Google Places Gets an Update


Last week, Google made a big update to its Places Pages and even more additions are expected to come! Why the sudden change? Google is trying to keep the focus on itself and focus on reviews made by Google users instead of other review sites. Before the update, Google Places showed snippets of reviews from Urbanspoon, Citysearch and even Yelp. As you can imagine, these other local-centric sites weren’t too happy.

Placing a stronger emphasis on customer reviews and business details will help owners reach out to locals. If you’re still not maximizing the use of local business directories, here’s what you’re missing out on (and you can definitely expect that number to grow):

– Local searches grew by 14 percent from last year.
– About 61% of local searches result in a purchase.
– At least 20% of online searches have local intent.
– 53% of mobile searches have local intent.

This update is important for small business owners because it means that you’ll have a better opportunity to marketing and analyze customer interaction with your brand. In their own words, Google describes the new Places as an “ongoing evolution”. Is your business ready for it?

How Will You Be Using Google Plus?

Facebook vs Google

In the battle of the giants, which one will reign supreme? Like vs Plus is a site where you can show your brand loyalty and cast your vote. After all, you can’t both Like and +1 everything, right?

Even if you’re tired of hearing so much on Google +, it’s important to stay connected so that you can adapt in the fast paced world of social media marketing. Here are some more ways you can use Google +:

– Chris Brogan shows us that we can blog with Google +. This basically consists of sharing a video/picture or some other media content and quickly following up in your own post with comments and links.

– Since business profiles are not allowed yet, you can take this opportunity to be innovative and show a personal side. Creating a personal profile associated with your business will allow you to socialize in a niche community and showcase your expertise.

– In a way, Google Circles reminds me of communities and groups on LinkedIn. Creating and organizing different Circles will allow you to network with different groups of people without worrying about keeping matters separate. (For example: connecting with clients, partners, employees, and friendly competitors… frenemies, anyone?)

– Watch out for Google Sparks. This is a section where you can receive personalized news articles and other information based on your interests. I see where SEOs can use this feature to their advantage by utilizing the right keywords.

Google + is more extensive than other social media platforms right now but it doesn’t necessarily mean that users have the time and knowledge to use them all. Let’s just see where all this potential can take us – after all, we’re talking about something that’s less than 3 weeks old!

Life After Google Panda Updates and Link Building

link building

Love it or hate it, link building is still an important part of SEO after the massive Google Panda updates.

The quality of your inbound links is becoming more important as Google Panda updates have shown us.  Although these updates are aimed at getting rid of “content farms” and lower quality links, many people’s rankings have been hurt by the recent Google Panda 2.2 updates.  For example, many people who used to rank well for certain phrases using article submission sites have now seen drastic drops. Of course, you know Google is already preparing version 2.3!

Because of these updates and changes to Google’s search algorithm, quality links have become increasingly important. Overall, the point of these updates is to help you recognize and ultimately remove low ranking on site pages and off site content in order to improve user/customer experience.

And with the debut of Google +,  you bet that social media activity is becoming more important in determining your search engine rankings! Back to my point of link building – it’s crucial to continue your efforts on a consistent basis. Here are a few good link  building resources that are sure to be helpful.

Coming Soon: Google + for Businesses

Google sure likes the aspect of exclusivity when it comes to their new products, don’t they? Well, it seems to be working well for their latest project: Google +. Invites for exclusive trial accounts for Google + quickly exceeded “capacity”, as not everyone who was invited was lucky enough to score an account. I guess we’ll just have to wait! And for business accounts, it looks like we’ll have to wait even longer! Information Week reports that business users will have to wait until later this year.

Here are a few tidbits about Google +:

– You can easily organize and share with the different people in your life by placing them in different Circles
– Concerned about privacy? You should know that Google intends to make all Profiles public and searchable.
– Confused about the new vocab? Facebook has Likes and Google + will use Google + 1.
– If you’re interested in group video chat, Google Hangouts will be your new favorite thing!

What do you think about Google + and are you excited about it or do you think it’s just another social platform?
Make sure to check out Social Media Examiner’s in-depth guide to using Google +.

Google Debuts ‘Instant Previews’

If you ever wanted to preview a website before clicking on it, Google Instant Previews now gives you that option. Try it out for yourself. Just search for something in Google and click on the little magnifying glass icon. This will generate a preview of the site you’re thinking about clicking before you actually click on it. Check out the instant preview of Discover Los Angeles above.

Pretty cool, right? But some feel that the new Instant Previews is a double edged sword, as it can also mean “instant” rejection. Of course, you can avoid this by optimizing your website design for these new preview images. We’re talking about clean design and easy-to-read fonts.

What do you think about Google’s Instant Previews?

Blended Search Results Webcast

emarketed blended search

Attended a Search Marketing Now webcast this morning about SEO and blended search results. Chris Sherman of Search Engine Land talked about the evolution of blended search results. It was an eye opening presentation because really, do you really remember a time before blended search results?

First off, blended search (or universal search) means that results are made up of non- web sources and traditional web search results. If you do a simple search of something like “summer vacation”, you’ll get images and videos along with traditional results (as pictured above). Chris shows stats that 35% of users don’t use vertical search. Vertical search only focuses on one thing. For example, Expedia can be considered a type of vertical search as it concentrates on travel. Google results are considered more universal because they contain all different types of results.

The benefits of universal search is that more results show up than in the traditional format. This helps local businesses as up to 10 companies can show up on first page. This was a question asked on the webcast and an important one that you should ask yourself – can your products/services be found through:

  • Videos
  • Images
  • News or press releases
  • Reviews or testimonials
  • Social media or blog content

If not, you’ll know that these areas give you a great opportunity to gain more exposure.
So, do you ever wonder why Yahoo is not as popular as Google? One factor can be that Yahoo only delivers limited universal results. Just something to keep in mind as we can see how universal results influences the giants as well as the little guys. As always, Chris reminds us just how important SEO is and how important it will continue to be for your online business success.

3 Social Media Problems

Social media marketing isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. I’ve recently ran into a couple problems and it’s taken me awhile to

1) Problem: You want to clean up your Twitter account but are stuck with too many inactive, irrelevant followers. Maybe, you’re following too many people who aren’t reciprocating.
Resource: With ManageTwitter, you can quickly go through your followers and weed out the inactive ones. It’s a handy tool and sure beats doing it manually.

2) Problem: Your business isn’t showing up right in Google’s Local Business Center.
Resource: Check out the Google forums and you’ll see how many other business owners are in the same boat. We haven’t figured out a better/fast solution so if you have any insight, please let us know!

3) Problem: You don’t know where to start with link building
Resources: Look no further than Lee Odden’s open letter to spammers and 101 ways to build link popularity

Social Media Things to Keep in Mind

Going Overboard

Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Blogger. Tumblr. WordPress. Vimeo. MySpace. People can tend to go a little overboard when it comes to social media nowadays. It’s not a bad thing to be everywhere, but you may be spreading yourself thin. Instead, examine the right platforms for your campaign. Having a Twitter or WordPress is pretty useless you’re active. No one said it was easy, but it does take time and effort.

Overlooking Google Profiles

With all the profiles you currently have, who as the time to consider their Google Profile? It is always worthwhile to take advantage of free resources to make sure that your latest info is updated. While Google may have failed with Orkut, they have many social innovations that have grand potential. Google Wave is a favorite among web designers and other busy professionals, while Google’s What’s Popular is looking to rival Digg. There are new social media sites coming out all the time, but it’s especially worth it to keep your eye out on Google products.

Someone’s Always Watching

A little creepy? But yes, we should all be a little more careful with our personal information on all these social media sites. It’s common sense and yet, it can’t be reiterated enough! Facebook’s founder recently claimed that we’re no longer in the age of privacy. According to Zuckerburg, he would make all private info public, if he launched Facebook today. Although many oppose his remarks and Facebook’s recent privacy changes, the best we can do is guard our online identity. Another sketchy source came out saying that Facebook knows who you stalk. Not sure how you guys feel about all this, but I just like to be aware of what’s going on.

Competition Among Top Search Engines

Google Dominates

Google continues to dominate as the top search engine in the United States. While a select few reign over the search engine industry, there is a great range between the top three largest companies. As of September 2009, about 70.5% of users use Google, 17% used Yahoo! and 9.3% sided with Bing. With such discrepancies, the number two and three search engines are losing a great deal of market share to the Google giant. In the past, Google and Microsoft have been fiercely competitive. From competing web browsers to applications, Microsoft has jumped directly into Google’s game with the unveiling of their new search engine in summer of 2009.

Does Bing Size Up?

The commercials seem promising, but does Bing really size up to Google? Formerly Windows Live Search and MSN Search, the new search engine has boldly labeled themselves as the “decision engine”. Some experts believe that Bing is a great improvement from what it used to be, and that it has the potential to threaten Google’s success. While the size of that threat is arguable, Bing offers relevant results that are competitive to those of Google. Another obstacle for Bing to overcome is attempting to win over loyal Google users. Bing is relatively young to Google and time will tell whether or not their technology and measurable marketing efforts will pay off.

New Competitors

Although Google is all we hear about when it comes to search engines, the market outside of the United States is drastically different. For example, did you know that AltaVista is the number one preferred search engine in Canada? The Swiss prefer Abacho, while China is no stranger to altogether banning access to Google. Google is great at recognizing competitors and making valuable additions to their company. Did you know that Google acquired Google Earth from a smaller company in 2004? New technology is emerging all the time and Google is definitely keeping their eyes peeled for new competitors.

Making Use of Local Search Results

Local Search Marketing

Increasing advances and improvements have made local search engine results more relevant than ever. When you’re browsing online for restaurants or hot shopping spots, you want results that are relevant to your geographical location. Google recognizes consumer demand for this relevancy and is working hard to become more local. With that being said, it would be foolish for businesses to downplay the importance of local search. A focus on your local search efforts means taking a close look at your campaign in specific geographical locations. As a small business owner, your recognition on the Internet relies on how well you do in local search results. Even on a nationwide level, a corporation, such as World Gym, can greatly benefit from ranking higher on local search results.

Improving Your Results

There are simple steps that you can take to improve your local search results. First, take advantage of free local Yahoo! and Yellow Pages business listings. You can make sure that your business is listed in other local business directories and listings from your local Chamber of Commerce. When it comes to keeping your website updated, always make sure to include your address and local telephone number, along with an 800 number. This way, customers and search engine results can easily tell exactly where you’re located. Local SEO efforts will also be appreciated in the long run. It can be as simple as adding your city to title pages and including in keywords and while link building.

What the Future Holds

Local search will only get more accurate with time. Earlier this year, Google has even begun to add pictures to their local search result pages. While this will help put local businesses on the map, it means This means that businesses will have another task of monitoring their activity on local search results and websites. If that’s not enough for you to keep up with, there’s much more. Twitter’s search engine allows users to search in real time. When local search is integrated with real time technology, who knows what the future holds!