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Internet Marketing Strategies: Local search marketing

Even though it is still in its infancy, Local Search is shaping up to be one of the dominant players in Internet Marketing.

Facts:

  • 30 percent of all search queries are Local Search (contain a city, state or zip code).
  • 2.6 billion Local Searches each month - its bigger than all the Yellow Pages combined.
  • Local Search Marketing is already a $31 billion industry.
  • Numbers of Years to Reach 50 Million Users:
    • Radio: 38 years
    • TV: 13 years
    • Internet: 3 years
    • Local Search: 9 months

Local businesses are at an extreme advantage if they learn how to leverage Local Search. The growth potential for local search is staggeringly high, and the impact on your business could be enormous!

Simply put, Local Search will soon dominate the brick-n-mortar world of marketing. Ready or not, Local Search is here and getting stronger.  If you are not optimizing your search presence for Local Search, you are making a BIG mistake. The fact is most retail businesses are not making local search optimization a priority yet, so there is still time to get in the game, but your window of opportunity is closing fast.

Optimizing your Internet Marketing efforts for Local Search is fairly simple and straight forward.  And in spite of the billions of dollars being spent on Local Search, most small businesses can make a big difference in a few hours of work.

The two areas you need to work on are your website’s Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Local Directories.

Local SEO

You actually don’t need a website to rank in local search. If you added your business to the Local Directories listed below, you will find your store showing up in Local Searches.  However, if you do have a website, then there is a lot you can do to optimize your website to help improve your rankings in Local Search.

The most important factor is having information on your website that relates to your local geographic area.  The search engines cannot list your website in a local search if they don’t know your store is located in that geographical area.

The following information needs to be on every page of your website, in text that is easy for search engine spiders to read.

Address - Include your street, city, state and zip code. Spell out your state name in most places, but use the two letter abbreviation as well in different places on the page. Do NOT use a PO Box.  List your street address so that the search engines can pin point your location on a map. Do not list multiple businesses with the same address - you could get banned for spamming.  If you are in a strip mall or shopping center where other business have the same address be certain to use your suite number to differentiate your business.

Phone Number - List your local business phone number (not an 800 number) including area code on all your pages. If you have multiple business locations, make sure they all have their own phone number. Listing the same phone number for different business addresses is a proven way to kill Local Search rankings.

Local Nicknames or Neighborhood Names - If the area your business is located in is known to all the locals by some name other than your city name, this name needs to be on every page of your website as well.  Your potential customers will more likely use this name in a search and the search engines will not know to list you unless you include it on your webpages.

Business Hours - This doesn’t have to be on every page, but you should list this information somewhere on your website, as users and search engines both look for it.

All the above information needs to be typed out in the body text of the webpage.  Also, it is helpful to include it in your page titles. Page titles are very important. At the very least, have your city, state and zip code in the page title of your homepage, your Contact Us page and your About Us page.

Local Directories

It is important when listing your business that your business information remains consistent throughout all of the directory websites and matches the information on your store’s main website. Information consistency across all Internet websites is crucial to the process of getting your business listed quickly and accurately in Local Search.

Internet Yellow Pages

Internet Yellow Page Directories remain one of the best places to list your business for Local Search.  Do a search in Google for Jewelry Store followed by your city name or zip code and see which directories come up in the search results.  These are the ones you will want to start getting listed in.  If you are already listed make certain that your information is accurate, correct any mistakes, and add any additional information.

In addition, fill out the free business profiles at YellowPages.com (AT&T) and SuperPages.com (Verizon). These two directories have the broadest reach and many other IYPs (Yellow Page Directories) syndicate their content, so listing with them will get you a lot of exposure across numerous sites.

Be sure to include your website URL in your listing.  This link to your website from the local listing in the IYPs will help establish your website’s Local Search importance.

The category you’re listed under is perhaps the most effective way to tell the local search engines what your site is about. Mis-categorized listings make it very hard to rank your products and services.

If your business fits under multiple categories, most local search listing centers have custom fields where you can list those additional categories. So list yourself under the primary category your business is relevant to, then list the other services your business provides in the custom fields. Only include services you actually provide, however, and don’t use these fields for keyword stuffing.

Only list your business in the city in which it is located. Listing your business in several surrounding cities is considered SPAM and the search engines will devalue your listing.

Don’t worry about purchasing an expensive listing in the IYPs.  It’s possible to blow hundreds and even thousands of dollars on these listings with little to show for it.

Also remember that many IYPs will try to sell what they call search marketing services. In general, their sales people are stumped by the simplest SEO questions, so avoid these services, as the return is rarely worth the investment.

Online Maps

These are becoming more and more important to Local Search and their value may soon pass Yellow Page Directories.  Fortunately, claiming your business’ listing in Google Maps is pretty easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are already in Google Maps or not. Simply go to www.maps.google.com and enter your company’s information. If you are already in, Google will find your existing listing and give you the opportunity to claim it.  If it is not listed fill out the form and submit it. Next you need to verify that you really do represent the business by either having Google call you with a special PIN number, or having Google send a postcard to your business with the PIN number.

If you are verifying by phone, be sure that you have access to the same phone number that is in your Google Maps listing. If you are in a new development and Google doesn’t recognize your street address use the post card to verify your listing, proving the address does exist.  This process takes only a few minutes and is actually pretty easy.

Once you have verified your listing, add all the information about your business including your website URL.  The more information about your store the greater the chances it will come up in a search result list.  Include all the products and services you carry.  If you don’t list a product or service, Google will not know to list you when someone searches for it.

Customer Review Websites

Having customers review your store on websites such as Yelp.com or directly in Google Maps is an important element in Local Search Marketing.  The more reviews you have the better your chance of receiving higher listings.

Do not worry about bad reviews.  If you receive a bad review add your comments to it including your side of the story and how you resolved it.  Also remember that Google looks at the number of reviews, not the rating or content of the review.  There are numerous reports of companies that tried to do a smear campaign against one of their competitors by posting bad reviews on all the different review websites.  The only thing they accomplished was to drive their competitor’s website to the top of Google search listings.

If a customer reviews your store on Yelp and is an inactive user, their review may become suppressed.  A suppressed review is still on the website, it just doesn’t show up when a person views your listing.  The important thing to remember is the review is still on Yelp’s website and Google sees it and gives you credit for it.

Some thing you can do that might help to keep the reviews showing up are:

  • Find someone who is active on Yelp to comment on the review (or comment yourself).
  • Link to the review in your Blog, and other places around the Internet.
  • Share the review on Facebook, Twitter, etc. by clicking on the buttons to do so at the bottom of the review.
  • Bookmark the review on Social Bookmarking websites.

Every brick-n-mortar retail or service business will need to have an Online Local Search presence, similar to the way a phone book listing has been essential in the past.  These steps will greatly improve your chances of getting listed and ranking well in the major local search engines. Then it is just a matter of keeping your listing accurate and up-to-date. Doing so will help to ensure that the major local search players have your latest information, and that there is no conflict between the information they are pulling from the various directories.

For more information on marketing your jewelry store on the Internet, getting higher search engine rankings, or using the Internet to keep in touch with your existing customers visit www.Internet4Jewelers.com You can follow Brad on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenchJeweler.

Internet Marketing Strategies Facebook: the new ‘Face’ of business marketing Part 2

Facebook Pages are for businesses.  Your customers and potential customers can then become “Fans” of your business page.  Because of this association to the page, Facebook Business Pages are most often referred to as “Fan Pages”.

You can have as many Business Pages as you want.  You can (and should) set-up Business Pages for any and all business activities and/or products of your store.  You should first set-up a main Facebook Page for your store using your store name.  Then over time start making additional Facebook Pages on all aspects of your business.  For example you could make a page for jewelry repairs, custom designed jewelry, appraisal services, diamonds, gemstones, engagement and wedding rings, different lines of jewelry and watches you carry, etc.

Internet Marketing Strategies Facebook: The new ‘Face’ of business marketing part 1

It's been said that if you are being chased by a bear in the woods you don't have to be able to out run the bear. You only have to out run the person next to you. The same is true with business during a down economy. To be successful your business doesn't have to out run a Bear Market, just your competition!

Today many retail jewelers are finding Internet Marketing a great way to stay ahead of the competition. It is highly-effective, low-cost advertising, and the field is wide open when compared to other marketing media. There are relatively few retail jewelers taking advantage of Internet Marketing.

Facebook is a prime example of this. Few retail jewelers have begun using Facebook, and of those who have, very few of them are using it to maximize the customer prospecting, and advertising features that Facebook offers.

Facebook was started in 2004 out of Harvard University as a way for classmates to keep in contact after graduation. In 2007 Facebook opened up to the general public rather than just college graduates.

Currently Facebook has 225 million registered users and is predicted to reach 500 million before 2011. It is the largest Social Networking website and the fourth most trafficked website in the world. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 30 years and up and the average age is 35.

Because of it's Ivy League beginnings Facebook users tend to be a bit more educated and certainly a little more mature than other social networking websites and the Internet in general. The median income is also higher among Facebook members than other social networks. What this means is Facebook members have money!

Facebook has 3 main components. Each one is used differently and all three can benefit your business. They are Profiles, Pages, and Groups.

Profiles
Facebook profiles are for individuals, and therefore called ‘Personal Profiles'. You need to set-up a profile to begin using Facebook. Each person can only have one profile and it must be in your personal name (don't use your business name to create your Facebook profile).

Pages
Facebook Pages are for businesses. You can set-up Business Pages for any and all business and business activities. You can have as many Business Pages as you want. Your customers and potential customers can then become ‘Fans' of your business page. Because of this association to the Page, Facebook Business Pages are most often referred to as ‘Fan Pages'.

Groups
Facebook Groups are for just about anything you can think of, provided it is not the common taboos such as hate, pornography, etc. Facebook Interest Groups are a great place to meet people who have common interests with you and to join in on discussions concerning that topic.

This month we cover your Facebook Profile. Over the next few months we will look at other aspects of Facebook.

Creating Your Profile
Go to www.Facebook.com and enter your information and click ‘Sign-Up'. If you already have a facebook account log in to your account and click on the ‘Profile' tab. Be sure you include information about who you are and what you do in your Facebook Profile.

As mentioned before Facebook profiles are for people and you must use your real name or you are in violation of the Terms of Use. If you own Jones Jewelry and you set up your profile with a first name of Jones and a last name of Jewelry don't be surprised if you try to log onto Facebook one day and find your account deleted. All your friends will be lost and all your posts will be removed. It's not worth the risk. There are so many ways within the rules of Facebook to publicize your business, it's a foolish risk to take using your business name as a personal profile. If you already have an account set-up using your business name you can log into your account and edit your name in the account settings.

User Name
Your profile page on Facebook will be assigned a URL (webpage address) that begins with www.facebook.com/ followed by a long string of meaningless numbers and letters. This makes it very difficult to tell anyone to visit your profile page. Beginning in June 2009 Facebook has allowed users to select a user name. Your URL then becomes www.Facebook.com/YourUserName. To claim your user name go to http://www.facebook.com/username.

You want to select your real name as your user name if it is available. If you have a common name and it is no longer available then choose a user name with keywords appropriate to your business. For example if you own a jewelry store in Atlanta and your name is not available then you may want to choose something like AtlantaJeweler for your user name.

Always choose your real name if it is available. This will go a long way to helping your Online Reputation Management. Other keywords can be chosen to name pages you create, but this is your one chance to get your personal name.

Profile Picture
Make certain to up load a picture. It's called ‘Facebook' for a reason. People want to see your smiling face. Your personal profile picture is not the place to put pictures of your jewelry, logo, symbol, or anything other than a professional looking picture of you. You can, of course, up load all these other pictures to your profile page (and you should), but you want a picture of you chosen as your profile picture.

Website Links
In the ‘Contact Information' be certain to include a link to your website, and encourage all your employees to include a link to the store's website in their profile. You can include links to 10 different websites, so be sure to include a link to your blog as well as any other webpages you have. Facebook is a PR9 (page rank 9) website. These are extremely valuable links that you want to take advantage of and get as many as possible (one from each person connected with your store).

Special Note to Men
Men need to be careful on social networking websites when trying to network with women, as is the case with jewelers as most of our customers are women. You don't want to come across as a stalker. Adding family info to your bio such as "Happily married with 4 children" goes a long way to helping with this issue.

Making Friends
In Facebook your connections with other people are called Friends. You can invite other people on Facebook to become your friend, but they have to accept your invitation before you are friends with them. Currently Facebook limits you to 5,000 friends. They have announced plans to remove that limit, but as of now there doesn't seem to be any progress towards it.
Add a link to your website, blogs, and e-mail signature file inviting people to become your Facebook Friend. Add the link to your business cards as well and any brochures and pamphlets you have. The more customers and prospects you have as friends the easier it will become to promote your business through Facebook.

Accept All Invitations
To Become Friends

It amazes me how many business people on Facebook ignore (delete) requests to become friends. That's the equivalent of going to all the trouble and expense of opening a new store and then locking the door and not letting any customers in. How foolish!

Now I understand that some people want to use Facebook to communicate with family and don't want the world to see those posts, and that's fine. But don't give up the tremendous opportunities to build your business with Facebook. As you make friends you can create different ‘Lists' to categorize your friends. You can have a list for Family, Closest Friends, and Business Contacts. You could divide your business contacts into Suppliers, Customers, and Prospects, or however you want to set it up. When you make a post of any kind you can choose who you want to see it, and who it will be hidden from.

If at any time in the future you find you have someone as a friend that for whatever reason you no longer want to be friends with, you can delete them as friends. Facebook will silently remove them from your friends list. The person you removed will NOT get any type of notice that you removed them as a friend, and no mention of it will appear on your wall.

To begin making friends, Facebook has a feature where you can automatically invite everyone in your e-mail program contact list. Facebook will send an e-mail to everyone in your contact list inviting them to become your friend. If they are not a member of Facebook they will receive a link to sign-up and once they have created their account they can accept your friend invitation.

Once you have some friends you can go to your friend's profile and look through all their friends and invite anyone you know to become your friend as well. Another helpful feature to make friends is ‘Friend Suggestions'. Facebook will look through all the friends of your friends, and if they find anyone who is a friend of more than one of your friends they will suggest that you may know them as well and you can send them an invitation.

Don't Invite More Than
20 Friends A Day

You can accept an unlimited number of friend requests, it's only outgoing invitations that appear to be regulated. If you invite too many people to become your friend too quickly Facebook will consider you a spammer and WILL delete your account. Build friends slowly, but constantly. Every day or at least every couple of days you should log into your Facebook account, accept any friend requests, and send out 20 or so invites to people you know to become your friend.

One good way to develop a following on Facebook from people who are in your geographical area who would be potential customers is to do a search on Facebook for your city name and state either by itself or with terms such as ‘shopping' or ‘businesses' and see what comes up. Many times there are groups on Facebook for your geographical area. Visit the group's Facebook page and read what they have to say. See if there are any discussions going on (one great advantage of a Facebook Group is the on-going discussions). Join in the discussions or start a new one.

At the group's page you can view all the members. Look through the members and if you see anyone you know you can invite them to be your friend. It is also acceptable to invite people to be your friend if you don't know them when you have a common interest. Because you are both members of the group gives you something in common.

If you don't want to be that aggressive in asking them to be your friend, you can still develop a large following just by participating in the discussions and getting to know more people in your area. It's like being at a cocktail party and networking with the guests.

Next month we will look at Facebook Business Pages and how easy it is to create traffic to your website through them. In the mean time if you want to become my Facebook Friend log onto www.Facebook.com/BenchJeweler



Brad and Debbie Simon are owners of Internet 4 Jewelers. If you need a website or need help with your Internet Marketing go to: http://www.Internet4Jewelers.com.

Internet Marketing Strategies: Online video ads

During the past 18 months nothing has received better results in Google for us than Online Video Ads. We have seen some of our videos get in the top 10 Google search within hours of posting them. We have also seen our videos receive 5 or 6 of the top 10 listings, dominating a search term.

Google has recently changed how they are listing videos, so you will not see results like this anymore, however Online Video Ads remain one of the easiest and quickest methods to get top results in Google.

Internet Marketing Strategies: The world is all a-Twitter

Twitter, www.twitter.com, is one of the hottest social networks on the Internet. For businesses, Twitter is word-of-mouth advertising on steroids. Its power is unprecedented, but knowing how to use it for business is not necessarily obvious.

I've known about and followed Twitter for some time now and set-up my profile last fall. However, I haven't spent much time on it until just recently. Twitter has now reached the place were business people can no longer ignore it.

Worldwide, traffic to Twitter.com reached 10 million visitors in February 2009, up an amazing 700% from the same time last year. Until late last year, it was regarded as sort of a cool consumer novelty with no real business application. What you may not know though is that Twitter can really help businesses get closer to consumers and yes, even sell more products and services.

Twitter is a constant stream of communication. It allows you to post updates (called Tweets) as often as you want. When you follow other people on Twitter, you see their tweets. When they follow you, they see your tweets.

Setting Up Your Profile
When you first join Twitter you need to set-up a user name. This user name will display on all the tweets you make. Your user name is also how people will find you and relate to you. If at a later time you want to change your user name you can. Everyone following you will still be connected to you and you will not loose any information you have on your account.

It is BEST to use your real name for your user name. However with over 10 million users that may already be taken. When I signed up last fall BradSimon was already taken so I chose the user name BenchJeweler.

In order to fill out your profile, what you want to do is go under ‘Settings' and identify some attributes like your real name, your location, your website address and your biography. Be certain to fill them all out. You location and website (limited to just 1) will help potential customers find you and your biography will help them get to know you better.

Because you are a person communicating with other people on Twitter, you should add something personal in there like "a mom" or "a dad" or "father of three." Those kinds of things actually add a little more personableness to your biography. You do have to keep your biography fairly short. You are limited to 160 characters. Mine is:

I'm a Master Bench Jeweler and owner of Bench Media, LLC and Internet 4 Jewelers. My wife Debbie & I have 2 sons and 2 grandchildren.

You also want to have a recent photograph of yourself. This helps people see you as a real person and helps them get to know you better.

To add a picture click on the ‘Picture' tab in the settings. Then click on ‘Browse' and search through your hard drive and select the picture you want to use. Click ‘Save' and that's it.

140 Characters
One of the first things you will notice about Twitter is your tweet can only be 140 characters long. This is one of the biggest reasons that kept me from becoming more involved with Twitter sooner. How in the world can you say anything in 140 characters or less? That's only 15 to 20 words - a mere sentence (for me even less than a sentence).

Here are some tips for creating your tweets:

First and foremost, be aware that Twitter is a communication tool. It's not a broadcast platform. Remember that you're writing to engage, to entice, to interact with people just like you would face to face. It's important to be a good conversationalist. How? Ask questions, solicit advice, educate, share interesting articles or links, have a sense of humor, connect with others on a personal as well as on a business level.

Keep your tweets simple. Don't try to cram too many ideas into a simple tweet. Use keywords when appropriate. It will make your tweet searchable later.

Next, link directly. If you share a news link or a how-to link, link directly to the page that you're referencing. Don't try to juice up your page views by linking to the home page and then directing traffic from there.

Be thoughtful. Just like in real life, people appreciate someone who takes a little time and is thoughtful with their conversation. Consider who your audience is and speak to their needs directly.

Two Methods to Using Twitter

Micro-Blog - Twitter is a micro-blog platform where you can post (tweet) information of interest to those who follow you. You can use Twitter as you would any other Blog. At 140 characters you're limited to how much you can write. Most often it's best to tweet about an article or blog post you read and like, and include a link to it. Write a short sentence explaining why you liked it or why you think those following you will like or benefit from it and include a link to the additional information.

This is a great way to get a conversation started. Be certain to watch your tweet for anyone commenting on it so that you can follow-up with additional tweets to continue the conversation (and supply even more information).

Joining Existing Conversations - Imagine being at a cocktail party with 10 million other people. Everyone is standing around carrying on a conversation with those around them. You have the power to listen in on what all 10 million people are saying and can walk over and join in any conversation you want to.

That's what Twitter is!

There are over 10 million people a month carrying on conversations on Twitter. When you are logged in to your account you will see a search box on the right side of your screen. You can type in any topic in this search box and see all of the conversation currently going on about that subject. You can then easily follow along the conversation and join in.

Do a search for engagement rings and you just might find a guy looking for advice on buying a ring for his girlfriend. Offer the advice he's seeking and you just might gain a new customer for life.

A search for watches might find someone looking for people's opinion on what watch brand is better. You could offer your opinion and link to a page on your website that informs them about that watch brand.

Search for your city name or topic related to your geographic area. You'll find potential customers in your area for you to follow and start networking with building a relationship.

Jumping in with a sales pitch is not only inappropriate, it will turn potential customers off and do more harm than good.

Twitter is for networking NOT sales pitches! Join conversations on Twitter the same way you would join a conversation in person at a party of other social function. Build relationships and answer questions. As they get to know you they will find your store & website through your profile. And if someone else brings up the subject you can direct them to your website for help.

Helpful Twitter Tools

TweetLater www.tweetlater.com - This powerful service allows you to schedule tweets. You can sit down one evening while watching TV and create your tweets for the next several weeks and schedule them to automatically post to Twitter when you want them to appear.

There's an Auto Welcome option that automatically sends a welcome message to new followers. It looks like you sat down and wrote to them, giving you a very personal touch. The message should not be a promotional message about you or your product, but just a "Thanks for following me" type message. Another very powerful feature with TweetLater is the ability to receive e-mail digests of keyword activity on Twitter. This allows you to join a conversation or track topics and trends.

Ping www.ping.fm - If you have accounts with many services, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, this amazing site allows you to post updates across ALL of your social media sites in one single step.

Twitter for Facebook www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=2231777543 - If you are on Facebook, this application forwards your Twitter updates directly to Facebook as status updates.


For more information on marketing your jewelry store on the Internet, getting higher search engine rankings, or using the Internet to keep in touch with your existing customers visit www.Internet4Jewelers.com You can follow Brad on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenchJeweler.

Internet Marketing Strategies: Your Google Profile

Those who follow this column know I'm all for using Social Media websites to market your jewelry store. However, I don't jump on every Social Media website that comes along. In fact, I generally advise you to take your time and don't join a particular website until it's obviously successful and everyone else is doing it.
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