A Salute To Small Business Owners Everywhere

Every day of the week, we deal with small business owners. Hardworking people who own shops, service centres, spas, salons, professional services firms, dealerships, clinics, restaurants, and supply stores. October is Small Business Month and we want to salute small business owners across the country.

Today, we salute the small business owner who couldn’t figure out why people couldn’t find his business only to discover that Google didn’t have his address pinned to his location. His location was in the right place, but his address wasn’t. Problem solved.

We also salute establishments that were the target of a negative online review campaign by none other than the Hells Angels.

Let’s hear it for restaurant owners who take the time to update their menus online and potentially save themselves from delivering orders that they’re getting all wrong.

Also, we salute business owners who get why it’s so vital to claim and maintain their listings across multiple online directories. We appreciate those who understand why encouraging, monitoring and responding to online reviews can make a real impact on their business. And here’s to those who totally get the point of optimizing for “near me” searches.

You work your tails off every day doing what you do best. Whether that means fixing a broken machine. Making the best muffins. Staying on top of the latest styles. Helping someone see better. Bringing warmth to your customers’ homes. Nurturing somebody’s health. Helping clients see something in numbers that they can’t see. Slipping the perfect, most comfortable shoe onto an elderly woman’s foot. Or simply stopping, talking and really getting to know your customer, you deserve recognition and praise for everything you do.

So raise a glass to a small business owner you know and thank them for doing what they do. Because nobody can do it better than they do.

Happy Small Business Month!

Building Online Reviews Are Worth The Effort. But Don’t Take Our Word For It.

Meeting with clients every day, we get to see their frustrations with online strategies, promises of improved SEO and solutions that have come, been paid for and gone. We talk about SEO – and the corner of it that we operate in – as a series of small improvements that add up to make a big impact.

What we’re seeing now, with the adoption of online review building solutions now a stable of our offering, is that a steady stream of reviews can have a significant impact on getting discovered and generating conversions to sales. Building online reviews does have seen success, but don’t take our word for it. We’ve been reading quite a bit and have found some really great articles around the web that point out the reasons why.

We encourage you to have a look at these and join us back here in the comments for a discussion about building online reviews.

• Reviews are the Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor in 2017
Search Engine Journal, November 13, 2017

A business with a significant number of reviews on its Google My Business page can rank relatively well in local packs. However, it’s not just the number of reviews that matter. Even more important than quantity of reviews is what’s being said in those reviews. Google My Business pages with reviews that mention a keyword, and/or the name of a city, were found to have higher rankings in Google’s local pack. (Read more)

• The Impact of Online Reviews on Businesses
BrightLocal, March 15, 2017

Key ‘Takeaways’ From This Post

  • Consumers are likely to spend 31% more on products/services from businesses that have excellent reviews.
  • 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • A negative review can drive away approximately 22% of customers
    (Read more)

• How Online Reviews Impact Local SEO and Why They Matter to Your Bottom Line
Shopify, February 7, 2018

Typically, by the time someone has started looking at review websites (like reviews on your product pages or Facebook, Epinions, Angie’s List, or elsewhere), they’ve already figured out what they need and how a business might ideally fulfill that need. The critical thing to note is that the mental gap between reading a review and making a decision is ridiculously small — and customers typically decide yes or no almost immediately. So, as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line. (Read more)

• Why Online Reputation Management Is Like Brushing Your Teeth
Entrepreneur, December 17, 2015

Think about why you brush your teeth. You don’t do it because your teeth are brown and dirty. You do it preventatively. It’s a habit that’s good for you because it impacts your long-term health and the look of your smile. Now think what would happen if you waited until your teeth were gross before you decided to start brushing. Your teeth might fall out. You’d probably get gum disease. Your smile would be tarnished and discolored. It might be too late to fix everything and, at the very least, you’d have a lot of ground to make up. Brushing your teeth is an insurance policy against all those negative outcomes. Online reputation management (ORM) works the same way. Many folks realize how important their online presence is only once they have a problem — a nasty negative, an ex’s rant, a sketchy forum that sticks out like a sore thumb, etc. We fix these results, but it can take months and months, or even years. And that can be a hard pill to swallow. (Read more)

• Why you always need to get online reviews?
BirdEye

You could have hundreds of reviews and a high average star rating, but if your most recent review is from a year ago, for all a customer knows you could be a completely different business by now. How do they know that your current staff is as friendly and knowledgeable as last year’s? How can they be sure your product quality hasn’t declined over time? If customers haven’t been reviewing your business lately, who have they been reviewing instead? (Read more)

These are just a handful of articles about the importance of building online reviews that are available online. It’s a topic we’re always happy to discuss too.

Say Hello To Google Posts From Google My Business

We recently were invited to write a post on RestoBiz and thought that it would be really interesting to cover a relatively new feature from Google My Business (GMB) simply called Posts. It’s a feature that Google would like you to think of as a status update – and Posts is powerful.

As Google describes: Posting through Google My Business lets you publish your events, products and services directly to Google Search and Maps. By creating Posts, you can place your timely content in front of customers when they find your business listing on Google.

Nuts & Bolts of Google Posts

As we wrote in that article, posts are meant to be timely, which is important to retailers. They expire seven days after they go live, so when thinking about what to publish on your Google listing, consider promotions, events, holiday information such as changes to your hours or contest information. If you’re creative by nature, you can add pictures, short-form videos and GIFs.

For businesses with less of a retail focus, such as professional service companies or practices, consider adding thought leadership pieces as well. This means you can feel free to link to content that you find interesting or important from other websites, along with your thoughts and opinions.

Accessing this feature is easy, it’s the second option down on the left hand side menu. And when you log into your Google My Business account after after posting content to your listing, Google offers insights into your content, allowing you to see the number of views and button clicks generated for each post. Check in on your GMB insights section to learn which posts work best and what perform below average. Using this information, you can optimize your next batch of Posts, and refine the marketing recipe that works best for your business. We recommend to our clients that they post at least once every three to four days to avoid having no posts present on your listing after they expire.

Ultimately, though, why use Posts? Well, Early indications show that posting content to your listing has an impact on your location authority. That affects the ranking power in Google local search results, which impacts the position of your business on Google Maps. Put another way, the greater your location authority, the more likely your business listing will show up on Maps. This will result in not only more views of your listing, but also more calls to your establishment, more foot traffic via directions and mapping and more website visits as well.

At the end of the day, Google wants to know that you’re engaged in your listing. The more engaged you are, including new Posts, customer reviews and keyword heavy descriptive text (another new rollout), Google will be more favourable to your listing.

Why use Google Posts?

  1. They help searchers find your business
  2. Google likes businesses that keep their listings relevant
  3. They’re currently underused, which gives you a first-mover advantage in your market

To learn more about Google Posts in Google My Business, email mark@10-twenty.com OR call 1-888-388-1020.

Claiming Your Business Location Is Foundational, But Does It Match Your Mapped Address?

We’ve recently learned an important lesson about claiming your business location online, thanks to the collaboration of one of our clients. As a result, we’d like to ask you this important question: Have you searched for your business’ address recently? Here’s why we’re asking.

After working with the business owner to claim his store’s location on Google My Business and Google Maps—along with other directories including Bing, Facebook, FourSquare, Yelp and Apple Maps—the client’s location was properly placed and pinned across these networks. Leading with his store’s name, we claimed, placed and pinned his store on all of these online networks.

Almost immediately, we noticed that his listing was performing well. In fact, amazingly well. His Google My Business metrics exploded from the minute we took control of his listings. His views have increased and held steady every month, to the tune of 190% growth from the first month to the most recent. His total actions, which add together clicks of their phone number, directions and website buttons from their Google Listing, have increased by 202%.
Like any good business, though, his marketing presence didn’t end there. Because of the nature of his business—he’s a retailer with time sensitive promotions and always-changing inventory—he also advertised in local newspapers. And at the bottom of every ad, he wisely put the address of his store.

That’s when he started to get phone calls. The problem? When potential shoppers would search for the address of his location, the pin for that search was misplaced on Google Maps and was leading his customers to another store. In other words, if you searched for the name of his store, you’d be brought to the right location. But if you searched for the address of his location, you’d be lead elsewhere. And he had concrete evidence that his customers were being misled, leading to lost visits and sales.

“My customers would search for our location on Google Maps and were brought to another area on the opposite side of our premises,” said our client, who asked for his name not to be published. “This was frustrating and confusing for all concerned. I had numerous clients tell me that they circled around until they figured out on their own how to get to us, or called us.”

When he brought this to our attention, we immediately jumped into action, contacting Google directly and requesting that they match the pin placement for the search of his address to the one we claimed for the name of their business. It took some time—exactly a month—to go from request to successful pin move. The request was actually escalated from the Google My Business (GMB) team to the Google Maps team to reflect the importance of the problem.

So, now, when our client buys advertising in print publications, he can do so with confidence, knowing that those who want to come to his store to shop will find it.

Within a month or two, we should see the impact on the GMB metrics for this listing, likely resulting in more views, as well as more calls, website visits and in-store traffic. We’ll check back in on this story and let you all know.
In the meanwhile, we suggest you conduct a search of your address and see if it matches up with your listing. If not, we’d be happy to help you set things straight—and help shoppers head straight to your front door.

A Note To Small Business Owners: We Hear You

If you are a small business owner in North America in 2018, you are undoubtedly feeling the pressure. And likely very confused.

Every day you are bombarded with messages about online sellers coming to steal your business, large competitors adopting “omni-channel” strategy and reports of your imminent demise.

At the same time, you are told of the opportunities presented by social media can level the playing field. How Facebook will save the day….no make that Instagram….or is Twitter the right vehicle? Maybe LinkedIn should be your go to.

One thing is certain, if you try to follow all of the advice out there, you will undoubtedly have to work full time on your online strategy, leaving little time for what you do best.

Not to worry, though, there are steps to take that are not overwhelming and that do not require much management. These are foundational steps that can help you to set the building blocks for a more cohesive online/offline strategy.
Here is how you can get going:

  • Take care of your online findability: register with as many search engines, maps and review sites as you can in order to maximize your footprint. This is the best way out there to ensure that paying customers who are looking for what you offer TODAY can find you and make their way over to you instead of to your nearest competitors.
  • Get customer feedback: Once those searchers become visitors and/or clients, get their feedback. The Voice of the Customer has never been so critical. Get their emails so you can market to them, solicit their feedback with a simple survey and encourage them to write online reviews, especially when you know that their experience was a positive one.
  • Use that feedback: Use that information as constructive criticism. Improve. Use the emails to send out promotions and to stay in touch with your clients. Don’t bombard them, but send regular useful information to them. Send them insider promotions. Referral bonuses. News about new developments. Be selective but consistent.
  • Add in a data component: Use the data you collect from your listings and reviews to understand more about your prospects. Who are they? Where are they coming from? What keywords are drawing the most traffic? Build a profile of your best prospects. Tag them as your low hanging fruit
  • Paid social: Target the low-hanging fruit with Facebook or Google advertising using the data you have collected. Monitor the return on investment.

There are several services out there that can help you through this process. Some that are completely hands off and some, like ours, that will walk you through these steps and guide you.

In some cases, the annual cost can add to be less than the value of one new customer.

Either way, the only thing that you cannot afford to do is nothing. The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the small expense of getting the basics done. Start now. Your business depends on it. And work with a team that hears you.

The Small Business Owner’s Advantage

Competition is getting more and more fierce.

If you are a retailer, especially a smaller chain or independent operator, the deck is stacked against you.

Malls are filled with international, cookie-cutter stores. They have multiple locations, marketing departments, technology budgets and “omni-channel strategies”.

And what do you have? Not enough hours in a day. Municipal construction in front of your doors, B mall landlords who don’t want to invest, and very little experience marketing or promoting your business.

Sound dire? We certainly hope not! Because challenges bring opportunities. And here’s what we see.

You have an intimate knowledge of your clients’ likes and wants, which is based partly on instinct, experience and an understanding that there are clients out there who need to have a say and who appreciate that you listen to them.
Given this, think about how you should grow sales. The simple answer is that you need to get more people to come in the door to experience your difference firsthand.

To drive them to your door, it’s important to have a basic understanding that, right now, there is a segment of the population who are searching online for what you are selling. People want what you sell, they want it soon, and they’re searching for you, whether you realize it or not! The question is: Can they find you?

Take these steps to ensure that they do:

  • Claim your business with as many search engines and review sites as you can. Once claimed, you can control how you are seen and how you are found by searchers.
  • Encourage existing customers to post online reviews if they have had a great experience
  • Monitor what people are saying online about you and respond with concern to any negative comments
  • Collect email addresses and market directly to your satisfied clients.

There are tools out there that cost very little in the grand scheme of things, but add a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to claiming listings and building positive reviews. Investing in these tools allows you to stay relevant. And it keeps you doing what you do best – running your business and getting to know your customers!

How Small Business Owners Can Be Looking For Love In All The RIGHT Places

No matter who you are, it always feels great to hear praise from those around you. Family. Friends. Strangers on the street. Now imagine that you run a restaurant, a small boutique or a salon. For small business owners, getting praise from your customers feels that much better.

There are many ways that customers can share their love with you. The challenge, though, is to stay on top of it all. The key is to make sure that you’re looking for love in all the right places.
Praise, you see, can come in many shapes and forms. 

A Quick Guide For Small Business Owners: How To Look For Love In All The RIGHT Places

1) Reviews Sites
People are leaving feedback about you that the world can see, so it’s important to make sure that you’re monitoring feedback on review specific sites. Think Yelp, Trip Advisor, Rate MDs and other similar sites. Thank people for high praise and try your best to turn negative reviews into praise by being responsive, caring and helpful. Opinions can change if you make an effort to show love to those who didn’t.

2) Online Local Listings
Reviews can pop up in places that may not be on your radar. Keep monitoring your online listing and apply all the same approaches we outlined in the point above. Visit Google, Bing, Facebook, and other search engines or social networks to ensure that the reviews on your local listings are seen. And when you get love from a client, give it back with a big thank you.

3) Social Networks
Yes, we did mention social networks above, but that was in relation to your business listing. People are also discussing their experiences at your establishment on Twitter and Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram or sharing videos across social networks as well. Using social media listening tools such as Brandwatch, Sysomos, or Synthesio can help you track mentions of your brand across social media and watch the sentiment associated to your locations. To keep your listening program low cost, use the native search tools on each network or set up Google Alerts to help you capture mentions of your business.

But wait! There are other forms of online love that you should be aware of as well.

4) Content Shares
When you post content to your own social networks, the people sharing what you post are showing you great respect. Why? Because they’re helping extend your message and introduce you to new people. Their share helps create a viral extension of your brand that brings new exposure to your content.

5) Likes
Though not as effective as a share, even a like for your post should be considered as positive praise. When someone likes your content, it’s possible that others in their network are made aware of their appreciation for your post in their own timelines. So, yes, sometimes a like is more than a like. It’s love!

6) Comments on Social Media Posts
This one is trickier because a comment can be positive or negative. Just like reviews, keep an eye on the comments to your posts and get in there to represent your business. Move the discussion along, answer questions, show appreciation for praise and help fix problems that are presented.

So there you have it, six places to look for online love. What are you experiences looking for brand love online? Share yours in the comments!

Small businesses should heed big businessman Jack Ma’s advice

Search for “Jack Ma Advice” on Google and there are no shortage of search results to choose from. Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba and one of the richest men in China. He’s often asked for tips on long-term business success and he isn’t shy to share his thoughts. If you’re a small business owner, though, pay attention to his pointers. Even though Ma leads a huge corporation, his lessons are very relevant to businesses of all sizes.

What are the tips we like best?

  1. People need to trust you
  2. Forget the competition, focus on your customers
  3. Take all competitors seriously
  4. Lead with vision, tenacity, and grit
  5. Don’t look back, just keep going

How Jack Ma’s Tips Relate To Your Business

Let’s look at how each tip relates to your small business, with a focus on location marketing and becoming the best option for people looking for what you provide.

1) People Need To Trust You

Having a strategy to monitor and respond to customer praise or criticism from online reviews is a critical element of doing business in today’s online world. People trust people like themselves and companies that stand behind what they do. Your clients do not expect perfection. They expect an honest and sincere effort to provide the best service and, when you fall short, they expect honest effort to apologize and repair the wrong. Have a strategy to encourage positive reviews and respond to the negative ones.

2) Focus On Your Customers

You have a choice. You can either spend time worrying about giant internet shopping sites that are certainly a factor. But while you’re worrying about them, your competitors will be happy to serve the customers near you that are looking for exactly what you sell. That’s why you need to optimize your ability to be found on search engines and maps. Control how you appear, don’t leave it up to an algorithm.

3) Take All Competitors Seriously

The likelihood that your customers are considering your competitor is real. And the closer they are to you, the more true that is. Any edge you can gain over your competition can be the difference between making a sale or being passed over. So make sure that you’re indexed and making it easy to found by local searchers. How you optimize your listing and solicit positive reviews matters when it comes to converting online searches to on-site traffic.

4) Lead With Vision, Tenacity, And Grit

Be the small business owner that is known for experimenting, trying new things and asking for customer feedback. Truly listen to what your customers have to say. Ask them for their feedback. Be available in person, by email, via text or online on review sites and let them know you’re there and truly listening. The effort you put into showing leadership to your clients and the example you set for your employees cannot be understated. But in the effort and you’ll be rewarded for it over the long term.

5) Don’t Look Back/Keep Moving

Marketing is all about learning, adjusting and evolving. Every step you take should be tied to a measureable objective, so you can gauge your performance along the path to your goal. Something not working? Make a change. Something working well? Build on it. Be flexible and allow yourself room to make adjustments. Move forward while learning from your past actions.

As a small business owner, what are some tips that you can share with others? What are some of the things you’ve done that have worked for you? Share your answers with us below in the comments!