Google+ Local FAQs: Local SEO Tips for Northern Virginia Businesses

Google Places and Google+ Local map marker symbol

Google+ Local SEO News

Google’s release of Google+ Local on Wednesday, May 30, has raised many questions about what the change means for Northern Virginia business owners, and what – if anything – they need to be doing now to respond to Google’s local search update.

Here are answers to a few frequently-asked Google+ questions:

What Does the New Google+ Release Mean for My Business?

Google+ Local will allow you to manage your Google local business listing in a more meaningful way, according to Google.

Does This Mean More Work For Me?

Herbst Marketing clients can rest assured that we will be taking care of your Google Places pages and Google+ listings. If you are managing your Google web presence yourself, then you will need to manage your Google+ Local page through your Google Places account and login. If you have not done so already, you should create a Google+ Business page as soon as possible, because Google says it will be releasing a way to connect the Google+ Local listing with your Google Places listing soon.

What Will Happen to Reviews on my Google Places Page?

Any existing reviews on your Google Places page will be migrated over to your Google+ Loacl page. The reviews will no longer be identified by reviewer name, but will simply be attributed to “A Google User” until the owners of the reviews verify their old reviews. Google says it will be asking Google account holders (those with gmail accounts who have submitted reviews) to verify their old reviews.

Will I Lose the Photos That Were On My Google Places Page?

Any photos you had on your Google Places page will also be published on your Google+ Local page.

Does This Change How Potential Customers Find Me in Google?

Your potential customers will be able to search for your business as usual, and their experience will remain consistent whether they are searching in Google or on Google+, Google Maps, or through mobile apps.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Google+ Local?

  1. Google+ is Google’s response to Facebook, and Google’s initiative to add a more social dimension to Google business listings and search results.
  2. Your Google+ Local page will feature photos, a Review Button, and allow you to add people to various “circles” according to your relationship with them (Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Clients, etc.)
  3. Business owners who believe in promoting their business through social media are advised to let their social contacts know they are now on Google+ and invite family, friends, clients, and acquaintances to follow you on your Google+ Page.
  4. Google+ Local increases the “weight” of social recommendations in local search results. When potential customers search for local businesses while they are logged into a gmail account or other Google account, the search results they see will show local businesses that have been recommended by that potential customer’s friends and other members of their social network.
  5. Since Google local search results will be more heavily influenced by reviews and social recommendations, it is recommended that business owners develop and implement a system designed to encourage customers to review them on Google+.
  6. Google+ pages have a new “Local” tab to make it easier for potential customers to find businesses like yours from their Google+ accounts.

Want to Know More?

This article from Search Engine Land provides more information of interest to local business owners.

Need Help?

You can find out where your business is currently listed online (and get valuable information on where you should be listed online) by visiting GetListed.org and typing in your business name and zip code.

For affordable assistance in increasing your company’s web presence and improving your local search results, call Herbst Marketing today: (540) 937-7234.

Local SEO and Google+ Local: What Small Business Owners Need to Do Now

Google Places and Google+ Local map marker symbol

Google+ Local SEO News

Local search and Local SEO experts are buzzing about Google’s May 30 action in the local search arena and what it means for small business owners.

If you don’t know what happened (and most small business owners probably don’t know, and don’t understand the implications for their business) — Google replaced 80 million Google Places pages with Google+ Local pages in one fell swoop on Wednesday, May 30.

I realized something significant had happened when I started to send a client the link to my Google Places page to make it easy for them to write and submit a review about my Facebook and social media marketing consultation service.

To my dismay, I discovered that the red Write a Review button on my Google Places page had disappeared — which meant there was no longer any way that they could submit a review about my business through my Google Places page.

Fortunately, I had already set up a Google+ account and was able, with a few minutes research, to locate the link for my new Google+ Local page where the client could review my services now.

Why Google Reviews Matter to Local Businesses

Herbst Marketing Northern VA website design on Google+ Local

Herbst Marketing Google+ Local page

Local business reviews can make a big impact in local search results. Businesses with lots of positive online reviews from happy customers have more social credibility, and tend to rank higher in local search results, than businesses with no online reviews.

What Local Business Owners Need to Do Now

Google Local Search expert David Mihm recommends that local businesses take the following steps immediately in response to Google’s latest changes:

  1. Claim both your Google Places and your Google+ pages. (Don’t know how to do this? Ask me for help!)
  2. Get your Google+ page linked from your website, as well as your business name, address and phone number
  3. Get a small amount of Google+ activity going immediately.
  4. Message all existing customers witn an @gmail.com address that your business is now on Google+ and you would appreciate it if they would follow you on Google+ as well.

Links for Further Reading

For more information, please check the following authoritative articles about the Google Places / Google+ Local merge.

Local Search Just Got More Social — Google Places Pages Moved to Google+

Rankings on Google+ Local: Some Observations

Google Places Pages Are No More — But What Has Changed?

Google Video

Google also has published a series of videos about Google+ Local. Here is one:


Warrenton VA Website Design: How to Attract More Qualified Prospects Online

If you are a local business owner, chances are you could use more leads to keep your business growing and thriving.

If you could get 10 or more additional calls or visits each week from people who are actively shopping for your products and services, would that make a positive difference in your bottom line?

How to Generate More Leads With Less Work With Local Search Marketing

One of the best and fastest ways to attract more highly-targeted and qualified leads for your business is to make sure you have claimed, verified and optimized your Google Business Listing and listed your business in as many other local business directories and review sites as possible.

As you can see from the pie chart on the left (click the chart for a larger view), you need to include at least 17 different elements for a complete local business directory listing.

Know the Top Local Search Ranking Factors Before You Start

While you can create and submit your local business listings yourself, this task is not as simple or straightforward as you might imagine. Before getting started, you should read and understand how to apply these local search ranking factors.

How Much Time Does It Take to Create and Submit an Effective Lead-Generating Local Business Listing?

An effective lead-generating local business listing starts with keyword research. You will want to spend some time researching which business categories are the best choices for your business. Here for example, is Google’s list of official business categories.

Whenever possible, you should list your business using at least one of the “official” business categories used by each directory. If your business does not fit neatly into any of the listed categories, choose the category that best fits your business.

Every directory has its own set of business categories. Unfortunately, there is no standard list of business categories that is used by every local business directory, so you must use your best judgment in each instance to decide where your business best fits within that directory.

Next, you will need to craft a concise, well-written business description that incorporates highly-searched keywords and keyword phrases. You can use Google’s Keyword Research Tool to research and identify keywords and keyword phrases that are most likely to generate search traffic for your website.

Your business description should include a call-to-action that will motivate online visitors to call or email you right away to get something valuable, such as a time-limited coupon or special offer.

Realistically, you should budget 10-20 hours to do the preliminary keyword research and then create and submit a properly constructed lead-generating local business listing to the top local business directories.

This Sounds Awfully Complicated: Is It Really Worthwhile?

Once your complete, well-crafted business information is listed everywhere it needs to be online, you can expect a high return on your investment. Local online business listings can get found by hundreds — even thousands — of people every month who are searching for businesses just like yours. When you make it easy for them to find and contact you online, you can expect to generate many more highly-targeted leads, with little or no additional effort.

I Don’t Want To Do This Myself: Can You Do It For Me?

If you do not want to take the time to learn how to create and submit effective local business listings yourself, Herbst Marketing can do it for you.

Get Started: Call 540-729-4076 Today

Or Send Us an Email

We can get your business listed everywhere it needs to be listed online. Pricing depends on the number of directories in which you are listed. We will need to talk with you first and get a better understanding of your business in order to identify the best business directory listings for you.

Why Your Free Website Builder Doesn’t Work and What To Do About It


Small Business WordPress theme

CARess Car Wash Toledo Ohio
Home Page for CARess Car Wash Toledo Ohio

CARess Car Wash Toledo Ohio Case Example

The owner of CARess Car Wash in Toledo, Ohio would like to show up on Page 1 of Google search results for the keyword phrase “car wash Toledo OH.” Like many cost-conscious business owners who know they need a website and are looking for affordable solutions that don’t break the bank, he chose a do-it-yourself website solution from yahoo.com.

It seems reasonable to expect that your business will show up online once you put up a website using one of the many free or cheap website building tools available these days.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way — and small business owners don’t understand why.

CARess car wash Toledo OH yellow pages ad

High priced YellowPages.com ad

YellowPages.com Ads Don’t Help Either

When his own website failed to show up in Google page 1 search results, this business owner decided he would do the next best thing and pay YellowPages.com a nice recurring monthly fee for a premium ad, hoping it would drive more traffic to his business. But that isn’t working either.

Why Isn’t CARess Car Wash Toledo Ohio Getting Found Online?

A quick peek at the source code for caresscarwash.com reveals the problem immediately, if you know what to look for.

First off, his all-important title tag is “Home” (see illustration below). This is a common mistake that most business owners make when building their own websites. They don’t understand how a title tag affects search engine results, and they don’t understand what title they should give their home page to ensure their website gets found fast for their preferred keyword or keyword phrase. In this case, an optimized title tag would be “Car Wash Toledo OH | CARess Car Wash”. But how was he to know he needs to do this — or how to do it?

CARess car wash Toledo Ohio

Website Title Tag Not Optimized for Car Wash Toledo Ohio

 

No Description Tag

The second problem is that the CARess Car Wash website has no description tag either — a short snippet of search-engine-readable text that tells search engines what this website is all about and how to index it so people can find it when searching for “car wash toledo oh.”

No Microformat Tags Either for Name, Address, Phone

A third problem is that this website has no search-engine-readable microformat tags that display the all-important business name, addpress, and phone number.
 


Small Business WordPress theme

The Small Biz WordPress Theme: A Better Low-Cost Website Builder

The Small Biz WordPress Theme is a much better choice for cash-strapped cost-conscious business owners seeking an affordable website building tool and solution.

If you have the time and desire to do it yourself, you can build a website using the Small Biz WordPress Theme that will deliver superior local search results . . . provided you follow the simple tutorials and instructions that come with this product.

The Small Biz WordPress Theme was built specifically to serve the needs of small business owners and comes with these valuable built-in features:

  • Built-In Name, Address, Phone Microformatting Tags for Superior Local Search Results
  • Built-in Search Engine Optimization Features
  • Contact Page
  • Map and Directions Page
  • Custom Facebook Fan Page Builder
  • Auto-Detect Mobile Website

WordPress Website and Local SEO TrainingIf you don’t have the time to do it yourself but want all the benefits that come with a website built using the Small Biz Theme, you can hire Herbst Marketing or another specially trained Small Biz Theme web marketing consultant to design and build a website that works for you.

QR Codes for Local Businesses: The Smart Way to Reach Your Customers on Smart Phones

 

Herbst Marketing QR Code

Success Tips: QR Codes for Local Business Marketing

QR Codes — those funny looking black and white square images you are seeing more and more in newspaper and magazine ads — can be a powerful, low-cost marketing tool for local businesses in Northern Virginia — if you know how to use them to drive traffic to your business and motivate more people to buy what you are selling.

These 2D Bar Codes let your customers and prospects access and view your business information online in new, fun and engaging ways.

Smart Phone Usage is Exploding:
QR Codes Help You Tap This Market

Mobile phone and smart phone marketing and advertising statistics

QR Codes can help you reach more customers
through their smart phones

As you can see from the graphic to the left,cell phones now outnumber computers 3:1. No doubt you have used your own cell phone to locate and call local businesses when you are on the run and away from your computer.

The skyrocketing use of mobile phones for local search is the reason why you need to (more…)

Pet Sitting Websites | Warrenton VA Pet Sitting | Northern Virginia Website Design

Herbst Marketing is pleased to announce a new Warrenton VA pet sitting website.

Affordable pet care websites from Herbst Marketing Warrenton VA

Furry Friends Pet Care Website After Makeover

Kelly Parrish, owner of Furry Friends Pet Care in Warrenton, Virginia, was perplexed when the do-it-yourself website she built on Godaddy’s Website Tonight platform didn’t live up to her expectations.

Like many small business owners, Kelly assumed that “if I build it, they will come.” She didn’t realize that Godaddy’s website-building tools were not enough to create a website that works. It takes specialized skills and know-how to build a website that works — experience that few small business owners possess, or have time to develop.

Kelly knew she had to do something different, because (more…)

Warrenton Website Design: Small Biz WordPress Review

More and more Warrenton and Fauquier Virginia small business owners are realizing that they need a robust online presence to compete effectively in today’s marketplace.

As a Warrenton VA / Fauquier VA website development and internet marketing expert, I have helped many local small business owners create their online presence.

Websites, Email, Blogs and Facebook: The Four Essential Marketing Tools

I always advise the business owners I work with that they need to have and maintain a website, an email newsletter, a blog and a Facebook page to compete effectively in today’s marketplace

Mobile Marketing: The Next Big Thing

This year, mobile marketing looks to be “the next big thing.” As more and more consumers use their cell phones to locate and research local businesses, more and more business owners are realizing that they need to create and manage a mobile internet presence as well.

WordPress Small Biz Theme: The Single Best All-in-One Small Business Internet Marketing Tool

So, what is the best all-in-one small business internet marketing tool?

Few small business owners I’ve met have the time, the know-how, the desire or the budget to design, create and manage their online presence. At the same time, they realize that it has to be done, and are confused about how and where to start.

I personally use and recommend  the Small Biz WordPress Theme from Expand2Web for creating and managing your online business presence.  There are many “premium” wordpress themes that you can buy today; but this one is specifically designed for small business needs.

It  streamlines the website development process, and has built-in features that can increase and maintain your business’ search engine rankings.

This  Small Business WordPress Theme also makes it easy to maintain and edit your website content. If you know how to create and edit documents in Microsoft Word, you can create and edit your WordPress website.

Fresh, Engaging, Relevant Content is Essential to Your Business Success

Creating fresh, relevant, and engaging content on a regular schedule, then distributing that content in various forms throughout the internet, is a “must-do” business-building strategy.

Just as our bodies need to be replenished daily with nutritious food, fresh water and sunshine to maintain our health, your business also needs to be nourished through throughtfully-developed online content that attracts and engages your best customers and prospects.

The Expand2Web SmallBiz WordPress Theme simplifies the task of creating customized business websites and blogs, and is specifically designed to enhance small business local search results.

Built-In Mobile Website Feature

The SmallBiz WordPress Theme also lets you instantly create touch-enabled mobile websites that will look good and perform well on iPhones, iPads, and Androids.

Google tells us that:

50% of all searches on mobile devices today

are for local goods and services!

That’s why every local business owner needs to have both a mobile website and a standard website to reach every possible customer and prospect at the moment they want to find you online.

Built-In Facebook Management Feature

The new Small Biz WordPress Theme also lets you create and manage your own Facebook pages from WordPress. This means that you can customize your Facebook pages to match your website and your brand identity, and add fresh content to your Facebook page as easily as you add it to your blog or website.

An Affordable Turnkey Online Marketing Solution for Small Business Owners

The Small Biz WordPress Theme offers a turnkey solution for anyone who wants a website, blog, mobile marketing, and effective Facebook presence, in a tool that does it all.

If you want to build your own website on the best website platform for small businesses today, you can get this fantastic business-buidling tool plus a lifetime of upgrades and a pile of helpful support tools.

How to Get the Small Biz WordPress Theme

I highly recommend the Small Biz Theme as the single best business investment you can make in creating and growing your online presence today.

Click here to read more or buy the Small Biz Theme today

Quick Facts About the Facebook Feature

The Small Biz Theme allows you to create Facebook specific pages in WordPress, a Facebook specific navigation menu, and it comes with a Facebook App that connects your SmallBiz site with your Facebook Page.

The Expand2Web SmallBiz Theme gives you the perfect state-of-the-art all-in-one solution for creating and managing your Facebook/Mobile Website/Blog and Small Business Website, in one convenient place.

SmallBiz WordPress Theme Overview:

  • Price: Under $100 for single-user license
  • Stellar support and customer service from Expand2Web
  • Create and manage Facebook page tabs from within WordPress — a full content management system (CMS) for Facebook comes built-in with this theme!)
  • Automatically display touch-enabled mobile landing pages to mobile visitors using iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry devices
  • Build your professional website and small business blog in a half-day or less
  • Social Media integration for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn
  • Built-in Search Engine Optimization features for top Local Search Rankings (hCard microformats, SEO tools)
  • User Guide with Video Tutorials
  • 8 design layouts out of the box
  • Customize the header graphic, color scheme, navigation menu, business information and much more without coding.
  • Facebook specific pages and menu
  • Facebook App included: based on Facebook Iframes for page tabs
  • Brand new Image Rotator Layout with easy image uploading, linkable images, scalable text area
  • Collapsible Options Panel for tweaking and styling your site
  • Color picker for Mobile Call and Directions touch buttons

Click here to read more or buy the Small Biz Theme today

How to Build a Small Business Website That Grows Your Business

Many small business owners use free do-it-yourself website building tools to create a web presence for themselves.

Then they wonder why their free website isn’t getting found by their target market, and isn’t generating inquiries, leads or sales.

Like anything else worth doing in life, building an effective business website involves learning and applying new skills.

When you think about it, “free” websites aren’t really free when you factor in the cost and value of your time.

If you spend 50 hours learning and applying the skills required to create an effective website (the bare minimum time required), and if you value your time at $50 an hour (the minimum value a business owner should assign to their time) — then you have actually invested $2,500 worth of time to create a website that probably won’t deliver the results you want — because even after spending 50 hours educating yourself, you will still be a novice at website design and development.

Website Development Action Plan

Here is the action plan Herbst Marketing follows when designing and developing small business websites:

1.  Keyword research. Do you know what words or phrases real people use when searching online for businesses like yours? Building a website without doing your keyword research first is like trying to hit a pin the tail on the donkey while you are blindfolded. Keyword research is a necessary first step in building any website if your intention is to make money.

2. Once you’ve compiled a master list of keywords and keyword phrases related to your business niche, narrow the list down to the 10-20 most profitable keywords that have the the highest search volume.

3. Consider buying a domain name that incorporates your best keyword or keyword phrase. For example: Town Name Chiropractic, or Dog Grooming Anytown.

4.  Create one page of content for each of your identified keywords or keyword phrases.

5. Select good photos or images related to each keyword or keyword phrase.  Crop, edit and resize them for fast loading (they should be resized to 100 KB or less).  Be sure to give each photo an “alt tag” with a photo description and photo title.  Upload photos and images into each page.
6. Write and add a keyword-focused title for each page. The title must be 60 characters or less.
7. Write and add a  page description (160 characters or less) that incorporates your keyword or keyword phrase. Make the page description concise and include a call to action. Many people will only read your page title and page description when searching for local businesses online – so it should be a well-crafted blurb. Professional copywriting talent is a must for this task.
8. For each keyword or keyword phrase, write a blog post with helpful tips, news or information that will educate, entertain, or enlighten your target market.
9. Set up the platform for your website: We use premium wordpress themes with built-in small business website optimization features.
10. Add your content pages and your posts. Schedule posts to be published several days apart over a period of 2-3 months.
11. Add core pages: About Us, Contact Us, Find Us / Map, Policies, Frequently Asked Questions, Terms of Use, etc.
12. Make sure every page of your site links to at least one other page, and that you use “keyword phrases” as “anchor text” for each “internal link.”
13. Add a lead-generating form to your website home page and internal pages, where appropriate. This is a place where people type in their name and email address to request something of value. For service businesses, this could be a service request form or a quote request form.
14. Create a compelling offer with a time limit. Create a concise and compelling description of your offer, and put it near your lead generating form wherever it appears in your website.
15. Set up a delivery system for your time-limited offer. If it’s a coupon, people should receive it immediately after submitting their name and email address. If it is a special report or informative video, they should receive a follow-up email message immediately instructing them how to download the report or access the video.
16. Set up your business facebook page. Be sure to create a special welcome page that invites new visitors to join your email list, or sign up to receive your special offer.
17. Add a Facebook and other social media icons to your website – make sure they are clickable and link to your Facebook page and any other social media accounts you have set up.
18. Send email invitations to your social circle and business network. Ask them to visit your website, sign up for your special offer, and “like” you on your new Facebook page.
19. Claim your Google Places listing. Make sure to include all relevant information, including business name, address, phone numbers, website URL, categories that “show up on the Google map,” product and service descriptions, relevant photos, videos, hours of operation, methods of payment received,and any other information you want to include.
20. Submit your site to Google, Yahoo, Bing to get it indexed.
21. Verify your site with Google to prove you own your own website. Insert the Google Verification Code into the proper section of your website header.
22. Sign up for Google Analytics and insert the Google Analytics Code into the proper section of your website header.
23. Set up an RSS feed and a system for automatically syndicating your feed to your social media properties.
24. If possible, create one or more videos and upload them to several video hosting sites. Make sure to put a backlink to your website in the proper place in the video description field. Write a concise and compelling description for each video, and be sure to include it in the proper place in each video submission.
25. Begin link building: Identify other business directories, social bookmarking websites, and blog websites and directory information, and articles with backlinks to relevant internal pages of your website.
26. Create and publish at least one new page of content and one new blog post each week.
27. Syndicate your content and blog posts via social media with backlinks to your site.

Need Website Development Help?

If you know how — and have the time — to do all these tasks the right way, to get the best results, then it may make sense to build and manage your website yourself.

If, on the other hand, you have concluded that effective website development and management is, indeed, too complex and time-consuming a task to undertake and manage on your own, Herbst Marketing can help.

Contact Herbst Marketing today for a free consultation or website development quote.
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