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Why Google Local Listings are so important

Posted by: on Monday, August 25, 2014

google local listings

If you haven't heard the buzz already, Google and other major search engines have started to pay a lot more attention to local searches. There's a good reason why: 70% of all internet searches are for local businesses and 59% of Internauts use Google every month to find a local business.

And what we are finding is that a lot of people have neglected to register their website (for free) with the major data directories. Google scans those directories (aka "data aggregators") to identify the local companies that are relevant to what you are searching.

See, Google knows where you are located based on your IP address and many other factors. If Google knows that you are currently in Miami, it makes a lot of sense for Google to show you search results with companies located in Miami instead of a company located in Orlando.

The good news is that its easy and "mostly" free to do it. Now it's easy but very time consuming and can be frustrating at time when you have duplicate or listings with errors. Patience will be required, and getting it fixed overnight will take about 2-3 months. 

Don't do Internet Marketing SEO until your local listings are fixed

It will be counter productive. Just consider Local Listings as the foundation for SEO. If you don't have a proper foundation, you will never be able to build a solid house. Being listed to the 14 major Web directories creates valuable links back to your business’s website. This helps your corporate website  with more search authority and relevancy while helping you rank better with your keywords.

Why is it important

Take Ownership: you want to take ownership of your local listing to protect yourself from someone else trying to pretend to be you, or redirecting traffic to them.

Better Ranking: getting your local listing in order will be very helpful in having your website rank for your keywords.

Be a step ahead of your competition: or maybe level the playing field if your competition has corrected their local listings. There's nothing wrong with checking how your competitors is doing with local listings. If they are doing very good, they are most likely eating your lunch. If they are doing poorly, you will soon be ranking better than they are.

How to fix your local listing

There are several tools you can use to help you get your local listing in order:
(Note: having a local listing does require a valid local address (no PO Box) and a valid local business number.)

1-Moz Local (https://moz.com/local/overview)
Simply click on the "Check my listing score", enter your company name & zip code, and Moz will show you the companies that are listed with that description.
Click on your company name and you will get a score in % of accuracy. Anything below 50% is not good at all, between 50-70% is okay but needs to be fixed, anything above 80% and you are in fairly good shape. Of course, you want to get as close to 100% as you can.

Moz charges a small yearly fee of $49/year and is connected to 5 of the major data aggregator (Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom, and Factual)

2-Yext (http://www.yext.com/)
You can do the same by adding your business name & business phone number to check your results. Personally I prefer Moz because they focus on the major directories where Yext adds many listings that are quite frankly irrelevant.

Yext charges over $500/year and is connected to only 1 of the major data agreegator

Here is a good article showing a good in depth comparaison of Moz, Yext and a few other similar systems.
http://www.brightlocal.com/2014/05/27/mozlocal-vs-yext-vs-ubl-vs-brightlocal-vs-whitspark/ 

Based on our study, we highly recommend Moz Local to fix your local listings.

Need help with getting your local listing in order?
We can help! Call us at 561-272-8567 and ask to speak with Antoine

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How a book changed my business

Posted by: on Monday, March 31, 2014

I want to tell you about a book that changed my business. The insights I gained with this book have helped me make some strategic changes in how I handle my day-to-day operations, how I view my net profit margin.

The book I am talking about is "Simple Numbers, Straight Talk and Big Profits" by Greg Crabtree.

Here is what I learned from this valuable resource:

  • Most business owners have a bad habit: we under pay ourselves. How can I ever replace myself if I don't pay myself a fair market value wage. If you are like many business owners, you may pay yourself what you would a manager. However, as the business owner, you are more valuable than you think. If you are not paying yourself a fair wage, then your profit and loss statement is not telling the whole story.

  • The minimum acceptable net profit is ten percent. The book outlines why this is so important. It is a figure that many business owners don't even come close to. You need to start building your annual budget from the bottom up, not the top down. The bottom line is the 10 percent net profit. 15% is best in order to grow and invest but 10% is the line in the sand not to go below. 5% net profit is life support. Make that your goal for the year.

  • Be transparent with your staff. If you were to ask your staff what you pay yourself, you would find their estimates are a lot higher than what you actually do. They will also tell you that the company makes a lot more profit than it really does. When you are open and honest with your staff about those critical numbers, you will find a profound change happening. It is freeing and empowering for everyone. It will build morale faster than you ever thought possible.

  • Know your labor productivity like a ninja. Somewhere, you are losing money on one of your products or services. And you likely have no clue it is happening. Break down every bit of your labor costs and find those inefficiencies. Ask your staff to help. You might be surprised at how quickly they start pointing out the problems that you never saw. 

  • You might achieve overnight success in about ten to fifteen years. You need to understand how your business will grow in the future and forecast accordingly. This is critical for making sound business decisions and making that overnight success happen in the next decade or so.
     

If you want to transform your business, I highly recommend that you get a copy of this book for yourself and see what it says. You will start making strategic decisions and incorporating the ideas from this book into all your operations.

You can order a copy of the book with this link - Simple Numbers, Straight Talk and Big Profits on amazon

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How to leverage Instagram with your restaurant

Posted by: on Monday, March 24, 2014

Instagram is an online service that allows users to share photos, view videos, and build social networks. The service makes it easy to share photos on other social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. Like most social media platforms, Instagram has found its place in the world of Internet marketing. Businesses can use it to generate relevant images and get their followers to share them.

If you run a restaurant, Instagram is something you need to integrate into your marketing plans and into your corporate website design. Here are six ways you can leverage this service for your restaurant:

  1. Let your clients do the work. Encourage them to take photos and share them on Instagram. Be sure to link your Instagram profile into those photos. This lets your customers have fun and generate traffic for you at the same time.

  2. Create a game with a reward. A great example is the best picture of the week gets the photo taker a free lunch. Do this for a few weeks and you will see plenty of people coming to participate in the game and eat your food.

  3. Use Instagram photos to create fun images for your website or menu. Every restaurant menu and website has pictures of dressed up plates of appetizing food. Your menu and corporate website design can stand out by highlighting some spontaneous pictures you or a customer takes in the restaurant. It engages your audience and builds customer loyalty.

  4. Let's you build a following...that you can follow right back. As your customers start engaging with you on Instagram, your audience widens naturally as they share pictures. As you gain a follower, follow them right back. This helps create a personal relationship with your customers.

  5. You can embed fresh new photos every day on your website. When you have an activeInstagram campaign going on, capture photos every day. Upload and display them on your corporate website design. Putting up a photo with a caption like "Dan proposed to Tammy in our restaurant yesterday. Congratulations!!" will grab people's attention.

  6. Reach out by inspiring potential new customers. When you project a fun environment full of happy people and great food, you will see people paying attention. They will want to see what is gong on and make their own visit. This will spread quicker than you might think.

You know that building a successful restaurant is about building relationships with customers and providing them with a great dining experience. You can leverage Instagram to build those critical relationships so that customers will come in and see how your restaurant's dining experience is.

How do you plan on using Instagram for your restaurant?

instagram for restaurant sample

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How safe is your personal information online?

Posted by: on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Over the last few months or so, I've learned a lot about how safe or unsafe our personal information is on the internet. Or maybe the question should be "how much of my personal information is out there?". The answer is a lot more than you think. Now, I'll address the "safe" issue later on. Let's talk first about "how much data" are we talking about.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched an episode of CBS 60 Minutes called : "The Data Brokers". According to the report, some data brokers have about 1500 points of data on you. Anything from your address, gender, age, religious affiliation, etc and things more obscure such as what time you go to bed, a disease you may have and what type of medication you take on a regular basis. So how do they know all of this?

Think about it for a second, every time you like or share something on Facebook or Twitter or Google+, that data is recorded. When you visit a website, an online news outlet, read some gossip,  buy something on Amazon, its recorded. All that data is recorded and makes it part of your profile. Even if you don't sign up for anything, your IP address and your computer may be giving the clue to data brokers that it's YOU...and they collect it in your profile.

Another way data is collected on you is via Apps you download on your mobile phone. The 60 minutes claims that Apps like "Brightest Flashlight Free" are nothing more than data collecting Apps. True, it gives you an amazing App that allows you to use your phone as a flashlight in a dark place, but its intended purpose for the developer is to collect data. Same thing with games like Angry Bird, they allow to play and in return you share data, whether you like it or not. Did you know that? and....have you ever read the Agreement you are requested to click on before you download an App? because it's there, in plain English, that you are agreeing to allow the App to collect some data on your phone sometime via your location and the GPS locator.

App Agreement ScreenshotLook at the App Permissions for a Traffic monitoring App called Waze on the right. Specifically look at the last section: permission to access your calendar? events?? confidential information?? read your contacts?? Really? for a traffic monitoring App??!!

Yes they want to know where you are at all time. They want to know where you shop, where you eat, how long you stayed, etc.

Now that I most likely got you in a state of "OMG...I feel violated", bare in mind that this practice has been done for many many years. Initially via your credit card purchases where they could discover a lot about you via your purchase history. They have just gone a lot more sophisticated.

Just recently I've begun to go bike riding around the lake in my area and I use an App called Endomondo to calculate my speed, duration, calories burn hydration. It also follows me on the map so I can see where I've been. Once the ride is completed, the event is shared with my Facebook account and my friends will make comments on my post. Now all of this seems pretty standard & innocent stuff until I started receiving a newsletter for a bicycle magazine. I never signed up for it. How could they possibly think I'd be interested? Coincidence? I think not. The Bicycle magazine is probably buying data from Endomondo and looking for man in my age group and my income geographical area that may be potential buyers. Is that fair? I think so, I don't have a problem with that. First Endomondo is Free, they are giving me access to a pretty cool application and it's not costing me a dime. Second, the bicycle magazine is not a far fetched connection, I do ride a bicycle and enjoy it very much. And Endomondo most likely told me they were going to do that in the terms I agreed to without reading a single word. The easy fix for me was to unsubscribe to the magazine and move on. It's part of the deal.

It's important to note that companies like Facebook and Google keep the data to themselves. In order words, they don't share it with anyone. Their intent is too feed you the best possible information based on what they know about you. That's their game.  There is a lot of talk about whether the opt-in option need to be better defined and the argument is that people are not really giving consent to sharing all of that data. I'd agree with that, and each of us also need to take responsibility that when you use all of those services for Free: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apps, etc, you are exchanging FREE services for your personal data.

Ask yourself this: am I willing to provide a lot of personal information in exchange for free App and free Internet? 

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What's up with #hashtags

Posted by: on Monday, March 17, 2014

If you listen to pop culture mavens and celebrities, you must have heard about #hashtags. It seems like everyone is saying "#hashtag this" or "#hashtag that". You may be wondering "What's up with #hashtags?"

A #hashtag is a word or unspaced phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), otherwise known as the pound sign. It is used to identify messages on a specific topic to people on various social media channels. People on social media can search for a particular hashtag to see what people are saying about the topic in question. You can use them in your social media communications or even part of your corporate website design.

The #hashtag first became popular on Twitter. This microblogging social media channel only lets a person tweet up to 140 characters. A hashtag lets the user connect to a conversation without the need to detail it in their limited space. Today, the concept and use of the #hashtag has spread to other social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Google+. It provides a very easy way to connect a conversation among people around the world.

Now, you may be wondering how you can use #hashtags in your business marketing?

Branding
You need to create a unique hashtag just for your brand. It should reflect your company name or tagline. Make sure no one else is using it on any social media channel you want to market on. That way, you will have a unique hashtag that only refers to your company. Use the same hashtag on all social media channels. That provides brand consistency and makes followers familiar with it. Start using it on all social media communications. Integrate it into your corporate website design. This will start creating a cross-channel conversation around your brand.

Campaigns
You can use a unique hashtag for a particular marketing campaign. Let's say your company is going to be 10 years old and you want to work a campaign around it. You might come up with a tag that reflects the 10th anniversary (#CompanyX10Years or #10YearsHurray). When you use that campaign hashtag, you can use it to promote awareness and engagement.

Content
You can use a hashtag related to your content. These hashtags help link your content to people who might have an interest in that topic. It is also a way to build SEO standings. Some of the content hashtags to consider are related to products, lifestyle, event, or location. Make hashtags an integral part of any content you share in your corporate website design.

Group Activities
If you are planning an event or other group activity, make sure you create and use a specific hashtag for it. This will allow you and the others who want to be part of the group activity to communicate using a common hashtag. It also has the potential to widen the audience as word get around. 

How you use #hashtags in your marketing is completely up to you. Smart marketers have used them for a while. If you want to reach the widest audience possible, you need to start using them as well.

What is the first #hashtag you are going to use?

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Should you worry about bad reviews online

Posted by: on Monday, March 10, 2014

The answer is yes, but not really.

If you are doing a good job and the bad reviews are the exception, and not the norm, you should not overreact. Most people can sort out the reviewers who are just in a bad mood or the one with the legitimate complaint. They put more credence into your corporate website design than a review from someone in a bad mood.

How you react to negative reviews will play a part in the weight that a potential customer will give to a particular complaint. Here are six ways you can handle negative reviews:

  1. Always reply to the complaint. Never let a negative review sit without some sort of response on your part. Apologize and take responsibility for the problem, even if it is a complaint about the color of your corporate website design. You can offer a refund or offer a free product/service. The most important thing is to do something. When a potential customer sees your response, they will think you are doing the right thing. Never respond negatively to a customer complaint. It reflects on your business, not on the customer.

  2. Check reviews at least once a week. Doing it more often would be better. You do not want a bad review to sit out there without a response any longer than necessary. Make an appointment on your calendar for doing it and stick to the schedule.

  3. Ask your happy customers to do a review. Many businesses have regular customers who are quite happy. Getting even a few of them to leave positive reviews it will counter any negative reviews out there. You can ask them in person or make a general request as a part of your corporate website design.

  4. Let the positive reviews come at their own pace. Getting all your friends and family to send out positive reviews all at once is not a good idea. If you all of a sudden went from no reviews to 10 5-star reviews in a single week, all from raging fans, it will not look authentic to someone looking at the reviews. 

  5. Realize that you cannot erase the bad reviews. They are there. All you can do is deal with them. Answer them and start burying them with positive ones.

  6. If someone leaves a nasty review that is unfounded or contains flat-out lies, you may have the right to fight it in court. Businesses in Florida have sued and won such cases. Ask your attorney for advice on the matter. You may need to talk with an attorney who specializes in this kind of law.

The main takeaway is not to panic if you get a negative review. You can use these guidelines to manage the situation and to start recovering from any damage it causes. You will find that as your list of positive reviews starts to grow, the negatives become less and less important.

Do you have any negative reviews that you should be responding to?

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Why Google My Business is important

Posted by: on Monday, March 10, 2014

Have you ever done a search on Google for a local business, like a plumber or a bank? You are not alone. According to Google, up to 20 percent of the searches that go through its engine involve a specific location.

You might not think that 20 percent is a lot, but think of it this way. In 2013, Google's worldwide search handled a total of 2.16 trillion queries. Yes, that was trillion, with a "t". Twenty percent of that equals 432 billion searches based on location. Even if only a small fraction of those searches was in your local community, it is still a staggering number.

Google Places offers a way to get your business listed, for no cost, on the local search engine results and on Google maps. For a local business, it is almost as important as your corporate website design.

Here are five reasons why Google Places is so important for your business.

  1. It is the new Yellow Pages. In days past, people used the phone directory to find local businesses. Today, they use their smartphones, tablets, or laptops and do a search on Google. You want your company to come up in their search.

  2. It is how Google's search engine figures out what to recommend to people doing a local search. It is as easy as that. If someone wants to find a plumber in Atlanta, Google will search the Google Places listings and pull out the companies who are listed there.

  3. Your location matters far more than you might think. Many people want to support local businesses as much as possible. If they have an option to use a business just down the road compared to the one in the next town, they will choose the one closest to home more often than not.

  4. It gives you authority with your target market. Being listed in Google Places brings a certain trust level with it. It is much the same trust a business had being listed in the Yellow Pages just a few years ago. If you are willing to publicly list your company in a common directory, you appear reputable to your target audience.

  5. It lets you tell people what you do and where to find you. You may be in an industry where there are multiple specialties. Your Google Places listing allows you to communicate exactly what you do to your audience. It also lets you guide people directly to your front door.
     

The Google Places listing allows you a lot of leeway for customization, much like your corporate website design. You can provide detailed information on your products and services. You can offer discounts or coupons. You can create live updates or offer weekly specials. You can add photos of your business or share your business hours. It lets you tell customers what service areas you cover. You can even tell them where the best place to park is.

The Google Places dashboard is also a valuable tool for your business marketing. It will tell you how many people are searching for you on Google, how they found you, which zip codes they come from, and even how many people viewed your Google Place listing. This information is critical to successful marketing and even your corporate website design.

Have you got a Google Place listing for your company?

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How to make Facebook work for you

Posted by: on Thursday, March 6, 2014

Facebook has become a critical tool in business marketing, companies of all sizes are using it to successfully reach potential customers, build their brand, and extend their company base. A personal or a company's Facebook presence becomes an extension of who they are. Be real, be authentic.

Now, some people struggle with making Facebook a successful part of their marketing plan. In most cases, the problem comes from the approach you takes in its use. A few adjustments can make a huge difference.

Here are six ways to make Facebook work for you and you:

  1. Be consistent. The graphics and colors you use on your Facebook page needs to beconsistent with your corporate website. The tone and quality of all your Facebook content should be consistent. Such consistency may sound boring, but it helps build trust with your followers. Posting random thoughts at random times is confusing and lowers people's trust level.

  2. Be authentic. People can tell if you are not sincere. You have to know who you are, what you do, and who you serve. You need to stay true to those guiding principles. The adage "fake it 'til you make it" does not work when it comes to projecting an authentic presence on Facebook, or on any other social media channel.

  3. Don't preach or hard sell. This is probably the most critical piece of advice you can take from this. Consumers have made a fundamental shift away from traditional marketing. They do not want to be interrupted by sales messages. They don't like when anyone uses the hard sell. It will turn them away faster than anything.

  4. Share experiences. What do people on Facebook share with family and friends? Their experiences. That is what businesses need to do. Share your excitement in attending the trade show. Share the big success you had solving a client's problem. Share that you are excited to be bringing in a new line of products.

  5. Like and share with others post. Social media offers the chance to take part in a larger community. Your company needs to be an active part of that community. Start following some industry leaders. Become part of your industry's online social network on Facebook. Share information with your followers. Like some of their posts. It builds the relationship with your target audience.

  6. Always answer and interact with followers. Many businesses make a critical mistake in not interacting with followers on Facebook. Social media is a two-way conversation, not a one-way monologue. If you have a follower ask a question, answer it. If a follower posts a comment, even a quick "thank you" shows you are paying attention. If you cannot do it personally, hire someone to do it.

Facebook success requires building relationships and trust with your target audience. It is a process that not only expands your customer base, it builds your brand and company profile simultaneously. Today, it is almost as important as your corporate website design.

Take a moment and look at your Facebook posts and see which one got likes, comments and shares and simply do more of that. Your effectiveness on Facebook is measured in Likes, Comments & Shares - the more of them, the better you are doing!

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Why Most Email Marketing Campaigns Fail

Posted by: on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When putting together a marketing strategy, email campaigns still rank among the best options out there. People are more likely to read emails from the companies they trust. Those companies can leverage this trust to send out messages about upcoming events, specials, or new products coming along. It is a tool useful in converting leads to paying customers and having customers come back for repeat business.

What your contact at your web design company will tell you is that email marketing campaigns can be wonderful successes or spectacular failures. It is surprising to find that the ones that fail often make the same mistakes. Avoiding these mistakes will help you have a successful campaign instead of a failure:

Here are four reasons why email marketing campaigns fail so often:

  1. Not optimizing the subject line. 
    People want to have an idea what an email contains before they open it. The subject line is what tells them that. A well-conceived subject line will get people to open the email and take a deeper look at what is inside. An ill-conceived subject line will get fewer people opening it and more throwing it away. The very worst thing you can do is send out an email without a subject line at all. It is a sure way to get it in the spam folder.

  2. Using a single large image with no text or sending the opposite, mostly text with one small image. 
    Another way to get your email quickly sent to the spam folder is to send a single large image without text. It is a common tactic used by people sending email viruses. On the other hand, sending out a ton of text with a single small image is a quick way to get people to send the email to the trash folder. Keep your text short and use one or two smaller relevant images. That will give people the essence of what you want to say without boring them with reams of text.

  3. Trying to substitute a flyer for a real message. 
    Your message needs to read like you are talking to a person one-on-one. If your email message reads like a flyer you would pass out on the sidewalk, you have lost your audience. Even if you are trying to communicate the same information you would put on a flyer, you need to do it in a way that reads like a personal message.

  4. Sending the email at a bad time or on the wrong day of the week. 
    The time you send an email is critical. You need to figure out the best time and the best day for your audience. Try various days and times to see which gets the best response. Your web design company can advise you on how to do this type of testing efficiently. That will become the time and day that you send out your messages. Each business is different so using the schedule that other companies use will not work.

 

If you can avoid these problems, you will have more success with your email marketing campaigns. Many companies do not have the in-house capabilities to create the professional emails that create successful campaigns. Partnering with a web design company that offers marketing assistance is the answer. They can get your email campaigns up and running in a way that will generate leads and create paying customers in the process. Get started today.

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Answer the Question: How Often Should I Write Blogs?

Posted by: on Thursday, November 21, 2013

One of the most common questions that beginning bloggers ask is "How often should I write blogs?" That question depends a bit on what the blog topic is and the kind of audience you are addressing.

There are some guidelines a blogger can use to get started though.

  1. Always choose quality over quantity
    You might think that more blog posts are better than fewer. The reality is that search engines are not going to award you with higher rankings if you have high quantities of low-quality content. They do reward you if you have high quality content, even at a lower count. Take the time to craft high-quality blog posts and you will see your search engine rankings improving.

  2. Blog like clockwork. 
    Remember that consistency is key. You can write blog posts weeks or even months in advance. Most blog management platforms such as Wordpress offer a way to schedule posts to go live. So, for example, you can schedule one to appear on Monday morning and one on Thursday morning each week. Of course you can add other posts for special events or announcements, but your normal posts should go up on schedule every week.

  3. Use the services of ghost writers. 
    Many people who write blogs are not writers. In fact, they may be a designated salesperson, the company owner, or even the manager's administrative assistant. A more effective option for any company is to outsource their blog writing if they don't have a writer in their staff ranks. Your web design agency likely has writers on staff or know where you can find professional writing services at a decent price.

  4. Blogging once or twice a week is a good pattern, especially for beginners.
    Unless you have a lot to say every day, you want to space out your communications. This is where the quality over quantity concept comes into play. Take the time to come up with relevant topics and offer rich content with each post you put up. You do a series of posts around a single, larger topic. You can offer single posts on smaller topics. Mix up your topics but keep them relevant to your company, your brand, your product, and your industry.
     

These suggestions are good rules of thumb for both the beginner and the experienced blogger. Blogging offers an effective way to communicate with website visitors, leads, and customers. The hardest part of having a blog is getting started and staying on track. A web design agency can help you get your blog up and running. They can offer suggestions on how to manage the blog. They can even give you a connection to writers to create the content.

If you don't already have a web design agency working with you, you need to find one as soon as possible. They can help you with all aspects of your online presence from building a website to creating a blog to putting together an email marketing campaign. Get your agency choice made today.

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