How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches

How Local SEO Helps Local Businesses Dominate Searches
If you’re a small business owner and you’re just a little bit confused on the concept of search engine optimization (otherwise known as SEO), you’re not alone. But there’s no need to feel completely lost–in fact, you might be happy to hear that to make use of SEO tactics, you don’t actually have to be a coder or master of marketing. Surprisingly, it’s pretty easy to learn the basics and implement some of the changes on your own. Below, we detail some of the ways local SEO differs from on-site SEO, and how you can start making local SEO work for your small business.

Local SEO functions differently

When working to get a website ranking, an SEO expert will generally come up with a detailed plan that covers a number of proven SEO tactics: Link building, content creation and syndication, image and on-page optimization, and more. From blogs to ecommerce sites, this works well, and it’s a tried-and-true method of working your way up the search engine result pages (SERPs).

But unlike blogs or ecommerce sites, small business websites generally represent a digital space that provides information about the actual “brick-and-mortar” store. A person who goes to a small business’s website already has a product or service in mind–they’re not mindlessly browsing for “gray pants on sale” or “blogs about healthy baby foods”. No, they’re looking for a plumber in Toiletville, and blogs or toilets for sale aren’t going to help them much.

So this goes to reason that when your company shows up in a local search, it’s because the person who is searching for you wants something locally–they’re not interested in what some blog has to say about plumbing or what Wikipedia has to say about it, either. They just want to find a plumber.

So that’s why it’s important that you focus on local SEO for your small business. It’s just not the same as trying to get an online store or blog ranking. Local SEO is its own animal.

Smart local searches will display pertinent information for your customers.

Because your local business is an actual storefront, people who are searching for you won’t just want to find your website. They’ll also want to know your business hours, how to get in contact with you, and they might even want to learn what others think about your products and services. You may have noticed that when you conduct a search for a local service, a map will display showing nearby businesses. You can then click to get information about the business, such as the business name, address, and phone number (NAP).

To get these important points of data to display properly in searches, you’re going to want to submit your business information to directories. There are a lot of online business directories, whether you’re aware of it or not: The Yellow Pages, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Google Business Places, Bing Places for Business, and more. For more information on specific directories, VR Marketing Blog has put together a helpful list of the top 20 places your local business should be listed.

Basically you’ll want to make sure that all of these listings display a correct form of your NAP. If there are duplicate listings on any directories, claim them and fix them to avoid the search engines thinking there are two locations/phone numbers/names for your business. If you find that there are inconsistencies in addresses or contact information, make sure you correct it. The search engines will pull up data based on what’s listed in directories–and you want your information to be correct so that your customers can easily find you.

The takeaway? Local SEO directories will help customers find you when conducting local searches, so you’d better make sure you’re listed in as many of them as possible.

Local reviews help you out in more ways than one.

An integral part of your local SEO campaign will be collecting business reviews. Google wants to display only the most important results to people who are searching for local businesses–so naturally, it will show those with more positive reviews first. Think of it as “social proof” that you’ve got what the people are looking for.

Of course, reviews don’t just help you show up on local searches. They’re also a great way to advertise your business on Facebook or other social media platforms. Entice your fans and followers with a coupon or special offer if they leave you a review. Sometimes, people just need a little push in the right direction before they get involved.

What you need to know: Local reviews are worth their weight in gold for your small business. The more reviews, the better you’ll appear to prospective customers, and the higher you’ll rank on the SERPs.

Connect with other local businesses for the best networking opportunities.

Local businesses are unique in that they get to establish roots in a community. Sure, there are competitors. And sure, you’ve probably never felt like promoting them before.

But if you connect with other local businesses, you create a wonderful networking opportunity for yourself. You can link to one another online, building your link portfolio to boost your presence on Google. You can run promotions and drive business that way. You could arrange interviews or work together to promote a cause and draw attention to your services. Gone are the days of trash-talking your competitors. Now it’s the age of co-promotion, and local businesses can really shine in this area–if you know how to play your cards right.

So what should you do? Figure out who the big names are in your area. Connect with successful businesses and find a way to form a positive relationship. Support one another online and watch your traffic grow.


Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

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Google’s Trying to Get Local Businesses Online

google-trying-to-get-local-businesses-online

Have you heard about Google’s new project “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map”? Launched in late March, this program offers resources to business owners so that they can get started building their online presences. It also offers the option for official city partners to join up. Alternatively, if you are already on Google Places, you can claim and correct duplicate or erroneous listings.

Where do I find this site?

The website is GYBO.com. When you navigate to the Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map website, you’ll see a local version of the page. So whether you’re in California or Alaska, you’ll see a town close to you–one that’s relevant to your local searches. You’ll also find an FAQ, free online business tools (such as videos and tutorials), and a free scan to find out if your business information shows up on Google Places already.

What if I don’t have a website?

If you don’t have a website, Google offers a free domain and hosted website through StartLogic. However, it should be noted that this website is only free for one year, and they do not offer maintenance–that is up to the customer.

Of course, you don’t have to go through Google and StartLogic to get a website. You can go with any host of your choice and still submit your site to Google. There is no penalty for choosing another service. In fact, we offer affordable website packages with customization options as well as hosting and maintenance.

What if I find my listing, but it’s incomplete or incorrect?

Using the free scanning tool (this will open up to our city, Santa Ana, CA; however, you can enter your own city!), Google will find out if your listings are present online, and also if they are completely filled out. If they are not complete, the website will guide you through updating your listing so that Google can index your listing.

Why should I bother with this? Can’t someone do this for me?

According to Google itself, “businesses with complete listings are 2x as likely to be considered reputable by customers searching for services.” That means that if you have a completely filled out listing with accurate information, customers are more likely to choose you over your competitors. When people search for goods and services online, they usually choose from the businesses listed at the top of the results page–those that are active, have good reviews, and information on business hours, contact information, and website links.

So you can follow Google’s steps and make sure your business listing includes hours, phone number, address, photos, reviews, and website. You can also hire someone to help you–not only can they get your site listed on Google, but they can also get you listed across many directories as well as help you with social media, website hosting, and marketing. In fact, that’s exactly what we do–so if you’re looking for help, give us a call.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

7 SEO Myths You Need to Trash Immediately

Whether you’re new to SEO or you’re a long-time veteran, you’ve certainly heard your share of opinions on the practice. Keyword density matters according to one person, while another claims it doesn’t. One person proclaims Facebook to be pointless; another says it’s essential to your marketing campaign.

It can get downright exhausting to listen to these kinds of things. So today, we wanted to take the top 7 SEO myths we hear, and debunk them for you. Can you think of any others? Let us know!

1. SEO isn’t a long-term investment

“I did SEO once. Isn’t that good enough?”

Nope. In order for SEO to work, you have to keep at it. If you lost weight once, would you expect it to stay off forever? No. You have to make lifestyle changes to keep yourself healthy and trim, and the same goes for your website: If you want to grow your traffic, you have to keep promoting, keep updating, and keep connecting with your customers.

2. SEO is a scam

This usually ties in with the above concern. When people aren’t seeing their sites at #1 on Google within three days of working with an SEO service, they start panicking. Surely, because you’re paying for SEO, it should be done right away… right? If not, you’re just being scammed by some shady, fly-by-night operation. What a ripoff!

No, that’s not exactly true. While there are some out there who seek to take advantage of small business owners, that can be said about any industry. There are always going to be “bad apples” in the bunch, and there’s nothing you can do about that. What you can do, however, is learn how to spot them. Don’t think that just because someone is bad at their job, that all of us are!

3. Google doesn’t take any cues from social media

You’ve probably heard it before: Social media doesn’t help you rank in Google, because Google doesn’t care about your social media updates. While this is technically true in that Google does not care about how many fans or retweets or “likes” you have, that doesn’t mean that your social media sites don’t help your presence.

Confused? Let us explain.

If you follow best practices for your social media accounts, when people search for your company, your profiles should show up. Now, this might not directly affect the ranking of your website, but it gives people who search for you a whole host of options to connect with you. Furthermore, when people share your content via social media, it could bring attention to your work and allow others to contact you and/or build links to your site naturally. And these things will affect your ranking.

4. Link building is pointless now

Nope.

It seems that every so often, someone starts proclaiming link building to be dead (or SEO, or Facebook, or viral marketing, or… you get the picture) and then tons of people follow suit, crowing the same soundbites everywhere. But link building isn’t pointless. It never has been, and it probably won’t be.

Google does take ranking and relevancy signals from sites that link to you. If you have done a good job building a network of peers the natural and honest way, you have nothing to worry about. Forging relationships and providing fresh content are things that Google wants you to do. But if you buy links or pay someone to implement other black-hat SEO techniques (black-hat meaning bad; Google will punish your site if you’re caught using these methods), you’ll pay for it in the long run. This kind of link building is pointless; not the honest way.

5. You need to include a keyword density of x to rank

2%? 5%? You’ve heard it before: If you don’t maintain a certain keyword density in your content, Google’s going to overlook your site in favor of someone who does it correctly.

There’s definitely a nugget of truth to using keywords in your content: As the search engines crawl your page, they look for phrases consisting of related words. They can then conclude that the site is about a specific topic.

But that doesn’t mean you have to use the exact same instances of keywords a certain number of times. If you try to stuff too many keywords into your content, you’ll end up looking like a spammer. Instead, try to focus on writing clear content that revolves around one topic. So if you’re a nail salon, try writing a post about top nail trends of 2015. Or you could write about the top three brands of nail polish to try this spring. Do you see how clearly those topics are defined? By writing content around such a focused topic, you’ll naturally use language that cues search engines to look for certain keywords and keyphrases. You can also consciously make sure to include your keywords a few times, just for good measure.

6. Anchor text all keywords

This actually used to be an SEO truth. But then you started seeing sites with the same keyword or keyphrase repeated over and over and over, and every single time, the keyword led to the same page.

Google came down on that practice pretty hard.

Nowadays, it’s better to include links to your other pages (or to external sources, if applicable) by simply linking phrases like “click here” or “read more”. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad to link using keyword-rich phrases, but it can appear to Google that you’re linking specifically for the purpose of SEO, rather than providing valuable content for your readers. So try not to overdo it, and just link to things in a natural way rather than forcing it too hard.

7. Paid search will increase your organic rankings

Paid search can help you drive traffic to your site for the duration of your campaign.

But there is no data saying that paid search will help you rank organically.

Think about it: Companies with millions to spend on advertising would have it in the bag. Companies with smaller budgets couldn’t even compete. There’s already competition for pay-per-click bids; but that just helps Google determine which advertisements to show first. So until search engines decide to allow paid search to influence rankings, you can safely assume that this is not something you need to worry about.

Which SEO myths bug you the most? Let us know in the comments!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

The 10 Biggest Small Business SEO Blunders

1. You’re not optimizing your local search listings.

Are you listed on directory sites like Yelp, FourSquare, and Merchant Circle? If you’re not, this could be hurting your rankings. If you are listed across these sites but still aren’t seeing any boost in rakings, you will want to check to make sure you have listed all your information consistently. Check to ensure your business address, phone number, and website are all spelled correctly and don’t contain any unnecessary variation in syntax.

For example, if your address is “1234 Olive Branch Drive”, make sure every listing reads exactly like that. “1234 Olivebranch Drive” or “12 34 Olive branch dr” are both different listings!

Furthermore, if you find that you have duplicate listings, make sure you claim ONE and delete the duplicates, as this could be confusing people who are searching for your business.

2. You’re trying to rank for broad keywords.

If you’re in a small area, you might be able to rank for the keyword “plumber.” But if you’re in a bigger city, chances are that there are a lot of other plumbers working there with you. That means you have a lot of competition when people are searching locally!

So what can you do to improve this situation? Well, you might want to try linking for more specific keywords. For example, instead of “Cleveland plumber”, you might want to try “Cleveland plumber residential septic”. This way, you can rank for more specific keywords–and these are far more likely to get you ranking than something that’s too simple.

3. Using the same anchor text over and over.

You’ve probably heard something about keyword density before–something like “you must have 2-5% keyword density in your article to make it visible to search engines.” And you’ve more than likely also heard that you should use anchor text on your links so that you can target specific keywords.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

First of all, the keyword density thing is long-outdated. Google is smart–over the years, the search engine has learned to look for different variations on the same phrase. So that means that if you link to one page using the exact same anchor text over and over again, search engines (or even your visitors!) might think you’re trying something fishy. A good rule of thumb for you to remember is that if it looks spammy to you, it’s going to look spammy to your readers–and to the search engines. So regardless of what you’ve read about keyword density and repeating anchor text, following this practice is not going to help you in the long run.

So what should you do? Creating high-quality content that contains your keywords and key phrases is the best bet. Don’t stuff your keywords in or worry about using them in a bizarre way (such as our “Cleveland plumber residential septic” example–how would you fit that into a natural-sounding sentence?). Just write organically about your topic and you’ll be fine.

 4. Using subpar content.

Did you hire someone to write your content for you or did you write your content yourself? If you hired someone else to write it, did you check their credentials and make sure that their work is easy to read? Or does it come off a bit unprofessional, with misspellings or poor grammar? If you did the work yourself, do you feel confident in your ability to write good content, or do you feel a little embarrassed of the work you put up?

If something seems off about your content, we have some bad news for you: Your readers will probably notice too. If your content doesn’t read well or is perceived as untrustworthy, you’re destined to stay buried under your competitors.

So if you feel confident about your writing skills, go ahead and post fresh content on your pages; just make sure that you edit your work before you post it.

If you don’t feel confident and choose to hire a writer, make sure you select a candidate who actually has quality work in his or her portfolio! Don’t just hire the “cheapest” writer because you want to save money.

Always remember that quality is key when it comes to content. No exceptions.

5. Focusing too much on getting links vs. creating content.

Most people who are just getting into SEO learn very quickly how important backlinks are.

And before you get all up in arms, we’ll make it perfectly clear that we’re NOT saying backlinks aren’t important.

K. With that out of the way, if you focus too heavily on getting links to your site, but don’t bother creating a good site, you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot. You need a reason for your readers to want to return–a reason for them to trust you and your work. If you just get a bunch of people linking to a boring landing page, you’re not going to gain much for all your effort.

So while reaching out to other sites and building links is important, don’t forget to make your website spectacular, too!

6. Not using meta tags or descriptions.

Meta tags and descriptions help search engines categorize and cache your site. If a search engine can’t find any pertinent information, it’s not going to know how to place your site–and it won’t see it as “relevant”. That’s why you have to make sure to include meta tags and proper descriptions in every page’s header.

This probably seems like too much work or like it’s too complicated, especially if you’re an SEO beginner. But it doesn’t have to be. If you host your site on WordPress, you can get a plug-in that helps you fill in all this important information. Try Yoast or All-in-One SEO. In just a few minutes, you can easily fill in keywords and descriptions that make your site attractive to search engines–no coding required.

If you’re not on WordPress, you might have a tougher time with this, but you can read more about the usage of meta tags and descriptions here.

7. Not bothering with Google Analytics.

Have you signed up for Google Analytics? If not, you’re missing out on a lot of important data–data that can tell you just about everything you need to know about your site’s visitors.

When you use analytics, you gain access to insider knowledge: Who is visiting your site the most? Where are they from? Which pages are they visiting–and how long are they staying on each page? By learning a bit about the basics of Google Analytics, you can figure out what is and what isn’t working for your site. Once you have a basic idea of where your strengths lie, you can begin to provide more content that your visitors crave, and in turn, make a more focused plan of how you will update in the months to come.

Now that’s a good way of growing your readership, and a great way to nab some true fans.

8. Ignoring social media integration.

So let’s say you have your website set up and it looks great. You update your blog regularly. You even have a photo gallery dedicated to your company’s stellar products and services. But do you have a way for your visitors to connect with you via social media?

Social media is a huge part of marketing nowadays. If people can’t find your company on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you might be selling yourself short–think of all those fans you could be missing out on. Be sure to make it crystal clear to your visitors how they can connect with you on social media.

And if you haven’t signed up yet, we’ve got some news for you: you’d better get crackin’ on that. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with your clients and customers simply because you’re too frightened of change or because you think you don’t have enough time to learn social media. It’s well worth it, we promise.

9. Forgetting to update your blog or post new content.

How many times have you told yourself that you were going to update your blog once a week–and then you wrote one post and forgot to update for a month?

Or, have you told yourself that you don’t care about updating a blog–you put up a website a few years ago and it’s good enough, right?

Well, that’s just no good. If you want to be found by the search engines, you have to make sure you look relevant. If you were searching for, say, a local veterinarian, and the website the search engines pulled up looked like it hadn’t been updated in 12 years, would you choose to call that vet or find another one? You’d probably head to another vet, right?

That’s exactly what Google tries to avoid. It wants to create the best experience for its users, so it will devalue your site if  it doesn’t deliver fresh, relevant content. So whether you choose to blog or you just update your site’s existing content regularly, the key is to make sure you create some new data for the search engines to gobble up.

10. Thinking SEO is just a set-it-and-forget-it strategy.

So you’ve hired an SEO to go over your site and make sure it’s search-engine ready. You’ve paid them–probably a decent amount–and now you’re good to go, right?

Unfortunately, no. SEO best practices change all the time. Search engine algorithms constantly change, and what that means is what is a-okay today might not be tomorrow. Obviously, such drastic changes aren’t occurring that frequently, but every once in a while a big update will throw a wrench into rankings, sending previously-optimized sites crashing into the depths of the search engine result pages. It’s for this reason that you should keep an SEO expert available to monitor your site and make the necessary changes. After all, they keep up with the industry and it is their job to make sure their clients see results.

And hey, on that note, that’s what we do.

So if you’re looking for help with any of this, just drop us a line and let us know.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

10 Ways to Rock Your Small Business Blog

1. Put social media connections in a sidebar.

Have you ever visited a blog with a sidebar—you know, the thing that loads on either the left or right hand side of the screen and usually contains links or advertisements?

Well, if you have, you probably noticed that those sidebars usually contain information about pertinent things: Other blogs, affiliate links, popular articles, and of course, social media profiles.

Make it easy for your customers and clients to connect with you across all your social media platforms by installing a sidebar on your blog. For WordPress, most themes support it. For Blogger, it’s built right in. Make good use of that real estate!

2. Offer helpful advice.

Don’t just try to sell your readers your services. No one likes a hard sales pitch, and no one wants to slog through an entire post just to see that you’re selling them something.

Instead, why don’t you offer advice to your readers? For example, if you sell and install gutters, you could put together a post detailing the proper care of gutters for all seasons. Or you could walk customers through the different kinds of gutters and which ones work best with different kinds of homes.

By offering advice, you won’t come off as pushy or desperate. You can add a soft pitch to your posts by saying that you’re available to help with any problems the reader might be having, and leave your contact information. Make sure you also have your contact information listed on the rest of your site, too–readers should be able to quickly find what they need no matter where they are.

3. Link to your own articles.

Did you know that linking to your own articles can help send more positive ranking signals to Google? If you’ve written a number of posts already, then you’ll have plenty of relevant information om your site that you can refer your readers to. Going back to our example, the gutter supplier, you might have written one post about the importance of cleaning your gutters before the snow falls, and you might have written another about maintaining your gutters throughout the winter. You could definitely find space in one article to link to the other, and vice versa. This will keep visitors on your site longer, too!

4. Include good images—not just generic stock photos.

Have you ever read a blog where the photos are just generic, boring stock images? Does it help you remember that site or feel like it really connects with you?

Probably not. The point of including images in your posts is to enhance the reader’s experience—to break up text and to create a visual guide for the content they’re taking in. If you just include boring, run-of-the-mill stock pictures, it’s not going to be very attention-grabbing. So get out there and find exciting photos to include, or, if you’re artistic (or if you employ an artistic and willing employee), you might even want to create your own one-of-a-kind graphics!

5. Get competitive.

Yes, that’s right: Contests. If you put up a blog post asking people to participate in a contest, your readers will be happy to comment and share. You can then cross-post it to social media accounts and ask your fans to share there, too. Contests can be simple to design—like asking people to caption a photo, for example—or they can be a bit more complex, such as asking people to submit a creation of their own (photo, writing, design, etc).

Then, as a reward, you’ll want to give away a prize like a coupon, “buy one get one free”, a free estimate for your services, or gift cards to your store. Whatever you think is a good incentive for your company!

6. Want feedback? Set up a poll.

If you want to get some feedback about the quality of your services, the appearance of your website, or the appeal of the sale you’re currently running, a great way to do so is to set up a poll. You can get plug-ins on WordPress to do this easily. The beauty of a poll vs asking for direct feedback is that people are much more likely to be honest when the results are anonymous. So you’ll probably have more participants, and you’ll more than likely end up with more accurate responses!

7. Make sure you have a sitemap.

If you haven’t already, you should make sure that your blog contains a clear sitemap for Google to crawl. Basically, what this means is that Google robots can find their way around your page more easily, making it more likely that your page will rank.

Every once in a while, it’s nice to submit a new sitemap to Google, especially if you’ve done a lot of rearranging on your site, or if you produce content regularly (which you should be doing!)

If you need help doing this, here’s a handy guide.

8. Update your blog frequently—even with just some quick news.

Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with regular blog post ideas. Whether the creative juice isn’t flowing or you’re just plain not interested in writing, it can be difficult to consistently come up with great blog posts for your readers. And that’s okay. All of us suffer from writer’s block from time to time, and there’s really no way around it. You just have to come up with something–anything–that you can talk about to keep the attention of your readers. You could even post a little “hello” and update everyone on your plan to unveil a new product. Whatever works!

Oh, and if you’re really struggling to come up with topics, we have an article to help you brainstorm some killer blog post ideas right here.

9. Show off your latest work.

Do you have a photo gallery that hasn’t been updated in the last year and a half? Well, it’s probably time to change that. Go in and add photos of things you’re proud of–if you’re a roofer, for example, ask customers to share photos of the work that you did. You can then put it up in a gallery for your visitors to browse. If you’re a person who provides artistic services (like web design or photography), this is a must-have. Don’t be shy–you should be proud of your hard work!

10. Reach out to others in your industry.

If you’re serious about marketing your business, a great way to get more eyes on your small business blog is to reach out to industry professionals and ask for their opinions. Ask them to share tips and tricks. Share their articles with your readers. Try doing an interview, or ask someone if you can do a guest post on their blog. There are a number of ways you can network, and just as networking in person, networking online takes effort and finesse. When you hobnob with some of the well-known names… well, you’ve just bought yourself more traffic and more credibility.

Good luck with your small business blogging endeavors!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Why Social Media Will Change the Way You Do Business

During a discussion with a friend, the topic of Twitter came up. He didn’t understand why it was such a big deal–in fact, he seemed adamant that it wasn’t.

“Why would I care what anyone had for lunch?” he said. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by this, but I had an idea of where he was going with it. So I asked him to elaborate.

“Well, that’s all people ever do on Twitter. They just post stupid pictures of their food or tell you what they’re doing at that exact moment. And no one cares. At least, I don’t.”

Does this sound like you? Are you perplexed by Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest… or even social media in general? If so, you’re not alone. At first glance, social media can seem self-indulgent and pointless for businesses–it seems far too personal and maybe even banal.

But don’t judge social media too quickly. If you’re a small business owner, it’s time you learned the basics of popular social media platforms–and not because you need to know how to share a picture of that great Chinese food you just ate, but because social media will actually change the way you do business. And it’ll change it for the better, as long as you know the ropes.

One of the first things that will happen is…

You’ll realize how much more you can do online.

If there’s one thing about being online, it’s that you can go practically anywhere and do practically anything. Want to let your customers know about a new special you’re running without sending out a postcard? Now you can tell them on Facebook or Twitter, or you could opt to send them a newsletter update. Want to research new ways to get customers through your doors? You can find advice anywhere from experienced business owners–forums, other social media sites, videos on YouTube. Do you need support because you’re feeling stressed? There are tons of places you can find that. Social media is a great option for all these things.

Basically, what it boils down to is that simply being online gives you a network you don’t have access to in the physical world. By knowing where to look, you’ll realize just how much more you can do online than you ever could before.

You can work on social media even while you’re sleeping.

Yes, this is one that social media “gurus” love to trot out because it makes the job sound luxurious. The job isn’t really luxurious… more like, it’s easy to make it look that way. When you’re a small business owner and you’re looking to reach your customers during hours that your shop isn’t open, then you can take advantage of scheduling social media posts. Never before would you be able to attend to advertising and promotion at 3 am!

Another bonus to scheduling your posts is that you can reach customers who are night owls or who reside in different time zones. Obviously this is more effective for certain industries, but the point still stands: You may not physically be able to stay open 24 hours a day, but using social media for your business will allow you to always be present online.

You can interact with customers on your time–and they can interact with you on theirs.

Because your social media profiles are always available, customers can leave you feedback whenever they want. In today’s increasingly-busy world, that’s an important thing. On the flip side, you can also respond to them when you have the chance. If you like checking your social media from home at night, you can take care of the day’s questions and comments before winking out. You wouldn’t be able to do that otherwise!

It’s important to note, too, that many people prefer to contact someone via text or a quick private message than a phone call. This allows them to get important information they need while at work or when otherwise occupied, so it’s important that you take these demands into consideration when running your social media sites. Let your customers contact you in the ways they prefer!

You can put forth a different persona.

Obviously your customers are going to want to see your brand be authentic. And you’re not going to want to treat your business page as you would a personal one. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be super formal when you’re on social media! You can blog about useful topics, but you don’t have to present it like a term paper. You can update your Facebook with company news, but keep it fun and casual. When you’re using social media for your business, you’re not advertising in the traditional way. You are free to be more… well, yourself. And isn’t that a great thing to be?

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Back to Basics #22: Small Business Marketing for Local Storefronts

SMALL BUSINESSMARKETINGFOR LOCAL STORES

Here at Internet Local Listings, we focus on helping our small business clients with all of their online marketing needs—social media, websites, and managing local listings for a variety of business directories. This is an important part of your small business marketing plan, because being seen online is integral to your success as a business in the modern marketplace. And, as you know, it can be a bit confusing and time-consuming to handle all this on your own. Having help is a great asset in this case.

However, what we aren’t able to help with is the management of your storefront. That might sound obvious, but an important aspect of small business marketing that many people overlook is the effect that a storefront’s appearance can have on a customer. You already know that first impressions matter when you’re on a job interview or first date, and the same can be said of a customer’s first visit to your business—a store’s appearance can have tremendous influence over whether a person chooses to return or not. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how appearance can affect a customer’s decision to purchase or leave, as well as how keeping your store beautiful can help create more online interactions and engagement.

A Storefront’s Appearance Matters.

According to a study done at Retail Customer Experience, more than two-thirds of the surveyed group had avoided a store simply because the storefront was unattractive, outdated, or dirty. Although it might be a bit difficult to make a building look newer than it is (particularly if you share the building with other offices and have no control over renovations), it’s always possible to keep the inside of your store looking neat and tidy.

pretty-store
Keeping your storefront neat and clean is one great way to impress customers.

Image from I Loved New York.com

Keep the Place Smelling Fresh.

Aside from keeping your store’s appearance tidy and clean, you’re going to want to make sure it smells okay. This might seem as obvious as keeping it clean, but if you’re, say, a car mechanic and you’re used to the smell of oil, you might not realize how off-putting it can be to some people. While you obviously can’t control the smell of the vehicles you’re working on in your shop, you can control the smells in the lobby. Brew some fresh coffee. Set up snacks. Keep everything wiped down and clean; keep the doors to the shop closed to prevent extra noise and smells sneaking in. Finally, you may want to use this as an opportunity to promote some great-smelling air fresheners!

This goes for any industry, however. Even if you run a bookstore (and many people love the smell of books), make sure that everything is clean without overdoing it on the “chemical” smell.

The “First Ten Feet” Rule.

According to Rick Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies, you must offer a price-sensitive incentive for customers to continue shopping within the first 10 feet of the door. For example, this could be a special offer you’re running, a promotion for your store’s top-selling product, or even a poster board offering information on local community events. Whether you’re in the business of selling auto parts or you offer home cleaning services, you can always find some related community events or classes that would appeal to your clientele. Don’t be afraid to get creative—have some of your customers asked questions about the availability of a specific product? Have they asked where you could learn more about your business? Maybe they just simply get lost on the way to the bathroom! Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and at home in your store, and they’ll be likely to remain long enough to explore. Plus, you may just earn yourself a repeat customer!

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Clean stores with nicely-arranged displays entice customers to stay and shop!

Maintain Your Store’s Fixtures.

Sometimes your store is clean, your employees are welcoming, and the place is set up to draw the customers in—but people just aren’t staying. You’re confused and you’re wondering what could be going wrong.

  • Take a step back from your store. Walk into it again as if it were the first time you’d ever set foot in it. Now, you’re probably so used to it that this will be difficult for you, but try really hard to place yourself in your customers’ shoes. Here are some key things to look for:
  • Are your displays are neatly arranged? Do they look up-to-date? An old, faded poster or a messy stack of “clearance” products might make your store look disorganized.
  • Do the lights seem too dim or too bright? If they’re too dim, it might make your store look unwelcoming or shady—which is, naturally, off-putting to customers. If your lights are too bright, it can make customers feel uncomfortable, too, because who wants to feel like they need to wear sunglasses inside of a store?

Finally, make sure your staff is friendly and welcoming.

Make sure there’s always a manager or knowledgeable person available to answer your customer’s questions. And of course, ensure everyone looks his or her best to keep with the professional appearance you’ve worked so hard to instill in your store.

The wonderful part of keeping your storefront clean and inviting is that it will cross over into the online realm. People will be happy to leave you positive reviews. They’ll want to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to see what your new specials are. They’ll refer friends and family. Remember that this is all part of the bigger picture–getting the word out about your fantastic business!

welcoming-customers
Welcome your customers and make them feel at home! Maybe don’t dress as Dracula, though.

Small business marketing is complex. It’s a mixture of online finesse as well as a little bit of good, old-fashioned business skills. While the marketing experts at Internet Local Listings can help you with the internet marketing part of the equation, we can only offer tips for the local aspect of it! We hope you’ve found these helpful!

If you have any tips or suggestions, leave them in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe for regular updates from our small business marketing blog.

Back to Basics #15: Do it Like a Small Business SEO Company

small business team seo company
Can you do marketing like a small business SEO company?

By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles about how you, as a small business owner, can learn how to do SEO to benefit your own business. You may have read about how important it is to be on Twitter or Facebook; you probably saw studies claiming that a specific keyword density is key to ranking well; you may even have considered buying links to get more traffic.

It can all be confusing. It can be expensive. And honestly? It sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, does it?

Well, we’re here to help you out. In this post, we’ll show you five easy ways you can get involved with your company’s marketing campaign just like a small business SEO company would do. With these tips, you’ll begin to see results that definitely pay off.

plagiarism comic
Unfortunately, this is all too common nowadays.

Image courtesy of: Olive Harvey College Library Guides

1. Make friends with Copyscape. Are you writing your own content? Have you tried optimizing your front page or started a blog? You’ll definitely want to look into using Copyscape. For no cost, you can enter your site’s address and Copyscape will scan the web looking for plagiarized text. If your blog or site content have indeed been plagiarized, it can hurt your rankings. Furthermore, if you’re using references in your writing, you might want to run your text through Copyscape. The last thing you need is to be blamed for plagiarism from your end. Make sure your content is 100% original all across the board, and you’ll be better off for it.

2. Make content easily shareable. When people read an article and enjoy it, they immediately look for the “share” button. They want to tell their family and friends about the great thing they’ve just read. It would follow, then, that if you don’t include sharable links at the end of your post, you’ve just potentially cost yourself thousands of views. Be sure to make it easy for your visitors to share your content to all the most popular social media platforms, and you’ll notice that your content will be shared more frequently. If you need help figuring out how to set this up, there are plenty of tutorials around the internet as well as easy-to-install plug-ins for blogging software such as WordPress.

3. Get your customers involved through reviews. We’ve written about this in the past, but it’s so important that we feel we should reiterate here: your customers need to be involved with your company through reviews. There’s a fine line between asking and encouraging your customers to participate willingly, and pushing your wishes in their faces aggressively. You can encourage customers to leave reviews by putting a sign up in your store, offering a coupon as compensation, or even provide a free service with proof of a positive review. Reviews not only help people searching for your services find your store, they also help you stand out in the crowd. Searchers nowadays rely on sites such as Yelp to help them make decisions about which business they want to give their money to. Don’t let this opportunity slip through the cracks—you’ll be surprised at how much good reviews can help.

pay per click advertising for small businesses
You’ve probably heard of pay-per-click advertising. But will it work for a small business?

4. Consider PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. If you’re just getting your business off the ground, we’ll be honest: It can take some time for Google to start picking it up and ranking it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of the time in between. You can purchase ads from Google for only a few dollars a day and they’ll appear alongside search results related to your keywords, helping guide visitors to your site. Google ads allow you to get the word out about your site in ways that organic ranking can’t; at least not in the beginning. Check out Google’s free keyword planner to take a look at keyword suggestions you can use in your ad campaigns.

5. Try your hand at video advertising. A big part of advertising nowadays is visual. Think about it: If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you probably share images and videos all the time! That’s why it’s important that you get into the habit of creating media content for your company’s social media sites. People are much more likely to share media than they are to read through a “wall of text”. Furthermore, video advertising helps a lot with SEO and ranking. Google gets strong ranking signals from videos and the keywords used in them. Even if you don’t have a big media budget, you can still put together helpful “how-to” videos or showcase happy customers recommending your products and services.

You can do it like the SEO companies!
You can do it like the SEO companies!

With these tips, you can easily dip your toes into the waters of advertising and marketing. It might sound cliché, but if you don’t start small, it’ll be too much for you to manage all at once and you’ll feel as if you’re drowning. You can do it like the small business SEO company professionals by trying these few simple tips! And as always, if you need help and advice, Internet Local Listings is here to help. We offer everything from business listings to custom content to personalized websites! Visit us here for more information.

Any other tips you can think of that we missed? Let us know!

Has your Business Claimed an SEO Business Listing (US)?

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Have you claimed your SEO business listings? US businesses must be listed correctly across the internet for the greatest impact on traffic.

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, it’s absolutely necessary that your small business is listed consistently, clearly, and correctly across the internet. In order for your customers to find your store (or at least obtain your contact info if you work from a private address), they must be able to find your business listing on every search engine. If some of your customers use a search engine other than Google (and trust us, it’s guaranteed some will), a different local listing will appear by your name. So as you can see, you only make sure your listing is correct on Google, you’re going to run into some problems down the road. In this post, we’ll talk about the “3 C’s” of your local listing: Consistency, Clarity, and Correctness.

Make sure your small business’s SEO business listing is consistent.

Have you changed storefronts? Has your address changed in the last year or so? Did you just lease a new office? If you have, then you’re going to want to make sure that your new address is listed everywhere. You might change the address on one listing, while leaving another listing with the old address. And, unfortunately, if you start confusing the search engines with multiple addresses under the same business, you run the risk of hurting your rankings. This isn’t to say that you can’t have multiple addresses under the same business listing, however: If you run a business with three locations in your local city, you can specify this in your Google Places for Business page and make sure that all of your stores will be found.

So before you post your SEO business listing, make sure that:

  • You’ve gone through the proper channels to make sure that your business has an address listed.
  • That the current addresses are listed across a number of sites.
  • That your address is hidden properly if you need to hide it. Make sure it is hidden across all listings if this is the case!

An SEO Business Listing must be clear and easy to understand.

You’ve probably seen it before: A restaurant has a description on Yelp or Google, trying to entice customers with their eclectic menu and exciting happy hour. But the listing is full of gibberish, words are misspelled, and random nouns are capitalized because… well, who knows why? All of this takes away not only from the professionalism of the company, but from the ease of reading as well. Customers are less likely to visit your establishment if they can’t decipher what you’re trying to tell them. Therefore, you have to ensure that your business listing is clear and concise. Tell your customers that you have a great happy hour, and tell them that you’ve been in business since 1983 and have the best burgers in town—but you don’t need to list your whole menu and ramble on about every little detail of the atmosphere. Let your customers become interested through your description and find out for themselves how great you are when they visit.

Before you let your listing go live, be sure to do the following:

  • Check to see if your listing is too long. You might be interested in sharing every detail of your business, but your customers just want pertinent information.
  • Make sure you’re clear in your listing: Is everything spelled correctly? Have you clearly stated where your establishment is and what it provides for its customers or clients?
  • List all the information you’d want to see when you search for a service. Hours of operation, address, phone number, website, email, and a few sentences about how wonderful you are should all suffice.

Above all, make sure your SEO business listing is correct.

You can have your address listed across all major directories and listings, and you can write the best description in the world for your company—but if you have incorrect some information hidden in there, it’s all for naught. And, even worse, fixing an error of this magnitude is a pain. Before you press “submit” on any of your listing forms, make sure that you list all your most important information correctly. A great tip is to make a list before you start. What do you think is most important for your customers to know? Make sure to include it on you listing. If something can’t actually be listed, make sure that you provide a phone number or another way of contacting you so that customers can still get a hold of you if they have questions.

Before you press submit on your business SEO listing, make sure:

  • You’ve made a list of all the information you want to include for your business.
  • You’ve spelled everything correctly and included your most recent company info.
  • You’ve filled out complete information and no partial addresses, phone numbers, or business hours!

With these tips, you should be able to create well-rounded, effective, and helpful SEO business listings. Your customers want and need accurate information—and as a small business owner, it’s your job to make sure they get it. Your accurate listings will also make sure that your site (or at least your Google Places for Business page, if you don’t have a website) ranks higher in searches. You can’t go wrong with these strategies!

As always, if you’re simply too busy to manage writing content, listing your sites across the internet, or updating your website/Google Places for Business page, you can ask Internet Local Listings for assistance. We have over 50 years of combined experience in the SEO industry and would be happy to help you with whatever services you need. From social media marketing to building you a custom website, we have the skills and expertise necessary to get your small business site visible on the internet. Call or fill out a contact form today for more information on your services—or feel free to start building your own SEO business listing using these tips! Be sure to subscribe for more updates.

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Back to Basics #10: 3 Things You Need to Know About Local Marketing for Small Businesses

local-marketing-for-small-businesses
What are the most important things to know about local marketing?

Welcome back to another Back to Basics post! In this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few simple things small businesses need to know about local marketing success.

When a brand is competing on a local level, it doesn’t need to focus on the same things that a national brand does. This much is probably obvious, but let’s go over an example to make sure everything is clear. So let’s say you’re an auto repair mechanic working in Wheelsville. (Hey, it could happen.) When people search for an auto mechanic, they might just type in “auto mechanic”–a simple, straight-forward query. Google is smart enough that they’ll bring up nearby results based on the searcher’s location, which could be one of a few cities in the area. But if the searcher is in a particularly small area or needs to find a service in a very specific location, they might type in “mechanic in Wheelsville,” and this time, Google will bring up all the most relevant results specific to Wheelsville.

What does this mean for you?

Simple: You need your address and listing optimized in order to get the best placement on search engine result pages. And to help you do this, here are 3 things you need to know about local marketing for small businesses—and they’re easier to get the hang of than you think!

3 Tips for Local Marketing Success!

1. Check and cross-check listings for accuracy. You won’t believe the number of business owners who are completely unaware of the status of their listings. Thousands and thousands of unclaimed listings exist on the internet—from listings on popular sites such as Google Places, to directories you’ve never even heard of (but that should still be used correctly). Use our scanner here to see if your site is listed correctly. (We promise, it won’t bite. Or lead you to a scary abyss.)

2. Local marketing is all about reviews. So get them from as many customers as possible! Offer an incentive for those who want to leave a kind review—a coupon, a complimentary treat, or a free tune-up. Whatever you feel you can offer to a customer for a review is a great way to get them to participate. Search engines derive relevancy from fresh content. For local businesses, some of the best signals you can give to the search engines are great ratings for your locally-listed business. Not to mention, when other customers stop by and read your ratings and reviews, they’ll be pleased with what they find, and of course, enticed to stop in and experience it for themselves.

3. The people who understand local marketing the best are the people who connect with customers. How can you easily (and cheaply) do this? You can pick a few social media sites to join and update regularly. By connecting with your customers via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform of your choice, you can be sure that customers will always be able to find you. This way, when people search for your business online, they’ll have a good chance of finding your social media sites as well. Basically, the more places you’re listed, the better—people will find you instead of your competitors.

What if you don’t have the time to invest in learning or implementing local marketing techniques?

Now, none of this information is particularly ground-breaking. It’s not going to shoot you to the top of the search results overnight. What it will do is give you a great head-start on local marketing for your small business. The sooner you get your business listed consistently, get your customers reviewing your business, and get started connecting with customers via social media, the better.

However, we understand that many small business owners don’t have the time to invest in local marketing strategies. If you’ve read through this article and decided it simply seems like it’s going to take too much of your valuable time, we hear you. Internet Local Listings has over 50 years of combined experience helping small businesses succeed at local marketing. If you feel that you need a helping hand, check out our affordable packages and join thousands of our other satisfied clients across the US and Canada!

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