Today, blogs are helpful when we’re researching subjects online. We can find a lot of great information online, usually in the form of a blog written by an expert on the subject. As a web hosting company
, our PSPinc blog posts typically focus on subjects that relate to our business, including things like web development and web marketing. That’s why this month we’ll focus on blogging, which is a critical piece of the web today. First, we’ll start off with the history of the blog and then move on to the dos and don’ts of blogging.
“A blog (a truncation of the expression "weblog") is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries ("posts"). Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post appears first, at the top of the web page.” - www.wikipedia.org
In the late 90s, internet was becoming more of an interactive media, and weblog tools were introduced so you wouldn’t have to know all the HTML codes in order to publish articles online, hence the birth of the blog. A blog is simply a publishing tool for authors, and it has since changed the way we keep our knowledge and information online.
The blog came into the spotlight at the right time. Web 2.0 came out a few years after weblog tools were introduced, allowing people to interact online instead of just receive information. As a result, blogs became more popular and powerful as the engines and drivers for interactive media today.
With Web 2.0, blogs provided a platform where users could comment on articles written by authors and “interact” with each other, exchanging information and dialogue for the first time. In a sense, blogs were the early social media platform.
It’s hard to believe, but our own blog engine, bloguru.com
, was launched in 2004. It has become a powerful SEO tool for us with good search engine scores. If you are interested in using our blog engine platform, or learning more about it, please contact us
. We can send you an invitation to join.
We covered a lot of ground about local marketing and its platforms. In this last blog of the series, let’s talk about some things you should NOT do.
1) You should NOT ignore claiming your business online.
Please do not ignore: you must claim your business on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other media sites if you would like to succeed online. If you do ignore this basic step, it’s very likely you will lose control of your business’ own identity.
2) You should NOT ignore including your service area.
Unless you don’t want to be found by local online searches, you really should mention where you provide your services or where your store is located. Without mentioning it (consistently), you will never be found, or you will lose a lot of sales opportunity to your competition.
3) You should NOT forget to include your address.
Just as we all have an address and telephone number on our business card, we need to have this information online as well. PO boxes are fine, but it’s best to have a street address to appear more credible. In fact, without your physical address listed, people could even assume you’re overseas. Google will index your location along with your ZIP code if it’s listed in your homepage footer, so consider including it there, at the very least.
4) You should NOT forget to include your telephone number.
The phone number is as important as the address. Google can recognize your area code if you put it in your homepage, which helps to localize your business. Even if you have a toll free number, don’t forget to include your local number next to it.
5) You should NOT be inconsistent with your local strategy.
Have a strategy and figure out the location in which you want to be advertised. Use those same location keywords frequently. Use the same address(es). The same hashtags. If you are inconsistent about keywords and locations, and your strategy is all over the place, don’t expect the local marketing return to be what you hoped.
In your local marketing efforts, there are things you can routinely do on your website and social media to boost your success:
1) Create a hashtag.
You’ve seen these creative phrases that begin with the # sign. Well, you can come up with a unique “tag” for your business and every time you post something or publish a blog, include your hashtag, which then indexes every post you’ve made with that tag. You could combine multiple hashtags as well, and include the location in some to draw in local searchers. For example, our unique tag is #pspinc, and some more general ones we use to bring more traffic are #smallbiz #webhosting and #seattlebusiness. Since hashtags are indexed and often searched, you can test different ones to see if they bring different levels of traffic to your site.
2) Put the location in your content.
If you would like to target a region or an area, make sure you mention location within the content of your website or social media posts. For your website, you might want to consider having a footer that explains you provide service in areas A, B and C. The location names should be nicely laid out within your content.
3) Your URL (web address) can be localized.
If you have a URL (more commonly known as a web address) that contains the name of the location, it is a very powerful tool in search engines. For example, we have a domain name called Japanese-Online.com. Because the word “Japanese” is part of our domain name, it comes up on the first page of Google searches when people type in keywords about wanting to learn Japanese. If you have a store in Bellevue, make sure you have a web page with an address like www.my_domain.com/bellevue_store/ so the word “Bellevue” gets you indexed higher in the search engines for local searches.
4) Get your link in local directories.
There are plenty of search engine optimized sites like BBB, the Yellow Pages, or look into local business associations. By having your name associated on these pages and your website link included on them, your presence in the area you wish to market will be stronger.
5) Consider paid ads.
It may also be beneficial for you to consider investing/experimenting in some pay-per-click (PPC) ads in Google and Facebook. You can really target specific demographics and locations to get exposure in front of more specific groups of consumers.
6) Seek reviews.
Finally, as we’ve mentioned before, make sure you work to get reviews on Google+, Facebook and Yelp!
When it comes to Google’s formula for ranking companies in online search results, there are many factors that are not disclosed. Google also fine-tunes its algorithm constantly to give end users the best search results, so it’s ever changing.
What we do know for a fact is it’s crucial for businesses to be ranked high in Google and other search engines if we really want to compete with our competitors in the online space and generate leads. The fundamental element that is important to a high search engine ranking is site popularity, which is based on the amount of traffic you have coming to your site thru external links from other sites. The more referral traffic your website gets from other quality websites, the more popular you are deemed by search engines.
More often these days, Google and local review sites such as Yelp are providing local search results closer to the end users’ location. The proximity factor is becoming more important, which is why you need to make sure your address is stated on your website, and accurately registered in Google My Business. If you have multiple locations, you should include each address in Google My Business so you don’t miss any opportunities from potentials customers close in proximity to any of your locations.
If review sites and business directories such as Yelp and TripAdvisor provide external links to your site and show up in Google search results, why not take advantage of these free and useful opportunities to boost your site traffic and popularity? Registering your business in these spaces not only helps boost your site popularity, it also helps you take charge of your virtual business image and connect you better with your potential customers. It’s a win-win opportunity.
When it comes to local marketing, you’re not limited to just Google and Facebook. Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor that engage with local businesses, and where people can submit their reviews and experiences, are also important. A good rule of thumb is that happy customers are the best brand ambassadors. When they give you positive ratings and reviews, they spread the word about your business, creating a buzz marketing effect.
There is some debate whether Yelp is effective or not, but we cannot ignore the fact that Yelp URLs do show up in search results, often high up on the first page, so if your business is active on Yelp, you could be discovered in a Google search via Yelp.
Like Facebook and Google, you need to claim your business on Yelp and take charge of the content. Here are the steps to do that:
1. Go to http://biz.yelp.com.
2. Find your business on Yelp.
3. If you cannot find your business on the list, click on Add your business to Yelp.
4. If you do see your business on the list, claim it, and Yelp will call your number to verify.
5. Go to the management page to input your company information.
Once you claim your business, you can add location information for multiple stores/branches (if needed) from the management page. You can also respond to customer reviews. If you are in the travel industry, a similar process exists in sites such as TripAdvisor.
Research online to see what sites you believe your customers may engage in, and claim your business there. The more outlets that publicize your business, the higher chance your website will be found online.
Most people by now have their own personal Facebook accounts, but not everyone is set up with a business account. Does your business have a Facebook account yet? You might think, “Oh no, another thing to do!?” Well, yes, you’d better at least set up a page so no one else hijacks your company identity on Facebook. What could be worse than someone operating with false information under your business name on a platform used by just about everybody?
Without naming the company involved, here’s a true story which will help explain our point above…
We met with a potential client on the West Coast. They asked us to give some SEO feedback so we searched their name on Google. Along with their official website domain name, we found some Facebook search results that linked back to their corporate Facebook page. When we clicked the search result, we got a shock.
The company’s employees had a holiday party a few years back, and they decided to post pictures on Facebook, tagging many of their employees in photos, and created a Facebook page that claimed to be the company’s page. To make matters worse, the holiday party was not an official company party, it just happened to be several employees drinking at a party in the bar.
Although nothing illegal was going on, I’m pretty sure the company’s owner did not appreciate having employees’ personal photos and conduct representing the official company Facebook page.
So, now are you ready to set up your page?
Facebook recently introduced more tools for businesses, called Facebook Business
. The instructions are very simple, and from there you can also create ads and pages. Don’t ignore this step or you might regret it later on. Be proactive about representing your business online!
Claiming your business in the Google database is probably the most crucial piece of your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO isn’t all about fancy tags and keyword-rich content, that’s just part of it. Claiming your business will help you be listed on Google with correct location information along with some photos and your hours of operation, and it is said this will help your site’s SEO as well.
Here are some of the key steps in claiming your business on Google:
1. Have your Gmail account ready. If you prefer, create a new Gmail account for your business. We advise you to have a separate Gmail account for your business to keep things more organized, by not mixing personal and business information.
2. Go to Google My Business at http://business.google.com,
click the “Start Now” button, then follow the instructions.
3. You will receive a post card to verify your permanent address from Google so you won’t be able to claim someone else’s business and hijack it. Once you receive the post card, you can follow the instructions to set up your business profile.
With Google My Business, you can set up your:
Reviews (and respond to reviews)
Once set up is complete, you’re now in charge of what people find about you on Google search!
If your business doesn’t do much with social media or online marketing, you may not even realize reviews are being posted about you without you even knowing. That is not a good situation, especially if those reviews are negative.
Our philosophy is it’s better to be proactive than reactive, therefore, I encourage entrepreneurs to take control of the situation and take control of their online presence. To do this, you have to claim your business online so you become in charge of its virtual presence, including the management of those reviews.
Here are some of the better-known online platforms in which to claim your business:
Google is number 1. You should definitely claim your business on Google. It provides a special tool called Google My Business, making it very simple to claim your business. You submit your claim to your business and wait for a postcard to arrive in the mail so Google can verify your claim. You can manage your map, the search results page photos, and much more.
On Facebook, you can set up a business or organization page. It’s easy to do: open a business or an organization page from the “Create Page” menu. If a page already exists for your business that shouldn’t be live, you can submit a claim to Facebook to take back control of the page.
Although Google and Facebook do cover the majority of networks for your clients, you might also want to consider checking your existence on the following sites:
- Any other local micro sites
Remember, being in control requires you to be proactive, not reactive, so get started searching and claiming your company online!
Whether you’re investing in a local marketing campaign or a larger-scale campaign, you should always have a strategy in place. Also decide if your campaign will be something permanent or a temporary targeted campaign. For example, you may want a specific campaign for a grand opening or a big sale weekend. If your company hasn’t yet dabbled in local marketing techniques, you might want to consider a test campaign to see if it’s a right fit for your business.
Here are some local marketing campaign ideas:
Offering Coupons / Happy Hour
Get your word out by hiring local coupon mailers, advertising in the local paper, or online at Groupon or Living Social, which cater to local searches. Have a “happy hour” where certain products are discounted if customers come within that timeframe.
Facebook and Instagram can also display ads to a very specific audience in a targeted location. It’s worth starting with a small budget to test these out if your client demographic is using these platforms.
Hosting / Participating in Events
Whether you are hosting a community event, or sponsoring it, or even just volunteering time and resources to the event, let your community know about your company’s involvement in something they’ll enjoy. If you don’t know how to reach your existing customers, you’d better start tracking them by asking for emails, sending newsletters, and promoting your social media sites so they can follow you online.
Asking for Reviews and Referrals
When you encounter a happy customer, that’s the best time to ask for their review or referral. Reviews can be done online via Yelp, Google+, Facebook, or you can simply ask them to follow you on Twitter or any other social media so their friends will also find out about you. Getting reviews don’t generally happen organically, and typically to get a really good one, you have to ask for it. Which is why you might want to offer something in return for a review. A simple discount for a future purchase, a free drink, or something else to thank those who help you get the word out can go a long way.
Before you choose your campaign, it’s important you define the framework of your campaigns:
- What are you trying to sell?
- What do you consider a success? How do you measure it?
- Do you have a process in place to track your success?
- Who within your neighborhood would you like to reach?
- How do you reach them?
- What is your message?
- What is your budget for this trial?
- How long / how many times would you like the campaign to run?
Basically, defining your 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) before you start your campaign will help you develop a strategy for success.
Just as a Super Bowl ad may not be a good fit for your company, you also need to determine if local marketing is a good fit for your type of company. For example, if your business doesn’t have a physical storefront in the community or neighborhood, it may not be worth your resources to target locally.
Businesses that see the most success with local marketing have storefronts in the community. Small or large, those stores are physically tied to a neighborhood. Even if your business is part of a larger franchise, which provides marketing for the franchise brand, you still want to make sure your store is reputable and well-known in your community via your own marketing efforts.
Businesses like restaurants and retailers, and businesses with a repeat customer base can really benefit from local marketing techniques. Generally, local marketing efforts are great for businesses targeting customers within a 10-mile or 10-minute range, as a rule of thumb. Grocery stores, for example, are prime candidates for employing local marketing methods.
Many of the larger chain and franchise stores tend to forget how important it is to have local neighborhood support. It’s important to “localize” your brand and message along with your product offering. Oftentimes, the customer preferences vary from region to region, and a smart company will adapt their messaging to those needs, in order to serve the local community successfully.
Even some larger companies are trying to adopt local marketing methods, particularly in the online space. When it comes to online local marketing, consider the following questions:
- When you search on Google, does your company show up on the local listing?
- Do you know your local range?
- How many local followers do you have on your social media sites?
- Who are your local competitors?
- How are your reviews on search engines and social media?
Keep those in mind and we will cover some strategies for your local marketing efforts next week.
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