The Future of Search Engine Optimization

SEO diagramDid you know that Google+ is now the #2 property after Facebook where content-sharing happens?  Or that Google incorporates Google+ circles and shares in its search results? These are only two of many examples. The times are changing, and for search engine optimization (SEO), companies need to get on board.

The New Meaning of ‘Optimization’

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has long been one of the core strategies we use to promote websites and other content marketing assets.  Basically, we are trying to entice the search engines to give our sites more visibility, and the word “entice” is important: neither we nor anyone else can make Google give us high rankings. 

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Bye, Bye Google Places. Hello Google+ Local

Attention all you businesses who rely on locally-relevant search traffic. Hotel? Yep – that’s you.  Restaurant? You too. Professional services? Yeppers. Retail shops. Uh-huh. The list goes on and on. If your customers find you in part by your location, this news should interest you.

That little Google+ profile you set up and have since neglected is about to take over the world.  Well, sort of.  At least it has become quite a bit more important. On May 30, 2012, Google+ Local replaced Google Places (the listings that represent a business in local search and Google maps), which means about 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have automatically been converted into Google+ Local pages.

I’ll wait here while you run and Google your business to check it out.

Back?

So, how’s it look?

Disorienting? Confusing? Here’s the essence of this news: Google+ Local combines local business information with social networking capabilities to give business owners the opportunity to be more relevant, more marketable, and more easily found by consumers. We’ve outlined a few of the changes so you don’t miss a beat as you aim to amp up your search engine rankings and resulting revenue.

See-ya Stars, Hello Numbers

Google+ Local has replaced its star ratings with Zagat-numbered ratings. Users will no longer be asked to rate businesses on a four- or five-point star continuum – a more structured form (regarding service, atmosphere, etc.) will be used and additional comments should be welcomed by businesses.

 google+ local search

What you’ll see: For instance, consumers who Google “hotels in Pismo Beach” will get local search returns – but they’ll have to make a choice based on the 30-point Zagat rating scale rather than the very visual yellow star ratings. What’s good: The 30-point spread provides a more accurate rating of an establishment rather than offering just a blanket bad/ok/great (1 star/3 stars/5 stars) kind of review.

Get There Any Which Way

By searching through Google.com, Google Maps, Google+, or using a mobile app, users can land on the new Google+ Local pages and get the local search results they want.

google + local results 

The new “Local” tab in Google+ also takes users to a personalized local home page which will contain a collection of recommended content. Consumers can browse their home page content or continue to search as they normally would. While a user and all of their neighbors won’t see the same home page, there will be common elements. The bottom line is that if your biz is located in San Luis Obispo, you want it to be showing up on the Google+ Local home page of everyone in the 5 Cities area.

Go Social through Google+ Local

Google+ Local is poised to become as social as Twitter and Facebook with its versatility, rich content, and heightened functionality. Your friends who post photos of the amazing dinner they eat out every night on Twitpic or Instagram? Soon they’ll have a new outlet for their food mania – posts like these will be the visual fodder that makes Google+ Local pages appealing.

google+ local optimization

 

 

Google+ users can earmark pics, reviews, and recommendations for their Google+ Local “Circles” which are essentially filters that allow users to share what they want with the people they want … just like they do through other social media. However, Google+ Local’s method is much more discerning and aims to improve upon the Facebook format – users can separate out friends, family, and colleagues into their own circles.

Interact With Your Customers

Google Places gave enterprises an online presence, but through Google+ Local, merchants and business owners will have the opportunity to develop followers and directly communicate with them through messaging – essentially, the same kinds of social methods that are already available through Facebook and Twitter. According to Google, there are even more merchant features on the horizon that will enhance your online marketing efforts.

Your Google+ Local Page Will Be Indexed

If you use Google Places for Business, don’t worry – you can still access your page and dashboard as you normally would. However, the consumer face of your Google Place now shows up in the context of a Google+ Local page.

Google Places pages were not indexed, but Google+ Local pages will be – which means the opportunities for you to use SEO have just grown exponentially. If you’ve ignored that element of marketing online in the past, you truly can’t afford to do so now.

A Last Word About Google+ Local (For Now)

This new action by Google is an amazing opportunity for every business owner to develop better and stronger interactions with their customers and become social in one central place – but it also demands that you learn how to really use Google+ so you can work it to your advantage. The more you absorb and utilize the ins and outs of this development, the more your business will thrive.

Online marketing is crucial to the life of your business – don’t resist this shift. But we want to know: How do you feel about the shift from Google Places to Google+? Are you overwhelmed with yet another social media duty or excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?

 

Need help? We do this stuff!

 


Getting Found Means Creating LOTS of Quality Content

Content Matters

Getting your website found is a constant struggle for many companies. 

And employing search engine optimization (SEO) practices was traditionally the answer.  

But these days traditional SEO is not enough.

Today, having a substantial amount of quality content under your domain is just as important.  

Quite simply, when it comes to driving traffic to your website, content volume matters

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Google Plus Pages Are Here…Now What?

Dear Spark Blog Readers,

Here are some quick answers to questions you have had about the newly introduced Google Plus Pages for Business.

Enjoy!

What are Google Plus Pages?

As you may know, the Google Plus platform is Google’s answer to Facebook. It’s Google’s social network. Google Plus Pages are Google’s answer to Facebook Fan Pages. Bottom Line: They’re social pages for your business. 

Google +1 for Business

How Do I Create a Google Plus Page?

It’s pretty easy. You need to have a Google account first. Once you do that just go to Google Plus Pages and start the process.

Is Google Plus Pages Better than Facebook Pages?

The reason why you have a Facebook Page is to promote your business and connect with people who may like your brand, right? In that way, Google Plus Pages are the same as Facebook. The difference is that Facebook has over 700 million registered users. At this time, Google Plus has only has about 40 million. But it’s growing quickly.

Google Plus Pages do have one big advantage over Facebook, it’s on the Google platform and therefore have a direct line to Google Search. Does this mean that content you publish on Google Plus Pages will help you get found more easily? Too early to tell.

But remember Google is an advertising company, so you know they would like to keep you on a Google property where they can show you advertising instead of sending you off to some website.

What Are the Features of Google Plus Pages?

Circles

Have you ever wanted to share something on Facebook but didn’t want ALL your Friends to see it? In Facebook, this is difficult to control.

Google Plus makes it easy to control with Circles. Cirles allows you set up different groups of friends and contacts into different circles. If you want send a message to only one group, no problem, Google Plus Pages allows you to specify which Circles to send it to.

Circles has interesting applications for business too. For example, you can segment customers by type or geography or how recently they bought something from you. You could even use it for customer support by creating a Circle called Recent Complaints. The possibilities are endless!

Hangouts

Hangouts are virtual meeting places. As long as you have the Google voice and video plugin, you can set up impromptu or planned virtual meetings by inviting people in your Circles.

Again the applications for business here are great. Meetings, webinars, customer support. And over time, Google will be adding new features like screensharing, Google Docs integration and Whiteboarding that will make things very interesting. And it’s free!

Watch out Go to Meeting!

How Can I Use Google Plus Pages for Marketing?

Think about Google Plus Pages as another way to get your great content out into the world. Whenever you publish something you can tell Google Plus to make the content available to one or more Circles or just make it public. When you make it public, it’s basically like a blog post.

Also just like on Facebook Pages, you can’t just add anyone to your Circles and start sending them marketing messages. They have to “Like” you first. Or in Google’s parlance, they have to add you to one of their Circles.

Don’t forget, you can add images, videos, links and even your mobile location in Google Plus Pages.

Do you have any questions about Google Plus Pages for Business? Let us know in the comments!

Useful Links

How to Create Google Plus Pages for Business in 5 Simple Steps

Offical Google Plus for Pages Help Site
Graphical Step By Step Set Up Process from Mashable
Giddy Overview from Social Strand
Why Google Plus Pages with Beat Facebook and Twitter (Wired)
How to Optimize Your Google Plus Page for Local Business


Google's Golden Triangle and The Importance of Good SEO

Here at Spark, we’ve been preaching the long term benefits of search engine optimization (SEO) for years.

And it’s nice to see good research back us up so nicely! 

Heat Maps Are Cool

A while back, research firm Mediative performed an eye-tracking study on Google search engine results pages (SERPs).  The study showed how people’s eyes scan a SERP, what they looked at first, what they fixated on and ultimately what they clicked on

Heat Map of a Google SERP

In this heat map image from the study, you can see people’s behavior quite clearly. 

  • The red areas represent where 80-100% of participants fixated their eyes or read the text
  • The orange area represents where 70-80% of participants fixated their eyes or read the text etc.
  • The purple X’s represent what people actually clicked on

The obvious conclusion is that the vast majority of the participants’ time and click activity was spent on the top 4-5 organic search results.

This is known as Google’s “Golden Triangle”.

Also note how little energy was spent on the Google PPC advertising displayed along the right side bar.

And you, as a searcher, know this intuitively. Most people pay attention to the organic results and ignore the ads.

Corporate Budgets’ Disconnect with SEO

So you’d think that companies would be budgeting much more on obtaining higher organic search result than PPC advertising. 

Alas, this is not the case. 

According to this SEMPO study,  87% of all industry search marketing budgets was spent on PPC advertising.

And only 11% of industry budgets were spent on SEO.

But it’s easy to understand why.

The PPC model fits into corporate marketing better than SEO. It’s easily “budgetized” and can show an immediate result that’s trackable. It’s similar to traditional direct marketing methods and therefore more accepted as a marketing channel.

But as budgets get tighter and the price of keywords continue to go up, this is changing. Companies may take another look at the ROI of their PPC campaigns and decide it’s not worth it

Think of SEO as an Investment, Not a Campaign

SEO results are measured in months or even years. It requires a clear long term strategy, competent practitioners and long term resolve from upper management. 

But make no mistake, it’s worth the effort. 

  • An organic search result gets clicked on 85% of the time
  • An organic search result is two to six times more visible than a paid advertisement
  • 100% of searchers look at the first organic result while only 50% look at the first paid result
  • Searchers trust organic listings more than paid ones
  • Searchers perceive organic results as more relevant than paid

 Source: Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy is Your Business Strategy

Michelle Goldberg, a partner at venture capital firm Ignition Parters says, 

“Organic search is a long term and generally much better margin solution (than PPC). The largest expense associated with organic search tends to be content creation, which can have long term benefits for both search acquisition and overall customer engagement….(It) helps you build a more sustainable business over time…” Source: Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy is Your Business Strategy

How’s Your Organic Listings?

  • What keywords do your rank well for now?
  • Do you have a list of strategic keywords you’d like to rank higher for?
  • Have you identified what keywords your competitors rank for?
  • Do you have a content marketing strategy?
  • Have you performed an SEO Audit on your current site?

 


SEO Strategy at Spark

Here at Spark we value long term SEO strategy over short term fixes. If you’re of the same way of thinking and need some advice, let us know. We can discuss how you can make an investment in SEO that will pay off well into the future. 


Google Plus for Business: What’s in Store?

Google +1 for BusinessDoing business has always been a social activity.

Meetings, phone calls, negotiations, happy hours after work ;-). Business is about people interacting with people to get business done. And it happens millions of times every day all around the world.

That’s why Google+ for Business is going to be big, really big.

Tying it All Together

To get an idea of what Google is thinking, it’s useful to step back and briefly review the products Google has been incubating for years:

  • Docs – a cloud-based replacement for MS Office (including Gmail)
  • Calendar: Calendar and appointment setting and sharing
  • Picassa: Photo sharing
  • YouTube: Self published video upload, viewing and sharing
  • Analytics: Analytics tools for web sites and soon for social
  • Talk: Text chat integrated with your Contacts and now video
  • Voice: Voice over IP service with number portability and a slew of call and voice mail management features
  • Maps: Google’s excellent map and directions product
  • Reader: RSS subscription service
  • Translate: An ever-improving almost real-time text translation service
  • Alerts: Allows you to set up email alerts when Google finds new Internet activity for specified keywords

Now match up those services with what’s been found in the Google+ source code by Florian Rohrweck

  • Virtual Meetings
  • Meeting Recording
  • Meeting Notes
  • Video Conferencing
  • Conference Calling
  • Screen Sharing
  • Document Collaboration and Sharing
  • Virtual Whiteboards
  • Screencasts

Oh The Places You Will Go…

So when you put all the pieces together, it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is all going.

Consider these possible use cases:

  • Virtual Board Meeting: An admin of a small company schedules a board meeting by inviting all the members of the company’s “Board Members” Circle using Google Calendar. The meeting uses Google+ video conferencing feature to have a meeting in Google+ Hangouts.
  • Collaboration: Remote team needs to work together to finish a presentation. They use Google Calendar to determine a time to meet and then use Google+ Hangouts to collaborate over a presentation in Google Docs while they chat to each other with Google Talk.
  • B2B Webinar: A B2B sales manager invites his entire “Sales Opportunities” Circle for an informative webinar and gives the presentation in Google+ Hangouts using a Google Docs presentation. He receives comments and questions on the presentation through Google Talk. He answers questions with the Virtual Whiteboard feature and records the entire presentation later for posting on the company blog. Google Analytics will tell him how many people were on the call and other engagement metrics.
  • Support Call: A customer is trying to configure his newly purchased home router but is having problems. He contacts the manufacturer’s technical support via the company’s Google+ Business Page and is added to the manufacturer’s “Registered Customers” Circle. The customer shares his screen and the support technician helps solve the problem.
  • Listening Post: A company has just launched a new product line and wants to monitor the chatter about their new product. Instead of setting up a Google Alerts, the product manager uses Google+ Sparks to add various keywords related to the product. Then he checks Sparks periodically and shares interesting tidbids he finds with his Product Team Circle.

Mmmm….Adwords

Of course, what Google product would not be complete without a big helping of Adwords!

Yes, Google has publicly announced that they will integrate Adwords into Google+ for Business.

And for good reason.

Imagine all the amazing advertising opportunities that will come up with during these business interactions!

  • Ads for relevant software and apps in a Collaboration session
  • Ads for products to cross sell during the Support Call
  • Ads from competitors in the B2B Webinar (whoops!)

How Will You Leverage Google + for Business?

At Spark Inbound Marketing, we are very excited about Google Plus are working hard to stay ahead of the curve on Google+ for Business. Come back and visit our blog or subscribe to our feed to stay up to date on all the latest developments.