I think the whole quagmire is an issue for me because one of the things we do at Mountain Marketing Group is set up and manage social media accounts for our clients. So I have to face the issue numerous times each day.
The rest of the social media platforms we routinely handle are relatively easy to locate and manage.
But if you look for Google+ or Google Pages at Google.com, you will find an effective search engine, but not a place to list your business location or an account from which to share items of interest. So why can’t I just go to Google+.com and sign up a client account? Why does Google make everything so blasted difficult?
The answer is, of course, very simple. Google owns the Internet and basically everything on it. So they don’t have to play by the rules. You may, in fact, be surprised to learn everything that Google owns. The browser I use to surf is a Google product…Chrome. The most used search engine, by far, is Google’s. The second most used search engine after Google is YouTube…also owned by Google. In fact, if you’re interested, here is the link to all of the Google-owned Internet properties.
When all is said and done, I can’t really complain about how much Alphabet (the newly named parent company that owns Google) has control over because everything Google powers works. That’s why everyone in tech is constantly chasing the media giant. Google is to the Internet what apple is to devices. And I’m not just saying that in a desperate hope to bump up SEO on my website.
Like millions of others, my first venture in cyberspace was with an account on AOL and Internet Explorer as a browser–long before I even knew what a browser was. And if everything had worked perfectly with those platforms, I doubt I ever would have migrated to Gmail and Chrome. But necessity is the mother of invention. I looked for solutions to America Online and Internet Explorer problems, which is how I discovered Google’s solutions. Of course, AOL is busy reminding folks that they were with us in the beginning. And IE (now called Microsoft Edge) is desperately trying to re-brand itself to regain ground. But why struggle with buggy software and programs when Google is as easy as clicking a button.
Sorry for the diatribe. The reason I wrote this post is to explain the reasons you need Google+ and Google Places accounts, directions for setting up each account, and suggestions for how you should be using them if you want to grow your business. So, here we go.
Why you need Google+ and Google Places Accounts
For all of the above reasons and more, Google matters. So don’t make the costly mistake of writing off their products. Although few people understand the distinction of search results returned when they randomly use Google to search the Internet, there are several different categories.
- The top and right margins are reserved for Ad Words…otherwise known as Pay Per Click. When you click on sponsored results, the advertiser pays Google as little as pennies to hundreds of dollars per click, depending on the competition for the particular search term.
- The next listing is Google Places. If you can somehow overcome the inconvenience of answering a verification call or returning the Google Places postcard they mail to you at your physical location, your efforts will be rewarded by a star and website link on all-important Google Maps.
- The final category of search result listings are organic, natural results. No one is paying for them. So this is where social media strategy is critical. The only way to show up in organic (unpaid) results is to produce lots of valuable content on a regular basis relative to your keywords. One of the easiest avenues for posting this type of content is by using Google’s social tool…Google+. After all, since Google owns it, they know right where to find it so they can direct traffic to it.
How to Set up Google+ and Google Places
The following is a simple tutorial which explains how to set up both of these vital Google accounts. Each is important for any small business owner who wants to compete in 2015.
This account will enable you to post and share articles and videos of interest with anyone who is in your “circles.”
- Go to plus.google.com and find “Create An Account” located at the top right of the screen.
- Provide a few pieces of information, including your name, birth date and current email address.
- Next, you’ll be prompted to add a profile photo to accompany your Google Account.
This account will rank your business near the top of search results with a pin next to your physical location.
- Enter “Google My Business” into your search engine.
- Complete the profile.
- Be ready to answer an automated call to verify your business location or wait for a postcard to be sent within one to two weeks.
The bottom line is that it may take awhile to set up Google accounts. In fact, to secure a verified listing on Google Places, you will need to either sit by the phone in your physical office location waiting or a Google computer to call or you will need to wait for snail mail to deliver a postcard. So the investment of time and effort required to create these accounts is a lot higher than for other forms of social media. But rest assured, it is well worth the effort — if your goal is to make sure your website is easy to find on the Internet. And let’s face it. Is it really that difficult to pick up your phone or return a postcard? Suck it up, Buttercup.
How to use Google+ and Google Places to grow your business
Kathy Bowling is CEO of Mountain Marketing Group, a boutique social media and website development agency based in Fontana, California, and serving the San Gabriel Valley, Inland Empire and greater LA basin. We develop and manage responsive websites and strategic social media campaigns designed to secure lead generation and sales conversion. At Mountain Marketing Group, we help our clients reach new heights. To find out why your website isn’t on the map, give us a call (909) 336-3333 or book an appointment today.
I recently spoke with a wedding photographer who realizes that her website is old and outdated. She contacted me to find out whether my team could handle making changes to it.
The answer? “Yes and no.” “Yes, we could. No, we would rather not.”
Why? Because my programmer, like myself, has been in business since the days of MS DOS, floppy discs and the Macintosh. However, he no longer uses any of those tools because the computer world (like everything else) has advanced to 2015. All of those platforms (and millions more) are outdated. The new way to build websites eliminates the need for software like Dreamweaver and custom coding in favor of the affordable, SEO-compatible, easy-to-use website platform called WordPress.
In the world of WordPress, changes are uncomplicated. Functionality is tied to plugins, which are easy to install and very affordable, if not free. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing love WordPress. So the SEO robots that crawl through sites to rank them skip right past the antiquated ones. They don’t want to bother with old sites, so they figure users won’t either. For this reason, they fail to point Internet traffic to them. In fact, one of the best ways to guarantee your website will never get any traffic is to leave it on an old website platform.
Think of it like this. (If you still drive a 2000 Ford Focus, I apologize. I have nothing against the brand. I’m just using it as an example.) If the transmission, A/C, and engine start to fail and the seats are torn and the paint is chipped, would you take it to a mechanic and ask him to spend whatever it takes to give it an overhaul? Or would you consider the value of the car, which Kelly Blue Book says is about $500, and start shopping for another vehicle? Making changes to websites built on outdated platforms is throwing good money after bad.
And if you built your website circa 2008, I have good news for you. Creating a new one on WordPress is very affordable and fast. It will actually cost you much less to build something on WordPress than it would to hand-code changes to your antique site. And when it comes time to make changes to it, you will have the luxury of being able to choose whether to handle the edits yourself or calling your website team to make them for you…in much less time than comparable changes to a non-WordPress site!
So if your website is built on anything other than WordPress, give Mountain Marketing Group a call (909) 336-3333. We will be happy to review your existing site and advise you about how to improve it with the ultimate goal of improving your bottom line!
The guy who put together this YouTube video, Jonathon Gillardi is hilarious. Admittedly, the video is a little long…11 minutes plus, which is crazy long for a YouTube video circa 2013. But it’s worth the time because he succinctly explains the entire philosophy behind social media.
After years of resisting, I reluctantly heeded the recommendations of friends and colleagues and started watching AMC’s Mad Men. Set against the backdrop of a Madison Avenue ad agency circa 1960, the show features major moral failures on the part of every character. Nevertheless, I admit that I am hooked—mostly because each episode offers a priceless advertising gem.
One of my favorite such moments surfaces in the episode, Love Among the Ruins, where the show’s antihero, Don Draper, steps in to save a large account after a copywriter nearly blows it. A developer whose company is suffering from public outrage over plans to demolish Penn Station in order to replace it with Madison Square Garden, the client complains about the conflict. Draper replies:
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
Clients often ask me what to do about negative comments posted to review sites. The knee-jerk reaction is to face the comments head-on, directly addressing each and every objection. But doing so panders to whiners. Instead, make sure you are aware of public sentiment relative to your brand. Respond only to legitimate concerns. And, more importantly, make sure you help shape the conversation, which you can do on any budget.
To enter the online conversation, you first need to set up profiles on every available review site. The good news is that the basic packages for these accounts are free. The bad news is that signing up is time consuming.
Although new sites pop up daily, as of this writing, these are the major players:
- Google Places—Since 97% of consumers reportedly search for local businesses online, provide them with the information they are looking for where they are looking for it. Google has the advantage when it comes to search. So if you want people to easily find your company, create a listing on Google Places. The site not only encourages reviews which will help you learn about what keywords prospects are searching for but also provides data to show where users are discovering your business. Armed with this information, you will be able to make better advertising decisions.
- Google Alerts—is a great service for listening, since it captures every mention of your company name (and the names of competitors or other key words you enter). If you subscribe, you’ll be notified every time those words are mentioned anywhere on the web.
- TripAdvisor—Completely free, this site boasts sophisticated search technology which helps entrepreneurs reach out to consumers at the very moment they are researching locations. Business owners list property descriptions, photos, and immediate booking. So TripAdvisor is most relevant to the hospitality industry. That said, the company has recently gotten more into restaurant and other local activity reviews, albeit with a bent toward tourism. Based on this, locals may find it more useful now than previously.
- Yelp—promotes local businesses in virtually every field, from dentists to hair stylists to mechanics. With approximately 66 million monthly unique visitors in 2011, Yelp has hosted more than 25 million local reviews. In addition to setting up a free account and posting photos, you can use Yelp to have open conversations with your customers.
What’s more, to keep Yelp honest, an automated filter suppresses minority reviews and targets suspicious activity. And advertisers are prevented from changing or reordering their reviews, so users are more likely to trust the information.
On a Limited Budget—
Google Places and Yelp offer paid listings. If you can afford one, it might behoove you to upgrade. But if you do, make sure you track expenses so you can figure out your cost per click. One of our clients did an experimental run on Yelp. Although the cost-per-click for his Google Ad Words campaign averaged $5, the cost of similar ads we were managing for him on Yelp came in at a hefty $20 per click.
The Sky’s the Limit—
Although you might be tempted to start posting immediately after creating a free or paid account on any of these platforms, resist the urge to dive in before taking the time to listen. In the same way you wouldn’t interrupt a conversation at a cocktail party, don’t post until you understand what is going on. Listening will earn you the right to be heard.
Since you can’t be in several places at once, if you can afford to, hire an agency to manage your online reputation. Most social media employees literally live online. So they intuitively understand how to proactively start relevant conversations as well as rapidly react to negative feedback…even if it’s posted by a Mad Man.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we decided to enter our church’s talent show with a skit about the popular 1980s movie, Top Gun. On his day off, Brent volunteered to get supplies so we could create a makeshift F-14. But when I got home from work, there were so many cardboard boxes and rolls of packing tape crammed into our tiny one-bedroom apartment that I could hardly squeeze through the front door. It looked like the United Van Lines’ showroom had thrown up in our living room.
As I stared in horror, Brent explained that he planned on using one box for the fuselage, another for each wing, and more for the cabin, nose and tail, to which I replied:
“I thought we would just rip off the end of a single box and stand inside of it together. Even if we were somehow able to build a full-scale airplane with cardboard boxes, how would we get it out the front door?”
Twenty-five years later, we still laugh at the memory because it taught us something about perspective. As soon as I shared my point of view with Brent, he saw the entire situation differently. When it comes to marketing small business, entrepreneurs all too often operate inside a vacuum. So, no matter how small your staff or limited your advertising budget, don’t let your ability to manage everything on your own rob you of critical third-party perspective.
For example, when it comes to developing your firm’s Internet presence, are you building a full-scale model of an F-14 when a single box would do? While websites initially served as expensive, static, copy-heavy online brochures, they have evolved into interactive forums where customers and company liaisons gather to exchange information and ideas. To find out where your website stands, ask around.
Don’t use a website when a blog would suffice. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, nothing beats a free WordPress blog. For one of our clients, we maintain two blogs…one which is a WordPress.org paid platform, hosted on his corporate website and another that exists as a free detached WordPress blog. Although the weekly posts are nearly identical, the free-standing platform generates 25% more traffic because Google metacrawlers love free-standing WordPress blogs.
It’s relatively easy to establish a renewed online presence using free WordPress tools:
- Start by asking your clients what they look for when they click on your site. Are you providing the resources they need?
- WordPress offers dozens of attractive templates to choose from as well as lots of user-friendly tools. Choose a design that compliments the color and feel of your brand and click “activate.”
- Set up your site with an “About Us” page listing your company description, contact information, relevant photos and interactive widgets.
- Start uploading original content on a regular basis, which will post to your blogroll.
- Ask for feedback from current and prospective customers. Does your blog meet their needs?
- Take your old website offline and point or transfer your URL (website address) to the new blog.
On a Limited Budget—
While WordPress offers a shopping cart widget, it is currently insufficient for hosting numerous items or payment options. So, if your website features e-commerce and/or remains relevant, improve search results by hiring someone to piggy-back on your existing online presence. They can do this by building a WordPress blog or setting up active customized social media accounts for you on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These networks have emerged as preeminent conduits for directing Internet traffic. So use them to feed pertinent information which points to your hub…whether that hub is your website or a blog.
The Sky’s the Limit—
In a perfect world, everyone would manage his or her own internet persona. But, like many business professionals, Donald Trump doesn’t have time to tweet or post FB status updates. Nevertheless, he understands the value of maintaining an active online presence. So he maintains a staff of marketing professionals to manage his brand.
As a result, his Twitter account has 1.2 million followers and his Facebook page has 391 thousand fans. So if you’re a busy business owner, take a cue from The Donald and leave your advertising campaign to the professionals. After all, marketing professionals can help you think outside the box.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business
Because there were two girls named Kathy in Mrs. Dale’s kindergarten class, my mother agreed to let everyone call me Kathy Ann. The horror of it haunts me to this day.
Don’t get me wrong. Ann is a lovely name. Not only is it my middle name, but it’s the name of two of my favorite aunts. But my weak bladder, coupled with my classmates’ irritating ability to rhyme, produced a moniker that took me a long time to shake…Kathy Ann in the Can. Unfortunately, the nickname stuck until we moved to another school district when I was in sixth grade.
With people and business, for better or worse, branding happens. And it doesn’t take much to get people to react to an organization’s emblem. Take the controversial 2012 Olympic logo, created at a staggering cost of 400,000 pounds. The image drew fire from a group called Epilepsy Action, which said that a video promoting the logo triggers migraines, epileptic fits and vomiting. The International Olympic Committee is set to investigate the logo which politicians say is childish and “looks like Boris Johnson’s hair.”
Although causing people to puke is rarely the objective in professional trademark development, some believe there is no such thing as negative publicity. So, in that regard, the London Olympic logo designer’s efforts were successful.
A more conventional approach would be to create a logo that is:
- Instantly recognizable
Some famous logos that fill the bill include Google, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, and McDonalds, whose images you most likely pictured even as you read their names. The reason you recognize these brands, however, isn’t just because their logos are great. Superior products, excellent service and aggressive marketing help. Let’s face it, if your company sucks, coming up with an amazing image for it is lipstick on a pig.
But for a credible organization, finding the right symbol can mean the difference between obscurity and notoriety. This is especially true in the Internet age, where deep pockets to pay for full-color brochures and slick press packets are no longer necessary. Anyone with a computer and a low resolution, jpeg version of their logo can upload it everywhere from A1-Webmarks to Zaadz.com.
But commissioning a classic design can come at a hefty price. How do you to produce an iconic logo if you’re on a budget? Whatever the price point, you have several options:
If you have no money with which to build your brand, proceed with caution. Like it or not, the logo you choose today will be with your firm for years to come. Also, unless your business is graphic design or fine art, don’t buy do-it-yourself logo software in an ill-fated attempt to craft your own. Having access to a logo program won’t make you an artist any more than owning a calculator makes you a mathematician. Also, please don’t trust your nephew, sister-in-law or cousin to come up with a logo for you. Few well-meaning, artistic relatives understand marketing enough to craft your design in a way that will accurately represent your brand.
When money is tight, less is more. So try to find a nice, clean, clear font for your company name and quit while you’re ahead. Just use your company name as your logo until you can afford to hire someone for the job. Avoid the temptation to add clipart to the mix. Also, when choosing typeface, skip Script and Old English, unless you’re shooting for an Addams-Family vibe.
On a Budget—
I generally caution clients against ordering logos online. But, admittedly, some companies do a respectable job for under $200. If you decide to go this route, resist the urge to micromanage. You would be surprised how often entrepreneurs ask logo companies to place their company name inside of a blue and red oval, without realizing they like the look because they’ve seen it on cans of Bud Lite. If you go with an online design firm, ask for their input and trust their judgment or don’t hire them in the first place.
The Sky’s the Limit—
If you are in the enviable position of actually having money in your marketing budget, don’t skimp on the cornerstone of business communication. Find someone you trust and let them do what they do best so you can do what you do best. The right professional can help you define your unique sales proposition so your logo not only looks great and conveys your message to the intended target, but does so without inducing nausea.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Queso Dip, made by combining Velveeta Cheese and canned Rotel tomatoes looked great on the television commercial. In fact, the ad convinced my husband and me that we should purchase the ingredients and serve along with chips for dinner. And that first bite was amazing.
But the problem with Velveeta is that no one actually knows what it is. The only thing everyone agrees about it is that it is no way related to actual cheese. Reading the nutrition information won’t help identify its contents. So don’t bother trying.
Whatever Velveeta is made from, it reverts to solid form as soon as it cools. So I can only guess what it does when it enters the human body. But I’m convinced it gains considerable mass and volume when it hits the stomach because, after only a few bites of the concoction, I felt like I had swallowed a bowling ball.
I share this cautionary tale because it demonstrates a phenomenon that advertising executives have long understood. Even though “objects at rest tend to stay at rest,” effective marketing can overcome Newton’s First Law of Motion by persuading prospective customers to get off of the couch, drive to the grocery store and spend money…even at the risk of making themselves sick.
So if your company could benefit from more business, stop sitting on the sidelines complaining about the game. While it is true the economy is basically in the toilet, people have never stopped spending money. They still need shelter, food and entertainment. Engaged couples still marry. Pregnant women still give birth. Employed individuals still take vacations.
- Americans spend an average of $16,895 on housing for every consumer unit (family) every year.
- We spend approximately $6,372 a year per person on food.
- According to Top Stock Analysts, the “average” American household spends more than $8,000 a year on goods and services it does not actually need.
- Market research done for the wedding industry reveals the average amount of money spent on a wedding in the U.S. in 2011 was $18,859.
- Wise Geek reports the estimated cost to raise a child from birth to the age of 18 is $200,000-$250,000 (not including college). Nevertheless, in 2012 in the United States, as of 3:30 PST on January 29, a total of 4,797,000 babies were born.
- In 2011, Americans spent an average $2,000 per family on vacations.
Whatever your product or service, someone somewhere is spending money on it. The trick is to find out where they are and convince them to spend their money with you. And you can do this regardless of your budget.
While you need a substantial advertising budget to run television promos like the manufacturers of RoTel or Velveeta, you can employ Newton’s Second Law of Motion (“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”) even if you have no money whatsoever to spend on marketing. You just have to be willing to do some research and pound the pavement yourself to convince people they should take action.
Start by asking your best customers what they like to do and where they spend their time. Try not to pry. But don’t be afraid to get to know them. If you can figure out what current clients have in common, you won’t have to waste your time advertising to the wrong market. One of my clients wanted to start a cable television campaign. But rudimentary research revealed that none of his buyers watched public access TV.
On a Limited Budget—
If your advertising budget is limited, hone in on areas you can target on the cheap. You might be surprised to discover that guerrilla marketing techniques like standing at the right intersection holding a sign can generate more leads than a sophisticated, expensive campaign in the wrong location.
Once you’ve done the research, make the most of your money. Instead of creating an amateurish banner, leave artwork and production to professionals. If you must, you can cut costs by handing the sign yourself instead of hiring someone to handle the grunt work, but don’t make the costly mistake of hiring an amateur for design; your reputation depends on keeping a professional and consistent image in your marketing.
The Sky’s the Limit—
Find someone to partner with whose product or service compliments your own. ConAgra Foods (which owns RoTel) and Kraft (which owns Velveeta) increased market share and decreased advertising outlay when they came up with a joint marketing venture. Granted, Queso Dip can make you sick. But, as everyone knows: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So at least the companies figured out a way to put Newton’s Third Law of Motion in action.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.