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It might sound an odd thing to say, especially in the middle of a recession, but there really has never been a better opportunity for businesses to thrive and prosper. We are literally in the middle of a cultural and marketing revolution where all the traditional rules of advertising and marketing are being re-written.
The only way to reach a national or International audience would be to advertise in the national press, on the radio or on television.
This was (and is) beyond most local company’s means. Not many businesses have a marketing budget that would allow them to spend millions on a national or even local TV advertisement.
It was also frustrating for the consumer too. Finding businesses meant searching through the Yellow Pages and then ringing around to see if the company could provide what they were looking for. If they wanted to buy a product and it wasn’t available in their local area, they would have to travel to get it. Or in some cases, they could order via a catalogue or mail order company.
In addition, there was the uncertainty of whether the retailer they were buying from was reputable, especially if it was in a town or city that they were not familiar with.
With the fantastic invention of the Internet, how things have changed!
Consumers have ditched the Yellow Pages to find companies selling goods they want and they no longer have to travel to another part of the country to locate and purchase goods. They now rely almost entirely on the Internet to guide them to products and services that they want.
They are able to read online reviews from other consumers informing them all about both the product or service and the retailer themselves.
They don’t even need to be sitting in their homes or offices to do this. That information is freely available right there at their fingertips on their mobile phones.
It could not be easier.
It has also had knock on benefits for the retailers too. The internet is an essential, cost effective marketing and promotional tool.
Local companies now have a platform to compete on an equal level with the ‘big boys’ and can promote their business to the world. They no longer have to spend millions advertising to a national and international audience. Effective marketing is a mere drop in the ocean to what it used to cost and in a lot of cases it can be done free by word of mouth on social networking sites and in the search engines.
Then, just when you think that things couldn’t get any easier, Google decide that they want to show you some love by making an even easier and more effective way for you to promote your business with the launch of Google Plus Local.
If you are not familiar with Google Plus Local you are going to love it and be very excited.
Google created Google Plus Local as a way to combine its search engine, social networking and business directory features.
What this means is customers can now search out and find detailed information on local restaurants, shops and other services without having to do multiple searches. Everything is linked and available at their fingertips.
Google’s aim is for every business to take advantage of this powerful and popular tool and use their dedicated page as an effective advertising platform for their company.
Google assigns each business its own page. On your company’s very own Google Plus Local page you can include maps, contact details, photographs and other important information relating to your business. Once your page is set up and ready, your customers can use the page to rate your company, write reviews and add photos. Your page will be visible in Google search results and on Google maps.
It has added a feature called Zagat ranking and is an important feature of the business directory. Zagat uses a 30 point scale to rate different aspects of a company. For instance, if you owned a restaurant, customers could rate your food, décor and service using a rating system from ‘poor’ to ‘perfection’.
It gives you an opportunity for your business to shine on the Internet and bring customers flocking to your premises or to use your services.
Everybody knows Google. It is the most popular and important search engine on the Internet. It constantly evolves and changes to make the search experience even better for both the consumer and retailer.
Google Plus Local is based on its predecessor; Google Places. Google Places gave businesses the option to include a map and some basic information about their business, and in most cases this would rank it on the first page of a Google search.
That was enormously successful and was a huge help in getting local businesses found easily by customers looking for their types of products or services.
The most significant change with this new and updated version is its complete integration with the ‘Google Plus’ social network, which some claimed was Google’s answer to Facebook.
While the social networking aspect of Google Plus is not as successful or popular as Facebook at the moment, it is gaining more and more members as businesses catch on to how powerful this concept is for their company.
The main benefit of this service is its ability to increase the profile of your business. It also allows you to connect with your customers on a more personal level.
However, just like any other form of advertising, to make the most of your Google Plus Local page you need to develop a clear strategy.
For example, a plan of action would be:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As part of an official Google service, your page already gets a boost in the search engines results. But to make the most of the service, it is still important to continue focusing on SEO. By including relevant keywords, keyword phrases, backlinks, regular updates and other SEO content you can guarantee to not only improve your business’s listings placement but also make sure that your competitors never beat you in the search engine rankings. (Don’t worry if any of this stuff has bamboozled you. We are on hand to help you or do it all for you. The important thing is not to let it put you off or decide to bury your head in the sand and try to ignore it. The internet is not going away. So in order for your business to be given a fighting chance you need to start now).
Integrate social networking
We are all familiar with Facebook, Twitter and the importance of Pinterest but don’t ignore the Google Plus social networking site. Google rewards businesses handsomely with higher rankings when companies interact with their customers on the social networking site. It can dramatically improve your profile in the local area.
Making the most of Zagat
The customer ratings you are given will be a very prominent part of your page. Don’t let this scare you. Even the best companies get occasional bad reviews. By encouraging your customers, whatever their comments, to leave a review, you can ensure that you get representative overall results.
Dealing with any negative feedback
As mentioned earlier, every business, no matter how good it is, will get a negative comment from time to time. It is impossible to please everybody all of the time. However it is wise to develop a strategy that deals with negative comments as soon as they occur. Always act in a professional and engaging manner which will stop it causing damage to your reputation.
Potential customers won’t mind the negative review but what they will be interested in is how you handle it. If you rant and rave, call the person who left the comment ‘a liar’ and insult them then new customers won’t deal with you. If, on the other hand, you are courteous and professional and offer a solution, it will reassure new customers to trust and buy from you or use your services.
Better Search Ranking
You will definitely see better search rankings. This is important as statistics show the majority of people only visit sites on the first page of their search results. Of that page, the top 3 results are far more likely to be visited than any of the others.
By using Google Plus Local to get your company’s page into this prominent position, you can guarantee more visitors to your website and get more sales.
Once you have increased your search engine rank, placing a link to your official business website on your Google Plus Local page will significantly increase its traffic and the number of customers you will get.
How to Begin
We know that the internet world is daunting for many small businesses. Our worry is that local businesses will either put off taking action or try to completely ignore the internet and kid themselves that it isn’isn’t happening.
Please don’t do that.
If you would rather spend more time running your business and less time trying to promote it online, hiring an online marketing expert like us is the ideal solution. We know exactly what we are doing and can get fast results for your business so you can speed up the process of gaining more customers.
If you or your company has never tried to implement a Google Plus Local strategy before, you could try and do it yourself. To be honest, any action is better than doing nothing at all.
However, there are lots of potential pitfalls to run into. Adding content that yields a very low search engine result, or building up a bad relationship in the social networking area with your customers, are just a couple of the potential problems you could face.
Why not make sure that your company’s Google Plus Local Page is in the hands of professionals who will not only improve your earnings and profits but also help ensure your business’s survival in the future.
Please contact us today. We are here to help and are looking forward to hearing from you.
Imagine how cool it would be to be invisible…You could sneak into the cinema and watch films for free (providing no-one sits on you) while pinching popcorn from the person next to you, think of all the major events you could get up close to, the conversations you could listen in to…you would be able to observe life from a totally different perspective.
But what about the downside? How lonely would it be if you couldn’t interact with people? After all, who would be able to listen to a bodiless voice without thinking they are going mad? You would get injured by people walking into you. How would you get a sales person or waitress to sell you clothes or food?
After the novelty had worn off, the negative effect of being invisible would start to outweigh the initial fun. So when would it definitely NOT be a bonus to be invisible? If you were a TV actor, perhaps?Or a safety steward?In these situations, it is impossible to be successful unless you can be seen.
Now let’s think about a business. Many businesses would love to be invisible for taxes, but joking apart, what about the impact it would have on your customers?There are absolutely no advantages to being invisible to your customers, and yet still today, that is exactly how some businesses appear (or rather don’t appear) to their customers.How could this happen to you?
When it comes to making an informed purchase decision, customers are much more savvy today.They won’t just take your word for how good your product or service is. They will research companies and products online, looking for the best solution for themselves. You may have the best product in the world which will match their demands 100% better than any other company but if they can’t see your business quickly you won’t even enter the running for their business.
If you have a suspicion your business may be invisible to a lot of your customers at the moment, there is no need to panic. Unlike the original Invisible man, your visibility can be restored with a little work.Here is some great advice on how to restore your company profile to the attention of your customers.
For any local business, customers who live within 5 – 10 miles are their lifeblood. While some businesses may have a local customer base slightly further afield, local customers will be your most important consumer. This is especially true if your business provides services they can’t get remotely. For example, who gets their teeth fixed by email?
As we mentioned earlier, customers want to make a much more informed buying decision. They want to research what products or services are available, which local businesses can supply them, what price they are and which company offers the best value and service. What’s more, they want to be able to look online whenever and wherever they may be – at work, out having a coffee or just generally on the go. Smartphones and tablets have made the internet portable so your business needs to be able to go where the people are.
But having a website isn’t the end of it. It doesn’t automatically follow that the website you see on your desktop computer will display correctly and be user friendly when a person looks at it on their smartphone. Don’t assume it is, CHECK! By looking at your site on a smartphone and trying to navigate around it, you can make sure visitors to your site get the experience and information you want them to see quickly and easily. If your site isn’t optimised for mobile devices, it may be slow to load or clumsy to navigate. Smartphone users have notoriously short patience levels. If a site takes longer than 5 seconds to load they will simply go off to look at the next site.
Search engines are constantly being refined and people choose to use their mobile devices rather than a physical directory like Yellow pages. Today, the results from search queries are being delivered to people based on the location they are searching from, so local businesses near to the position of the searcher are shown first. That is only a plus for your business if the search engines can find you in the first place. So when was the last time you checked how visible you are in search results?
First, try a general search. Type in your business name. Can you see your business website listed? You should also be able to see other accounts like your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Local pages, as well as reviews and articles that mention your business.
Next, try a more specific local search on Google maps. Go to http://maps.google.com. In the search box type in your city and the type of business you run. What the results bring up is a local area map with 4 – 10 little red balloon-shaped markers that have a letter on. Down the left hand side of the screen you will see the letter key for the markers, giving the business name and web address of each of the markers.
Here, you will see all the competition in your area marked out. As you hover over each marker, information about that business is shown. This page is great for making your business stand out from the competition especially in a highly competitive market. Can you see your business here?
One final check to do – try typing just your business telephone number into the search box. Ideally you should see your website, all your Google entries and any other inline directory you have added your company details in. But what do you see in the results? Are your details there or can you only see sites offering to reverse trace the number?
Do these checks give you confidence about the visibility of your business on the internet or are they confirming your worst fears…that no one out in cyberspace can find you?
You needn’t worry. Nothing is irreversible. With a little work on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you can turn it around. Is it all that vital? Yes it really is. If you have a local business that relies on customers coming through your door – say a dentist or restaurant – if your customer can’t find your business first on their mobile device while they are out and about, they will find a competitor instead.