Local SEO Ranking Factors – Google Places is now Google+ Local

If you’re a business owner and somewhat keep up with your online marketing efforts, you’ve likely noticed that your Google Places page looks different, or better yet, that your  Google Places page isn’t showing up in search results any more… This is because Google converted approximately 80 million Places pages into 80 million Google+ Local pages last month. This is a move toward integrating Search, Maps and mobile all into the new and improved Google+ platform.

Users can still access these pages through regular Google search or maps, but all of the new SERPS (searcah engine result pages) are directing users to the auto-converted Google Places page in the new Google+ Local area – now called your Google+ Local Page. All of this information is now available on a new tab within Google+ called Local. Businesses’ old Google business profile is now a Local+ page that is the home of all important business information, including address, phone numbers, hours of operation, photos, videos and reviews.

The announcement was made by Avni Shah on May 30, a director of product management at Google.  He explained, “Today, we’re rolling out Google+ Local, a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+.” In other words, Google Places is GONE and to be no more.

Business owners might not even notice the change since you will still manage your local listing via Google Places for Business – so on the back end it will look identical for now. There is mention of future changes that will allow them to “take full advantage of the social features provided by local Google+ pages” though. That sounds like a Google guarantee that they will continue to push Google+, so get used to it now. What is for sure is that your prospects/users, will for sure see your new page on the Google+ Local platform and the page looks completely different from the old Google Places pages.

How This Might Change Local SEO

You might be wondering what the difference really is if the user might not notice anything other than an aesthetic change, and the business owner might not notice big changes when it comes to managing their listing. However, there is a big difference between the old Google Place Pages and the new Local+ business profile. These new local business profiles will be indexed. That means they will show up in the search results and, when optimized properly, can be another tool used to get more visibility and a higher SEO ranking.

There are all sorts of ways to spiff up the new business profile, but here are some basic guidelines to help you create a page that appeals to your visitors and the search engine:

1.Keep the About section brief. The introduction section is one of the areas where you can include keywords about your business. Just make sure they fit naturally into what you write there and keep it concise. The address, contact information, hours of operation and category tags show up under the intro, and then the reviews of the business show up under that. Reviews and recommendations are often the biggest influence in people making a decision, so don’t crowd those out with a long-winded explanation of your business. There is a new rating system as well. Zagat’s 30-point scale is being used to score all types of businesses instead of Google’s previous rating system of five stars.

2.Ditch the stock photo. The flexibility of Google+ gives you the option to really display your business. Take advantage of it by showing visitors the new office renovations, a photo tour of the facility, the staff hard at work, or some of the products your business sells. You can now integrate a FULL HD VIRTUAL TOUR of your business right on your Google+ Local page using the new Google Business Photos platform. Contact us if this interests you as we are fully integrated with Google to offer this brand new service offering.

3.Start asking satisfied customers to leave you a review. Some businesses have had problems with their reviews getting lost in the transition between Google Places to Google+ Local, an issue that Google has acknowledged in the forums. However, there doesn’t seem to be a resolution to the problem at the moment, so focus on getting new reviews. Let your customers know that their feedback is important and valued. Don’t be afraid to make a direct request that specifies what you would like instead of hinting around. Most people aren’t going to be offended by, “I’m so glad to hear that you’re satisfied with the service you received! We would love it if you took the time to write a review on our Google+ Local page that explains what you needed and how we were able to meet that need.”

4.Don’t ignore your reviews. The point of the page is to be social, to develop a following, to discuss and interact. Negative reviews are going to happen. The way you respond to them is the opportunity to define the business. Reach out and try to resolve the problems. Best case scenario is you convert a disgruntled customer into a loyal fan, but if nothing else you are showing all the other potential customers that you genuinely care enough to respond thoughtfully to complaints.

5.Find the Posts’ section sweet spot, somewhere between abandoned looking and spam city. The Posts section is where the action is at, and theoretically where the interacting happens. Don’t let this section sit untouched-the time stamp showing that your last post was four months ago, but try to avoid the mistake at the other end of the spectrum too. Posting link after link to content you’ve posted elsewhere or posts simply promoting yourself is spammy. A conversation should go both ways, so keep throwing “conversation starters” out there.

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Social Media Statistics for 2012

2012 is shaping up to be a HUGE year in Social Media and below is a great infographic that rounds up the key Social Media Statistics to kickoff 2012. It’s pretty impressive to see that Facebook has grown to more than 800 million active users, adding more than 200 million in a single year. Twitter now has 100 million active users and LinkedIn has over 64 million users in North America alone.

Google PlusBut a big mistake of business owners would be to discount the amazing first 7 months of Google+. In just 7 short months, Google+ amassed 100 million users. It took Facebook over 5 years to do that folks.

A few interesting take outs for social media statistics in 2012:

Twitter Statistics 2012:

  • 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter
  • 55% of Twitter users access the platform via their mobile

Facebook Statistics 2012:

  • An average Facebook user has 130 friends and likes 80 pages
  • 56% of consumer say that they are more likely recommend a brand after becoming a fan
  • Each week on Facebook more than 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared

General Social Media Statistics 2012:

  • 30% of B2B marketers are spending million of dollars each year on social media marketing
  • Nearly 30% of these users are not tracking the impact of this marketing
  • 20% of Google searches each day have never been searched for before
  • Out of the 6 billion people on the planet 4.8 billion have a mobile and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush

Check out more social media statistics for 2012 below in the full infographic.

For similar posts, check out Bradenton Internet Marketing.

Social Media Statistics 2012

Why Local Search and Mobile Websites Are Essential For Tampa Businesses

About 30% of mobile phone users spend an average of about 27 minutes each day text messaging, using the telephone and video chatting, according to retailer CultureLabel.com. The company put together an infographic that highlights the bright outlook for the mobile commerce industry, helped along by the massive growth of smartphone adoption.

As CultureLabel looked to expand its own mobile strategy, the company compiled stats to reinforce the need to grow its m-commerce channel. According to its findings displayed in the online art retailer’s infographic, 5.9 billion out of the 7 billion people (87%) worldwide already have mobile phones. Smartphone sales are up 63.1% from 2010, and a whopping 488.5 million devices were sold in 2011. What effect do you think this massive increase in smartphones is having on local searching in Tampa and Florida?

Smartphone and Mobile Statistics Reveal Local SEO Explosion

You might have already guessed it… one in seven searches are made with a mobile device. More people are accessing social networking sites this way too. In fact, Facebook mobile users have quadrupled in two years from 50 million in 2009 to 200 million in 2011.

The infographic also points out that mobile commerce is expected to experience significant growth by 2015 from the six previous years — jumping 99-fold from $1 billion in sales in 2009 to more than $100 billion

You don’t have to even believe me… I say that because at times I’ll be trying to explain the massive importance of a business being optimized for local search and having a mobile-enabled website to a business owner and they’re convinced it’s just me pitching them on something we’re trying to sell.

Where they go wrong is that I am absolutely NOT trying to pitch or sell them. Yes, we have the solution for their problem but that’s different than selling. This is no sales pitch if your a business owner or executive reading this. It’s just the plain old truth and the data simply backs it up… and if you don’t believe just the data, take the care to pay attention next time you’re out and about and just notice how many people are on their phone – texting, searching, mapping, browsing and yes, BUYING. Local SEO or local search optimization is an absolute must if you want to keep your business growing and keeping up with your competition.

So don’t just believe me, read on to hear from the horses mouth, so to speak of course…

Also, check out a great post on Everything You Should Know About the Google Over-Optimization Penalty

Experts Agree That Smartphones are Pioneering Local Search Marketing

Consumers love their smartphones. Now businesses must fall in love with mobile.

Monday, February 27, 2012 | 5:00 AM

Consumers are having a love affair with their smartphones. They have become the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we put down at night. How do we know? We asked them. In January, we completed our new “Our Mobile Planet: Global Smartphone Users” research, conducted with Ipsos, to drive a deeper understanding of how consumers use their smartphones.

Smartphone ownership has jumped globally – increasing 11% to 44% of the total population in Spain and by 7% to 38% of the total population in the US.  Smartphone owners are always using their device – in France, 90% use their mobile devices to access the web every day.  Smartphone owners are using their device everywhere – in Germany, 67% of smartphone owners use their mobile device while on public transport. Smartphone owners are not just browsing, they are taking action – in the UK, 84% of smartphone owners look for local information on their mobile and 78% take action afterwards such as calling or visiting the business.

This consumer love affair with their mobile devices is transforming how consumers connect and live their lives. It is also transforming industries, creating new opportunities and changing how businesses engage with their customers. I believe we will see significant advances in mobile this year and the companies who fall in love with mobile will be best positioned to capitalize on them. Here are my 12 predictions for the major developments we will see in mobile in 2012:

  1. More than 1 billion people will use mobile devices as their primary internet access point.
  2. There will be 10 days where >50% of trending search terms will be on mobile
  3. Mobile’s role in driving people into stores will be proven and it will blow us away
  4. “Mobile driven spend” will emerge as a big category
  5. Smartphones will prove exceptional at driving a new consumer behavior
  6. Tablets will take their place as the 4th screen
  7. New industry standards will make mobile display easy to run
  8. 5 new, mobile first companies will reach the Angry Birds level of success
  9. The ROI on mobile and tablet advertising will increase as a result of the unmatched relevance of proximity
  10. The intersection of mobile and social will spark a dramatic new form of engaging consumers
  11. 80% of the largest 2,000 websites globally will have an HTML5 site
  12. One million small businesses globally will build a mobile website

Businesses are no longer asking why do I need to go mobile. Now they are asking how do I go mobile. How can my brand find success in the mobile space? How can I maximize the relationship with my customers on mobile? The answer is to truly operationalize mobile. This year we are challenging businesses to fall in love with mobile, align their organization for mobile success, and create a mobile website.  The companies who choose to ignore their mobile customers will miss an incredible opportunity and risk getting left behind.  So get going.

Download the “Our Mobile Planet: Global Smartphone Users” report to learn more about smartphone usage and mobile consumer behavior in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France,  Spain and Japan.

Posted by Jason Spero, Head of Global Mobile

AND MORE HERE…

Google has been prodding mobile website owners to optimize their sites for mobile. Now, it’s taking a more aggressive step by announcing that it will consider whether an advertiser has a mobile optimized site when assessing ads quality for all AdWords campaigns.

What this means is that in the coming weeks when Google looks at how to decide which ads to feature, it will consider how well a site is tailored for mobile devices, things like whether it works well for touch, is made for smaller screens, has shorter load times and avoids Flash. To be sure, advertisers who adhere to these guidelines won’t be guaranteed better visibility. But connecting to mobile optimized landing pages that perform better in AdWords will now be a factor in determining ad placement. This will only affect advertisers who advertise on mobile and won’t affect ads served on PC browsers.

This is interesting because Google rarely talks about what affects keyword quality scores in AdWords. Advertisers bid on ad placement based on keywords, but Google looks at a range of factors like click-through rates and ad quality to determine what goes where. So ads that are considered to be beneficial to users can be featured higher than ads whose owners sometimes bid more in AdWords.

This isn’t the first time Google has pushed advertisers to optimize for mobile. Last November, it said it would limit ad serving to mobile devices if advertisers directed people to landing pages with a lot of Flash content. And it’s put out a string of blog posts on the topic and released a simple tool for businesses to build mobile sites. Now, it’s saying that good mobile landing pages aren’t just devoid of Flash but have other characteristics that appeal to mobile users. Those characteristics include prioritizing content and making layouts simpler. And it’s now putting some weight behind its suggestions.

Why does Google care about this? Well, it can encourage more people to click on ads if it can ensure that the landing pages look good on mobile devices. Google is, at its heart, about advertising, so it makes sense that it wants to improve the experience, which should ultimately benefit the bottom line. But it’s also a recognition that the web is different on mobile devices, and as people move toward smartphones and tablets, it requires some adjustment.

Google said it’s in the interest of advertisers and web publishers to embrace mobile optimization. Google has said early this year that 79 percent of top advertisers do not have a mobile optimized site. But a recent study found that 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile website that was hard to access from a phone. Mobile consultant Tomi Ahonen wrote today that jeweler Tiffany & Co. optimized its mobile website and found that sales of jewelry on its mobile website grew by 125 percent.

While Google has a stake in optimized mobile websites, it’s not a bad idea for publishers and advertisers to get on board. The world is going mobile and yet, it’s still surprising to see how many websites are not built with mobile users in mind. This is not just a lost opportunity to engage with a customer, but it’s potentially lost business as well.

Check Out These Mobile and Local Search Statistics

HERE’S A FANTASTIC INFOGRAPHIC WHICH SHOULD HELP DRIVE HOME THE POINT WELL.

The Mobile Marketing Frontier

Is your company prepared for the new mobile marketing frontier?

In the last 5 years, business has dramatically moved into a new mobile frontier. Your customers are new searching online almost exclusively before they make offline decisions. They are using smartphones and tablets to search for products and services. They are looking for new apps that can replace websites on their mobile devices.

If a small business is growing today, there’s a good chance mobile marketing has something to do with it.

That’s according to a new Small Business Mobile Survey from Web.com Group, Inc.

On Thursday, results of the new survey were published. Not surprisingly, the findings indicate that mobile marketing has played a major role in the expanding business activity within the small business community.

The published report notes that 69% of small businesses presently consider mobile marketing “crucial to their growth” in the next five years.

Here’s the cold-hard truth when it comes to mobile marketing…

… the largest majority of businesses – from small business to large corporations – are still well behind the curve. Said a different way, while their customers have moved well into the digital frontier, many businesses are still stuck in the technology and marketing strategies of the 20th century.

With 82.2 million Americans using smartphones, according to comScore figures, the benefits of mobile marketing are clear. Out of the 500 small business owners surveyed, 14 percent have a stand-alone mobile website; 84 percent of those entrepreneurs say they have seen an increase in new business activity due to their mobile marketing efforts.

Why are small business owners eager to invest in mobile marketing? Their top motivations were:

  1. Provide better service to existing customers (38 percent)
  2. Attract more local customers (36 percent)
  3. Gain competitive advantage (34 percent)

“With more and more consumers specifically searching for local businesses on their mobile devices, it is imperative that small businesses invest in a mobile presence,” said David Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Web.com, in announcing the survey results. “Having a mobile presence can be a huge competitive advantage for small businesses trying to attract local customers by instantly introducing a potential customer to their business’ products and services in a mobile-enhanced way.”

We’ll keep this short and sweet… Think Big Enterprises is poised to help your company get up to speed and start capturing a whole new sales channel of customers that are searching for businesses like yours on their mobile phones.

These are what we would consider hot leads. Mobile searchers are in the mobile environment. When they search on these smartphones, like an iPhone or Android-powered smartphones, they are looking for something now or in the very near future, say 24 hours or less.

Every business needs to be conducting local search optimization and needs a mobile-enabled website. Period. No questions asked. If you don’t have a company like ours doing this for you, you are losing business to your customers. Period. Can we be any more straightforward.

So, we know you might have more questions and probably want to understand this new frontier a bit more. We encourage you to pick up the phone right now and call us. We’ll get something scheduled quickly and help answer all of your local search and mobile-related questions.

Everything You Should Know About the Google “Over Optimization” Penalty

The “Webspam Update” has been released by Google’s Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, made at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin. Essentially, he commented that Google will soon be rolling out a new over-optimization penalty in their ranking algorithm. This update has supposedly gone live already according to some, but Google said “in the next few days” 36 hours ago. Regardless, there’s no shortage of speculation. Here’s some of what he said:

“Normally we don’t sort of pre-announce changes, but there is something that we’ve been working on in the last few months. And hopefully, in the next couple months or so, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it. … So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.”

I have been hearing from LOTS of people that they have seen major movements in their search engine rankings over the past day or so.

First, I want to briefly discuss what this penalty is and then how my own sites are doing.  First, Matt Cutts says in the announcement that they are essentially targeting sites that they feel are gaming the system through link schemes and keyword stuffing. Overall, this is effecting about 3.1% of queries in English.  So, it effecting quite a few sites.  In addition, this recent announcement essentially follows up with the previous Panda updates that are trying to help higher quality sites rank better, and lower quality sites to rank worse.

However, from the discussion I am seeing all over the place, it appears that more than 3% of sites were affected.  Did Google go overboard?

As always Google is not saying exactly what triggers the algorithm, but they did give us a couple of examples of pages that are considered spammy,

  • Overspun articles... they just don’t make sense to humans with a functioning brain.
  • Spammy Page Titles…This includes titles that are consistently too long (over 64 characters), that include multiple different keywords, or use the same keyword more than twice. Essentially titles that are clearly spammy looking and don’t read well. An example of a bad title would be “Buy Blue Widgets | Blue Widget Distributor | Wholesale Discount Blue Widgets – Acme, Inc” The ranking strength that titles give makes it a likely target for over-optimization and webspam.
  • Meta Keyword Tag Stuffing…The meta keyword tag no longer provides any SEO benefit to rankings; however, many of the spammiest sites still stuff this outdated tag with dozens of keywords, and sometimes the same dozens on every page of the site. This behavior is a pretty safe indication of over-SEO’d sites. There’s nothing wrong with using the meta keywords tag, but it should hold no more than 5 or so keywords, and the keyword selection should be different from page to page. It is also completely safe to not use this tag at all, as it does not help rankings.
  • Content Keyword Stuffing…Excessive keyword use in the body text of a page is one of the clearest overly-optimized signals on a page. There is a fine line between being sure to use your keywords often (which is good) and using them too often. In general once the text starts to read poorly it is too much. An example of this would be “Buy your blue widgets here at Acme, Inc and get the blue widget that you want, and have your blue widget shipped out the same day. All of our blue widgets meet this highest widget standards, and are as blue as you can imagine any blue widget being.” Keep in mind image alt text is included in the keyword density, and excessive bolding is a possible spam signal as well.
  • Reciprocal Link Pages…If you have link pages – sometimes called resource pages – that link out to a bunch of other sites that in turn link to you, this is an over-optimization signal and once that Matt Cutts specifically mentioned. You can link out to other useful sites, but if they’re also linking back to your site somewhere, you’re probably better off not doing so. Reciprocal links are against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Again, there are exceptions, and these are usually found in specific niches in which all the authoritative sites in the niches link to each other as a matter of culture (usually this is blog niches, and those links are the name of the site they’re linking to, not anchor text). 
  • Excessive Footer links… Too many footer links, and in particular abnormal types of footer links, is another likely signal. Most users never look at a site’s footer, so it’s become a popular place to stuff links just for the search engines. It’s normal to have links to locations, contact pages, sitemaps, privacy policies and credits in the footer. It’s not normal to repeat large sections of the site’s navigation in the footer, or to place the site’s navigation in the footer or link to dozens of pages, internal or external.
  • Excessive Anchor Text in Backlinks… One of the purest signals of over-optimization or spam is very large numbers of backlinks that use exact match or partial exact match anchor text. This means that large percentages of backlinks from other sites are using link text like “Blue Widgets” or “Buy Blue Widgets” rather than the more common way of linking using the site’s name or URL. As a broad rule of thumb, most sites with a natural link profile have over 50% of their links using the site’s name or URL, and no other single anchor text accounts for more than 10% of the backlinks. This signal basically represents sites accumulating large numbers of paid links, and it’s very likely that this signal will only trigger in combination with another on-site signal.
  • Excessive or Unnatural Internal Linking…Excessive inter-linking within the body content of your pages is another spam signal, especially when the same page or same anchor text is linked repeatedly. As a broad rule of thumb you usually don’t want to link more than twice in the content of your typical page (to different pages), and no inter-linking is just fine. Keep in mind that Google only pays attention to the first anchor text of any given link, so if you’re linking to a page already linked in the global navigation, you’re probably giving minimal benefit anyway. If you have the occasional page with a legitimate need to link out a lot, that’s not going to be a problem. But if you do so all the time or in ways that seem like you’re just spamming links, then you could be in trouble. If you really feel the need for this much inner linking on most pages, then you may want to reexamine your site’s navigation and find out why that isn’t serving the navigation needs of users.

In essence, Google wants (and always wanted) high quality and high PR back-links on your website through legitimate marketing and social channels. While authority links are certainly harder to come by, this is precisely what makes them so valuable and why sites with smaller numbers of links pointing to them can easily outrank their competitors.

It goes something like this:

1st tier: High PR + High Authority = High Quality
2nd tiers and beyond: Variable Quality + Quantity

This formula has proven itself for us, and has always been the case before the previous Panda changes took effect. This current change is basically dealing with the subject of a backlink over optimization penalty … simply more fuel for the fire as to why we stress that ‘organic’ is the only way to go:)

Also, you should read Why Local Search and Mobile Websites Are Essential For Tampa Businesses.

You can read more about the latest Google algo changes right here:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html

and more below…

What Google’sOver-OptimizationPenalty Really Means | Business

www.business2community.com4/26/12

The dust is beginning to settle around the announcement Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, made at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin.

Google’s over-optimization penalty an evolution, not revolution | SEO

www.seogate.net4/27/12

Google’s much discussed over-optimization penalty turned out to be a moderate evolutionary step in Google’s site quality crusade. Launched April 24, Google.

Google Webspam Over-Optimization Penalty Hits | Internet

www.ecreativeim.com4/26/12

Google has confirmed that it has begun rolling out the over-optimization penalty that Matt Cutts first talked about in March. Now officially called the Webspam update, the goal of this is to target spammy SEO tactics, including keyword stuffing,

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