Google Places Search – Why EVERY small business should pay attention to Google Local

On Thursday I went to lunch with Sage Lewis at his favorite restaurant in Akron, Rancheros Taqueria. Although I feel their food is very good and more ‘authentic’ than most Tex-Mex we get here in Northeast Ohio, they are not my favorite due to their lack of a Margarita/liquor license which I sorely wish they would get.

As we sat down, Sage whips out his phone and proceeds to check-in at FourSquare for he is the “mayor” of this fine Mexican restaurant. Our conversation turns to 4sq and our likes and dislikes with what they offer and where they’ve gone in the past couple of years. We both have our +’s and -‘s but one thing is clear: Local is BIG. Unbeknownst to the people running this establishment it has a very direct correlation to us being here this very day.

Google knows this. It’s why I believe Marissa Mayer got moved there. It’s why Google Places has just released the search functionality for 50 million places and why Google Boost could be the next big thing with small businesses.

According to Google:

Today we’re introducing Places Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go. Say you’re looking for that great BBQ restaurant with live music. With Place Search here’s what you’ll get:

Google Place Search

The essence of this most recent change is that it changes they way it groups and organizes local listings. The importance of getting your local business fully listed in Google Pages does not change at all.

So, What is Google Places? The purpose of the new Google Places  is to cram as much potentially relevant information into the same amount of space as possible to let you, the user, sort it out for them.

In our new layout you’ll find many more relevant links on a single results page–often 30 or 40. Instead of doing eight or 10 searches, often you’ll get to the sites you’re looking for with just one search. In our testing Place Search saves people an average of two seconds on searches for local information.

2 seconds! Can you believe it?? What will you do with all that spare time? Pay attention small businesses everywhere.. Google Places is where you need to be. Right now. I don’t have many seconds to spare with this tip.

Other than the extensive time saving features you’ll love, Google has given us a link to preview how the new Places Search works. You can kick it’s tires and test it out here. All my joking aside, this is a major change in how local is going to shape the future of search. You can compare those SERP’s to the current version to see how things are going to be changing monumentally.

Note how how local results are much more prominent, pushing more generic content below the fold while showcasing the Place pages and aggregate data collected from places like Yelp and Citysearch. Also important to note is the map that is on the right hand side that sits above the Adwords Ads 4th position. When you scroll down the page, the map stays in a fixed position on your screen and completely blocks the PPC ads all down the right hand side! Advertisers need to definitely pay attention to this. Things do seem to go back to normal on page 2 of the results but with all this new information overload on page 1, how many people will make it to the 2nd page at all?

Here’s how it looks above the fold:

chicago-places1.gif

Here’s the scrolling map covering the ads:

chicago-places2.gif

Google keeps throwing curveballs. Is your small business ready to step up to the plate? Google Places would be a good place for you to start as it’s more important than ever.

Photo: Taqueria Rancheros – Akron by NEOTacoTruck on Flickr

See The Taylor Institute in Action

I just got off a call about a really cool event coming up at The University of Akron’s Taylor Institute.

The great thing about this event is that it is all hands-on. You are going to see all the really sweet stuff they have going on over there.

  • You’ll check out the eye tracking lab in use
  • Nero lab will be working
  • Call center will be open
  • Infomercial studio
  • There will be case studies to see what other businesses have gotten out of the Institute so far.

The coolest part of all this is that the reason they are doing this event is to see how local businesses can use these resources.

The Taylor Institute is meant as not only a resource for the university but also for the business community.

This is an amazing facility for our business community.

You are definitely going to want to check it out so you can see how you can use it.

You can register for the event here.

But don’t wait too long. Registration is ending either Friday of this week or Monday the 15th. (Honestly, I missed the exact date on the call.) Just register soon!

I hope to see you there.

Sage

P.S.
This is a Web Association event for Akron. Most of these events are in Cleveland. They are testing the idea of doing more events in Akron. So, we want to prove our Akron-Canton awesomeness.

Please retweet this or share it on Facebook.

We want to show them how great we are.

Sage

SEM News – Google Has Range Baby!

There’s a lot of interesting news below.

But the piece that really blows me away is “Google’s Building a Fleet of Designated Drivers!

Google is working on self-driving cars.

I love love love this!

This shows vision, range, creativity and definitely capability. Its everything you want in a company.

Whether Google gets into the auto business is irrelevant. This is a signal to the Google employees, competitors, stock holders, searchers that Google is innovative to its core.

The fact they are making cars that can drive themselves just means that we are in for many fun and interesting treats from Google for years to come.

Check out all the other cool news features below…

Google to Unveil Display Ad Automation and Optimization Tools

The tools — Display Campaign Optimizer and Contextual Targeting Tool–are geared toward helping advertisers reach performance goals on the Google Display Network, simplify the entire system to buy and sell display ads, and open the entire ecosystem through innovation.

Friends – Google News Help

Friends is an experimental section in the side column that helps you find news articles that your friends are sharing on Twitter.

In the open text box, enter your Twitter username and click “Save.” Google News will refresh, and you will see a list of updates containing news articles shared by the people you follow. Please note that Friends only shows you articles that can be found in Google News. If someone you follow has shared an article or a link that cannot be found in Google News, then you will not see that update in the Friends section.

Drunks Rejoice! Google’s Building a Fleet of Designated Drivers!

Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.

Don’t Use Pipes In Your URLS | Says Google

I’m sure you’ll find many URLs with “pipe” characters in it in our index. That said, just because it’s possible doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea :-). Similar to using spaces in URLs, those characters may cause issues elsewhere, so personally, I’d try to minimize the risk of problems anywhere by avoiding those kinds of URLs.

Experian Hitwise :: Google monthly share of searches at 72 percent in September

Experian® Hitwise® announced today that Google accounted for 72.15 percent of all U.S. searches conducted in the four weeks ending Oct. 2, 2010. Bing powered search received 23.64 percent of searches for the month with Yahoo! Search and Bing receiving 13.54 percent and 10.10 percent, respectively.

Facebook Announces New Groups Feature

The new Groups app allows you to add anyone you want to the group and they can add anyone they want to the group and you’re added. No permission asked or needed. In order to get out of a group, you have to actually opt-out.

Groups also has a live chat component which could be very useful to collections of people who need to discuss a project or event. It also has an email option which could become a vehicle for misuse.

The 10 Step Site Migration Process – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

By following processes such as these, the idea is that we’ll mitigate our losses due to migrations, which means that we won’t spend the first few months post-migration chasing our own tail to get back to the prior traffic levels.

Twitter Launches Promoted Accounts

Promoted Accounts will only appear if they fit into your Tweet pattern. Right now, they only have a few Promoted Accounts in the mix, so chances are you won’t see one in your side bar right away but Twitter expects that to change soon.

5 Reasons Google’s New Keyword Tool is Better – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Always make sure your browser is logged into your AdWords account, when you use the new Keyword Tool — otherwise many of the advanced options will be disabled.

Goo.gl url shortener is now open to everyone!

The main feature is that you can use goo.gl just by going to the web page. But if you go to goo.gl and login with your Google account, you’ll get analytics and history features for the urls you’ve shortened.

Facebook Jumps Yahoo; Second Largest Video Site in U.S. @SEWatch

According to comScore Video Metrix, 178 million U.S. Internet users watched online video content in August for an average of 14.3 hours per viewer. The total U.S. Internet audience engaged in more than 5.2 billion viewing sessions during the course of the month.

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Picture from Wordle

This Week’s SEM News – Chill People!

One of the great things about American innovation is that we are relentless. Americans are pitbulls. I don’t know how we do it. But for some reason we just constantly work, innovate and drive forward.

But I sometimes think this endless ambition manifests itself into rather ridiculous ends.

You’ll find below a survey that says, 60% Of You Don’t Like Google Instant. I am probably in that camp. The problem is that the Instant results aren’t relevant. And relevance is the key to a good search engine. It reminds me of that game show, “Name That Tune.” It was always exciting when someone said, “I can name that tune in one note!” But it wasn’t because they somehow magically knew the song. They were given clues.

Google Instant is like “Name That Tune” except with no clues other than what other people were interested in searching for.

This is a product of just trying too hard. It’s cool they are trying. And actually, I’ll take Google Instant any day over the lack of innovation at a place like Yahoo.

And now I see there are Bing Rewards. This is an idea that Microsoft just can’t let go. But this time might be the worst of all times. The rewards are terrible and the technical requirements to get involved are too steep. I’m glad they are trying stuff. But this is just an idea that doesn’t seem to catch on.

People don’t seem to want to be rewarded for searching, or sharing their opinions. It’s odd because we like credit card rewards. But maybe that’s because money is changing hands anyway.

Google never seems to give money or prizes away. They are just always innovating. That appears to be the recipe for success. But apparently that’s not evident to the likes of Yahoo and Bing.

I mean, why doesn’t Microsoft make Office an online app?

Why didn’t Flickr come out with a photo editing tool?

How did Skype become the default IM tool and not Windows Live Messenger?

And Google could really keep working on their social media platform, orkut. And how about continuing to promote Sidewiki? That’s a good idea. How could Google get more people to use its toolbar? Why isn’t that automatically installed on Chrome?

It just sometimes feels like these people are all in a frenzy. Maybe they need to go on a retreat and chill for a while. They are all working like hell. But I’m not sure its always the most strategic moves.

Here are the rest of the headlines I thought were interesting:

West Coast More Media Savvy Than East Coast

San Francisco came out on top with the tech-minded folks in San Jose, California running a close second. Los Angeles (9) and Seattle (6) also made the top ten, while only New York (3) and Boston (5) ranked for the East Coast.

Kentucky Mom Cooks Up Metadata Recipe For Increasing YouTube Partner Revenue – Can Your Mum Do That? @SEWatch

Meta data is the words that you use in your title description and tags. Youtube analyzes these words to not only find your video, but also to target ads to your channel. Therefore, to increase the likelihood of companies advertising against your channel, you need to create keyword based inventory for them to target their ads.

60% Of You Don’t Like Google Instant

# 59% said they DISLIKE Google Instant
# 22% said they LIKE Google instant

comScore Study Says Ad Retargeting Generates Strongest Lift

ReTargeted ads had the highest lift in trademark search behavior with a whopping 1,046 percent. The downside is that retargeting by the very nature of the beast, doesn’t reach as many potential customers

Want Bing Rewards? You’ll Need Bing’s Toolbar, Windows Live ID, PC & IE!!!

People must first install the Bing Bar toolbar, have a Windows Live ID, be on a Windows machine and use Internet Explorer. No Chrome or Firefox, no Macs.

Internet Marketing News – Say Goodbye to Cuil

I remember when Cuil (pronounced “Cool”) came on the scene.

They did an amazing job of marketing that thing. Clients were asking about it. We were studying it. It really seemed like the next big thing.

Yeah… it’s closed.

For some reason it never caught on. Honestly, I can’t tell you why it didn’t catch on because I never really went there after that first week of excitement.

The question I ask myself is, “Why not?”

Why wouldn’t I occasionally type in the letters C-U-I-L?

We all seem to be developing an attachment to our favorite search engine. For most of us that’s Google. Although, we found this week that Bing is Now the #2 Search Engine.

So, slowly, things appear to be able to change.

But the fact that things don’t change much faster doesn’t actually make sense to me. All the user interfaces of search engines are pretty much the same. There’s no learning curve to using another search engine. And we really have no commitment to our favorite engine. It’s not like we have a history of searches built up that contributes to the search we are doing right now. Nor have most of us compared search results from one engine to the next to determine which results are better.

Still, we just go to the same engine over and over again.

So, Cuil is dead. Nice try guys. If it’s any consolation, you aren’t the only company to die on the search engine battle field. Your opponents, the searchers of the world, are a mysterious group of people. Who knows why they do what they do. But that’s the way it is.

Here’s the rest of the Internet marketing news:
Cuil is Stone Cold – Another ‘Google Killer’ Bites the Dust @SEWatch

“The employees were told at 11 AM today, and the servers shut down at 4 PM PDT.”

Former employees also told TechCrunch that this isn’t temporary and they weren’t paid this week.

Cuil, founded in 2005, launched in July 2008 to much hype, calling itself “the world’s biggest search engine.” But users didn’t seem to care.

Does Google Really Know If Your Links Are Paid?

John said:

Looking at your site and how it’s connected on the web, it might be that the links to your site are not counting the way they might have in the past. In general, it is important to us that links are not just exchanged, bought/sold or otherwise used in an attempt to manipulate rankings, as we have detailed in our help center article at www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356

If you find that your site has issues with regards to our Webmaster Guidelines that can be resolved, I would recommend doing that and then submitting a reconsideration request, detailing the changes that you have made.

Supplement your AdSense earnings with Google Affiliate Network – Inside AdSense

Have you ever wondered if your users buy the products you recommend? Have you wished you could be rewarded for driving sales and conversions? You can. With Google Affiliate Network, publishers can access cost-per-action (CPA) or affiliate ads. This means that you can start working with advertisers who will pay you a performance fee for driving a sale or other conversion.

Bing Now #2 Search Engine, They Didn’t Even Have To Take Over Yahoo

Nielsen released a report showing that Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has finally surpassed Yahoo. That makes Bing the number two search engine, behind Google. Yahoo has taken the three position. This does not apparently include the fact that Bing is powering most of Yahoo Search queries.

Facebook Adds Social Endorsement Stats

When you visit your Ads Manager on Facebook, you’ll now find a column labeled “Social %.” This tells you what percentage of your ads with social endorsements received clicks.

Picture from: Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds

Paid Search is $29.8 billion

I feel like the stories this week are all about on the same level of interest… so so.

The ones in particular that jumped out at me had to do with paid search. It’s expected to grow 10.8% and account for $29.8 billion.

Honestly, I don’t know why it has taken this long to get to this point. But I see no end in sight.

Display media should really be the last thing that you do. If you aren’t doing paid search but are doing display… I feel you have things backwards.

Here are all the stories that jumped out at me:

US Online Ad Spending to Grow 10.8% in 2010

One contributor to the altered 2010 estimate comes from the quicker-than-expected uptick in the US economy. This shift has a twofold effect: more shopping by consumers, most readily seen in search ad expenditures, and a greater willingness among companies of all sizes to spend a bit more for marketing in general.

YouTube Brings Easy Video Editing to the Masses

YouTube has just announced its brand-spanking new online video editor–allowing anyone to make simple edits and improvements to their uploaded videos

Bing to May Power Yahoo Results Starting in August

According to a joint presentation, Yahoo has already started testing Bing’s search algorithm and the switch over will take place as early as August:

Paid Search Accounts for Almost Half of Online Advertising

Paid Search has quickly become the most important component of online advertising, and in 2010 this segment will account for $29.8 billion, up by 16.5% over 2009 totals on a constant currency basis.

Bad Links: Words From Google

Generally, bad links pointing to your web site won’t hurt you. A topic we discussed and debated here over and over again.

Image from here: SurchSquad Blog – PPC Management and SEO Services for Small Business

Google Is Obsessed

Not everything Google does succeeds. In fact, some of the things Google does are downright ridiculous.

Also, I would say Google is not good at marketing. That actually could become a problem someday… if anyone ever comes up with a competitive tool that is anywhere near in the league with Google’s main applications.

But I will say this… Google is obsessed with moving forward.

Case in point is “Google Now Fully Caffeinated“.

Google has basically revamped their entire indexing engine to be faster and include more of the real-time web.

The thing about this move is… with 60+% market share, this really was totally unnecessary. They already had the more effective indexing engine.

Google is always looking out the front window.

This fact is highlighted against the news that “Bing’s Cashback Program Shuttered.”

Who knows why Bing is canceling this cashback program. But it looks like they can’t even buy search traffic.

It makes Bing look like they are staring out the back window and regretting where they came from.

Here are the rest of the news stories that jumped out at me:

Google Local Tags for Ads Now Available Nationally

For a flat monthly fee of $25, businesses can enhance their listings that appear on Google.com and Google Maps with a yellow tag that emphasizes specific information such as a coupon, video, website, menu, reservations, photos, or a custom message. Tags do not affect the ranking of the listings, and we clearly indicate which parts of the search result are sponsored.

What’s the ROI of Twitter? Acquisition Might Finally Answer That Question

Trendly is now closed to new customers, but according to its site, the service offered some pretty cool analysis. Stuff you can actual use!

Google Now Fully Caffeinated

The Official Google blog says

Today, we’re announcing the completion of a new web indexing system called Caffeine. Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered. Whether it’s a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before.

Bing’s Cashback Program Shuttered

As part of this “test-and-learn” mentality, we will be retiring the Bing cashback feature, which means that the last day you can earn cashback will be July 30, 2010.

Will Twitter’s New URL Shortener Hurt SEOs?

Twitter announced they will be wrapping all links through their own URL shortener. So if you post a URL, it will automatically be shortened and passed through t.co/ as a URL.

Not Very Exciting SEM News

I usually get really psyched about the headlines that come over in the search marketing world.

But this week… not too thrilling.

I will say, please read Matt Cutts article “Make a web page for each store location“. So many sites bury their store locator behind forms that search engine spiders just can’t get past. It only causes you tons of missed potential.

Here are the rest of the articles:

comScore Releases April 2010 U.S. Online Video Rankings – comScore, Inc

U.S. Internet users watched 30.3 billion videos in April, with Google Sites ranking as the top video property with 13.1 billion videos, representing 43.2 percent of all videos viewed online.

SEO Advice: Make a web page for each store location

If you want your store pages to be found, it’s best to have a unique, easily crawlable url for each store. Ideally, you would also create an HTML sitemap that points to the web pages for your stores (and each web page should have a unique url).

DoubleClick Invests In Real-Time Online Ads Bidding With Invite Media Buy @SEWatch

“Real time bidding technology… enables advertisers and agencies to tailor their bids on an impression-by-impression basis, based on their own data, when bidding on websites that choose to make their ad space available through an advertising exchange,”

U.S. April Mobile Searches Get 90% Boost Via Apps, 50% Via Browsers; Social Networking Still Biggest @SEWatch
SEO Tool Review: Wordtracker Back Majestic To Create Link Building Magic @SEWatch

I would say that the WordTracker/Majestic SEO powered link analyzer was a better user experience than Yahoo Search Explorer.



I’m Supporting Flash. What’s happening to the world?

We all should keep an eye on Flash, and how we use it in our Web sites. Apple does not support Flash. Consequently, because iPad’s are becoming so widely used, this is going to cause some tough decisions to be made.

This is a strange turn of events for me. I typically am the person who fights against the use of Flash in Web sites. But now I find myself on the other side of the discussion.

Flash has become a solid tool for presenting multimedia content. And right now, I don’t believe there is a better technology that can take its place.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Will you take the Flash movie off of your site?

Here are all the news stories from the past week that I found interesting:

Marketers Respond to the Apple v. Flash Battle

Programmers and Web designers say clients increasingly are asking that their websites or applications be compatible with Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Those sites can’t be built with Adobe’s Flash technology, which is used widely for online video and animation but which Apple has banned from its devices.

Yahoo Buys Associated Content and $5 Per Article ‘Journalists’ Celebrate

The deal, which will be announced later today, is part of an effort to shore up Yahoo’s content offerings and underscores the increased use of low-cost, crowd-sourced content, a strategy that AOL is pursuing through its SEED content factory, as well as by Demand Media, which reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to explore an IPO this summer.

Foursquare Check Ins Growing Rapidly

Responding to criticism for Foursquare’s recent downtime, the company said it’s now handling an average 600,000 “check-ins” per day.

That’s basically double the less than 400,000 check-ins per day in late March — just two months ago — and up about 5X from when it hit 1 million check-ins a WEEK in February.

Google Handles Privacy Blunder Well

Google added that, Google has made a decision to completely stop using the WiFi data collection technology with Street View cars in the future. Those wifi collecting cars will be taken out of the rotation and not be used due to the privacy concerns expressed globally. In addition to these steps, Google promised to ask a third party to audit the software at issue and conduct internal reviewing procedures to ensure that the controls are in place to prevent these issues in the future.

Is Social Conversation The Future Of Polls And Surveys ? [Study] – Search Marketing News Blog – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

In a study called From Tweets to Polls: Linking Text Sentiment to Public Opinion Time Series, researchers found that online social conversation analysis could also “capture important large-scale trends.”

U.S. Q1 Online Ad Revenues Hit Record $5.9bn As Market Looks Up – Search Marketing News Blog – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Online advertising revenues hit a record $5.9 billion in the U.S. in the first quarter, reflecting an uptick in the country’s economy as well as the increasing role of online advertising in marketers’ campaigns, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said in a report.

How to Cloak Your Affiliate Links the Easy Way

Nowadays, I use a much simpler technique that puts all my affiliate links on one php page, i.e. link.php, which resides in the root directory.

Photo from: Philips Box Flash on Flickr