of.
E-mail marketing service companies continually test and re-test their advertising offers. One of the published results is that it takes an offer being placed in front of a customer between five to seven times before the customer makes a purchase.
So it is true for small businesses as well. If you never offer your web visitor a chance to learn about your special offers, it is very unlikely that you will see that customer again. But capture their e-mail address and periodically send out a message or a broadcast announcing a special deal or money off a certain product, and your chances of making a sale have just increased substantially.
This is part three of a five part series on search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization includes five key areas of work – keyword research, website conversion architecture, on-site optimization, off-site optimization and ongoing website analytics.
Part Three: On-Site Search Engine Optimization
After completing a page-by-page keyword research analysis and setting your website up to better convert visitors into business opportunity, you are now ready to begin the search engine optimization (SEO) process. There are two key areas of activity to consider in SEO:
Today’s blog will focus on preparing your website for visits from the search engine spiders.
Why is on-site search engine optimization important?
On-site SEO helps the search engines determine the relevancy of your website’s individual pages to your targeted keywords. To win the SEO battle versus your competitors it is very important to use and identify your primary keyword on each page. Your keyword needs to be used in the Meta tags, the pages headline statements and highlighted via bullet points, italics, bolded or underlined. In addition, you should use your keywords in hyperlinks to other pages on your site. Proper keyword density also plays a role. All of these activities help the spiders to determine what your pages are about and to index them for the right keywords.
Key elements to consider as you optimize your website?
Here are some of the more important elements to work on as you do your on-site optimization:
Developing strong Meta tags (which are placed in the source code) for each website page is a big first step. The search engines look at your Meta tags to determine what your page’s content is going to be about. It is important to have your primary keyword in the title, description, header and other tags. Google no longer looks at the keyword tags.
SEO friendly content also needs to be developed. It is important to have your primary keyword for the page in your pages headlines. You should also put your keywords in:
Bold, italics and/or underline
Hyperlinks to internal or external web pages
Keyword density also plays a role. Ideally, your keyword density should be around 4-7% of the total words on your page. Another rule of thumb is to include your keyword one time in each paragraph.
o In addition to putting emphasis on keywords, internal hyperlinks also help search engine spiders to crawl and index pages of a website. Internal links help in creating a strong architectural platform for navigating the site.
XML sitemaps are an easy way for website owners to let the search engines know about pages on a site that are available for indexing. You can then go to the various search engines and submit your sitemaps.
Your sites navigation structure should keep all important pages within two clicks of the home page. Deeper pages are less likely to be found and indexed.
Accomplish the above tasks and your site will be ready to impress the search engines spiders as they crawl around. However, over the years a second element has gained vital importance in deterring your position in the search engines. How many links do you have coming in from external websites? In other words...off-site SEO.
Here is a list of free RSS feeds where you can submit your blogs, dynamic content pages and really any web content. RSS stands for really simple syndication. Submitting your blogs and content to the RSS feeds listed below is an economical way to build incoming high value links to your website and/or blog.
This is part two of a five part series on search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization includes five key areas of work – keyword research, website conversion architecture, on-site and off-site optimization and ongoing website analytics.
Part Two: Website Conversion Architecture
For most business the key objective for search engine optimization (SEO) should not be to drive more traffic to their website. Instead the key objective of SEO should be twofold:
To drive highly-qualified, motivated visitors searching for specific products or services to matching content on the business’s website. Strong keyword research is critical to this objective as discussed in part one of this blog.
To convert website visitors at an optimized rate into leads and customers. Website conversion architecture is critical to this second objective.
What is website conversion architecture?
Website conversion architecture describes the process of designing a website layout and developing content that optimizes the percentage of visitors who complete a call to action. Depending on your business a call to action can include phone calls, appointment setting, e-newsletter sign up, completing a contact form or survey, purchasing a product, etc.
Why is conversion architecture important?
Achieving a strong conversion rate is as important to your return on investment (ROI)) as is driving qualified traffic to your website.
Increased Conversion Rate Only
Increased Visitors Only
Increased Visitors & Conversion Rate
As you can see, if you increase both your traffic and your conversion rate the impact on your business can be much larger than increasing only traffic or only conversion rate.
To be successful a website must have a persuasive purpose that is targeted to a specific customer profile. It is important to analyze your target audience to create profiles based on their behavior and needs. Once these have been identified funnel your different visitor types as quickly as possible to the information they desire. Then determine your primary calls to action to ensure your visitors meet their needs and place them so they are readily accessible throughout your site. For example, if you want people to call to schedule an introductory consultation, make sure they don’t have to click or scroll to find your phone number.
Website conversion architecture does not have to be a complex process. For many websites a few improvements in funneling prospects to the information they seek and providing them with readily accessible calls to action can have a dramatic, positive impact. After all, couldn’t your business benefit from an increase in leads and customers?
This is part one of a five part series on search engine optimization SEO.) Search engine optimization includes five key areas of work – keyword research, website conversion architecture, on-site and off-site optimization and ongoing website analytics.
Don’t just use your industry terminology. Instead think about what words and phrases your customer will use when searching for your offerings. For example you might use “photovoltaics” around the office. But your customers probably search for “solar panels.”
Try to focus on search phrases that will be used by people further along in the buying process. See the example below.
Make sure to look at monthly search volume vs. competitive websites indexed by the search engines for each keyword. The key is to find keywords that will drive optimized numbers of highly targeted, motivated visitors to your website.
Here is an example: Let’s say you are a Fireplace and Outdoor Kitchen retailer. If you were to target the keyword “fireplaces” it has a very high search volume on Google – 2,740,000 searches per month. It also has over 11 million indexed pages on Google. That’s a lot of competition and it will be a significant challenge to get the page onto the first page of Google.
The other issue with the word “fireplaces” is the nature of searchers using that word. People typing in “fireplaces” are probably very early in the buying process. This means they are just browsing for information to determine what type of fireplace to buy. They will be difficult to convert into buyers, at least in the short term.
Now let’s look at a more specific keyword phrase. Approximately 6,600 people search every month on Google for “cast iron fireplace.” While the search volume is considerably less than “fireplaces,” the indexed page competition is also less at 509,000 pages. Plus searchers are much further along in the buying process as they know exactly what type of fireplace they are looking to purchase.
By targeting the more specific keyword you win on several fronts:
It will be much easier from an SEO perspective to get onto the first page of Google.
The quality of the visitor will be higher.
You will convert more visitors into leads and customers.
What keywords are you targeting for SEO?
Our next blog post will be about conversion architecture – turning visitors into qualified leads.