Imagine being able to promote your business on hundreds of highly search websites for free. Sites like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Merchant Circle, Insider Pages, Yelp, City Search, Trip Adviser, Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, Yellow Bot, Super Pages and hundreds of other sites.
Now imagine that your potential customers can access your ad from their computer, their smart phone and from the GPS device in their car.
Here’s the Good News
If you work out of your home or have a brink and mortar business that caters to local customers, you CAN advertise your business on all of these sites and many others for FREE!
There is an entire segment of Internet Marketing known as “Local Search Marketing” that allows you to do just that. Odds are pretty good that you’ve already used it to find a product or service you were looking for, but just didn’t know what you were looking at at the time.
Free Online Advertising
Go to any of the sites I listed above and do a search for the products and service you offer. As soon as you do, you will notice that all of these sites show businesses that provide these services. Some of the businesses paid handsomely to advertise on those sites while others paid nothing. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
All you have to do is go to each of these websites, look for text that reads “Add Business,” and provide your business information in the space provided. They will all try to sell you their paid service, but I strongly discourage you from investing in something you can get for free.
If you’re like me you’re probably wondering, “Why would any of these sites, much less all of them, give me an opportunity to advertise for free?” Good question, and here’s the answer. “Relevance.”
You see, all of these websites including Google and the Yellow Pages are fighting to be the most relevant website on the Internet. They know that if they provide the best and most comprehensive information available, you will be more likely to use their service in the future. And one of the ways they become the most relevant website is to provide you with the most choices. Let me explain.
I’m Looking For A Barber
Let’s assume that you’re looking for a new barber. Let’s also assume that Google shows you all 50 barbers within a 10 mile radius of your home while the Yellow Pages only shows you the 7 barbers in the same 10 mile radius who paid to be listed on their website.
Which directory or website are you most likely to use in the future? Which website are you most likely to tell your friends about?
That is why everyone of the websites I mentioned above is clamoring to list your business, even if you don’t pay to advertise with them. They don’t want you to know that you can advertise for free of course. They want you to believe that you must pay to be listed.
Don’t Be Fooled
If you know what to look for and what to avoid, you can get free advertising on the most highly searched sites on the Internet. Better yet, you can expect to generate tons of new business from your effort.
Go to our Free Online Advertising page and get backdoor access to over 40 of the most highly searched websites on the Internet.
On a recent TV interview I was asked what I thought the biggest mistakes business owners make with respect to marketing their business on the Internet. And even though my answer was accurate, it was far from comprehensive. So, after giving the question some thought, I decided to answer it more fully here.
To start, there are dozens of ways you as a local business owner can market your products and services over the Internet. And when I use the term “market” I’m writing about free ways to promote your products and services, not paid advertising.
Along those same lines, I want to address the question more specifically. “What are the biggest mistakes business owners make when marketing their business on-line via Local Search Marketing … i.e. Google Maps.”
To start, if you call on local customers and you’re not implementing Local Search Marketing techniques including Google Maps, Bing Local and Yahoo Local you’re missing out on the most effective form of Internet Marketing available to your business. In my humble opinion, there are very few local businesses, if any, who will find a better return on their investment, especially since this form of Internet Marketing is free and it generates a ton of new customers. That being said, let me get back to answering the question.
Not Searching For Your Business Like Your Customers Do
Unless you have fantastic brand recognition, customers will not search for your business using your business name. They will search for the products and services you offer and they will do it on their computers, on their smart phones and on their GPS devices in their cars and trucks.
So, if a searcher or potential buyer is looking for someone to replace the brakes on their car, they’re going to search using terms like, Auto Mechanic, Brake Repair, Brake Service or Car Repair.
Take a moment right now and do a search for the products and services you offer. Better yet, do that search on your computer using Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yellowpages.com (keeping in mind that these are only a handful of all of the potential places where your customers are looking for the products and services you offer.)
Then do the same search from your iPhone, iPod, iPad and any other mobile device you can get your hands on, and then do the same search from the GPS device in your car or truck.
OK. Now you have an idea of what your customers are seeing … and just as importantly, what they’re not seeing.
Not Claiming Your Google Place Page
Current estimates show that 12% of Local Business owners have claimed their business listing on Google. It’s the first, and one of the most important steps to “World Domination” or at least market domination in your community. You can find and claim your business by going to Google.com/local, searching for your business name and address, clicking on the “more info” next to your business name, seeing if your business has been claimed yet and then setting up a Google Account and claiming your business.
When you go to your Place Page, you will see one of two pieces of text on the top right hand side of your place page. It will either read …
You can quickly eliminate the second biggest mistake by finding and claiming your business on Google.
Not Fully Optimizing Your Google Place Page
Claiming your business is one thing, (and it’s a very important thing to do) but optimizing your business listing will bring your business to an entirely different level of success. When we offered this service we changed $1,000 to optimize a Google Business listing and it was worth every penny.
Most business owners never take a second look at the information they provide in their place page. And, because of that, there is a very good chance they will be either removed from the map section completely (because they unknowingly broke one of Google’s rules) or they will now show up in the map where potential customers are looking (because they have not done their local keyword research.) Let me give you a few examples of where things can go wrong if you don’t pay attention.
If you don’t provide your legal business name exactly as it appears in the outside world, Google can and will remove your listing from their maps section. I’ve seen this happen multiple times and it’s very difficult to back on the map once you’re business is removed.
We never, and I mean never provide an address without checking with the USPS first. Get this wrong … even slightly wrong and your listing will not show up in the right location. I can not tell you how many times business owners provide the wrong (non-USPS approved) address in their business listing because they’ve never checked with the USPS. It’s shocking.
This alone will keep you from showing up in the map results if you don’t have the “right” telephone number. Follow the rules and make absolutely sure that you’re providing a Google authorized telephone number.
This is way to comprehensive to cover in this article. But in short, if your website is not localized, you’re screwed. Google is now paying very close attention to your website. Among other things, they are looking to see if your site has …
- Your business name, address and telephone number on every page.
- A map with written directions to your business on your site.
- A geo meta tag in your HTML header.
- Optimized, geo-tagged, photos on your site.
- A quick loading home page.
- A domain name owned by the business and not the business owner
- Your website hosted on a server in your country.
- A site that is optimized for mobile devices.
- Dozen other critical components that I don’t have time to cover in this article.
Problem is, most business owners just type in their web address (without the http://) and without giving any thought to localizing their website.
This is the primary way Google knows what your business is about. Again, most business owners either select one “Google suggested” category or they choose the maximum of five “Google suggested” categories. This is a huge mistake. We spend more time on this one aspect of optimizing a local business listing than we do anything else, and we rarely select more than one “Google suggested” category, and you shouldn’t either. You can learn more about selecting the best categories for your business listing here.
Photos / Videos / Description Text / Additional Details
- Did you geo tag your photos?
- Did you optimize your photos by adding a caption, renaming it with your keywords and adding a full citation in the description before linking it to Google?
- Did you re-size your primary photo to the proper dimension and link to it from a static server?
I could ask you similar questions concerning your video, description text, hours of operation and additional details. As you can see, there is much more to filling out your Google Place page than meets the eye.
So, in order to avoid the third biggest mistake, take the time to fully optimize your Google Place Page listing and fill it out completely.
Assuming That Once You Fully Optimized Your Google Place Page And Your Business Listing Shows Up On Page One Of Google Maps … Your Done.
If you’ve fully optimized your Google Place page listing following the guidelines I provided above, and your business listing is showing up on page one of Google Maps for your primary local keywords, you’ve completed about 7% of the work necessary to dominate your local market. It won’t be long before your competitors figure out how valuable this space is and start to do the same thing. If you want to use your business listing to generate new customers, you must be willing to take the time to do your listing right and promote it all over the Internet … not just on Google.
There are hundreds of websites and Internet services where your customers look for your business. Your listing needs to be prominent and have a stellar reputation on every one of those site. Google is just your starting point.
Now that you’ve done the initial work, get to work on the remaining 93% that still needs to be done.
- Generate additional business citations.
- Clean up your inaccurate citations.
- Find the most valuable citation sites for your business in your community.
- Claim your business on multiple sites.
- Make sure the Yellow Pages isn’t hindering your efforts.
- Generate positive reviews.
- Get bad reviews removed.
- Claim and optimize your business listing on every site where your customers are looking for you and reviewing your service.
- Insure that your business website is fully optimized for local search.
- Build the value of your business website by creating valuable link bait.
- Monitor your results and continue to build your reputation.
Local search is free and it’s the most powerful form of Internet marketing for the vast majority of local businesses, but it takes effort. Do it right and you will be rewarded with new customers for a long time to come.
Local Search Marketing Boot Camp – April 9 On Maui
If you’re really interested in dominating your local market for the products and service you offer, consider joining us for an all day Local Search Marketing Boot Camp. It’s a lot of work and it’s a very long day, but you’ll be amazed at what you accomplish (with your business listing) after just one day.
If you’re thinking about setting up a business on Google Maps using a P.O. Box, think again. Google is no longer allowing business owners to create a business listing using a P.O. Box.
“Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.”
It seems however, that there are still businesses on Google Maps with a P.O. Box as their business location. Word on the street is that they’ve been grandfathered in … which may or may not be true. If it is true, one must ask … How long will this last?
What Do I Do?
If your listing is currently showing up on Google Maps and you’re using a P.O. Box for your address, you have two options.
- Do nothing and continue to watch your listing.
- Change your P.O. Box address to a physical address and abide by Google’s new rules.
This can be a tough decision for a business owner with a P.O. Box address who is sitting high in the map results. Our experience shows that business owners using a P.O Box who change anything on their Place Page, (even something as innocuous as adding a photo) will have their listing placed on hold until they change their P.O. Box to a physical address.
Word of warning: If you are using a P.O. Box and you do not currently have a physical address … do not make any changes to your Google Place page … at least not yet.
On the other hand, if you’re serious about generating business from Google Maps, it is well worth your time to rent an office space or use your home address as your place of business. In my humble opinion, it won’t be long before Google eliminates all the businesses with a P.O. Box as their business address.
Can I use a Mailboxes Etc. or a UPS Store address for my business?
Google is smart enough to know where every Mailboxes Etc. and UPS Store is located. If they aren’t removing businesses who are using these addresses today, they will remove them in the very near future.
I would not take this chance. If you do, you will only have to change your address once again in the future after Google removes your listing. No doubt, this is a black hat technique.
What Are My Options?
There are a few things you can do to get a physical address.
- Use your home address.
- Rent an office space in the community you want to serve.
- Ask a friend if you can use his/her office address in the community you want to serve.
- Ask a friend if you can use his/her home address for your business listing. (not highly recommended)
Google is not trying to make life difficult for you. On the contrary, they are trying to provide searchers with the very best, most reliable results possible. My advice: follow the rules and get a physical address for you business. It will pay for itself quickly.