Search Tips for Local Businesses: Your Site Name

This is part 5 of a 6 part series on search tips for local businesses

Should Your Site Name be Your Business Name?

Search Tips for Local Businesses: Your site nameFor many businesses, they want their website name to be the same as their business name. And for many this makes sense. Especially if you are a big, well-known brand. Someone looking for a hardware store in your area may just type in the name of one of the big box stores rather than using keywords. In those instances have your site name (your URL) match your business name is important.

If you aren’t a big brand, you might consider using a keyword in your URL, possibly in conjunction with your business name. If your business is specific to a town then you may want to also consider using your town name in your site name. Both of these can help the search engines know what your business is about and where you are located.

When people search for a Mexican restaurant they may not include the town they are looking in. That’s okay, because the search engines are smart and know the IP address the search was made from—and the town that that IP address is located in. It isn’t perfect, but it means that they will tend to serve to the potential customers the Mexican restaurants nearer to them, not ones across the state or country.

By including your town in your URL you can help the search engines serve up your listing to people in your area.

One word of caution—if you have your town in your URL then you do not want to put your town in every page and description. Sometimes that can be misinterpreted by the search engines as “keyword stuffing”

OK, you want to build a brand and therefore you want to have a website with your name, not a keyword based URL. That’s okay. There are ways that you can have your cake and eat it too. By having two URLs you can take advantage of local search strategies and still build your brand and name recognition.

Search Tips for Local Businesses: Local Search Optimization

This is part 1 of a 6 part series

Local Search Optimization

local search marketing

Be sure your business is optimized for local search. It is important to note that this is different from traditional SEO practices. While having a website can be a great idea, it is not necessarily the first place you should start–even when talking about getting found online! (I know, sacrilege, right?)

What local search optimization does for you is it actually helps the search engines and your potential customers to fine you online. It also helps them to find what content is most important on your site, if you have one.

The first thing you must decide as a local business owner who wants to improve their local search rankings is what is most important for YOUR business. And that depends on the type of business you have. The needs of a retail shop will be different from those of a restaurant and those of a doctor, for example.

Most local businesses want more customers to come into their physical location. As one friend puts it, “boots in the door.” With that goal in mind, you want to focus your web presence on getting local search results.

If you don’t have a website yet, this is the ideal time to get it done right. A website is not just about looking good. It is about being found, and that requires the right structure. It takes some planning, but really is a pretty logical process. You can take this on yourself if you have or get the right training. Otherwise, hire someone who specializes in websites for local search results. This is a very important distinction to make when having your site built.

Already have a website? No worries. You can tweak what you already have to get found more easily by Google. If you don’t know how, give us or another local search company a call to improve your results.

The tools of the trade to get results: website structure, optimizing each page, using tags properly, and adding keywords, links, and metadata.

Social Proof is in the Pudding

Social proof is a common catch phrase these days, but what does it mean?

It is being suggested by many “experts” that social proof is something new, something that business people didn’t have to think about before.friends talking

Perhaps I just think of social proof more globally than some other internet consultants, but I think that idea is crazy. Social proof is not a new local business marketing concept at all, but how it works today is quite different from the past when it was neighbors talking over the fence or over a beer.

Businesses have always relied on social proof in one form or another. It is just that the form changes and now we have a convenient label for it.

Word of mouth advertising has long been the standard for social proof, and is most certainly not a contemporary construct. Businesses large and small have long known that if they can get their happy customers to tell other people about them and recommend them that it is the least expensive and most successful advertising campaign they have.

Social proof has always been about customers indicating their support for your business. That has not changed.

What has changed is HOW they demonstrate their support.

Today your customers are online every day. They get most of their information from the internet, more than the television or radio, more than print publications. And this trend continues to accelerate as we are seeing the millennials and younger folks ever more tied to their electronic devices.

Whether shopping locally or buying something across the globe, more and more people are relying on the internet to gather information before making a purchase.

Social proof has always been part of that research process, it is just easier to get these days. You no longer have to talk to lots of different people to learn their opinions and experiences–it is all there online.

What is social proof in current terms then? It is how your business is supported online. This can be done by customers posting a review on Yelp, Angie’s List, or any number of other review sites. It can be comments left on your blog or your Facebook or G+ page. It can even be that someone links to your business website on their blog or Facebook page, or that someone shares a post that you have media icons

How do you get more social proof for you business?

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but you have to get social. Nope, you don’t have to do it all. Unless you have a lot more time on your hands then most business owners I know, you can’t anyway.

Learn a little bit about the various types of social media and pick one, give it a go and see if you like it. I’m a firm believer that if you enjoy it, you will have better results. If you find you aren’t enjoying it, you can try a different avenue.

If you are a visual person or you have a visual type business, then Pinterest might be a good choice for you. If you naturally talk in sound bites, you might try Twitter. If you are in a B2B field, or are looking for professional connections, check out LinkedIn. Facebook is gaining ground on the major search engines and gives businesses some more flexibility in their posts and pages. These are just a few of the many options that are available to your local business.

There is no one best social media, one that works for every single business in every single market. Find where your customers are online and start there. Then dive into that online “pudding” and get some social proof.

Internet Tips for Your Local Business Photos

paparazziPosting photographs online of your the work you do is a great idea.

But can it help you with getting more customers?

Yes, if done properly.

Here are some internet tips for using photos for your local business.

Use Original Photos

In other words, don’t use stock photos or rely on photos from “corporate” if you are part of a chain. Sure, include pictures of products as part of the items that you offer at your store–and those can be stock images–but be sure to include pics of your crew making a local delivery, a happy customer making a purchase (with their permission, of course), and even the items in your storefront or showroom.

Titles & Tags

Title and tag the photos to include what work was done and what City it is in. So if you delivered a new stove to Greeley, you want to be sure to label the photo something like “Greeley stove delivery.”

Spread the Wealth

Put your photos on all your different web properties. That means you should upload them to your website, your Facebook page, Google+ page, Twitter account, LinkedIn, and any review sites that you have built out such as Yelp and Angie’s List.

Tell the Story

Sure pictures are worth 1000 words…but be sure to include the words. Tell a little bit of the story of your business. Let potential customers get to know you and the work you do.

Mix it Up

When you are posting those images around the web be sure to use different wording. If you use the same titles and stories on all the sites you are at risk as being seen as posting “duplicate content” which can ding your results!

Be Real, Be You

Whenever you post photos or stories about your business, make sure it is accurate. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Let your personality come through. You want customers who will resonate with you, your staff, your products and services. That won’t be everyone–and that’s okay. Remember, there’s plenty to go around as long as we aren’t a bunch of Stepford Wives!

All Work Makes Johnny a Dull Local Business Owner

fishingGo ahead and have some fun with some of your photos. Maybe you want to add shots from your company picnic or customer appreciation day–that’s cool. You can also include photos from things outside of work that you don’t mind making public. Do you love going hiking in the mountains? Does going fishing give you the peace of mind to be a better lawyer? Do you like restoring old cars? Are you an animal lover with a goofy dog or cat? Posting a picture that has nothing to do with work once in a while is just fine. People want to do work with those they know, like and trust. Don’t be afraid to let them know you–at work and away from the shop.

How YOU Doing? Do You Even Know?

One of the most important things for any business to know is where their customers are coming from. This is especially important for smaller, local businesses with limited marketing budgets. 2013-04-23 18.06.21

Truthfully, it should not be that hard to get this information, but sometimes you would think we are asking our clients to perform surgery without anesthetic on their customers. Now, isn’t that a comforting image?

Of course you don’t want to barrage your customers by asking them for lots and lots of personal information or hound them. We all want to be respected when we are doing our shopping. And certainly not everyone is going to be forthcoming with personal details–and why should they?

The simplest way to find out how people found you is to ask. Ask when you are ringing them up as part of the conversation. Even if they aren’t buying anything right now they may come back later. See if you can begin to build a relationship with them so they know you and your business. Make your place a fun place (or serious place if that’s your style…just make it THE place they want to come to for your product or service.) ringing up customers at your local business

I have clients who want me to advise them on the merits of X or Y or Z advertising media, but they have no data to provide me. I cannot honestly tell someone if that vehicle is worth the money if they cannot tell me if they have had any results from it. Guessing just doesn’t help anyone.

You have to know your own business and your customers. I love it when a client tells me they know some general information about their customers. At least that is a start!

As the business owner you must consider where your business is located when deciding how to spend your marketing budget. Pretty much across the board it is safe to say that you want to be found on the internet…but does that mean spending a lot of money on a website? Does it mean you have to make big online ad purchases? Maybe…or maybe not.

Is the phonebook dead? Are newspaper ads valuable? These are questions we get all the time. The answer is: maybe…maybe  not.

Even if you never liked taking tests, sometimes we have to test the waters to figure out what works. With some basic information on how your current customers are finding you we can help advise on what makes sense…but there will still be some trial and error.

Don’t ignore what has worked in the past!

Have you used mailings in the past with success?  Is your business downtown where an old fashioned sandwich board sign or colorful balloons have drawn in passers-by? Have you built connections through your Chamber of Commerce? These are all traditional methods that are great as long as they work for you.

Bottom line–you want your phone to ring or people to walk in the door, right? Then do what works for YOU and YOUR business even if it isn’t the what all the “experts” are telling you works today.

Ranking #1 in Google is Best: Myth or Reality?

It was common just a few years ago for business owners to insist that they want to be ranked #1 in Google search. And just a few years ago that was both more critical. And it was actually possible to achieve relatively easily. Google_logo

Nowadays, not so much.

With all the changes in the world of internet search, updates to search engines (remember the cutely named, but not so cute in results Panda and Penguin?) this has become more of a challenge.

Especially for local businesses, we have seen the search results change dramatically month to month as the search engines change the way they deliver results to the customer.

So what should you do?

First, keep in mind that searching on the internet is organic–meaning that it changes and evolves.

Second, recognize that the search engines underlying goal is to make money. Sure this includes taking in money (a  lot of money) in advertising. But if that is all they did they would lose the end user–the people who are actually using their service. For free. That means they will keep changing and tweaking their systems in an effort to give the best results for the person conducting the search.

Third, face the fact that people are placing more and more faith in on-line reviews and ratings.

What does this mean for the local business owner?

Be willing to keep learning about local search, or be willing to pay someone to do it for you. The old days of placing the same old ad in the phone book or newspaper are gone. Not that you can not or should not advertise there. For some businesses print media is still a very valuable marketing tool.

Know what works for you–know how your customers are finding you right now. We’re finding that this varies by region as well as by business type. And of course, it changes over time. You need to keep asking your customers or clients how they found you. Don’t assume that just because last year most of them found you on Yelp* that next year they will too, any more than you would assume that because the phone book worked for you in 1990 it is still the best bang for the buck today.

Ask your best customers if they will give you a review online. Don’t offer them a free service or a discount in exchange for a positive review. That violates most terms of service. Simply ask them if they are happy with your work if they would do you the courtesy, or a favor, by writing a review.

Don’t worry if you are not in the #1 position on Google. Look to see who else is in the results with you. Take your business owner hat off and try to look at the results like a potential customer would. Which listings stand out the most? Is it the #1 listing? Maybe not.

Current studies indicate that listings with more reviews and especially lots of positive reviews with stars get clicked on more often–even if they are lower in the search ranks.

Focus on making your current customers happy. Ask for reviews.

And if you need more help, call in a professional–just don’t let them tell you they will “guarantee” that you will be #1 in Google. Now you know they can’t and that isn’t the bottom line anyway.

Talk To Me: for Local Business SEO Communication is Crucial

You own a local business. You want more business.  You have even hired someone to help you get more customers–AWESOME!telephone

Of course you want people to call you or come to your store.

But this isn’t the only communication that is key to your success! It is also important for you to talk to the company you hired to get you more customers. This should be an on-going relationship, not something where you hire them one time and never speak to them again.

Here is MY call to you, to talk to your local business SEO or marketing company–whether that is us at Internet Advertising That Works or someone else.

We want to help you grow your business and flourish. After all, that is what we do! To maximize YOUR success we want to know what is going on in your business.

Have you received any awards lately? Be sure to let us know–we’ll plaster that around the web!

Are you donating your goods or services to a charity or as part of a fund-raiser? We want to know that, too.  Of course you do good deeds because you are good people, but people to know that about you–and we want to tell them.

Is your store having an anniversary celebration?

How about your employees–any new faces? Is anyone retiring?

On a more personal level, are there any major milestones happening in your business “family”? Anyone recently have a baby, or a “baby” who is graduating from college? Wedding bells or a big anniversary coming up for the store manager?

Customers love to get to know the people they do business with, so we want to share with them as much as your comfort level allows. Of course if it is personal to an employee, we always want to be sure they are okay with it going public–we always respect a person’s privacy.

Give us a call and we can help you determine how or how much to spread the word.

We may be a lot of things, but we aren’t mind readers, so if you don’t let us know what is going on then we can’t help spread the word!

Talk to me!





Latest Google Fiasco: How’s Your 7 Pack?

How’s your 7 pack looking these days?

Nope, I’m not asking you to check out your body in the mirror before you go clubbing, so relax!

If this sounds new to you, the “7-pack” is the term given to the group of business listings returned when you do a search on a keyword term. For example, if I am sweltering in the summer heat and want to go swimming and search on swimming pool I might get the following results.

Google search 7 pack

Google search 7 pack

This is a classic 7 Pack. Some of the listings are for swimming pools, one is for the swim beach at the Lake Loveland, and one is for a business that one presumes services or sells swimming pools. Then there is the School District office which doesn’t have a pool to my knowledge, but some of their schools do so…there you go, not an exact science, but one we are used to.

Google has been experimenting with the 7 pack for several years. Sometimes you will get 7 results, sometimes 10. Other searches will yield 5 listings or only 3.


Map Problem #2

You know how you could click on the “Map results for swimming pool” and it would take you out to Google Maps and provide you with page after page of listings. After I get over the motion sickness this process inevitably induces (but that’s for another story) I can see a few mapped results and then I have to click yet again to get additional listings.

In essence, Google has been making it more cumbersome to get the information we are looking for as consumers!

It used to be if I was looking for someone to clean my pool, repair my pool filter, a place to buy some pool chemicals, or I wanted to install a pool, I could find all of that information by searching on swimming pool. Kind of a one-stop-shop. Cool.

Google map search

Google map search

So I know we aren’t the swimming pool Mecca of the world here in Loveland, but are there no more than 9 swimming pool related facilities and/or businesses in the area? Because 9 is all that comes up.

I don’t mean in the pack.

I don’t even mean on the first map page.

I mean TOTAL. This is page one…and there are no further pages.

What About a ZERO Pack

Even worse, for lots of terms there are ZERO business listings returned. Lately it seems that more and more are resulting in ZERO listings. What gives with that?

Of course you can try adding more words to  your search, but that is a PITA and why should I have to if it was working before?

Clearly, someone has decided it wasn’t working and they have tried to fix it.

The Problem for Local Business with Fewer Results

Someone has apparently decided that we can’t handle the volume of choices we had before and they have developed a system that gives us fewer results.

It stinks. I want my choices back.

I did a search today looking for a particular service–and 33 results came up. That should be more than enough, right?

It would be except that they were for 3 different companies–in their various locations. Some of the locations are over 50 miles away.

That is not local. At least not in my town.

So Google–fix this fiasco! When I’m searching for a local service, I want local. I am not going to drive to Denver to find it when I know I can get it here. And I certainly do not need a listing of every single store in a chain. Not helpful.




Got Bad Reviews?

You take pride in your business, work hard to do a good job, provide value to your customers.

Then, one day you find a really negative review on Google+ or Yelp! or one of the other review sites.

woman covering face sad

“Oh no, Mr Bill”, what are you going to do?

If you run a business, any kind of business, you are going to have people who are not happy with your product or service at some point. And some of those people will write a bad review on line.

Don’t beat yourself up over it.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has a bad day once in a while, so having a bad review first and foremost means you are human.

Feeling terrible about it will not do anything to help the unhappy customer or you.

So what should you do?

First do some research:

Did the customer leave their name–if so you may ultimately want to get with them to see if you can “make it right”, especially if they a regular.

But hold the phone–before you go calling the reviewer, or responding to the review online, do a little fact finding.

Was the information in the review accurate? Are there lessons that you can learn from the critique?

Once you know if there are things you believe can be improved or not, NOW you can respond. Let the reviewer know they were heard (if the comments were so vague you can’t implement any change then feel free to ask for more details so you can improve your business–let them know you appreciate the feedback.) And let them know HOW you are going to fix the situation (if you can) and how you will “make it right” for them.

Will this work 100% of the time? Honestly? Nope.

There are some people who, once they are unhappy with you, no matter what you do you will not be able to make it right.

There are also people who are just plain negative and are never happy with anyone. Fortunately, there aren’t that many of them and your best bet may be to walk away.

And sadly, there are people who will place negative reviews against competitors that are totally untrue. Some you will be able to verify that they are false and you should be able to get those removed. Some you may never get removed.

If that happens, don’t bury your head in your hands. Keep your chin up and keep up the good work. People and businesses who insist in pursuing unethical methods to boost their business will be found out. Instead of putting any more attention on them, turn all you attention to the wonderful customers you already have and the new ones you are getting because of your good work.

Good people win out in the end. Be good people.



Local Business Reviews Update

Remember the old shampoo commercial where the woman is so happy she tells two friends and they tell 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on?

The point of the commercial is twofold (pun intended!)

First, if you have a great product, people will tell their friends about it! Word of mouth advertising is free, so all businesses can benefit from it, and afford it.

Second is the concept of geometric progression. When these happy customers each tell 2 friends the company isn’t adding just 2 need customers: they are quickly adding hundreds of customers because of this concept. 1 becomes 2 which becomes 4 and so on… 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256…

Bottom line, every happy customer can result in a huge lead pool for your business.

Today the way we tell 2 friends, and so on and so on, is through the internet and social media!

If you have a service that gathers customer reviews be sure it is easily found on the internet. Having a service that actively solicits reviews from your customers after they have been to your store can be a great benefit for some–as long as customers don’t feel harassed, which is a huge turn-off.

Don’t have a service? Don’t worry. One of the best ways to get reviews is simply to ask your customers to give you one!

The best situation is when you get reviews on a variety of sources. A few reviews on several different sites, such as Google+, Angie’s List, and Yelp! is better than having all of your reviews in one place. This also makes it easier for your customers. Gone are the days when all your reviews need to be funneled to one site–so wherever your customer already goes on line is the perfect place for them to write a review for you!

Remember–you want to make it EASY for customers to let others know how pleased they are with your product or service. Unhappy customers will make the effort to leave a negative review, but those that are happy with your work may not unless you ask for it. Let them know you could use their help in getting the word out.

If your clients tell you they aren’t online or don’t know how to leave a review online–have a card handy for them to leave you a review in writing. Ask their permission for you to post it to your website on a testimonials page and you are good to go!

To more happy customers leaving positive reviews resulting in more happy customers!