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April 2011 archive

Google Places: Optimizing Your Listing

In a previous post, I discussed how local search is one of the fastest growing trends in search marketing and how in the near future a majority of what you see on the first page of your Google search results will be Google places listings.  So even if you’ve accomplished obtaining page one, position one in organic search results, you’ll still be fighting for attention below the vast list of Google places results.  But just creating a Google places listing, doesn’t guarantee you’ll get noticed.  Just like any other web page, your Google places page needs to be optimized in order to improve your position in local search results.

There are several ways you can optimize your Google places page and improve your position in local search results. First and foremost, make sure your website, home page as well as each individual landing page, contains the same address and phone number you have listed in your Google places page.  My first question was, “Would that be considered duplicate content, and isn’t that bad for SEO?”  Yes, it is duplicate content, but Google recognizes what it is and does not count it towards the duplicate content that negatively affects organic rankings.  In fact, any website providing your company information, such as your social sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, or perhaps partners or resellers’ sites, need to have the same address and phone number listed in your Google places listing.

When creating your Google places page, be sure to fill out as much of the non-required information as you can and feel comfortable providing. You have the option of providing an email address, website and description of your business as well as fields such as Service Areas and Location Settings, Hours of operations and Payment options. The more complete your Google places page is, the better your chances of showing up in local search results, so make sure to include photos and video if you have them.  You can include up to 10 photos and up to 5 videos.

Finally, the best way to ensure a better position in local search results is customer reviews.  The more people mentioning your company or linking directly to it, the more credible you are to Google and the more likely you are to show up higher in Google places results.  Encourage your customers to review your company.  Reviews can be posted directly on Google places, but Google will also pull reviews from other sites, reiterating why it is important that your phone number and address are included on the other sites your company may appear on. However, Google will kick out identical reviews that appear in multiple places, so make sure all your reviews are unique.

It may sound complicated, but these are small things the average person can do to make a name for their business and start increasing site traffic.  You don’t have to be an electronic marketer to get noticed in local search – so start experimenting. Leave your comments and let me know how it’s working for you!

QR Codes and the USPS Discount

QR code to ASPE-ROI's Google Online Marketing Boot Camp

A few months ago I wrote a post about why direct mail should still be used in marketing, and that an integrated mix is the best way to approach a marketing campaign. I guess the United State Postal Service is catching on. In their recent proposal for a 3% discount for mail containing a two-dimensional barcode (i.e. QR code), they state one of the conditions as: “The objective of the two-dimensional mobile barcode on eligible mail pieces must be to initiate interaction with consumers via mobile smart phones to market, promote, or educate.”

[UPDATE: the Postal Regulatory Committee approved the discount on May 17, 2011. The discount is valid from July 1-August 31, 2011.]

So what does this mean? First it means even though 3% isn’t a huge discount, it’s recognition by the USPS that they need to attach themselves to the growth and future of marketing. But the USPS, even if they aren’t aware of it, is also doing a service for companies that may not be ahead of the marketing curve. Direct mail marketing needs to embrace interactive marketing to involve the customers more. Troy Forget, senior marketing manager, Staples Advantage, stated in a recent Direct Mail Marketing article that, “…the interactive print sector is helping companies engage prospects with technology that print alone cannot accomplish.” I wholeheartedly agree.

ASPE started putting QR codes on mailed brochures at the beginning of this year. Right now, the majority of our QR codes take you to the course page for that specific brochure. While we haven’t had overwhelming results with traffic coming to our website from QR codes, we’ve had a 50% increase in usage of the codes from February to April. That’s enough for us to develop more, and better, ways to integrate them.

What’s the caveat? You need to use QR codes correctly. Don’t slap a code on your mail piece just to save you some money on postage, use it to your advantage. Here are some simple things things to start with to make QR codes useful:

  1. Make sure your QR code goes to a relevant web page. What do I mean by that? If your direct mail piece focuses on a promotion you’re running, don’t link the QR code to your homepage where the customer will have to dig through three layers of your site just to find what they were looking for. Link the QR code to the valuable content they want: the promotion page. Better yet, create a specific page just for mobile device use and link to that.
  2. Create a specific link or landing page so you can measure the traffic coming to your site directly from the QR code. It can tell you a lot about your customers – what devices they are using, how long someone using a smart phone stays on your site, in what cities people are actively using this technology.
  3. TEST, TEST, TEST. Does it work for multiple smart phones with multiple apps? Is it linking to the correct page? When the link pops up, does it shorten it to something it shouldn’t? (Recently when I tested a few, the link title kept coming up as “Katie.” I didn’t realize the site I used to create the code titled the link with the name on your account unless you change it. Oops. The sites I use now are Kaywa and

So if you’re not currently using QR-Codes, catch up with the times. Even the USPS is doing it.

Web Seminar Recap: Social Media Tips & Tricks

On April 6, 2011, ASPE-ROI Instructor Jeremy Smith and Marketing Director JT Moore, held a web seminar for Social Media Tips & Tricks. They showed how to create a Social Media Plan that works with traditional marketing as well as looks at campaign strategies that work with business objectives.  Attendees learned how to find their target audience in various social networks and develop their own strategy to succeed. Overall, attendees learned how to utilize tools to make their company more efficient and succeed in social media. Listen to the recording of this web seminar in its entirety by clicking View Event Recordings (at the top right).

Google Engage for Agencies

Back in January Google introduced Google Engage. It appeared to be a new educational program they are testing to grow adoption of Google AdWords, but there hasn’t been much chatter about it since. While doing some prep for my upcoming Google AdWords web seminars, I noticed and ad for Google Engage.

Being the savvy AdWords marketer that I am, I knew that this ad was targeted by Google to people searching to learn more about Google Analytics Certification (my search query & their targeted keyword). So I had to check it out.

Right now the program seems to be simply a quick landing page with basic information that is trying to see how much interest there is in the program. You quickly hit an ‘application’ form that states you’ll be notified in 10-15 days regarding whether you are accepted into the program (my application is now pending).

What I was surprised to see was that on the ‘application’ the program name is changed to “Google Engage for Agencies” (see below).

I was surprised to see this shift in their targeting away from the average marketer to focus on agency professionals. I continue to feel Google is missing a much larger part of the potential user base by focusing on the agencies. I believe in the next couple years we will see a fundamental shift of more and more companies bringing their AdWords/PPC efforts in house, and this program is neglecting those people. We will also see more and more of the small/medium sized businesses turn to AdWords as an expensive channel to inexpensively drive qualified traffic to their website. But I’ll come down off my soap box and get back to Google Engage.

According to the site:

The Google Engage program offers the training and tools for webmasters, search engine marketers and optimizers, and marketing consultants to help them offer AdWords services to their clients. As a member, you get the following benefits:

  • 20 x $100 AdWords coupons for your new customer accounts
  • Trainings to build and enhance your AdWords skills
  • Professional tools to market your services

By enhancing your online skill set and knowledge of Google products, you’ll be more attractive to potential clients and more beneficial to your existing ones.

The FAQ had some interesting points as well:

What is the Google Engage program and who is it intended for?

The Google Engage program is designed to educate and support those businesses that specialize in helping other businesses succeed online. Typical participants include interactive agencies, individual webmasters, web developers, and IT consultants. Participants can receive access to educational resources, live events, promotional materials, and a select number of free AdWords vouchers. When participants grow their online skills and further develop their knowledge of Google products, we believe they’ll become more attractive to potential clients and more valuable to existing ones.

Can I get more AdWords vouchers if I run out?

Additional vouchers may be offered to participants who successfully distribute their initial 20 vouchers, and whose clients both open and activate new AdWords accounts. Voucher distribution is at Google’s sole discretion and under the condition that a participant has fully respected the Google AdWords voucher terms and conditions.

Why register for the Google Engage program?

Program participants enjoy several benefits targeted at helping them acquire in-depth AdWords knowledge, gain an upper hand on their competition, and ultimately increase their profits. Benefits include:

  • AdWords vouchers that can be used to attract new clients (20 voucher limit initially)
  • Ready-made promotional materials that you can be used with clients
  • Online trainings and other educational materials
  • Help in becoming an official Google AdWords Certified Partner

There’s no cost to enroll in the program. Join us today!

What’s the difference between the Google Engage program and the AdWords Certification program?

The Google Engage program can be used as stepping stone to the Google AdWords Certification program. Google Engage participants have access to free AdWords vouchers, live educational events, online trainings, and ready-made promotional materials. The skills acquired through this program should prepare participants to pass the Google AdWords Certification exam.

AdWords Certified partners receive additional benefits including more advanced trainings, a Professional Profile page, an official badge or certificate showing their AdWords qualification, higher-value AdWords promotional vouchers, and the option to be listed on the Google Partner Search engine. For more information on becoming AdWords Certified, including qualification requirements, please visit the Google AdWords Certification Program page.

I’ll be scheduling a call with my Google rep to discuss things further and see what other details I can get, but as the ‘site’ for Google Engage is set as a landing page for the ad (so they can quietly kill it), here’s a screenshot of how they position the program.

Anyone using Engage? How’s it working?

Getting Noticed in Local Search with Google places

Local search is one of the fastest growing trends in search marketing. Local search allows users to search for business listings within their geographic area.  Google has taken advantage of this with Google places. You might have noticed that a majority of your search results have started looking something like this:

In the near future a majority of what you see on the first page of your Google search results will be Google places listings.  Organic results will not show up until you scroll to the bottom of the page or possibly even click over to the second page.  How often do you keep scrolling to the second, third or fourth pages of Google results. If you’re anything like me, and I’m going to take a gander that most people are, you probably don’t even scroll past the first page a majority of the time.  In fact, some research shows that approximately 95% of site traffic from search engines is generated from first page results (  But even if your SEO efforts have achieved you page one spot one in organic search results, you’ll still be fighting for attention below all the Google places listings.  Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to create a Google places page

To claim your business listing on Google places and start showing up in local search,  you need to first visit and select “Get started” under the Get your business found on Google heading.  Select the country in which your business is located and enter the accompanying phone number.  If your phone number matches another company’s, you will have the option to choose from that list or “Add a new listing” and start from scratch.  Then you’ll fill in your company information including whether you service your customers at their location or they come to you, hours of operation, and payment methods.

Once you fill in that information, you’ll notice that your location is pinpointed on the map.  Adjust where the pinpoint lands by selecting “Fix incorrect marker location” under the map. You are also given the option to upload photos and videos, as well as provide additional details such as whether your facility provides parking and what brands you carry. The more complete your Google places page is, the more likely you are to show up in local search results.

After filling in all your information and uploading photos and videos, click “Submit” at the bottom of the page.  In 2-3 weeks Google will send you a postcard to verify that you provided an accurate address.

There will be a 5-digit pin number on that postcard that you will need to enter in your Google Places account in order to publish your page. Sign back in to your account and, under the “Dashboard” tab, enter the pin to verify you are the business owner.

Once the verification process is complete, your Google places listing will be published and will start look something like this:

I hope I’ve given you the tools you need to set up your Google places account and begin experimenting in local search.

Now get started!