Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Peter Thoeny

It’s common knowledge that your business website is the best place to get customers to go when they’re online. And if you’re a local business with a physical address, a lot of your website traffic may come from maps listings. Optimizing for local search results is called local SEO. If you’ve been in business for any period of time in the last decade, you’ve probably already heard of it.

Local SEO is super important, everyone says so. Everyone’s got charts and graphs and statistics telling you how important it is. And they’re not wrong. It is important.

And with a recent revelation Google’s algorithm for Maps search results has been updated, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got your business name, address, and phone (NAP) information up to date and consistent on the Internet.

The good news is that you can list your business on a vast majority of listing sites for free. Just follow the steps to input your business info and within a certain turnaround time, your business will be listed.

The challenge is that between major data aggregators and tiny upstart listing sites, there are way too many places to get your business’ NAP info listed. Where do you even start?

Luckily, there are a handful of listings on big data aggregators’ platforms that will actually feed the rest of the little ones.

Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Moz Local

7 Local Listings Every Local Business NEEDS To Focus On (and 5 More that Every Business SHOULD Focus On, Too)

You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you just go for the major sources. Trying to fill out your information for every single little one would be far too time-consuming.

Here are the sites you need to focus on first:

  1. Google MyBusiness Listing
  2. Apple Maps
  3. Bing Places
  4. Facebook
  5. Yelp
  6. YellowPages
  7. Acxiom

While you’re at it, you should really focus on these ones as well:

  1. Factual
  2. Neustar Localeze
  3. CitySearch
  4. SuperPages
  5. Local.com

And of course, these are all completely different platforms, so here are the details of how to get each one up and running…

Note: before getting started, it’s important to remember to enter your information exactly the same way each time.

Google MyBusiness

Formerly known as Google+ Local, this is where Google lets you verify your business and make it “Google official.”

URL: http://ift.tt/UWX2O6

Because of Google’s size and influence, they are a natural target for phonies and spammers. As such, they go to great lengths to ensure that every business listed is a legitimate business with a legitimate address.

That means their process is long and vexing.

Go to their site, sign in (or sign up, if you don’t already have a Google account), follow the steps to get started. They’ll take you through finding the information that already exists on their map, and then to verify that you are the business owner and that your business really exists at that location, they will send a postcard in the mail. Yes, Google uses the actual US Postal Service.

Click to send that postcard in the mail, and then you’re done until you receive it.

You’ll get a PIN on that Postcard, which will arrive within a week or two. Then, once you have it, you’ll have to go back to the website and sign in again. It’ll ask for your verification PIN, and you can type in what’s on the postcard.

Once you’ve done that, your listing is live, verified, and you can make edits as needed.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps has come a long way in the few short years since its initial launch. Once plagued by accuracy issues to the point of a public apology by Apple’s CEO, this is now the leading maps provider for Apple iOS apps. Its sheer reach makes it a must for any business with an address.

URL: http://ift.tt/1kKOcZ4

You’ll need to set up an Apple ID if you haven’t already got one. Like Google, it’s free and easy.

The steps to get your business info up are fairly straightforward. You’ll need to verify it with a phone call; once done, you can submit your business info. It should only take up to a week to get verified on Apple Maps Connect.

Note: you or someone at your place of business must do this. You can’t outsource this task to an agency. Click here for additional details.

Bing Places

Bing Places is Bing’s version of Google MyBusiness, and it actually predates Google MyBusiness — though its market share is, of course, still much smaller than Google’s. Regardless, this is a necessary source of NAP data for many websites, and as such, is a must-do for any local business.

URL: http://ift.tt/11EtZKU

Once you’re logged in (again, free account), click to add a business and fill in your info. Like Google MyBusiness, you’ll need to receive a PIN by mail and come back to it. But, like Google MyBusiness, once you verify it, you’re good to go.

Facebook

To add a Facebook business listing, you can use your smartphone. Download the Facebook app if you haven’t already, and make sure you’re logged in.

URLs:

Google Store (for Android)

iTunes (for iOS)

From the home feed, tap “Check In” — make sure you’ve got location services turned on.

Use the search bar to type in your business name. If your business shows up, tap the three dots on the right to suggest edits. You can make sure all your info is correct.

If it’s not there, you’ll have the option to add the new business. You can enter your info through that process.

Yelp

Many small businesses are afraid to touch Yelp for fear of being found and left a business-killing bad review. But Yelp exists whether you want it to or not, so take that bull by the horns and make it work for you!

URL: https://biz.yelp.com

Start with a free business account, which is different from a regular (consumer) Yelp account. Once logged in, you can find your business if it’s already listed and begin the claim process by clicking the “Claim your business” button. Yelp will verify by calling the number already listed. The steps are easy to follow thereafter.

If your business doesn’t exist on Yelp yet, you can search to find it and click “Add your business to Yelp” if it doesn’t appear.

Yellow Pages (yp.com)

The modern form of the Yellow Pages is online at yellowpages.com, or yp.com. They’ll try hard to sell you ad space, but the listing is actually always free.

URL: http://ift.tt/2e4rqmt

Enter your phone number and business name, then an email address where you won’t mind getting tons of emails from yp.com; make sure it’s a real one, though, because they’ll need you to verify your listing there. Don’t worry — it won’t be published, and you can always unsubscribe from their marketing.

Acxiom

Be careful with Acxiom — you can only do this once from your IP address. Make sure that you or someone at your business does this; don’t have an outside agency do it for you.

URL: http://ift.tt/1gpMUa3

Search for your business name and click “Claim My Listing” if it appears. If it doesn’t appear, you’ll need to create a new listing. As always, you’ll need to log in; create a free account if you haven’t done so.

Here, you’ll have to actually upload a business document. The page will instruct you what types of documents are acceptable. They’ll all have the usual business info, and then some. After you upload the document, you will get an email to let you know once your business has been verified and claimed.

Here’s Where to Go for the Next Five:

The process is relatively straightforward for all of these — search for your business, click the available button to claim/manage the listing, follow their verification steps. Some require phone or email verification; they are simple, but you do have to pay attention.

Factual: http://ift.tt/1p6fFJo

Neustar Localeze: http://ift.tt/1NkaC6T

CitySearch: http://ift.tt/pfcY8C

SuperPages: http://ift.tt/2eZ75wO

Local.com: http://ift.tt/2e4oczB

BONUS: Local + Niche.

If you’re a real do-it-yourself type and are willing to go hunting for more directories on your own, great! The more the better.

For maximum efficiency, you should look for the intersection of geography-based listings and industry-based listings – often this will be industry listings that are extremely well-organized by area, e.g. Zillow for real estate agents or ZocDoc for medical professionals.

Time and Consistency

There’s actually a lot more that every local business would benefit from. But this takes huge amounts of time. Don’t have the time? Hire a professional SEO company that offers a “local listings” service.

It’s not about your overall SEO strategy. Local listings are just one small part of SEO.

It’s about consistency for your customers. Customers may encounter your business listing in multiple locations before they actually contact you. Inconsistency and confusion frighten customers away. Your contact info is typically the last thing they look at before contacting your business — accuracy and consistency are crucial.

Time is the killer. If your time is more valuable than the cost of paying someone to get your listings in order, then do yourself a favor. Hire a professional team to do it for you. Get your listings consistent across the board, and get it done sooner rather than later.

rahul-alim-custom-creatives-photoCustom Creatives is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in small and medium businesses. If you’d like help with claiming listings and getting your business info consistent across the internet, call us at (818) 865-1267, or visit our website.

via Duct Tape Marketing http://ift.tt/2eDdT6g

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.”Google Search Console Course

2017 may well be the year of testimonials and reviews in local SEO. As our industry continues to grow, we have studied surveys indicating that some 92% of consumers now read online reviews and that 68% of these cite positive reviews as a significant trust factor. We’ve gone through a meaningful overhaul of Google’s schema review/testimonial guidelines while finding that major players like Yelp will publicly shame guideline-breakers. We’ve seen a major publication post a controversial piece suggesting that website testimonials pages are useless, drawing thoughtful industry rebuttals illustrating why well-crafted testimonials pages are, in fact, vitally useful in a variety of ways.

Reviews can impact your local pack rankings, testimonials can win you in-SERP stars, and if that isn’t convincing enough, the above quote states unequivocally that both reviews and testimonials on your website can boost Google’s perception of a local business’ trustworthiness and reputation. That sounds awfully good! Yet, seldom a day goes by that I don’t encounter websites that are neither encouraging reviews nor showcasing testimonials.

If you are marketing local enterprises that play to win, chances are you’ve been studying third-party review management for some years now. Not much has been written about on-site consumer feedback, though. What belongs on a company’s own testimonials/reviews page? How should you structure one? What are the benefits you might expect from the effort? Today, we’re going to get serious about the central role of consumer sentiment and learn to maximize its potential to influence and convert customers.

Up next to help you in the work ahead: technical specifics, expert tips, and a consumer feedback page mockup.

Definitions and differentiations

Traditional reviews: Direct from customers on third-party sites

In the local SEO industry, when you hear someone talking about "reviews," they typically mean sentiment left directly by customers on third-party platforms, like this review on TripAdvisor:

rt1.jpg

Traditional testimonials: Moderated by owners on company site

By contrast, testimonials have traditionally meant user sentiment gathered by a business and posted on the company website on behalf of customers, like this snippet from a bed-and-breakfast site:

rt2.jpg

Review content has historically been outside of owners’ control, while testimonial content has been subject to the editorial control of the business owner. Reviews have historically featured ratings, user profiles, images, owner responses, and other features while testimonials might just be a snippet of text with little verifiable information identifying the author. Reviews have typically been cited as more trustworthy because they are supposedly unmoderated, while testimonials have sometimes been criticized as creating a positive-only picture of the business managing them.

Hybrid sentiment: Review+testimonial functionality on company site

Things are changing! More sophisticated local businesses are now employing technologies that blur the lines between reviews and testimonials. Website-based applications can enable users to leave reviews directly on-site, they can contain star ratings, avatars, and even owner responses, like this:

In other words, you have many options when it comes to managing user sentiment, but to make sure the effort you put in yields maximum benefits, you’ve got to:

  1. Know the guidelines and technology
  2. Have a clear goal and a clear plan for achieving it
  3. Commit to making a sustained effort

There is a ton of great content out there about managing your reviews on third-party platforms like Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc., but today we’re focusing specifically on your on-site reviews/testimonials page. What belongs on that page? How should you populate and organize its content? What benefits might you expect from the investment? To answer those questions, let’s create a goal-drive plan, with help from some world-class Local SEOs.

Guidelines & technology

There are two types of guidelines you need to know in the consumer sentiment space:

1) Platform policies

Because your website’s consumer feedback page may feature a combination of unique reviews and testimonials you directly source, widgets featuring third-party review streams, and links or badges either showcasing third-party reviews or asking for them, you need to know the policies of each platform you plan to feature.

Why does this matter? Since different platforms have policies that range from lax to strict, you want to be sure you’re making the most of each one’s permissions without raising any red flags. Google, for example, has historically been fine with companies asking consumers for reviews, while Yelp’s policy is more stringent and complex.

Here are some quick links to the policies of a few of the major review platforms, to which you’ll want to add your own research for sites that are specific to your industry and/or geography:

2) Google’s review schema guidelines

Google has been a dominant player in local for so long that their policies often tend to set general industry standards. In addition to the Google review policy I’ve linked to above, Google has a completely separate set of review schema guidelines, which recently underwent a significant update. The update included clarifications about critic reviews and review snippets, but most germane to today’s topic, Google offered the following guidelines surrounding testimonial/review content you may wish to publish and mark up with schema on your website:

Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:

– Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
– Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
– Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.

In sum, if you want to mark up consumer feedback with schema on your website, it should be unique to your website — not drawn from any other source. But to enjoy the rewards of winning eye-catching in-SERP star ratings or of becoming a "reviews from the web" source in Google’s knowledge panels, you’ve got to know how to implement schema correctly. Let’s do this right and call on a schema expert to steer our course.

Get friendly with review schema technology.

rtdavid.jpg

The local SEO industry has come to know David Deering and his company TouchPoint Digital Marketing as go-to resources for the implementation of complex schema and JSON-LD markup. I’m very grateful to him for his willingness to share some of the basics with us.

Here on the Moz blog, I always strive to highlight high quality, free resources, but in this case, free may not get the job done. I asked David if he could recommend any really good free review schema plugins, and learned a lot from his answer:

Boy, that’s a tough one because I don’t use any plugins or tools to do the markup work. I find that none of them do a good job at adding markup to a page. Some come close, but the plugin files still need to be edited in order for everything to be correct and properly nested. So I tend to hard-code the templates that would control the insertion of reviews onto a page. But I can tell you that GetFiveStars does a pretty good job at marking up reviews and ratings and adding them to a site. There might be others, too, but I just don’t have any personal experience using them, unfortunately.

It sounds like, at present, best bets are going to be to go with a paid service or roll up your sleeves to dig into schema hard coding. *If anyone in our community has discovered a plugin or widget that meets the standards David has cited, please definitely share it in the comments, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the example David kindly provided of perfect markup. He notes,

“The following example is rather simple and straightforward but it contains everything that a review markup should. (The example also assumes that the review markup is nested within the markup of the business that’s being reviewed):”

"review": {
    "@type": "Review",
    "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Reviewer's Name",
        "sameAs": "<a href="http://ift.tt/2d6mg5K;>http://ift.tt/2dZhayg>"
    }
    "datePublished": "2016-09-23",
    "reviewBody": "Reviewer's comments here...",
    "reviewRating": {
        "@type": "Rating"
        "worstRating": "1",
        "bestRating": "5",
        "ratingValue": "5"
    }
},

This is a good day to check to see if your schema is as clean and thorough as David’s, and also to consider the benefits of JSON-LD markup, which he describes this way:

“JSON-LD is simply another syntax or method that can be used to insert structured data markup onto a page. Once the markup is created, you can simply insert it into the head section of the page. So it’s easy to use in that sense. And Google has stated their preference for JSON-LD, so it’s a good idea to make the switch from microdata if a person hasn’t already.”

There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to schema + reviews

I asked David if he could share some expert review-oriented tips and he replied,

Well, in typical fashion, Google has been fickle with their rich snippet guidelines. They didn’t allow the marking up of third-party reviews, then they did, now they don’t again. So, I think it would be a good idea for businesses to begin collecting reviews directly from their customers through their site or through email. Of course, I would not suggest neglecting the other online review sources because those are important, too. But when it comes to Google and rich snippets, don’t put all of your eggs (and hopes) in one basket.

*As a rule, the reviews should be directly about the main entity on the page. So keep reviews about the business, products, services, etc. separate — don’t combine them because that goes against Google’s rich snippet guidelines.”

And any warnings about things we should never do with schema? David says,

“Never mark up anything that is not visible on the page, including reviews, ratings and aggregate ratings. Only use review markup for the entities that Google allows it to be used for. For example, the review and rating markup should not be used for articles or on-page content. That goes against Google’s guidelines. And as of this writing, it’s also against their guidelines to mark up third-party reviews and ratings such as those found on Google+ or Yelp.

Ready to dig deeper into the engrossing world of schema markup with David Deering? I highly recommend this recent LocalU video. If the work involved makes you dizzy, hiring an expert or purchasing a paid service are likely to be worthwhile investments. Now that we’ve considered our technical options, let’s consider what we’d like to achieve.

Define your consumer feedback page goals.

rtmike.jpg

If I could pick just one consultant to get advice from concerning the potential benefits of local consumer feedback, it would be GetFiveStars’ co-founder and renowned local SEO, Mike Blumenthal.

Before we dive in with Mike, I want to offer one important clarification:

If you’re marketing a single-location business, you’ll typically be creating just one consumer feedback page on your website to represent it, but if yours is a multi-location business, you’ll want to take the advice in this article and apply it to each city landing page on your website, including unique user sentiment for each location. For more on this concept, see Joy Hawkins’ article How to Solve Duplicate Content Local SEO Issues for Multi-Location Businesses.

Now let’s set some goals for what a consumer feedback page can achieve. Mike breaks this down into two sections:

1. Customer-focused

  • Create an effective page that ranks highly for your brand so that it becomes a doorway page from Google.
  • Make sure that the page is easily accessible from your selling pages with appropriately embedded reviews and links so that it can help sell sitewide.

2. Google-focused

  • Get the page ranking well on brand and brand+review searches
  • Ideally, get designated with review stars
  • Optimally, have it show in the knowledge panel as a source for reviews from the web

This screenshot illustrates these last three points perfectly:

rt4.jpg

Time on page may make you a believer!

Getting excited about consumer feedback pages, yet? There’s more! Check out this screenshot from one of Mike’s showcase clients, the lovely Barbara Oliver Jewelry in Williamsville, NY, and pay special attention to the average time spent on http://ift.tt/2dZgc56:

rt5.jpg

When customers are spending 3+ minutes on any page of a local business website, you can feel quite confident that they are really engaging with the business. Mike says,

“For Barbara, this is an incredibly important page. It reflects almost 9% of her overall page visits and represents almost 5% of the landing pages from the search engines. Time on the page for new visitors is 4 minutes with an average of over 3 minutes. This page had review snippets until she recently updated her site — hopefully they will return. It’s an incredibly important page for her.”

Transparency helps much more than it hurts.

The jewelry store utilizes GetFiveStars technology, and represents a perfect chance to ask Mike about a few of the finer details of what belongs on consumer feedback pages. I had noticed that GetFiveStars gives editorial control to owners over which reviews go live, and wanted to get Mike’s personal take on transparency and authenticity. He says,

“I strongly encourage business owners to show all feedback. I think transparency in reviews is critical for customer trust and we find that showing all legitimate feedback results in less than a half-point decline in star ratings on average.


That being said, I also recommend that 1) the negative feedback be held back for 7 to 10 days to allow for complaint resolution before publishing and 2) that the content meet basic terms of service and appropriateness that should be defined by each business. Obviously you don’t want your own review site to become a mosh pit, so some standards are appropriate.


I am more concerned about users than bots. I think that a clear statement of your terms of service and your standards for handling these comments should be visible to all visitors. Trust is the critical factor. Barbara Oliver doesn’t yet have that but only because she has recently updated her site. It’s something that will be added shortly.

Respond to on-page reviews just as you would on third-party platforms.

I’d also noticed something that struck me as uncommon on Barbara Oliver Jewelry’s consumer feedback page: she responds to her on-page reviews, just as she would on third-party review platforms. Mike explains:

“In the ‘old’ days of reviews, I always thought that owner responses to positive reviews were a sort of glad handing … I mean how many times can you say ‘thank you’? But as I researched the issue it became clear that a very large minority of users (40%) noted that if they took the time to leave feedback or a review, then the owner should acknowledge it. That research convinced me to push for the feature in GetFiveStars. With GetFiveStars, the owner is actually prompted to provide either a private or public response. The reviewer receives an email with the response as well. This works great for both happy and unhappy outcomes and serves double-duty as a basis for complaint management on the unhappy side.


You can see the evolution of my thinking in these two articles

What I used to think: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review?

What I think after asking consumers their thoughts: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review? Here’s The Consumer View."

Reviews on your mind, all the time

So, basically, consumers have taught Mike (and now all of us!) that reasonable goals for reviews/testimonials pages include earning stars, becoming a knowledge panel review source, and winning a great average time on page, in addition to the fact that transparency and responsiveness are rewarded. Before he zooms off to his next local SEO rescue, I wanted to ask Mike if anything new is exciting him in this area of marketing. Waving goodbye, he shouts:

Sheesh … I spend all day, every day thinking about these sorts of things. I mean my motto used to be ‘All Local, All the Time’… now it’s just ‘All Reviews, All the Time.’

I think that this content that is generated by the business owner, from known clients, has incredible import in all aspects of their marketing. It is great for social proof, great user-generated content, customer relations, and much more. We are currently ‘plotting’ new and valuable ways for businesses to use this content effectively and easily.


I’m experimenting right now with another client, Kaplan Insurance, to see exactly what it takes to get rich snippets these days.”

I know I’ll be on the lookout for a new case study from Mike on that topic!

Plan out the components of your consumer feedback page

rtphil.jpg

Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System is one of the most sophisticated, generous bloggers I know in the local SEO industry. You’ll become an instant fan of his, too, once you’ve saved yourself oodles of time using his Ultimate List of Review Widgets and Badges for Your Local Business Website. And speaking of ‘ultimate,’ here is the list Phil and I brainstormed together, each adding our recommended components, for the elements we’d want to see on a consumer feedback page:

  • Full integration into the site (navigation, internal linking, etc.); not an island page.
  • Welcoming text intro with a link to review content policy/TOS
  • Unique sentiment with schema markup (not drawn from third parties)
  • Specification of the reviewers’ names and cities
  • Owner responses
  • Paginate the reviews if page length starts getting out of hand
  • Provide an at-a-glance average star rating for easy scanning
  • Badges/widgets that take users to the best place to leave a traditional third-party review. Make sure these links open in a new browser tab!
  • Video reviews
  • Scanned hand-written testimonial images
  • Links to critic-type reviews (professional reviews at Zagat, Michelin, etc.)
  • A link to a SERP showing more of the users’ reviews, signalling authenticity rather than editorial control
  • Tasteful final call-to-action

And what might such a page look like in real life (or at least, on the Internet)? Here is my mockup for a fictitious restaurant in Denver, Colorado, followed by a key:

Click to open a bigger version in a new tab!

Key to the mockup:

  1. Page is an integral part of the top level navigation
  2. Welcoming text with nod to honesty and appreciation
  3. Link to review content policy
  4. Paginated on-page reviews
  5. Call-to-action button to leave a review
  6. Easy-to-read average star rating
  7. Schema marked-up on-page reviews
  8. Sample owner response
  9. Links and badges to third party reviews
  10. Link to SERP URL featuring all available review sources
  11. Links to professional reviews
  12. Handwritten and video testimonials
  13. Tasteful final call-to-action to leave a review

Your live consumer feedback page will be more beautifully and thoughtfully planned than my example, but hopefully the mockup has given you some ideas for a refresh or overhaul of what you’re currently publishing.

Scanning the wild for a little sentiment management inspiration

I asked Phil if he’d recently seen local businesses recently making a good effort at promoting consumer feedback. He pointed to these, with the proviso that none of them are 100% perfect but that they should offer some good inspiration. Don’t you just totally love real-world examples?

Lightning round advice for adept feedback acquisition

Before we let Phil get back to his work as "the last local SEO guy you’ll ever need," I wanted to take a minute to ask him for some tips on encouraging meaningful customer feedback.

“Don’t ask just once. In-person plus an email follow-up (or two) is usually best. Give customers choices and always provide instructions. Ask in a personal, conversational way. Rotate the sites you ask for reviews on. Try snail-mail or the phone. Have different people in your organization ask so that you can find ‘The Champ’,” says Phil. “Encourage detail, on-site and off-site. Saying things like ‘It will only take you 60 seconds’ may be great for getting big numbers of on-site testimonials, but the testimonials will be unhelpfully short or, worse, appear forced or fake. Dashed-off feedback helps no one. By the way, this can help you even if a given customer had a bad experience; if you’re encouraging specifics, at least he/she is a little more likely to leave the kind of in-depth feedback that can help you improve.”

Sustain your effort & facilitate your story

Every time Google sharpens focus on a particular element of search, as they are clearly doing right now with consumer and professional sentiment, it’s like a gift. It’s a clanging bell, an intercom announcement, a handwritten letter letting all of us know that we should consider shifting new effort toward a particular facet of marketing and see where it gets us with Google.

In this specific case, we can draw extra inspiration for sustaining ourselves in the work ahead from the fact that Google’s interest in reviews and testimonials intersects with the desires of consumers who make transactional decisions based, in part, on what Internet sentiment indicates about a local business. In other words, the effort you put into acquiring and amplifying this form of UGC makes Google, consumers, and your company happy, all in one fell swoop.

If you took all of the sentiment customers express about a vibrant, given business and put it into a book, it would end up reading something like War and Peace. The good news about this is that you don’t have to write it — you have thousands of potential volunteer Tolstoys out there to do the job for you, because reviewing businesses has become a phenomenal modern hobby.

Your job is simply to provide a service experience (hopefully a good one) that moves customers to start typing, back that up with a variety of ongoing feedback requests, and facilitate the publication of sentiment in the clearest, most user-friendly way.

Some more good news? You don’t have to do all of this tomorrow. I recently saw a Google review profile on which a business had "earned" over 100 reviews in a week — a glaring authenticity fail, for sure. A better approach is simply to keep the sentiment conversation going at a human pace, engaging with your customers in a human way, and ensuring that your consumer feedback page is as good as you can possibly make it. This is manageable — you can do this!

Are you experimenting with any page elements or techniques that have resulted in improved user feedback? Please inspire our community by sharing your tips!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Businessman Holding a Newspaper in a Finance Area

Local audiences are a hot commodity, not just for small businesses, but also for national brands and retailers. Local SMBs and national marketers each make up 36% of spending on locally-targeted advertising, with the last 28% coming from larger local businesses, according to a report from IAB. And while online advertising gets the bulk of the attention, a whopping 87% of local ad spending happens on traditional media, like print, direct mail, cable, and radio. Now the race is on to capitalize on this market and bring the concept of location-targeted programmatic to national print and TV channels.

By placing localized ads in national publications, smaller businesses and national chains with physical locations can cut down on wasted spending and ensure their ads are only being seen by consumers in the markets they serve. At the same time, these businesses are getting access to high-quality publications for a tiny fraction of the typical cost.

Here are five examples of tools that businesses can use to place localized ads on national channels and publications.

1. Adverator: Discover new ad products aimed at local markets
Adverator is offering a way for small businesses to discover, purchase, and manage their local advertising. The media marketplace aggregates popular types of local advertising channels and offers them up on one platform for SMBs. Businesses can browse ad space on online and offline channels, including national publications with ad space targeted to local markets. For example, a local event planning service could place an ad in a bridal magazine, but that ad would only appear in issues delivered to subscribers in the business’ own metro area.

2. MediaMax: Local ads in national publications
MediaMax provides a way for local shops, regional marketers, and national companies with local needs to place localized advertising in national print publications. MediaMax offers “category-specific solutions” for businesses in the retail, healthcare, and real estate industries, among many others. Local shops can place ads in Condé Nast and Meredith publications, but those ads will only appear in targeted markets. Essentially, businesses can take advantage of the prestige of national print publications, but without paying for their ads to appear in cities where they don’t offer services. MediaMax can also place ads on websites and at local events.

3. Advent Media Group: Placing print and digital ads in targeted markets
Using local audience targeting, Advent Media Group helps smaller companies share their stories with local subscribers of national magazines and national websites. Advent Media Group works with magazines like Good Housekeeping, Fortune, and Seventeen, with a print ad network that features more than 150 markets. Businesses can choose which metro regions they’d like to target and what publications they’d like to appear in, and Advent Media Group will place their ads. In addition to local print advertising, the Advent Media Group also provides local and targeted display ads, with messaging that’s delivered based on demographics, interests, and behavioral profiles.

4. MNI Targeted Media: Localized ad messaging by market
MNI is a subsidiary of Time Inc., specializing in giving advertisers a range of targeted products across media platforms. The company’s local online advertising product gives businesses access to targeted audiences through partnerships with local television, newspaper, and radio websites. Businesses can place local or regional ads in national magazines, with unique messaging and creative content based on the geographic areas where their ads will appear. Businesses can target 180+ geographic markets with MNI.

5. Placemedia: Delivering programmatic impressions on television
Placemedia is taking a different approach to localizing national media. The supply-side solution for programmatic TV advertising offers a self-serve platform to plan and execute targeted campaigns on television. Placemedia gives clients access to cable network inventory without dayparting restrictions, with campaigns that can be targeted and optimized with additional data sets. Placemedia is also able to serve video impressions across all screens and platforms, including both desktop and mobile.

Know of other tools for buying localized ads on national media channels? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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8 Tips to Help Boost Your Instagram Marketing Success | Social Media TodayMarketers everywhere know that Facebook is huge, but Instagram is also making a big splash. Now owned by Facebook, Instagram is the fastest growing social network on the market. As of February 2016, it had a massive growth rate of 15.1%, compared to the average rate for other social networks at 3.1%. Additionally, analysts predict another 27 million users by the end of 2020, which is almost twice as many users as Twitter is expected to gain in that time.

Instagram is a visual-focused network, which perhaps explains the reason for its profound success. Overall, consumers respond better to visual marketing tactics than any other methods. As a result, Instagram should be a major part of every marketer’s strategy.

In fact, it could potentially double the returns from your efforts if approached the right way.

1. Be Consistent in Your Theme

Instagram accounts tend to do better when they stick with a certain theme. It’s easier for users to follow and become familiar with a company when they have consistency throughout their posts. Pictures should be congruent with your main theme and avoid those that go against company values. Also, a color palette and clear branding can significantly help drive your theme home.

2. Work in Combination with Your Blog

Your blog is primarily used for SEO and conversion purposes, and Instagram can help with that. Creating an Instagram account that yields returns doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort, either. Let readers know about new blog posts by posting a photo and a brief description. Then, let them know they can read the full piece by clicking on the link in your bio – you’ll have to switch out the link anytime you mention a new post, but the process is quick and easy.

3. Experiment with Hashtags

Hashtags can lead to instant engagement – so long as they’re used the right way. One of the simplest strategies is to create a hashtag customers can use when they post photos of themselves holding a product they purchased from you.

4. Use Instagram Tools

There are a variety of Instagram-friendly tools marketers can use to improve the performance of photos. Piktoria is one tool that can help you discover hashtags, locations, and trending content – use this to your advantage. There are also editing apps like Pixlr that let you enhance and size your photos. There are literally hundreds of tools you can explore to advance your Instagram strategy.

5. Join Instagram Community Groups

Competition keeps the market alive, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t work together sometimes. There are Instagram community groups where marketers can come together within the same niche and collaborate. Other marketers will comment on posts, like photos, and use their power to expand your audience reach. You’ll do the same for other marketers in return.

6. Cross Promote

An easy way to add new Instagram followers is to cross-promote your images, giving consumers another route to connect with your brand. It’s wrong to assume that all connected users will see a post, but if you post the same image on several social networks, you will significantly expand your reach.

7. Know Your Audience and Connect

You might think you know your audience, but it’s always good to do more research to make sure. The more data you discover, the more you’ll learn about Instagram preferences and marketing techniques that work. It makes it easier to connect in creative ways that catch the eye and expand your reach. Through your research, you’ll be able to maximize audience responses.

8. Repurpose Your Content

Any time you have a piece of content that performs well across any network, it can be repurposed on your Instagram account for extra coverage. If the content performed well once, it can do well again, and those who didn’t see it the first time will have an opportunity to see it the second time around.

With the rapid growth of Instagram, it’s hard to ignore the potential from a marketing standpoint. Learn the ins and outs of Instagram and you’ll be set up for success in the future.

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photo credit: Kristian Karlsson
photo credit: Kristian Karlsson

Earlier this year we tested the Customize Snapshots feature plugin, which allows users to draft and preview customizer states. For the past several months Weston Ruter and his team at XWP have been working on adding the ability to schedule Customizer changes. This would allow users to stage content as a set of customizer changes, such as building new pages, adding a collection of widgets, and updating menu items.

Customize Snapshots version 0.5 was released last week, introducing scheduled publishing and frontend browsing for snapshots. Two new buttons are available at the top of the Customizer for launching snapshot previews and scheduling changes to publish at a future time. The save button changes to ‘schedule’ when a future date is selected.

schedule-snapshot

The UI in the admin has been expanded to include a link in the snapshot edit post screen for viewing the set of changes on the frontend. A new link in the Customizer allows the snapshot to be inspected, taking the user back to the snapshot’s edit post screen in the admin.

insptect-snapshot-admin

Version 0.5. also adds initial read-only REST API endpoints for snapshots, allows for previewing AJAX and form submissions, and introduces several other technical improvements that are detailed in the changelog.

Customize Snapshots is an example of the kind of functionality that Ruter’s customizer transactions proposal enables. This proposal is part of the long-term plan for removing some of the limitations of the Customizer and getting the feature more deeply integrated with WordPress’ powerful publishing capabilities.

The feature plugin is also compatible with the Customize Browser History plugin which syncs the browser URL in the Customizer with the preview URL, appending the current panel/section/control autofocus parameters. This allows users to navigate freely within the Customizer preview via forward/back buttons and menu items, without breaking the preview.

Recent advancements in the Customize Snapshots and Customize Browser History plugins, along with Ruter’s experimental Customize Posts plugin, are paving the way for the possibility of having the Customizer handle front end editing. If you want to get a hands-on demonstration of some of the more advanced Customizer capabilities that WordPress core contributors are working on, install all three plugins and take them for a test drive. Development for each is managed on GitHub and feedback is welcome.

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business-analysis-charts-data-ss-1920 (1)Dashboarding and data visualization are hot-button topics in the analytics industry, and for good reason. Effective dashboards can democratize access to data across an organization and help foster a culture in which data is used to drive more and more decisions with demonstrable business outcomes.

However, in my experience consulting with enterprises across a variety of industries, I’ve found that too often, dashboards are all hat and no cattle. In other words, the effort, time and money invested in dashboards too often result in disappointment and frustration.

To help you avoid this same frustration, I’ve outlined three common issues with dashboarding projects.

First, it’s very common to find that dashboards don’t have a clear role, or don’t uniquely address a need for stakeholders within an organization.

Second, and on a related note, the organizational conversation about dashboarding tends to immediately jump into a debate about tools — which tool has which features, and so on — before due consideration is given to the data sources “upstream” of the ultimate dashboard.

Ask yourself: Do you trust that data? Are data updates automated, or do they require manual upkeep? In short, is it even worth building a dashboard before addressing data “supply chain” issues?

Finally, organizations sometimes neglect to consider the alternatives to dashboards. Even reliable, easy-to-use dashboards commonly go unused — because stakeholders actually have better alternatives.

Clearly define the role of dashboards

It’s critical to align with stakeholders on the role of dashboards. Doing so allows you to clearly define the scope of your efforts and manage the expectations of your stakeholders long-term.

It’s very common to get involved in dashboarding projects whose scopes quickly reach “boil the ocean” status.

In other words, dashboards are supposed to answer, in detail, every possible question and cover every hypothetical eventuality. Different stakeholders add different requirements, and the result is the dashboard equivalent of urban sprawl — dashboards that are crammed with charts and tables, making it difficult to get to the limited amount of stuff that’s important.

So what should the role of dashboards be? For enterprises with a central analytics team (or agency) serving a wide variety of stakeholders, dashboards probably don’t need to answer every possible stakeholder question.

Instead, dashboards should help stakeholders quickly and easily understand when trends in relevant KPIs are changing, so that they can, in turn, ask more informed questions. Armed with these better, more clearly defined questions, analytics teams can serve their clients much more effectively, with specifically tailored analysis and recommendations.

On the other hand, in an environment where analytics is more self-serve (i.e., there is no central analytics team to serve stakeholders), dashboards likely need to provide a deeper level of detail and interactivity. There’s probably also a commensurate need for user training so that data consumers feel comfortable using and getting value out of more complex dashboards.

Either way, before you get into a vendor selection process, and certainly before you start building dashboards, you should have a candid, realistic conversation about the role of dashboards. Nailing this down up front helps ensure that you’ll ultimately build something that your users actually want and helps you manage expectations along the way.

Don’t jump straight into feature and tool comparisons

Even after you’ve aligned on the goals of dashboards, resist the urge to jump next into vendor selection. Stakeholders may come to the table with their own favorite vendor — based on prior experience, marketing or something else.

But before you start debating the merits of Tableau, Domo, Klipfolio, Google’s new Data Studio or one of the many other visualization tools on the market, consider several other important issues first. For example, how many data sources will you need? What does the quality and reliability of that data look like?

You might be surprised how often dashboards get built on top of data that stakeholders don’t trust, or data that is difficult to work with in some way. It’s easy to see how this leads to user frustration. For example, you build a dashboard intended to provide real-time visibility into KPIs — but the KPIs themselves aren’t updated in real time. Suddenly, your “real-time” dashboard only updates daily, weekly or whenever your data entry intern has extra bandwidth.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of which dashboarding tool is the right one for the job, build out a “map” of your various data sources. Do an audit to assess whether the data contained in those sources is reliable, trusted and usable.

If you find that certain data sources require attention, either address them before building a dashboard or remove them from the scope of your initial build. Once you’re confident in your data sources, you’ll have a much clearer picture of the ingredients you’ll be working with — and you’ll be more ready to wade into the assessment of competing features and tools.

Consider the alternatives

This one’s easy, but frequently overlooked. What are the alternatives to a dashboard, and are they already in place?

Consider an organization looking to build dashboards around web analytics data. What if many of your stakeholders are already Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics “power users?” Do they need a dashboard? Will they use one if you build it? Perhaps not — and that’s okay.

It may well be that in an environment where users are comfortable accessing data with the tools already in place, dashboards aren’t necessary. Just don’t find that out after you choose a tool and put in the work to build out a series of dashboards.

Sticking with our example, even if your stakeholders aren’t power users of GA or Adobe Analytics, they still may not use dashboards — and for good reason. Are they able to request “deep dive” analysis from an analytics team or external agency? I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty unlikely to spend time learning how to use a new dashboarding tool when I can commission a detailed analysis instead and have results back on my desk in the near future.

Think about the options your stakeholders already have. If they’re comfortable with the tools already available or have resources at their fingertips that make dashboards redundant, you might think twice about whether dashboards make a lot of sense.

Ultimately, we all love dashboards that help organizations grow a more data-driven culture. But that doesn’t mean that any good-looking dashboard will easily win wide adoption in your organization.

Consider what unique role dashboards can play; think about the data sources you’ll need to connect to; and assess the alternatives that your stakeholders already have. By going through that process before selecting a vendor or building dashboards, you’re much more likely to end up with a data visualization solution that makes all your stakeholders happy.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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The trouble with paid advertising is that there’s always some guesswork involved. No matter how much audience data you’ve acquired, you still have to speculate on what copy, headlines, and images are going to be most effective for your paid Facebook marketing campaigns.

This is typically where marketers come up short when they create advertisements for Facebook, and they don’t see the desired conversions. Thankfully, you can easily create ad variations to test against each other and get those conversion rates up.

If you want to avoid wasted ad spends when you launch your campaigns, try to avoid these big mistakes that can kill your conversions:

1. Non-Compelling Visuals

There’s a little bit of art that goes into advertising, but only just a little. When you get too wrapped up in artistic storytelling with vague images or stock photos in your ads, you can easily miss the mark with your audience.

Another bad approach is cluttering your ads with text. Facebook used to limit text in images to no more than 20% of the image real estate. A recent update removed the text overlay limitation, but images with a lot of text will have their reach reduced.

7 Major Facebook Advertising Mistakes to Avoid | Social Media Today

Whether you’re using a video or an image in your advertisements, focus on making it highly relevant to the offer and engaging to the audience. This is a great opportunity to leverage user-generated content with eye-catching visuals of customers actively using your product or service.

Facebook posts with images, including advertisements, see 2.3x more engagement than those without, so put the extra effort into sourcing the right visuals for your ads.

2. The Headline Has No Hook

The headline is the boldest part of your Facebook ad and it’s the first thing your audience will see next to the image as they scroll through their feed. If you’re not sure how to craft the best headline for your ad, then aim for specificity over trying to be witty or clever.

In the ad above from Popslate, the headline they’ve used is dull and ineffective. They tried to be clever, but the headline doesn’t really communicate anything useful to the audience.

The best headlines for your ads should be as specific as possible by telling the audience what they’re going to get and why it’s important for them to pay attention. This is where you want to promote your value proposition.

3. Bad Copy

The copy of your ad offers the opportunity to expand on the value proposition within your headline. This is where you communicate your offer and make a compelling argument by highlighting a key benefit of your product or service. The copy needs to clearly address an interest or pain point for your audience in order to be most effective.

7 Major Facebook Advertising Mistakes to Avoid | Social Media Today

In this Wendy’s ad, the copy is cryptic and doesn’t hit on any of those important points, outside of mentioning the price. There’s still plenty of engagement because the video pulls in the eyeballs of hungry audience segments and Wendy’s is a well-known chain with plenty of brand power. But if a smaller company replicated this, it would be a big waste of ad dollars.

This ad is also completely missing a calling-to-action, which brings me to…

4. Poor or Missing Call-to-Action

In the above Wendy’s ad, there is absolutely no call-to-action. This is a missed opportunity. Surely they want people to go out and purchase the combo they’re promoting, so why not come out and say it? At the very least, the ad should encourage people to do something like, “Tell us your favorite side item in the comments” or “Throw out your sack lunch and stop by Wendy’s today.”

Anything is better than nothing.

You never want to leave it up to your audience to decide what to do next after you engage them. If you want them to take a specific action, then tell them. The simple act of telling them what to do with a compelling call-to-action will improve the conversion rates for every ad you create.

5. Poor Audience Targeting

You shouldn’t launch a single ad on Facebook until you have a good idea of who your ideal customer is or what community you’re attempting to build. If you’re selling expensive watches and you know your target audience consists of upper-income urbanites over the age of 30, then you’ll do yourself no favors by targeting lower-income users from 18-55+.

It’s easy to aim for breadth over depth with your audience targeting, but casting a wide net will only waste ad dollars on clicks and engagement that won’t yield returns.

Likewise, if you’re too narrow with your targeting, you’ll leave out a large number of audience segments that would have been likely to convert.

 

7 Major Facebook Advertising Mistakes to Avoid | Social Media Today

Take the time to research who your audience really is. Conduct customer surveys and pull demographics from your Facebook insights to find out who your biggest supporters are.

You should also install a Facebook pixel on your website to gather behavioral data that mingles with demographics, and then use that information to create a lookalike audience of people who haven’t engaged you yet.

I recommend setting up layered targeting (demographics, psychographics, interests, lifestyle) that helps you find a happy medium between narrow and broad.

6. Targeting the Wrong Objective

7 Major Facebook Advertising Mistakes to Avoid | Social Media Today

When you create Facebook ads, you’ll need to choose an objective – like sending the traffic to a website or garnering likes and engagement. Make sure both the ad copy and the thing you’re trying to promote match the objective and the user intent.

If the audience is enticed by your offer, but your ad drives them to your Facebook Page for a like instead, then you probably won’t get the desired conversion (download/purchase) at the end of the campaign because they couldn’t find your real offer.

For campaigns meant to drive traffic to your website, you need to make the call-to-action and value proposition relevant to that action. Don’t promote general social activity or some vague brand message if you want them to visit a landing page or product page on your website.

7. Targeting Specific Dates and Times

7 Major Facebook Advertising Mistakes to Avoid | Social Media Today

Unless you know with absolute certainty that the bulk of your audience is online and looking at their Facebook feed at a certain time or day of the week, don’t place unnecessary limits on the runtimes for your advertising. You might catch a few leads, but you’re significantly hindering the visibility of your ads, which means a large portion of your audience will never see them.

It’s a great way to stretch out an ad spend over an extended period, but it’s a poor way to get the conversions you’re looking for.

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