Unlocking Some of the Mysteries of Online Marketing Part 1 of 3 • The Geography of the SERP and Local/Maps Enhancement

I don’t hear it as much as I used to, but when people find out I’ve visited the Google campus and been Certified in Google AdWords, the first question they would inevitably ask me would be “How do I get my business on the first page of Google?” “Good question.” I would reply. “Let me know if you find out.”

Truth is, there’s no easy formula for getting a great spot on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page.) There are many different means and strategies for getting to page one of Google. And those same strategies may or may not work for the other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Not only that, as soon as you implement some of these steps and get great results, the search engines may decide to change what factors impact rankings.

Regardless of how hard it may be to make it happen, and how volatile the search engines are, it is vitally important that you pay attention to this area of their business. Nearly everyone is using the internet these days. Last I heard, people were spending eleven to fourteen hours a week on the internet. ComScore statistics show that the internet has been the number one source for searching for local businesses since 2007. Why go looking for your print yellow pages when you’ve got the internet right there on your computer, iPad or smartphone?

Your customers are using the internet and you know it. Next question: How to get in front of them when they start searching for you? I’ve got a few strategies I’ll share with you, but don’t take my word for it. Internet strategies are changing every day. Look online for the most up to date information.

In this issue, we will discuss the geography of the SERP and Local/Maps enhancement.In Part 2, we will discuss Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).Part 3 will focus on Social Media and the Value of Blogging.

Geography of the SERP

You may not realize it, but when you search Google, your results come from three separate databases. At the top of the page, you’ll see the Sponsored Links. These links are actually advertisers who are paying Google every time you click on their ad. Most clicks run around $3 apiece but clicks can start as low as a few cents and some keywords can cost over $100 per click! The second area of the SERP only shows when a person is looking for a local service – similar to yellow pages. (plumbers, pizza, attorneys) Even if a business doesn’t have a website or a great internet presence, they can appear here. Below the map is the most coveted area on the page – the Organic, or Natural results. Getting your business listed here is the Holy Grail of SEO. This is the most “trusted” spot on the page and the clicks here are free! Which area of the page should you shoot for? ALL OF THEM. Multiple appearances on the SERP increases your chances of getting clicked exponentially. So . . . how to do it? Here are a few hints.

Local/Maps

Google, Yahoo and Bing all have local databases that include local businesses. Yours may already be there because the search engines originally purchased this business information from sources like the yellow pages. Go to maps.google.com and search for your business. Look for the choice to edit or claim it. You may need to create a Google account in order to edit your listing. When you’ve done this, enhance it with accurate and detailed information about your business. Include your web address, email, photos, even videos. Then get your customers to write reviews of your business. I’m not guaranteeing you’ll rise to the top of the map listings when you’ve done this, but as I’ve often seen it: “He who has the most stuff on his listing wins.” You’ll need to “verify” your listing with a phone call or postcard from Google. Once you’ve done this, you should see results in a couple of weeks or so.

Unlocking Some of the Mysteries of Online Marketing Part 2 of 3 • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing / Pay-Per-Click

Google’s version of pay-per-click is called AdWords. Keeping this as simple as possible, here’s how it works. A dentist wants his listing to show when someone Googles “Tulsa dentists”. He signs up for an AdWords account, and bids on that keyword. Let’s say he’s willing to pay $3 every time someone clicks on his ad. That means he’ll show up higher than the other dentists bidding on that same keyword who aren’t willing to pay $3/click but lower than dentists willing to pay $3.01/click. Add in a factor called Quality Score, and this algorithm gets a little more complicated, but you get it. You bid on the words you think your customers are searching and you show up on page one. Also, you get to make a lot of choices with AdWords: What keywords? When will the ads run? What will the ad copy say? How much am I willing to pay each day? What position on the page do I want? Sounds complicated, and it is – if it’s done right. While anyone can sign up for an AdWords account, running a good campaign is practically an art form. Analyzing the results, tweaking the campaign, watching the competition . . . and when every single click comes right out of your pocket you’re going to want to make sure it’s done right. You’ll want to really study, or hire a certified Google AdWords manager.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization: Onsite and offsite

Onsite optimization:

Make your web page “Google friendly” by designing it in a way that Google can easily read it and tell what it’s about. There’s WAY too much to cover here, so talk to your web designer and make sure he or she is optimizing the following:

• Title tag – Should be 70 characters or less. Should be your main keyword and geography.
• Content – Should be rich and full of keywords. Fresh content should be added regularly.
• Flash – Use none or very little. Google can’t read flash!
• Site Map – Tells Google’s robots how to crawl your site and what it’s all about.
• Pictures – Search engines can’t read pictures. Name the pictures with keywords. (i.e. lawn-aerator.jpg)

Offsite optimization:

Once you’ve done the basics of getting your site in order, you’ll need to start getting links. Links are essential for ranking because Google views them as “votes” for your website. The more links you have pointing to your site, the better. Relevant, authoritative links are the best. So how do you get these links? Part of it happens naturally. You’re a member of the chamber so they link to you. That’s good. They’re even an authority on local business. Your business is covered by the local paper and they link to you in an article – even better. Your cousin owns a barber shop and puts a link to your site on his. Not so much. Sure, it’s a link, but unless your business is related to cutting hair, Google won’t be very impressed with that vote. Building links is possibly the most difficult and time consuming of all SEO. This truly is an area that hiring an expert is probably your best choice.

There are, of course other things to consider besides SEO and SEM. Social media can play a huge part in your online strategy, as well as review sites, and yes, even online yellow pages. The good news is, everything you need to know about HOW to get on the internet is ALREADY ON the internet. Just Google it! Blogs, articles, and even podcasts can teach you everything you need to know to do it yourself or what to look for in order to hire the best person to do it for you. Whatever you decide, take action. The longer you wait, the bigger jump your competition will have on you. Good luck.

Unlocking Some of the Mysteries of Online Marketing Part 3 of 3 • Social Media and The Value of Blogging

Social Media

If you don’t use it, you probably don’t get it. I realize that’s a pretty blanket statement, but the perception of social media is so different than the actual practice that those who aren’t on facebook, or who don’t tweet often view it all as a big waste of time. If that’s you, you may even be asking yourself why you’re reading this article. “Because I see it everywhere, so there must be something to it.” Great. At least you understand that. Even if you’re not a big social media person, you get that your customers (or many of your customers) are. And this is one more opportunity for you to get in front of them.

Take facebook for example. It’s the largest social network in the world with over 500 million users. Users who are spending hours and hours posting updates, browsing pictures, playing games, and more. Even if you don’t think your business is a social one, you need a presence here. Get “fans” to follow your updates so that you can stay top of mind. There are a lot of articles already written about how to use facebook for your business, so I won’t repeat myself here. I would, however suggest that if you’d like to see a business that is very good at using facebook to interact with their customers and more importantly, drive actual sales, you’ll want to be a fan of The Grass Pad Inc in Kansas City. They do a great job and would be a fine example to follow.

Twitter has its unique value as well. While there aren’t as many people using Twitter, it’s still not something you should ignore. This story might get you interested in at least monitoring Twitter, if not using it. A woman went to a restaurant for happy hour and was unhappy that her particular brand was not one of the happy hour specials. She got on her smartphone and tweeted to the world that she was unhappy and mentioned the restaurant by name. Someone at the restaurant saw the tweet, found the lady in the dining room (using her twitter pic) and then explained to her why her drink wasn’t a part of the happy hour specials and then offered her a free appetizer. The woman immediately tweeted her happiness and the negative comment was balanced out with a positive one. Keep in mind, even if the restaurant had not been a twitter user, or monitoring twitter, the negative comment would have occurred. So don’t think you can avoid negative tweets by not participating! Want to learn to use Twitter? My best advice – just start using it. You’ll figure it out. I promise.

The Value of Blogging

The question that often goes along with blogging usually sounds something like, “Who wants to read a blog about equipment rental?” (or whatever you sell that isn’t perceived as very interesting.) Well, first of all, there are actually interesting things about every business. Take a look at your industry websites and news periodicals. There’s something there worth writing about. Secondly, keep in mind that a large goal of blogging, isn’t actually about humans reading it. A lot of it is pure SEO. Google and the other search engines LOVE content – especially fresh content. A blog will give you more opportunity to enhance your website for whatever area you’re trying to promote.

Here’s an example. ‘Dr. Plastic Surgeon’ mentions on his website that he does tummy tucks. He has some info on the procedure, along with some before and after pics – your basic quality content. But he’s not ranking for the keyword tummy tuck. An on-site SEO strategy that he can use it so write a blog post about tummy tucks. Maybe the pros and cons of a tummy tuck, or the different procedures for a tummy tuck, or stories of patients who have had a tummy tuck. See how many times I repeated the keyword tummy tuck? If a Google spider were reading this, there’s a good chance it would think this article is a good match for someone searching the keyword tummy tuck. You can use that same strategy to promote whatever keywords you’re trying to rank for and in the process expand your website with content that shows that you are the expert in your given field.

Don’t have time to write a blog? Ask me about how you can get someone else to do it for you!