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    Optimizing Your Web Presence for the Zero Moment of Truth

    Last updated 1 year ago

    When it comes to marketing your business, it’s important to understand how consumers make buying decisions. For many businesses, information was only available when a customer chose a product off the shelf, and became known as the First Moment of Truth, or FMOT. However, today’s consumers make purchase decisions long before they ever visit a store or contact a business. With smartphones in the pockets of more than 50% of Americans, and tablet use growing faster than ever, the Internet has become the primary source of discovery and research for many consumers. Because of this, there is a different type of “Moment of Truth” happening. Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT.

    Defining the Zero Moment of Truth

    Today, there is a process that happens between the decision to buy and the First Moment of Truth in which the consumer conducts research that’s imperative to making a purchase. According to Jim Lecinski, Chief ZMOT Evangelist at Google, once consumers decide to purchase, their next step is to research their future purchase. So they check out brands’ reputations and reviews online, comparison shop for the best prices and features, look for coupons and specials, and ask for recommendations. This moment begins as soon as consumers open their smartphones, tablets, or computers and start searching across the Web to see which businesses or products are able to meet their needs, whether they are looking for an emergency plumber or a new car.

    Why Traditional Advertising Isn’t Enough

    There are many ways your business can capitalize on a consumer’s ZMOT. It’s no longer enough to simply place your brand in front of consumers through TV and magazine ads and hope they remember your product or service when they are ready to buy.

    Today, your brand needs to be in front of consumers when they are already in the process of making a purchasing decision – and it starts with an optimized Web presence. No matter where consumers turn to learn about your brand or the products or services you offer, from search engines and local directories to review sites and social media, winning over consumers takes a fresh, active, and compelling presence across all the places consumers look. 

    How to Evaluate and Optimize Your Web Presence

    To evaluate your Web presence, start by conducting searches for your brand name, your brand name + reviews, and your top products or services in your local area. For instance, if you’re a local plumber in Dallas, TX, your search terms could look like this:

    • Reliable Plumbing
    • Reliable Plumbing Reviews
    • Emergency Plumbing Dallas

    Once you see what pages that show up in the search results, as well as the content that appears on those pages, you can see where your Web presence needs work so you can begin to improve it. Some of the key places you should focus on (depending on your industry) include:

    Because your potential customers are influenced by potentially hundreds of pieces of content across dozens of sites, you need to identify your target consumer so you can determine the best ways to market to them online. To learn more about consumer buying behavior and the Zero Moment of Truth, download our ebook How Consumers Buy Today.

    What do you think the Zero Moment of Truth means for your business? How are you winning customers online?

    About the Author

    Ashley Stalnaker is an experienced Web Presence Professional at ReachLocal who works closely with small-to-medium sized businesses to enhance their Web presence and search discoverability.

    Play Your Way to Creative Content Ideas

    Last updated 1 year ago

    When you’re managing content marketing for your business, it can be easy to get stuck into a rut, or worse yet, to face total writer’s block. When it comes to generating fresh, creative ideas for your consumers, headlines are key to grabbing their interest so they click, share, and take action on your content.

    One way to kickstart your content marketing is by playing a brainstorming game. Not only is this a fun, creative exercise, but it’s also a great way to add life to your content. Whether you’re writing a blog post, creating a video, or writing something more in-depth like a whitepaper or ebook, you can start by writing headlines and then outline the flow of your content. Here are three engaging headline-writing games that can help you get more from your content planning.

    Force Yourself Out of a Rut with Headline Bingo

    Forced association headline writing can help you break out of a rut by adding new concepts, words, and metaphors into your content. To play Headline Bingo, you’ll need a set of common topics or terms your content uses, a set of random or off-the-wall words that don’t typically make it into your content, a set of numbers or superlatives, and a set of headline power words. Then, plug these word sets into a free online Bingo card generator. Print out your Bingo cards and, if you have more than one person creating content, give one to each team member. Then, use the different Bingo card combinations to create 5-10 forced-association headlines including one word from each line of their Bingo combination. The results may be humorous, awkward, or inspired. Select a few of these headlines, adjust them as needed to best fit your needs, and start coming up with content!

    Get the Picture with Stock Photo Headlines

    Instead of starting your content ideas with words, use images as a different path to get to content ideas. To play this game, you’ll need to print pages featuring a few samples of stock photographs that are visually compelling but wouldn’t normally make it onto your blog. For example, earlier this year, one of my team members got a cute photo of cupcakes – not something we typically write about on our online marketing blog. But, it sparked the idea of writing a post about how to diversify your online marketing strategy. The bonus of this game is that it automatically provides a great visual to go along with your content.

    Parody the Pros with Magazine Headlines

    Professional magazine headline writers get paid the big bucks to make sure consumers are judging their magazine by the cover and selecting their title from the impulse counter. So, why not get inspiration from your favorite magazine? To play this game, you’ll need several magazine covers (pro tip: if you don’t have any lying around, you can always do a Google image search for the latest covers of your favorite publications) and a stopwatch. Select a random magazine cover and take 10 minutes to re-write as many headlines as possible to fit the topics your content focuses on. 

    If you have a team of content generators, you can end each game with everyone reading their headlines to the group, then offering suggestions or ideas to make the best ideas work for your business.

    What are your favorite tips for keeping your content creative and engaging? What tricks do you have for making sure that your readers stay engaged and interested in the same types of topics time and time again? Share your creative content marketing ideas in a comment!

    About the Author

    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the web as a blogger for ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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    Optimizing Your Google+ Local Page for the Google Map App

    Last updated 1 year ago

    After a brief hiatus from the latest version of the iPhone operating system, the Google Map app is back in action for iPhone users. It’s wildly popular, with more than 10 million downloads just within the first 48 hours of its release. This new launch means that more consumers than ever are using Google Maps on their mobile device to find businesses in their area while on the go. For local business owners, it is now more important than ever to optimize your Google+ Local. That’s because the information on your Google+ Local listing is what populates your business information on Google Maps. With that in mind, here are a few things you need to know about the latest version of the Google Maps mobile app:

    Reviews & Ratings Are Prominent

    When a consumer searches for a specific business using the Google Maps app, the high-level view of the business displays a limited amount of information, including the business name along with their Zagat rating and the number of reviews the business has received on their Google+ Local listing. This means managing your reputation on Google+ Local is more important than ever, because the rating and number of reviews conveys something important about your business – even if the consumer never reads the reviews themselves. So, focus on building a positive reputation on Google+ Local by asking happy customers to leave you reviews there. Learn more about reputation management.

    Business Information is Tied to Your Google+ Local Listing

    After a consumer finds your business on Google Maps, they can scroll down to view more of your listing information beyond the reviews and rating. Here’s some of what they’ll see in this expanded view.

    • Business Category – Google Maps displays the primary business category if there is more than one. Your business catehory is something Google decides and cannot be changed at this time.
    • Hours of Operation – The app only shows business hours for the particular day a consumer views your location, so it’s imperative to keep daily hours as up to date as possible on your Google+ Local page.
    • Address – Google Maps app pulls the address from your Google+ Local listing to display in map results. It’s critical to make sure that your address is listed correctly so that you show up properly in Google Map results.
    • Calls To Action – The Google Maps app now provides the option for consumers to save the listing, share the listing via mail or text message, and mostly importantly, call the business directly from the app. Google Maps does not display the number itself on the app, instead, if displays a prominent “call” icon that prompts the user to call the number associated with the business Google+ local page. So, make sure your number is correct on your Google+ local page.
    • Street View Photo – Your Street View photo is provided by Google and cannot be changed.
    • Photos Uploaded by Users – Google Maps pulls in photos users have uploaded to your business’ Google+ Local page. To ensure you have great photos here, you can upload photos to your listing using your personal Google+ account and ask a few happy customers to post their photos taken at your business or place a signage in store that encourages visitors to snap a photo and upload it to Google.
    • Link to Your Business Website – A link to your business website is also provided. This is a great reason to make sure your website is mobile friendly, because Google Maps enables consumers to navigate your website directly from the app.
    • Reviews – The Google Maps app displays the first eight reviews on your Google+ Local page, and then link to the remaining. It shows the reviews from newest to oldest, so if you have any negative reviews on your page, asking customers for positive reviews will help more positive reviews show up first on your listing.

    Optimization Is Critical 

    Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure you have claimed and optimized your Google+ Local page. Not only does this information directly relate to how local consumers will find your business on search, it is also integrated directly into the Google Maps experience.

    Learn how to claim and optimize your Google+ Local page in our free ebook: Your Guide to Google+ Local.

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    About the Author?
    Lindsay Paramore
    writes about online marketing and branding for business owners. She works as a Web Presence Professional for ReachLocal. 

    Facebook Graph Search Optimization: 3 Tips for Small Businesses

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Facebook recently announced a new feature called Graph Search. With Facebook Graph Search, users will be able to search for a variety of topics directly from their Facebook profile, such as friends who have certain interests, people who graduated from the same school, or businesses that people have used and liked.

    So, what exactly does this mean for your local business? According to Nielsen’s “State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012,” 70% of consumers use social media to learn about other consumers' experiences, and 65% of consumers have used social media sites to learn more about products or services. In short, consumers are making purchasing decisions based on social media. Now, Facebook Graph Search will give consumers even more personalized information that could affect their purchase decisions, which means that being visible when consumers use Facebook Graph Search will become even more critical to getting new customers. That’s where Facebook Graph Search optimization comes in.

    So, here are three tips small businesses can use to optimize a Facebook page for Graph Search. 

    Optimize Your Facebook Page Categories

    Facebook gives you the option to categorize your business so that consumers can easily identify what type of business you are and what types of services and products you offer. With Facebook Graph Search, it’s even more important than ever to make sure you have the appropriate category selected for your business, because this category is how Facebook will know whether or not to show your page when a consumer conducts a business category-related search.

    For example, a search for "Italian restaurants my friends like" will display Facebook pages that are categorized as Italian restaurants. Currently, there are a couple of options for optimizing your business categories on Facebook.

    1) Categorize Your Page with Facebook Place Topics

    Some Facebook pages have the ability to add “Place Topics” to share more information about your business offerings or services. This function isn’t available for all business pages yet, but if you see “Add Your Place Topics” listed on your login view of your Facebook page above your business information, you can add them. If you have this feature, select the three most important categories for your business to help optimize your page for Facebook Graph Search results. Use these step-by-step- instructions on how to add your Facebook Place Topics.

    2) Update Your Category and Subcategory in Your Basic Information

    Whether or not Place Topics are available for your business, you should double-check that you have selected the appropriate category and subcategory of your Page to provide more specific, relevant information about your business. It’s important to optimize your category to best represent your business type so you’ll show up in relevant searches. You can do this by clicking on “Edit Page” on the top of your Admin Panel and selecting “Update Info” from the dropdown menu. This will take you to a page where you can edit your “Basic Information,” including your category and group. The options in the “Category” and additional group dropdown menus are not as detailed as the information you can provide using Place Topics, but they are still a great starting point for defining your business type.  

    Check Your Profile Information for Accuracy

    It’s critical for your business' information on Facebook to be accurate and up to date for Facebook Graph Search optimization, because location plays a large factor in how consumers search for local businesses. For example, a search for “Italian restaurants nearby my friends have been to” will pull results of businesses located in your current area. So, listing your accurate physical address will help consumers searching nearby find your actual location.

    Also, if your business has multiple locations, now is a great time to consider claiming and setting up a Facebook for Business page for each of them and adding relevant information like each location's hours of operation. That way, consumers can find individual locations in Facebook Graph Search results, rather than just your brand or main location page. 

    Build a Strong Social Presence With Quality Fans

    The more your fans interact with your business on Facebook by liking, commenting on, and sharing your posts, the higher your EdgeRank score will become. And the higher your score, the more likely you are to show up in your fans' news feeds. Although not confirmed how EdgeRank will influence Graph Search results, we can only assume that Facebook will apply this same ranking feature to display results. This means that building a great fan base of consumers who have had great experiences with your business is more important now than ever. One simple way to boost your social media engagement is by asking your happy customers to “Like” you on Facebook, and from there, posting updates like images, questions, and unique information that your fans will like, comment on, and share.

    Is your business ready for Facebook Graph Search? What are your thoughts on this new feature? Let us know in a comment.

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    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing for the ReachLocal blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.

    New Year, New Ads: Ways to Freshen Your Brand in 2013

    Last updated 1 year ago

    We’re a few weeks into the New Year, and the hustle of the holidays has died down. So what’s next for your online advertising? This is a great time of year for small businesses to refresh their text ads, banner ads, and other areas of their Web presence to make sure potential customers see the latest and greatest about their business. Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure your ads are optimized and up to date for the upcoming sales season.  

    Write New Text Ad Copy

    When was the last time you replaced your text ads? Do they still feature your holiday deals? Could they use a refresh? It only takes a few minutes to review your ad copy and write text ads that improve your online advertising. Try adding new combinations of business keywords that you are trying to rank for, or testing out different calls to action. If you’re using basic ad copy, consider using some advanced text ad strategies, like creating a new ad group for a product or service you offer or using dynamic keywords to get more clicks from people looking for specific products or services.

    Bring New Life to Your Banner Ads

    If you are running a retargeting or display advertising campaign, take a look at the banner ads you’re currently using to drive brand awareness.  Not only should you review these online ads to make sure your business name and logo are prominently featured, but also take this opportunity to update design elements like colors, fonts, and copy so your ads will stand out on a busy Web page. If you are using static ads, consider having new ones made that utilize Flash animation to draw more attention and provide more space for your brand message.  And, because a call to action is an important element for driving clicks from a banner ad, make sure your copy is short and direct and that you use a bold button that asks viewers to click. 

    Optimize Your Landing Pages for Conversions

    Your landing page is a key part of your online advertising. And since 43% of consumers think contact information is the most important component of to a local business website, it’s vital that landing page elements like your phone number and a contact form are highly visible on the page they land on. Verify that if your online ads mention any offers or promotions, that you also highlight them on your landing page so that consumers can easily make the connection between your ads and your site, thus encouraging them to convert. If you have the resources, creating a specific landing page for each of your online ads will not only help you increase conversions, but will also enable you to more effectively track the source of the lead.

    Track Your Offline Advertising

    We understand that traditional advertising like radio, television, and billboards are still important to a local business’ marketing mix. But, do you know how well those ads are performing? Start out the New Year by adding a call tracking number to your offline ads so you can measure your results and really know how well they’re working.  Plus, many call tracking technologies let you record calls, which provides insights into your online advertising, product or service offerings, or customer service that can help you improve your entire business.

    What advertising updates are you making this year? And on a related note, what are you doing to make sure the rest of your Web presence reach is as shiny as your ads?

    About the Author

    Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media, and content marketing as a writer for the ReachLocal blog.

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