Well, it looks like the new Google PlacesGoogle+ Local has been up for a couple days. I haven’t gotten a chance to play around much yet, but hopefully will soon. I did get a chance to check out observations from David Mihm. Another post I found really interesting was a Q&A from Mike Blumenthal. Two questions and answers I really liked:
To me, this is fantastic news. I’ve never been a fan of companies or individuals leaving fake reviews just to try to help either their own or their client’s placement. Plus, users are smart and see right through this kind of thing.
So, I dug around just a bit and went to my profile which I admittedly never update. They let me know that any review I make is from my real name. I like this. It just makes sense.
Very intuitive. Next, a real example:
Hit Continue? You see something like this.
Again, I like this. If I was to have a change of heart regarding a business I’ve purchased from, not letting the public see the review is an option.
Now it’s time to confirm and publish:
That’s it. Here’s an example of a review:
Many others have noted about the more prominence of Zagat. I did notice my rating changed just a bit. When I initially gave it a review it was for four out of five stars. Now that they are using a 0-3 rating, it changed just a bit. I’m not going to worry about the small things, though.
What are your thoughts on the new review system? We’d love to hear them.
In December, Barb and I announced we wanted to give some search and social 1.0 workshops. On January 24th, we gave it a trial run for about 15 people which resulted in astounding success complete with very genuine testimonials.
On March 22, we’re bringing another search and social presentation to the West Minneapolis Marriott. Bring your laptops, tablets or smartphones. Take notes, pictures of slides, or anything else that can help your local business, even on the spot! We simply want to help you succeed. All education, no sales pitch. Who should attend?
Those who run or manage an local brick and mortar business
Those who have heard about search marketing but want to know more
Those who receive pitches on SEO, PPC, etc. and want to know what questions to ask when pitched
Those who have heard magic spells about search and want it demystified (we’re really good at this)
Those who want to know what they can do themselves and what they may want to hire or outsource
It’s not a good workshop without a happy hour either. So, from around 8:00 to 11:00pm we’ll be at the adjoining Marriott’s Kip’s Irish Pub to have fun, answer questions and literally walk you through things from the workshop. This could be Google Places, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster (seems to be a theme), best practices, you name it.
Here are a few pictures from our trial run in January.
Last week, quite a few Minnesotans went out to Seattle’s SMX Advanced conference and I had a message for two of them:
The biggest thing everyone came back with was to really engage, be social and be transparent. They all stressed that search engines are going to be using social more in their data and factors – not huge news and there’s a lot more, but not for this post.
So, Google is indeed partially doing this. Yesterday, their Places team announced they are now using descriptive terms in local search results. I really like the hyper-local potential. More on that below.
This means they are now including terms that appear to be words others use to describe businesses on different local and social sites.
Here’s a Google Places screenshot for the standard “pizza” keyword. The area was for north downtown/St. Anthony Main/UofM in Minneapolis.
Here’s the hyper-local and conversion potential that I love. If you’re in the area, you already know that Pizza Nea uses unique ingredients like sea salt and prosciutto, Mesa Pizza has popular vegetarian and mac and cheese options and Punch is known for their wood fired ovens and basil for their Margherita pies.
Visitors to the area can now see this before they get there. and this is hyper-local at its finest.
There are many more examples. This one is for the phrase “music school” near downtown Minneapolis.
If you’re in music education, you know that Suzuki is a method of musical training for kids as young as preschool age. If someone is specifically looking for this, this is a great chance for a conversion.
Loosely related, here’s an example of what shows up for a south Minneapolis search for “piano lessons”.
It’s well-known that for a couple years, Minneapolis has had a slick public bicycle rental system that you can use with a credit card. Bixi is the bicycle solution behind the system. Visitors can now know this.
Here’s a diner in Rochester and it’s my favorite example.
See the “hole in the wall” description? This place is indeed a hole in the wall and in the very best way possible. Locals already know this and visitors can read their ratings and reviews. This place is really hard to beat!
These descriptive terms aren’t always as relevant as the above. Here’s one for a St. Paul attorney.
Side note, Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA is pretty.
I tried a slightly longer search in “personal injury lawyer”. It didn’t show any descriptive terms. It did show the category of “personal injury attorney”. Note, your category and descriptive terms can both show. It just doesn’t in this example and many long-tail searches.
This new feature is brand new and I really hope it stays. I’ve read a couple posts that have showed flaws in these descriptions. I hope these are the extreme exceptions. Google has something really good here.
Enough about my thoughts. What are yours? Are you a local business owner or manager? If so, Google your company name and see how accurate these descriptions are for you. Let us know what you think.
Yesterday, I received an email from my brother-in-law, Bob Herman. He has successfully run BuyOnlineNow (BON) online office supplies since 2000, literally from the ground up from search marketing (SEO and PPC) and customer service. He just had a question regarding local search pricing. He’s a master of search, often speaks with local brick and mortar office supply store owners and wonders if they are sometimes taken from SEO firms.
I really didn’t have a pricing answer and replied “anywhere from free to five figures”.
The reason I gave that answer depends on the store owner. Do they want a turnkey solution or do they want to get their hands dirty and do it themselves? I’m going to focus on the latter.
If you’re in search, you know all of this. My brother-in-law knows many brick and mortar office supply dealers who will read this. To the store owners, I do hope this will give you enough information to decide if you can do this on your own.
Online Reputation Management
Combining Online and Traditional Marketing
I may have further information specific to local office supplies sites, but for right now I’m going to point you to a free starter guide (opens a new PDF window) created by Google.
At the least, get and claim your office supplies store found on Google Places. To do this you will need either a free gmail address or Google Account. Fill out every field that you can including photos, videos, hours of operation, etc. Here’s an informative video from Google itself. Oh, this is free, too.
There are companies that do this for you from $20/month up to premium prices. You can somewhat do your own online reputation management for free through Google Alerts.
Here’s how an alert may look for Twin City Office Supply. Note, I have no affiliation with this company. They just happen to be close to here.
Here is what comes up.
Pretty slick. Many results will be from your own site, but some company mentions may come from places like yelp and Facebook (see above).
Note this is just one alert. You can create as many as you wish including different spellings of your business name, competitors, industry keywords or anything you want to see what people are talking about.
If you see that someone left a positive review for your store, you can do something creative like thank them in an email or even a handwritten, mailed letter. If you see that someone left a negative review, you can proactively contact the customer and try to correct the situation.
Blogging is sort of social media. Should you blog? I don’t know. Office supplies are kind of boring… or fun. I enjoyed writing this post a couple years ago.
Bob blogs and I like his style. He rarely talks about his products and proactively calls it “rants of the office supply industry”. It’s engaging and customers can get to know the owner of BON in a fun way. If you had someone design your site, the same person can easily pick out a free or low-cost WordPress or Blogspot blog theme for you.
Twitter – This is funny because Bob and I actually disagree with its relevance. I love it and have met over 100 industry contacts because of it. If you ask 20 “experts” on how to use Twitter, you’ll get 20 different answers. Here is just my two cents on how a local office supply store could use Twitter
Follow people you are genuinely interested in.
Stressing on the number of followers you have is wasteful time
Once you build a following, honestly engage in conversations by replying to tweets
Don’t talk about your company all the time. People want to hear about them, not you.
Follow local competition. I call it “co-opetition”.
Follow the diner across the street who is also on Twitter
Follow other local businesses, media folks, just interesting locals in general.
Search for your store name. People are talking about you. Engage with them.
Why the last bullet? Here’s why.
OK, Jeff works for BON but he did mention a nice shout out to them. In the past, I have seen tweets about people excited that they got their BuyOnlineNow order the next day (that’s the norm, actually).
There was an occasion where someone tweeted that their order came damaged and they probably wouldn’t do anything about it. I can’t prove, but I believe that customer was indeed contacted how to return his item at no cost and a replacement was sent out. Could you image how happy that customer probably was? That is customer service at its finest.
Combining Online and Traditional Marketing
I spend a lot of my time in a marketing environment and think we do a great job combining online and traditional marketing. Running a TV commercial with a special? Include Google Places coupons and blog/tweet about it during the run. Is your print yellow pages ad working? Great, still use it. Just ask your rep why your ad spend is partially based on circulation stats including delivery to boarded-up homes.
I didn’t really get into SEO, analytics (measuring leads), Facebook or Flickr (I love Flickr). There’s a reason for that. The intended audience for this post is to local office supply store owners. If that’s you, it probably means you’re more knowledgeable than I’ll ever be regarding office supplies. The above info alone could be overkill for someone who doesn’t spend their life analyzing SEO and social media strategies.
The main reason for this post is because there’s a rumor that at least one office supply company has been taken by a SEO firm who provides didn’t provide leads. Then, an industry group warned that there is no ROI in this.
So, local office supplies owners. What are your experiences? We want to hear. Have questions on any of the above? Please comment. If it turns into a discussion, I may have a follow up post on this as well.
Something odd appears when creating Google tags for bulk listing uploads. In a picture…
I left the name of the company out but notice you can create a tag for the first one and not the other three (actually, there are 26 others). The first listing was created manually and the rest were created through Google’s bulk listing format.
I did a quick search, didn’t find much but did notice someone else had the same issue.
As of this writing, no one has answered his question. Maybe not being able to create tags in bulk listings is just a glitch on Google’s part, maybe it’s one of those things that’s a simple fix from the user end. Figured I’d throw it out there for you smart, local search folks. What are your thoughts?
In the Google Maps world, it’s pretty-well known they’ve had Mapspam issues and at least now (arguably) tries to keep very strict guidelines including using your exact physical address, as is.
There are some marketers who suggest using multiple PO boxes in different cities for one single location. Google may frown on this as “people have used this to spam the local listings to get them closer to the city center”. Maybe the 0 of 2 folks who find this particular answer helpful are guilty?
Disclaimer – I don’t know who the user andyhugh is in this answer.
Google Maps Answer
Anyway, there’s an example I haven’t thought of much. I was speaking with the owner of SOS Appliance Repair of Minneapolis. Technically, the business is in Golden Valley. However, their DexKnows profile page shows their correct physical address and zip, but with Minneapolis as the city. So does Yelp.
Companies have been practicing this long before the Internet for branding purposes alone. A lifetime ago, I worked for a company in the western suburb of St. Louis Park and the yellow pages providers listed their official street address and zip code. The city just changed to Minneapolis. Again, they did this for branding purposes. We’ve all probably seen this many times.
To my knowledge, SOS hasn’t added their business to the Google Local Business Center. If they did, I bet it would be just fine if they used Minneapolis as their official city location. It may or may not help for their Google Maps listing but doubt it would hurt.
Any thoughts out there and do you think this helps or hinders your Google Maps business listing?
Here is a small sample of two different businesses in two different areas:
Status and Statistics
This is slick but it gets better. The lower stats are for a piano instructor in a SE Minnesota city. Google is showing the top impressions.
Top Search Queries
Notice that none of the top 10 search queries included a regional qualifier? This has to do with Google showing local results without showing the local search. In a business such as piano instruction, it looks like they’re showing somewhat relevant stat results. This could be different in other industries.
One small glitch. The instructor doesn’t have a website and Google’s showing 6 clicks to it.
No Actual Website
They also provide where driving directions came from. I could really see this useful for lawyers. Depending on the practice area, if a lawyer from Minneapolis was getting many requests from St. Paul, maybe opening a St. Paul branch would be a good idea.
Keep in mind, this is all totally separate from Google Analytics. The new Google Maps reporting dashboard is for your Google local listing visits.
It’s been shown on David Mihm’s blog, as well as other blogs that Google is now showing a new layer of local search results, all at once. Simply put, it allows you to see many more than the standard “ten” map results when doing a local search query.
In your early twenties and near La Crosse, Wisconsin? You’ve more than likely done a search for bars in La Crosse, WI. Yes, you really have. When you click on the map you see an image similar to the one below. It doesn’t just show the A-J listings, but a layer of smaller dots of bars in the area including many on the infamous 3rd Street.
Bars in La Crosse, WI
Do search marketing in Minneapolis for an attorney whose goal is to “be #1 in Google for Attorney in Minneapolis, MN“? Well, now they probably can. Ok, </sarcasm>
Google Map of attorneys in Minneapolis
Ok, from a consumer point of few, I can really see all of this being valuable when you’re mapping out local businesses and don’t want to go out of your way. This could be:
Picking up Chinese food on your way home from work
Traveling to a new city and need a chiropractor close to your hotel (this happens a lot more than I would have thought)
Hotel if you’re really looking to pinpoint a specific location while traveling
Simple car wash
These are just a few examples. I hope Google keeps this, it’s pretty slick! Any other examples or thoughts?
Clint Danks from ThinkSEM found something pretty slick. Turns out one of his Google AdWords clients has the new interface option that Google first mentioned a couple months ago. Some initial thoughts:
They sure make it easy to view.
Updated AdWords Interface
When looking at the dashboard, both Clint and I said something like “it looks a lot like the Google Analytics dashboard”.
Looks Like GA?
The top tab looks similar to the old tabs, just designed a bit differently with a “billings” tab added.
One interesting thing we noticed was that Clint has many clients in his AdWords account and only one of them has the option to view the new interface. On the new interface, everything else still seems to run the same.