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Marketing Buzzword Takedown

By | March 24, 2014

beeAll the cool kids are doin’ it. That’s right, they’re using marketing buzzwords. And every once in a while, I feel compelled to save the English language (or at least my sanity) … and more precisely, the language of my profession. I’m feeling feisty today, so let’s dive right in.

Marketers these days have this knack for using buzzwords to the point of insignificance. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when good words get destroyed, or when anything is not explained accurately, especially if it relates to my job or what I hope customers will pay for to keep me employed. I want to make sure what we marketers do remains significant—and is communicated clearly to the outside world, especially those who are investing in marketing.

On to some marketing communication essentials. Let’s start with a big, juicy one: Content marketing.

Content marketing

What it is: The use of content to selectively engage an audience–usually to inform, educate and/or entertain–with the ultimate goal (implicit) of creating an affinity for a brand/product/service that may only be tangentially related to the content itself. Yes, it’s a kind of soft-selling, and it’s “Hansel” hot right now.

What it isn’t: The answer to everything in business. It might be close, but let’s not get carried away. Despite what many great publications, minds and trends might indicate, sometimes you still need to use traditional direct methods and explicit sales pitches (or at least calls-to-action that stimulate conversions).

Demand generation

What it is: The cultivation of desire for a product/service.

What it isn’t: Why this phrase is so popular is beyond me. Well, I kind of get it: Creating demand is a fundamental economic principle. But what’s with the word generation? I just think of spontaneous generation and the images of maggots and decaying flesh it suggests. That could just be me, but marketers do tend to go overboard with this word, just like with the word drive, as in “Let’s drive results/revenue/business.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently inaccurate with these words, but I don’t think they warrant the usage that they’re getting. For example, instead of drive (depending on the context) you could say generate, create, stimulate, start, kick-start, propel, catalyze, activate or lead. And that’s just off the top of my head. Why not give these other good words a chance?

And don’t get me started on demand generation. The main issue is that people tend to use it in such a vague way … and then it has no meaning. It becomes a lazy fill-in word that says nothing. Oh, you’ll generate demand for my product/service? It’s like saying we’ll create engagement. Well, how exactly will you do that? Silence. Give us some details, and then I might start paying attention. And that’s not just me, that could be your customer talking, so be really careful about using this phrase.

SEO

What it is: SEO is a little different … and commonly misunderstood. Search-engine optimization has gone through so many interpretations as search engines (and search behavior) have evolved over the years. I can’t claim to give a one-size-fits-all definition for this, but I think the most PR-friendly (and appropriate) way to describe what I’ll call proper SEO is to say that it’s a collection of practices that make your site easily discover-able by search engines … and the people who use them.  These practices can be abused or they can be done according to commonly accepted ethical or official standards (read: Google/Bing guidelines). The choice is up to every marketer.

What it isn’t: A substitute for great content or great user experiences. You can call me out, too, because it’s also not a buzzword like the rest of these (it’s been around a while).

  • Not a cure-all for getting search-engine rankings or traffic, despite an occasionally (shady) reputation for being just that.
  • Not keyword-stuffing. Heck, these days it isn’t even about keywords that much.
  • Finally, it should not be throwing money and time at whatever is going to keep you one step ahead of Google’s long arm for short-term gain at the risk of long-term website reputation destruction. This kind of SEO gives the rest of us practitioners a bad name.

Marketing automation (MA)

What it is: In one sense, it’s simply a software platform that enables sophisticated lead-nurturing and deep reporting on marketing. However, the broadest definition would include 4 components:

  1. A data center (for forms, images, web pages, costs, schedules, templates, etc.)
  2. A reporting platform (analytics on campaign engagement, lead-scoring and financial return)
  3. A trigger-based engine for lead qualification/disqualification that improves sales efficiency
  4. A way to tie marketing activities to a customer relationship management (CRM) system

What it isn’t: Easily defined (as you can see).

  • Just the latest version of email marketing. Email marketing is merely one component of genuine marketing automation. To reduce MA to email is to underserve all the nurturing, efficiency and analytical power it brings to marketing processes.

Big Data

What it is: Reams of data (or quintillions of bytes) from diverse sources. The key here is the multiplicity of sources. It’s not just that you have a whole hulking heap of data, it’s that it’s coming from a bunch of different places.

What it isn’t: Data. You may have a lot of data. Congratulations! But that doesn’t necessarily make it Big Data. I don’t care that 50 million people might be misusing this phrase to capitalize on marketing hype: It’s still wrong. A lot of people don’t know how to use apostrophes either, that doesn’t mean you should go around saying things like, “You’re Big Data is so big and awesome.”

Now that you’ve got this little primer, go out and tighten up that language! Jargon cannot defeat our fair profession. Be the sworn enemy of bloated language and make it fear your precision. As Hoa Loranger puts it, Web users will love you for it.

***

Photo courtesy of Treesha Duncan via Flickr.

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Embrace the Suck: 3 Reasons Why Negative Online Reviews Are Helpful to Your Brand

By | January 13, 2014

Some of us in digital marketing are old enough—just barely—to remember a time when options were limited for anyone who wanted to broadcast a bad customer experience. Aside from word-of-mouth or writing a letter to the local paper, there just weren’t many ways to publicly voice consumer discontent.

drill_sergeantToday, of course, online review portals and social media allow customers to quickly air grievances to a huge audience. Rather than worrying about negative online reviews and trying to make them go away, though, digitally-savvy companies are much better off embracing them.

When I was in Army Basic Training, our drill sergeants often yelled a motivational phrase at us when we were tossed into a particularly difficult task: “embrace the suck.” It wasn’t just a taunt meant to annoy us (although it sometimes accomplished that, as well). “Embrace the suck” embodied a way of life based on experience; it reminded us that difficult situations exist, and that it’s better to deal with them quickly and view the experience as an opportunity to better yourself.

Dealing with negative online reviews isn’t a pleasant task. But public criticism, if approached the right way, can even be helpful to the long-term health of your brand. Here are three reasons why you should “embrace the suck” and look at negative reviews as opportunities, not as roadblocks.

1. Solving grievances will showcase your dedication to customer service

service_bellShowing the public that you’re committed to quickly correcting mistakes and satisfying the needs of even the most disenchanted customers will lend your brand significant credibility.

You shouldn’t admit to being in the wrong if you weren’t, and you don’t need to give away a gift card to every person who writes something critical. But rather than deleting negative reviews, try solving them instead. If the customer’s complaint is reasonable, bend backwards to them know that you’ll do everything necessary to fix the problem . . . and always follow up to make sure they were taken care of properly.

You’re never going to make everyone happy. But remember: other potential customers are watching these online interactions. Responding to negative reviews directly — and offering legitimate solutions to grievances– will earn your business a lot of respect.

2. Negative reviews make your digital footprint look more legitimate

GenuineWhenever I see a Google Plus local business page that has a large number of nothing-but-five-star reviews, one word comes to my mind: “fake.” No company gets a 100% satisfaction rating from every customer they’ve ever done business with (unless your customers consist solely of your friends and family members).

You shouldn’t encourage your customers to leave positive reviews . . . you should encourage them to leave honest reviews. Not only does it come across as more legitimate and natural, but it will also give you an opportunity to identify problems and improve your customer service skills.

In fact, there’s significant evidence that excessively positive reviews can actually do harm to your online conversion rate. This great study from Unbounce showed that visitors to Amazon.com were less likely to purchase a product if it had too many glowing reviews, and that their decision to buy had a lot more to do with the variability in star ratings.

3. A larger quantity of genuine reviews will make you more visible online

binocularsHaving disproportionately positive reviews won’t just hurt your conversion rate . . . it can also hurt your online visibility and organic rankings.

Although Google keeps its algorithm close to its chest, there is ample evidence that Google Plus local business pages will rank higher for relevant keyword searches if your reviews are more genuine (yes, their algorithm can detect those kinds of things now).

There are even some benefits to getting critical comments from users on social media sites like Facebook. While you shouldn’t encourage criticism, keep in mind that the more comments and activity a post gets, the more news feeds it will show up in. Excessively negative Facebook feedback isn’t a good thing, but posts with higher engagement get more attention for your brand.

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How to Keep the Spam Out of Local Content

By | October 15, 2012

Does this sound like your business? You know it’s important to create unique and original content, but you serve clients in cities all over the United States and want to target them all through your website.

The hard part about creating locally-focused content is making it unique. You can’t just take one page of content change the city and swap out a few words here or there. This is spam! While you may have seen this strategy done before, producing low quality content is never a long-term solution for targeting your audience.

With a little creativity you can create a content strategy that will help you target local keywords without making more work for yourself and without the need for low-quality content.

Highlight what’s unique

When you are looking to create pages for a specific location, talk about what you offer that is unique to that area. It’s important to diversify the content you are creating. If you can develop content that caters to a specific geographic location, it is more likely to be relevant and high-quality.

For example, if your company sells windows throughout the United States, highlight the important features based on the geographic location. Think winter for eastern states and summer for the west coast.

Let your customers share their story

Who said you had to write all the content anyways? Testimonials are a great way to develop locally-focused content. Ask customers to share stories about their personal experiences with your products/services. This is a great way to naturally build content that integrates your local keywords.

Vary your content pieces

Content isn’t just words. You can use videos with transcripts, infographics, comics, images with captions, case studies and other strategies to target the different cities you serve.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to integrate local keywords into your content. Use content that you would normally create and craft it for the different audiences you hope to target.

Have any ideas to add to our list? What types of content strategies do you use? 

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iOS 6 and Yelp: What SMBs Need to Know

By | September 24, 2012

iOS 6 and Yelp: What SMBs Need to KnowThe roll-out of Apple’s new iPhone 5 and iOS 6 has brought a much-needed refresh to the mobile landscape. As the world’s most popular smartphone, the iPhone is used literally hundreds of millions of times every day for local directions and information. One of the most popular new features of iOS 6 is its Yelp review integration, which presents a golden opportunity for local SMBs. Now that Yelp reviews are a built-in component of Apple Maps, it’s important to take another look at your Yelp strategy.

Flesh Out That Yelp Profile

First and foremost, be sure to claim your Yelp business page if you haven’t already. Next, you’ll need to create and optimize your profile so that it’s targeted at Apple Maps users. Make sure to enter all the pertinent information regarding your company, and double-check your contact details to ensure that they’re accurate. Take advantage of Yelp Deals to offer customers discounts and gift certificates. Lastly, be sure to include a few high-quality photos of your establishment within your profile.

Encourage Feedback

If a customer has a memorable experience with your business, they’ll likely leave a review without any prompting. You can’t have too many reviews, however, so it’s worth your while to encourage customers and clients to share their experience. Prominently display a link back to your Yelp profile on your main homepage with the anchor text “Review Us On Yelp!” or something along those lines. Also, encourage users to leave Yelp reviews with a sign at your physical location or on your business cards.

Interact with Your Reviewers

Thanks to the somewhat anonymous nature of Yelp, you’ll find that customers pull fewer punches when reviewing your business. How you handle honest criticism, whether it’s good or bad, affects the way that potential future customers view your business. Follow the example set by Amazon when addressing complaints and you’ll earn quite a bit of social currency online. When people see you go the extra mile and personally respond to both praise and criticism, they’ll be more likely to patronize your business in the future.

Keeping Up the Momentum

Outside of enriching your profile, encouraging feedback and managing reviews, there’s not much else you can do to attract new customers other than running the best business possible. Still, the fact of the matter is that Apple has sold over 400 million iOS devices thus far, and many of them will now feature Yelp integration in Maps. Investing just a little bit of time and effort into your Yelp profile now can deliver an amazing ROI over the coming year.

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Using Schema To Enhance Local Business Visibility

By | July 10, 2012

An “SEO birthday” slipped by last month without much fanfare.  On June 2nd of last year, Google, Bing and Yahoo announced their support for schema.org.  Schema.org defines “tags” for certain types of data, such as recipes, events and business locations, so that search engines can understand their meaning. Oftentimes they use this data and format it in the search results, giving pages with “schema” a visual, if not ranking boost.

Fast-forward one year later: At Fathom, we have seen exciting results from implementing schema on a variety of sites. One of the most often overlooked tags that should be used is for local businesses.  If you are running a local business with one or multiple locations, you should consider adding local business schema to your website.  I have seen sites whose top pages ranked low on the second or third page of Google jumping to the first page when a local search is performed, all due to the local business schema tags being placed on their site. 

A couple of points when using local business schema:

  • Understand that local schema could possibly have a very geographically focused impact on search results, such as a metro area.  The schema tag “geo-circle” does not appear to be implemented yet.  Once implemented, this would allow you to define a radius and may expand the search area to something more acceptable to many businesses. The “local boost” in search results does not impact out-of-area rankings so there are no reasons to delay implementation.
  • Using local schema does not guarantee local results.  It’s important to provide supplemental information, such as store hours, maps, photos, etc. to demonstrate that you are in fact a local business and not a P.O. box.

Schema.org is still in its infancy of development as well as recognition and algorithmic integration by the major search engines.  As an SEO enthusiast, I’m looking forward to additional implementations that will help my clients get the results they need.

If you are interested in implementing schema on your site, check out www.schema-creator.org to make coding a bit easier.

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