Onsite SEO Checklist For Attorneys & Professional Services

As the marketing director and one of the founding partners here at ControlYourCity.com, I’ve got to start out by saying I don’t like what SEO has become. The simple fact is that many people that call themselves SEOs are doing little more than putting spam everywhere they can on the internet in hopes that it will help rankings. With that said, I can’t discount the fact that it’s still important to keep old school SEO going…especially for attorneys & professional services.

What I mean by old school SEO is simply focusing on onsite factors that will help Google and other major search engines crawl your website and get a better understanding of what you have to offer. You shouldn’t be focusing on this or that anchor text from this or that website, but onsite factors still matter. Depending on your industry, you’ll take advantage of onsite SEO in different ways. So, today, we’re going to provide a checklist specifically tailored to attorneys & professional services.

  • Optimize Your Title – Google and other search engines expect your title to properly describe what users can expect when they click on your site in search results. There are a few key factors attorneys and professional service providers are going to want in their titles. They include your location, what you do, and your name or firm’s name. So let’s say you’re a car accident or personal injury attorney in Westlake Village, CA. Your title should be something along the lines of “Personal Injury Attorney | Westlake Village, CA| (Company Name). Ohh, check out what Google shows as the first result for “Car Accident Attorney in Westlake Village CA”…

Proper Titles Pay Off

  • Optimize Your Description - It always surprises me when I take on a new client that doesn’t have a description written for their website. When writing a description for a website that advertises attorneys or professional services, it’s important to remember to include both what you offer in more detail as well as the location you’re marketing your services to. Lets take a look at the same search from above…

Good use of description tags

NAP Data

  • Create Separate Pages For Separate Offices - As I mentioned above, Google uses your name, address, and phone number to verify the validity of your business. If you convoluted this data by including more than one set for more than one office on the same page, it can cause problems when it comes time to market your website. So, instead of listing several locations in the footer of your website, make a dedicated page on your site for each branch. Then, include the contact information for your main office in the footer of your website.
  • Make Sure Location Pages Are Unique - Google and other search engines don’t like thin content that provides no value. However, I see it all the time on attorney and professional service websites. Instead of making unique pages for each location, I’ll see the same content with the location changed on each page. All this does is load your website with duplicate content that adds no value for the user. Instead, it’s best to take this opportunity to introduce your staff at the office, talk about the particular community the office is in and why you’re happy to serve that community, and more! The more unique you make these pages, the better your chances are of showing up on the first page of search!
  • Include A Blog In Your Design - Blogs give you the opportunity to reach out to your audience in ways a website without a blog can’t! Through a blog, you can provide answers to common questions, generate great user engagement signals like social shares, and create link bait that will make other authorities want to mention you on their blogs. To learn more about why attorneys and professional service providers should have a blog, click here!

Final Thoughts

Although SEO is important, it shouldn’t be taken beyond onsite SEO. By following the check list above, attorneys and professional services can make it easier for Google and other major search engines to want to show their sites on the first page. For a free inbound marketing audit or to find out how we can help you, contact us today!

Attorneys | Will Google's Change Affect You

In today’s world of high tech gadgets and unimaginable information at our fingertips, there are tons of attorneys out there that rely on high search engine rankings to continue the growth of their client base. With more than 80% of consumers performing an online search before hiring a legal professional, it’s hard to discount the impact high rankings could have on a particular attorney’s ability to gain more clients. With that said, Google has recently performed an update to their hummingbird algorithm that many experts are calling the biggest Google update we’ve seen since the year 2,000. So, one of the biggest questions for search-minded attorneys is, will this update affect my practice?

So Will This Have Any Affect On Attorneys?

To be honest, the update may or may not have an affect on your overall ability to build your client base through search. However, it will most likely have an affect on how that happens.

Throughout the past 15+ years, Google has been the biggest provider in search; and has gathered quite a bit of data with regard to how consumers search for information. With all of this data, Google now has the ability to not only display results relevant to words in a search, but understand the true reason for the search. Based on the context of the search, Google is now going to make an attempt to show you the results that will answer your particular questions; instead of simply providing tons of information about a broad topic.

This Is Great News For Some, Bad News For Others

What Attorneys This Is Great News For

The attorneys that have taken part in quality, white hat marketing techniques will benefit the most from this. That’s because these attorneys aren’t optimizing for particular keywords. Instead, they’re doing the following…

  • Maintaining A Blog - Instead of focusing on a small group of keywords, attorneys who have been taking part in quality online marketing have been maintaining a blog; essentially focusing on answering the common questions that consumers may have. As a result, these attorneys already have quite a bit of incredibly valuable and detailed information hosted on their blogs. As a result, when consumers search for these answers, attorneys who have maintained a quality blog that provides valuable answers to pressing questions will most likely show up for searches associated with what they do. What those searches may be, who knows! Nonetheless, if you provide quality answers through a blog, you’re going to show up.
  • Focusing On Their Audience - Great attorneys with great marketing strategies not only make an effort, but focus quite a bit of their efforts on understanding their audience. As a result, these attorneys have pages on their websites that their target audience will find invaluable; leading to more social shares and interaction. These signals will show Google that the attorney associated with them provides great content that people find useful!
  • Engaging With Their Communities - To get a better understanding of what your local community expects from you, it’s important to be an active member of that community. By engaging with their communities, attorneys get more of an understanding of exactly what their audience wants to see; and can provide that on their websites; ultimately leading to more traffic and more clients.

What Attorneys This News Is Bad For

If you’re doing things in a positive way online, chances are that this updated is great news for you. On the other hand, if you’re trying to fool the search engines into showing you on the first page, this is definitely bad news. If you take part in the following, this update is bad news for you…

  • Keyword Optimization - For a long time, many internet savvy attorneys have been focusing on high rankings for specific keywords. For instance, they want to rank for keywords like “Personal injury attorney in (insert city here)”. However, Google has found that consumers search all kinds of terms for this particular keyword and each search has an intended purpose. So, if you’re simply optimizing for a specific group of keywords, you’re going to miss out on the vast majority of searches associated with what you do.
  • Displaying Thin Content - The biggest part of this update is to understand what searchers what to see, and show them detailed content that will answer their questions. Many attorneys have tons of pages of thin content where the only thing different in each page is the city name…that doesn’t fly any more! Thin content just won’t work!

Final Thoughts

If you’re an attorney looking to increase your online presence, it’s become more important than ever to use white hat strategies. If you’d like professional help making your firm shine, contact us today!

How Google Decides If Your Website Is Quality

It’s always been important to have a quality website. Even in the old days when it was easy to fool search engines into perceiving your site as a quality source of information; you could get rankings, but without quality, you couldn’t get sales. These days, quality has become even more important. As a matter of fact, a high quality website with little exposure is most likely going to get better rankings than a low quality site with quite a bit of links pointing in. Why? Well, because people like to see quality and Google wants to show people what they want to see.

What Does Having A Quality Website Really Mean

Having a quality website means far more than simply producing high quality content. The only problem is that even marketing experts didn’t have a guide to follow when it came to building quality websites…that is, until a recent post by one of our favorite Google guys, Amit Singhal. In his most recent post, Mr. Singhal explains exactly what we should be doing when building quality websites for our business or clients. Here are the major points that Mr. Singhal informed us of. To read the full article, click here!

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article? - If you can’t trust the information that you provide, you can’t expect your visitors to trust it either!
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? - Google has been focusing heavily on in depth content that answers all questions or concerns consumers may have about a particular topic. By providing that type of content, you provide quality.
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? - This type of thing is considered to be a black hat marketing technique and Google is nipping it in the butt. Simply put, stay away from any and all duplication.
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? - Now that’s a serious question isn’t it? That just goes to show that these days, Google’s core focus is to display trustworthy websites to their audience….this may be why they released that info about https:// being used as a ranking signal.
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? - Any authority in any industry is going to want to avoid making simple mistakes like spelling mistakes and incorrect fact quotes. Now you have more of a reason to avoid these types of things!
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? - Just like anyone else, search engines don’t like to be fooled. However, they do like it when websites make an honest attempt at providing quality information to their audience. So, if your topics are chosen based on rankings, IT’S TIME TO STOP!
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? - As mentioned above, Google doesn’t like duplicate information. So by providing original information, chances are, your site will rank better!
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? - This is one of the biggest factors. If you don’t add any value to what’s already out there about a topic, there’s no reason for Google or any other search engine to display your work. So, take a look at competitor sites that rank well, and make sure to provide something of value that they don’t have.
  • How much quality control is done on content? - When you publish new content, do you check your sources? Do you proof read? Or, do you just write what you’ve got to write and click publish? To make sure your site is quality, there’s got to be some sort of quality control.
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story? - Some of the topics you write about can be seen from different angels. So, if you write about one of these topics, make sure to cover it from all sides.
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? - If you have an authority site, chances are it will rank well. If not, you can still rank, but it will take a bit more work.
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? - Mass production generally leads to poor quality. Google is no stranger to this concept.
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? - As mentioned above, you can’t just write and click publish anymore. It’s important to make sure that there are no errors and the article is aesthetically pleasing.
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? - This is another sign that Google really values trustworthy content.
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? - If not, it’s time to work on branding! You can start by claiming your free local listing in our directory!
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? - In the olden days SEOs would focus on word counts. However, Google is far smarter than they used to be. Now they’ve got ways to make sure that your content addresses the topic completely. If not, chances are that you won’t rank well.
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? - Anyone can come up with an article full of obvious information. However, it’s your job to cover the sections of the topic that aren’t so obvious.
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? - Quality content makes users want to share it.
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? - It’s OK to have advertising; as long as that advertising doesn’t take away from the main content.
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book? - If you would expect to see it in print, chances are that it’s quality!
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? - This is what we in the industry call thin content. Don’t be a creator of thin content; instead, be the expert that creates detailed resources full of valuable information.
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? - As in any other facet of life, attention to detail is incredibly important.
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site? - If Google users complain about what you’ve got to offer, chances are that you’re not offering quality!

Final Thoughts

Having a quality website is incredibly important if you plan to drive leads to your business from the internet. If you need help getting your website up to par, contact us today to find out how affordable our help really is!

Attorney SEO Services|Rank First Guarantee Lies!

Before we get into today’s article, I think it’s important that we start with a quote directly from Google.

Google Screenshot Warning About Shady SEO

 

OK, so the text in the screenshot’s a bit small. This is what it says…

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.

A Bit Of Back Story

As a partner and the chief marketing strategist in an online marketing firm, I speak to quite a few different people, from customers to service providers, and more! As our firm grows, more and more attorneys in particular are becoming interested in what we have to offer. However, after speaking with quite a few potential clients, some who turned out to be actual clients and still are to this day, I learned that there are quite a few predatory SEO agencies that feed off of the perceived financial ability of attorneys as well as the perceived lack of knowledge with regard to the world of internet marketing that attorneys have.

One of the most common scams that seem to be plaguing attorneys these days is the idea that anyone can guarantee the #1 position in Google search, or on any search engine for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to do the right things to associated with inbound marketing; which in turn increases your site’s authority and allows it to rank better in search. However, that’s not what these con-artists are promising. Nope, instead they’re getting in touch with attorneys and promising the #1 position on a silver spoon. That just doesn’t happen!

So Is There A Place For SEO At All?

The fact that no one can guarantee a rankings in Google just blows the credibility of SEO for attorneys all out of the water doesn’t it? Well, not really. Let me explain…

SEO is an onsite process. Instead of buying links, spinning articles, and trying to fool the search engines. You can do a few things on your website that essentially make it more important in the eyes of search engines. Things like adding title, description, and keyword meta tags can do a great deal for your presence in search. However, SEO shouldn’t be the main focus of a good inbound marketing campaign for attorneys. Sure, it’s great to rank better, but rankings don’t always equal more clients…especially if you’re ranking because of a shoddy link building agency that can only rank you for obscure keywords that no one uses!

So What Does A Good Inbound Marketing Campaign For Attorneys Consist Of

To be honest with you, most campaigns are unique depending on what’s expected to happen with the website. However, here are three things that are important to do in just about any online marketing campaign for attorneys…

Website Overhaul

In most cases, when we take on new attorney clients, they either don’t have a website, or their website is incredibly outdated. For an online marketing campaign to be effective, it’s important that the website you drive traffic to is a quality one. While updating websites for attorneys, we keep make sure onsite SEO factors are up to par, load times are great, and the design is impeccable.

Add A Blog

The internet was created so that people can connect with others from around the globe, and get answers to just about any question at the click of a mouse. Adding a blog to your website gives you a place to answer the questions about law that people are looking for. Obviously, you don’t want to give legal advice, and disclaimers may be necessary. However, providing general answers to the most common questions associated with your industry is a great way to build your online authority.

Start Connecting

Finally, one of the biggest factors in the growth of your website is the connections you make with your community, your target audience, and other industry leaders in your area. We go about connecting with these audiences in several different ways. Depending on your goals for your law office, you may want to take part in blog commenting (Not spam commenting; comments with a reason! We’ll get into that in another post.), social networking, forum posting, maintaining local listings and more!

The Result

As the result of having a great website and being active all around the web, you’ll start noticing that your traffic is starting to increase. Not only are you getting traffic, but you’re starting to get calls from consumers that need an attorney! Also, because you’ve done things the right way, you’ll start noticing rankings increases for competitive terms revolving around your industry. Ultimately, you’ll start seeing the fruits of a positive, organic, inbound marketing campaign!

Do You Need Help Marketing Your Legal Practice?

If you’re looking for an inbound marketing agency that focuses on effective, yet ethical strategies, contact us today! We’d love to help!

Local Businesses - Get More Blog Readers

In the past, we’ve talked about why blogs are so important to attorneys and other local businesses. We’ve given you tips on how to make your blog pop, and pointers on getting started. You’ve gotten in the habit of posting on a regular schedule, your content is great, and you get a comment here and there; what a sigh of relief…that task is done, right? Wrong! The simple truth is that blogging is never done. Now that you’ve got something for people to read, it’s time to get more readers to actually find your blog. So, today, we’re going to talk about a few ways that local businesses can increase the readership of their blogs. Let’s get right to it!

How To Get More People Reading Your Business’ Blog

Use Captivating Titles

One of the most important things to remember when writing your blog posts is that the post title is incredibly important. When people search for information you’ve got to offer in a blog post, the first thing they see is your post’s title. You want to make sure that the title captivates the attention of the audience and makes them want to read more. For instance, take a look at the title of this post. I mulled around a few ideas including…

  • How To Get More People Reading Your Blog
  • Driving Traffic To Your Blog Is The Next Step
  • Is Your Blog Being Read.

Then I got to thinking….who am I targeting with this post. Ultimately, I’m giving tips for local businesses, so I figured that should be in the title. Also, I thought about why local business owners would come across this post. The answer…they want more traffic! So, instead of using one of the generic titles above, I decided to call out to local businesses and tell them exactly what they can expect for the post. So, we ended up with Local Businesses – Get More Blog Readers! Not only does this title tell you what to expect, but it will most likely pop to local business’ since I addressed them first!

Take Advantage Of Description Meta Tags

Another thing that people will see in the search results is a description of the page. See the image below…

Google Shows Meta Descriptions

 

In the above example, we used the title “When attorneys start to take on the process of online marketing, blogs become incredibly important. Find out why here!” By taking advantage of a description meta tag, we were able to include a call to action right in the search results, making people want to click into our post! However, if you don’t include a description, Google will pull as much data as they can. In most cases, this data shows up in broken strings of unfinished sentences. For instance, take a look at this example….

No Meta Description

In the above example, you can see that the description is made up of 2 broken sentences. Now, ask yourself. Would you be more likely to click on a listing like the one above with a call to action and clear description, or would you be more likely to click on the listing with broken sentences for a description. Chances are, you’ll be clicking on the one that used a meta description.

Get Social

You know, it’s interesting to me that there’s such a stigma around using social media for marketing. Some say it’s effective, some say it’s not, and I say if it’s not effective, you’re not doing it right. When it comes to getting more people reading your blog, social media is one of the best places to turn. Using tools like TwitterFeed.com and Tweepi, you can grow an audience and automatically display your posts to them as you write. Generally, about 15% of our blog traffic comes from social, and yours can too!

Why Attorneys Need A Blog

Nick and I have been working together in the internet marketing realm for years now. In that time, we’ve helped nearly 100 attorneys claim their corner of the internet. When we first get started, we do a bit of an overhaul of their websites. In this process, we generally add a blog (In most cases, attorneys simply don’t have them….surprising!); which leads to the most common question we’re asked by attorneys…

Why do I need a blog?

So, today we’ll talk about why having a blog is so crucial to expanding the online visibility of a law office. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

5 Reasons Attorneys Need Blogs

Reason #1: Position Yourself As An Expert

In my humble opinion, the most important reason attorneys, and all local businesses need a blog is to position yourself as an expert. Your blog gives you the unique opportunity to answer questions for the masses without having to speak to everyone directly. As you provide more and more solutions to more and more problems, you become an expert in your industry. You become that professional that everyone wants to work with!

Reason #2: Attorney Blogs In particular Act As Great Bait!

As an attorney, your blog presents you with a unique opportunity. When it comes to most business types, answers online generally work for everyone. However, when it comes to attorneys, there’s no way that you could give a 100% conclusive answer on any case without first speaking to the client. With that said, your blog gives you the opportunity to talk about what might generally happen, steps that people might want to take, but you simply can’t give a definitive answer as to what the consumer can expect to happen without speaking to them. So, your blog gives you the ability to peak interest in consumers with legal needs by providing general answers. However, every one of these people know that eventually, they’re going to need an attorney. Because you were the attorney that gave them the simple answers, chances are, they’ll look to you when the tough problems arise!

Reason #3: Give Search Engines A Reason To Show You Off

Although, in our marketing strategy, search engines aren’t everything; no one can discount the fact that search engines are important. So, doing things that make search engines happy will always have to play some sort of a role in how you go about marketing online. With that said, the one thing that Google, Bing!, and any other search engine out there strives to show consumers is quality content. They want to make sure that the content answers questions, is engaging, and written by someone that’s an authority in their industry. Ultimately, by creating a compelling blog with solutions to common problems, you give search engines everything they want to show when a user types in a keyword. As your blog grows, and more and more content is available, you’ll notice that your search engine traffic will also increase because search engines will have more and more reasons to show your abilities as an attorney to everyone!

Reason #4: Make A Connection With Your Target Audience

Most attorneys work within a small area, generally 1 or 2 counties. Being so intimate with their communities, attorneys generally know what their target audience enjoys. For instance, here in Portland, we have the Hood to Coast rally race. This event is absolutely huge and attracts people from around the United States to participate. By announcing that the Hood to Coast race is coming, and giving information about how people can donate to the cause or take part in the race, attorneys in Portland can make a connection with their audience; while showing them that they take part and follow events that help non-profits.

Reason #5: DEVELOP Important Relationships

As an attorney, your blog gives you the ability to develop relationships not only with your customer base, but with other attorneys and professionals in the law industry. The relationships with consumers will lead to more cases; while the relationships with other attorneys and industry leaders could lead to great marketing opportunities (also generating more cases). The bottom line is that relationships are important for any business; however developing relationships is most important in the unique legal industry.

Need Help Getting Your Blog Going?

Would you like help getting your blog going, or making your blog better? Contact us today to find out how we can help!

Simple Ways To Get Reviews Online

It’s no secret that consumer reviews are important; not only for consumers, but for your marketing efforts. To give you an idea of just how important consumer reviews are, here are a few quotes from experts around the web…

Earning a steady stream of customer reviews is one of the most important pieces of a local business’ online marketing campaign. – Moz.com

Approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. – Search Engine Land

How do you create interest and trust in a product that someone can only see a picture of? For e-commerce retailers, customer reviews on their company website or social media pages has become a big part of answering this question. – Business News Daily

Knowing that reviews are so important to the growth of your business online, and the trust consumers put into your brand, it’s no surprise that you’re looking for ways to get more and more reviews from your customers. So, today we’ll talk about some of the things that you can do to increase the number of consumer reviews surrounding your brand. However, before we get into that, let’s talk about a few mistakes we’ve seen businesses make in this sector so that you can avoid them.

Ways You SHOULDN’T Solicit Reviews

In the process of soliciting reviews, there’s a fine line between positive and pushy. Here are some pushy tactics that tend to turn out bad for the businesses that take part in them.

In House Review Stations - Some businesses have set up a computer in house for customers to leave reviews. Although this may seem like a good idea upfront, there are a couple reasons you’ll want to avoid this strategy…

  • It’s Pushy - Adding an in house review station and asking your customers to leave a review on their way out doesn’t give them much of an opportunity to decline and feel comfortable with that decision. Instead, they may feel obligated to leave a review because if they don’t want to, they’ll have to tell you face to face; creating an uncomfortable situation for all involved.
  • It’s Traceable - There are tons of checks and balances in place to make sure that reviews displayed on sites like ours, Google+, and Yelp are not forced or spam. One check often used is IP detection. If all of your reviews are coming from the same IP address (i.e. your office’s IP), it will be obvious that you’re using an in house review station; which by the way is completely against most online review policies!

Paying A Third Party - There are tons of services out there today that promise that they can post tons of great reviews about your company. Obviously, those writing the reviews were never a customer of yours, so this poses a bit of an ethical issue. Beyond that, as I’ve mentioned above, most review sites have checks and balances to avoid these types of services from being effective. As a matter of fact, if you’re caught taking part in them, this practice could have a detrimental effect on your online marketing efforts.

Writing Fake Reviews Yourself - This is another tactic I’ve seen that really gets under my skin. Along with the last mistake, it’s important to remember that this practice is far from ethical, and most great review sites have ways to weed these fake reviews out of the reviews they choose to publish.

Now that you know the most common review mistakes, let’s get into a few positive ways to get customers to leave reviews about your business.

How To Get Your Customers To Leave Reviews

Link To Your Profiles - One of the most effective ways to get reviews without being pushy or spammy about it is to add a few links to your website. Often times, businesses will create a page on their website dedicated to review solicitation. If you take part in this strategy, the page you create should include the following…

  • A short snippet about why reviews are important to your business. Include language like “We use consumer reviews in an effort to continually provide exceptional services.
  • Links to your profile on review websites.
  • Also keep in mind that the two words “Thank You” go a long way. So, make sure to thank the customer for taking the time to review your services.

If You Want Something, Just Ask - It’s amazing how often creating a strategy to ask for reviews produces positive results. To do so, all you’ve got to do is train the staff that has the most interaction with customers to ask for reviews at the end of the interaction.

Send Emails - Tons of businesses send follow up emails to find out how much their customers like their services. For instance, have you ever gotten an email survey from a company asking you how they did? Of course you have; we all have! When sending follow up emails, link to your review profiles within the emails and ask your customers to leave reviews online.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! Getting reviews really isn’t all that hard. Thanks for joining me today! I’ll see you tomorrow for the next local marketing tip of the day!

Tips For Creating Great Local Listings

When building an online presence for a local business, one of the first places to start is to create local listings. The simple reality is that there are tons of free local listing websites that consumers frequent quite often. Think about it, Google has local listings, Yelp gets an average of 138 million unique visits per month, and YP.com seems to show up in just about every search for a local business we do. So, without taking advantage of the free local directory listings available to you, you’ll be missing out on a pretty large portion of your target market. However, you don’t want to just slap a local listing together. Here are a few tips to make sure that yours stands out!

Accurately Display All Possible Information

When creating local business listings for your business, it’s important to remember that accuracy is key here. Think of your listings online as a legitimacy report. Search engines crawl and compare the data in these listings to learn more about your business. If your business name is spelled differently in some listings than it is in another, or you’ve got multiple phone lines and use more than one of them in listings, you’ll have discrepancies in the data. These discrepancies could cause search engines to trust your business less; ultimately leading to poor placement.

It’s also important to remember that it’s best to include all information possible. If the listing website allows you to upload a logo, do it! If they give you a place to insert a coupon, come up with one to put in that place. The more information you have available in your local listing, the better. Including as much as possible will give search engines more and more keywords to show your business for!

Write A Quality Business Description

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across business listings with one line descriptions. Think about it, your company offers a great service or product. Is it really possible to explain why your company’s service or product is better than the competition in one sentence? In most cases, the answer is “no”! Try to give your potential customers all the information they need to know about your product or service in your business description.

Aside from helping potential customers get a feel for what you offer. Quality business descriptions also help your listing to rank well in search engines. As I’ve mentioned before, the more data search engines have available about your business, the more reasons they have to show your listing for several keywords!

Pictures Say A Thousand Words

Most local listing websites give you the ability to add pictures. Some may allow you to add 1 picture, some may allow you to add 10. No matter how many pictures you can add, it’s best to try and fill all slots. This will give your listing more color, ultimately making it more appealing to the potential customers that happen across your page. Also, search engines have learned that users tend to enjoy pages with lots of color and pictures than they do pages with just text. So, adding pictures will help you rank better as well.

Final Thoughts

Local listings do so much for businesses. They not only give customers another way to find you, if done properly, they can help improve the overall visibility of your website in search. So what are you waiting for? Start creating quality local listings today! You can even start right here at our directory!

How One Hotel Ruined Their Online Reputation

These days, reviews and consumer comments online mean quite a bit to any business. If consumers have a great experience and want to share it with their friends and others, they can now do it with the click of a button. On the flip side, if they have a bad experience, they can let everyone know that pretty quickly too! As a result that the internet has give consumers a way to gauge what it is they’re buying, whether it be a product or service, before actually purchasing it; and more often than not, people use reviews to help them make buying decisions.

With all of that said, I find it incredible how far some business owners are willing to go in order to solicit positive reviews. Some give away free items, enter consumers into drawings when they leave a review, some even give away cash, coupons, and more! However, there’s one hotel that’s got to have the most aggressive, yet worst way of soliciting positive reviews. That company is Union Street Guest House.

According To The NY Times…

The NY Times reports that Union Street Guest House charges wedding guests $500 for every negative review left online on sites like Yelp by a member of their party. Although their policy on reviews may be the same, shortly after this post on the NY Times, Union Street Guest House made their reviews policy “Only available via email”. Before the change, their site read…

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not,” reads an online policy. “If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event . . . and given us a deposit of any kind . . . there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review . . . placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

Today, it reads…

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our Inn, your friends and families may not. This is due to the fact that your guests may not understand what we offer – therefore we expect you to explain that to them. USGH & Hudson are historic. The buildings here are old (but restored). Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed to look old in an artistic “vintage” way. Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines. (although comfortable and functional – obviously all beds are brand new) If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here…

We do not discuss our policy, availability or rates on site. All correspondence for a wedding must be done via email so that each of us has a clear record of our agreement.”

As you can see from the quote “We do not discuss our policy…on site”, chances are that the policy hasn’t changed one bit. The only thing that’s most likely changed is what they choose to display on their site.

Did This CRAZY Policy Work?

Thankfully, the average consumer isn’t much of a fan of being bullied. As a result, not only did this policy not work, it completely ruined their reputation on Yelp and many other review websites. Here are a couple of screenshots I found to be most interesting…

Union Street Guest House Review on Yelp Union Street Guest House Review on Yelp 2

What We Can Learn From This

The great thing about business is that often times, mistakes made by other businesses are published for the world to see. This makes learning from the mistakes of others pretty easy. Now, I’m not sure if this was a mistake, or a blatant disregard for freedom of speech, but we can definitely learn quite a bit from USGS’ policy on reviews. Here are the key takeaways…

  • Don’t Bully Your Customers - It’s obvious from consumer reviews that Union Street Guest House has poor customer service. Instead of working on that, they’ve decided to try and bully their customers into avoiding the review process all together or leaving something positive. No one likes a bully!
  • Learn From Reviews - Instead of trying to bully customers into leaving a positive review or not leaving one at all, read the reviews that people are leaving. If your hotel rooms smell like mold, find the problem and fix it! If your customers complain about bad service, figure out who provided the bad service and reprimand as necessary. The simple fact is that reviews aren’t just for consumers; they’re also there to help us get better as businesses!
  • Reviews Are Important - This company did one thing right; they realized the importance of reviews. Although USGS has an incredibly abusive reviews policy, they remind us that for local businesses, reviews mean quite a bit! So, it’s best to solicit them, and do it in a positive way!

Final Thoughts

Are you interested in getting more reviews? Make sure to sign up for as many local directories as possible to give your customers plenty of places to leave their reviews. You can even start by signing up for our FREE local directory!

Blogging Tips For Local Businesses

At ControlYourCity.com, LLC., we’re strong advocates of the value a blog can bring to your marketing campaign, especially for local companies. Many of you may not know this yet, but 2 of the founders here, myself and Nick started out blogging. We worked for several years, on our own projects and eventually collaborated on a blog called CNA Finance (which is still around and thriving, go check it out!). OK, back to the topic…If you’re the owner of a local company looking to get your online marketing off the ground, blogging is a great way to do it. However, as with anything else, there are bad blogs, good blogs, and GREAT blogs. Here are a few tips to make sure that the blog for your local business lands in the GREAT category!

Appeal To YOUR Local Audience

A few years ago, I made a big move from Florida to Oregon. One of the lessons that move has taught me is that people in different regions appreciate different things. After moving across the country diagonally, I realized that you don’t have to leave the country to find different cultures, you just have to leave your local area. With that said, things that are appealing to my local audience in Florida may not be so appealing to my audience in Oregon. So, when writing posts for your blog, try to include a bit of local culture. You could do this by mentioning landmarks that will put smiles on faces, talking about food culture in your area, or even announcing events that consumers in your area may want to go to. The possibilities are really endless!

Be Yourself

In my line of work, I read quite a few blogs. One of the things that I really enjoy is when the author uses terms like “I” and “We” instead of “You” and “Them”. The simple fact is that most people will respond better if they feel as though they’re reading a personal story. For instance, I recently wrote a post discussing the value of automation in marketing. In the post, I shared a personal story that lead to the ultimate conclusion…automation is a bad idea! When writing the post, I tried to write it in a way that wouldn’t just lead people to that conclusion, but would give them examples and enough information to understand why automation was bad. As a result, I’ve already gotten a couple of emails asking more about my unique story. However if my story wasn’t so personalized/unique, these readers wouldn’t have a fraction of the interest that they do.

Don’t Second Guess Yourself

Every once in a while, I’ll come across a newer blog that gives great tips. Unfortunately, somewhere in the post, they say something like…

Now, we’re not experts yet, but…

Or

This may not be a good path for everyone, but it works for me…

Or

We know we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re still learning…

Although all of these things may be the honest opinion of the author, the simple fact is, it’s not what readers want to read. When looking for advice online, consumers are looking for advice given by those who are confident in their methods, those with authority, and those who believe wholeheartedly that what they’re teaching is going to help the readers that happen across their posts. So, instead of using the statements above, try something like…

Through our experience we’ve learned…

Or

We’ve done several case studies on this and the vast majority of those who tried it saw great benefits.

Statements like this essentially say the same thing. However, when users come across statements like this, they feel as though they’re reading tips from an authority!

Final Thoughts

If you follow these three basic tips when writing your local blog, you’re going to do great! We’ll see you tomorrow for the next tip of the day!