State of Local Search in 2018

The Gamut of Changes to Google My Business

In less than 2 years, Google has relentlessly rolled out a series of updates to Google My Business features. In 2017, they had added a featured post feature, Q&A section and introduced a messaging option. In December 2017, we wrote about a post on some of the new Google My Business features. In 2018, they have added a business description section which allows businesses to capture user attention with a 250 character message about the business. Clicking this description shows a longer description, up to 750 characters.

What does this reflect?

One thing is clear – Google is devoting a lot of resources towards Google Local. This particular segment has been identified by the search giant as one of its most important segments. To continue being the most popular search engine, it must deliver the most relevant results to users.

Finding service providers is a BIG part of user search behavior and includes all kinds of queries like restaurants near me, plumbers in Vancouver, dentists, plumbers and so on. In fact, the device you search from would know your location and if one searches for pizzas, one expects Google to show pizza places near me. So we, the users, are even going to stop saying things like ‘near me’ or ‘in Vancouver’ but expect geographically relevant search results for a variety of queries.

This indicates two things –
1. Businesses need to make Local SEO a bigger priority in their marketing plans
2. Google Local is expected to be an important revenue generator for Alphabet

How Significant are Organic Search results now?

Take a look at the Google search engine results first page real estate for the query – ‘Dental Implants’

As you can see, one organic search result popped up right below the top 4 paid ads and then the rest of the organic results are buried half way down the page. For some queries, these results are going to be higher up in more prime spots but for a variety of searches, they are getting pushed as far down as shared in the example above.

The map results are the result of Local SEO and those have become extremely important for businesses to generate phone calls and website leads. These map results can also include paid ads in certain cases. E.g. for ‘Dental Implants Near Me’ –

WHAT IS ONE TO DO?

The Local Search Optimization includes actively managing the following –

  • Citations – business listings across various online business directories
  • Reputation – soliciting and responding to customer reviews across important directories
  • Map listings – updating business information on Google My Business (Bing and Apple listings are less important to maintain as regularly)

 

New Google My Business Features For Your Business

gmb profile

I wanted to share some recently introduced Google My Business features that a majority of local businesses are not yet using. They were discussed in details during the ‘office hours’ webinar hosted by Local Marketing Institute.

These new features can help you further promote your offers or content and encourage/enable new ways for users to interact with your business. So without further delay, let’s dig into these 3 new(er) features:

GMB Posts:

screenshot of google my business profile

Google Posts are similar to Facebook posts, except that you need to log in to your Google My Business dashboard and then create a post in there.

The advantage is that your post will show up on the knowledge graph when people search for your business on the Google search engine.

In this post, you can promote blog posts, events, offers etc…

As you can see, a thumbnail of the image, dates, short description and a link to your website or landing page can all be included.

Keep In Mind:

  • Posts will stay live for 7 days, after which they just get archived
  • It will be shown on mobile (Android and IOS), Google maps, desktop and tablets
  • Although there is no conclusive evidence, it appears that these posts can positively influence your business ranking on maps and organic search

Questions & Answers

google my business ask a question

google my business respond to client

This was a feature that was rolled out a couple of months ago. It allows users to ask a question which can be answered by anyone in the community and by the business owner.

To manage conversations, the owner needs to be logged into the associated Google account on an Android mobile phone or tablet. IOS devices do not have the ability to manage these conversations yet.

If you are signed in to that Google account on your Android phone/tablet, you will receive a push notification when someone asks a question or someone in the community responds to the question.

Just the way reviews show up, the name of the person who asks or answers the question will show up. If the user is a ‘Local Guide’, then that badge will show next to the person’s name. If the business owner responds to a question, it will show up as a response from the business.

Keep In Mind:

  • Only Google maps on Android/tablet can be used to manage Q&A’s
  • You have to be signed in to the respective Google account
  • You get push notifications on mobile when people ask or answer questions
  • Anyone can answer questions – answers will show up as answered by individuals name, individuals name (local guide), or the business owner

GMB Messaging

google my business messaging

Business owners can login to the Google My Business dashboard and turn on messaging.

They can choose the phone number which will receive the messages if consumers choose to engage with the business in this way.

The option to message a business is, currently, only going to be visible to users who find the business listing via mobile web search. They will not see the option to message the business if they find the business on their desktops/laptops.

Interactions will be exactly the same as regular text messaging as the message from the user will reach the SMS app on the listed business phone number.

Keep In Mind:

  • Use Allo (app by Google) if you want to separate personal texts from business texts. It will allow business texts to be directed to the Allo app.
  • Enable if you can commit to reply within, at least, a day. Although, Facebook and Google want businesses to reply almost immediately – which is not always practical.

Note: If you are a dental clinic or a law firm, the Google My Business guidelines are slightly different than what they are for regular businesses. The features discussed above will still be applicable. But we had recently published a post to highlight some of these differences. Click here to read it.

Google My Business For Doctors And Lawyers

Google my business for doctors and lawyers

How is Google My Business unique for Doctors and Lawyers? According to Google policy, doctors and lawyers are allowed to have their individual practitioner listings with the same address and phone number as the business page of the clinic or law firm that they work with.

This is because doctors and lawyers are often associated with multiple clinics or firms and Google wants to allow users the option to review the practitioners instead of the clinic or firm. Such practitioner listings are not considered duplicate listings by Google. 

Google Policy on this is:

Multiple Practitioners At One Location

If the practitioner is one of the several public-facing practitioners at this location:

  • The organization should create a listing for this location, separate from that of the practitioner.
  • The title of the listing for the practitioner should include only the name of the practitioner, and shouldn’t include the name of the organization

Solo Practitioners That Belong To Branded Organizations

If a practitioner is the only public-facing practitioner at a location and represents a branded organization, it’s best for the practitioner to share a listing with the organization. Create a single listing, named using the following format: [brand/company]: [practitioner name].

Acceptable: “Allstate: Joe Miller” (if Joe is the sole public-facing practitioner at this Allstate-branded location)

This post addresses practitioner listings when multiple practitioners work at one location and we cover what happens when:

  1. A practitioner works at multiple locations
  2. The practitioner stops working at a location
  3. A practitioner moves to a different city/country

We will also conclude with some of our personal thoughts on why this is not a perfect system and how it can be improved.

When A Practitioner Works At Multiple Locations

If a practitioner works at multiple clinics/law firms, then the practitioner should have a separate Google Business listing for each of the locations. The hours of operation will need to be different for each listing. E.g:

  1. John Miller, MMD; 111 A Street, City, State, Zipcode; 666-666-6666; Mon-Fri 9 am to 11 am; X Clinics Website
  2. John Miller, MMD; 222 B Street, City, State, Zipcode; 777-777-7777; Mon-Fri 1 pm to 3 pm; Y Clinics Website
  3. John Miller; MMD; 333 C Street, City, State, Zipcode; 888-888-8888; Mon-Fri 4 pm to 6 pm; Z Clinics Website

This allows users to search for the practitioner’s name and find his/her information in the knowledge graph. It enables a user to leave a review for the practitioner instead of the clinic/law firm.

Note: The name of the practitioner should not include the clinic/law firm’s name. E.g. do not put the name as X Clinic: John Miller, MMD or John Miller, MMD: X Clinic.

Also Note: Practitioner listings should be owned and controlled by the practitioner and not the organization that he/she is working at. It is best for a practitioner to claim all his/her listings with the same email address. This way, when he/she logs in to business.google.com, all the listings will be visible on one dashboard as shown below –

google my business screenshot

When A Practitioner Stops Working At A Location

If a practitioner stops working at a particular clinic/law firm, then he/she should mark the listing with that location’s address as ‘Permanently Closed’. To do so, he/she would log in to business.google.com and select ‘Manage Location’ for the location that he/she quit.

Google my business map screenshot

 

Then, select ‘Info’ from the left column and choose ‘Close or remove this listing’. This is where they can choose to ‘Mark as Permanently Closed’.

Note: The other option within ‘Close or remove this listing’ is to ‘Remove Listing’. This option simply undoes the verification of the page. It takes away your ability to manage that page, respond to reviews and also lets anyone (yes, anyone) claim that page to be their own (requiring verification).

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City/Country

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City Within The Same Country

If a practitioner moves his/her residence, he/she may start working at a new location/locations and quit the clinics/law firms he/she was working at previously.

In this case, the practitioner can create newly verified listings for the locations he/she is working at now and get them verified. Then he/she can request Google to mark the old listings as ‘Moved to a New Location’ and punch in the details of the new location. By doing so, the review strength of the practitioner will be passed over to the new listing.

When A Practitioner Moves To A New Country

If the practitioner moves to a new country, then the old listing cannot be ‘moved to the new location’. In this case, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. Remember, this does not remove the listing from the Google database. However, it does eventually delete the listing when there is no engagement with the listing. But this can take 1-2 years and there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process.

Why Can This Get Complex?

From a local search optimization point of view, NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency is the elusive goal that we are constantly chasing. When one address gets associated with multiple listings, it can be a recipe for disaster.

There is a high probability that many business directories pull information about local businesses from Google. So we may be dealing with one instance of a John Miller, MMD Google Business profile right now but in the future, there could be several other listings with John Miller’s name that can pop up on the Internet that show the address of the clinics/law firms that John worked at.

Another issue is when a practitioner moves to a different country. Since Google cannot move the listing to a new country, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. We don’t like this because it means there will be a permanently closed listing floating around on the Internet with the clinics’ address for a year or more.

Alternative (Proposed) Solution:

Practitioners should not be expected to create their own listings. Instead, only the clinics/law firms should have their listings. But these clinics/law firm listings should be able to mention the names and basic details of the practitioners that work there.

When a patient/client wants to leave a review, Google can ask if the review is for the organization or for the practitioner. If the user chooses practitioner, he/she should be able to choose from the list of practitioners that work at that location and leave a review for the particular individual.

Such a practice will reduce the number of listings that are to be created and managed and thus make the Internet slightly less congested. It will also leave the administrative responsibilities in the hands of the firms rather than having the doctors/lawyers worry about such things.

This alternative solution is a personal opinion shared by the local search experts at ElementIQ who are not looking to be hired by Google to lead such an initiative (unless they are extended an offer they can’t refuse!) 

How To Claim And Optimize A Yelp Business Page

ocmputer with message on the screen saying how to claim and optimize an d yelp business page

When you think of Yelp, do you first think of foodies posting restaurant reviews?  

Yelp is indeed an important factor for restaurants digital strategies. But overall, Yelp is much more than a website for people to rate their favorite meals.

In fact, according to Yelp’s statistics, only 20% of total reviews are for restaurants.

Whether you’re a dentist or candy store owner, Yelp can help increase web traffic to your site and foot traffic to your front door. 

With a quick look at the US demographics, you can see how Yelp is used by a wide range of age and income groups.

Join me below, and I’ll share –

  1. Why your business should have a Yelp business page,
  2. Some impressive stats, and
  3. How to optimize your Yelp listing for maximum traffic.

Why Your Business Should Be On Yelp

When Yelp first started in 2004, it was an email service for exchanging local business recommendations in San Francisco.  It would evolve into a business review website with social networking features, discounts, and mobile applications being used by consumers throughout the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe.

Yelp receives 120 million monthly visitors and has over 53 million user reviews. Judging by the curve of the graph below, this doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon…

The future of search is moving towards mobile screens and social networks. Just recently, a global survey reported that smartphones have surpassed TV’s in the amount of user viewing time per day. With this in mind, a well-constructed Yelp business page could improve your online marketing by leaps and bounds with very little time/money invested.

Creating A Yelp Business Page

An obvious first step to optimizing your Yelp business page is to create one if you haven’t done so already.

To get started, go to the Yelp for Business Owners page and click “claim my business.” You will then be redirected to a page that asks you to find your business.

You will then have one of three cases occur –

  1. No Business Listed: Your business hasn’t been listed on the site, click “Add your business to Yelp” on the bottom of the page.
  2. Already Unlocked: If your business is already unlocked that means someone else has already claimed your business. Yelp has a review process, so it is unlikely that it was unlocked by someone outside your organization.
  3. Unlock Your Business: You can unlock your Yelp business page by clicking the “unlock” button and filling in the required information.

With your Yelp business page now created, the next step is to fill your business profile with useful and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly information.

Optimizing Your Yelp Business Page

Yelp will essentially guide you through this process once you have created a business page. They even have a friendly alert to remind you, in case you forget.

Before you start filling out the content on your Yelp business page, make a list of keywords you want to rank for. Keep these in mind for every section of your Yelp business profile and use them wherever appropriate.

Below are the different parts of a Yelp business profile that you should fill out. Filling out these sections well will help you increase your organic traffic and search rankings within Yelp.

Do you want to lose out on potential business? Not many people do, so make sure your Yelp Business page has all of these things complete:

1. Business Information

Basic Information: In this section, you will be filling out the basic information for your business. For SEO, and customer satisfaction, you must have consistent and correct information for your business hours and address.

Specialties: Give customers an overview of the services your business performs. Keep valuable keywords in mind and use them wherever appropriate.

Only use keywords where appropriate and to not engage in “keyword stuffing” or simply listing your keywords. Yelp will penalize you for doing so and it will hurt your chances of ranking highly.

Here is an example of a well-done business information section:

well done yelp business information section with keywords circled

History: You can use this space to tell you business’s story with your most valuable keywords in mind.

Meet the Business Owner: People may like to know more details about the business so fill out this section to tell them about the owner and their personal story. You can include things such as motivation for starting the business, education background and any other relevant information.

It is important to fill out every section on this page. Not only for the customers, but your page is more likely to rank highly in search results if it has a complete profile with correct spelling, capitalization, and correct use of keywords.  

Yelp will penalize you for putting sales requests or incorrect information in the basic information session. Things to watch out for:

  • Calls to action: Do not put phone numbers, email addresses, website addresses, etc. in the business information section
  • Correct sections: Make sure the content matches the sections you are filling out.

2. Reviews

Timely Responses to reviews, both positive and negative, establishes legitimacy and can help strengthen your overall reputation. Post responses within 24 hours of the review being published.

There are Two Ways to Respond to User Reviews on Yelp

  1. Send a private message. This is much like sending the customer a direct email, and
  2. Post a public message below the consumer’s review for everyone to see.

Both ways should be used to respond to ALL negative reviews. Seeing responses to positive and negative reviews indicates you are engaged with your customers and concerned with their satisfaction.

The key to responding to negative reviews is to keep the BIG picture in mind. Don’t get defensive. Consumers are smart and know that an isolated bad review isn’t indicative of a bad business. A good way to respond to negative reviews is to acknowledge that you are concerned about the customers’ experience, state the business’ philosophy of excellent service, and have them contact a specific decision maker to discuss any grievance so that things can be made right.

For positive reviews, an authentic thank you is appropriate. That can be as simple as saying, “Thank you again, Bob, for staying with us and being so polite to the hotel staff. You are always welcome back!” simply saying thank you for the positive review is adequate but it is better to also respond in detail.

yelp customer review

3. Photos And Videos

Quality photos on Yelp make a huge difference.

According to Yelp, people stay two and a half times longer on a business page when it has photos. That doesn’t mean you need to hire a professional photographer, but having high-quality photos should be a priority. 

4. Inbox

Yelp shows your response time and response rate so it is important to respond to messages in a timely fashion.

There are 3 ways to respond to messages: on the Yelp for Business Owners website, on the Yelp for Business Owners mobile app, or you can also set up email notifications to respond to reviews directly through email.

5. Questions & Answers

Responding to questions is a way to get more relevant information to your customers. Doing so will also hopefully reduce the number of direct messages you have to respond to.

6. Check-In Offers

Check-ins are another ranking factor for Yelp. So if you want your business page to show up at the top of the results list, it is important to have this offer complete.

The check-in feature is a way for business owners to reward customers through for checking in at their location using the Yelp app. It can be a discount price, percentage off, or some other incentive. By checking in at your business, customers social networks are notified, which increases your business’s visibility.

With all of your business page information now complete, the next step is to promote engagement on your site to get more customer reviews.

screenshot of yelp check in offer

Generating Engagement

Social proofing works.

People trust Yelp because of the millions of customer reviews. There are many ways that you can promote these positive reviews reaching your business page, but be sure to never offer incentives. Yelp has a filter to block fake reviews and they can even penalize your listing for foul play.

The best way to garner positive reviews is the old fashioned way, excellent customer service, and a few of these tips.

  1. Have a Yelp Link on your website: The more exposure your Yelp business page gets the higher chance you will receive customer reviews.
  2. Including a Yelp Link in your email signature: For the same reason explained above.
  3. Reach Out to Existing Customers:  Ask your loyal customers if they would visit your Yelp Business profile and ask them what they think of it. (It’s against Yelp policy to directly solicit customer reviews)
  4. Promoting Deals on Yelp: Deals are a great way to grab attention and get new customers in the door!

The more Yelp reviews you have, the more likely you are to rank highly. Don’t forget to respond to those reviews!

With the nature of a business, sometimes you will receive negative reviews from a customer you weren’t able to satisfy. To reiterate our message in the Reviews section above, the best way to deal with these situations is to respond in a positive way.

A Yelp Optimization Overview

Does your page have quality photos and a keyword rich summary of your business? Optimizing your Yelp business page is about filling your page with useful information. It can be done in one sitting, but the key for a successful business page is responding to reviews to further engage with customers.

Keep the big picture in mind when responding to reviews, and continuously look for new ways to drive potential customers to your site. If you do all these things, while showcasing the personality behind your brand, you will be positioning your company for delicious online marketing success.

ElementIQ is one of a small handful of Yelp Ads Certified Partners, and we work with Yelp profiles every day! If you require further assistance with setup of a Yelp profile and/or advertising on Yelp, we can Help!

 

help with yelp call to action button

Beginner’s Guide: Getting Started With Google My Business

google my business

Google’s business listings first emerged in 2004 under the name “Google Local”. Over the years it has evolved from Google Local, to Google Maps, to Google Places, to Google+ Local and now Google My Business (with perhaps a few more lesser-known names in between).

Because Google My Business is so heavily integrated into Google Search, Google Maps, and even Google Adwords, it is now one of the most powerful and valuable Google services for a business owner.

Getting Started With Google My Business

Like any other Google property, you will need a Google account. First, head over to https://places.google.com and click on the big “START NOW” button in the right corner.

Creating Your Google My Business Listing

If Google does not recognize your business, you will need to create one. This is simple enough, just fill in the business information in the form:Google My Business Map

The most important things are the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) of your business.

Be sure these are correct and consistent with other instances online, particularly your website. Here are some helpful notes when adding your NAP:

Entering Your Business Name

For your Business Name, make sure you use the business name you would like to appear on the web. This does not necessarily need to be your official, registered name.

Formatting Your Address

Putting in the correct address format can be tricky since there are so manygoogle my business screenshot different ways to input it. What complicates things further is different directories online seem to have different formats.

Start by entering the street address in the first line, and then adding a line for the suite or unit number. Google is sometimes finicky with how it displays unit numbers, so you may have to adjust it after.

Optimizing Your Phone Number

Keep the phone number simple with the ###-###-#### format. If you are expecting many out of country calls it may make sense to put the +1 at the front.

Claiming Your Listing

Once your listing has been created the next step will be to claim it. The standard claimingGoogle My Business Search tab method is to verify address ownership by requesting a postcard by mail. Postcards usually arrive in about 5 business days.

They contain a PIN number which will need to be entered into your profile dashboard.

Once you claim your listing it will be verified on Google and you will have full access to managing the business listing information.

Now if your business already exists on Google Maps (you didn’t need to create it) the claiming process is usually much easier.

First, search for your business on Google. If you find your listing and it has an “Own this business?” link, you’re in luck.

Click the link and it will allow you to receive the verification code by phone or text, in addition to the postcard. This will allow you to skip the wait time and claim your listing immediately.

Get Google’s Help

Navigating Google My Business is by no means a walk in the park. I have had my fair share of frustrations over the years.

The biggest issues you will run into are usually related to claiming and verifying the listing, especially if it has already been claimed or verified by someone else.Google My Business

Here are some helpful tips I have found that can ease the process:

  • Google My Business support is surprisingly effective. Just click the “Help” link in the footer of the dashboard and select your issue. Most issues will require you to submit a ticket or request to Google, but I have found their email support to be quite responsive.
  • They still have a callback option though it’s buried deep in the Help options. Click Need More Help > Ownership or access to my business > Someone else owns or verified my service area business and request a callback. Someone from Google will call you and usually is willing to help with any issue, not just for service area businesses.
  • I’ve heard that contacting the Google My Business team through social media (Facebook chat or Twitter DM) is more effective because it will go directly to their Google My Business team in Mountain View, CA. I have had mixed results with this, from an immediate response for some cases to a 3-4 day delay for others.

Google My Business Should Be A Priority

If you are a small or medium sized business, you absolutely should invest the time and effort into your Google My Business page. Do not overlook this online profile as it is your best bet to get your business found online, and it’s free!

Google is constantly improving these business listings like allowing owners to now include posts. This allows for more engagement with customers.

Google My Business is a powerful tool that is only becoming more and more popular. It is an industry standard that legitimizes your company online and attracts customers. Stand out and get ahead, create your business profile today!

How To Get More Positive Google Reviews For Your Business

how to get more positive google reviews for your business

Online business reviews (a.k.a. social proof) matter. If you’re not paying attention AND if you don’t have a plan to cultivate legitimate, positive reviews from happy customers, you are falling behind.

Whether you like it or not, your potential customers will judge you based on your star ranking and experiences that your customers (and sometimes – nefariously competitors and prospective customers) have shared online.

If someone you know recommends something to you, you’re more likely warm up to it.

I’m going to tell you about how you can use social proof to boost your business.

Google Reviews are the norm. Yes, there are other review sites you should be garnering reviews for. We’ll cover those in later posts.

3 Steps To Google Review Domination

  1. Why you need more positive Google Reviews,
  2. How to go about getting more positive Google Reviews, and
  3. How one of our clients successfully earned more positive Google Reviews.

First, let’s begin with why you should even care about any of this.

1. Why You Need More Positive Google Reviews

Much of what follows this paragraph may seem intuitive and obvious. You want more 5-star reviews on the world’s largest search engine.

a) Your Customers Trust Reviews

Research is part of the buyer’s journey. The Internet can be a wasteland of useless or misleading information.

What do you trust? The answer: Other people’s experiences – especially when there is the genuine consensus!

Studies show that 70% of people are more likely to buy a product after reading product reviews. People are 12 times more likely to trust user reviews than the product descriptions on a manufacturer’s site.

Digital reviews – the ones you see on Google, Yelp or other places – are just as powerful as personal recommendations.

In a study by BrightLocal, 88% of respondents felt that consumer reviews were as strong, useful and credible as a peer recommending them something personally.

Perhaps people feel someone you don’t know is a bit more objective than someone you do know. I mean, we could go on all day about consumer behavior and intuition.

What you need to know is that your customers will look at reviews of your business before making a buying decision.

b) Why Google Reviews And Not Yelp Reviews?

This post is about getting more online reviews. Not just any online reviews, but Google reviews.

Even though Yelp has been around since 2004 and Google launched Local Search in 2012, Google is the big dog in the house. When you search something, it’s in Google and thanks to Google Knowledge Graph, the number of reviews and star rating of reviews is clearly viewable.

I won’t dismiss the impact of Yelp on making a buying decision. The Yelp result (if your business has a Yelp profile) will be on the first page. Yelp reviewers are a unique breed. Yelp does a lot to make sure every review is as legitimate as possible.

Yet, given that people read from left to right, they’ll see the Google Reviews portion first.

viewing reviews in Google search resultsHow heavily they value Google over Yelp or vice versa is up to the individual.

c) Google Local Guides

While Yelp reviewers are an active bunch, Google unveiled its own rival platform to Yelp and TripAdvisor a few years ago called Local Guides. The goal was to establish a community of reviewers who know exactly where all the great stuff is.

Within it, you can review establishments and receive free storage and insider news in return.

Originally a 1-5 Level system, Google has extended that to 10. At one time, you could earn up to 1TB of free storage in Google Drive. However, Google has partially nixed that since.

Imagine if you had a Level 5 or Level 10 Google Local Guide give you a 5-star rating? In fact, if you get a review from a Google Local Guide, it’ll show in your reviews!

Google Local Guide positive review – Google ReviewsHowever, Google is still trying to figure out this program. They’ve added and improved it in recent years but there’s still a ways to go.

While Yelp has a similar system, we’ll cover Yelp in its entirety along with how to get more positive Yelp reviews in a later post.

Adding to all of that, our agency is Yelp Ads Certified.

So we’re not detracting from Yelp. We’re just focusing on Google reviews in this post.

Let’s begin with making sure your business is listed by Google.

2. How To Go About Getting More Positive Google Reviews

a) Control Your Google My Business Listing

  1. i) The most important step is to check to see if you have a Google My Business listing.
  2. ii) Have you claimed and do you control your Google My Business listing? Is there only one Google My Business listing for your business (as opposed to having duplicate or otherwise multiple listings for the same business for the same location)? If the answer is no to either, you’ll want to read our post on How to Create, Claim, and Optimize a Google My Business profile.

From your Google My Business account, you can also respond to the reviews. Ensure that you verify your listing and fill out as much information about your business as possible.

b) Make The Ask

If there’s anything you learned from your elementary school teacher or from your parents growing up, you never get anything if you don’t ask.

Wayne Gretzky famously quipped “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. You’ll never find out the answer to your question if you don’t ask it.

Similarly, you’ll never get a review from a customer if you don’t ask them for one.

The first step is making that ask. If you provide services, this could be a point-of-sale opportunity. It could be right at the end of providing the service.

By the way, do you ever notice how when you go to a restaurant, your server, more often than not, will most positively interact with you while you are paying your bill? Whether that yields a strong return for them is a whole other question.

One thing is for sure: Timing is important. We’ll cover timing in greater detail later in this post.

Another point you should know: Yelp discourages business owners from asking for a review. Google, on the other hand, openly encourages this.

c) Establish Who Makes The Ask

The ask can be made by an employee. It could also be automated and be requested by a review platform. We’ll get into the latter a bit later.

However, it’s important that you establish who in your company is making the ask. If you are a service-based company, like I mentioned earlier, ask for the review after the service is performed. 3-5 days after service is performed is a good habit to follow.

Depending on the size and structure of your company, this might mean it’s your administrative staff who take care of payment and things of the like.

If you offer a product, ask for it after the product has been received, post-checkout. That could mean 3-5 business days after the product has been received. You’ll need to give them time to use it. Get a sales representative or administrative staff member to make the ask.

Don’t Offer A Reward For A Review!

I’ve seen some businesses openly offer a reward/incentive for reviewing them. We know of a business that offers free movie ticket vouchers in exchange for a review.

This is a big no-no. While it’s unlikely anyone of importance will penalize you for this, as long as they keep this offline and strictly word-of-mouth – still, don’t do it!

If the public becomes aware of this, your reviews will be discredited right away. People would perceive those reviews as illegitimate because who really knows what the experience is like dealing with you!

Ensure Employees Know When To Ask And How To Ask

I was in Australia earlier this year and I took an Uber to the airport upon leaving the country. I made the request on my phone from my Uncle’s house. My Uber driver asked me this simple question about 30 seconds before he dropped me off: “Will it be you who leaves the review?”

Did he know I was going to leave a review? Or did he just force me to leave one subconsciously without asking for it? I suppose there was a chance that my Uncle could leave a review but I’m sure he knew it would be me doing the heavy lifting on this one.

Either way, I knew this was part of an internal Uber process. It’s also in his best interest because highly-rated Uber drivers get more customers.

How your employees ask for a customer review is:

Set Up A Reviews System

This is a 2-part section, recognizing that there are 2 ways to implement a reviews system in your company. The ask can be employee-driven, as we’ve illustrated so far to this point.

Your employee delivers service, makes the ask and makes the ask at the right time. Someone can get the link that takes you to where you would leave a Google Review and send that to the customer.

The review ask can also be AUTOMATED. This is the part I’m going to elaborate further on.

Use A Reviews Management Platform

The tech industry has seized the opportunity in optimizing the social proof request process for businesses. With that said, there are a lot of companies out there who do this – Podium, GetFiveStars, ProofMe and more.

We’ve got experience with a few.

We use a reputation management platform that specializes in getting more positive reviews on the Internet for our clients.

For you – the goal of any reviews management platform is to help you turn your own customers into a powerful marketing tool for your company.

From within reviews software, you can trigger an email or SMS message to someone asking for a review. The user clicks on the call-to-action inside the email or SMS message and they are taken to the place they can leave a review.

One click is all it takes. Simple for you, the business owner and simple for the customer.

3. How Our Clients Earned More Positive Google Reviews With A Reviews Management Platform

One of our clients got onto the reviews platform we use earlier this year. That client has since gone from sitting at 8 Google Reviews to 39 Google Reviews, at the time of writing this post. What’s even better is that all of those are 5-star reviews. ALL.

They have a process whereby they send an email to the patient 1 day after their appointment.

Here’s the email:

The subject line is an open question. “How was your appointment?”

You’ll notice that even the email address is customizable.

A smart idea is to send these to your most loving clients/customers. At our agency, we call an action like this a ‘quick win’.

Of course, you’ll have to deliver great service to get that review. Every review is earned.

To summarize, these are the two pillars for Google Review success:

  1. Deliver great service
  2. Automate your review request process

Inside Our Online Reputation Management System

The reviews platform we use can be quite easy to navigate through.

You can upload your list of customers or add them individually. Then, you can send them a review request email.

A couple clicks from your receptionist’s mouse and you’ll have sent out review requests to your customers.

Here’s what the main dashboard looks like:

reviews management software dashboardViewing Reviews

You can view all of your reviews, across different platforms right from within our reviews management software. You can even reply to them within it. No more going into Yelp or Google to reply to someone.

what a Google Review looks like from a reviews management platformReview Reports in the Reviews Management Platform

From within BirdEye’s reports dashboard, you can track your reviews over time.

tracking online reviews over timeYou can even track review sentiment – comparisons between the quality of reviews you receive.

Make Google Reviews Work For Your Business

Here are some simple facts we’ve established:

  • Viewing online reviews are part of the buying process.
  • A searcher will see Google Reviews first upon a Google search
  • A searcher will establish an impression upon consuming the number of reviews, overall review rating and the reviews themselves.
  • More positive Google Reviews can lead to more business

It’s vital that you take the steps we’ve mentioned:

  1. Make the review ask.
  2. Establish who will be asking for a review and how.
  3. Create a reviews system and automate the process.
  4. Don’t offer rewards for leaving a review.
  5. Let the greatness of your product or service do the talking.

Follow these steps and you’ll be raking in the 5-star Google Reviews in no time.

Have you tried implementing a review request system for your business before? What challenges have you run into? Leave a comment below and we’ll reply as soon as we can!

The Local Business Marketing Summit 2017

industry with different components of industry success in clouds

Introduction

Right off the bat, this was an awesome arrangement for anyone interested or involved with marketing local businesses.

The quality of presentations compared just as well with presentations in big conferences where you pay over $500 for a single ticket.

And this was FREE. So, hats off to the Local Marketing Summit 2017 for organizing this.

The topics and conversations were beneficial to both – business owners and marketing professionals. The set of speakers were all highly credible with the likes of Myles Anderson, the CEO of BrightLocal to Bernadette Coleman, the CEO of Advice Local.

They literally re-created a physical conference experience online with over 1500 attendees and the opportunity to share comments and network with industry experts. The only thing missing was the music and the fun stuff which can keep you from dozing off between sessions.

List Of Topics And Speakers

Let me begin by listing the set of topics presented on Day 1 and Day 2:

Day 1 

  • A Complete Local Digital Strategy in 30 Minutes – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute
  • Social Media Tactics that Actually Work – Lissa Duty, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Rocks Digital, Social Media Trainer and Author
  • Anatomy of a Well-Designed Local Business Website – Marcus Miller, Owner and Digital Strategist at BowlerHat, Moz and Search Engine Land Contributor
  • How to Get More Reviews for Your Business – Myles Anderson, CEO of BrightLocal, Search Engine Land Contributor
  • Keys to Successful Facebook Advertising – Dennis Yu, Founder and CTO of BlitzMetrics
  • Get the Most from Google My Business – Joy Hawkins, President of Sterling Sky, Google My Business Top Contributor, Search Engine Land Contributor, Speaker at SMX
  • Should You Use a Paid Local Listing Service? – Roundtable discussion with Joy Hawkins, Phil Rozek, Myles Anderson, and Bernadette Coleman
  • Which Local Business Review Sites Work Best for You? – Collin Holmes, CEO of Chatmeter, Former VP of Product Management and Marketing for V-ENABLE

Day 2

  • How To Avoid Digital Marketing Landmines – Phil Nicolosi of Phil Nicolosi Law
  • Tips and Tricks to Build Your Email List – Chris Davis, Director of Education for ActiveCampaign, Former Head of Marketing Automation at Leadpages
  • Creating a Super Offer for your Local Business – Sean Daily, Founder / Lead Strategist at Social Media Ninjas
  • Content Marketing in a Bloated Age – Laurie Macomber, President of Blue Skies Marketing, Local, SEO, and Content Marketing Expert
  • Get the Most from Your Local Business Facebook Page – Bernadette Coleman, CEO of Advice Local, Contributor to Search Engine Land, Forbes
  • The Local SEO Checklist – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute
  • Keys to Successful Google Local Advertising – Conrad Saam, GM of Mockingbird Marketing, Former Director of Marketing for both UrbanSpoon and Avvo

What Do The Topics Tell You?

The assortment of topics speaks a lot of about the conversations that are most current and relevant in the industry. To put all the topics in broader categories, they covered:

  • Local SEO
  • Web Development
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Google AdWords
  • Email Marketing
  • Reputation Management
  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations

Outside of Analytics, the 2 days have essentially covered the full gamut of topics that are relevant to digital marketing for local businesses.

Of course, there can be a whole series of sessions on each of the categories and one hour sessions can’t make you an expert. Yet, they can serve as a great introduction or inspire you with ideas to implement or improve your ongoing initiatives.

Three Key Takeaways

At the CTA Conference in 2016, Carl Schmidt, the CTO of Unbounce told me he didn’t like noting down what speakers were saying. Instead, he’d keep a pen and paper handy to note ideas that he could implement which were inspired by the speakers.

This is the approach I adopted and some of the refinements I will make to our approach to digital marketing will include:

1. Implementing Customer Lifecycles

Being more diligent and articulate with breaking the digital strategies into customer lifecycles referencing the image included below –

diagram for consumer life cyclesImage re-created referencing a slide from Complete Local Digital Strategy in 30 Minutes – Eric Shanfelt, Founder & CEO of Local Marketing Institute

This was also referenced as AIDA by Laurie Macomber in her presentation Content Marketing in a Bloated Age. AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. It also translates to know me, like me, trust me, pay me – a phrase first coined by Barry Moltz.

2. Improving Local SEO Audit Process

Improving our local SEO audit process based on insights gained from the Local SEO Checklist session by Eric Shanfelt. This came in at a great time as I was already working on updating our internal local SEO audit checklist. While our current checklist covered most things that Eric touched upon, there were a few additional insights which I’m excited to incorporate. Here is an outline of the topics included in our local SEO checklist –

    • Business Listings/Citations
    • Mention and placement of business name, address and phone numbers on the website
    • Link analysis
    • Competitors link analysis
    • Reviews audit

3. Considering Different Online Platforms

Lissa Duty’s gave a talk on Social Media Tactics that Actually Work. She encouraged us to think about the platforms which the future customers of a business could be using. She encouraged marketers to ask a bunch of questions before selecting the social media networks where the business chooses to be active.

She said, instead of blindly jumping on the Pinterest or Instagram bandwagon, it’s important to establish why.

While the who and the why were questions that we already ask, we have given less thought to where the future customers will be hanging out. There may not be a definite answer to this question because the future is uncertain and ever-changing, but one can analyze trends and user demographics to make educated guesses.

Closing Thoughts

Digital marketers operate in a fast-paced ever-changing environment. To keep up with the changes, you need to be continuously learning. We often refer to blogs and resources on platforms like Search Engine Land, Moz and Digital Marketer. We also subscribe to industry experts like Neil Patel and Annie Cushing.

Along with the daily reading and courses, most marketers would recommend attending one or two major conferences every year – and I agree with them.

All learning resources can be great but summits and conferences can inspire ideas like nothing else. Attending the Local Business Summit was about as real as attending my first major conference of 2017.

If you attended the Local Business Summit, please do share your own experiences. I would enjoy hearing about the same. I also encourage questions and comments from business owners and marketers who did not attend the conference.

How To Publish A Google Post

how to publish a google post

Alright, folks. It’s here. Google is now allowing businesses to create short snippets of content in Google Knowledge Graph.

In this post, I’m going to tell you how to publish a post on Google – with some recommendations!

What Are Google Posts?

First, here’s some context behind what Google Posts are and what they can do for your business.

Posts appear on your Google My Business listing. They can be viewed in Google’s Knowledge Graph result for a search for your brand.

Searchers can tap/click to read the full post. They can also share that post with friends via social networks directly from Google.

Why Do Google Posts Exist?

If you’re still wondering why you should even care about Google Posts, let’s dig briefly into why these are even a thing.

The purpose of these posts are to allow businesses to publish timely information, like specials or events. If you have a time-limited sale or weekly special, this would be a good place to publish it.

Google also wants to give searchers a “one-click path” to connecting with a business.

They originally only limited it to celebrities, museums, sports teams and movie studios to use. Now, every business can publish a post.

Step-By-Step – How To Publish A Google Post

Step 1: Go to business.google.com. Log-in. Then, scroll all the way down until you see your page(s) come up.

how to create a google post screenshot - scroll down

Step 2: Select your Google My Business page.

select your google my business page

Step 3: Click on “Posts” on the left-hand side.

click on posts to create a google post

Step 4: Click on “Write your post”.

click on write your post - to create a google post

Step 5: Write your Google post. Add an image too.

Make your copy captivating. Think about your ideal customer. What would make them want to take action? What visual might they want to see here?

write your google post - add an image

Step 6: If you would like to make the post an event or add a button, scroll down and select that option.

If you’re highlighting a particular offer, your call-to-action button should match the offer.

create your post - add an event or button

Step 7: Preview your Google post and hit “Publish” when ready!

dr nasiry and patient in google post offer - preview post

Step 8: Verify that it published.

verify that the google post is published

Your Turn – Publish A Google Post!

Go ahead and publish a Google Post to your business listing! Let us know by posting a link to your Google Post in the comments below.

Google Uses Location Intelligence To Improve Maps

Google Uses to Improve Maps

A few days ago, my roommate ordered a Vietnamese sub from a restaurant (Truong Thanh Restaurant in Vancouver) for the two of us through an app on his phone which allows home delivery. Note, he used ‘his’ phone. Mobile delivery methods are becoming increasingly popular and most restaurants now offer custom apps.

Location Intelligence In Action

Later that day, after the food was brought to the house, I got a notification from Google. It was asking if I could answer a few quick questions about Truong Thanh Restaurant. Here is a screenshot of my phone with this notification – While this instance inches closer to the ‘creepy’ line, it is something to delve into.

Mapping Based On Addresses

The reason I received this notification is that the food delivery address is marked as ‘home address’ on my phone.

The app that was used to order the food must have been integrated with Google in some way – maybe simply with Google Analytics.

Since Google understood that this food was delivered to my home address, it assumed that I was ordering this meal.

A Growing Trend

I have noticed on numerous occasions now that when I enter a new restaurant, I get a similar notification urging me to answer a few quick questions.

This is a result of location intelligence and the efforts of Google to continue improving maps, local content, and data tracking.

Room For Improvement

However, they must still have a few of their initiatives in testing phases. I should not have received that notification on my phone.

I mean, what if there are 4 people living in a house, each with the home address marked on their phone. If one of them places an individual order, are all 4 members going to get this notification?

The testing phase is used to uncover such challenges and then modify a program accordingly. But I thought this was a great, real-life example to share with regards to the use of location intelligence.

Also, I was skeptical about having a Vietnamese Sub but it turned out to be absolutely delicious!

5 Advantages Of Local Search Optimization

5 Advantages of Local SEO

The purpose of local search optimization is to:

  • Help businesses show up on the map
  • Outrank their competitors on the map
  • Be the most desirable choice among the businesses that show up on the map

Map results show up when users search for products/services in a specific geographical region/city. For example – when users search for ‘best seafood restaurants in Vancouver’, they will see 3 restaurants pop up on the first page on the map between the advertisements and the organic search results.

Local Search Map

This post highlights 5 advantages of local search optimization.

1. Get Found With The Buyer’s Intent

Have you ever searched on Google for things like ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘plumbers near me’? Do you remember phoning the ones that popped up on the map? When users search for such keywords, they are generally searching with a buyer’s intent.

With the help of local search optimization, you can be a part of this last, which also gives your business some credibility. This will entice your potential customers to come to  you, rather than your competitors.

Buyer's Intent

Here is a video explaining the different categories of search results on Google

2. Have Your Business Information Displayed In The Knowledge Graph

When users search for your business name on Google, what do they see? Do they see a list of websites or see your information display prominently on the right-hand side of the search results (known as the knowledge graph)?

What would you, as a business owner, prefer? You don’t need to answer that question.

Your business information will appear in the knowledge graph when you have a properly created, verified listing on Google Business. A Google Business listing is the preliminary step to Local Search Optimization.

What is a Knowledge Graph

 

Here is a video demonstrating the same

3. Make Users Interact With Your Business Through Website Links And Phone Calls

When you appear on the maps, are you one-click away from getting a phone call or having them visit your website? By ensuring that your phone number and website links are included in your Google Business listing, you will make it easier for users to get in touch with you to research you further.

It is also important for your business name, website and phone number to be accurately and consistently published on the myriad of online directories where your business information may be published.

Examples of online directories can include Homestars, Yellowpages, Yelp, BBB, Industry Canada etc.

Website linksPhone Calls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the attached video, we demonstrate the user experience on a desktop.

4. Run A More Effective AdWords Campaign

To create a verified Google Business listing, Google verifies your business’s physical address by mailing a postcard with a pin number. Upon verification, Google is able to confirm that you are indeed located at the particular address you mentioned.

A verified Google Business listing can be connected to your Google AdWords campaign. By connecting the two together, you can improve the effectiveness of your ad campaign by using location extensions. This is especially important for a business that wants to drive foot traffic. Location extension allows ads to display your address and also show nearby searchers their distance from your business with a link to get directions.

Imagine that you are a hair salon in Yaletown. When a user searches for hair salons nearby from Yaletown using his/her smartphone, your ad shows up with your salon name, ad copy and the user’s distance from the store. They can easily tap the call button or the get directions button. This is great for user experience and translates into more visitors to your salon/store.

Another advantage of connecting the Google Business listing with AdWords and using location extensions is that Google rewards campaigns that use such features. This can mean higher ranking ads, higher click through rates and lower cost per click.

Here is an example of a client we use the location extension for.

Effective AdWord Campaign

Having a link to your address in your ad makes it that much easier for your customers to find you. They can simply tap/click on the address and Google maps will show them directions to the place. It’s these little things that can make a big difference.

Included is a video with live examples.

5. Positive Reviews Will Outrank Competitors With New Search Result Filters

Along with rankings, review management is the other half of local search optimization. A positive review profile on Google, Facebook, Yelp etc can impact rankings.

But more importantly, a positive review profile helps you to get an edge over your competition.

Very recently, Google started testing new filters on the map wherein users can filter results based on ratings or hours of operation.

Here is a screenshot of search results in the map pack for ‘Cosmetic Dental Clinics in Burnaby’:

New Filter Options on Map

As you can see, Google has introduced new filter options for users to look only at the results that are relevant to them.

These new filter options allow users to filter results based on:

1. Ratings: Users can choose to only see clinics with 4 or more stars, 3 or more stars or 2 or more stars.

2. Hours: Users can choose to see only the businesses that are open now or only the ones open on Monday/Tuesday or any other particular day of the week.

Here is a short video where I demonstrate the same.

Given that users can now filter results based on reviews, the online review profile has become more important than ever before.

There are software and tools that can help you manage reviews across multiple platforms with ease. You can consult us for our recommendations.

But please do note that, 2017 onwards, online review management needs to be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

Final Thoughts

The whole idea of search engine optimization (SEO) is two fold –

1) Ranking: For your business to be discovered by users when they are looking for products or services that you provide.

2) Reputation: To appear as the most attractive choice for users as compared to your competitors.

The focus of Local SEO is to be featured on the map results. This is becoming an increasingly popular part of local marketing plans.

The space on the map pack (the 3 map results that show on page 1 of Google search results) is limited and can be highly competitive. Making an effort and allocating some resources towards local SEO can be a great decision depending on the type of industry and the geographical region you are in.

To find out how you can outrank your competitors on the map and for effective online review management solutions, reach out to us and we can assess the benefits of local SEO as it relates directly to your business.