Google Changes for Local Business (Yes, Again)

Google+ and Social Media Walls Tumbling Down for Local Business

Read the latest on changes the Google+ is making and how it might affect your local business:

Google Mobile searchimage

Google Now Crawls Facebook

It has now been announced that Facebook is “allowing Google to crawl and index its mobile app.”

What does this mean for your local business? It means that Google Search results on Android devices will begin to show more Facebook information.

This is currently only in Beta and only available for Android devices, but if a customer or potential customer is using Google to search for something you carry, it is now possible that if you talked about it on Facebook it might show up in their search results.

Facebook logo

Not only could it show up, there will be a link that will take them directly to the Facebook app.

Of course not every status update you make on Facebook will be indexed. Currently there is only a small percentage of Facebook information that is being indexed.

As is the case with all Google searches (mobile and desktop) pages with higher authority will be more likely to be indexed and served up.

Facebook claims that your PRIVATE info will not be indexed.

web search

While it is too early to tell, there may be some added benefits for local businesses in terms of mobile search results.

This could bring more non-Facebook users to your FB page. It could also bring people in who are FB users, but not currently logged into their FB page.

One of the theories behind this shift is that Google has lost ground in the mobile search arena. Earlier this year they announced a deal with Twitter for search. Now Facebook. It may be that the social media walls are beginning to crumble, allowing for some transparency between the platforms.

Then again, this could all go away as Facebook improves its own search engine.

What should I do?

  • Keep posting on your Facebook page, talking about services/products/events that are important to you, your business, and your community.
  • Make sure your profile is optimized.
  • Optimize your Facebook pages.
  • Keep posting on other social media platforms that fit your business and community.

Google+ Redesigned

google-plus

There have been rumors flying around for quite some time that Google was going to get rid of the Google+ pages.

While it doesn’t yet look like our local business pages (no matter what Google decides to call them) are going to disappear completely, we are seeing changes in the structure.

If you have logged into your page lately you probably will have noticed the change already. Touted as being simpler to use and more mobile-friendly, the big shift is that “Communities” and “Collections” are now the focus.

They are separating functions, removing things like Hangouts. G+ is also moving away from connecting with other people, in a Facebook sort of way.

You can still have a Google+ profile, but we are told that will be migrating to a generic profile called “About Me.” Anyone can create an About Me profile, and the G+ profile will not be a requirement for commenting on YouTube videos and the like.

What does this mean for my local business?

Don’t panic if something that you used to have on your business page seems to have disappeared. It may come back.

We will have to wait to see what the future brings on all things Google. It may be that we will start to make updates on an About Me page rather than G+.

What are communities?

They are like groups in Facebook. You (personally or your business) can join various communities which are centered on specific topics. The groups may be private or open. You can choose whether or not you want your membership in a group to be public on your profile or not.

What are collections?

Collections are a place where you can curate content. Similar to Pinterest with content not just pictures. Other people can follow (subscribe) to one or more of your collections.

So if you have a business that sells two (or more) distinct product lines, you could create a collection for each. If you are a hair salon, as an example, you might have a collection on hair styles and another on hair care products. A furniture company might have a collections based on rooms such as bedroom, living room and dining room. A candy company might have collections based on types of sweets, such as chocolates, hard candies, and chewy candies.

What should I do?

Don’t panic. Don’t despair. Don’t dump your Google+ pages. Remember, Google+ is part of Google and therefore connected tightly with Google Search.

This is a beta test. Google moves in waves, so you may not even see a difference yet. Even when/if you do, it might not last.

  • Become familiar with collections.
  • Think about how to create your own collections. This is where you will be posting ultimately if things go the way Google says it will. The content you post in your collections will be indexed.
  • Keep your profile current and optimized, but make sure your website and Facebook pages are as well.

Remember, Google seems to like to make changes for local businesses. In the end, their goal is to provide a good experience for their users. Those users are the people who are searching for your business! Does Google always get it perfect? Nope, but they do seem to be willing to say “mea culpe” and try to fix it.

Focus on your business. Use the tools you have that are working for you. Learn some new ones if you don’t have enough business or have mastered those.

Don’t try to know it all–be willing to admit that just maybe you aren’t perfect at it all either, and reach out for help if you need it.

Lifesaver


Thanks to Social Media Examiner and Silicon Valley Business Journal for the intel!

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 written.social 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.

Bit of Delicious Links Social Media Disaster for Local Businesses

Social media tip for local businesses: Google declares twDeliciouso sites contain malware, using them can result in YOUR site being blocked. Reconsider your links, on your site and also what you use in your social media campaigns.

While Google is not the only search engine around, it still is the kingpin. And what Google wants, Google gets. Or rather, what Google doesn’t want, Google slaps. This is an important social media tip for local businesses to keep in mind.

Case in point, this weekend two popular sites were blacklisted by Google.

In order to “protect” us, Google often declares that sites are malicious. This may or may not be true, but that is actually beside the point. Once blacklisted, sites will be flagged as contained Malware–especially if you (or your potential customers) use the Google owned Chrome browser.

According to Google’s Safe Browsing page on del.icio.us:

Of the 370 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 69 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2014-10-26, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2014-10-26.

Malicious software includes 17 trojan(s), 14 scripting exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 1 new process(es) on the target machine

If you want to know more details about the most recent blacklist, read this article on WordFence: http://www.wordfence.com/blog/2014/10/a-malicious-del-icio-us/

A general rule of thumb is don’t click on a link you don’t know. If you use a link shortener (like bit.ly, which was also blacklisted, albeit temporarily) you may want to reconsider. If you use Twitter a lot for your business you may want/need to use the shorteners in order to not exceed the character limitations, but still it is good to keep in mind that many people will not click a link they can not read.

 

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!

 

 

Successful Facebook Timeline Suggestions for Local Business

If you are a local business without a Facebook page you might not know what the big fuss is all about. And, if you don’t already have a Facebook page, then you might not think you need to care.

Unless you have more clients and money than you can handle, then you definitely want to care about Facebook. Google is constantly updating its algorithms and more and more weight appears to be placed on social media for ranking your business pages in the search engine rankings.

Depending on your specific industry there may be other social media venues that are important for your business, but Facebook is still the #1 place to be seen, and found, on the internet social scene.

The good news is that you can put your own personality or brand on your Facebook page much more easily now with the Timeline format. Big businesses are using Facebook Timeline to their advantage and so can you.

Read more (and see examples) here:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/5-ways-businesses-are-using-facebook-timelines/

Of course, these are mostly BIG companies with big advertising budgets. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that Facebook is not advertising–it really is. And these companies prove that it is internet advertising that works.

Facebook Timeline for business

But just because they are spending megabucks on their advertising campaigns doesn’t mean that you should ignore Facebook any more than you would ignore other advertising media. You don’t buy full-page ads in national magazines that would suck up your ad budget for the next 10 years…but that doesn’t mean you never have a print ad out there. Same logic. Stick within your budget, but you must allocate some funds into advertising (that works for your business!) if you want to continue to grow and be profitable.

After all, you provide a service or product, but the purpose of business is to also make money.

Check out the Timeline ideas and start to think about how you might adapt them for your own Facebook page.

Of course, we are here if you want some help, whether it is building a page or tweaking it.

Facebook Timeline Deadline Approaching

The new Facebook Timeline profile updates will be happening in just a few days. If you have not already changed your Page’s appearance, now is the time!

Updating your Facebook page to the new Timeline format is more than a click of a button.

Instead of just letting Facebook alter your page by default, we recommend you take a few minutes to think about your branding and how you want your page to look. Remember, your business is using Facebook to communicate with customers and fans–present and future!

The biggest change about the timeline style is the cover photo. Dimensions for the cover photo are 851 pixels x 319 pixels. Smaller images will be stretched to fit, so we recommend you start with the correct size so you get what you really want in a cover photo.

I know a lot of people are using beautiful photos for their cover image, but before you put up a photo of a fantastic sunset or the view from your office, think about this space. You don’t necessarily have to have a giant logo in that spot, but it is in essence a large billboard of free advertising space. Keep in mind this is a chance for you to have some branding. You can change the cover photo as often as you like, so one option is to have a logo that you “dress up” for the season, similar to the Google icon.

Other items could be a map to your store, a key image about your industry or company, a composite of photos about your business, a shot of your store front, photos from when you first opened or your founder…the possibilities are limitless!

However, Facebook rules state that your cover image is not allowed to have:

  • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

Another change with the Timeline layout is that people will now be able to message you privately. Individuals have long been able to do this, but this is new for Pages.

Moving, editing, deleting and pinning items with the new Timeline layout

You may want to “Pin” a story or item to the top of your Page–to do that, hover over the story and click on the pencil icon. This will allow you to edit it, pin it, or hide the story. For example, you might not want to show that you updated your photo 5 times in the last 10 minutes, so you could delete all those notices–handy!

The other icon that shows up when you hover over a story is the star. If you click on the star it will make the story a “highlight” which means it will make it wider, filling both columns.

Play around with the new Timeline. It will be a little different looking, but the most important thing is to be responsible for your business page. Make it look the way you want. If you don’t have time, contact Internet Advertising That Works and we can help you with your cover photo, profile picture or arranging your page.

 

Local Business Marketing Tips to Benefit from Facebook IPO

There are lots of pundits who are talking trash about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, wondering if anyone but MZ will benefit from the upcoming IPO.

Some are already predicting the demise of FB, or at the very least a shift in how FB will operate. Anyone who has any experience in business, whether that is local business or internet based, knows that in order to survive today, companies MUST be flexible and be willing to change. So why is this necessarily a bad thing?

Facebook is currently making more than $3 billion in revenue by taking market share from Google and Yahoo…they are doing something right. Maybe this is why the Yahoo pundits are some of the harshest Zuckerberg critics!

As long as USERS still flock to Facebook, “Like” business pages, and click on ads, it is good for business.

Local businesses can benefit even without paying for Facebook advertising as long as they participate in the social aspect of the medium.

If you, as a local business owner or manager, expect to build your Facebook page and then never touch it again and still have people find you–and find you interesting enough to share with others–than you have missed the point.

Your Facebook page should not be the equivalent of a Yellow Pages advertisement…you know, the thing that is getting thinner every year and is used more as a doorstop than anything else.

Like all social media, Facebook is first and foremost, SOCIAL…that means you must interact with people.

As Facebook is forced to focus more and more on making money for stockholders (we have seen this over and over) the users will likely find they are seeing more and more ads. Facebook already sells users information (and according to it’s own figures profits $4.50 per user on that info…doesn’t sound like a lot? Multiply $4.50 x the 850 MILLION active users!) With the IPO it is expected that more information will be sold, at a higher price. (want to read more about how FB makes money, read this article on money.cnn)

The trick for FB is to profit from the users without ticking them off so much that they leave, which would leave Facebook broke.

Local Business Marketing Tips For Usine Facebook:

  • Build your Facebook page if you haven’t already,

  • Be social–interact with people, talk about what is going on in your industry, your neighborhood, your business, and yes…even your life!

  • Let people get to know you and trust you. Then they will then want to do business with you.

  • Be real.

  • Provide value…that can be your service, or just brightening someone’s day!

  • Ask people who come to your store if they’ve been to your FB page–and to “Like” it

  • Don’t focus on how many “Likes” you have, focus on what you can do for your customers

Facebook can, and (for most, but not all businesses) should be part of your internet advertising package that works for you. If you don’t know how to get started or you don’t know or want to participate in the day-to-day social aspects of it, then you can hire that out–just like you would hire out any other service you don’t have the skills or time for!

Local Business Helped or Harmed by New Google Search, plus Your World

Google announced yesterday that they are launching “Search, plus Your World” claiming that this will be revolutionary for people searching on the internet. While this may be helpful for some search purposes, it may be harmful for others–or benign at best.

What will the impact be on local business search?

Only time will tell for certain, but it appears that it will place even more emphasis on the importance of getting positive feedback from customers as well as having a presence on social media. Less emphasis on traditional SEO and more on getting conversations going and putting more and more content out on the web.

First, to summarize the Search, plus Your World, it is just being launched and will be rolling out over time as is normal for any big changes from Google. So, what you see today and what you see “tomorrow” may be radically different. Again, nothing new when dealing with Google. Search, plus Your World only works if you are signed in to Google.com and, at least for now, only works if you are searching in English.

While touted to increase the uniqueness of your search vs a search on the same term by your neighbor or BFF, it appears that there is greater weight put on Google+ and YouTube content at the expense of competitors such as Facebook.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since Google+ and YouTube are both properties owned by Google. Facebook has already been coordinating similar search results with Microsoft’s search engine Bing and sharing content with sites like Yelp, Pandora and Spotify.

This all reeks a bit of 1984 to me and rather than broadening our horizons, “personalizing” our searches may instead make our worlds more lopsided. If Facebook is any indication, while you can find lots of great information there, your stream (or wall) is flooded with what Facebook deems is the most relevant to you. The problem is because they are pre-filtering content unless you go out and seek out your other friends who post less frequently, you are apt to be taken down a more and more narrow path.

What does this mean for local search for business? Well, it could mean that potential customers do not find your business quite as easily, especially if you have been relying on traditional SEO. However, if you have embraced social media and are developing a following then your local business can do very well with this change.

Read Google’s official post about Search, plus Your World including what they are doing to protect privacy in these personalized searches.

If you have not yet embraced social media, you still have the opportunity to take advantage of it to market your local business and bring in new customers. Rather than thinking of it as something more you have to do, think of it as an extension of your existing customer relations projects and word of mouth advertising–because even on the internet, that is advertising that works!

Unlike Netflix Check Social Media First When Creating Business Name

When creating a business name, it is smart to check Social Media first.

Case in Point: Qwikster the new company that was formed when Netflix split its home delivery and streaming video services.

The argument that Netflix is charging more for less service with this split is the subject of a different post.

Let’s just focus on the business name.

Businesses seek names that are unique, easy to remember, memorable, and often, but not always, are meaningful.

Qwikster meets none of those criteria–in addition it does nothing to capitalize on the brand millions of people associate with the successful video business: Netflix.

Not only is Qwikster not unique–it is alarmingly similarly to names that could be offensive to many of it’s customers.  Read Qwikster: Not to be Confused with Quistar, QuickStar, Kwikster, Quickster, Kwik Star, Quick-Star, or Kickstar for more on similarly named companies.

When hearing about the company by word-of-mouth, still the best free advertising there is, one wonders just how is it spelled?

People of a certain age are apt to type in the “most correct” spelling as a first effort, which would be q-u-i-c-k-s-t-e-r.

According to UrbanDictionary.com a “quickster” is someone who can get girls “in the sack quick”

A Quickster is also a type of sports net…and lots of other items.

BTW, “The Quickster” was a superhero that appeared in a single SpongeBob SquarePants episode. OK, maybe that’s not a problem for Netflix, but it does make you wonder about Sponge Bob…buy maybe that is why the character is retired.

Now the customer or potential customer is left to wonder if there are hyphens in the name or what “sounds like” spelling was chosen. And why?

Googling is a challenge when people don’t know how to spell your name...and there are so many variations. Today people want instant results–even people who want their videos mailed to them.

By Googling Netflix you discover the spelling is Qwikster. Ok, we can handle that, right. Well, the execs at Netflix must have been smoking dope, because they didn’t check Twitter for the availability of their new moniker. Nope. @Qwikster is already taken by a guy who mostly tweets about smoking dope and chasing girls. Not exactly the image the video giant will want to many of their clientele.

The lesson in all this? (Ok, there are LOTS)

Social Media is imperative to your business. If you already HAVE a business, check to see if your name is available on on the Social Media sites that your customers frequent–especially Twitter and Facebook. If it isn’t, get as close as possible, use abbreviations, whatever, but CLAIM YOUR SPACE.

If you are just starting your business, or considering a name change, check out the Social Media spaces where your customers hang out, including, but not limited to Twitter and Facebook. If the name is already taken there, TRY SOMETHING ELSE. Especially if it is claimed by a dope-smoking young quickster. Unless that’s your target market, of course.