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Local Search Ranking Factors 2011 Hits The Presses!

When I’m called upon to list my credentials and associations, one that I mention with greatest pride is my participation in David Mihm’s annual report which has just been published today: Local Search Ranking Factors. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of this premier industry survey since its inception, and I must say, this year’s report has really taken the bull by the horns in an effort to assess the many ways in which Local has fractured and grown. Whether you are a Local novice or a pro, you are certain to find gems of wisdom and worthy opinions in this year’s LSRF from some of the brightest minds in the business.

My sincere thanks to David for the tremendous amount of work he puts into organizing our gaggle of far-flung Local SEOs, creating a very detailed questionnaire asking the most important questions and publishing it all with his one-of-a-kind style and flair. David, you’re an inspiration and everyone who reads the report is sure to become inspired, too!

Get it while it’s hot, folks. The 2011 LSRF is a must read for anyone who wants to be in-the-know about that wacky thing we call Local.

Reader Question: Who Owns My Google LBC Listings?

Here’s a great question from a reader that I thought deserved a blog-post-length reply. Reader, Amy, writes:

My issue is that I’ve recently joined a company (client-side) and there’s no trace of who set up the LBC listings for each of our hotels, whether it was someone internal or not.

So now that i need to edit the listings for the company, how can i do it without the login details? I’ve searched extensively for advice from Google… to no avail

I would imagine that many people run into this issue, and I’d like to give some advice to help get the ball rolling in resolving it.

How Did Your Google Local Listing Come To Be?

First of all, it’s important for you to understand that when Google created their local index, they scraped business data from many places (yellow pages, directories, etc.) So, in other words, the businesses listed in Google’s local results are not necessarily there because they were submitted to Google. A great many of them are there as a result of Google pulling them from third party sources.

So, the first thing for you to determine is whether your company’s hotel listings merely exist as a result of action on Google’s part, or whether they were created and claimed by a person at/for your company.

Go to GetListed.org.

This terrific little tool will enable you to enter the business name and zip code for each of the hotel locations. GetListed will crawl Google’s local index for you, and in just seconds, will tell you whether each of your Google listings has been claimed/verified or is sitting there unverified, and therefor, is simply the result of Google pulling information from elsewhere to create a listing for you (without you knowing about it).

Before I go further, let me explain the claiming/verifying a listing involves the business owner (or his Local SEO consultant) logging into Google’s Local Business Center and requesting that Google either phone you or send you a postcard so that you can verify that you are the owner of the business.

Here is an example from GetListed.org of an inn in California that has not claimed their business listing:

Business Not Claimed In Google

If the hotel listings show as having not been claimed, just click the link on the GetListed results page to ‘Claim Your Listing’. This will take you to the login page for Google’s Local Business Center, at which point, if you don’t currently have a Google account, you can create a new one. If the company already has an account (such as for Gmail or Adwords or something else) you can use that username and password to log in.

Then, simply follow the steps within Google’s LBC to verify your listing either by postcard or phone call, and this will also be a good time to make sure that that the data about each business location is as accurate and thorough as possible.

I would suggest, Amy, that you try this step first with the hotel’s various locations. Then come back here and let us know whether you discovered that the hotel listings have already been claimed or not.

Convert Offline’s Awesome Local and Ad Checklist

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

Our friend Tim at Convert Offline has just published his Internet Advertising Matrix – an incredibly handy illustrated checklist of both paid and local inclusions across the spectrum of AOL, Ask, Google, Local, MSN, Superpages, Yahoo, and Yellow Pages.

Whether you are a search marketer or a small business owner, you are going to want to bookmark Tim’s list for quick reference when you are beginning a Local or advertising campaign.

Tim put serious time into this, I can tell, and the end result is an extremely valuable resource for all of us. Thank you, Tim. Awesome job!

Replacement China from Robbins Nest – Before and After Website Redesign

Some months ago, we were approached by a family business that really interested me. The Robbins family have been purveyors of replacement china for 10 years from their Kentucky-based business. Their inventory is absolutely vast. If you are looking for a specific china pattern, chances are, Robbins Nest has got it or can find it for you. They struck me immediately as the the kind of devoted, conscientious small business owners who genuinely make customer satisfaction their number one priority, and this is the type of client it’s a pleasure for us to take on.

The Website Redesign Challenge
Like many small business owners, the Robbins had been doing-it-themselves for years, learning HTML basics in order to get their inventory online. Yet, as their business grew, their website got out of hand. It lost a sense of structure, causing Usability issues for human visitors, and, no doubt, making an unwanted maze for search engine bots. This is not an uncommon situation. A small business owner starts out with a small site…maybe just a few pages…but as the inventory grows, a lack of pre-planned architecture can result in a hodgepodge effect that is extremely difficult for the user to navigate.

The Robbins had been doing their best, of course, but realized that the issues with their site couldn’t be getting them optimum conversions. They wanted help with getting things cleaned up and organized. The key goal for me with this project would be to get their navigation into much better working order, eliminating menus that were appearing all over the place on different pages, and pulling all the eggs into one basket, so to speak, so that users could easily find what they want to find and go where they need to go with a strong, thorough, consistent system of navigation.

They also wanted a more professional presentation for their business. I had browsed around the replacement china industry in the past, searching for some American-made Franciscanware which I absolutely love, and I took note at the time of how little care was being taken by the top ranked companies to provide even a remotely charming presentation of what ought to be a very charming product – pretty china! I agreed with the Robbins family that some simple, professional design work would absolutely promote brand recognition and help repeat customers to know they’d arrived at the right place, hitting the site. The screen shot below will show you what Robbins Nest looked like when we first saw it.

Robbins Nest before website redesign

With an inventory as good as theirs, this company deserved much more than a cluttered, industrial-looking website and my husband I set to work by drawing up a list of our goals for the redesign:

  • Develop a system of navigation that includes all major site categories and is consistently placed on each and every page of the website.
  • Create a homepage and 6 templates to be used to format the 6 different kinds of pages present on the site.
  • Develop a distinct visual look for this company that sets them obviously apart from their competition.
  • Hand the pages over to the client for implementation throughout their website

Robbins Nest after website redesign

The New Robbins Nest!
The above screenshot shows the redesign we created for Robbins Nest. You can click the image to see the actual website. As you can see, we kept things very simple. Far from suggesting that they further clutter up their site with heavy graphics or other distraction, I simply wanted to infuse a bit of Robin’s-egg blue into the site, to continue their theme, and to create a logo that would be instantly recognizable and memorable. As most of my readers know, I’m a wild bird illustrator…so, seriously, if you’ve got a bird-related business of any kind, I’d like to work with you. This handsome American Robin perched on a nest of replacement china was fun to create and truly delighted the company. The navigation has been organized and now serves as a useful tool, rather than a game of musical chairs, and should instill confidence and comfort in the user. Overall, you see a more professional, usable website.

With thousands of different china replacements in stock, it’s unlikely that a small business like this could have afforded to hire us to implement the design throughout their great big website. Fortunately, the business owners’ HTML skills stood them in good stead here, enabling them to take our 7 pages and rework their pages themselves, according to the new design. They tell me they are 99% finished with the job now, and they must have worked like crazy to accomplish this in a couple of months’ time. Having experienced this family’s work ethic and business ethic first-hand, I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for replacement china!

Looking to the Future
I’m sure the whole Robbins clan would like a vacation at this point. They’ve worked very hard to get their website in shape, but now that they’ve achieved this goal and have a site that they can be proud of, the company needs to begin thinking about next steps. Though rich in products, the site needs links and needs to begin developing a new body of interesting reading materials in order to take a broader approach to doing business on the web. Products aren’t enough these days, with Google’s emphasis on content and links, and this business will benefit from pursuing the following:

  • Developing a library of articles about their area of expertise. These folks know china, and the history and lore surrounding china companies and patterns would make for exceptionally good reading.
  • Building a blog into the site would be super. Think of all the Q&A that would be associated with identifying old china patterns, caring for old china, decorating with vintage china, etc.
  • Starting to build up the reading materials offered by the company will naturally lead to the acquisition of voluntary links from readers, but will also provide something for the company to approach bloggers and siteowners with, asking those influential people if they’d be interested in writing about various articles Robbins Nest has published.

These are just a couple of suggestions that basically boil down to writing and networking – the two things all smart small business owners are learning are so important to success on the web these days. Paid advertising would undoubtedly be useful, too, but we tend to suggest the least expensive options first because we understand the small business budget.

For me, the greatest satisfaction in redesigning websites for small businesses is that I know, after working with us, they own a site that is ready to go. They can add to it, market it, take it anywhere they want it to go. What could be more valuable than this?

Do you have a website that looks behind-the-times or is functioning poorly for your users? Contact Solas Web Design today to tell us about your business.

Local Housing Gets OneBox Treatment from Google

Greetings from Inside the SEOigloo!

Over the past six months or so, I have been looking at real estate all over the state of California with my husband because we are contemplating a move. Tonight, Google’s SERPs presented me with an option I had never seen before in all of my searching. The search I performed was formulated town name + house for rent. Here is what I got:

Google OneBox result for local housing search

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