You may have made your resolution for 2011, but do you have ready your marketing-strategy checklist? This is the year to step it up, but it's important to remember that what works for others may not work for you. For example, if you're a small-to-medium-sized business (SMB), your marketing-strategy checklist is going to look differently than that of a national brand. Also, take into consideration that technology seems to be moving faster than the speed of light. A marketing solution that may have been just a consideration last year may now be considered a mandatory solution in 2011. In this column, we'll focus on the SMB must-haves for the new year.
Google Places: Claim It, or Suffer the Consequences
Broken record or not, every change that Google has made in the last couple months continues to prompt me to give this public service announcement: claim your local-business listings!
Nearly three years ago, I started preaching this sermon and I haven't stopped since. Now that local search is ingrained in us, Google has changed the way it shows results on the SERP by putting increased relevance on local listings. Today, you'll see this in the form of Google Places listings that now outrank other listings in SERP.
Facebook and Twitter: Be There, or Be Irrelevant
Even up until last year, advertisers could get away with just testing social media opportunities. In 2011, though, a presence on Facebook and Twitter will be a must-have. Consider the facts:
What does this mean to SMBs? With Facebook being dubbed "The Second Internet" and with Twitter users amassing, it's more important than ever to ensure that local consumers know you have a social presence. This is the space where advertisers can engage consumers, build loyalty, and actually get closer to word-of-mouth marketing than ever before.
Other benefits to SMBs:
Monitor and Track Like Your Business Depends on It…Because It Does
You don't know what you don't know. But what you don't know is definitely hurting your business. This can be broken down into two main areas: monitoring for what consumers and other entities say about your business, as well as tracking to see how consumers are interacting with you.
When it comes to monitoring, most people think that it revolves around ratings and reviews. Although that's a huge part of it, it's also important to find out how your business is perceived by those on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social property.
Search engines are also taking into account what others say about your business. Google recently dismissed the "any news is good news" theory, taking some steps to give more importance and visibility to local businesses that have positive ratings and reviews. No longer will businesses be able to rank higher just for having any type of ratings and reviews.
The solution? At the very least, set up Google Alerts to find out what others are saying about your business. Then, keep an eye on your various online platforms and attempt to rectify negative comments or reviews with positive solutions. If you want to take this a step further, you can use various free tools listed in a previous column, or you can pay for tools that provide more in-depth information and a broader range of applications.
Tracking is more for an advertiser's benefit, but it is a necessary means for discovering which programs are working and which ones need improvement. The type of tracking available for various online programs will vary, but, at minimum, track what you can. Most local listings and social properties have at least basic visibility, so start there to see how your programs are performing. For more ideas on where to go from here, check out "If It Can Be Measured, It Can Be Optimized."
Must-Haves and Then Some
Should your checklist for 2011 stop with the above? Simply put, no. In the future, we'll go over more cutting-edge strategies that SMBs should focus on as the local landscape continually evolves. Right now, the latest and greatest includes testing local-mobile opportunities like Foursquare and deal-a-day sites like Groupon. Months from now, the focus will change to something that helps SMBs get even closer to their local consumers. So stay tuned, it's gonna be a fun ride.
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Gregg Stewart is president of 15miles Local Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital local solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 15miles is a local search agency supporting the offline, online, and mobile solutions for businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. At the helm, Stewart applies his successful, tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his Clickz columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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