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6 5 Local Search Tactics You Must Employ Today

This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here 

Search is pretty much everything these days.

photo credit: D.Clow - Maryland via photopin cc

photo credit: D.Clow – Maryland via photopin cc

Even businesses that rely on people in their town, coming into their place of business to complete a transaction, are held to the fact that, increasingly, most buying decisions start out with an online search.

The category of local search engine optimization has picked up steam over the last few years as search behavior combined with the rapid growth of smart phone use created a truly mobile search consumer. Services like Yext have cropped up just to help tackle this very specific form of SEO.

Below are five local search tactics that demand your attention today if you are a local oriented business.

Get the NAP right

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone and the search engines obviously want to make sure that when someone is looking for a local business there’s no ambiguity around what and where the business is.

Google depends upon list and data compilers to make sure this information is accurate and up to date. If you’ve been in business more than a few months there’s a good chance your business is in one or more of the directories that Google depends on, but in addition to adding business to these directories you must make certain that the information is correct and consistent.

MOZLocal is a great free tool for analyzing the current state and gaps in your directory listings.

Local profiles matter

Profiles in social, local and review sites such as Yelp, can be a great place to add lots local information.

While many people are familiar with the more popular networks such as Google+ and Facebook, there are other important directories that might help in giving your local business an edge. MOZLocal is one of the best tools for automating this process.

Localize your content

Many people forget to consider their web content and make sure that they are adding localized content where it makes sense. Obvious things like blog posts with suburb names and maps with directions are a must, but you might also consider adding a community calendar and blogging about events that happen in your town.
The Yoast Local SEO Plugin is an invaluable tool for optimizing content on WordPress sites.

Consider adding location specific landing pages where you might have content specific to a suburb, town or even neighborhood.

Reviews drive local trust

Reviews are one of the many ranking factors Google throws into what businesses show up for a local search. If you search on a term like “SEO” and Google thinks you are in say, in Kansas City, you are going to see a list of Kansas City based SEO companies.

If you do this search yourself take note of the fact that all of the local pages listed also have Google+ Pages associated and while not all have reviews, the ones that do certainly stand out.

Get serious about collecting reviews! Tools like Grade.us and GetFiveStars can help make this process more streamlined.

Local social

Don’t forget to add to your overall local approach by localizing much of your social media activity. As mentioned above, your profiles are a great place to start, but you can go beyond that as you post new content and updates.

Think about ways to curate local content to share in social media. GeoTarget your social media advertising with local personalization. Find and use popular localized hashtags. See if anyone has created local Twitter lists of influencers you can tap into.

When you work consistently on the local search tactics outlined above you can expect to gradually start raising your local search profile to the point where Google may become your greatest source of leads.

 

Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!

33 How to Create an Effective Social Media System

This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here 

social media system

photo credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Many marketers and social media experts have made social media about many of the wrong things – it’s not a broadcast channel – it’s a tool for creating personal connections and sharing useful information. It’s not about building large and mostly hollow followings – it’s about finding the right group or the right handful of prospects that want very much to hear what you have to share.

When you view social media use in this light another long-standing assumption falls by the wayside – the fact that you can’t or shouldn’t sell using social media.

When you view social media tools and networks as a way to create and bolster personal relationships you build connections based on trust – when you earn trust, you can sell anything, anywhere.

The key to making social media work for your business is intention. You must make it your intention to do things that people find useful and pour all of your energy and planning into finding ways to do just that.

The word of day with regard to usefulness is context. When you put everything possible into making your updates, tweets, responses and queries as relevant as possible to smallest number of people as possible you’ve got a solid recipe for creating a social media plan that will deliver value to your business.

Below are five core activities that every useful social media system must contain and some of the tools I love to recommend to power your social media connection plan.

1) Collecting – This is the listening part and it’s the part the powers pretty much everything you do. By making it easier to spot real opportunities to connect you can be much more focused on adding value.

  • Hootsuite – Create columns for industry, topic or geographic based tweets and respond daily with useful replies
  • Twitter Lists – Create Twitter lists of customers, partners and prospects and monitor for retweeting, commenting and sharing opportunities
  • Talkwalker – Create alerts for key customers and journalists and respond to daily related emails
  • Quora – Subscribe to industry related RSS feeds and tune in to the most asked and answered questions

2) Curating – Finding and sharing the best of the web is a tremendous way to add value by delivering up just the right content.

  • Using a tool like Scoop.it or Storify pull together specific topic or industry pages or even create collections of curated content for specifics clients or prospects.
  • Use Newsle to keep tabs on trending stories and collections of content from industry influencers.

3) Creating – One of the best ways to get your content shared is to make it visual.

  • Word Swag – Use this nice little iPhone app to capture and title quick photos of clients and events
  • Canva – This free online graphic design editor makes it easy to create impactful social profile headers as well as great blog post graphics
  • Listly – This tool makes it easy to create or even collaborate on lists of things like great books or any other online resources
  • Visua.ly – Turn even the most mundane data into visual content. Media outlets love data so think about ways to mine yours!

4) Collaborating – Every social media system needs an emphasis on customer or community engagement. Finding ways to get your customers involved in social interaction is key.

  • BuzzSumo – This tool helps you find the most shared content on any topic and is my favorite for discovering guest bloggers and gaining insight into what gets shared
  • Quora – Use this question and answer site to find and answer great questions and conversation starters.
  • Alltop – Alltop is a great place to find potential guest post opportunities and contributors
  • Facebook Groups – Create private Facebook Groups to help your customers network with each other

5) Connecting – Finally, don’t forget to program ways to connect directly with customers in social settings.

  • Nimble – This CRM easily adds social data from every contact making it easy to keep tabs on what your contacts are up to
  • Rapporative – This browser plug in adds rich social data to every email you receive giving you a snapshot view in a handy place
  • Contactually – This tool allows you to group your contacts into various buckets and then set up relationship building touchpoints automatically

The best way to make social media pay is to think very seriously about the value you deliver on a one to one basis.

Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!

6 My Video Toolbox

I sat in on a session at the BlogWorld Expo led by Steve Garfield, author of Get Seen and long time advocate of video use.

Canon EOS 5DSteve mostly shared the low cost set of tools he employs to create his video and it got me thinking that I should do the same.

Video use in marketing is growing by leaps and bounds and while you do need to join the movement, you don’t have to drop thousands just to get good educational videos, customer case studies and trust building video overviews.

There are thousands of passable tools that you can use in the pursuit of video and here are a few that I use.

Camera

Canon EOS 5D – This DSLR is a professional grade video and has a 21 megapixel camera and digital processor that is far beyond most of my needs, but shoots such high quality that you can create laser sharp HD shots and output the video as large as you like. – $3000

Canon Vixia S30 – Camcorder that has some great features – external mic jack (a must) twin 32 gig memory card slots (these cards go right into my mac and make it very easy to shoot and edit away.) $799

iPhone 4 – the video ability on this device is pretty phenomenal and for me erased all need for the Flip camera – the only hitch had been an external mic. I have a great little mic that plugs into the power port, which is great for audio, but not so much for video. See below for the answer to this. – $399

Microphone

Sennheiser MKE 400 – this directional mic sits on top of my Canon Vixia in a mic shoe on the camera and is a great set-up for point and shoot interview settings at things like conferences. – $349

iRig – this is a stereo condenser mic that plugs into the iPhone headphone jack and makes the iPhone a great tool for doing video interviews. – $149

Audio-Technica ATR-35S Lavalier Microphone – this is the mic I use to do my own videos for training and product videos. It’s powered by a small battery and clips right on to make sure we get clear audio. It’s also pretty good at not picking up outside noise. $29

Editing

iMovie – this program ships on all Macs and does pretty much everything I need it to do so it’s hard to recommend any other software.

YouTube – believe it or not YouTube recently added some basic video editing functionality to its service. There are time when this is all you need.

Hosting

YouTube – YouTube is free and has a huge audience. There are many reasons to use this for your marketing videos. Simply upload and grab some code and run the video on your site. There are some downsides too though.

Amazon S3 – For all of my product videos, ones that are only available to my customers, I prefer to host and stream from Amazon S3. This gives me total control over size, privacy and steaming. There is a cost for this service, but it’s very low and with addition of something Amazon calls CloudFront my videos play every time no matter how large.

Player

EZS3 – One of the nice things about using a service like YouTube is that they create the player for your videos as part of the service. Of course you have little control over how the video displays and little ability to brand your player.

I use this service so I can create completely branded, iPad and mobile friendly videos that also have thumbnail control, forwarding functionality, form embedding and fully functional buy buttons right in the video. $20/mo

So, there you have it – that’s my toolbox – how about you?

 

 

13 Using Skype for Content and Collaboration

Xjs-Khaos via Flickr

For many Skype users the tool is simply a phone replacement or a way to make international calls without a charge.

While the direct communication uses are obvious, there are so many other ways to use this tool as well. In fact, I believe that one of the hottest trends of the back half of 2011 will be the ubiquitous use of video communication on the mobile device and this type of behavior change is going to make some of Skype’s features even more useful for business.

As smart phone users begin to ramp up their use of video conversations, (iPhone Facetime proves this huge) video recording (smart phone cameras make this an everyday use) and video sharing, (what don’t we share) business communication, content creation and collaboration in this vein will become commonplace.

Here’s how to turn Skype into a content creation machine.

Recording Skype calls and video chat is a tremendous way to create podcast episodes and video content to run on your site. The fact that the recording is captured directly into your computer eliminates several of the steps in the content creation process.

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