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    4 Google Maps Updates Local Businesses Need to Know

    Last updated 5 months ago

    A week ago, Google announced it is making the desktop version of Google Maps widely available. Many of the updates featured in the new Google Maps are designed for the casual user, and include functions such as plane and train routes, directions for multiple locations, and event listings for major venues. But, there are a few key updates that local business owners need to be aware of so they can make sure their Google+ Local listings are claimed and updated with information leveraged by these new changes.

    1. Info Cards

    One of the most relevant additions to Google Maps for small businesses are info cards, which show consumers detailed information about the businesses they are viewing on the map. For instance, if someone searches for and clicks on a restaurant, Google Maps will populate an info card featuring the business’ address, hours, reviews, Zagat ratings, and a link to a menu. Different businesses may have slightly different information on their info cards, based on the business category and information available to Google.  Info cards also provide users with a “Look Inside” button, which includes a 360-degree view of the interior of the business, with photos taken by Google trusted photographers. Additionally, photos featured on your Google+Local page are featured on Google in your Google Maps info cards. 

    What this means for businesses: For businesses where quick access to additional information can sway a potential customer, it’s extremely important to take advantage of the new info cards. Make sure your Google+Local listing is up to date with correct information like address, telephone number, and hours, and make sure to include captivating photos to bring your business to life. Reviews and ratings are also front-and-center on the Maps interface in this update, so it’s critical that you continue to ask happy customers to leave you positive reviews there. 

    2. Hotel and Restaurant Reservations

    Another new feature impacting local business is the ability to book and see hotel and restaurant reservations directly from Google Maps. For instance, if a user clicks on a specific hotel on the map, a booking box will drop down, and they can start a reservation directly from the hotel’s info card. Google can show availability and prices from the hotel’s website and from booking sites like Hotels.com, Priceline, Travelocity, and more. For restaurants, users can currently create reservations using Opentable. In addition, when someone searches for a hotel or restaurant they are already booked for, and they are logged into their Google account, Google Maps will display a card below the search bar displaying the reservation information pulled from confirmations sent to your Gmail account.  

    What this means for businesses: If you run a hotel or restaurant and don’t already allow online reservations, consider adding this ability to land even more bookings now that Google Maps allows users to start a reservation directly from the search results. In addition, sending email confirmations for reservations will also benefit users who frequently book with hotels and restaurants, since the reservation information can populate in Google Maps.

    3. Personalized Results from Google+

    As users search the map, add places to their “favorites”, and leave reviews, Google Maps will start to suggest similar or complimentary local businesses they might enjoy. In addition, the updated Google Maps is furthering integration with Google+ by allowing users to filter searches by top reviewers or by those in their Google+ circles.

    What this means for businesses: This feature only strengthens the integration between Google Maps and the Google+ platform. So, the more active you are on Google+ as a business, the more opportunities you have to influence search results by boosting positive fan engagement. You can also help your search results by encouraging your best fans to add you to their Google+ circles, leave you positive reviews, and favorite your business. This also increases your connections and activity as a business, helping it become more visible in the local search results. Plus, the more active your customers are, the more they can help others discover your business when they search in Maps.

    4. Responsive Design

    The new Google Maps update made significant changes for Google Maps users on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. For users who are logged into their Google accounts on both their desktop and mobile device, Google Maps can load previous searches. For instance, if you are logged in to Google and look up a dentist’s address and phone number on Google Maps via your desktop, and then get in your car, you can pull up the exact same search on the Google Maps app on your smartphone. As long as you’re logged in with the same account there, you’ll get directions or phone number for the dentist’s office. Users can also add specific locations to their “favorites” to make them available on all their devices.

    What this means for businesses: Mobile devices are only going to become more and more prevalent when it comes to looking for local business information. If your business’ Google+ Local listing is not claimed and updated, you’ll not only lose out on business from desktop searches, but from mobile, too. Plus, it’s critical to make sure your website is mobile-friendly so that searchers who click from the search results to visit your site have a streamlined experience.

    The new Google Maps has a lot to offer for businesses, and it’s important to take advantage of as many of these new features as possible to get the most out of this key destination for local searchers. By improving your Google+ Local listings with positive customer reviews, engaging images, booking functionality, and more, you can not only get discovered when people search on Google, but your listing will provide the information your target audience is looking for. 

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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.

    Does Your Website Track Conversions? Now it Can.

    Last updated 5 months ago

    Picture this: when it comes to attracting leads to your business website via online marketing, you’re doing all the right things. Your company’s social media pages are up and running; you’re posting great content your audience wants to share with others online and that drives visits. You’re optimizing your website and local listings so that you get discovered in local and organic search. You’ve also launched online search, display, and retargeting campaigns across the Web in order to get visitors to your website.

    The next step would be to know which of these online marketing activities are the most cost-effective at getting visits to your website and leads and customers for your business. With an accurate view of the ROI from each of your marketing sources, you could make sure to spend your marketing dollars on those online activities that are creating leads and pull back on those that might not be as successful. Assessing how many leads each online activity drives to your website is possible to do on your own. However, regularly assessing the data of every lead-generating tactic and comparing it against the other types of marketing you are doing can be complex and time-consuming for many business owners.

    There’s an easy solution when it comes to tracking the leads and customer conversions on your website. ReachEdge, an integrated marketing software solution made of a smart website, lead management software, and a mobile app, does this automatically so businesses can finally see their ROI from all their marketing efforts.

    Here’s how ReachEdge helps you to know the sources of your leads so you can make better decisions about your online marketing:

    1.      Captures Every Contact from Your Website

    ReachEdge offers a smart website that is optimized to capture every conversion like phone calls, emails, and form submissions. Not only is this website designed to convince prospects to contact you, but once they do, it adds their name and information to your contact list. It additionally provides real-time alerts on your mobile phone so you don’t miss any new contacts and can follow up with them quickly, helping to turn them into a customer.

    2.      Smart Website Tracks the Source of Your Leads

    ReachEdge’s technology swaps out your website’s phone number based on which marketing source consumers clicked on to visit your site, whether it’s a search ad, display ad, social media site, or organic link. With this lead-tracking technology, you’ll always know which of your online marketing tactics are working to drive leads to your website.

    3.     Shows You Results via Web and Mobile

    ReachEdge offers data-rich reporting via mobile and desktop platforms. These reports detail the amount of calls, emails, and web forms your marketing sources generate. Plus, you can also see a high-level view of which sources are the most effective at bringing you leads and customers.

    Having a complete picture of your lead generation tactics is essential to determining your marketing ROI and empowers you to make the best decisions regarding your marketing spend. Plus, it frees you up to do what you do best — run your business.

    Want to learn more about ReachEdge? See how it has already transformed real business websites to help them drive more leads to their businesses. Download our new ebook, Try This, Not That: 10 Website Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

     

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    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.

    "Opening Soon!" Seven Ideas to Promote Your New Location Online

    Last updated 5 months ago

    Opening a new location for your business soon? Congratulations! Expanding a business for any small business owner is a great sign that customers want what you have to offer. But in the middle of making sure your location is physically prepared to handle new customers, the importance of making sure online consumers know about your new addition may slip by you.

    So, in order to make sure that both current and potential customers know about your great news, here are seven ideas to help you prepare and promote your new business location online, too.  

    1. Claim Your New Location on Local Directory Listings

    Claiming your business on local directories is a simple and effective way to promote your new location for several reasons: local listings often have high visibility in search results for your business name, they are easy to set up, and the larger ones are tied to maps, which show up on both desktop and search results on mobile browsers and apps.

    Three of the most common directories you should pay attention to are Google+ Local, Bing Business, and Yelp. With more than 67% of explicit searches on Google sites, claiming your business on Google+ Local will help ensure that Google searchers find your new business location when they search for your business name and for your top products and services. Google+ Local is directly tied to Google Maps, and Google prioritizes business locations that have claimed their business on Google+ Local. As Bing and Yahoo! share the same network, claiming your business on Bing Business will help consumers using these search engines to find your new location as well.

    Claiming each of these directory listings will also allow consumers to find your business location on mobile search for each mobile search engine. But to enable people searching via Apple Maps, make sure you claim your new location on Yelp, which provides locations, pictures, and ratings to consumers searching on iOS devices. Plus, with the latest partnership of Yelp and Yahoo!, Yelp reviews and locations will now appear in Yahoo! search results, too. 

    2. Add Your Business Locations to Your Website

    Your website is one of the most important places to add your new location, as this is where consumers will typically find information about where to find you. When you add your new location, make sure to follow the same format as your previous locations. For example, if your other listings include different hours of operation, a phone number, and an address that links to a map, make sure the new location includes these elements, too.  

    3. Create a New Facebook Page or Update Your “About” Section

    There are many benefits to having an individual Facebook business page for each of your locations. For example, having an individual location page allows you to post content specific to each location, such as discounts, product availability, or relevant news and events. So if your business already has individual Facebook pages for your locations, then make sure you take action today and build a page for your new location.

    However, if managing multiple location pages isn’t practical for your business, then worry not (you’re not alone!). A simple way to feature your business locations on your business Facebook page is to include the locations in the “About” section. Once in your page settings, update the “Long Description” to add information about each of your locations, such as the general location, phone number, and operating hours.

    4. Add the Geographic Area in Your Search Advertising

    There are many reasons you should use paid search advertising to promote your business, one being that it allows you to target consumers within a specific geographic location. If you currently run paid search advertising, make sure that you update it so that you target the new location. You can either create a new campaign for that specific location, or simply add geo-targeted keywords to a broader campaign. For instance, you could campaign within a certain geographic radius and leverage special “Grand Opening” offers to entice local consumers to visit your website and hopefully become a new lead or customer. In either case, make sure that your landing page is optimized to include messaging or details about your new location so that you don’t lose consumers along the path of contacting you or visiting your new location. 

    5. Promote Your New Location on Social Media

    Opening a new location is a celebration, so why not share it with your social fans and followers? For example, if you break ground on a new location, consider posting images on Facebook or Instagram that show the progress from the ground-breaking ceremony to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. If you have special offers or sales for your grand opening, share them as posts or create images that your current fans can share as well. If you have press releases or other write-ups announcing your new location, share them on Facebook. Plus, you can use Facebook advertising to target ads to your audience within the geographic area of your new business location.

    6. Send an Email Announcing Your New Location

    If you have a current email list, sending an announcement email is a quick way to share information about your new location with people who are already interested in your business. This could also be a great way to convert leads who may not have chosen your business because of proximity into customers. Make sure to include all the information people need, including details about the store location, opening date, hours of operation, phone number, and any grand opening specials or offers they should take advantage of.

    7. Host an Event and Invite Local Bloggers

    For some businesses, hosting a “Family and Friends” event before the official opening of your new location can be a great way to generate buzz about your business within the area. Invite current customers, fans, and other people you know who live in the general area to check out your new store, sample products or services, and share their experiences online. This can also be a great training opportunity for new members of your staff and help you detect any issues you can change before the big opening day.

    If you know of subject matter experts, bloggers, or others who have influence within the community, this event is a great time to have those people visit your new location and share the news with their own fans and followers.

    Overall, opening a new business location is a huge success, so take a deep breath and realize that you’re on the right track! Promoting it with some of these ideas is just the beginning to adding to that success.

    Have you opened multiple locations already? What other ideas do you have for promoting it online? Share your ideas 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.

    Online Marketing Refresher: The Basics of Promoting Your Business Online

    Last updated 5 months ago

    If you’re new to marketing your business online, knowing exactly where to start can be challenging. Or, perhaps you’ve successfully tried one or two tactics, like launching your website and starting a company Facebook page, but you’re ready to take on new online marketing activities to promote your business.

    Whether you’re brand-new to online marketing or ready to expand into new areas, here are 10 online marketing basics that you should know and put into practice.

    1. Understand Your Brand 
    Before your company name appears in any kind of online marketing (or in traditional advertising, for that matter), you should have a solid knowledge of your company’s brand.

    It can help to think of your business as having its own personality and defining exactly what that personality is — conservative and educational, edgy and to-the-point, warm and whimsical, etc. For example, the brand personality of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles can be described as rugged and masculine. It’s very different from the Chanel fashion brand, which is chic and feminine. Each has its own messaging, tone, imagery, color palette, and logo. Taken collectively, these brand elements form a cohesive look and feel that’s expressed consistently across all online activities and advertising. While your own brand might not be as big as these two, it’s still important to know what your brand is, how it sounds, and what it looks like before you use it online.

    2. Know Your Audience
    Do you know who your target audience is, and what their concerns, problems, and values are? Do you know the types of sites they visit to get information about your products and services? Can you articulate how your products or services help your customers? For example, if you’re a daycare operator, your target audience might be made up of mostly women ages 25 through 45; they value safety, affordability, and educational activities for their children. They also get advice from friends on social media sites, read parenting sites, and check out reviews when researching a daycare facility. Having this collective information about your audience can then help you to build online marketing campaigns that address their concerns and resonate with their values. 

    3. Create a Consumer-Friendly Website
    A professional-looking website is the cornerstone of any online marketing activity. Your website should have the following essentials: an easy-to-find phone number on the top of every web page, clean design, and content that entices your visitors. Your site should also include clear calls to action and alternate ways for visitors to contact you, such as an email address or Web form.  Many business websites often fall short in one or more of these areas on their websites. To see real before-and-after website makeovers from real ReachLocal clients, download the ebook, “Try This, Not That: 10 Website Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.”

    4. Build Your Website’s Relevance
    To help more consumers find your business when they search, you need to publish fresh, relevant content that your prospects will find and love. For instance, including a blog on your site and consistently publishing relevant content on it can help you build your authority within your industry, and your audience will appreciate the information you’re providing them. Plus, when your content is posted on other sites, like social media, and then shared, you are building more authority for your website.

    5. Use Email Marketing
    Email marketing offers a great return on investment because your leads and customers have expressed interest in receiving email communications from you and are probably closer to making a purchase. You can use an email-marketing vendor like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Marketo to stay in touch with your contacts with content like coupons, announcements, helpful hints, and more. No matter which provider you use, it’s important to gather email addresses from your leads and customers and ensure that that list is current. Also, it’s important to remember that U.S. federal trade laws say you must refrain from sending emails to any contacts who choose to opt-out from your email campaigns.

    6. Be Active on Social Media 
    Social media is a vital way for business owners to connect with their potential customers and current ones, too. However, it’s more important that you’re on the right social media sites for your industry and audience rather than being on nearly every social media platform that’s available. So once again, it’s very important to know who your audience is.

    And for social media purposes, you should research where your audience is “hanging out” online. For instance, if you’re a clothing retail shop and your customers are mainly women ages 25 through 47, then Pinterest might be a great social media platform for you. Why? Because Pinterest skews heavily to women and is a popular way to showcase products visually. No matter what your industry is, there’s an ideal audience you can engage with online. Research which platforms your target market is most likely to use so you can launch your own company page on those sites.

    7. Advertise on Search Engines
    Getting your business name and information in front of consumers who are searching for relevant products and services on the Web or via their mobile is vitally important to any successful online marketing program. Since 76% of purchases start on a search engine, it’s important that you are visible to people searching there. You can do this two ways – with search engine optimization (SEO) and search advertising. Search engine advertising is the fastest way to start appearing online and provides a lot of control over what messages you present to your audience by segmenting your ads and testing various text ads to see which work best to reach your target consumers. 

    8. Claim Your Business Listings Online
    Claiming and optimizing your business listings on online directories such as Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Yelp, and CitySearch can be an effective way to attract local customers to your business. Many of these are tied to listings like Google Maps and Apple Maps, increasing your chances of being discovered online. If you’ve already listed your business on these online directories, make sure your information is current and correct.

    9. Appear on Mobile
    Mobile continues to gain popularity among consumers as a research and shopping tool. In fact, 76% of consumers recently surveyed use their smartphone to access information about a local store they want to visit. This means your website needs to be optimized for mobile in addition to desktop viewing.

    What are on-the-go consumers looking for on your mobile website? For starters, your address, phone number, hours of operation, and maps or driving directions. By creating a mobile-friendly website with key features like a map and click-to-call functionality, you’re increasing your chances of being contacted by consumers who are looking for businesses while on the go.

    10. Measure Your Return on Investment
    Do you know which online marketing tactics are driving the most leads and customers to your business? For example, how many customers open your emails, find your company from a paid search ad, or call you after visiting your website?

    One of the biggest problems businesses have after starting their online marketing initiatives is figuring out which tactics are effective in attracting leads to their businesses. And information is important, as it will help you to determine where you should continue to spend your marketing dollars and, perhaps, where to stop spending your money. But there are tactics you can use to help you break down the data and measure your online marketing results, such as using call tracking or custom URLs.

    With all of these options, it’s important to remember that establishing a great online marketing strategy and bringing it to life does not happen over night. But as you learn these tactics and implement each one over time, you can make online marketing work for your business.

    What are your marketing plans for 2014? Do you have any favorite online marketing tactics? Let us know with a comment!

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    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. Follow her on Twitter.

     

    Case Study: Scion Dealerships Boost Sales with ReachLocal [Infographic]

    Last updated 5 months ago

    Individuality drives Toyota’s Scion brand. So, it’s no surprise the company continues to test and explore innovative ways to connect with prospective customers. To find the right marketing mix for seven of their dealerships, Scion San Francisco region partnered with ReachLocal, who provided search, display, and mobile advertising solutions. During a pilot program, ReachLocal built location-based campaigns to drive more traffic to the dealer websites and increase leads via Google AdWords. This infographic shows the campaign results at a glance:

    Result #1: More Quality Leads & Traffic

    By creating car campaigns focused on Scion’s ideal customers, ReachLocal generated quality traffic resulting in quality leads. ReachLocal used location targeting so only relevant prospects saw the participating dealer’s ads. These targeted advertising campaigns increased website visits by 200%, generated nearly 2,000 new calls and form leads, and drove over 28K ad clicks in a four-month period. In addition, ReachLocal search advertising brought in 56% of total new website visits to the participating dealerships.

    Result #2: Increased Car Sales Year Over Year

    Growing car sales was the primary goal of Scion’s marketing strategy. Scion’s campaigns not only delivered leads, but the dealerships were able to convert many of them into sales. After the pilot, Scion San Francisco Region saw a 17% year-over-year growth in car sales. One dealership attained an outstanding 134% average increase in sales year over year. 

    Result #3 Marketing Spend Shifted Online

    As a result of the pilot with ReachLocal, Scion San Francisco Region increased its online marketing spend from a 10% allocation to an 80% allocation. In addition, results from the pilot helped to convince Scion corporate to co-fund the nationwide rollout of a similar program, so more dealers can benefit from an online marketing strategy.

    Download the entire Scion case study to read more about how they reached auto shoppers online and increased sales with ReachLocal.  

     

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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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