Best Use Of Foursquare I’ve Ever Seen

This is basically genius. I’d love to see other innovative uses of Foursquare like this:

Foursquare’s Remarkable Remarketing Button

Foursquare has just added a nifty new feature that’s a must-have for any local business that tries to be smart about its advertising: The “Add to My Foursquare” button.

This button makes it very easy for website visitors to become actual store visitors. I’m looking at it as a sort of opt-in geospecific remarketing campaign. Did you follow that? Allow me to explain.

The average website visitor checks out your website, may or may not be interested, and even if she is interested, may or may not actually pay you a visit. With the average campaign conversion rate in the single digits these days, the sad reality is that even an engaged user has a better than average chance of totally forgetting about you as soon as she clicks away from your site.

Remarketing is marketing to site visitors who have already left. Google now allows you to target them with ads that follow them around on the content network until they return to your site and convert into a sale. These campaigns usually have incredibly high conversion rates, but they’re pay per click, and only really relevant to online-only businesses with a clear conversion process (like a shopping cart).

Enter the Foursquare button. A simple click, and your business is saved in her To-Do list. The next time she checks in at that hair salon across the street from you, she’ll get a pop-up on her phone reminding her that she wanted to check out your all natural fruit smoothie bar. And as long as she’s in the area, why not?

Bottom Line: Installing this button is a no-brainer for any retail location with an online presence. Expect a high conversion rate from anyone who clicks this button.

Note to Foursquare: How about some analytics to go with this button? I’d love to see some data tracking on who clicked the button, and how long it takes for them to actually come visit the location.

Using Google Local For Reputation Management

Reputation Management is the next big thing in the SEO world. If you’re an individual, you want to “own” all ten spots on the SERP for your name. If you’re a company, you want to own all ten spots for your brand, as well as any specific products or services you provide.

Here’s a neat trick to help you get the #1 spot for a search for your name or brand followed by your city (if you have a name that’s more generic than mine –Menachem Pritzker – people searching for you are likely to qualify their search with a geographic qualifier, John Doe NY, for example). Create a place page for you yourself, or your company (obviously, this is a no brainer for a retail establishment, but my point is that it’s also a useful trick for non-location specific businesses).

Here’s me in Miami (though I don’t live there anymore, I still list my parents’ home as my official US residence).

That's me!

Here’s my wife’s editing business, run out of our home in Jerusalem. Obviously, nobody’s going to search for “Pritzker Editorial Jerusalem” unless they already know who we are, so we won’t get any additional business like this, but it establishes us as a reputable business if anyone checks up on us.

This is her!

New Way to Get On The Map: Sponsored Maps Icons

Google just started rolling out a new feature: Sponsored Maps Icons. In case you don’t know what a map icon is, let alone how to sponsor one, they’re those tiny little points on the map that look like they’re basically part of the map level, not even an overlay. If you click on one, you get the place page. They show up on the map no matter what you’re searching for – or even if you’re not searching for a specific keyword, just generally browsing the map.

HSBC's Sponsored Map Icon

Google is going to be charging for this on a per-impression basis only. I’m sure they’ll find a more quantifiable way to charge for this if they do decide to move on from the test phase. Right now, it’s only available to select advertisers, mostly highly recognizable brands. There also seems to be a focus on the ATM market.

I’ve got two opinions on this. First of all, I don’t think it’s going to be very useful. Either you’re just browsing the map without any search keywords, and you happen across a sponsored map icon you find relevant (which I find highly unlikely, and extremely untargeted), or you’re specifically searching for something (i.e., “Pizza in NY”), Google Maps returns the 10 most relevant results through their algorithm anyways – why click a link that shows up with no ranking factors involved? Not even a Quality Score? It’s just…there, on the map. Which brings me to my second point.

Google may be crossing the line into screwing with their organic rankings. They actually may have already crossed this line with Places Tags. Why should an organic result be able to pay to attract additional attention to their placement? Especially now, with sponsored icons, where the only ranking factor involved seems to be if you’re looking at their region on the map or not.

Am I wrong on this, people?

Don’t Be Fooled By Yelp’s Absence

Much has been said about Yelp’s removal from Google Places as a review/citation source. It’s unfortunate, because Yelp’s review system is unique and assures quality reviews from quality commentators. Google Places offered great exposure for Yelp; people see the reviews, along with a link to the business’s profile page over on Yelp. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of reason for a user to click through to the original review. Also, there’s no real SEO value to the link itself. Yelp’s corporate staff weighed the advantages and disadvantages of allowing Google to repurpose their content and decided against it.

I suspect, however, that Google still recognized Yelp as an incredibly authoritative review source, and just because they don’t appear doesn’t mean they aren’t being considered as a citation and review source, insofar as ranking in the Google Local SERPs is concerned. Don’t neglect your Yelp profile!

Checkin Wars: Claim Your Business!

Big news this week coming from Facebook: Checkins! The checkin wars have officially begun. Google Places will probably have something similar as well. It’s only a matter of time before checkins become a huge factor in local search ranking. Let’s see who comes out ahead, but for now, there’s going to be another required verification stop for any business owner – the list just keeps growing longer…

If you haven’t already, claim your business on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Foursquare, Yelp, and now Facebook.

Radically Different Local SERPs Found In The Wild

Mike Blumenthal has been doing some great work today exploring the different test SERPs layouts that Google is testing out. If you’re just joining the conversation now, here’s what the new layout looks like (Thanks for the screenshots Mike):

New SERPs (maybe)

Basically, what Google is doing here is meshing the organic results with the local results. While Google used to simply stick their 7 most relevant local results at the top, above the 10 organic results, Google is now giving those local listings much more screen real estate, pushing the bottom seven organic results off the page and onto the next page. As many industry watchers are saying, this is bad news for the IYPs.

A few interesting things to notice here: For the first time, Google is actually altering the organic results. If you showed up organically at #1 for “NY plumber,” and you ALSO had a local business result in the top 7, you lose your organic result.

There seem to be a massive amount of paid ads on the page. In one screenshot, I counted 3 on top and eight down the side. I’ve never seen 11 sponsored links on one page before (I’m no expert on this – correct me if I’m wrong here).

Bearing in mind that this is just a test SERPs page, and Google may or may not decide to implement it for the mainstream searchers, it does give us a nice insight as to where Google is headed with Local Search. They definitely seem more confident now in the accuracy of the Google Maps results, and feel that providing business listings from maps is the correct (most relevant) answer to a business+location query.

Cool Trick for Advertising on Your Competitors’ Place Pages

You may have noticed on the center right part of your place page that Google runs some ads. This is a great place for ads – anyone who is looking a plumber’s Place Page, for example, is probably a pretty good potential customer for any other customer. Here’s how you can run ads exactly in that spot.

Great spot for ads!

Go to adwords.google.com, follow the instructions to create a new account (unless you already have an account).

Create a new campaign, for the “networks” setting select Display Network only, and click the setting for “Relevant pages only on the placements and audiences I manage.”

On the next page, when you select managed placements, select ONLY maps.google.com. This will show your ad on your competitors’ Place Pages. Clicks on the Display Network are frequently only 1/2 to 1/3 the price of a Search Network click, but visitors from these pages are usually just as high quality, if not higher. Nice!

Added bonus – besides maps.google.com, experiment with other business directories that serve AdSense ads, like InsiderPages, JudysBook, or something specific to your industry.

Google Throws Solutions at a Wall to See What Sticks

Google’s been catching some criticism over the last year or two for ignoring small business owners concerns and being notoriously hard to reach, particularly over in our little corner of the search-o-sphere, Local Search.

If you need any sort of customer service when it comes to Google Places, try posting to the Google Maps help forums and hope for a good response from somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Good luck resolving any merger issues, and forget about reporting any obvious map spam that you’re competing with. Even the community edits feature it frustrating – users report making changes, and waiting a month for it to take effect, if it ever does. Now there are reports of Google actually verifying every community edit by phone, an annoying and cumbersome process.

In the last couple of weeks Google seems to be making more of an effort. They’re allowing business responses to customer reviews, which is a plus (though why not allow responses to non-Google reviews?).

They just announced a small business blog, which I find long overdue. Until now, the go-to place for Google places related info was the Lat-Long blog, which has always been Google’s hub for all maps related news, and Google Places (or the Local Business Center, as it was known back in the day) definitely fell under that heading. However, any marketing guy or small business owner who went there for information was probably annoyed at it’s techie, aw-shucks, look-at-these-cool-new-features attitude. Too much “Better resolution maps! Cool volcano ash pictures! Bike trail mapping!” and not enough help for small business owners hoping for more visibility online. Hopefully, that’s where the small business blog will come in, which was actually announced on Lat-Long, in between breathless pronouncements about the floods in Pakistan, and new hi-res images of the Sphinx.

Another dart thrown at the SMB dartboard this week is the Tools for Online Success website. I’m still not sure what to make of it yet. It’s a pretty static site with a few helpful videos (though not to anyone who’s not a total Local Search newbie). Perhaps “site,” is too strong a word – it’s more of a glorified YouTube channel. Here’s hoping they get some better and more frequently updated content up there soon. But for now, I’m still recommending GetListed.org as my go to source for do-it-yourself SMB marketers.

This Week in Local Search – August 12, 2010

The brand new Google Small Business blog announced the brand new Tools for Online Success. Yawn. It’s like a corporate, not-as-helpful, trimmed down version of GetListed.org.

Matt McGee shows off a new tool he discovered that organizes all the citations in the 7-Pack for a given keyword+geoterm. Exactly the sort of tool which could have been useful in the Tools for Online Success, but is obviously not going to be there.

Google makes it easier than ever to search from a mobile phone with Gesture Search.

And finally, Google shows how the new click-to-call option on their mobile ads reduced one advertisers cost per acquisition by 30% – numbers that could make or break a small business’s online advertising budget.

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