Google My Maps Marketing And SEO Strategy

Benefits Of Using Google My Maps

One of the more unique tools offered by Google in recent months is its new “My Maps” functionality.   The ability to use for real world marketing, online marketing, SEO, boosting your YouTube videos, boosting awareness of your website’s (or other web property’s) images, inner pages and posts, and “Tier 2” link building is impressive.

 

What Is “My Maps”?

Unlike regular Google Maps, which promotes specific locations such as your corporate headquarters or store locations, this tool enables you to make an indefinite number of “maps” which you can customize and use to show the public several aspects of your business.   For example, you can create a custom My Maps map of:

  • Cities where your customers or clients are located anywhere around the world
  • Specific locations where you may have been a public speaker
  • Locations where you have been an exhibitor at trade shows
  • Event venues where you have performed or had your products (or services) used
  • Any other way you can think of displaying relevant geographic information in a visual manner rather than a simple list

 

Why Should I Consider Using This My Maps Method?  What Benefit Can It Give Me To Make My Phone Ring Or Otherwise Grow My Business?

These are great questions!

Since this is a Google-owned property, which you can access using your Google account that you likely already use for YouTube/Gmail/Docs/Blogger (Blogspot) blogs/etc., you will easily be able to create many of these maps.  The benefits are many, including the flexibility to highlight subsets of your business such as “Client Locations In 2015” (and you can do another My Map for a previous year like 2014) or some of the benefits mentioned earlier.

In terms of online marketing and SEO benefits, you surprisingly can get more benefit out of these My Maps than you may realize.  Here are some specific things you can do with these Maps:

  • Most people don’t know that these My Maps can rank on their own in the search engines, much like a YouTube video can rank on its own.  Be sure to do proper keyword research and put the keywords in the correct My Maps fields
  • In the description field include your business “NAP” (for citations) and your phone number, if appropriate
  • In the description field link to your website, your social media properties, and any other web properties that make sense to promote (e.g. a press release distribution account central location, YouTube channel, guest post that features your business favorably, etc.)
  • Embed optimized YouTube videos in the specific map marker locations to help with local SEO for videos
  • Embed optimized (including geo-tagged) images in specific map marker locations
  • Link to inner pages on your website (or other web properties) which are relevant to the geographic area defined by the map marker
  • Much more

 

What To Do With These My Maps Once They Are Created?

You can do several things with these custom My Maps, both with the direct link and using iFrame embed code.  You can:

  • Embed the My Maps iFrame code on your website, blog or other primary web property
  • Share the link to the My Maps URL on your social media properties
  • Share the link in any e-mail newsletter you have
  • Make a QR code to the specific URL and share the code on print materials at trade shows, business cards, or other marketing done in the real world
  • Have the iFrame code get embedded on third-party web properties to send traffic to the My Maps page
  • Many other ways to market the link to the My Maps page (URL)

 

If you would like help on creating, marketing, getting search engine marketing benefits, or getting real world benefits from these custom Google My Maps then you are welcome to contact us.   We can help you gain more exposure to the My Map as well as promote your website and other web properties.

 

Examples Of These My Maps

Here is an example of a My Map for an optometrist in Dallas who wanted to promote the neighboring businesses near his office location:

 

Here is an interior designer based in Dallas, listing the nearby cities and suburbs where she has clients:

 

 

Here is a DFW real estate agent who lists some North Texas new neighborhoods where the home builders are offering incentives for prospective home buyers:

 

Here is a Map of client location history for a defense attorney who specializes in health care fraud cases such as those pertaining the False Claims Act, CLIA, Medicaid billing, anti-kickback and similar medical industry situations:

 

Here is a My Map featuring some of the locations of a commercial modular construction manufacturing company’s recently completed projects across the United States:

 

And here is a ranch and farm real estate broker’s My Maps listing of counties and towns featuring recently sold ranches and agricultural properties in Texas and Oklahoma:

YouTube Playlist Optimization And Marketing

YouTube playlists.  Whenever I mention these to clients, there usually is some sort of indication of confusion or other state of uncertainty as to what they are as well as how to use them for marketing purposes.

The benefits of understanding YouTube playlists, however, are worth the effort for several reasons.  Here are just some:

  • It is possible to rank # 1 for local keywords in YouTube, sometimes within as little as one hour
  • In the description you can put your phone number and primary company address or store location
  • You can use the description field to boost your primary web properties like your website, LinkedIn page, Facebook page, local business directories, etc.
  • If done right, the actual playlist page (URL) could rank well on its own in the search engines
  • You can share the playlist via social media
  • Just like a single YouTube video, you can embed the playlist’s videos on a website or blog
  • The iFrame embed code permits the ability to add one anchor text before you start embedding the code, just like a single YouTube video
  • You can create a QR code to the playlist
  • If you ever want to add or subtract (or reorder) videos in the playlist you can, but the link (URL) and embed code won’t have to be changed/amended anywhere you originally posted it
  • Many other benefits

 

So Why Use A YouTube Playlist Instead Of Just A Video?

If you only have a small number of YouTube videos uploaded, but you want to rank well in YouTube’s search engines (plus gain possible exposure in the main search engines), you can reuse your same videos over and over in various playlists.  This presumes, of course, that the videos you use are relevant to the keywords for which you want to rank and gain exposure.

The big benefit is that you don’t have to incur the time and production costs of having to make individual videos for each keyword.  You are welcome to do so, and more value-added & relevant videos always are beneficial to your business; but if you can’t produce more video content due to the time and expenses then you can use your current content over and over to your benefit.

In order to make this work, however, you will need to add videos from OTHER YouTube channels which have permitted “embedding”.  Most publicly-available YouTube videos are permitted to be embedded.  Should a particular channel’s owner decide to turn off embedding then that video simply will drop out of your playlist when viewers watch it.

Are There Any Special Tricks To Make This Work?

Actually, you won’t have to resort to “tricks”.  Just make the playlist description and the included videos relevant and value-added.  For example, here is a recent playlist based around commercial modular construction companies (go here).

Over time, the company plans to have more videos of its own; but it also has added videos explaining certain concepts and varying types of modular construction approaches.   Those other videos are from other YouTube channels, but when combined it can help (“adding value”) give the viewer a better understanding of that section of the construction industry.  By NOT being self-serving, and including others, they are able to add a robust, keyword-rich description plus include a link to their website and add their phone number.

 

Local businesses, who want to rank well in YouTube for local keyword phrases, should add at least three kinds of videos:

  • Their own currently-uploaded videos which are relevant to the keyword for which they want to optimize
    • Alternatively, they can use a video on someone else’s channel which features their business favorably
  • Authoritative videos which are relevant to the specific town, county or region
  • Authoritative videos relevant to the subject matter

 

Here is one such playlist which meets all three of those, and over time the company likely will add more videos to the playlist meeting all three video types.   If you want a few more examples of local businesses ranking well with their playlists then you are welcome to look at these:

 

What About E-commerce Sites?

The same principle works for e-commerce sites.  Just make the link in the playlist description link to the specific product (or product category) page.  One company which sells specialty hams by mail has done this by adding videos discussing recipes with leftover ham.  You can watch the embedded playlist here:

 

That’s Great, But Once I Have A Playlist Properly Optimized…. What Do I Do With It?!?

This is a fantastic question.  You have many options depending on your goals.  If it simply is to make your phone ring, be sure to lead the playlist with your desired video; and make sure that video is optimized with your website, address and phone number.  Contact us if you need help with this or anything else mentioned so far.

As mentioned earlier, you can share the playlist on social media in order to boost the view counts.  Just make sure that your social media followers will gain real value from watch all of the videos.  This is why they need to be “value-added” and explain confusing topics, confirm beliefs, refute myths, add humor, generate emotion or otherwise give some sort of value.

Here are some other actions which can be done:

  • You can use YouTube as its primary purpose:  as its own community/social media property
    • You can comment on other videos, leave channel discussions, and other participatory actions within the YouTube community to attract traffic naturally to your channel and playlists
  • E-mail the playlist to your newsletter subscribers
  • Embed the playlist on relevant pages on your website or blog, with an explanation as to why a website/blog visitor should watch the playlist
  • Buy low-cost, but still very targeted traffic, to the playlist URL and/or one of your web pages which has the playlist embedded.  Google Display Network ads are great for this, but you have to be smart as to how you go about targeting and bidding.  Your ad sales copy (text or banner/image) also plays a role here
    • Note that this is NOT the regular Google Search Network
  • Buy ads to your playlist link/URL from relevant videos within YouTube.  You even could pay to get traffic from the videos of your competitors, but be careful here and make sure that you are compliant with all laws and regulations before doing this
  • Get the playlist embedded on third-party blogs for the ranking purposes
  • There are several other things you can do with the playlist so contact us for suggestions and help

 

This is just the beginning of what can be done with playlists and the marketing of them.  Send us your questions and we can help you specifically or make future blog posts about this method of online marketing.

Pay Per Lead Discussion

One of the new advances in internet marketing for local businesses is the push to work with pay per lead (PPL) services.  There are benefits and drawbacks to this strategy.  Here is a recent page we added to this website which covers the basics of pay per lead companies and whether they are of enough interest to you to warrant further discussion:

Link Building After The Penguin Updates

This is a repost of an article I was asked to contribute to Greg’s old SearchSimplicity.com website.  It is reposted in its entirety here.

Please note that SEO has changed since the time of this article (late 2013), so contact me for more up to date strategies.  Nonetheless there are some helpful tips here which are still valid.

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The Types Of Links Which May Be “Friendly” As Tier 1 Links In The Post-Penguin 2.1 Environment

Many people involved with SEO may have legitimate concerns in the post-Penguin 2.1 environment.  Even with solid strategies being employed before the update, many professionals have had their strategies rendered worthless or counterproductive since the first week of October 2013.  These strategies could have included posting inadequately-spun content on only one type of platform, having too high of a percentage of the link anchor text containing the exact keyword, placing content on properties with low authority (Page Rank, Domain/Page Authority, etc.), or having too much “spammy” link content on a third tier of a typical tiered-linking system.

There is much discussion about how to recover lost rankings for affiliate sites, client sites, personal websites and authority sites.  Such discussions have revolved around changing anchor texts on first-tier (Tier 1) links which you can control, using the Google disavow tool, getting more social signals, improving on-page loading times and making websites more mobile-friendly.  All of these are helpful strategies, but no single strategy is likely to be the “magic bullet” sought when a panic situation happens.

One strategy which can help you regain (or even improve) your search engine rankings is to create more top-quality (Tier 1) links which point directly to a page on your website.  Additionally, they have to be formatted properly and in “Penguin-friendly” ratios.  The reasons for this recommendation include:

  • You can be in control of the links, including changing or removing them if needed in the future
  • You can structure the wording of your anchor text and the words surrounding the links
  • Images, videos, infographic content, podcasts and other multimedia has the potential to be embedded and generate a quality link
  • Link building software (e.g. GSA, SENukeX, Magic Submitter) can be used to boost these new Tier 1 links, if created properly
  • Previous content, such as images or PDF content, can be used separately

The goal is to focus on value-added content, ideally which has some sort of “verification” factor to it.  For example, a video on YouTube has the ability to be pulled – or at least voted with thumbs down ratings – should it fail to provide the YouTube community with value.  Likewise, value-added comments on industry blogs must be approved by the moderator especially if there are follow-up comments.

Going forward, you have over 30 options for the types of Tier 1 links which have high likelihood of being Penguin 2.1-friendly.  What you want to do is focus on getting your anchor text ratios in order.

As a rule of thumb, consider a “1 for 10″ breakdown.  This means that for every 10 quality (tier 1) links you create, only one should have the exact keyword for which you want to rank, pointing to a specific web-page on your website (or other web property).  The other nine links can be broken down like this:

*  1-2 links can be longer tail keywords, perhaps containing the main keyword
*  3-4 links should be “generic” anchor text like “click here”, “visit this page”, etc.
*  2-3 links should be focused (if applicable) around brand names, names of people, etc.
*  1-2 links should be derivations of the URL (with or without “http : //”, using capitalization on the first letter, etc.)

Of course, you should use as much unique content as you possibly can.  If you choose to use spun content, make every attempt to have the originally unique content spun at the sentence and/or paragraph level.  If you can, include multimedia such as images, videos, audio files and other complementary material.

Here are the roughly 30 types of links which you may wish to consider for your next batch of properly formatted and created Tier 1 links.  You are welcome to add comments about these as well as strategies to create quality Tier 2 links to these newly created Tier 1 links.

POSSIBLE PENGUIN-FRIENDLY TIER #1 LINK TYPES:

1) Citations (business directory listings) like Yelp, InsiderPages.com, Kudzu, etc. — obviously for local (primarily)

2) Intelligent, unique comments on high authority sites such as industry websites and blogs (like SearchSimplicity.com) for national keywords/authority and on local newspaper, radio, TV and local magazine sites for local SEO

3) Guest posts.  These opportunities can be found using all of the appropriate search strings (e.g. KEYWORD + “guest blogger”)

4) Private blog network –> unique hosting accounts, unique/relevant content (including images & videos), unique themes, varied anchor text, varied plug-ins, and even varied platforms (not all just WordPress).  Be smart and careful with these!

5) The top 40-50 article directory sites based on Alexa/PR/Moz Authority.  Again focus on those which require some sort of verification before going live.  You also may post unique, helpful content on sites which even may pay you a little bit of money (e.g. Seekyt.com)

6) Paid press release distribution on quality generic distribution sites (e.g. PRWeb.com) or on industry-specific newswires. Obviously a release (with or without embedded video) may get picked up on other sites. If you want to be conservative, do not optimize the URL with a keyword in the anchor text.  Instead, go with a straight URL or the company name/brand name as the anchor text

7) Optimized videos on sites like YouTube + the YouTube channel

8) Podcasts w/ unique content and distributed on podcast directory sites which still have some decent PR/other authority. Also you may consider a channel w/ unique content on a site like BlogTalkRadio.com with consistently-added content

9) Niche directories which have authority. Examples: industry/trade association directories or local chamber of commerce

10) Competitor backlinks (AHREFS, BacklinkWatch.com or MajesticSEO) and then run through AHREFS for Domain/Page Authority (or through Scrapebox for page-specific PR) or those with high relevance

11) Relevant forums which have some authority on the root domain. Optimized forum profile page and optimized signature files ONLY for those forum profiles where there are actual replies or forum thread starts

12) Social media platforms with legitimate, unique content (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, plus any niche-specific)

13) Answers on sites like Yahoo Answers or similar high-authority answers sites

14) Manually created Web 2.0 pages with unique content and a decent profile page.  These are not necessarily SENuke or GSA SEREngines web 2.0 pages, but rather manually created ones which look like a real human created (or at least edited!) them

15) A service like AutomaticBacklinks.com which puts links on pages w/ PR and some measure of relevance (not always perfect, but okay a portion of the time)

16) Helpful, unique infographic images uploaded to infographic-sharing sites.  Also, you can provide source code to have people embed your infographic on their websites, linking back to your desired web page

17) Getting broken links on relevant sites cleaned up.  You can ask the webmaster to provide a link back to your web property; or, if appropriate, have the webmaster change the link from the broken one to your desired web property

18) Pinning relevant, interesting images on Pinterest and Instagram.  You also can upload, and link back to your desired web property, on image-sharing sites so long as the content is relevant and interesting

19) Interactive content such as quizzes, widgets and other interactive/dynamic content.  These can be added to sites like Quizilla and widget-sharing sites.  Make sure that the content is unique, timely and relevant.  Like the infographic content, you can provide source code to have people embed your infographic on their websites, linking back to your web property

20) Syndicating your blog content.  You can do this by syndicating your RSS feed, using WordPress services which share your content on other websites, sharing content via blog directories, etc.

21) Getting your content shared with volume on social news sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.  This is different than traditional social media properties like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

22) Links acquired from sources other than traditional “guest posts”.  These include assisting reporters through services like Help A Reporter Out

23) Links on sites which permit discounts, incentives, giveaways, etc.  Focus on those which require some sort of verification process to minimize being in a “neighborhood” with spam

24) Relevant comments on EDU, GOV, MIL and other “hard to get” domains.  These can be tough to acquire, so be sure that the time invested is worth the effort

25) Sponsorship and/or donation links on scholastic (EDU) and organization links.  Ideally, see you can get social media or industry (or local) press about the donation to generate further links

26) Networking to get links.  An example at the local level is to ask a local hotel to provide a link to a local taxi website if the taxi service provides the hotel’s guests with quality service

27) Have others post on your website and then have them share the link to the post on your website through their social media accounts

28) Uploading relevant software to software directories to get links.  Be sure that this isn’t spam software, but actually valuable content which can be given favorable reviews and/or be worthy enough of being shared on social media

29) Any other types of links which can be generated by providing content through networking like Buzzstream and/or Buzzbundle

30) If possible, create helpful tutorials and share them on tutorial sites

31) Share unique content via PDF or slide content on sites like Scribd.com, Slideshare.net and similar document-sharing sites.  Some e-book directories may qualify here; but focus on those which have the high levels of traffic and search engine authority to get a quality link

Additional quality links could be established by “paid reviews”/”paid blog posts”, classified ads (though most are temporary), getting other people to bookmark your content on their social bookmarking accounts (especially relevant ones) and a few other possible methods.

If you do not feel comfortable using any of the 30+ link types mentioned as Tier 1 links, then you likely can use them as Tier 2 links pointing to the Tier 1 links.  This allows for the customized indirect linking which Greg mentioned on his October 22, 2013 post.

Thank you for reading this far.  Feel free to comment on additional types of Tier 1 links which you believe which are Penguin-friendly going forward into 2014 and can drive direct traffic plus help with your overall SEO efforts.

 

Repost – How To Use Youtube For Local Business Marketing

This is a repost from Greg’s old Search Simplicity website which no longer is active.

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Repost – Local SEO And Lessons From The Stock Trading World

Greg used to run Search Simplicity, a website dedicated to SEO and other online marketing topics.  This is a repost from a guest post he added to his site back in the early Fall of 2014.

 

Stock Trading Lessons Applied To Local SEO Search Phrases

Case Study – Restaurant Grand Opening Marketing Online

In future blog posts I may add some case studies to determine what has or hasn’t worked when using online marketing to help generate new business.  A recent project is worth a short case study due to the fact that it simultaneously both worked and did not work as well as expected.

OVERVIEW:

A fast-casual and drive-through restaurant chain, with the majority of its locations and headquarters, is based in Northern California.  The company desired to expand and chose the Dallas Fort Worth region as its main expansion focal point.  This is due to the influx of people and businesses moving into the DFW Metroplex area which meet their primary demographic audience.

There is significant competition for the type of food that they serve.  With that understood, one of their differentiators is to have a grand opening where they give away free food and offer some light entertainment (music, bounce house for kids, etc.).

THE CLIENT’S BELIEFS

Their belief is that free food, like it does for high school and college kids, is enough of an enticement to get people to show up.  From there they believe that the word-of-mouth should take over and help boost day-by-day traffic to the restaurant in conjunction with basic social media and real-world marketing:  coupons, flyers, direct mail, etc.

They asked me to help promote the grand opening event with various online marketing elements:  SEO, paid ads, free listings, etc.  The end result was their best turnout ever for a grand opening, despite the weather being less-than-ideal during a cold Saturday afternoon in February in North Texas.

WHAT WORKED:

In terms of what worked to promote this restaurant’s grand opening, from the online marketing perspective, it boiled down to three elements:

  • Targeted Facebook paid ads
  • Online event calendar listings via the classified ads
  • Dallas Fort Worth-specific “things to do” calendars

The clear winner, of the three, was the Facebook paid ad method.  Although people surveyed at the event mentioned the above 3 virtually to the exclusion of other methods, the Facebook paid advertising method was the best far and away.

Instead of paying to have people “like” the Facebook page, or paying to have them leave Facebook and be taken to another website, we crafted a basic post to go on the Facebook page.  It answered the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” questions; and it had a graphic of the free food which would be given away that day.

In order to overcome resistance, we emphasized that the person didn’t need to bring any coupon or have to show anything at the event.  All that was required was to show up and eat free food.

METRICS

We split test different ads to determine which would have the best “metrics”.  Unlike regular online ad metrics, paid ads in social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) have additional measurements of success which include:

  • “likes” of the post
  • shares of the post (the biggest one as it reaches people via a “tacit” endorsement)
  • post comments
  • clicks through to the website to get more information

Remember that the restaurant business, especially in a high-competition environment like Dallas Fort Worth, likely will draw people from no more than 5 miles and, likely, more like 1-3 miles.  In order to address this, we targeted the paid advertising to JUST the zip code where the restaurant’s location is.  This can be altered in your case if your location is near the line of two zip codes; but the restaurant in this study was in the middle of its zip code.

We then targeted the Facebook paid ad (promoting the SPECIFIC post on the Facebook business page) by this method:

  • zip code(s)
  • genders (we targeted both men and women)
  • language spoken (in this case, just English)
  • age range (we chose ages 30-40)
  • interests:  we chose interests based on those which would be “liked” or groups liked by parents with kids in the 30-40 age range.  These include local youth soccer, PTA, kids TV shows, etc
  • marital status:  we chose all, but your specific post could targeted those who are only “married”, “divorced”, “separated”, “single”, etc.
  • workplaces:  we did not narrow the list to those only working for specific companies, although you have that flexibility if you are running a Facebook ad promotion for those working for major employers in your area

END RESULT

The Facebook paid (promoted) post got shared/commented/liked over 700 times according to the paid ad stats provided by Facebook.  Based on predetermining percentages of those who took action, with those who showed up, the client and I figured that the efforts produced somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 250 people showing up as a result of the Facebook paid advertising.

The cost to have one person actually show up, based on the total ad spend, was around $0.80 (eighty cents).  The acquisition cost-per-new-customer was more successful than they imagined it would be.  In conjunction with their real world efforts, such as promotions at local schools and churches, the efforts led to a combined turnout better than they ever had at any grand opening in company history.

THINGS WHICH DIDN’T WORK

While the above is great, a case study wouldn’t be beneficial to you without understanding what didn’t work.  The following list doesn’t mean that these techniques are bad.  It just means that they didn’t work for this particular grand opening in February 2015 in the DFW market for the type of food being promoted.

  • Press release:  not enough distribution through social channels to reach the very-defined audience in one zip code.  The retail consumer’s ability to be accessed via basic online press releases (for just “free food”) is not newsworthy enough.
    • The press release DID WORK, however, in terms of ranking in the search engines for “XYZ food TOWN Texas” and “XYZ catering TOWN Texas”.  This gives merit to the press release strategy for getting new walk-in customers and catering orders months after the grand opening is completed
    • The press release has to be optimized for these phrases, however, so be sure that you know what you are doing
    • Link building to the press release helped the press release stay on top of the search engines.  Contact us if you need help with boosting your previous press releases for certain keywords in the search engines
  • Contacting the “things to do” people in Twitter for that town.  Even though this made good sense, it just didn’t work out as the people running those Twitter channels either didn’t care or weren’t given enough incentive to make repeat endorsements to their followers (which supposedly had hundreds from that town)
    • If your grand opening really has something newsworthy, like a famous band or pro athlete appearing, then these Twitter channel owners may help you; but otherwise their influence appears to be exaggerated
  • Using Twitter hashtags for the specific town
    • It just didn’t work for this case, despite 5 tweets all using the city’s most in-demand hashtag (supposedly)
  • YouTube videos from previous grand openings in nearby cities
    • Nobody seemed to care, as the view counts, despite being marketed to the new town just never increased markedly.  No comments/likes/etc. of the video from the previous city’s grand opening
    • This was weird as both the client and I thought that “social proof” (seeing other people having fun at a recent grand opening) would generate some anticipation of what was to take place at the upcoming grand opening.  It just didn’t work out that way
  • Relying on friends and employees to tweet, like, share the information.  Unless forced or paid to do so, the staff just “never got around” to promoting the grand opening’s “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” information to THEIR OWN friends and family
    • This can be deemed “sad”, but it confirms the stereotype of the “employee mindset” when they have no vested interest in generating one new person to appear
    • Corporate office is rethinking the incentives on certain days (not just grand openings) to give employees a financial incentive to market to those they know; but that process is still in its infancy
  • QR Codes:  this didn’t work because the staff barely gave out the material with the QR code to those who attended early in the afternoon to “check in” or leave a review on Facebook which would entice friends to attend the event later in the afternoon.  The few who handed out the material couldn’t convey why someone should scan the QR code
    • This ties in with the employee mindset mentioned above
    • It also shows a lack of understanding by corporate office, as they realized later the power that QR codes can have on generating positive reviews on sites like UrbanSpoon.com, Yelp, and other review websites

TAKEAWAYS FOR YOU

Thank you for reading this far.  I want you to have an honest look at what did and did not work in this particular case study.  Some of the methods COULD have worked, but they needed more time or refinement; and, in some cases, they needed to give their own people more incentive to promote the event.

As for your upcoming grand opening or other event that needs online marketing to help increase attendance there are some takeaways:

  • Give staff some sort of incentive to promote the event
  • Free works, but not in all online media
  • Some methods, which you expect to work, will fizzle (i.e. the YouTube video of the previous grand opening for a city 20 miles away)
  • Hyper-targeted paid ads, even though they are paid posts, likely will generate a very low cost to acquire a new customer (client).  This has to have lots of planning beforehand, however, in order to maximize your ad spend
  • Sometimes an effort can generate business in the long term, even though it lost out in the short term
    • The press release is the example in this case

I hope that all of this helps you better understand the role of online marketing when having a live grand opening for a local business.  If you need help with any aspect, especially the paid ads, then you are welcome to contact us for strategy and/or implementation assistance.

Making The Phone Ring Part 1 – Local SEO

phone

If you are a local business owner then you know that the bigger picture is that all online marketing actions (SEO, social media, pay-per-click, etc.) should focus on a few things:

  • Getting new first time customers/clients
  • Enhancing profitability for the business
  • Expansion of awareness/exposure if your “brand” is an issue
    • Although this always is taught first, getting new clients and becoming profitable should be any business’ goal, especially if the business one day wishes to sell the business to another party

A local business often faces a series of challenges when it wishes to grow and expand.  One of the biggest challenges is to enter a new geographic where it has no physical presence, even though the business knows that it can fulfill customer demand for the desired product/service.

There are over 20 online methods which can be considered by any local business owner wishing to grow and expand into a new geographic area.  Not all are “search” related, and these methods MAY be beneficial to your business.

You are welcome to review them and then filter them to which are most appropriate by:

  • What your prospective clients would deem as acceptable and appropriate for your business category
  • Then filter further the methods by what best represents the image you want to convey for your business (or that of your client)

Over the upcoming series of posts, you will become familiar with the basics of the 20+ methods.
Today’s post will cover the first method:

Traditional Local SEO

Please note that some of these principles may refer to something called “Parasite SEO” or “Next Best SEO“.  That is where you rank another web property other than your main website for the desired keyword.  Such a “parasite” property could be:

  • One of your YouTube videos or your company’s YouTube channel
  • Your company’s LinkedIn business page
  • Your location’s listing on Yelp
  • Your local chamber of commerce directory page (if you have a page dedicated just to your business)
  • Your specific page on the local BBB site
  • Etc.

Traditional SEO And Its Core Principles

Even though this post is about reaching new geographic areas, a brief history on traditional SEO needs to be discussed.  If you do not understand these, then you risk being “left in the dark” and have significantly-lowered chances of ranking in the search engines for the towns in which you wish to expand.

You also risk spending WAY too much money by making basic mistakes!

Traditional search engine optimization is based on several principles.  Those principles drive the need to consider the strategy as a viable marketing option because it can help make the phone ring, get new walk-in customers, or get new e-mail subscribers/social media followers.

Those principles are:

  • Your website is ranking at/near the top of the organic (free) search engine results for keyword phrases (user queries) which have some sort of demand AND possible “buyer intent”
  • The fact that the search engines are ranking you at/near the top is a tacit “endorsement” that your business (or that of your client) should be deemed more trustworthy than other options
  • If someone took the time to enter such a query (keyword phrase) into the search engine AND clicked the link to some page on your website (home page or other page) then there is a PRESUMED increase in likelihood that the person may take further action and contact you, show up at your location, purchase something from your website or join some sort of list that you control

Do people today make buying decisions from online properties OTHER than the search engines?  Yes they do.  There can be business review sites, social media sites, classified ads and other properties which can generate new business; and to say otherwise would be wrong.

Does a number one organic (free) ranking, however, still help you increase the odds of increasing profitability?  Most certainly!  This is because you are providing what people are seeking (e.g. a solution to their problems).

Why It Is More Difficult To Achieve The Same Outcome (A # 1 Ranking) Than In Previous Years

Ranking your business’ website (or your client’s website) however is significantly more challenging than it was even just 3-4 years ago.  The actual hard costs to anyone doing the marketing likely are much higher than they were from the 2009-2011 era.

Many of the reasons for this cost increase stem from the various Google Panda/Penguin (and other) search engine algorithm updates.  Here are just a handful of reasons why the costs went up and the difficulty to earn a # 1 ranking became much more challenging:

  • For a third-party consultant/agency to help a client reach a number 1 ranking in the search engines back in 2009-2011, most of what was needed was acquiring a volume of links which had the optimized keywords in the actual text of the link (aka “anchor text”).  It didn’t matter where those links appeared so long as you had a volume of sites pointing directly to your website.  On-page optimization, for some time, appeared to have dropped in importance.
    The consultants/agencies didn’t have to spend too much “hands on” time on a client’s website.  All they had to do was invest in “bulk link building” software and cheap overseas virtual assistants to pump out high volumes of links.
  • Google made its change in 2012 with the beginning of the Panda/Penguin and other updates.  These required the SEO professional (company employee or consultant/agency) to begin to evaluate where to start acquiring links from authoritative websites.  This required more “finesse” than just bulk-volume link building.  As in most industries, with the need for finesse comes premium pricing.
  • Some of the Google updates then forced the SEO professional to also prevent the “too good to be true” scenario from happening.  Many companies had links which were almost “too perfect” and were properly-optimized everywhere.  Google updated its algorithm to “slap” (drop the rankings for) websites which didn’t have a “link profile” which was more natural-looking.  Hence, the need for “de-optimized” links became more important.  Again, more finesse was now required.
  • The same thing later happened with the on-page optimization.  If a company’s website pages were “too perfect” and had too much properly-optimized content then it didn’t look “natural”.  The SEO professional now had to invest more time on the actual website’s on-page SEO factors.
  • A website’s structure and usefulness also started to become important for the rankings.  Google started looking at how long a visitor stayed on a website, how many pages the average visitor visited on the website, how “mobile-friendly” the site was, does it have Schema/Rich Text markup, and basics like a sitemap and privacy policy visible somewhere on every page.  Again, this required more time and hands-on attention.
  • The SEO professionals who then built their own TRULY private blog networks also got “slapped” recently because some of the way they structured the sites that they used to help clients.  Many of these outside websites were structured in ways which left blatant “footprints”.  Once the search engine algorithm picked up on these footprints, it was able to negate any benefit that these privately-constructed sites were bringing to help a client’s website rankings.
  • Finally, Google is starting to evaluate the quality of the content on OTHER pages which link to your page, not just the text of the link (“anchor text”).  The need for quality articles, videos, images and other media – on authoritative websites – linking back to your desired web page has started to skyrocket.  Again, with the need for quality – instead of bulk volume – comes higher costs due to the need for finesse and more precision.

 

A Helpful Acronym To Remember When It Comes To Online Marketing

All of the above, and much more, force a quality SEO professional (in-house or third-party) to understand better how to make a company’s website meet three basic measurements.  The acronym you are welcome to use can be “A.R.T.”, “T.A.R.” or “R.A.T.”  Those three measurements, at a “birds eye view”, are:

  • Authoritative:  Is the website attempting to rank # 1 authoritative for that particular keyword phrase (query)?  If someone from Google manually reviewed the # 1 ranking (instead of the robot/algorithm doing the “reviewing”), would that person deem the current # 1 site to be authoritative on the subject?
  • Relevant:    Is the website attempting to rank # 1 offering relevant, timely (or “timeless”!!) information that truly can benefit the website visitor?
  • Trustworthy:  Is the site, overall, trustworthy?  Is it free from spam, mobile-friendly, have practices in place to protect visitor identity, have full disclosures, and other security/reassurance measures in place?

Why Does Google Need All Of This?

The reason why Google – and any other major company in the internet search/social media industry – need to have so many hurdles and filters now to earn a # 1 ranking?  The primary reason is that they are publicly traded companies (see here)!

They need to generate revenues AND beat quarterly analyst estimates just like any other publicly traded company.  They assume that the harder they make it for the average business to earn a # 1 organic (free) ranking, the more likely that business is to resort to spending money on the paid advertising platform (e.g. Google AdWords).

That is the primary way that the search engine makes its money.  Remember that making a search is free to you, so they have to monetize each page somehow!

Pay-per-click advertising is a very viable strategy, and it will be discussed in a future post for local businesses.  Companies, however, which were used to getting traffic from the search engines – but had search rankings drop – typically “stampede” into pay-per-click in an attempt to make their phones ring. With any new marketing strategy, however, they are going to make mistakes and likely overspend.

Guess who benefits at that point?  That’s right, the search engine or social media platform!
That makes reaching their quarterly earnings estimates a lot easier!

The search engine companies have to make institutional investors (mutual funds, hedge funds, etc.) want to invest in internet companies as an industry overall.  They also compete for dominance within the industry itself.  Each search engine company (and social media company) wants mutual funds to consider its company to be the leader (from an investment standpoint) within the internet company sector.

All of this means is that they need to gain institutional investor market share on two levels.  To do so, they need to make their OWN platforms the most “Authoritative, Relevant, and Trustworthy” that they can.  By doing so, each attempts to convince the average searcher to use their platform exclusively over all of the other options… and hopefully click those paid ads on each page!

“Thanks For The History Lesson…. But What Does That Have To Do With The Website I Want To Rank?”

Great question!

Even though all you care about is using the search engines to help you expand your business into a new geographic area, please consider re-reading the above history.  The reasons why I recommend this are:

  • By understanding what is really going on, you likely won’t be subject to someone selling you a “black box”
  • You may be able to reduce your costs to expand into the new area
  • You will know what to post on your website (or other web properties you control) in order to get someone from the new geographic area to take action
  • You MAY be able to expand and get results faster than you expect
  • You can use pay-per-click budgets more artfully and get better data to then use for longer-term  SEO strategies
  • There is less risk (no guarantees of course!) that your website will incur some sort of penalty from the search engines

If nothing else, you also may be able to refute easily the false promises of the multitude of SEO solicitation calls and e-mails you get each week!  Use the above history to shut them down.  Hopefully, you will be removed from the contact lists of the substandard online marketing companies just looking to trap you in some kind of unhelpful, long-term contract.

Expanding Your Geographic Reach

With all of this history, here are some simple ways to make it possible for your website to gain exposure in a new geographic market.  For this, you will want to achieve as much Authority/Relevance/Trust as possible regarding the new geographic area:

  • If appropriate, add a new page to your website specific to that new market.  Consider this to be a “landing page” and add lots of beneficial, unique and helpful content about the specific new area.
  • Should a page on a local authority website for that area (e.g. that town’s city government page, the convention and visitors bureau website, or school district website) provide confirmation about your service then have an “outbound” (external) link to that content on your new region-specific page.  This way the search engines see that you are linking to something relevant and authoritative in order to make your page helpful to any page visitor.
  • Since you want someone in that new market to do business with you, consider some sort of incentive (if you are legally permitted) to have them contact you.   If nothing else, make it easy to have that person contact you.
  • However you can, get links from authoritative sites in that new geographic area to link to your new page.  If you have to make a small donation to a charitable organization in that area, and have them link to your new page, then do so.  Otherwise contact a quality local SEO professional who knows how to get local links.
  • Make sure that the new page is in your website’s sitemap.  This makes it easier for any search engine to index/crawl the new page properly and quickly.
  • If appropriate, syndicate an online press release with a link to the new geographic-specific page.  Use a quality press release distribution service and attempt to have something truly “newsworthy” to share so that the press release readers derive actual value.  That “value” can vary, but make sure it is worth someone’s time to read the release!
  • Hire a good SEO professional to help you gain further trust online in the new geographic market.  The SEO professional does NOT have to be local, but it should be someone who understands the principles of gaining trust in any local market around the United States.

Wrapping This Up

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read this post.  I hope that you now understand a bigger picture of search engines, from the perspective of the search engine company.
Remember that by doing so, you likely can:

  • Make your website (or parasite page) more authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant in the search engines and get your phone ringing more
  • Cut your overall marketing and advertising costs because you will be much more precise with your budget
  • Have higher odds of longer-term rankings because every time something is published on your behalf it is quality and looks natural.  This likely would cut your costs because you wouldn’t need to “stampede” into pay-per-click advertising and make high-cost mistakes in the process
  • If the quality is good you even may have people voluntarily share it with their friends and colleagues.  This cuts your costs to acquire a new customer/client

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how a deeper understanding of this big picture can help your business grow by, hopefully, making the phone ring with new customers or clients!

Press Release SEO Benefits – Are There Any Still To Be Had?

A recent conversation came up in the online marketing community about the effectiveness and benefits of press releases for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.  With so much “clutter”, and with any small business able to purchase low-cost distribution of its “news”, many SEO gurus have written off using online press release distribution as a valid strategy to improve SEO rankings.

The question is if whether or not to skip using online press releases as part of one’s SEO efforts.  The answer is if you used them in the way they were used in 2008-2010 then their importance has diminished considerably, and using an online press release distribution service for SEO benefits will have to drop significantly in terms of priority on the checklist of actions to be taken.

If, however, you apply some of the advanced methods then you actually may find that online press releases actually can benefit you quite nicely from a SEO perspective!

These advanced methods include:

  • Having truly legitimate “newsworthy” content to share
  • Geo-targeting
  • De-optimized anchor text to the company website (home page or other)
  • Linking to one’s social media properties
  • Linking to one’s “Tier 1 properties”
  • Embedding YouTube videos (or other online videos) which already are optimized properly
  • Intelligent link building to the press release URL
  • Backlinking to the press release channel URL
  • Having “evergreen” content to be worthwhile long after the event was deemed to be “fresh” news
  • Leveraging the press release URL to authority websites and bloggers seeking guest content

There is a ton to discuss in each of the bullet points listed, so feel free to contact me with your questions.

Here is one of the recent article’s where experts call into question the effectiveness of online press releases, and you will see my first comment at this link:

 

Stock Trading Lessons For The Selection Of Local Keyword Phrases

Greg, from Search Simplicity, recently asked me to contribute a guest post about helping select solid keywords for local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.  Often, people only target two or three keywords.  By borrowing from the short-term stock trading principle of “multiple time frame analysis”, one can become much more artful in choosing keyword phrases to help accomplish the ultimate goal of any local SEO campaign:  getting the phone to ring consistently with first-time new customers or clients!

Here is the link to the article:

 

Greg modified the text a little bit in order to emphasize his recent real estate SEO post & industry-specific service.  That is fine with me.  Just know that when you see the word “plumber” that was the original example I used.  He did his best to modify, so I am okay with the adjustments.  Remember, it is his blog and I granted him the professional leeway to modify the text to serve his needs as well!

Feel free to contact me with your questions and if you would like to schedule an appointment about your local SEO efforts, not just the keyword research and selection process.   Thank you and please consider sharing this post (or the specific URL on the Search Simplicity blog) with those whom you think might find it useful.