What is the future of local small business advertising?

February 5, 2012

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With search marketing officially taking over traditional media marketing channels it is no surprise sleazy sales tactics still work for some Internet marketing providers.

check out what I got from ReachLocal recently:

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I will be sure to add some of the stats.

I just want you to understand that there is a difference between a backlink building content marketing SEO agency like SMB SEO and the product or platform specific Google Adwords reseller agencies and yellow pages.

In the month of July we created over 550 pages of content for less than 25 clients. This past January I had te responsibility for scheduling over 1,000 pages worth of offsite and onsite content marketing articles, blog posts, and pages for around 35 different businesses. Let’s see the yellow pages or ReachLocal folks provide that kind of Internet marketing strategy and schedules!

Just because my agency saves clients a boatload of money in PPC up charges by not paying anyone other than Google or Bing direct for clicks, doesn’t mean we are less effective or inferior to these larger marketing organizations. What they fail to offer:

Google Analytics
You own all the PPC campaign work
You own the PPC campaign account
CallMeasurement.com Call Tracking
woopra analytics
Custom Video Production
Web Ranking Reports Weekly
Niche Site Domain Development
Mobile Ads
Mobile Sites
PRWeb.com Press Releases
Local listing optimization
UBL Listing (universal business listing)
Localeze Data Center Listing


Dallas SEO Consultant Explains SEO Targeting and Scheduling

January 16, 2011

Targeting. All marketers say they do it… few really do.

Targeting saves money. Targeting puts your ad message in front of the right eyeballs. I have said before that if you focus on marketing you don’t have to advertise as much. If your business focused on differentiating your brand from your competitors better, you wouldn’t need to use as many methods of advertising to promote your marketing messages.

Targeting is about putting your business in front of those consumers ready to buy your product of service.

Targeting has been the key advantage of directional marketing efforts over creative ones. Directional marketing, a term that was first coined by TMP in 2001, is when buyers are looking for sellers vs the other way around, like creative marketing.

According to Wiki:

Directional Marketing is a type of marketing, a measurable form of direct response advertising, whose primary role is to point a potential consumer toward the completion of the sales process or service selection. Unlike traditional direct marketing which typically communicates to unsolicited consumers, directional marketing is primarily consumer initiated where consumers seek out advertising to aid in their purchase decision, e.g., to identify potential vendors with which to do business. Examples of known forms of Directional Marketing media are the Yellow Pages, Internet, or Electronic Yellow Pages and Local search (Internet).[1]

For most small businesses, every dollar is precious. Small businesses do not advertise for the sake of advertising, they can’t afford it.  Small businesses, to the most extent,  do not have the financial resources necessary to invest in brand recognition. Branding requires repetition of the brand message.  Which takes a lot of money to become the most effective. There are many forms of creative branding media, such as the radio, television, magazines, and direct mail.

The most effective form of advertising for small businesses has been and always will be the one that has the highest usage and frequency. Selecting the right media to advertise has commonly been an easy choice for SMBs, since this used to be the yellow pages. It is now Local Search.

Local search is Easy.

Oops. I said it.

Local search is not as fragmented as the industry wants you to believe. Everyone in the space is fighting for a piece of the pie. Internet yellow pages sites (like SuperPages.com, YP.com, Local.com etc) are fighting for traffic just like the local vertical directory sites (AttorneysListed.com, Lawyers.com, Elocalplumbers.com, Restaurant.com etc) and they all want a piece of the location-based social networks (FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places etc.) With all these different options to advertise, why did I say that local search is easy? It all begins with Google (and 25% Bing.) All of these sites must get traffic from Google in order to provide value to advertisers. Traffic from Google brings eyeballs which turns into leads and phone calls. If you can master Google, you master local search.

Since Google is where consumers begin researching for local product and service providers, it only makes sense that the first thing a business do is optimize for Google Places. This does not mean paying some odd $150.00 per month fee to some company to “manage listings.” Google Places Optimization is a holistic effort that requires scheduling multiple activities, such as local listing optimization and blog content strategy.  It also requires positive reputation management and a well planned ratings and review aggregation process that incorporates leveraging your positive reputation online. All this sounds like some sort of mumbo jumbo, and likely the reason why so many are experiencing SEO scams.

Local SEO in a nutshell:

  • Schedule listing optimization to create Google Places citations
  • Schedule on-site content for your website pages and posts
  • Schedule off-site content for mass articles, niche directories, press releases, and industry vertical sites.

In “The Death and Rebirth of Editorial Citation on the Web,” Rand Fishkin suggests that as much as 20% of the links on the web exist solely for the purpose of influencing search rankings. Keep in mind that Holistic SEO tells us to consider the value of content, not just spammy article links with synonym swapping techniques that the search engine algorithm has accounted for.

  • Collect ratings and reviews from your clients and create a process to promote them in local search

Don’t be fooled by anyone telling you your local rank is dictated by a specific signal, especially if that signal is the number of reviews your business has. You do not need to go wild with reviews to rank. Reviews are game-able, and thus not a good long-term local search signal.

  • Become involved in your online community. Become an advocate and curator of online discussion…. this builds links too!
  • Learn how to use Advanced Search Operators to improve research on Google
  • Create an account with StepRep for Reputation Management and awareness for just $19 per month
  • Leverage the social signals and PageRank of sites like Facebook and Twitter, but don’t expect to receive the traffic needed to monetize the effort unless these pages rank on Google.  Social sites are great for influencing Google rankings, but they are more about marketing and reputation than new customer opportunities.

Social sites are great tools of creating a positive brand and increasing your authority online. I often recommend including social sites in your link building efforts. Social Media Optimization strategies can be scheduled and automated, such as social media bookmarking and social media posting. The main thing to keep in mind when looking to incorporate social media in your online marketing strategy is to focus on interacting with discussion amongst your online community.

Take a look at the strategies that Metro Tickets in Dallas has implemented. With my help, Metro Tickets offers FREE TICKETS to events around Dallas – Fort Worth with new FREE TICKET TUESDAY promotion. This once a week promotion on Facebook offers the chance for the companies FACEBOOK FANS to win tickets for answering simple trivia questions.

  • Don’t fall for the product pushers. Holistic search marketing methods require us to consider all opportunities, but this also means that you need to be careful where you invest your ad dollars. You will get calls everyday from some local website or person offering to list your business. One would think that the first thing you would do is conduct a search on Google for what it is that you do and where you do it. The results on Google should help you decide which product-centric pushers you should do business with and which ones are not on the radar. Keep in mind that most local web traffic starts with Google (and 25% Bing/Yahoo.)
  • Last but not least: Don’t participate in the SEO vs PPC debate. You need both! Holistic search marketing helps you rank all over Google, not just at the top. Everyone says they can get you to the top, but the clicks and conversions depend upon the message title and description in the SERP (search engine results page.)

I often recommend a 50/50 budget distribution between everything SEO (content, web design, video, listings, and images) and everything PPC (paid search, content network, promoted video, local tags.)

For further advice on local search marketing, visit my website.

 

Here are a few tips from Google on finding a local search engine optimization professional for your business:

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider:

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

    “Dear google.com,
    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

    Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
  • Choose wisely.While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
  • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?
  • One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

    Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

 


Local Small Business Internet Advertising Options are Changing

January 13, 2010

WOW… things are heating up in the local advertising search space.

In December, ReachLocal.com, one of the largest pay-per-click lead generators, filed for an IPO. On January 4th SuperMedia, formerly IdearcMedia, emerged from Bankruptcy and essentially wiping away billions and billions of dollars worth of debt built up by Verizon Telecommunications (Corporate Fraud at its best if you ask me!)

Yahoo! and Microsoft Finalize Search Agreement

SUNNYVALE, Calif. & REDMOND, Wash., Dec 04, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corporation today announced that the companies have finalized and executed the definitive Search and Advertising Services and Sales Agreement and License Agreement in accordance with the letter agreement announced in July.

The companies released the following joint statement:

“Microsoft and Yahoo! believe that this deal will create a sustainable and more compelling alternative in search that can provide consumers, advertisers and publishers real choice, better value, and more innovation.

“Yahoo! and Microsoft welcome the broad support the deal has received from key players in the advertising industry and remain hopeful that the closing of the transaction can occur in early 2010.”

I have not heard any recent news from AT&T recently, but I wanted to reach out and give them a pat on the back. Why you may ask? AT&T partnered with WebVisible. Why is this such a big deal? $$ What do peanuts bring? $$

Unlike SuperMedia’s persistance on offering PPC management with very little if any focus on “Website Ads,” (Some folks call this landing pages…. PPC landing pages etc) Example of AT&T PPC WebVisible Landing Pagewhich is what I like to call the pages on a small business website that are similar to ads in a phone book. WebVisible’s product also help clients convert traffic from the clicks into phone calls, an area that SuperMedia completely disregards (just like analytics.) Outsourcing website development will not help the cause either. SuperMedia sends leads to your current website or one that they create. Such as this one. AT&T (like AdzZoo) is creating landing pages. This is a big advantage considering that many advertisers have zero clue on how to convert clicks into phone calls. It is obvious to me that SuperMedia also has no clue. ReachLocal is the same if you ask me, since the majority of PPC campaigns are built around proxy sites (mirrored websites with phone number replaced for call tracking.)

Here is the best website I have seen from a Yellow Pages company www.TheTransmissionShop.com by AT&T Yellow Pages. Jeff Swope at Webformance Inc. asked Dalana, a new Webformance developer, to redesign the companies Yellow Pages built website. Here is what she was able to produce in less than 5 days: www.WebformanceInc.com/Dalana

Pretty impressive if you ask me? How much did it cost compared to the one the Yellow Pages company took 6 months to produce? Peanuts!

What also impresses me most about WebVisible is the fact that they are willing to try new ideas and methods.

Peanuts bring you Elephants.

Such as:   http://directory.leadmaverick.com/WebVisible/Los-AngelesLong-BeachSanta-Ana/CA/10/8174/index.aspx

Recently, WebVisible partnered with Ecordia. Smart move. I was impressed with what Sean Jackson and the folks at Ecordia have created with the Ecordia Content Hub. WebVisible understands content.

Content is:

http://spiritualdeepdish.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/elephant_money_origami.jpg

Although many sites offer a Subdomain SEO strategy, (Ecordia) takes it further with limitless content, and easy landing page creation (via CSS style sheets) and quick content SEO via the Ecordia Content Optimizer tool. The content hub also helps get rid of the noise created when sending paid search links to home pages. It is not only an effective SEO strategy (utilizing the LeadMaverick subdomain) but also has potential for PPC.

Here is an example of an organic result for Ecordia’s LeadMaverick subdomain.

Ford Owner Loyalty Search Results

Other Great Ideas: Mobile Search beyond apps. PPC management for the client via Google and not using proprietary bid management systems. Open source website development. Working for the client (they can’t afford to hire a search marketer, web developer, and content writer, hence why outsourcing the work to a local boutique internet marketing agency is so vital. When a directory publisher creates an account for you on Google, do you own it? If they fail to provide quality work, are you able to take the work elsewhere? Do they leave you options beyond a 12 month contract and big commissions and collections attorneys? Stop buying advertising from Sales people. Start getting your internet advertising from Internet Marketing Consultants!

When it comes to marketing online, sometimes Peanuts brings you Elephants!