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Your emails can be like furniture; sometimes you need to rearrange

(MARKETING) Emails tend to stack up and make it hard to organize and to find anything useful, here are several apps and ways to make your life easier.

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emails stacking up

Despite the availability of numerous platforms and ways to reach your customers, statistics show, and business experts know, that email still remains the primary tool that businesses use for communication and collaboration. Email is the backbone of productivity, so if you’re looking for ways to increase efficiency and make your job a little easier, optimizing your email is a great place to start.
Just in time for the new year, here are seven ways to maximize your productivity when it comes to email.

1) Please, please stop with the no-reply emails. If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s time you knew – if your customers can’t reply to your messages, it sends the message that you don’t care about them and stymies communication. Instead, create a persona or department that can handle replies to your messages; or, if you must use a no-reply email, be sure to include contact information for customer service so that a customer can get ahold of you if they need to.

2) Don’t waste time reminding a customer that they have an appointment. Get an intelligent machine to do it for you. Remindr is an app that sends text and email reminders to clients, patients, and customers, reducing the number of no-shows.

3) Turn your email inbox into a to-do list. If you use Gmail, consider trying the app Drag, which helps turn your inbox into a super-organized to-do list by sorting your emails into To Do, Doing, and Complete categories. It makes your email box look a bit like Trello and is more efficient for tasking than using Gmail’s colorful stars system or disappearing messages into folders, only to have them forgotten.

4) Reduce inbox clutter by using a disposable email address when signing up for subscriptions and accounts. AnyAlias lets you create an infinite number of disposable email addresses, all linked to one account so that you can check them all simultaneously, while still keeping your personal email address private.

5) Track the effectiveness of email marketing with Polymail, the inbox that shows you statistics about open and reply rates and creates detailed profiles of all of your customers, among other super helpful marketing tools.

6) Find files in attachments more quickly. How many times have you scanned through pages of your Gmail, clicking on anything with a paperclip next to it, trying to find some long-missing file? Dittach is a Chrome extension that creates a sidebar specifically for displaying information about attachments, as well as a thumbnail preview. Attachments can be sorted by file type or date, making it easier to find files, forward them, download them, or print them. Brilliant.

7) Clean up your digital hoard. With the new year, why not go Marie Kondo on your email. Make it easier to find the things you need by getting rid of all those outdated emails you no longer need. After all, digital clutter is still clutter.

Don’t overlook this important aspect of running your business. Chances are you send and receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day, and may also be using your inbox to store and find files, market to customers, and manage aspects of your personal life as well. Streamlining your email experience can save you a ton of time, energy, and money, and make your day-to-day tasks more efficient and pleasant.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Real Estate Marketing

DOJ prepares antitrust charges against Google, possibly this month

(MARKETING) The Department of Justice indicates that it may soon be bringing forth its antitrust charges against Google and alleged monopoly.

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Dino holding Google logo on campus.

After a year of investigations, the Department of Justice is preparing antitrust charges against Google. Signs indicate the case may be brought to the company as soon as the end of this month. The most indicative of which is Attorney General William Barr’s dismissal of the career lawyers. They had previously requested more time to build their case.

The DOJ has told lawyers conducting the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet Inc. to complete their work by the end of September. Alphabet is Google and YouTube’s parent company, which exercises a wide control over online search engines, video, and advertising markets.

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary panel has raised major concerns regarding the company’s ability to exploit and monopolize the market to fuel their own business ventures. Subsequently, the DOJ is asking Google about how it utilizes a mixture of strategies to entice advertisers and online publishers, such as bundling offers, giving discounts, or creating restrictions.

Other critics have pointed out how Google deploys software to manage each step of online advertising, playing both sides of the market. “In no other market does the party represent the seller, the buyer, makes the rules, and conduct the auction,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, in this week’s hearing. He also called Google’s monopolizing position “indefensible”.

Google’s president of global partnerships and corporate development, Don Harrison, responded to these allegations by pointing out that while the company leads in general online searches, consumers are more likely to turn to Amazon for product and commercial queries.

Google currently controls roughly 90% of online searches globally, aided by the fact that it’s become the default browser on phones through its Android operating system. About one-third of every dollar spent on online advertising also finds its way into Google’s hands. It’s likely we’ll see more movement in this massive case heading into the end of the year.

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Real Estate Marketing

Knowledge Panels are equivalent to Google gold: Here’s how to get them

(MARKETING) This major, but underutilized, Google product can boost your business’ visibility in search. Here are secrets to getting and utilizing them.

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Hands on Mac laptop looking at Google results.

You know how sometimes you google something and an info box on the right immediately catches your eye with a large image and a big, bold title? And how sometimes that box has the information you want, so you don’t even need to click through the list of top results?

Those are Google’s nifty Knowledge Panels. For clued-in digital marketers, they are coveted real estate, but they’re not one of Google’s well-known products.

How do they get there? That, my friend, is not entirely clear. The ways of Google are often inscrutable, but those clued-in marketers have been figuring it out. And if you figure it out for your business, your brand, or even your band, you can give your visibility a big booster shot.

Got questions? We’ve got answers.

What is a Knowledge Panel?

In short, Knowledge Panels are a big shortcut into your online information.

A Knowledge Panel is a box of information that sometimes appears on a search engine results page (SERP). They’re on the right side on desktop or at the top on mobile. (FYI: Paid ads always get the top spot because money.)

Google automatically generates panels by crawling through the web to grab information from multiple sources and producing a concise list of information it thinks is the most relevant.

What you see depends on what type of information you seek. Typically, you’ll see an image or several photos, a title, and a short description, which is often pulled from the first few lines of a Wikipedia page. You’ll also get website and social links. Then may come a few relevant facts, contact information for businesses, or products for sale.

Thomas Jefferson’s panel gives you his birth and death dates, term as president, spouse, and vice presidents. Adele’s panel links to music services such as Spotify, songs on YouTube, and her social profiles.

For REI, the panel leads with handy links to the website, customer service chat, and a phone number. Also handy: The cost of a membership is followed by a link to an article on whether the membership fee is worth the money. (Fortunately for REI, the answer is yes.) There’s also a question and answer section, reviews, and specific product listings.

Local businesses can display photos, directions, hours, and inventory. (Google explains how they source information for local listings, which can also include user-generated content like reviews.)

If you want more of the nuts and bolts, check out Google’s blog post, “A reintroduction to our Knowledge Graph and knowledge panels.”

Who can get one?

Knowledge panels aren’t just for the big players. Startups and small local businesses can get them just like Starbucks or IBM. Even local bands can get the same treatment as Adele. The key is to show Google you’re worthy by demonstrating relevance and authority through your digital presence.

If you’re a thought leader or entrepreneur who’s wondering if you can make the grade, having a Wikipedia page is a good indicator that shows you’ve already been deemed worthy by the internet.

Do I really need one?

No, but the benefits to businesses are big enough that it makes sense to shoot for that brass ring. Knowledge panels can:

  • Boost SEO and bring in more of those sweet organic search results.
  • Get potential customers into your sales funnel quickly and efficiently.
  • Make it easier for customers to find you with one click to directions or your phone number.
  • Support your brand identity.

Note that, while you can’t shape the initial information, you can request edits to add information.

Sounds awesome! How do I create one?

You can’t. Only Google can bestow this gift upon you. Its algorithms are judging you, your relevance, and your authority. If you pass muster, one day a Knowledge Panel could magically appear. Or not. (Try to have a healthy ego when you start this quest.)

But I want one. Is Google being unfair?

Is anything in life really fair? Does it matter? You can’t blame Google for wanting to make sure you’re legit. But you can do some things that may increase your chances.

OK, whatever. What can I do to increase my chances?

Be everywhere. Take inventory and assess your online assets. Good places to start: Your website is findable, clean, and explains what you do. You’re on as many social platforms as make sense for your business. Maybe you have some videos up on YouTube. You have a Wikipedia page if you’re eligible. (Creating one is a process, but Hubspot lays it all out for you.)

Make sure you’ve linked all your platforms to one another – your website to your Facebook to your YouTube channel and so on.

Google looks at both the quantity and quality of your online presence, so make sure your content is strong.

Open a free Google My Business account if you don’t have one. GMB is a directory that lets smaller local businesses connect with customers and increase their visibility based on geolocation. If you have an account, make sure it’s complete and up to date. (Hootsuite has a beautiful, comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting up and optimizing GMB.)

You’ll need to verify that you’re the owner via postcard, phone, or email. Once you’re verified, you can add and edit information such as your address and opening hours, which should appear in your Knowledge Panel.

The Knowledge Panel fairy visited me! What happens next?

At the bottom of the panel you should see this button:

Claim this knowledge panel button on Google, when ready to activate.

Click it and claim it! This will allow you to request edits. Make sure all info is accurate. (Take a look at ReviewTrackers.com for more info.)

This part of the process seems to be something that isn’t well known. As of this writing, business leaders like Simon Sinek and Warren Buffet, the Spanx brand, and even Starbucks do not appear to have claimed their Knowledge Panels. You can do better!

Anything else?

Be consistent with your wording. Take your mission statement, branding guidelines, value proposition, elevator pitch – all of it, and distill it into one clear and simple sentence that you use across platforms in bios or descriptions of your business. Google likes it when you do that.

Finally, ignore companies that promise they can get you a knowledge panel. They can’t.

The Knowledge Panel quest is something you can DIY with research and persistence. But if you work with a digital marketing agency, now you’ll know to ask them how they’re questing for you.

Just remember: There are no guarantees, but you should still go for the Google gold.

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Real Estate Marketing

Why you should check Google Street View before listing a property

(MARKETING) Before you list a property, there’s one unexpected factor to check: What does it look like on Google Street View? And is it blurred out?

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Bird's eye view of neighborhood homes on Google Street View.

So, you’re ready to list a property.

You’ve got the tower of documents signed, photos and videos uploaded, and the sign with a QR code and fliers in the front yard, where the landscaping has been meticulously tidied up. Take a breath… then think about one more thing you need to do.

What does the property look like on Google Street View? More importantly, is it even visible or is it blurred out?

Homeowners have the ability to tell Google to blur out photos of their homes. They might do it for privacy reasons. Some people just don’t like the idea of anyone in the world being able to see their homes. Some might do it for personal safety, say, in a stalking situation. Or there might be information that’s too revealing, or a person whose presence could be embarrassing in the photo.

Whatever the reason, you want to know whether the seller or a previous owner asked Google to blur the property. Prospective buyers might see it and wonder what’s gone on there. Is it a crack house? Did some kind of violence occur? Were the windows at one time covered in tin foil?

You want prospects to imagine living happily in the home, not imagining something out of a bingeable TV crime drama.

But there’s a problem: Once Google agrees to blur a house, it’s permanent. They’ve deleted the photos. They’re not going to send out the car or the person wearing a backpack with the 360 cameras again to photograph that property.

But don’t give up on perfection just yet! Here are some possible workarounds:

Direct prospects to another search engine such as Bing, which has its own Street View function on its maps.

Try to upload a user-generated photo to Google Street View (Caveat: We have not done this, but it seems like it’s worth a try). Google allows user-generated photos to be uploaded into Street View according to their image policy. (To do your own 360 photos you would need a specific type of camera, which Google lists. Those are in the $4,000 range). However, we could not find any mention in their privacy policies or Maps’ terms of service that specifically say what will happen if someone uploads a photo of a property that has been blurred. Hey, no risk, no reward, right?

Ask Google for help. A search through Google’s user forums on this question offers little hope that a human will respond to an inquiry, but who knows? The Google gods just might look upon you with favor.

In any case, be ready to answer questions about why the property does not show up in Google Street View. A straightforward “A previous owner asked Google to blur the photo because of privacy concerns” should probably do the trick. Everyone understands privacy concerns in the digital era.

Your job is to offer as much transparency as possible while making sure your client’s property is presented in the best light. Checking out Google Street View is just one more detail that will ensure both of those happen.

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