Grain Belt Sign

Happy New Year and Let’s Make 2018 Inviting!

Happy New Year, folks and here’s to your new goals, inviting customers and happy times! It’s a chilly January so far, but there’s a reason we all live here. Even in the Winter, we enjoy the Winter Carnival, skiing/boarding anywhere from Theo Wirth to Lutsen, U.S. Pond Hockey Championship or even ice fishing… if that last one is your thing.

U.S. Pond Hockey Championship

Your Site. Your Door.

It’s not just a tagline. It’s what we do! We help make you look awesome. The first part of 2018, we’ll be finishing a small rebrand, or added services as we’ve honed in even more in both experience and expertise. To celebrate, we’ll be offering January discounts for new customers. Just contact us.

From web vision to measured web solutions, we have exceptional WordPress design and development, certified advertising credentials and branded social media for you and your company at your door. Really. We’re local.

WordPress and WinterIn 2018, your customers are more web savvy than ever. They know when they want to see your fast, beautiful site, your Facebook Page, Twitter presence, ratings and reviews, maps and directions and real photos.

This is where we hope to meet you. Do you just need a custom website redesign with usability? Or, do you need local site marketing including local listings, voice search consulting, 360 photos, and even virtual tours? If you’re local, we could be a perfect match.

Contact us and be inviting, be swift, be mobile.

Downtown St Paul

Local Search Marketing Predictions for 2018

2018 may be the most opportunistic year ever for local search. With Google leading the way and users and vertical markets working aside or within Google, the user experience promises the possibility to be both high in quantity and quality.

Voice Search

I’m putting Voice Search in right away because it involves probably everything below, local or not. This is changing search fast and companies are busy figuring out how to capture the market.

First Ave Voice SearchHere’s a real-time example. I would like to see Soul Asylum play tonight at the First Avenue, mostly because a neighbor or mine won an audition an earned a spot to play bass for them tonight. Yes. Really! I don’t want to miss that! A voice search gave me the Google My Business profile. It has the hours correct tonight as it does close publicly at 7:30 in time for the sold-out 8:00 show. When you tap on Directions, you will get an Uber and Lyft option which will be convenient when the temp is supposed to be below 0.

Score “1” for Voice Search. Just one of many ways this changes all types of search, in this case Local just a bit.

Google My Business (GMB)

In 2017, Google was keeping busy pushing to Claim businesses in Google My Business, and then features within like Google Posts, Local Services Ads and Websites.

In 2018 Google will focus more on continuous new features in Google My Business and push both new and current features. Following these alone can keep professionals pretty busy.

Google Posts

Google Posts grows in 2018, but grows slowly. It was released in June, 2017 to be shown in branded searches and quietly used by few. They can be very informative for end-users and cover more valuable search result space for the branded company name. The Posts provide interest to click and learn more about events, newsletters, new offerings or any other thing relevant to the company. However, Search professionals have been weary of this all. Google owns the content provided and doesn’t pass any direct SEO Love to links that pass through.

Local Services Ads

In a simpler word, Ad. Google pushes this hard in 2018. This is how Google makes money. Originally Home Services Ads, they rebranded it to include and imply Local. Companies won’t be looking at it based on their favorite keywords, but by the quality of leads. Local Service Ads do have a prominent, thin listing up top on both desktop and mobile. Google’s currently pushing it hard enough that even companies that don’t have the “Google Guaranteed” badge sometime appear, most likely because not every industry has enough participants yet. Right now, there are a very limited number of industries this is offered to. Look for this to expand, and expand greatly to cover industries like legal, landscaping and other industries to where people compare companies.

Garage Door Repair St. Paul

Currently, all three of these companies are probably busy right now with the arctic chill Minnesota is having. Plus, maybe Google is banking on being listed next to Google Guaranteed listings will have some automatic trust.

Google Websites

They’re nice, they’re free (unless you get a customized domain – recommended), it’s almost built for you in GMB. They also show maps, custom photos, fill-in-the-blank hours of operation. With that said, don’t look for this go grow in 2018. At least, not in the U.S. This is certainly meant to help Google, and that’s fine. In my view, they can have the data. Google Websites are probably best for businesses who are just looking for a 1-page brochure about their business.

Other Opportunities

Real-Time Transit

Real-Time Transit

Real-Time Transit

Google will either develop or buy a company who can provide real-time transit in 2018. Both Uber and Lyft obviously have this, and Metro Transit MN just came out with this feature on a mobile app or their website as well. I’ll bring up the arctic chill again. When a bus is late, this feature makes it handy by not having to stand outside quite as long when it’s really cold. The concept fits in perfectly for usability, placing inside the Directions and Bus tab in Google Maps.

Local Guides Grows and Grows

2018 promises to be a big year for Google Local Guides. For Google, they get data. The Local Guides at Connect are passionate and happily contribute photos, reviews and knowledge to Google and GMB. Just look at the 2017 World-Wide Food Crawl Meet-Up. Main incentives for Local Guides aren’t rankings-based. Rather it’s points and levels obtained-based, sometimes meaning perks provided by Google. The other incentives are really satisfaction-based to bring positive awareness to make local communities better. Google knows and appreciates this all, and they even provide a yearly Local Guides Summit.

Ratings and Reviews

Google cleverly builds on reviews in 2018 while Yelp confuses people. While Yelp is telling us to absolutely not solicit reviews but go ahead, Google just goes on and removes paid reviews. And now, it’s also against Google’s guidelines for ex-employees to leave negative reviews. With that said, Google highly encourages honest reviews. Albeit often indirectly, they highly encourage them. Here’s one way they do this and also reach your customers online and in person.

Review for Points OnlyLocal Guides now get extra points if their Google reviews are 200 characters or more. Perhaps this increases the level of quality and reduces the number of 5-Star ratings with no reviews below it for the purpose of gaining points only.

Reputation management companies have been around for years to encourage reviews and consulting when negative reviews happen, just to mention a couple services. There are good companies who offer this and have become trusted because of it. Some companies like Get Five Stars go further by developing more of a comprehensive platform. It’s built to acquire customer feedback, encourage online reviews and other features mentioned above. I see services like these all growing in 2018, albeit mostly with companies who already have a head start. It’s a growing and demanding opportunity, but also a comprehensive one.

Local Videos and 360 Photos

DIY or Pay Professionals?

2017 may have been the year of making more videos. 2018 will be the year of making more videos, smarter.

DIY video can certainly be done on the cheap. Have a smartphone, tripod or monopod, lapel mic, iMovie app, and you can make an adequate one… or not. Companies may start with going the DIY route because it is rather inexpensive. Many of them afterwards will go towards independent companies, or agencies who specialize in videos.

2018 will be a really good opportunity for independent videographers. They know everything about video strategy and creation, as well as being search savvy. Some are confident enough to provide you free tips as well. Here’s Erica from Puke Rainbows on 2018 Video Marketing Trends to watch for.

360 Degree and Street View Photography

Street View photography will certainly grow in both supply and demand in 2018. Per Google Street View:

Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest.

To become a Google Trusted photographer for this is a trial and error process. There are a number out there, coming from backgrounds from photography to marketing. Right now 360 photos for businesses are somewhere between the “this is really cool” stage and “this is really useful for our customers” stage.

Conclusion

Only time will tell how accurate my predictions will be. I suppose another post will come at the end of 2018 to see. What do you think? Am I spot on for these or am I out of my tree?


LocalMN Interactive provides Local Marketing services and we are beyond excited and very confident to see what comes in store for 2018. Let’s get together! We look forward to customize a local search strategy customized just for you. Skol!

Pianos on Parade on 3rd and Hennepin

Show off Your Local and Make Your Own Google Posts

I became intrigued with this yesterday reading a post from Mike Blumenthal titled Google Posts Rolls Out Worldwide. You can now own more search engine real estate by providing short, recent posts, right on your Google Local Business Knowledge Graph.

Google Posts

Google recommends these posts be between 100 and 300 characters long (plus a quality photo). We recommend sticking closer to 100. This reads well for the user, plus Google only originally displays the 1st 100 characters in the listing.

For the photo, use one similar that you would use for Instagram. Google lets you crop it and move it around all slick like until it’s just right for you.

You can place a call-to-action to these posts with a URL whether it’s to entice users to buy, visit your site, book a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, or whichever you want your call-to-action to be.

Call to Action

For you businesses who wonder if you should start a blog, this just may be it. At least, Google hopes you think so. You would give consumers fresh, compelling content right in front of them while keeping the content within Google itself.

In Google’s announcement, they give you 4 standard examples.

Share daily specials or current promotions that encourage new and existing customers to take advantage of your offers.

Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location.

Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.

Choose one of the available options to connect with your customers directly from your Google listing: give them a one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product from your website.

Let’s customize a few to the Twin Cites letting customers know of these all while just doing branded searches for you.

  • Local summer road closures – ‘Tis the season. We all see it. Proactively let your customers know of this coming weekend alternative routes to you.
  • Date Specials – Some local restaurants have weekly date specials such as pizza and 1/2 off bottle of wine. Keep your customers informed.
  • Events at local areas of interests – Summers are full of different events at places like Loring Park, Mears Park in Lowertown, Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony main. Keep customers informed and up-to-date on all the different events at the users favorite places.

The list could go on and on. Just be creative.

Note: This can be all done on a laptop, but you can do this all on the mobile, too. Give it a try and keep up to date since this is where your users are going. When using the mobile to log into Google My Business, this screenshot is of a very user-friendly way to create these posts.

Create Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, being Google it’s easy to share to other places. curious to how it’s perceived on Facebook so I sent this out.Share to Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share or not share on other places? Will local businesses catch on? This is still brand new so the verdict is still out there.

 

 

Google Local Guide Levels

New Points Levels for Google Local Guides

Now available to its Local Guides, Google lets you reach new levels up to 10. The numbering system for actions such as edits, reviews and photos have changed and are retroactive. This means you may already be leveled up without doing a thing.

It’s not a big surprise, but they are now placing more relative points for reviews and photos at 5 points each in a believed effort to increase quality.

For active users, this update seems to be more for recognition purposes although there are a few perks for those who reach level 4-10.

3 Months of Google Play

  • Free three-month subscription to the Google Play Store
  • 75% off rental in the Google Play Movie Store
  • Access to unique badges to showcase your levels

For me, it may benefit Google when I see this as I’m currently weighing the pros and cons at just using one service.

There will still be lookouts for spammers, fake reviews and as Mike Blumenthal eloquently puts them, “spewers” just as there are in other disciplines in search.

Overall, it’s a nice touch offered to Google Local Guides whether they use it for perks, recognition, or improving maps for users in their area.

 


LocalMN Interactive
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