Note from the editor: Please welcome AG’s newest writer, Marty Martin who is well respected in the SEO/SEM industry and is accomplished most notably in his work with higher education, government and business clients. Marty shares our sentiment of being the “anti-consultant” in an environment where everyone’s a “guru” or a “ninja” and his passion is evident in all of his writing. Marty is a licensed agent but has for many years been devoted to the advocacy of businesses as he helps to implement cost effective SEO/SEM strategies. Please welcome him in comments.
Search marketing is more than just SEO
First of all, as a local real estate agent, if you don’t know about the Google Local Business Center, you owe it to yourself to get in there and figure it out.
In a nut shell, when potential customers are searching Google Maps for something like “real estate” or “homes for sale” when viewing their town, neighborhood, etc. you can have your agent profile, name, address, website, address, phone number and more all show up in a handy pop-up. For free. (And honestly, what real estate agent’s heart doesn’t leap at free advertising?)
So what’s new?
Prior to the last week, only businesses with fixed locations were able to add a listing to the Local Business Center, so as an agent, you had to either use your broker’s address (and compete with all the other agents at that location) or use your home address (which is kind of awkward if someone comes driving through your neighborhood looking for a business at your home).
Enter “Service Areas”.
Now, for us service industry pros, we can select a physical business location or even better, a circular service area from a center point (think city center plus a 30 mile radius) or a list of cities or zip codes. Brilliant.
Now more customers can find you
By picking one location and creating a service area or adding a list of zip codes or cities served, your Google listing is not restricted to showing up based on one physical location. The end result for you should be your listing showing up in more local map searches. And if you throw your website into the listing, some more exposure there as well.
Other features for the uninitiated
With Google Local Business Center, you can also add coupons to your listing (examples might be a free credit review, free home inspection, free title insurance policy … be creative to catch the users eye).
You can also add to your free business listing:
- Up to 5 videos
- Operating hours
- Service area(s)
- Payment options (not really applicable to agents)
- Up to 10 photos or images (why would you add your portrait and logo?)
- And other “Additional Details” (this is a good place to add some key words ;o)
Get started: Add your own free business listing. Folks, this is so easy a caveman could do it.
One small thing to watch out for
Some folks have reported a problem with Google merging multiple business records of businesses using the same location and updating the same day. So if you’re using your broker’s address, you might want to wait a few weeks until Google irons out this small wrinkle. (or just switch to your home address).
5 ways voice is changing the SEO game
(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.
SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.
Why Voice Search Matters
For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.
From The Ground Up
Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.
Expanding Your Device Options
In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.
Snippets For Search
Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.
Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.
Rebuild and Reassess
After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.
Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.
How to use offline marketing to your advantage in a digital world
(BUSINESS) We often become obsessed with new marketing strategies, favoring the internet over some traditional methods that continue to drive traffic timelessly.
Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.
When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.
“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”
How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.
1. Yard signs
When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.
The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.
The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.
With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”
3. Promotional giveaways
It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.
Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)
4. Local event sponsorships
One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.
Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.
Offline marketing is anything but dead.
If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.
The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads
(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.
To avatar or not to avatar?
After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.
It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.
Throw culture out of the window
So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?
You should, and here’s why… science.
Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”
The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”
Reading between the lines
Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.
Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.
Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.
This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.
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