Can’t We All Just Get Along?

How many brands really manage their presence well from their initial touch point with the consumer while at the top of the sales funnel all the way through to the consumer’s conversion?

I rarely see it happen to be honest.

The best practitioners I’ve seen are those in the automotive space. There the brand coexists with a regional or DMA level entity which also coexists with each individual dealer.

Go ahead Google ‘prius’. I did just now and this is what I got.

Brand and Dealer Coexistence

All three coexisting harmoniously.

But at what expense? I’ve heard second hand how little coordination is going on here between the three groups who really number in the thousands throughout the US.

In this case, Wesley Chapel Toyota is cutting a check to Google directly. They’re also paying some fixed percentage into their local co-op, Southeast Toyota Distributors, who is advertising with these funds. And finally they bought the car from the manufacturer, Toyota, who in turn used some of the margin to advertise the Prius.

Is it that competitive in the automotive space that they must own all three of the top spots on AdWords? To do this they are competing against themselves right? That’s the only way you can own all three spots!

Isn’t there a better way to solve this problem?

Google+ Local: It Really is a Game Changer

Google's Canary In a Coal MineThe conversion of Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages earlier this month was a game changer. Yes, it seems like Google comes out with something shiny and new every other day that can be termed a “game changer,” but this one actually is. Especially for small business owners whose profitability depends on the prominence of their position in a local Google search conducted by potential customers. And more changes are on the way. Big changes.

The Story

In short, what happened on June 1 was Google began the process of converting the business places pages that used to serve as a company’s primary presence in the Google search universe. Those Places pages, when verified by the owner and properly optimized with accurate information about the company, began to dominate many search results about two summers ago.

Google + Local

Now, instead of a Google Places page, companies will have a new Google+ Local page. Much of the same information will be included, but the presentation will be cleaner and – in theory – provide more social functionality for consumers. The five-star rating system Google used for customer comments has been replaced by a 1 through 30 Zagat rating system (think restaurant reviews, only for all types of businesses).

ZagatWhy You Should Care?

Why is it important for business owners to know this? Because this is more than a simple renaming of a product by Google. This is the proverbial canary in the social coal mine, and what happens next could very well shift our whole way of thinking about how we use the Internet for commerce. Google’s commitment to all things social kicked into full gear last year, with the introduction of the Google+ social network. Google+ for business followed, and now comes Google+ Local.

Google+ was greeted with relative indifference. Compared to the nearly 1 billion users on Facebook and 500 million on Twitter, the 90 million Google+ users barely register as a ripple. Business hasn’t ignored it as a way to interact with consumers, certainly, but any social media strategy inevitably begins with Facebook and Twitter (and, increasingly, Path, Pinterest and Instagram).

So, how might the introduction of Google+ Local change that for companies that rely on search position to create conversions and sales (in other words, just about every small business in existence)?

Unlike Google Places pages, Google+ Local pages will be indexed by search engines. This means a well-optimized Google+ Local page is now critical. You might have gotten away with setting up your Google Places page and then ignoring it, as long as your company’s website was optimized and filled with fresh, engaging content on a regular basis. You won’t be able to do that with a Google+ Local page, because this thing is going to show up in the search result. Although no one can predict just how prominent they will become in search results, especially in the ever-shifting world of mobile search, there’s every reason to believe a Google+ Local page might take precedence over your company’s own website. And even if that doesn’t become the case, it would still be foolhardy to ignore your Google+ Local page, because there’s another factor that is steaming our way.

The Longer Term Impact

That factor goes right back to Google’s very public commitment to social. Soon – Google isn’t saying when, exactly – the Google+ Local page will be directly tied to your company’s Google+ business page. As of now, the back end dashboard for the Google+ Local page will be the same as you used for your Google Places page. But that will change when the two become integrated, and there’s another social-related reason for that, as well.

Google Sign InGoogle wants people to sign in under their Google user names when they conduct Internet searches. The most important corporate asset Google has is the user data it collects as people use its products. In the past, people used to be able to interact with businesses on Google Places pages without being signed into a Google+ account. Now, if someone wants to make a comment on a business on a Google+ Local page, they must be signed into their Google+ account. This will eliminate the dreaded anonymous review, which seems great. But that cuts both ways, because people in their Google+ network will immediately know exactly what they think of the business, and potentially make buying decisions based on that opinion. A bad review written with an actual name attached carries much more weight than an anonymous shot that could have been written by a malicious competitor or disgruntled former employee.

The Facebook Threat

The tie-in between Google+ and Google+ Local reveals the real crux of it – Google isn’t trying to become the next Facebook. By tying Google+ personal accounts to Google+ Local reviews, and by tying Google+ Local to your company’s Google+ business page, Google is trying to become all things to all people.

And since Google is still the 800-pound gorilla of search, you need to pay attention to this inexorable shift to social. It matters to the bottom line now, and it’s going to matter a great deal more in the future.

Do you have a different take on this move by Google? Let me hear from you.

Reputation Monitoring – 3 Levels Of Complexity

Don’t you care what people are saying about you?

Whether it’s your company name or your personal name you need to care online.  In the old world people could speak highly or poorly of you without you ever knowing.  You would  just see sales drop or friends would stop calling.  Now, though, customers and friends are making those remarks online.
You need to start listening!

Level 1: Google Alerts

This everyone’s introduction to reputation monitoring – Google Alerts.  With no cost and no maintenance, you can easily track all types of keywords and phrases real-time (soft of) as they join to noise of the Internet.  One disadvantage is its lack of filtering.  For example I have an alert set for “coast dental” where I work.  But I continually get alerts for “east coast dental”, “west coast dental” and “gold coast dental”.  That’s noise to me.

Level 2: RSS/Subscribes/Feeds

While Google tries to be all encompassing with Alerts, it just doesn’t hit them all currently.  When you’re ready to track Twitter and blogs more thoroughly, then monitoring pre-defined RSS feeds is your next step. By searching various properties you can then subscribe to the search results.  Using Microsoft Outlook or Google Reader you can then receive an update each time there is a new result for that search query.  For example, I have RSS feed searches on search.twitter.com and blogsearch.google.com.

Level 3: Dedicated Services

While you could deploy the first two levels with no cash outlay, Level 3 may require money.  Using free services like Trackur.com or pay services like Radian 6 you gain tools that are dedicated and designed for not only reputation monitoring, but also reputation management.  For example, Radian 6 provides a workflow solution for tracking issues as you hand them off within your company.

Get Started – It’s Free!

No matter where you want to jump into the monitoring ring, just don’t waste any time.  Level 1’s Google Alerts should be done by everyone.  Heck, you should at least have an alert on your name.

While we’re on the topic of monitoring our name, maybe you could help me out in my mission to capture the #1 position for Mark Regan

Once you’ve mastered reputation monitoring you’ll be ready for the next step: reputation management.

Google Maps In 3D

Last Monday (4/5/2010) while looking for a local Starbucks to meet a candidate, Google Maps pointed out a Starbucks closer to me than I knew.  So I went down to street level to see exactly where this new mysterious Starbucks was.  Within Street View I noticed Google’s 3D option.

Google 3D

Of course I don’t have the classic paper 3D glasses handy, but when I do…

As it turns out, the Starbucks is within the Target, not a free-standing one.  That’s why I didn’t know about it.  So I just met the candidate at the closest free-standing Starbucks.

I started drafting this post a few days after I saw the 3D option. Now that I’ve gone back to the same location from the same computer I no longer see the 3D option. So something has changed or the conditions for me to see the option are now different. Anyway, I really did see it and when I see it again I’ll share it with you

What pages are indexed in Google, Yahoo or Bing?

Search EnginesAs a small business owner you are working hard on your website’s search engine friendliness every day.  But sometimes you get frustrated with the search engines honoring your hard work.  Actually you are always getting frustrated with them, but let’s stay focused.

When you are trying to determine why your pages are not showing up in the results, you may ask the question?

What pages are indexed by Google, Yahoo or Bing after all?

It would be helpful to know what inventory of your pages do they have to consider when showing search results, right?  There are two answers to the question: the quick and dirty and the more complex, but more reliable.

The Quick and Dirty Way to Find What Has Been Indexed

Regardless of the search engine, in the search box type “site:yourdomainname.com”.  Actually try it on every search engine.  You will get a different answer from each one.

Google Results Pre Click To End

Results Prior To Clicking To Last Page

With Google in the top right you will see their count of indexed pages.  Even then, though, there is trickery going on.  Click as efficiently as you can to the last page of these search results.

Google Results Post Click To End

Results After To Clicking To Last Page

Typically I’ve found the results end long before that claimed amount.  There are many possible reasons here:

Reasons Your Results May Vary Between Search Engines

  • If you’re running a blog, you may have your tag, category, archive pages and more indexed.  Some engines may store them, others may not.
  • The search engine may choose to not be forthcoming about what it really knows.  Yes this is the conspiracy response, but there is truth in not sharing too much detail about a site unless it’s confirmed you own it (see the next method).
  • You may getting personalized search results.

The More Complex, But More Reliable Method To Find What Has Been Indexed

This one will only work for Google and Yahoo.  For Google, using Google’s Webmaster Tools you can verify you own the site through a META tag or unique file on your web server.  This grants you rights to more privileged data seen by Google.  Yahoo and Bing have similar tools and insight.

I’ll cover Webmaster Tools in a later post.

Do You Want To Track Calls Through Your Website’s Phone Number?

Do you place your main phone number on your website?  It makes sense if you want your prospects and customers to easily find your phone number, right?

But does that inhibit you from finding out how many people called your phone number for the first time?  That should be important to you if you’re tracking the sources of your leads.  Perhaps you want to track which keyword search term the user made that lead to your phone call.  Wouldn’t it be invaluable to know in advance when you pick up a call that the caller found your number on your website?

I am passionate about this type of tracking and attribution.  And fortunately there are companies out there that let you handle all of this at a extremely reasonable price.  I did my research and found quite a few great firms doing this.  The one that I ended deploying for my company and my clients is IfByPhone.  Props to Steve Scott at Tampa SEO Training Academy for turning me on to them.

Don’t put your track-able phone number on you homepage or your contact us page.  Put your main number on those pages.  For those visitors who know who you are and are only looking for you phone number they should not be counted towards your new leads counts.  Place the track-able phone numbers on the lead-generating pages within your site.

You may find another firm out there that provides a better, less expensive or more applicable service to you.  Everyone has different needs.  But IfByPhone has such great features they are the perfect case study into why you should use such a tool in your online marketing arsenal, regardless of the vendor.

Are you doing the following?

  • Can you track how many calls are from your website with a unique track-able phone number? —   This is a must!
  • Do you push those events into your Google Analytics so you can compare “form fills” against phone leads from your website?– Once you do, you’ll never live without it.
  • Do you have a “Click To Call” option on your website?– Not for everyone, but for those that can use it, it’s a great lead-stealer from your competition.
  • When you pick up your phone does the system “whisper” to you that the caller found your number on the website?–  This is a huge leg up in the conversation.
  • If you have multiple locations you cannot live without this cheap store locator feature. — You could pay thousands of dollars for a custom solution like this!

These are the features that I was in search of and use extensively today.   I can’t stress their importance to a business from a car detailer working on the road to a regional business looking to dive into the source of their business.


Last word on : if you want to talk more about it, then let’s connect.  I can give you some useful implementation advice as well as help you with some discounts pre-enrollment.

Web Page Load Speed – Don’t be a Slow Norris

There are more and more articles being written lately about how page load time (page speed) will impact your organic rankings. (Search Engine Watch & Search Engine Land)

For those interested in knowing more about how they are currently being measured and how to improve it, go into your Google Webmasters Tools. Assuming you’ve already verified your domain, beneath Labs you will find “Site Performance”.Google Webmaster Tools Menu

A recently acquired client of ours displayed the following performance data.Website Performance OverviewThat is not an impressive 4 month trailing average to say the least. Every day came in above (peach area) the acceptable page load times expected by Google (green area). To resolve the issue you need to pull back a few layers of the onion and interrogate each of the offending components. Google recommends PageSpeed. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you have the hustle and time it will break down exactly which of your page elements are slow and also offer advice on how to solve the problem.

This is Google’s attempt to speed up the web. By demoting sites that have poor performance it is announcing to those webmasters that speed is important to users and if they want to rise in the rankings they need to consider the user experience in relation to speed.

Don’t miss out on this free tool set to keep you ahead of the game before your slow site continues to fall!