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    Google's Carousel SERP Update Puts Local Businesses Front and Center

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Google has unveiled a new search engine results page (SERP) layout on desktop search for small businesses in certain verticals. This new “carousel” display features small businesses more prominently on page one of the SERP when a consumer conducts a local search for certain terms on Google using a desktop browser (although the feature has been available on iPad for some time). So, in light of this Google search update, we’re answering a few questions about what the new layout looks like, what types of businesses are impacted at this time, and what the change means for your overall Web presence. 

    What types of businesses will this new update affect?

    This list of businesses on the new Google search results page layout currently includes restaurants, bars, and hotels, but we’ve also seen the new search results for entertainment-focused businesses such as theaters, museums, and art galleries. As Google continues to test the feature, it may add other verticals that could benefit from this new image- and review-intensive layout.

    What does the new search engine results page look like?

    When a local search is conducted in the supported categories, Google displays the results in a horizontal “carousel” at the top of the page. It shows as many results as will fit in the browser window. Each business has its own small carousel result that features a photo, the business name, and rating and reviews information.

    What are some key features of these carousel results I should be aware of?

    Here are some notable features of the new carousel results and what you can do to make sure your business shows up in the best light when consumers search for you:

    • Carousel results are tied to your Google+ Local (map) listing. Your Google Map listing is an easy and free way to help local consumers find you when they search online, even more now with this new update. That’s because local results will show up when consumers search for your business type plus a geographic keyword, like your city or ZIP code. And, these results also show up to consumers who conduct a non-localized keyword search when Google detects local search intent as well as the  location of the search via IP address. So, if you don’t yet have a Google+ Local listing, make sure you take steps to claim or create it so you can compete in this local search space. Then, make sure your page is optimized for search by using your top business keyword. (Pro tip: Get our ebook that walks you through claiming and optimizing your Google+Local listing.)
       
    • Carousel results feature a single image. That means it’s critical that your Google+ Local page contains relevant images that can be pulled into your carousel result listing in order to entice viewers to click on your result in the carousel. According to Google, algorithms decide which photo is displayed, so all your photos should be eye-catching and representative of your business, since you can’t change what’s shown on the search results page. 
       
    • Your carousel result contains your current Zagat rating number, if you have one. This is the rating number listed on your Google+ Local page. It’s important to note that Google recently announced that reviews will return to a 5-star rating system in the new Google Maps, so the way that number appears in the carousel may continue to evolve. Your carousel listing also displays the number of total reviews you have on your business listing. This means you need to make sure you’re managing your reviews on Google+Local by both responding to negative reviews and by asking happy customers to leave you positive reviews there to boost both your overall rating and your number of reviews. 
       
    • Clicks on your carousel result turns into in a branded search. One of the most interesting features of this new local SERP layout is that when the searcher clicks on the business link from its carousel result, Google changes the search box to include a search for the business name and changes the SERP results below the carousel to reflect those results. However, the carousel remains in place so users can browse to other business keyword searches.

      This makes your business Web presence more important than ever – because consumers can easily go from searching a generic local keyword to a specific search for your business name. That means it’s now more important than ever to make sure your content that shows up when consumers search for your business name is relevant, accurate, and positive. So, make sure you’re claiming your social media pages; creating content like blog posts, images, and videos; and monitoring your online reputation on sites like Yelp or Citysearch which can show up in the search results.

      Also, make sure to make note of the search term that Google automatically creates from clicking on your carousel result (in the above example, it includes a business name, business type and location). You will want to incorporate this long-tail keyword into your monitoring and Google alerts as well as your SEO strategy.
       
    • This branded search can display paid ads in addition to organic results. In addition to your organic results, this branded search can also feature one or two paid search ads directly under the carousel listings, so bidding on your business name is the best way to show up above the fold on this page. If you’re not already doing it, chances are your competitors are, as in the example below:

    How is my Carousel position determined?

    There’s no way to know for sure how Google’s algorithm determines a business’ rank in the organic listings. However, just like all of Google’s search rankings, it’s probably safe to say the following factors could play a key role in how well you rank in the map listings:

    As Google continues to update its algorithms and search functionality, local businesses will continue to be affected when it comes to the search engine results page.

    What do you think of this latest change to the Google SERP? How will you update your local listings to make sure your business is front and center when someone searches for your business type? Leave us a comment to let us know what you think! 

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    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.

    The Three Most Important Conversations in Any Business

    Last updated 1 year ago

    As a business owner, you have a lot of conversations with a lot of different people in order to effectively run your business. You talk to your staff about how they engage with people who contact or visit your business. You talk to vendors who supply your business with office supplies. You may even have important discussions with investors about how your business is performing. But as important as these conversations are, there are three essential conversations that go on within any business that matter the most. And if you go radio silent in any of these conversations, you could miss out big time.

    Business to Consumer

    The primary conversation your business has with consumers typically happens online, and it’s often the first time a consumer learns about your business. And like starting any new conversation, it’s essential to introduce yourself, bring your best to the table, and leave a great impression. So what does this conversation include? It can be anything from your text ads and display ads to your blog copy, website, social media pages, and local directory listings – basically any content that tells consumers who you are and what you have to offer. And, once you’ve gotten a consumer to engage with you from these mediums, you can continue to reach out to them with additional “conversations” like email marketing and follow-up calls that help them turn into a customer.

    Why It Matters: Unless you’re you are able to communicate with consumers through some sixth sense, making all of your messages in your online marketing consistent, complete, and accurate is the only way to effectively tell consumers what you offer and why they should do business with you. Demonstrating your unique value and benefits is critical to separating your business from the competition. And while it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember adding key information like your business phone number and clear call to action on your ads and website so that you keep the conversation going.

    How To Kill the Conversation:

    • “I don’t have time to focus on my website.”
    • “A call to action on my online ads? Nah.”
    • “I don’t need a business blog.”
    • “I’m not making videos because they’re too expensive.” 

    Consumer to Business

    This next conversation establishes the first receptive connection between potential customers and your business. Consumers who are taking the time to engage in a conversation with your business often do so because they are interested in doing business with you, setting up the opportunity for you to earn an valuable lead. This conversation takes place anywhere consumers contact you, from comments on review sites and posts on social media pages to Web forms, emails, and phone calls from your website.

    Why it matters: Making it to the consumer-to-business conversation is kind of like making it to the second date of a new relationship. There’s intrigue and a little bit of healthy skepticism, but overall there’s a willingness to trust someone new. And as trust is a great foundation for any type of relationship, failing to take action when a consumer engages in a conversation with you can set you back on their list of companies they trust with their time and money. So, it’s important to be ready when a customer engages with your business by having a plan in place to monitor consumer engagements with your business and to effectively & quickly respond.  

    How To Kill the Conversation:

    • “I don’t have time to listen to my voicemails.”
    • “I don’t really need to monitor comments on my social media pages.”
    • “I respond to emails whenever I get around to it.”
    • “I’m busy. So, of course I don’t know how my staff answers every phone call.” 

    Consumer to Consumer

    This last conversation is one of the most important conversations, yet the most difficult to manage because your business isn’t necessarily involved in it. The consumer-to-consumer conversation can take place anywhere online, from review sites to social media pages to blogs, and also offline by word of mouth. While you may not be the conversation starter or recipient, conversations are still happening about your business, and you should be aware of what is being said and know how to respond, both online and offline.  

    Why it Matters: Approximately 90% of consumers who have read positive online reviews were influenced to buy. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Think about it. When you have to make a purchasing decision, be it personal or for your business, how do you go about making it? For instance, you may read reviews on sites like Google+ Local or Yelp or turn to social media to see what types of comments people are posting about a brand you’re considering.

    As a business owner, you need make sure that what consumers read online about your business is positive, even if you don’t start or control the conversation. You should do this by frequently monitoring review sites, social sites, and search engine results pages for comments about you, then take steps to respond to negative comments or reviews, encourage positive reviews and recommendations from loyal, happy customers, and provide excellent service that keeps all conversations about your business in the green.

    How to Kill the Conversation:

    • “Nobody will see those 1-star reviews about my business.”
    • “I don’t know what people are saying about me online, and it doesn’t matter.”
    • “The 90% of people who have a problem with my customer service are wrong.”
    • “I’ll just delete the negative comments about my business on my Facebook page.”

    How do you manage each of these conversations in and about your business? Let us know in the comments!

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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.

    Surviving an Online Crisis: Tips to Prevent Social Media Mistakes

    Last updated 1 year ago

    If the phrase “social media mishap” were a listing in the dictionary, chances are you’d find these real-life companies included as definition examples: Amy’s Baking Company, Taco Bell and Epicurious. Whether it’s Facebook posts gone wrong (as in the case of Amy’s Baking Company and Taco Bell) or a Twitter post that received outrage from readers and the press (Epicurious), these companies all landed in the same spot: right in the middle of a huge public backlash after making a social media mistake. While some people believe the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” most small- and medium-size businesses would prefer to stay out of the spotlight when it comes to a bad social media mistake.

    So what steps can an SMB take to avoid making social media mistakes that can give them a negative reputation online? Here are some tips to consider.

    Think Before You Post

    While no SMB wants to be the recipient of negative comments on social media, there’s one simple way you can help prevent this: think before you post. In the case of Amy’s Baking Company, the company’s owners started to receive media attention in 2010 after responding negatively to a review about their restaurant on Yelp. But that was just the beginning. Recently, it was reported that they posted insulting comments about their detractors on the company’s own Facebook page. The couple later claimed someone unknown to them hacked into their Facebook account and posted the insults. No matter who posted the disparaging remarks, a key take-away can still be learned: never post rude comments or become overly defensive to the point of insulting on your social media pages. Doing so is one of the quickest ways to land in the middle of a social media nightmare.

    If you find yourself upset by negative comments on your social media pages and you want to write a response, ensure your emotions are not running high when you do so. If you’re unsure of how your response sounds, have a trusted friend or business associate read it before posting. However, if you think a comment on your page is unrelated to your business or made by a troll, it is perfectly acceptable to report and remove any comments that you consider profane, threatening, or make you feel unsafe. However, if someone posts a comment that falls in the “legitimate complaint” category, resist the urge to delete it. Deleting negative comments can lead to backlash from your fans.

    Have a Social Media Policy

    In the case of Taco Bell, an employee was fired after posting a photo to his personal social media page that showed him licking a stack of taco shells. Taco Bell investigated and determined that the shells were never served to the public and that the image was a rejected photo taken for an internal company contest. Nevertheless, the damage was done on social media after the photo went viral. The employee was later fired for violating the company’s social media policy. The lesson here? Ensure you have a social media policy in place and that employees understand the policy, including consequences for violations.

    Be Careful When “Newsjacking”

    The practice of “newsjacking” entails tying your product or service to a well-known national or international news story as a marketing method. WhiIe newsjacking is an acceptable marketing practice, sensitivity to the news story at hand must be thought of before you post. Failing to consider how a story will affect your readers is a surefire way to make a huge social media mistake. Some examples of newsjacking and the public outrage that ensued afterward on social media include American Outfitters and Epicurious, both of whom tied their online marketing to national tragedies.

    But, If a tragedy occurs and your company has decided to help in the aftermath in legitimate ways, such as by fundraising, collecting food, holding a blood drive, or more, promoting those activities on social media is a great way to demonstrate your community involvement and company culture.

    Stay Alert

    By setting up a notification system like Google Alerts, you can monitor what is being said about you and your business online.  You should also make sure to frequently check your social media pages for mentions and tags of your business name to fully monitor your online reputation. Knowing what your customers are saying about you and your company enables you to take the necessary steps to resolve any legitimate complaints before they get out of control. By being proactive in complaint resolution, you’re not only providing excellent service to your customers, but you’re also helping to prevent those complaints from spreading and growing on social media.

    Are you taking active measures to prevent potentially detrimental social media mistakes? Let us know in the comments section!

    Amy Neeley helps small- and medium-size businesses navigate the online marketing world with insights and information featured on the ReachLocal blog. Connect with her on Twitter.

     

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    5 Signs You Might Suffer From Phone Failure

    Last updated 1 year ago

    One of the most important touch points in the customer buying journey is the phone call. After searching for your products or services on Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and visiting your company’s website, a prospect’s next likely step is to call you. In the case of a personal referral, a phone call from a prospect can be the very first touch point with your business.

    Prospect expectations are very high at the phone call stage because they’re calling to see if you have the products or services they need. If you can answer the phone quickly (or reply immediately to a call you couldn’t answer) and provide the information prospects seek to determine if you’re the right company for them to do business with, you have an excellent chance of winning new business. Not sure how you’re doing at the phone call stage? Then check out these five signs of you might be suffering from phone failure and what you can do to improve your call handling and get more business.

    1. You play hide and seek with your phone number.

    Phone failure can start even before a prospect or customer calls your business. Excellent phone service begins with the phone number itself and how easy it is for your prospect to find. The ideal place for your company phone number is at the top of every page on your website. But if you’ve buried the phone number somewhere on your website, you’re making it too difficult for prospects to call you to begin with. So don’t send prospects on a hunting expedition! Make sure your phone number is visible and easy to find on every page of your website. 

    2. Your phone number is no longer current.

    When your customers call, do they hear, “The number you have reached is no longer in service” or do they reach a voicemail that is not assigned to your front desk? Even worse, do they reach a different company altogether? These scenarios can occur when a company moves or if there are multiple company locations. So it’s important to audit all of your company phone numbers to see who’s answering the other line. You might be surprised to hear who answers.

    3. No one answers the phone when it rings.

    According to Consumer Reports, 71% of its survey respondents said they felt “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone when they called a business. And 67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration after not being able to talk with a live person. Does your phone just ring…and ring…and ring…? If so, try to determine why. Then, you can take steps to catch these all-important calls. For example, are you too busy to answer the phone and it’s time to hire a receptionist? Or, would a third-party phone service be helpful in taking after-hours phone messages for you? At the very least, ensure you have an easy-to-navigate voice messaging service in place so your prospects know they’ve reached the right company and that you will follow up with them.  Then, don’t leave them hanging; assign someone to call back those prospects as soon as possible to answer their questions. 

    4. You’re not monitoring how employees speak with prospects over the phone.

    73% of consumers give up on a business because of rude or incompetent staff. However, if you’re not sure how well your employees speak with prospects over the phone, you could be losing prospects. ­­One solution is to invest in call-recording software that helps you monitor calls between employees and prospects. Call monitoring will help you assess employee performance in terms of professionalism and knowledge of your products and services. With this information, you can then determine if employee coaching or additional product training is necessary. You will also have a deeper insight into your prospects’ needs and concerns so you can devise and carry out successful strategies to win their business.

    5. You’re not collecting prospect email and phone number information.

    It’s important that you ask every prospect for their email address and phone number and store it in a centralized system or database. When you’ve collected this information, you have the data you need to follow up with the prospect if you’re not able to speak with them at the time of their initial phone call to your business. Plus, collecting email addresses give you the opportunity to follow up with them after they’ve bought from you when you have a special, event, or new product or service that may be beneficial to them.

    What steps have you taken in your business to avoid “phone failure”? Let us know in the comments section!

    About the Author

    Amy Neeley helps small- and medium-size businesses navigate the online marketing world with insights and information featured on the ReachLocal blog. Connect with her on Twitter.

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    7 Social Networks SMBs Should Keep an Eye On

    Last updated 1 year ago

    If you’re a marketer or business owner, you probably know that social media is an important way to market your business online and may already have a presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. But in the world of social media, nothing stays the same for long. To keep your business on the forefront online, it’s important to stay up to date on emerging social networks that can help you spread the word about your business online. So, we put together this list of seven social media sites for SMBs to watch.

    New Social Media Sites to Watch
    Several hot new social media sites have launched recently. Will they be the next big things in social media marketing? Only time will tell, but here are a few to keep your eye on.

    Medium

    A stripped-down blogging platform, Medium lets you post content that exceeds Twitter’s 140-character limit but lacks much of the complicated setup of other blogging platforms out there. On Medium, users can read interesting and popular articles, leave notes, and recommend stories they like. Medium is pretty minimalistic and focuses more on your copy (great for SEO!) and less on images (although, images can be used). With a user-friendly Web editor that doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge, anyone can use it to share content about their business online. One potential downside to Medium is that you can’t embed a Medium blog on your website, meaning its potential SEO rank won’t help boost your website like a blog that's part of your website will. 

    Roamz

    Consumers on the go want real-time information about what to eat, see, and do in the local community. Roamz is a local discovery app that lets people use their smartphones see what others are doing nearby by automatically searching other social sites like Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It then lets users share their discoveries across their networks. Roamz is launching a social customer relationship tool called Local Measure for businesses that delivers insight about their customers, no matter what social network they happen to be using. This tool helps small businesses identify loyal customers, respond to customer feedback, and retain more customers.

    Viddy

    Video is a popular and effective way to market your business and communicate information to your target audience. Viddy lets you shoot a 30-second or shorter video from your smartphone, edit the footage, add special effects and a soundtrack. You can then share your video to your existing fans and followers on sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. There are several ways you could use Viddy for marketing your business online. For example, you could use Viddy to create short customer testimonial videos, product demonstrations, a Q&A session, contests and giveaways, a behind-the-scenes look at your business, or a sample of your company’s culture or community event.

    Vine

    You may have Vine, which is a new social tool from the makers of Twitter, but may not know how to apply it to your business in particular. Vine lets you to create bite-sized, six-second videos that automatically loop over and over (like a GIF) and post them to Vine, Twitter, and Facebook. The Vine app will only record when you are holding your finger on the screen, so you can record a full six-second length video, or you can start and stop your video recording to create a stop-motion style effect for your short videos. You can also select for your Vine to include audio or just play on mute. You can use Vine to create short videos featuring your products or services, tour your store, or just create fun, industry-related videos that engage your audience. Here are a few examples of how some businesses are using Vine to promote themselves online. Similar to Instagram, Vine lets you tag people, create hashtags, and follow and interact with other users. With its popularity growing, Vine is now available on the Android platform and allows you to post your creations to Facebook as well.

    Tried & True Sites to Consider

    What’s old can become new again in social media. Here are a few seasoned social media sites that may have new marketing opportunities for your business. If you aren’t using them already, here’s an overview of these sites and why you might want to consider using them to market your business.

    LinkedIn

    You may already have a LinkedIn company page, but are you using it fully to your advantage? LinkedIn has evolved from a professional networking site to a major content site that is arguably a top social network for businesses. Users can now follow business pages, similar to how users “Like” a Facebook page to keep up to date with a company. Which means now, there’s a huge opportunity to post helpful content like company updates, photos, links to your blog articles, and product and service information from your company LinkedIn page. Plus, did you know that you can now brand your business with a captivating header image and logo on your company page? Many businesses are also taking advantage of features like the rotating banner images under the Products/Services tab to promote products, services, other social networks, or free tools, with embedded links to their website or landing page. LinkedIn also offers paid ads that lead directly to this tab to boost your traffic there.

    Tumblr

    Tumblr, a visual micro-blogging platform, is useful for businesses that want to have a visual presence online. Businesses that typically do well on sites like Pinterest or Instagram can also benefit from using Tumblr. Currently, many brands use Tumblr to share everything from product and service photos, events, and company news to instructional tutorials, short lists, and deals and coupons. This blog post from Social Media Examiner features 26 unique ways you can use Tumblr to market your business.

    Reddit

    This user-run platform might look overwhelming to an average business owner at first glance. It’s not extremely visually appealing, but Reddit is wildly popular and can help promote your content to new audiences. And, with 71 million unique monthly visitors, there are a lot of eyes you can reach. One of the biggest benefits to Reddit is being able see what is trending among your niche audience. The first step to using Reddit for your business is to join a “subreddit,” or a community based on a topic related to your industry, and use that forum to interact with others by commenting, asking questions, and voting for content. You can also submit relevant content such as blog posts, photos, videos, and other content that users can vote for or comment on, but don’t be spammy. You could be banned if you try to manipulate votes, such as by getting a third party to post your content or by having team members individually submit content and vote only for content posted by others in your company. So, it’s important to be careful and use best practices on Reddit to avoid banishment or community backlash.

    What emerging social networks do you have your eye on? And, which oldies have re-sparked your interest lately? Let us know in the comments section.

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    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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