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Google+ and Google Places — What the heck?

The Google Quagmire Google PlacesAre you as confused as I am by Google Plus and Google Places?

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.

Google+

This account will enable you to post and share articles and videos of interest with anyone who is in your “circles.”

  1. Go to plus.google.com and find “Create An Account” located at the top right of the screen.
  2. Provide a few pieces of information, including your name, birth date and current email address.
  3. Next, you’ll be prompted to add a profile photo to accompany your Google Account.

Google Places

This account will rank your business near the top of search results with a pin next to your physical location.

  1. Enter “Google My Business” into your search engine.
  2. Complete the profile.
  3. 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.

Bowling for Business: Website Monkey Business

This column first appeared on RimoftheWorld.net on 9-07-09 at 4:13 p.m.

By Kathy Bowling

I grew up in the 70s. So, in my children’s eyes, that makes me roughly the age of dirt. Considering how much change I’ve witnessed in the field of technology over the past 30 years, I see their point. Consider the evolution of communication.

In the “old days,” if you wanted to contact someone, you had three options. Send a letter, place a call, or get up off of the couch and travel to meet them, in person. As a young girl, I lacked resources like postage stamps and a driver’s license; so I grew up with a rather pathetic dependence on the phone.

So, when my best friend, Lori, found out she was moving to the country, to a town that was a 30-minute drive away from my house, we panicked. How would we stay in touch?

Apparently deficient in our ability to reason, we came up with a sure-fire plan. We would adopt a monkey, which we would share. Our strategy was simple. Joint custody would mandate that our parents drive us to each other’s homes on a weekly basis.

Even then, I was surprised that my mother allowed us to peruse the phone book in our quest. After all, neither of us had any money. And primates are not exactly known for being easy to control.

What my mother knew that I did not was that there were only three pet stores located in the Metro Denver area. And, as Lori and I quickly ascertained, none of them carried simians. So, we had no choice but to abandon the scheme.

Had the situation unfolded today, things would have been much different. A Google Search on “Cheap Monkeys for Sale” returns 33 million hits in .26 seconds. If Lori and I had access to the Internet, the two of us might still be sharing custody of a 145-pound chimpanzee.

monkey business pic

Thanks to the World Wide Web, information is instantaneous. Location is moot. Possibilities are endless. If you want to buy a product or service, you will have more trouble narrowing your search than uncovering options. If you want to sell a product or service, the world is your oyster.

In our Lake Arrowhead advertising and public relations agency, Mountain Marketing Group, we encourage our clients to strike while the iron is hot. Whether you want to share a political perspective, recipe, timely message, or a new invention, the best way to do so is by posting it in Cyberspace.

So why doesn’t everyone advertise online? The following are the objections I most often hear:

I don’t have enough money to invest in a website.

If you are waiting until money flows like honey so you can build a state-of-the-art website, you are losing valuable time you could be using to build your brand. While you sit on the bench, your competitors are already in the field, establishing a seasoned Internet presence that you will be hard-pressed to catch.

You don’t have to develop the “be-all-end-all” website on your first attempt. In fact; whatever site you create, you should always consider a work-in-progress. Instead of a static corporate brochure converted to an electronic medium, your online persona should be dynamic, interactive, and constantly evolving.

There are thousands of inexpensive, user-friendly, template-based website hosting-services available, like the one I used to get my feet wet.

If free is the only budget that works for your company or ministry, set up a basic blog using either Blogger or WordPress. And don’t let the word, “blog” scare you away. While a blog is a weblog or journal (which we’ll discuss in future columns), these free blogging programs are really just simple, user-friendly websites.

I think most people still use the phone book.

According to an August 13, 2009 report released by Marketwire,  a WhitePages’ survey found that 78.5 percent of US adults prefer using online directories, their inner network of friends and family, search engines, and social networks over the white pages phone book.

Even though ads in the phone book/real estate magazine/newspaper /fill in the blank are ineffective and expensive, it’s the way we have always done it.

I can’t make pot roast without thinking about the well-known parable of a young housewife who cut off both ends of the meat before roasting. When her husband asked her the reason, she didn’t know. So she called her mother to ask.

Her mom told her, “I don’t know. That’s how Grandma used to make it. Let me check with her.”

When the grandmother was asked, she explained, “I had to cut off the ends because our pan was too small for the roast.”

Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Be intentional with your advertising strategy. If you’d prefer to sit back and wait for the “next big thing,” take notice. Social media IS the next big thing. And you can’t join the conversation until you’ve set up a virtual shop.

Take it from Forrester Research executives and authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, in the social media book I highly recommend, groundswell.

You cannot ignore this trend. You cannot sit this one out. Unless you are retiring in the next six months, it’s too late to quit and let somebody else handle it. The groundswell trend is unstoppable, and your customers are there. You may go a little slower or a little faster, but you have to move forward. There is no going back.

Thirty-eight years later, Lori and I remain friends. Although neither of us owns a pet monkey, we keep in touch, mostly, via the Internet. Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

This article was first published on RimoftheWorld.net Friday, September 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm.

Bowling for Business: To Push or Pull, That is the Question

Since the nature of a blog is to point to valuable content threads, found anywhere on the web, I’d like to provide my readers and clients with information about the most common question I recently hear, “What exactly is social media and how can I use it? Should I use it?”

FB linkThe short answer is that social media is the new vehicle for communicating with any number of people. It’s pull instead of push, which means that content is not just pushed by editors to listeners and readers without an invitation.
For this reason, some refer to it as “Invitation Marketing.” The longer answer is that, for the same reasons the practice of public relations was best left to professionals, so is social media. But if you want to handle it yourself, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Login and create a persona on several social media websites. Which ones? Take your pick. Some of the most popular are LinkedIn, MySpace, FaceBook, Diggit, Reddit, Flickr, Plaxo, StumbleUpon, Plaxo, Twitter and PhotoBucket. This list is by NO MEANS exhaustive. The number of social networking sites multiples by the millisecond. So try to choose the ones you find most convenient and most compatible with whatever product or service you are trying to sell.
  2. Keep your user names consistent from site to site. One of the main reasons for creating online personas is to boost search engine optimization. When meta crawlers search for the number of hits relative to your username, it will only tabulate consistent names. If your preferred username is not available on any one site, go to another. They are a dime a dozen. So it should not be difficult to find another suitable platform.
  3. Provide content. Make your point as quickly as possible. Then politely sign off.

To that end, let me take this opportunity to end my post. If you want to read some more suggestions about easily implementing social media, follow the leader.

Life in 3-D

I just got back from a PRSA seminar. For the uninitiated, that is a professional networking group for public relations’ practitioners where people actually sometimes meet in the flesh instead of over bits of data on the Internet.

While I was there, I ran into several people I met in previous monthly PRSA luncheons and events. And, because we have been Tweeting each other for awhile, I actually felt more connected to them today than I had prior to all of my seemingly aimless social media networking.

When I got back to my office, I logged onto Twitter. And I stumbled across several tweets that actually interested me. Mind you, in the weeks and months since I started tweeting, I have been doing so almost like a blind squirrel crawling across a pile of acorns. My intentions were good. But I had no real idea of what I was doing.

Chubby And Cute Fox SquirrelTrying to follow streams of conversation on Twitter, at the time, was a bit like trying to watch Sabado Gigante on Telemundo for a gringa. A lot is apparently happening. But none of it makes sense to me.

Apparently, I was not alone in my confusion. For, even at social media seminars, most speakers couldn’t communicate the actual reason, method or need to use these new platforms. They only said that use them we must!

So, today, I feel a bit of vindication about my confusion. And I’m glad I faked it until I made it. I finally the conversation. If you want to join the madness, follow me. Together, we might just uncover a few nuts.