The Lonely Hat

We’re Still Minnesota

We're Still Minnesota

We’re Still Minnesota

The game is over, the condo neighbors in Downtown West, Minneapolis went to their respective condos and we wake up tomorrow for a new day. Many of us will be watching the Super Bowl LII in a couple weeks, albeit maybe more for the ads and commercials or Justin Timberlake’s Halftime Show (and Pink singing the National Anthem). We’re going to extend our January discount for a few days until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 4th.

Contact us or keep on reading…

New Websites and redesigns are all custom and responsive to all devices. Our WordPress Front End Developers makes it super easy to add content on your own once the site is live. We also include local up-to-date photography to where you are (we come out for this) for your site, and of course an in-house meeting to scope out your needs before we start.

Google Trusted Street View photography are deeply discounted. We’re going all out and cutting it in half. Was $500. Now $250. We come out in the cold to take up-to-date, current photos, 360 degree photos, Virtual Tours, and give you up to 4 hours of Local Search Consulting. You win!

To get started, just fill in the quick form here and enter “SKOL” in the subject line. Your information will not be shared with any outside sources. Ever. Only Eagles fans would do that.

We’ll change the header now.

We Are Minnesota!

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!

Maps View of Early Morning Walk

Time Saving Ways to Add Info To Google Maps

Whether you’re a Google Local Guide, community advocate, like maps, photography and improve how people navigate around your neighborhood, this is a way to help showcase your area. All you need is a smart phone that takes the Google Maps app.

For me, I’m passionate about Ward 3 in Minneapolis. It contains 10 unique neighborhoods, although we hope to strive them to make friendly enough as one. We do have an election coming up and that factors in for my vote. These photos are from a small early morning walk down the street in the Downtown West neighborhood.

Just by walking around, I was able to find different businesses, parks and local areas of interest. On the skyway and vibrant streets of Downtown West lies Washington Square.

Washington Square

Within Washington Square is Penny’s Downtown, open since the latter half of 2016.

Photo taken for Google Maps

This above maps image is one I did on the smart phone and it took just minutes. Photos, review and all just took minutes out of my day.

But I digress and off to others.

Washington and Marquette lies one of 190 Nice Ride Bikes stationed across the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As a whole, Nice Ride a local independent 501(c)3 non profit created to operate the bike share system. It has a board of directors and they’re always open to questions or feedback. See their FAQ page.

Nice Ride Bike

This bike has a customized sticker by the handle bars. No plans to bike to the St. Paul Farmers Market today but can be done for the adventurous.

This again can be submitted to Google in minutes.

A relatively unknown park is the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Park, next to their headquarters on Washington Ave and Nicollet Mall, They do have a local page for their corporate presence, but not for the park itself. The park is really nice for people watching, lunch and just laying out to catch some rays. It even showcases events such as dance and yoga classes and in the photo below, a round of Kubb played during the 2017 Kubb Krawl.

Kubb at Cancer Survivor Center

I haven’t created a maps review or photo(s) just because the park itself doesn’t have a local page. Just their corporate office does under Marquette Plaza. In the meantime I could take a few minutes to add a missing place for them.

Nonetheless, the park has a nice view, wouldn’t you say?

View from Cancer Survivors Park

Just down the street, Whole Foods have certainly made an impact. Many folks have made reviews for them, and it fits well in the newly constructed condo and luxury apartment community and the higher pedestrian traffic. As Washington Ave construction is nearing completion with wider lanes and sidewalks, a bicycle lane and improved safety as vehicle and pedestrian/bicycle traffic often share the same area with vehicles.

Whole Foods

Apples at Whole Foods

A review I wrote a few years ago.

Whole Foods Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Nice Ride Station, right in the neighborhood at Gateway Park.

Gateway Park Nice Ride Station

Nontheless, it doesn’t take much time at all to do these. Try it for yourself, showcase your neighborhood to the world and even enhance your SEO a bit.

LocalMN 101 – Google Photos for Businesses

Google Photos can be used best when thinking as a user. You can use it on its own, for Google products such as Maps, or an organizer to distribute your photos to Apple Maps, other local portals or social sites such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

And,  you can use all of this solely for SEO reasons. Please don’t.

As mentioned in the video, it can take awhile to set up and customized to your liking or needs. An organized Google Photos account can be like a switchboard. Once it’s ready and you need a photo, you can pretty much pick it, then title, describe, tag it and place where you need it.

 


LocalMN Interactive provides years of local search experience, including Google Trusted Street View Photography. Ask for a quote for a website redesign, marketing and photography services through our contact page, phone or your social media portal of your choice.

LocalMN 101 – Google Photos in Maps

By now, you’ve hopefully read and organized your Google Photos, which is the backbone for this. You’re now ready to add your favorite ones to Maps. There’s something very important you need to do first, though. It’s really easy, but it’s a must.

With your Google Account and/or your Gmail address, just create a Google My Business (GMB) account. As stated by Google themselves…

Get your business hours, phone number, and directions on Google Search and Maps — with Google My Business.

This is indeed the #1 things folks look for when searching for your business.

Once you enter your basic info online, check the “by mail” verification method. It usually takes a few businesses days to receive and just keep a lookout for a postcard that looks something like this.

Google Postcard

Open it, verify the 5-6 digit pin provided and you should be good to go, almost immediately. This YouTube video provides perfect basic insights on it all.

For photos, real pics are compelling, and the #1 thing people look for? Directions. Here’s an description example of cross streets to give customers a visual on where a business is.

The NE Bulldog Cross Streets

Before looking at the photo above, did you have a general idea where the NE Bulldog is? And after reading the description, do you now know EXACTLY where the NE Bulldog is?

This is just one example of how you can use your photos and descriptions in each photo to help entice visitors to come to your door.

Tip: Anyone can add photos to your business and most of them are customers, not photographers. This is fine. Showing “real” photos shows people being social and most of the time, that’s what we want. Combine these with the quality photos you take and describe, the photo presence in your Google listing enhances that much more.


At LocalMN Interactive, we specialize in local search and are listed in Google as a Trusted Street View Photographer. Contact us for services and mention this post when you do.

 

LocalMN Google Photos 101

Many people have photo tools they use for their business. Some are for Photos for MacOS users, some are Windows-based. For this series, we’re going to stick to Google Photos. One, it’s really easy to set up and organize, and it’s sharable either one-on-one or to the public.

Getting Started

You should have this anyway, but create a Google Account. If you already have a gmail address, you’re good to go.

The YouTube video below is 20+ minutes. You’re busy doing what you do so I’d recommend chopping away at it here and there.

Or, if you want the short and sexy version.

This covers Google Photos (and videos) as a consumer, or, your customers. The next two posts cover how to upload info you learn to Google Maps and other local and social portals.

According to Wikipedia

Google Photos is a photo sharing and storage service developed by Google. It was announced in May 2015 and spun out from Google+, the company’s social network.Google Photos gives users free, unlimited storage for photos up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p resolution.

Setting this up is like putting together the umbrella. It looks like a lot of work, but everything in the next two post will fall from it.

A few final notes for this post. As mentioned in the YouTube video, Google auto-detects some of these and creates relevant albums for you such as your spouse, home, favorite ski area, etc. I would then recommend creating albums (either with photos or just shells) of photos you think your customers would find interesting.

Google Photo Albums

Example of Google Photo Albums

By now, you may have a visual list of all your albums, editable to you. Create a duplicate of these and place them in the same labeled albums but under their “shared”. At a later date, you can then allow/disallow other folks to edit these.

All three of these posts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding photos and how to use these on your business maps, but it’s a really good starting point. Next, we’ll talk about how to use these photos for Google and other mapping solutions.