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  • Guest Post: Using the Internet to Tell Your Customers About Special Offers

    Thanks to the Internet, there’s no longer any need to spend money on mailing postcards to your customers to announce sales and special offers.

    If you have set up your web marketing capabilities, you can simply tweet on Twitter and send an email blast through your email marketing service.

    Let’s look at an example:

    Imagine you own a local fabric store and you have just received a much larger shipment of cotton plaids than you expected. Where will you store the inventory? (And we’re not even talking inventory carrying costs.)

    Instead you tweet in 97 characters (leaving you 140 more characters to add your website URL, etc.):

    Large shipment of cotton plaids with no place to store. Come in today for 50% off these fabrics.

    Then you send out a somewhat longer email message explaining your predicament with the same offer. And how have you gotten the email addresses to which to send out this message?

    You’ve gotten the email addresses through an email opt-in system on your website in which you offer, for example, a 10% off coupon if the person gives you his/her email address. And the email marketing software system you use stores the addresses in a database, helps you format your email message so that it more easily gets through spam filters, sends out the message for you, and keeps track of open rates.

    Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a website for which you can easily make changes, you’ll also post the announcement in large type on your home page. Anyone clicking through to your website after seeing the tweet or getting the email message will be reminded of why he or she is visiting the site.

    By using your website and email marketing system and by sending tweets on Twitter, you can easily make special offers that help you out and make your customers happy.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is an Internet business consultant whose company website is If you liked this article, you’re going to love her free report on “The Top 3 Internet Marketing Elements” – download the report now from

    All opinions expressed in guest blog postings are those of the specific post’s author, and may or may not reflect those of Brian Combs or ionadas local.

  • White Paper: Avoid Local SEO Mistakes

    A quick glance at the Google Maps Help Pages shows how easy it is to run into problems when optimizing your local business listings.

    A few of the current entries include:

    • What happened to my business listing in local results?
    • Rec’d Postcard from Google: Password Entered in Invalid
    • Problem With Local Business Listing…
    • Address shows the wrong place now
    • Our business has disappeared from Google Maps. What happened?

    While many of these problems are not the fault of the business, some are certainly self-inflicted, whether due to violating Google’s terms and conditions or due to sending confusing signals to the system. Local businesses of all sizes should read our new white paper on Avoiding Local SEO Mistakes so that they don’t have to wait fruitlessly for a reply from the understaffed and overworked customer support department at Google Maps.

  • Are Google Local Listing Ads the Death of Internet Yellow Pages

    Last week, Google announced Local Listing Ads, a paid alternative to the free business listings within Google Maps. The ads sit above the free maps listings, but are smaller than traditional AdWords, and are below the top AdWords listing, at least in many cases.

    In the above example, the listings marked with bubbles #2 and #3 are Local Listing Ads.

    Currently, the test is running in San Francisco and San Diego only, but I expect the test area to spread quickly, if Google views it as a success.

    Google Local Listing Ads represent a significant threat to Internet Yellow Pages such as CitySearch and Yelp. The IYPs rely heavily on organic search traffic from Google that is directed to their advertisers. In fact, in many cases they sell on the idea that advertising with their service is a way to have one’s company come up in the organic listings (albeit a page from the IYP’s site, not a page from the advertiser’s site).

    And, for a few years now, this model has worked well. The IYPs have well established sites with lots of links, and they know how to optimize their pages for the search engines. Advertisers with the IYP have received a great deal of targeted traffic.

    But with the Google Maps listings being added to Google Universal Search, the organic listings are generally pushed below the fold (even on a large monitor).

    The IYP countered this by purchasing AdWords to continue to push traffic to their site.

    Google Local Listing Ads could be a major problem, however. If they work as Google hopes, small, local businesses will go directly to Google to purchase advertising. And if the traffic at the IYP drops, the advertisers may drop that channel.

    There is no guarantee that they will work as Google hopes, however. Small businesses require definite hand-holding when it comes to advertising, and customer service has never been Google’s strong point. The IYP’s however, are generally quite good at customer service.

    They are also out in the community actively selling, while Google has always relied on its advertisers coming to Google without much individual enticement.

    It’s too early to say where this all will go, but hopefully the IYPs will view it as an object lesson in the dangers of relying solely on Google for your business model.

  • Has the 10-pack become a 7-pack?

    On Thursday, October 8th, something new started showing up on Google’s local blended SERPs:

    What previously showed ten local listings now shows seven! Reports are that the 7-pack is showing for local queries in Canada and the United Kingdom.

    It’s unclear whether this is a permanent change or simply something Google is playing with, but the fact that I am having trouble finding any 10-packs now suggests the former.

    Some say that Google may be making space for its coming Local Listing Ads, while others believe Google is just cleaning up its interface, but the impact on those of us in the Local SEO game is substantial. A reduction in top page listings of 30% means we all need to work a bit harder to get the results we want.

  • Rankings in Google Maps Dancing All Over

    The last few days have been exciting for business listed in Google Maps. And, by “exciting”, I mean irritating has hell as I’ve watched some longtime 10-pack rankings for clients drop away.

    A visit to Google Maps Help shows that my clients are not alone. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was constant. Clearly there were (are?) problems across the US and Canada.

    And so the conspiracy theories began. Many thought it was connected to edits made in the Local Business Center. Others thought it was algorithm changes. Having multiple businesses at the same address was thrown out as a possibility.

    None of these theories matched what I was seeing. I saw drops in competitive markets and in non-competitive markets. I saw some clients stay exactly where they were.

    What I did notice is that the “Pages” tab in the detail for a company’s LBL seemed to have changed. In some cases, the number of pages had dropped; in others, the tab had disappeared completely.

    There were reports of Reviews disappearing as well, but I did not see this happen to any of my own clients.

    My instincts were telling me to wait it out, but I’m not a patient man. So, I emailed Mike Blumenthal, who has probably forgotten more about Google Maps than I know.

    Mike had two theories, both speculative and unproven:

    1) Switch to (Google) Places has caused disruption with associating businesses with underlying cluster data thus leading to loss of reviews, and web pages and attendant loss of rank.

    2) They have implemented some sort of more draconian penalty system for keyword or business title stuffing.

    Of those, the first seems more likely, and sounds like the sort of mistake Google might make (especially within the Google Maps system).

    If it was an anti-spam smack, it was a rather ineffectual one. Mike says he hasn’t eliminated it as a possibility, even if the odds are slight.

    Surprisingly, after the conversation with Mike, the listings for my clients began to come back. As a result, I really believe it was some sort of data error within Google Maps, and that they are in the process of fixing it.

    I would not be surprised, however, to see continued volatility in the rankings for the next few days.

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