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32 5 Ways to Get More From Local Search

local businessShowing up in the top of the search results for local searches is quickly becoming some of the most important local real estate going. The advent of mobile search makes this shrinking bit of turf even more important.

Below is a list of 5 ways you can enhance your organization’s chances of showing up at the top of the heap for local searches, even in highly competitive categories.

1) Location content

It’s important that you review the content on your web pages with an eye on adding geography based terms and content. Add it to your HTML through page titles. Add it to your page footer with addresses. Add it to your internal linking anchor text – Omaha plumbing supplies instead of just plumbing supplies. Don’t overdo it and makes certain that real humans are kept in mind, but amp up the local content, including the names of suburbs, neighborhoods, companies and events that are commonly linked to your area of service.

In addition to localized content on your own site, you should consider adding content to sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Slideshare and adding very localized tags, descriptions, links and file names. (Don’t get spammy, but do get descriptive)

2) Location pages

Google SEO education spokesperson, Matt Cutts, recently said without reservation that businesses that serve multiple locations and communities should create individual pages for those communities and optimize those pages so that search engines understood exactly what they were about. I think this is about as clear an invitation to having location based landing pages are you can get. Businesses should consider separate pages for each location, suburb and community they serve. These pages should feature unique content and be optimized for hyper local search. This is the place I would also add a sidebar of local events and happenings with neighborhood, school and not for profit organizations. (You could use RSS technology to ease this chore.)

3) Profile pages

Profile pages on local and social networks are a must. Hopefully you’ve already claimed your Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local pages and taken full advantage of the fact that you can optimize that content with lots of links, photos, and descriptions.

Take a look at the new Google Places tags and posts features that allow you to buy enhancements to what shows on your listing for local search, including the ability to change coupons and special deals on the fly.

Build these same types of profiles on the major social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, but don’t bypass business portals and community niche sites. (Here’s a list of business related social networks to get you started) Also, try this list of social bookmarking sites that allow do follow links. These may carry more weight if the site is popular at all. (Go for anchor text links when you can – local keyword phrases for the link as opposed to just the URL)

4) Citations

Citations are simply listings for your business in various high profile business directories. This factor is probably the least talked about, but considered very important in a recent survey of local SEO experts conducted by David Mihm’s fabulous Local Search Ranking Factors report.

Two of the easiest ways to get more citations are to update and enhance your InfoUSA listing (they provide info to lots of directories) and to pony up the $30 a year to get a Universal Business Listing (another source provider for many directories). If you want to learn more about this topic you should also spend some time nosing around

5) Location backlinks

Links from relevant sites have always played a very big role in how a site ranks. Quantity and quality count here, but quality is the biggest concern. When you are trying to rank highly for local search terms quality links from other sites should contain local anchor text what at all possible.

Look for local bloggers in sites like placeblogger, with an eye on finding related sites that might welcome your guest post and make sure you include a link back to your site in the body of the post in your bio.

Take advantage of associations, including alumni, Chambers and networking groups as potential homes for your content and links. Look for local publications that would welcome your guest columns for their online features. Work your vendors, suppliers and strategic partner network to develop opportunities for local links back to your site. Obviously if you are blogging (and you should be) you’ve got a ready make device to reciprocate and link out to other local businesses and events – a practice that both creates high value localized content and draws links to you.

19 5 Ways to Rock Customer Review Sites

local businessThere’s been a fair amount of coverage recently about the ins and outs, good and evil, usefulness and rudeness of customer rating and reviews sites. No matter how you feel about these social recommendation sites, if you own a small business of any kind, it’s time to get serious about figuring out and playing the game.

Customer review sites are basically local directories that allow users to add and express their opinions about the various businesses in the directory. Visitors to the site can conduct a search for a plumber in San Diego and get listings along with ratings and reviews from customers of that business.

The biggest players currently are:

There are other directories popping up to serve vertical markets such as FriendsEat for restaurants and MyDocHub for physicians and you might also be on the lookout for directories that serve your city only.

A great deal of the grumbling about these sites revolves around two things 1) businesses don’t like to read that they have bad service 2) people who want to game the system or cause some harm to a business have used these tools to do so. Again, no matter, because these tools are here to stay and making their way into the mainstream of search. Google aggregates reviews from many sites and puts them in search results on Google Maps and Yelp reviews show up on page one for many Google local related searches – so, all this to say, let’s see what we can do to use these sites for good!

Below are five ways to benefit from customer review sites

1) List, claim, and build – The first step is to take the time to create accounts with all of the sites listed above, make sure you are listed (others can add your business so don’t be surprised to find a listing), go through the process to claim and take control of your listing and then look at this listing and profile as a brand asset and take the time to complete it fully – think of it like a brochure – add photos, links, brands, products and anything else that helps describe your business.

2) Use it to make you better – If you find a bad review or two, and you might as negative people tend to be more motivated, don’t freak out and start crying foul and spattering hate down on the reviewer. Look at the review and see if there’s something you can add to further explain what went wrong and if the review is clearly off base or possibly an attack from a competitor (it happens) review the policy for resolving these kinds of issues and take some action. However, some bad reviews are a legitimate reflection of the experience your customers are receiving. Step back and ask yourself if this bad review might be a gift in disguise and dig into the core of your business to see if there really is something that needs fixing. (How many dissatisfied customers just go away without a review?) Use reviews, good and bad to help you get better!

3) Monitor profiles – Tracking brand mentions and managing your online reputation go hand in hand with marketing in this social web world. You should set-up alerts that allow you to easily monitor when a new reviews hits one of these sites. You’ll want to know about any and all reviews so you can reach out and engage a customer that expresses a negative opinion and so that you can reach out and thank a customer that had a great experience. In fact, one part of monitoring is so that you can grab these great reviews and add them to your other marketing efforts. The easiest way to stay on top of the reviews is to grab the RSS feed for your profile and set it up as a Google Alert – then you will get notices when something changes. You can also bookmark all your profiles and scroll through the list each week.

4) Get proactive – What’s that saying, the best defense is a good offense – one way to combat any potential negative is to overwhelm it with positive reviews. In addition, sites like Google Maps seem to be giving higher rankings to local listings with more reviews. So, now’s the time start going after reviews from happy customers in a proactive way. Most of the review sites ban the practice of paying for reviews but there’s certainly nothing to stop you from showing customers that give you compliments, refer others, and keep coming back how to write a review on a review site. You can print up a little tutorial, place positive reviews in the window, mention reviews on your website and in your newsletter and shower lots of appreciation on those that take the time to write a review. Get creative and I’ll be you can create dozens of positive ratings for your profiles.

5) Consider advertising – In most cases these review sites live on ad revenue and have created some special privileges for businesses that advertise. I have heard some great results from some businesses using premium services and some not so great from an ROI standpoint. What you need to analyze and test is whether the premium listing, for example Yelp! allows you to pick your best review and run it in the listing that can appear right next to your competitors, is worth it from an overall branding and lead generation stand point.

17 Your Pizza Sucks And . . .

Yelp t-shirtsIn this new age of social media marketing and user generated content, marketers are learning first hand the impact of directory sites that allow visitors to rate and review the products, service and services of companies at the local level.

These sites garner a fair amount of bad feelings from small business owners as they often allow rants from disgruntled customers, but few protections for the actual small business against unfounded or competitor sponsored bad reviews.

These sites do serve a useful purpose for the consumer, are growing in popularity, and are here to stay, so now’s the time to learn how to navigate them, participate in them, and use them to your marketing advantage.

But first, here’s some interesting coverage on this issue for background.
1) One of the sites getting some of its own negative reviews when it comes to posting reviews without any recourse for the business owner is Yelp! – in this New York Times article Yelp! is criticized for its hands off policies.
2) One San Francisco Pizza hot spot took matters in their own hands and turned the tables, so to speak, on Yelp! by creating Yelp! t-shirts for their staff to wear that featured some of the most absurd one star ratings. The coverage Pizzeria Delfina received, including a national spot on NPR and a mention on American Idol may have actually led to Yelp!’s decision to change some of its policies and allow more control over reviews for business owners.
3) A New York Times follow-up story quotes Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive, Jeremy Stoppelman announcing that business owners will now have the ability to publicly respond to reviews, particularly those they feel are unfair.

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