promotion image for the Google My Business Free SEO Workshop

New! A Free Google My Business Workshop from the Horizon Web Marketing Academy

All About Our Google My Business, Free SEO Workshop Training

The Short version

  • Even voice search like Google Assistant or Siri relies on Google Search, so
  • If your business is invisible in Google, it’s invisible
  • Google has every business in its database, somewhere
  • Google My Business is the tool Google has created for you to manage your business in their database
  • Google My Business is often wrong, and you need to manage your business for accuracy and success
  • Our free workshop is coming up and will help you

Already know you want to go? Here are some quick signup links

Sign up here for the Grand Junction evening workshop. Wednesday, November 13th at 7pm.
Sign up here for the Grand Junction Saturday morning workshop. Saturday, November 16th at 10am.

The Full Version

How successful will you be in a local business if no one knows about you, or if they can’t find you?
 
No business can succeed if it can’t connect with potential customers. Gone are the days when that connection came through the local Yellow Pages.
 
People look for local retailers and service providers in a bunch of different ways, but they all seem to be driven by the Internet and, usually, by Google.

Think of voice search. Someone with a clogged drain, or looking for a Japanese restaurant, or searching for the best deal on gardening equipment, are increasingly likely to speak that into their mobile phone.

“Hey Google, what’s a good plumber near me?”
“Siri, where’s the closest restaurant that serves sushi?”
“Alexa, where can I buy cheap gardening equipment?”

If someone is using Siri or Google’s voice assistant, their voice question is turned into a Google search. The Google results are then interpreted by the auditory response the questioner hears. (If they are searching on Alexa or Cortana the search is handled by Bing.)

Logo for Google Voice Assistant

Whether a person is looking for what you have to offer on their computer, by typing into their phone, or even by speaking a question to a digital voice assistant, whether you reach that customer depends on whether Google or Bing know about your business and consider it relevant to what they want.

This brings us to “Google My Business.”

Google’s goal is to index (which is another word for saying “to catalog”) every business on planet earth. They most likely have your business in their index, whether you’ve helped them or not. The management tool for refining the information that Google has about every business is called “Google My Business.”

Using Google My Business, a business owner can manage the information about their business that Google has. This is important because Google gets things wrong about businesses all the time. Wrong address, wrong phone, wrong mapping location, wrong business category, etc.

The only way that you can make sure Google’s information on your business is accurate is by checking it and making changes where you need to. You do that using Google My Business

You may already have done this…or started to! You may already know a bit about Google My Business. But did you know that there are things you can do within Google My Business that will significantly increase your chances of being seen by your ideal customer?

promotion image for the Google My Business Free SEO Workshop

This, in turn, brings us to Optimizing Google My Business, and this free workshop

The world of Google My Business is constantly changing. In fact, it changes so fast that even professionals have a hard time keeping up. For example, in my role as an SEO consultant and trainer, I spend at least an hour every day monitoring changes to Google’s methods and learning new ways of taking advantage of, or protecting my clients from, those changes.

Now you can hire me on an hourly basis, but my time is, frankly, too expensive for most small businesses. This means that most small businesses have to take responsibility for their own “SEO.” If you’re in that boat, you need to know at least enough to make sure you have your ducks in a row so that you don’t lose out to competitors.

We’ve designed the business training at the Horizon Web Marketing Academy to help people just like you succeed in doing the basics of SEO yourself — even with limited time, and limited technical knowledge — without hiring a high-priced SEO agency. In some cases, our “low cost” training is even free.

This is one of those free opportunities that really has value

The workshop we’ve designed, and that I’m blogging about right now, is not some 2-hour sales pitch. In fact, if you look at the training videos I’ve posted on Horizon’s YouTube channel, you can see that they are not heavily focused on sales (probably not focused enough on sales, between you and me).

This workshop will show you the key steps in engaging with Google My Business and optimizing your own business listing for success.

When you are done you will have the knowledge and confidence to make sure you have done right by your business and set yourself up for the visibility you deserve when people look — however they look — for what you have to offer.

Why are we doing a Free SEO Workshop like this?

It’s simple. We believe that the best customers are found when a business is generous. For us, being generous means that we share some of our knowledge and experience without charging you every time we do.

Of course, (to state the obvious) we hope that when you get acquainted with the knowledge and experience that we have to offer, you’ll be interested in our other consulting and training services. Either way, you’ll come out ahead, we promise!

Sign up here for the Grand Junction evening workshop. Wednesday, November 13th at 7pm.
Sign up here for the Grand Junction Saturday morning workshop. Saturday, November 16th at 10am.

Why Are You Invisible on Google? Our Free SEO Training Webinars Begin March 9th!

My poor, invisible chiropractor.  Does Google hate him?

I’ve been going to the same chiropractor in Grand Junction for 27 years, Thomas Foote (his practice is called Applied Chiropractic Health Center).  Tom is a good egg.  He prides himself on not being a (stereo)typical chiropractor.  In other words he doesn’t try to get you to come back to him every week until your money runs out, he doesn’t try to push unproven miracle cures on anyone (and I know there are many other chiropractors like Tom, and if you’re one of them, please don’t throw stones at me, but let’s face it, that’s the common view people have of the profession).  Tom knows his stuff.  He has a good manner.  He tries to educate his clients so they don’t HAVE to come back.

He has one problem however.  He’s practically invisible on Google.  His office is just down the street from me, and if I Google “chiropractor Grand Junction,” not only is he not on page one, he’s also not on the full view on Google maps (see the screen capture below).

screen capture of local seo case study applied chiropractic

A Heart to Heart SEO Conversation with Dr. Foote

Picture of Thomas Foote of Applied Chiropractic Health Center

Dr. Tom Foote is an expert in chiropractic, not SEO. How is he supposed to get Google to notice his practice?

I finally decided to have a heart to heart with Dr. Foote.   He asked me to take a look at his situation, so I did.  When I spoke to him again, and started to explain all of the factors that were dragging his business down, he looked confused, then overwhelmed, then incredulous.

I agreed to give him some guidance in turning this situation around and capturing a little of Google’s love and attention.  (Well, ok, just a little attention would be nice!)  As I left his office that day I thought about how many businesses in a similar situation don’t even know where to begin.

Is There Hope?

There are many factors that affect search.  So many in fact that a bit of research will leave a business person or a traditional marketer wanting to quit before they even get started. However it IS possible to identify those 20% of factors that give you 80% of the benefit of SEO.

So, at Horizon we are beefing up our SEO training program.  First we released our practical, common sense video course called Real World SEO Essentials.  Now we are planning on rolling out a regular series of free SEO training webinars.

Our First, Free SEO Training Webinar

Our first webinar will debut on Thursday, March 9th, 2017 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time (2 p.m. Eastern).

Number of Attendees is Limited – Click here to Save Your Seat

It’s free and I plan on identifying the same “invisibility” problem facing many business people just like Dr. Foote, plus, I’ll go beyond that, and in a special 2nd bonus session on March 16th, I’ll show you what you can realistically do to improve your situation in a simple, step by step process.

There will even be a Q&A session after I go through the materials I have to present to you.

This webinar will be held in business English, with no techno-babble permitted.  It’s not designed for SEO experts, it’s designed for you!  Join us now.  This link gives you more details about what will be covered.  And if think you might not be able to make that date or time, sign up anyway and you’ll be eligible to view the recording of the webinar.

Don’t settle for invisibility any longer! Sign up right now before you forget.  The number of spots at this seminar is limited.

 

Location marker illustrating local search

Using Google’s Search Location Setting. Buyer Beware!

Personalization and Localization of Search

Location marker illustrating local searchOver the years we’ve noticed increasing personalization of search. This is the practice followed by search engines of providing one set of search results to one searcher and a different set to another searcher even though they are entering the exact same search query.

Related to personalization is localization. I normally lump localization of search and personalization of search in the same category because they both do the same thing: customize search results to better fit the intent of the individual searcher.

Whenever you perform a search, you are connecting to the Internet using an I.P. Address, or number. This is a unique number that identifies your Internet connection. I.P. numbers are typically identifiable in general geographic locales. For example if I connect to the Internet here in my office in Grand Junction, Colorado and do a search on Google, even though Google can’t see who I am, they can see that my I.P. number is based in Grand Junction.  This allows Google to display search results that take into account my searching location. Google will favor, sometimes strongly, Grand Junction business websites based on my location.

This presents a bit of a challenge for an Internet professional such as myself, since I work with businesses all over the country and I need to see how well they rank for a Google search.

In the past the Google search location settings have come to my rescue. I can conduct a search, click on “Search Tools,” and set my location to “Las Vegas NV,” for example. (See screen capture below)

screen shot example of using search tools for location override

Search Location Override Isn’t What it Used to Be

But this method is no longer effective for me, because it appears that Google is displaying a different set of results based on whether I specify my search location or let them determine it automatically from my i.p. number.

This creates a problem for a business owner or marketing professional who is wondering just how visible their company website is on a Google search within a particular geographic region, especially if they are not physically in the area they are checking.

Let’s look at the following example, based on one of our own clients. The client in question is the dominant mover in the Las Vegas market, Move 4 Less. Move 4 Less is a local Las Vegas company that regularly beats out national competitors in search results. If I run a search for “Moving Companies” from my Western Colorado location with my search tools set to “Las Vegas Nevada,” here’s what I will see:

Example of search on Google from Grand Junction

Our client shows below the 7-pack, way below the fold in my Colorado search, even thought I’ve specified a location of Las Vegas NV.

 

A Physical Search in Las Vegas is Dramatically Different

Here’s the same search conducted by my colleague Matt from his desktop in Las Vegas.  Note how our client is showing up smack in the middle of the local results (the so-called 7-pack), which is far higher on the page:

from_las_vegas_user_matt_campbell_location_not-set2

 

What Takes Priority in Google’s World?

The physical location is not trumping the location setting in Google Search tools, it appears to be the other way around.  The Search tools setting is actually over-riding the results given by a plain-vanilla search conducted in the physical region.  How do I know?  Note this last screen shot.  It is the same search done from the Las Vegas location, but with the Search tools setting set to “Las Vegas.”  Here the geographic data is trumped and distorted in a very unpredictable way, showing a set of results identical to those I got in Colorado:

 

 

screen capture showing Google search with location hard coded

Search setting trumps physical location. But why it produces the results it does is anyone’s guess.

Conclusion

The take away from all of this is simple: don’t trust your own searches – or even your own eyeballs – when it comes to evaluating how visible your Website is in Google searches.  Many businesses obsess over “Googling” their “money” keyword terms, but this is such an imperfect way to measure it’s becoming almost useless.  There are better ways to determine visibility in Google search results, but I’ll leave those for another post.

(Or, if you can’t wait for that future post, either hire Horizon Web Marketing to do some consulting for you, or sign up for one of the SEO workshops that I’ll be teaching in Las Vegas this year.)

The Yelp Review Filter

Are you a business who depends on local customers?  If you are, then you probably are already keenly aware of the growing importance of client reviews in the health of your business, and the growing importance of Yelp when it comes to reviews.

Yelp icon: Why does yelp filter reviews?

Well yeah, maybe. But a lot of the people who love you on Yelp may never show up to your customers!

But have you ever had this happen?  A client tells you that they left you a nice review on Yelp.  Pleased and encouraged, you visit your Yelp page to see what they wrote.  You look and look and…to your confusion you can’t find their review anywhere?

If you know what we’re talking about you’re one of the many small businesses who have had their valuable Yelp reviews filtered.

Why Does Yelp Filter Reviews?

So why does Yelp filter reviews? They don’t trust the authenticity of them, because well, many of the reviews left on Yelp are fakes.

Now, while it’s understandable that Yelp would try to filter out fake reviews, it’s unfortunate that they do such a crappy job of it. For one of my clients, Yelp didn’t trust 21 of 24 reviews that legitimate Yelpers left on their site.  In fact, they filtered out all of this company’s positive reviews and only left 3 negative reviews.

Here’s how to see those phantom reviews.  Visit your business listing on Yelp.  Then scroll down to the section that says “About this Business.”  Right above that you might seem a line that says “[number] other reviews that are not currently recommended” (see screen capture, below).

screen capture of Yelp's other reviews button

If you’re missing some reviews that you thought had been placed, go and see if they are parked in Yelp’s “dead letter” graveyard.

Giving Your Reviews their Best Shot at Being Seen

Here’s how you can avoid having your best reviews end up in this lonesome place where no one will read them:

  • Yelp pays more attention to active Yelpers, so talk to your satisfied clients and, if they are looking for a place to leave you a positive review, and if they’ve never been on Yelp before, tell them to leave you a review somewhere else, such as Google+ or Yahoo local.
  • Don’t get a bunch of your customers to submit reviews in a short period of time, that looks artificial to Yelp
  • Try to find customers who are active on Yelp and then encourage only those customers to leave a review on Yelp

Keep in mind that all of the review sites prohibit you from soliciting reviews, so never offer to trade discounts, cash or favors for a positive review.  You can mention that you encourage reviews, but don’t tell them you want “positive” reviews or you could be in trouble with more sites than Yelp.

Have you had an experience, good or bad, with Yelp’s review filter?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And if you’d like help with local search engine optimization, read more about what we offer.

 

 

Internet Marketing for Local Business is a Team Sport

online-marketing-for-local-business-team-sportWe in the online marketing and SEO community need to do a better job communicating with our business audience.  We speak with clients regularly who expect that they can hire an SEO/SEM agency, wait for their rankings to soar, and reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, it’s not quite that simple.  For today I’d just like to focus on what you should expect if you engage a Local Internet Marketing expert to promote your “brick and mortar” business.  The operative expectation is this: be prepared to be a part of a team.  Don’t expect your “web guy” or your “seo gal” to do it all for you.  As a business person, you will need to play a vital role in making your local Internet marketing push a success.

Here are some of the important pieces of media and information you will need to provide to whomever is acting as your search marketing expert:

  • Access to passwords, login ids, email accounts used to set up listings, and so forth
  • A clear description of your business
  • Clear, quality photographs of your business
  • Complete access to your website
  • A way to change the code on your website pages
  • Good descriptions of your goods and services
  • Time for responses to the SEO consultant’s questions and requests (these responses need to be timely)

A Few Details

The first thing that the local optimization expert will do (or should, if they know their stuff), is ask you about any areas where you have created an online presence.  You might have set up an account on Yelp, or Google Places (also known as Google+ Local).  You might have set up different identities on these sites for different locations of your business.  It will be up to you to track down those details, which involves thought, interviewing employees, and pouring over old emails.

Then, the Internet Marketing consultant will need to make sure that your local listings on the major search engine local portals (by that I mean Bing Local, Yahoo Local, and Google+ Local) are formatted in just the way that those key players are expecting.  The consultant will probably have to make changes to your listings, and the search engines will need to send you a verification request (which is usually a postcard).  You will need to alert your employees to any mail, or even phone calls, that come in from Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Yelp.

Next your Internet marketing consultant will need to you to give them a good description of your business and high-quality photos.  Increasingly Google, especially, are relying on visual representations of your business, and so top quality photography will pay off.  Typically, this will be a role you will need to play.

Then your Local SEO expert will need to coach you on how to enroll your customers in leaving reviews about your site, and where it’s best to leave those reviews (it will vary from business to business).

After that, expect regular requests from your local SEO expert to provide media, changes to your website, social media interactions, keyword ideas, access to people in your organization who might help.

Local small businesses are no longer getting a pass with Google and the rest.  They need to work hard to create a quality site with great content that conforms to the (sometimes) quirky rules of the search engines in order to score.

But if you and your web company do the hard work of functioning like a team, your results will show up on the score board.  But remember, you have to do your share.