Optimize Your “Google My Business” Page

Google My BusinessNow that you’ve added your business to Google My Business (Google’s local listings associated with Google Maps), take the time needed to complete your listing.

Although this step isn’t difficult, it is important. a

Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

From your dashboard, click the red “Edit” button.

Google my business dashboard

That will open the editing dashboard which is broken up into 7 sections. Each section can be edited by clicking on the small pencil icon in the upper right-hand corner of that section.  For the most part, you just want to be sure to fill out each section as completely as possible. The 7 sections are:

1. Business Name: This cannot be edited until your business has been verified.
2. Address: Make sure that your address is correct and is written out as your default NAP (Name-Address-Phone). This is the version that all other listings across the web will be compared to.
3. Contact info: Add your phone number and Website URL.
4. Category: This is the most important part of the editing process. You can choose up to 5 categories for your business – these are the categories that Google will associate with your business, and how it will know what your business is about.

Start with a broad category like Interior Design. Google autofills as I type, giving me Interior Designer and Interior Decoration – both good terms for this business.

Google My Business CategoriesAs Google’s most recent Guidelines suggest using “as few categories as possible to describe your overall core business”, I select Interior Designer and move on to the next step.

5. Hours: If you have regular hours, add them. Local searchers are often interested in your business hours.
6. Maps & Search photos: Visitors generally prefer images to words so its important to include high quality images as part of your listing. If nothing else, I recommend including a picture of your store or office front to help visitors find you more easily.

Google my business add pictures7. Introduction: The introduction is another important section that is often underutilized. When planning your introduction, plan for both audiences – your potential customers and the search engines.

This is another opportunity to communicate with Google about your business. Include information about the products and services that you offer. In addition, although you can only set up a local listing for the geographic area in which you have a physical address, you can include any other communities that you might serve in this section.

Click the ‘Done Editing’ button.

Add Your Profile Photo

The profile photo fits in the small circle at the top left-hand side of your Google My Business dashboard. This photo will also display in the small circle on your Google+ Page once your create it, and will be the image that appears beside your posts and updates. I usually recommend either a clear image of you, or your company logo.

The image that you use must be a minimum of 250×250. You will be provided an opportunity to crop it once you upload it.

Verify Your Business Listing

Don’t forget to verify your business with Google. You can verify or order a postcard for verification from your dashboard.

Verify your Google My Business page

Once your business is verified, it will be eligible to appear in the local listing (Google Maps) for you industry.

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Investing Advice from Warren Buffet [Infographic]

Thomas Cloud of ElevenTwo Fund Management, a client of ours, recently published this Infographic of Quotes from Warren Buffet.

An Infographic can be a great alternative to blogging, and can help diversify your Content Marketing portfolio (Buffet would approve :-) )

Warren Buffet infographic
Courtesy of: ElevenTwo

 

Please feel free to share this infographic on your blog by copying and pasting the snippet of code below:

 

Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

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SEO is the Key to Today’s “Yellow Pages”

Does everyone remember these? yellow pages

Once upon a time, Phone books, particularly the yellow pages, were the way consumers searched for, and found, local businesses.

Today, even those industries that have historically been the most “yellow page”  dependent, are moving online.

White Pages = NOT Optimized for Search

As a refresher, the white pages included all of the local listings – personal, as well as commercial – in alphabetical order by name.

If you already knew the name of the business you were looking for, you could find its listing (address and phone number) in the white pages.

In today’s world of search engines, having a website that is not optimized for search, is like being listed only in the white pages. If the searcher already knows about your company, and is searching for it specifically, he/she will be able to find you.

However, if the searcher of old was unaware of your business, but looking for the services that you offered, your business needed to be included in the yellow pages to be found.

Yellow Pages = Optimized for Search

The yellow pages were (and still are) organized by categories that you could select to be listed under – for marketing, the categories might include Marketing, Advertising, Internet Marketing, etc. Within each category, participating businesses were listed alphabetically, but could be optimized for better results.

Yellow Page optimization included bolding your listing, adding ads with images or photos, adding larger ads, adding color print to your listing or ad, and finally, the ultimate in yellow pages optimization, naming your business A-1 your service – as the business at the top of the listings received more clicks. . . um, er . . .calls.

 yellow pages optimization

Search Engine Optimization

Don’t let the misinformation, misunderstandings, and overly dramatic headlines about SEO confuse you. SEO . . .

  • . . . is not dead
  • . . . should not be changed to “conversion optimization”
  • . . . has not been replaced by social media marketing
  • . . . has not been replaced by content marketing

It’s simple, if you want your business to be found in today’s Yellow Pages – the search engines – SEO is the solution!

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How Do I Add My Business to Google Maps?

Google My BusinessThe Google Maps function, formerly known as Google Places, is now part of the Google My Business dashboard – Google’s dashboard for managing and tracking your online presence across Google’s various platforms including Google Local (Google Maps), Google+, Google Analytics and Adwords.

As you’re preparing to set up your listing, just a reminder – although Google will, in some situations, display businesses from surrounding communities in the “Local” search results (Maps), you are only allowed to register your business in the town or city in which you have a physical address.

Adding or Claiming Your Business on Google My Business

If you’re an established business, chances are your business already exists in the Google My Business directory and you’ll just need to claim it. New businesses or new locations will probably have to be added.

1. Go to Google My Business.

  • Click “Get on Google”

Google My Business

2. Enter Your Business Name and Address in the Search Box.

Google My Business

3. Select or Add Your Business.

Click on your business listing if it appears among the suggested matches. If not select “Add your Business”, and provide the necessary information.

TIP: Determine how you want your business Name-Address-Phone Number (NAP) to appear across the web and use that NAP here (i.e. Will you spell out S-t-r-e-e-t, or use St.?) The address that you use here should become your default address across the web. Consistency is important.

Add Your Business to Google My BusinessAs you answer questions, remember that the more specific and accurate the information Google has about your business, the better it will be able to correctly classify and display your business listing.

Category Selection

Near the bottom of the form, you will be asked to choose a Category that describes your business.

The category selection is very important as it is essentially the way Google will classify your business, and the type of search query it will display your listing for.

Google has preset Categories, or keywords, for each industry. Start typing your keyword in to see if Google produces a match, then select the best one. You will get a chance to add more categories later on (up to 5).

4. Verify Your Business

Google will want to verify that your business is located where you say that it is. This usually means waiting 1-2 weeks for a postcard with a verification PIN.

Verify Google My Business

Occasionally you’ll be given the option to receive your PIN by text message or or automated phone call – take it – it’s much faster and easier! :-)

TIP: If you do have to wait on a postcard, remind anyone that handles the mail to be on the lookout for Google Verification Postcardit, then try to verify it as soon as you get it (you have 30 days). You’d be surprised how often businesses have to go through the verification process 2 or 3 times because someone threw the postcard away or forgot to use it once they received it.

5. Confirm your Business. Set up a Google+ Page.

Confirm Business and set up Google+ Page

Setting up your Google My Business page is the first step in Local Search Optimization, and should be a high priority for all businesses hoping to be found online.

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Our 10 ‘Go-To’ WordPress Plugins

One of the great advantages of using WordPress are the thousands of free and premium plugins available to customize the look and functionality of your website.

WordPress Plugins

Image by Sean MacEntee – Flickr CC

For those of you new to WordPress, a plugin is essentially software that can be uploaded to your website to add to the functionality of it. Most are free with premium upgrades available, and they can be easily added, moved, or removed within minutes.

We don’t claim the following list to be “the best” plugins, or the results of exhaustive research. But instead, over the years of building WordPress websites and experimenting with countless plugins, these are the ones that we return to over and over again. We do not have relationships with the makers of these plugins, and do benefit financially or otherwise by including them in our list. They are ordered alphabetically.

Our 10 Favorite WordPress Plugins

1. AA’s Digg Digg Alternative: This plugin creates a floating sidebar allowing visitors to easily share your content to their favorite social media sites. It can be seen hovering to the left of this blog post – feel free to try it out. :-)

2. Facebook Members: This one of course is dependent on the business and their target audience. It is good for those businesses interested in Facebook Marketing. It displays images of some of the people that have “Liked” your page, and allows visitors to your website or blog to easily “Like” your Facebook Page. Again – visible on in the right-hand side of this blog post and ready for a test drive (you may have to scroll up to see it)!

3. Fancier Author Box: Displays a customizable author picture and bio on your posts (or pages). See the author box below this post.

4. MaxButtons: Allows you to create custom buttons (call-to-actions) for your website. Easily change color, text, link, size and shape of your buttons.

MaxButtons WordPress PluginMaxButtons WordPress Plugin

5. Ninja Forms: I tried several plugins for creating forms before finally finding Ninja Forms. It allows for detailed customization, multiple forms, and looks good. A short code is created and you can paste it on your page.

6. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler): This plugin is a little different in that it tests your other plugins. Site loading speed has become a factor in SEO, and plugins can slow your loading speed down. This plugin allows you to test your plugins to see how long they are taking to load and what impact they are having on your overall load time. We recently found that the popular JetPack plugin was slowing down a client’s site too much and ended up removing it.

P3 WordPress Plugin

P3 WordPress Plugin

As you can see, on this test site, there are too many plugins, and it took far too long to load.

7. Simple Social Icons: This plugin allows your visitors to connect with you on your Social Media platforms. There are countless plugins that allow for this, but we like SSI because the color, size, and even the shape (square, oval, round) can be customized or branded for your site. The social share icons on in the header of this page are through the SSI plugin, as are the ones demonstrated below.

Simple Social Icons WordPress Plugin8. Triberr: Obviously only beneficial to members of Triberr, but if you’re not a member, you should seriously consider joining (free). If your not familiar with Triberr, it is a blog sharing platform. This plugin allows you to integrate your blog with triberr for easy sending and sharing of posts, comments and guest posts.

9. W3 Cache: Improves site speed and therefore user experience and possibly search rankings. Although it is not necessary (or approved) with our host WP Engine, we still occasionally work with WordPress sites hosted elsewhere. In those cases, adding W3 is automatic.

10. WordPress SEO by Yoast: This plugin is very popular with WordPress users and is the best SEO plugin available. It provides feedback and guidance on how to improve your on-page SEO for your web pages and blog posts.

SEO WordPress PluginThe plugin will also provide feedback on what you can change to improve your optimization.

SEO by Yoast Plugin

Plugins can be a lot of fun, and looking for them may have you feeling a little like a kid in a candy store, however use caution as too many (or the wrong ones) can negatively affect your website’s performance (and SEO), and in some cases, open your website up to the possibility of attacks by hackers or viruses.

What Plugins are your favorites? Thanks for reading. As always, your comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

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Keyword Research BEFORE Website Design

Keyword ResearchAn effective business website design combines form and function – an appealing design, a good user experience, coherent branding, and best practice marketing tactics.

One of the advantages of working with an integrated web design firm is that all elements of form and function can be considered and implemented in the design process from the beginning.

 

What Pages Should be Included on your Website?

In addition to a Homepage, most websites have some version of an About Us and Contact Us pages. Where you really see differentiation in an effective design layout is in the Services/Products pages.

In small business web design, it’s common to see one page listing all of the services or products that your business offers. While this may work from the perspective of your visitor, it’s likely that you’re missing out on significant opportunities to be found on the Search Engine Results pages.

Keyword research will reveal not only the actual words that searchers are using to find your business – these may be different than the ones industry insiders use – but also the variety of keywords that are used to find the products/services that your business offers.

Example: Financial Planning Firm

Based on the planner’s needs and recommendations, a typical Financial Planning Firm website will be set up with a main navigation similar to that shown below:

Main Naviagation

However, if Keyword Research is performed prior to building the website, the Planner and web designer would know that Financial Advisor is searched almost twice as often as Financial Planning, and nearly three times as much as Financial Planner.

Financial Advisor vs Financial Planner keyword research

In addition, even if the primary services page was optimized for Financial Advisor instead of Financial Planning, the firm would still be missing out on the being found for Advisor Services related terms like:

Financial Advisor Services Keyword Research

Without getting into specific, detailed keyword considerations, it is fairly obvious from a marketing/SEO perspective that a financial firm would benefit from a design that included more service pages in their navigation.

Summary

No matter your business or industry, beginning the web design process with keyword research will help insure that your website includes the pages and keywords that your prospective customers/clients are searching for.

As always, questions and comments are both welcomed and appreciated!

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10 Tips for Choosing a Domain Name for Your Business

searchingReady to move your business online? Be prepared – finding an effective, affordable and available domain name for your business can quickly turn into an exercise in compromise, disappointment and frustration. Be patient, flexible, and follow these 10 guidelines to find the best online address for your business.

1. Align your domain with your brand and vice a versa: If you’re starting a new business, research available domains before committing to a business name.

2. Find a unique domain name: complete a Google search of possible domain names before purchasing to make sure that you’re not competing with a prominent brand or unknowingly affiliated with unsavory websites.

3. Try to find a .com. They are still the standard for business use. However, if a .com is not possible, from an SEO perspective, other gTLD (Generic Top Level Domains) work just as well. New gTLDs  are becoming available all of the time.

4. Your domain doesn’t have to contain your keywords: although it can help with branding, it is no longer tied to improved search rankings*.

*Note: Officially, Google says that it is not a ranking factor, however, some SEOs claim that it still offers a small boost.

5. Your domain should be short and easy to type.

Example: If you repair windshields in Boise, you probably shouldn’t select boisewindowwelderandrepair (Boise Window Welder and Repair). Although perfectly descriptive of your service, it’s not easy to type or read.

6. Hyphens: Most “Domain” guidelines recommend avoiding hyphens in a domain name (i.e. my business.com is better than my-business.com), however, there are times when they can work.

I would not use a hyphenated domain if the non-hyphenated version is a direct competitor, or business in your geographical market.

Example: A recent client has an existing pet grooming business (Doggy Clips) and decided it was time for a website. Doggyclips.com was already being used, but as the business serves a local clientele, and Doggyclips.com was in another part of the country, we decided that Doggy-Clips.com would work.

Additionally, if you’ve decided to use a long business name, a hyphen can make it much more readable, and may be a good alternative even when the non-hyphenated version is available.

In that case, if both are available, consider getting both, use the hyphenated version on your site for readability, but point both at your site so that no matter which domain a user types, they will find your website.

Example: If your existing business is Boise Real Estate Company and both boiserealestatecompany.com and boise-real-estate-company.com are available, you could purchase both domains, use the easier to read hyphenated version on your site, but pointed the non-hyphenated address to your site as well. That way, no matter which version the searcher typed in, he/she would end up at your website.

7. Numbers (i.e. 5th vs Fifth): Again, most guides recommend against using actual numbers, instead suggesting that the number be spelled out, however, like the hyphen rule, I think that there are circumstances where it can work.

Example: Another client owns a photography studio called 5th Pictures. He wasn’t sure whether to use 5thpictures.com, or fifthpictures. com. He ended up buying both. His site will display 5thPictures.com, but searchers typing in “fifthpictures” will be redirected to his website.

8. Avoid being too cute or clever with your domain name. It’s become more common to see online businesses intentionally using misspellings or slang terms which can be confusing to new searchers – unless of course you set up a re-direct from the traditional spelling as well.

9. Avoid Copyright infringement.

Example: A web designer, specializing in WordPress web design, may want to include “WordPress” in her business name. However, “WordPress” is copyrighted. She could use WP, and then use the word WordPress in her content, but not in her business name.

10. If your business is specific to one geographical area, use Geo-location terms to differentiate your domain name (i.e. add your City, State, or neighborhood to your URL – “Boiseplumbing.com” )

Finding the right domain name is a big decision, but one that I always find exciting. Keep searching until you find the one that feels right for your brand – then OWN it!

Best of luck in your search, and with your new online presence!

What other tips would you suggest for choosing a domain name?

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BookSmart: Social Media Explained – Mark Schaefer

“We have grown to love broadcasting, advertising, and press releases and that is what many companies are shoving through their social channels. Their approach to the social web is ‘A-ha! Another place for us to advertise?’

And they routinely fail.

To be successful in this most human channels, with this historic opportunity to create consistent, small provocations that lead to engagement and loyalty, we must adopt a new mindset. The Social Media Mindset”

~ Mark Schaefer, Social Media Explained

social media explained by Mark SchaeferAlthough I’m an experienced social media user, I don’t consider myself a social media marketing expert. However, it wasn’t until I read Social Media Explained, that I realized how much more I still have to learn :)

Social Media Explained moves beyond the specifics of any one social media platform, to address the practical concepts behind social media marketing  success.

Far from a dry academic text, Mark draws on his experience as a professional educator, speaker and expert marketer to weave real-world examples and case studies into the narrative, creating an easy-to-read, interesting, and educational social media marketing book.

By far the best social media marketing book I’ve read, I strongly recommend Social Media Explained (not an affiliate link) for all DIY small business owners, enterprise level CEOs and CFOs  charged with implementing or overseeing social media marketing for their company, and all self-proclaimed “social media marketing experts”.

Mark Schaefer is also the author of The Tao of Twitter – my next read, Born to Blog, and Return on Influence  (Not affiliate links).

Thanks for reading! What other marketing books would you recommend?

 

 

 

 

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3 Audiences Your Writing Should Be Targeting for SEO

Businesses that want to appear in the search engine ranking pages for competitive search words, have 3 audiences that they should be writing for.

Photo by Jyrki Salmi - Flickr CC

Photo by Jyrki Salmi – Flickr CC

1. Your reader: This one is always the most important and includes the peronas you identify as being part of your target market. Your content should always be well written and of interest to your readers.

2. Search Engines: If you hope to be found on the search engine results pages, you need to write content related to the products or services you want to be found for, and you need to include keywords – period. However, this does not mean that you need to stuff the keywords into the content, or that your content should sound unnatural. These articles should still be well written and of interest to your target readers.

3. The Linkeratti: This is a phrase that I first learned from Brian Dean at Backlinko, one that he attributed to Rand Fishkin of Moz – it refers to the people (often times, influencers) in your industry that link out to others.

Backlinks (links pointing at your website from another website) are still the currency of authority in the eyes of the search engines – they are hugely important to ranking well in competitive industries and for competitive search terms.

Google’s “story” is that if we write good content, others will find it and link to it, and our “good content” will rise to the top of the search engines. This is a nice story, one that can work for influencers or brands, but doesn’t work very well for small business blogs. Most have us have either experienced, or observed, the small business blogger regularly producing good content but gaining no or little traction.

The problem is, that outside of the technology or marketing industies, very few people practice linking out to content authored by other writers. Those few that do are the “linkeratti” for that industry. It is important that you not only create content that is “link worthy”, but that it gets in front of the right people – the linkeratti.

All of your articles should be well written and of interest to your readers, but not all articles will be targeted for SEO or the linkeratti. However, it is important to understand that those audiences are out there and should be addressed at least occasionally. How often will depend on your industry, goals, writing, and networking abilities.

Have you been reaching your 3 audiences? As always, your comments and questions are welcomed and appreciated.

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