Ranking and reviews can make or break your business. According to Google, 97% of consumers search for products and services online. So why not take advantage of this potential traffic?
Google wants to help you with Google Places so that your business gets more visitors. So what is Google Places all about?
Google Places is a free listing on Google tied to Google Maps. The listing storess information such as contact details, maps, hours, coupons, videos, photos, reviews and more. The service also offers real-time updates about special offers and displays them across the search result pages.
Consumers nowadays use Google to search for products and services and local businesses with their tablets, laptops and Smartphones. With Google Places, all relevant business information can be offered to them. In addition, it also helps Google present an accurate search result to consumers who are looking for specific categories of products and their location.
You can set up Google Places in minutes. Three simple steps will make your job much easier:
With your existing Google account, login to Google Places. Make sure that you use the Google account that you want to associate with your business.
If you are using the service for the first time, you will be directed to look up your business through phone number or you should see a page with a business associated with your account.
Click the “add new business” link. The link will open the phone number lookup page. Enter your business phone number and country and Google will start searching for information about your business.
If Google does not find any information about your business, you will get an option to “add new listing.” Now you can enter all the basic information about your business such as the location and how to find it online.
Google Places will verify whether you are an authorized person to add or update business information. You will receive a verification code via a text message or automated phone call or in the form of a postcard sent to the business address.
Once verified, your account is now ready.
Follow Google Places Guidelines
You can find business guidelines in the help section of Google Places.
Ensure That the Listing has a 100 Percent Score
There are a maximum of 20 fields to be filled out before you submit the form. If you successfully fill in all the fields, your business will occupy a top slot in the listing.
Choose Business Categories Correctly
Google Places listings are categorized to help visitors sort the type of business they are looking for. Usually Google will show your business’s first three categories to help you decide which listings to examine. Then it will display the local search results.
As there are strong indications that Google uses the category information you provide, make sure that the business categories you select accurately describe your business.
Write Expressive Descriptions and Include Keywords
When users see your business description, you definitely want the description to be persuasive and drive clicks. So start thinking about that and convey your core value proposition.
Also keyword descriptions should include your product, nearby suburbs and locality to target your market. Research indicates that approximately 73% of consumer search on Google is for local content. Therefore, you are actually increasing your chances of prospective clients in your local area.
Encourage Customers to Write Reviews and Feedback
Motivate your customers to provide business feedback. In addition, you can include a link to your Google Places listing on your website and ask people to leave reviews on your site and in your newsletters.
Integrate with Google+
Google is encouraging business with a Google Places listing to assimilate with Google + for the following advantages:
Have you found Google Places to be good for inbound traffic?
Useful content should be the focus of any business’s marketing strategy. Traditional marketing, such as television commercials and magazine advertisements, explicitly promote businesses and products. Yet they are often ignored by consumers. In contrast, content marketing uses unique and relevant content to engage consumers and earn their loyalty.
A recent study found that 92% of nonprofits use content marketing. It is also popular among for-profit businesses. Eloqua, a marketing automation company, developed Infographics and eBooks to interest its target consumer demographic. The strategy worked. The initiative earned $2.5 million in revenue. Similarly, Monetate, a technology marketing company, generated content about industry trends rather than their own products and their sales doubled.
According to the Roper Public Affairs report (PDF), 80% of consumers prefer to find out about a company through articles than through advertisements. And 70% said they feel like they know a company better after reading their content.
Content marketing is what consumers want, and it works. So, how can your business get the most out of it?
Successful content marketing depends on the business producing content that consumers actually want to see. This is not straight advertising. With all the interesting information available on the Internet, no one is going to want to read an article that just lists all the benefits of your product or business.
So, you should cultivate content that is both relevant to your business and engaging to your costumers and potential customers. For example:
Content that drives viewers to your website over and over – can be cultivated simply by a good “how-to” list.
Write About Your Industry
Another good way to generate content is to write about your industry. Write an article about your insights into industry trends, interview another industry leader about problems in the industry, or summarize the highlights from an industry conference you attended. You can also ask employees in different departments to contribute insight. For example, an employee in sales can offer a unique and specific perspective on how the industry works.
Survey Your Online Community
Another idea is to survey your online community. Use a platform like Survey Monkey to ask respondents about their buying habits, industry challenges and more. Then you can analyze the information and release an article or Infographic illustrating your conclusions. This list of 100 content marketing examples (PDF) provides more tips and ideas for generating original content.
Social Media Distribution
One of the best ways to distribute content is through social media. Social media has the unique ability to get your brand name out to millions of viewers very quickly.
For example, two billion videos are watched daily on YouTube, and there are more than one billion active users on Facebook. Likewise, the peak rate for a social media post happens much faster as well. So the opportunity to generate more content means that quality, not quantity, is even more imperative a value to hold.
So don’t limit your content to your website or business blog. Links to your written content can be posted to social media sites. Visual content, such as Infographics, can be uploaded directly.
Another great way to get the most out of your content is to repackage it. Long articles and white papers can be repurposed as shorter blog posts or Infographics. By the same token, several blog posts on the same subject can be combined into a longer article. Once you have been in the content marketing business for a while you can collect your articles together and publish an ebook on Amazon.
Track Customer Engagement and Return on Investment
Throughout this process you’ll also be tracking costumer engagement and ROI. This way you can determine whether or not you are producing the right kind of content or if you should shift strategies. Search Engine Journal suggests that you track four measures:
Then analyze the results to see whether or not your strategy is on the right track.
Developing quality, informative content can be time-intensive. But the results are worth it. Content marketing often reaches a huge audience at little to no cost to the business.
It generates new leads and customers – so invest in content marketing and create engaging content and watch your business grow.
Astonished Photo via Shutterstock
Trade shows aren’t the least expensive way to market your small business, but they are one of the most powerful if leveraged correctly. Trade shows allow you to reach and speak to people who you might never get the opportunity to do business with otherwise. Planning ahead using a few simple trade show tactics is the key to a successful trade show marketing appearance.
Some small businesses make the mistake of assuming that simply appearing at the trade show is enough to spark interest in their products and a desire to do business with the company.
However, every time you attend a trade show you need a clear goal in mind for what you hope to accomplish. Examples of clearly defined goals include:
Once the goal is clearly defined, you can craft a booth, presentation and literature to achieve this goal.
Never underestimate the “wow” factor at a trade show. You only have about 30 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, so make those first few seconds count. Tools for introducing the “wow” factor into your trade show appearance include:
Build ways to garner attention at the event, as well as stick in attendees’ minds afterwards. Part of this is color coordinating your booth artwork with the literature or samples you hand out, so the attendee recognizes your logo and name later on.
Radio ads, TV ads, billboards, and social media are all excellent ways to get the word out ahead of the trade show that you’ll be there. But don’t just promote your appearance, give people a good reasons to come to the trade show and make the effort to stop by your booth.
Offer prizes, hold contests, give social media users a booth check-in option, and offer special presentations throughout the event via your social media outposts.
People are more likely to come if there’s a reward involved.
Some small businesses think that a small niche trade show is better for them to get noticed than a huge, more generalized show, such as a home and garden event or ladies’ show.
However, those larger events get much more traffic, which means more exposure for you than you could generate at a small event with fewer attendants. Even if you attend an event where most people are outside your niche, you never know how meeting, greeting, and networking can pay off in the long run.
If small businesses plan and use smart strategies and trade show tactics to design the booth, produce quality literature and up the ante with audio or video, they can measure up to the big guys and come out on top.
Trade Show Display Photo via Shutterstock
A slow loading website can hurt your small business by turning away visitors who expect fast load times and smooth online experiences, and harming your reputation.
If your site runs slow and you’re running WordPress, there are plenty of things that could be slowing you down. Below are five common reasons for sluggish performance on WordPress platforms, and how you can fix them.
With thousands of shiny plugins out there promising to do amazing things for your website, it’s easy to get caught up and catch plugin fever. Soon, you’ve got plugins controlling every function and feature on your site—you might even have plugins for your plugins.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, the more plugins you have, the more work your website has to do while it’s loading. And second, not all plugins are created equally—poor or outdated plugins can slow down site performance drastically.
Evaluate your current plugins to figure out which ones you actually need. Get rid of multiple plugins that perform the same functions, plugins that you’re no longer using, and those that were created more than 5 years ago and have never been updated.
Surprisingly, you can check the performance of your plugins with…another plugin. The P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) shows you how each plugin impacts your WordPress site load time, so you can adjust accordingly.
In most cases, the homepage is the first one your visitors see. So you might have designed it to show off everything you can, in order to impress new visitors. Widgets are cool, right?
But the more widgets and content you have on the front page, the longer your site takes to load.
Keep in mind that a clean design is just as impressive. Don’t stick sharing widgets everywhere on your homepage (save them for the end of your blog posts, where they’ll have the most impact). Pare down and remove any unnecessary widgets or plugins.
You can also speed up load times using the WordPress options to show excerpts instead of full posts, and limit the number of posts per page—5 to 7 is a good number.
The higher the size and quality of an image, the longer it takes to load. If you have amazing graphics and an image or two (or more) with every blog post, your loading time will be slower.
There are a few ways to address the image issue. One is with Lazy Load—a process that loads only the images appearing “above the fold,” or on the part of the site a visitor is actually viewing. You can do this automatically with the jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin.
Another is with an image optimizer program like Yahoo!’s Smush.it. You can use the tool right from the site to compact images (without losing quality)—or you can install the WP Smush.It plugin to have it done automatically when you add images to your site.
Free is the best price for anything, and you may have searched for a free WordPress theme to avoid using the same themes that everyone else has. However, like free movie sites and music downloads, there’s an excellent chance that “free” theme comes with a price tag in the form of spyware or viruses, which do more than slow down your site.
Unless you have a really good reason to completely trust the developer of a free theme, only use themes from the official WordPress theme repository. If you want something different, consider investing less than $100 in a premium theme.
If you’re running the WordPress.org platform, you need a Web host for your site. There are free Web hosting providers, and incredibly cheap hosts. Of course, you’re interested in saving money—so you might have gone with the lowest possible price tag.
But a poor Web host can hurt more than your load times.
If your Web hosting solution is free or dirt-cheap, consider upgrading to a well known host, which usually runs between $4 and $8 per month. Here’s what to think about when choosing a web hosting company.
Are you satisfied with how fast your WordPress site loads?
Slow Website Photo via Shutterstock
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Conversion rate optimization is the fastest, easiest, most cost effective way to increase your website’s impact on your bottom line. Even the smallest of businesses can benefit from increased conversion rates. Higher conversion rates mean more customers for your local business.
There is a catch, though. The most powerful weapon in conversion rate optimization — testing — can’t really be used for small websites with a limited number of conversions.
But that’s not the end of the world.
Most small business owners will be able to increase their website’s conversions just by following these tips.
It might sound like a good idea at first. But buying templates, hiring your cousins or trying to optimize your own website will eventually cost you more money than you will initially save.
Professional designers may have experience with literally hundreds or thousands of sites. When it comes to creating a high performance website, leave it to the professionals.
It’s not about you, it’s about your potential customers. Your customers care only about themselves. It should be the one thing you and your customers have in common.
What does that have to do with copy?
If you focus on your customer’s needs and how your products or services benefit them, your copy will become more persuasive. Remember to use language your customers can understand and sell the sizzle.
People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. Make your company more human by featuring your employees on the “about us” page. Use real people, not models, for the pictures on your site.
This lets your visitors and potential customers know that they will be dealing with real people when they call.
Customers respond to convenience and like the idea of shopping locally in their communities if possible. This means if your business has a storefront, you want to make sure that your visitors know how convenient your location really is. (Minutes from the highway, close to the center of town, etc.)
If you have a service area business (a business that provides services at your customer’s location), you need to let users know that you serve their town. You can do this by adding a service area map to your pages. Also mention your service area in your copy.
Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? How about your local BBB chapter?
If yes, let your prospective customers know by displaying your affiliations proudly on your website. It will help your prospects see you as a credible, trustworthy company. It will also increase your conversion rates.
Testimonials are incredibly important. They harvest the power of social proof and are one of the easiest ways to increase conversions. Most people don’t take full advantage of testimonials. To maximize the power of your testimonials you should:
When a visitor reaches your website, the site needs to sell that visitor on a couple of other things before it can ever generate an honest to goodness sale. It needs to sell your company, your services/products – and it needs to sell them on acting NOW. Without the last part nothing happens.
So how do you create a sense of urgency?
By convincing visitors they will lose something if they don’t act now – special pricing, a good deal etc.
There are no universal solutions in Internet marketing. There are only solutions for your problems, in your market that work for you right now. This is true for conversion rate optimization.
Remember to accurately measure your conversion rates while you keep improving.
Sales Photo via Shutterstock
Instagram recently introduced Instagram ads to its users’ feeds joining the ranks of Facebook, Twitter and others.
The first ad posted was from U.S. fashion label Michael Kors.
Instagram first told users about plans to monetize the site through ads or sponsored posts about a month ago on the official Instagram Blog:
We have big ideas for the future, and part of making them happen is building Instagram into a sustainable business. In the next couple months, you may begin seeing an occasional ad in your Instagram feed if you’re in the United States.
However, in a recent question and answer section on its official page introducing the new photo and video ad feature, Instagram also attempted to reassure users:
As we introduce ads on Instagram, we’re taking our time and working closely with a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.
Those brands will include Adidas, Ben Jerry’s, Burberry, General Electric, Lexus, Levi’s, Macy’s, Michael Kors, PayPal and Starwood, Instagram says.
Simon Mansell, CEO and founder of marketing firm TBG Digital, recently told Bloomberg TV he expects Instagram to be extremely selective in picking early advertisers that will fit the service’s current user experience.
He also said continued proliferation of advertising on more and more social media channels will make brands more willing to spend money on creating and promoting social media content.
But some users worry the coming of ads to Instagram might eventually mean everyone, including small businesses, will need to pay for visibility.
I’m not so concerned about ads on Instagram but wondering if they’re going to make us pay to let people see our pics posts, à la Facebook?
— David Lebovitz (@davidlebovitz) October 26, 2013
As this tweet suggests, a similar situation has already happened on Facebook.
Of course, advertising on Instagram may eventually also offer opportunities for small businesses to reach this social network’s 150 million users with their own marketing messages too.
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Running a small business blog makes a lot of sense, marketing-wise. It’s great for SEO (search engine optimization), because search engines love websites with a steady stream of fresh, quality content. It’s great for engagement because visitors enjoy looking forward to new articles, resources and information on a regular basis.
You’ll find all sorts of advice out there on this topic. Some experts advocate quality over quantity, and say you can post to your blog once a week, or even once a month, as long as it’s consistently high-quality material – long, well-written posts with authoritative links and statistics and research.
Others adhere to the idea that it’s imperative to update your blog every day, even if you just throw up a dashed-off post that consists of a link and a few sentences of commentary. Frequent posting, they say, drives search engines more impressively than quality.
So, who’s right?
What’s the magic number for updating your blog that will give you the right balance between quality and quantity, keeping both search engines and visitors happy and returning to you again and again?
The unfortunate truth is there’s no magic number. But there are some updating frequencies that are better than others, and there is a right number of posts per week for you and your particular small business.
Even if you have the most amazing quality blog posts ever written, if you’re not updating at least once a week, you’re losing momentum. Search engines crawl your website less often. Visitors and potential customers forget that your blog exists.
If your updates are more than a week apart, it’s about as effective as not blogging at all.
While it’s true that daily content can give your small business blog a great boost, it’s equally true that a sudden drop in publishing frequency can damage your efforts.
Burnout can be a serious problem for bloggers. If you’re trying to write fresh content every single day, you’re probably on a fast track to running out of steam.
Unless you have someone whose only job is to write daily blog posts, or you’re planning to supplement original content with guest posts, reprints and material, you don’t have to write fresh. A daily post schedule probably isn’t the best choice for your small business blog. After all, you’ve got a business to run.
When you have a regularly updated and engaging blog, you’re positioned for more website traffic and increased lead generation. According to recent data from marketing company Hubspot:
Consistency is the most important aspect of small business blogging. Once you have a regular schedule, your visitors will know to expect new material at those intervals. They’ll come back to look for your latest post. Search engines also give higher preference to regularly updated websites over those that update sporadically or infrequently.
For most small businesses, updating your blog one to three times per week is a realistic and effective schedule. Make your blog updates a priority, continue to provide quality posts and resources, and you’ll see returns in the form of more traffic and increased sales through your small business website.
Blog Photo via Shutterstock
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Although in beta for quite some time, Google has finally given AdWords users the option to place third party reviews, ratings or awards into an AdWords listing. Above is a screenshot of how the Review Extension works, which was provided by Google when they made the announcement.
The idea here is that users can get a good feel for what authoritative sources are saying about a company right there on the SERP (search engine results page). It can help your company stand out and find that edge. However, there are a few rules to keep in mind when setting up your review.
According to Google, they have:
“. . .already seen an enthusiastic response to review extensions and many of the advertisers who have implemented them have seen impressive results.”
In other words, it has already proven effective and is surely something to consider.
Below are a few of the details regarding the new feature:
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that you must have permission to use the quote before you include it in your listing. If you can’t find the source to get permission then you can’t use the review.
Submitting and managing a review is actually quite easy following the steps below:
Google explained that you can always visit the AdWords Help center if you need help getting started. Below is a screenshot they provided that shows the setup described above:
Whenever you’re talking about reviews, it’s a question that needs to be asked.
The review that a company puts into the ad must be from a third-party source (not an individual user) and a link to that source must be included next to the review. If someone clicks this link, there is no charge to you or the source.
Google will use both a manual as well as automated system to review every review extension to make sure it is legitimate.
Reputation is essentially the moral of the story. Reviews are becoming more important than ever, plain and simple. Whether you choose to add a review into your advertisement or not, it’s clear that Google is trying to move toward a Web full of reviews and meaningful interactions.
This is the perfect way to show to users your reputation with real people and not just with the Google bots. Google, of course, wants the Web to include the realist picture of its listings, and choosing something that represents a company’s reputation seems like the perfect fit.
Urging your customers to leave reviews on your Google page, as well as other outlets like Yelp and social media, is a good way to start ramping up your number and creating the full picture of your company. Who knows, maybe something will jump out at you and you’ll have to include it in your AdWords campaign.
What are net promoter scores? Well, if you have some idea how many of your customers would likely recommend your product or service to a friend, you already have a handle on the idea of Net Promoter Score.
Here’s how it works. Ask each customer to rate the likelihood they’d recommend you to someone else on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not likely and 10 being extremely likely. Now, group them based on their response.
Generally, we might say that those who responded between, say, 7 and 8 are passives. They like your product or service. They may even continue purchasing it. But they aren’t necessarily going to run out and tell a friend about it.
Passives are satisfied customers, but they aren’t as enthusiastic as your promoters are. These are groups of customers who can switch loyalty in a moment’s notice. They are not as likely to be overly enthusiastic about your business.
Then there are those who responded between 0 and 6. We might call these detractors. We might optimistically say some of them toward the upper end of the scale are at least mildly satisfied with your product or service.
More realistically, though, these people are clearly unhappy customers. They can damage your reputation and are likely to spread negative word-of-mouth.
Then we come to customers who responded between 9 and 10. These are your promoters.
Promoters are loyalists. They are enthusiastic and they keenly believe that your products or services can really help or make a difference to their friends, colleagues, and others. They are firm in their belief that you deliver as a business and they place their complete trust in you.
These are people who will do much more than buy from you. They will shout your name from the rooftops, name a child after you…well, you get the idea.
When you’ve grouped your customer base this way, you’ve essentially determined your net promoter score, a very important number for the future growth of your company.
Well, it turns out a company can determine its success based on how many customers are willing to recommend its products and services to others. In fact, research shows the percentage of customers who are likely to refer a friend or colleague correlates comparatively with company growth rate and profitability, writes Frederick F. Reichheld in Harvard Business Review.
In other instances, net promoter scores can raise important red flags about customer dissatisfaction.
In one instance, poor net promoter scores alerted GE’s Healthcare services that most customers were upset about slow response times from engineers. The realization led GE to set up a new call center reducing turnaround per customer request, BusinessWeek reported.
OK, but how valuable a tool is net promoter score when it comes to growing a business and brand?
Well, arguably very valuable according to at least one observer.
Consider what may be the most famous example of measuring passionate fans to grow a brand, Apple Inc. Late CEO Steve Jobs was legendary for apparently ignoring customer feedback and relying instead on his instincts when it came to developing new products and features.
But this reputation can be deceiving, writes Forbes.com contributor Steve Denning. Denning reviews The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Reichheld with Rob Markey.
In fact, everything Apple does is meant to cater to its major promoters. How likely are these people to recommend Apple’s products to friends? Very likely. In fact, Apple has been extremely successful in creating a cult of fans dedicated to its products, Denning writes.
How has the company accomplished this? Simply, Apple focuses all its energies, from how it manages its retail stores to every other aspect of its day-to-day operations, on building its net promoter score. For example, Apple’s store managers call detractors within 24 hours to determine how to improve their experience with the company and its products. The results clearly show Apple’s success with this strategy. In 2007, Apple stores had a net promoter score of 58%. By 2011, that score had risen to 72% with some stores reaching as high as 92%.
Of course, it’s important for small businesses to pay attention to all their customers. But focusing on those passionate enough to spread the word to others about your brand, products and services is key. It’s a strategy that can help your business and brand grow quickly by word of mouth without a big marketing budget.
As with many other things, car owners can now turn to their smartphones for the task of finding an auto mechanic who can take care of their auto repair needs. Services like RepairJungle and RepairPal allow customers to receive online estimates for auto repair services via a mobile version of their site so customers can process requests from anywhere.
Apps like the RepairPal app for iOS and Android devices provides customer reviews and the ability to locate a shop nearby. The app breaks down estimates by parts and labor costs and even connects you with roadside assistance.
Auto repair shops aren’t usually highlighted on the major review apps like Yelp or Around Me. But a majority of consumers will take proximity and user reviews into consideration when they choose a mechanic and decide to make an appointment. Many times, these two qualities are more important than offering the lowest price. So it makes sense for shops like these to embrace mobile technology to reach a wider audience and offer them the information and ease necessary to aid them in their decision.
Apps allow shops and businesses such as these to promote their services through a marketing medium they are used to: Word of mouth.
The only difference is that the recommendations come via the Internet. Shops who are able to provide quality service for a lower price can use mobile apps to draw in business from other parts of town. Parts of town that may be wealthier, which makes a difference.
As John Mallette, owner of Burke Auto Body and Paint explains, ”Where you get screwed in our business is labor hours.” His Long Beach shop charges 40 dollars per hour. But he has heard of shops in a nearby wealthier part of town, Newport Beach, that charge as much as 90 dollars an hour for the same exact service.
Despite the fact that more people than ever use the Web to research everything before becoming a customer – including their auto mechanic – some businesses and shops still don’t advertise on the Internet, as hard as that may be to believe.
Online advertising can be extremely cost-effective. Consider the fact that services like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads charge only when someone clicks on the ad. Compare that to the cost of running an ad in a local newspaper or magazine and you begin to see the advantages.
In addition to cost, online marketing campaigns tell the business about customer intentions, behaviors and the effectiveness of their marketing campaign. There is much information to be gained.
All businesses stand to gain a great deal from harnessing the power of online marketing through commercial apps, social media and search advertising. All it takes is some time to get familiar with the tools – but it’s well worth the investment.
Auto App Photo via Shutterstock