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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.

Minneapolis Skyline

Traveling Like a Local – Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Twin Cities, some people call it, as well as “The Cities” to Minnesotans out of the metro area. Mill City, City of Lakes in Minneapolis, and Hockeytown in St. Paul are others. Each nickname holds its own merit, we’ll visit some of these in this piece as well as numerous other places to enjoy during your stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are just so many local places to see with a story to tell and many of them are free or low cost.

MSP Airport

Terminal 1 Light Rail Station

Free rides between Terminal 1 and 2

You’ll most likely fly into the MSP International Airport. Fly into Terminal 2. Sun Country, our  “hometown” airline flies in and out of there, and it’s a much smaller terminal so the lines are shorter resulting in less time spent at the airport.

There are different options for leaving the airport including shuttles, car rentals, car-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, buses that leave Terminal 1 or a favorite, Light Rail Transit (LRT). For convenience, the Light Rail is free of charge between the 2 terminals and they run as often as every 10 minutes.

The Light Rail is also the easiest option to get to both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, although there’s no direct line to St. Paul and it will take longer. As in 90 minutes. Then, it’s all the better as you can often connect to wi-fi signals while riding. Either way, you can take the Blue Line all the way to Downtown Minneapolis or switch trains at the U.S. Bank Stadium station to catch the Green Line into St. Paul.

Mill City District

In Minneapolis, Mill City is an unofficial district nestled against the Mississippi River. While there, consider taking in your favorite ice cream treat at the local Izzy’s and a walk up or down West River Parkway. The lights are pretty, the people are engaging and the bridges are a work of art.

Hennepin Ave Bridge

Hennepin Ave Bridge and its Reflection

Bicyclist West River Parkway

Bicyclist enjoying the early evening down by the river

The Parkway area is an urban planner’s dream. A street with a slow speed limit, separate walking plus biking paths, public art and precise landscaping make this both beautiful and functional. When walking around this neighborhood, it’s hard not to say hello, engage in short conversation or wave. It’s a Minnesota thing to do. And of course my new friend wanted to give me a smile and peace sign.

The Nicollet

You’ll find captivating streets throughout the whole Twin Cities area, perhaps none more present than one you can’t drive on. “The Nicollet” up until November 2017 was called Nicollet Mall. After a 3-year reconstruction project and rebranding exercise, the city changed the name. It’s beautiful, modern and worth the walk up and down to have food and drink, shop, or see areas of interest.

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Toward the South end of The Nicollet lies The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant. The Dakota has been a really well-known and respected fine dining and jazz club since 1985. It’s somewhat of a secret to even locals, but Prince used to sneak in a back door and move around at his own free will and just enjoy the music on stage.

The nearby Minnesota Orchestra speaks for itself. Take in a show! They have performances all year around (opens PDF) and are world-renowned. It’s a can’t-miss and is located on 11th and Nicollet.

Take a selfie with the Mary Tyler Moore statue on 7th and Nicollet. Yep, even the locals do it. It’s back at its prime location.

A must is to head off The Nicollet a couple blocks to First Avenue and see Prince’s star. He’s a local hero, put Minneapolis on the map musically, and the set and settings of the movie Purple Rain was at this venue. It’s humbling to look at his star and just think. Think as if nothing around matters. Just think.

Prince Star at First Avenue

Day after Prince’s passing

A 360 view of the venue:

Outside downtown is the temporary home of Minnesota United at TCF Bank Stadium. The soccer there is contagious and the fans are excited with their European-style flag waving and chants.

Nordeast Mpls

A true, local and engaging neighborhood is the Northeast (Nordeast) Minneapolis Arts District. You can find all you need right on or off 13th Ave NE. Pick your place:

  • Dangerous Man Brewing Company – A craft brewery in a customary neighborhood is a total Minnesotan thing to have. Their story is compelling and their beards are out to get you.
  • Northeast Social – Continental cuisine and exceptional mixologists. Tip: Have the mixologist create something with dill aquavit. It’s a Scandinavian and Minnesotan treat and your palate will leave happy. Last July, I couldn’t help but head to Twitter to mention a delicious scallops appetizer.
  • 331 Club – Divey, vintage club with live music 7 days a week. Favorite Google Review quote: “To our amazement, it was the best nerd party we had ever seen and had to quickly join.”
  • Bunny’s Bar & Grill NE – Nestled by the Mississippi River, it’s a newer sports bar. Tip: The Walleye Fingers is a total Minnesotan thing to try. While you’re there, take a few steps to Sheridan Memorial park, take a selfie by the metal orb and share for social proof. The park itself is on a trail with great neighborhood views of the Mississippi.
  • Gumball Boutique – A hidden gem, Gumball is a cozy consignment shop with locally-made everything.
Pan-Seared Scallops App

Pan-seared scallops w/ Pork Belly appetizer

Cathedral Hill, St. Paul

Across the river sits St. Paul, a trip worthy all in its own. After all, it is called the most livable city in America. If you go to the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and take a James.J. Hill House tour, you’ll know more area history than many locals. The family were railroad pioneers, or “empire builders”, responsible for the majority of railroad that went out to the West coast. A couple fun facts are that the Hill family were very similar to the Rockefellers with one exception. The Hill family didn’t put their name on stuff. The second? The house is built on the top of Cathedral Hill. Guests would enter in the front, and leave in the back which is twice as large looking down the hill to leave guests with one, lasting, prestigious memory.

Back from Hill House

Down Cathedral Hill from the James J. Hill house

While on the hill, walk down Summit Ave. You’ll pass the Governor’s mansion as well as hundreds of other homes that are considered Victorian mansions. You’ll see regular folks working on their lawn or shoveling their driveway in the winter. Give ‘em a friendly wave and they’ll always wave back. It’s just a Minnesota thing to do. We joke about being called “Minnesota Nice”, but it’s true. We are.

Hockeytown

Amateur Hockey at Xcel

Adult amateur hockey at Xcel

People here are born with skates on, and of course there is the Wild. In addition to professional hockey games, they do have organized scrimmages for adults. There’s not much better of a feeling than playing hockey on that big sheet of ice, albeit in front of about 12 fans making up of spouses and children.

Now, think hockey meets obstacle course meets skiing and you have Crashed Ice. They have a professional course every year that starts on Cathedral Hill and ends down the hill towards downtown. Literally the best in the world qualify to compete in this event with over 100,000 celebrated fans in attendance lining the course. It’s exciting, thrilling and admittedly impossible to get home as everyone leaves at once.

Here’s what it looked like a week before the event after a rainfall. Yep, the temp did drop in time.

Crashed Ice Track

Crashed Ice track a week before the event

And during the event.

Packed Crashed Ice

Packed Crashed Ice

Around the Capital City

  • Go to St. Thomas and catch a Div. III football game at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in the perfect environment and cheer amongst the most loyal of fans.
  • Catch a Juicy Lucy at The Nook. Everything about this place is Minnesotan, including the burger with cheese oozing out from the inside.
  • The Minnesota State Fair. Technically, Falcon Heights. It only happens once a year, but if you’re here during that time, just go. Go and naturally create your own wonderful story to tell. My favorite treat? Snowii Shaved Ice. It’s Minnesota-based, and it’s sweaty-hot in August.
Snowii Shaved Ice

Snowii Shaved Ice at the State Fair’s West End

Getting Around the TC

East Bank Light Rail Station

East Bank Light Rail station

Take a Nice Ride bicycle. The Twin Cities is one of the most friendly bicycle cities in the U.S. Take a bike for an hour or a day at one of over 200 local stations. Here’s a station full of bikes on St. Anthony Main.

Definitely buy a Metro Transit pass or fare and take the Light Rail back and forth to Minneapolis, St. Paul and the airport. While on the trains, check out the public art at each station.

If on the Blue Line, hop off at the Cedar/Riverside station and walk across the street to Currie Park. There may just be a good soccer game being played.

On your way back to the airport, hop off the Bloomington Central Light Rail stationand take the walkway to Urbana Craeft Kitchen and Market, inside the Hyatt Regency. Ask for Nick the Bartender and have him serve you up a locally-sourced bison burger, house-made chips and a local, craft beer.

That’s a perfect end, and you’ll now leave happy. Wave as you leave and thanks from the Twin Cities for sharing your experience with us!

Hennepin and Washington

Life as a Google Local Guide – Lev Livet

A day as a Google Local Guide is pretty much living your life as anyone else. You get up, go about your day and be aware of your potential opportunities to hopefully add useful local content. When updating this content, and with a smart phone in hand it hardly takes any time to update some local on the fly.

Washington Square

Just a couple weeks ago I added a photo I recently took to help showcase the renovated 100 Washington Square building with the newer Penny’s Coffee inside. That corner took on renovation and built the coffee shop right in the building with just delicious crepes. This is fantastic for our neighborhood and the businesses within.

First, a brief history. Local Guides started out as Google’s City Experts program in 2013 with the intention of competing with Yelpers, mostly to bring in higher quality business ratings and reviews to Google+. The benefits were simple. You occasionally got free stuff. We like free stuff.

In early 2015, Google brought over the name “Local Guides” with more of a community feel. Benefits were more structured and multi-leveled based depending on the quality and quantity of reviews and other information provided.

Local Guides became more passionate, worldwide, with a proud user-base knowing they did their small part on making the web better and help engaging with the public to why users would want to visit their area. Diwali celebration, anyone?Hennepin Ave Bridge

I often do this at a hyper-local level. I love and am involved with the neighborhood and Ward I live in and want to do my part to showcase it whether it’s businesses, organizations or areas of interest within. How many bridges can stake their claim as the first bridge to span the Mississippi River (while sportin’ my Gophers hat, of course)?

This all doesn’t go without its hiccups. There are still a few Local Guides who update content just for the reason to gain points and receive whatever the “benefits of the month” are. As well, there are guides who often even inadvertently fix current listings uploaded by aggressive marketers trying to game the “ranking” system. In my opinion, both of these come with the territory.

The core intent is still the same, to give users local information including reviews, photos and other information of places to visit and buy. The optimization is always there too, with local proximity giving arguably the highest notch, which it should, to how visible a location to the user happens to be. Someone asked me about Map Maker. I don’t know if this is a planned enhancement to their now-closed product, or if I’ll ever know.

Check the Facts

Since, Google gave Level 4+ Guides on Android the opportunity to check local facts and answer yes/no questions about locations. Now this feature is open to everyone and my guess it’s to help jump-start accurate local business information. This only gives 1 point to guides although given the ease-of-use and small time spent to verify is probably the right number. It’s prone to point-spam.

Local Guides have been popular enough in its own niche, and they just had their 2nd annual invite-only Local Guides Summit held in San Francisco. Eligibility requirements were to be (then) a Level 5 Guide, have proactive community/portal involvement in Connect and a minute-long video application sent in to why you should be selected to attend.


I was not selected.

Recently, they’ve invited people to share accessibility knowledge by answering yes/no wheelchair questions. People can use this approach and/or imply this feature on photos taken like I did in just over a minute at Target Field Station. The stadium already works well with the ADA and this enhancement can help make the game-day experience just that much better.

Wheelchair Access - Target Field Station

Wheelchair Access – Target Field Station

Through it all, the only constant is change. They’re always changing benefits and adding initiatives to help showcase your community. Local Guides will always be there. At least, the concept certainly will. Just like true Google fashion, they may be prone to change the name after awhile. They may continue to push forward with it or there may be a time where local content is fulfilled enough that they’ll move it more into a maintenance type of program. Nonetheless, is this something that you’ll be using either for yourself, neighborhood, or your clients?

North Loop Minneapolis

Google Maps and Street View Photos in the North Loop

Today’s #mspwalk is in the Minneapolis North Loop area to showcase the neighborhood, stills and indoor and outdoor Street View photos we offer at LocalMN. It was longer and split up into 2 walks for a little over 8 miles on gmap-pedometer as I needed to recharge my iPhone.

gmap-pedometer

Red Cow North Loop – The first Google review I saw happens to be from myself a year ago.

Spacious, modern, tasty, decently priced for the neighborhood. Their soft pretzel app has a sweetness that I haven’t tasted before.

Their North Loop page could use an updated title and meta description, but I digress.

Red Loop North Loop Title and Meta Description

 

Per their Facebook page, The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts is the Twin Cities’ newest venue for dance and the performing arts! As well, it’s a half block from the Light Rail. There’s even breakdance performance according to a Google reviewer.

Amazing theater. I saw some AMAZING breakdance there, and it was RAW; the hip-hop there wasn’t anything like competition dance, or jazz-choreographer-trys-hip-hop style of performance, it was straight off the old school beat-street.

In addition to the house that Prince built, plenty of local artists proudly have their own star on the First Avenue wall.

First Avenue Wall

 

 

 

 

Odonovans Pub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per above, on a triangular corner in the middle of pretty much everything sits O’Donovan’s Pub. A true Irish pub, Dropkick Murphys have even played there years ago.

The Target Field Station is what I would consider the transportation hub of North Loop/Warehouse District with the Light Rail, Northstar, Target Field and Center all pretty much there. As well, catch the skyway there to go almost anywhere downtown. From Cedar Lake Trail just north of the station:

Target Field StationTarget Field Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nice Ride station on Washington and 2nd Ave. N.

Mississippi River and area of interest at the North Loop Playground.

As well, here are quite a few additional photos of the walk. All are on 2 shared Google albums for you to view, add, share, etc.

Friday Morning

Friday Afternoon


Post, stills and 360 photos from LocalMN and feel free to see our Google Trusted Street View Photographer page as well as us on your social media channels of choice for our services. We look forward to hearing from you.

Gateway Park

Dex Acquires YP – Back to Yellow Pages Delivery 2.0 or a Welcome Merger?

On the record, they don’t call it a merger, or consolidation, or especially print spam. An acquisition? Definitely. From the new DexYP site:

By acquisition, do you mean merger?
No. Dex Media has completed the acquisition of YP and now controls the newly-formed DexYP.

Nonetheless, I live and work in the 3rd Ward of Minneapolis. It’s a dynamic and diverse community that proudly comes together at one.

  • We’re home to thriving local businesses, arts, cultural diversity, a national park and both the first and fastest growing Minneapolis neighborhood.
  • We are collectively smart, real and sexy and can easily sniff out the most thinly veiled attempt at deceptive and overly-aggressive sales practices.
  • Big-box associations like the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association) are welcome and should do just fine here with their phone-ringing sales force-driven industry.

Just don’t come back and litter our neighborhood with your print book spam again.

Why do I say this? From the Dex Moving Forward Site again…

Will the new company be moving away from print?
DexYP remains committed to print. Importantly, this acquisition provides us with an enhanced platform on which to manage our print directories profitably.

Why now?
We now have an enhanced platform on which we can manage our print directories business profitably.

And… well, there’s always this.

Dex Yellow Pages - 08/01/11This was actually 6 years ago. Luckily, so far we are in our 3rd consecutive year without being littered. But it wasn’t easy, they stood ground and we’re a little weary from the above and other quotes on how the new DexYP is being bullish on their print delivery like this winner of a pile.

The new CEO either understands this happened all the time or bullies his way into telling customers and his sales reps these situations never existed. I don’t know that answer to that one. This LinkedIn feed may help answer this for you though.

Nonethess, they’re also implying that SaaS companies will disrupt their sales reps in their local selling sales.

Some may call this “service that disrupts sales reps”, but I digress.

Local Search Association Tweet

 

 

 

The webinar is now over, but this can be another chicken or the egg argument. Did they originate local marketing to go along with SaaS offerings or are they just chasing the $10 Billion global revenue stream from different SaaS and local companies who’ve been offering this for years?

They’ll certainly enter our neighborhood with feet on the pavement. Just remember again, our neighborhood is smart, real and sexy and can easily sniff out the most thinly veiled attempt at deceptive and overly-aggressive sales practices.

Just don’t come back and litter our neighborhood with your print book spam again.

Flickr

New Showcase Section on Flickr

Remember Flickr? Don’t forget about them

They recently came out with new About Page to share your work. It still has the features at the bottom to sort by most likes, comments and views. It also adds an edtitable Showcase Section of up to 25 photos.

For users, the Showcase Section all slick-like as you can create and change themes separate from your standard Flickr Albums and Collections. These sections could be:

  • Outdoor photos to help engage summertime customers to give you a visit
  • You and your staff volunteering for a local cause to show how involved you are in the community
  • Staff photos while working to show off your employee dedication

For search reasons, you’re still able to link to your desired pages per photo. They’re no-followed and need to be hard coded. For a couple reasons, I usually don’t link to pages within my main site but will here for demonstration purposes.

OUI Bar & Ktchn

Just like other social portals, Google loves them. Add each, individual photo with a title, description, geo and add within a group and it will have a better chance of showing up for searches.

This is just one of almost limitless ways to get your relevant content out there for the right users, and to help encourage them to give you an in-person visit.

Traffic and Construction in Mpls/St Paul

Let Your Summer Work for Your Google My Business

There really isn’t anything better than a Minnesota Summer. You do need to get your Google My Business on, although you might as well let that work to your business advantage by sometimes doing as little as enjoying the summer.

Before anything, get started with Google Photos with a Google Account or Gmail address. Adding to it and organizing is actually the most time-consuming part, but’s easy to do and in the end you’re find it very, very useful.

Now, including these help you enhance your Google Maps to help encourage users. This keeps both you and the user up-to-date by including pretty, summer photos.

http://localmn.tumblr.com/post/162331461296/get-your-google-summer-on-smbsSummertime = construction season as well. You can keep your customers up-to-date with construction, different directions and transit and even approximate time to get there. Here’s a Tumblr Post to show a few visuals.

Common closures right now are 5th St S. and Washington Ave S. in Minneapolis and Jackson Street in St. Paul.

As well, a YouTube Video including a LRT time-lapse to S. Paul and a protest to help out Luciano Mejia Morales and his fight for facing deportation in Minneapolis. For more about him, search online or call ICE at 612-843-8600

Final tip, keep users updated Showing off your Local to Make Your Own Google Posts.

Keep on enhancin’ yer Google My Business so you can enjoy the summer!

Google Map of Fraser Event

How Do You Get to the WCCO “Pulling Together for Fraser” Benefit Event

Update 6/9/2017 – Looks like it’s all ready to go. Bring water, sunscream and #hashtug can be used on Facebook, Twitter and more on the event itself. It’s looking slick.

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Update 6/8/2017 – Minneapolis donations is still ahead by a couple thousand. I live in Minneapolis but have a soft spot for St. Paul. Personally, I may make a game-day decision but haven’t decided yet which city I’m pulling for.

They do stress that the best place to watch the event is indeed on the St. Paul side at Hidden Park. This is where the music, food trucks and kids events are taking place as well as how to get your free Metro Transit pass to it (the 46 route may work the best). All of the above info can be found on their events page. Just give it some time to load, folks. It takes a bit, but it will come up.

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Update 6/7/17 – WCCO continues to update the Fraser event site with information good for the user. Note: Minneapolis has surpassed St. Paul in donations. There’s still plenty of time to catch up, St. Paul. They showed the location on the morning news as well. Such a serene place on both sides of the river. Right in the middle of an urban area.

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The answer seems simple enough. You just go to WCCO’s subdomain CBS site and navigate it until you find directions, address or anything else that helps you navigate physically to the Fraser Benefit.

Only problem is good luck with that (sorry, still love ya’ WCCO). It’s not a WCCO issue as much as news sites in general that are so slow to load partially due to 3rd party ads that users simply give up. Well, here’s some information of how to physically get to the Fraser Event, as well as a few other tasty tidbits such as place to eat near there afterwards.

Here’s a customized map for you to view, use, add places and even share.

In my experience, the 46th St Transit Station is the easiest starting point as you can bike, walk, bus or light rail or park-n-ride it there. Then, take the 46 Bus east to the old Ford plant parking lot. Either way, then just count your steps with a Fitbit. It’s less than a half mile walk (or free shuttle) to the Hidden Park Fraser Event from there.

Tip: The good folks at Metro Transit are offering a free event ride. If you do this on mobile, you can take a screenshot of your ticket instead of printing one, therefore saving a bit of a tree to a place you’re going to that’s full of trees.

You can even bring your dog and watch from the Minneapolis side at the Minnehaha Off Leash Dog Park. From experience, parking should be even easier there as long as you don’t mind watching the main Fraser Events across a narrow part of the river.

You can donate to either the St. Paul or Minneapolis team the day of race and it may even be part of a decision due to a potential tie. This is a biggie for me. It makes everyone’s voice count.

While you’re in the neighborhood, consider taking in a meal (although there will be plenty of food trucks at the Fraser Event). The Highland Park area in itself has plenty of quality choices. One is the Highland Grill. Their side fruit cup is that incredibly-average dumpster-melon made delicious by adding homemade mint to it.

Burger and Fresh Mint from Highland Grill

Burger and Fresh Mint from Highland Grill

Protip: The Highland Grill is part of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company. David Burley is their CEO. On the back of every receipt, David proudly puts his cell phone number on it for feedback.

Think of this as Yelp before there was a Yelp, or at least before your current perception of What Yelp is today. They read your feedback and will often engage with you because of it. But, I digress.

That’s about it for now. Enjoy the tug-of-war, food, beverage, bands (Heiruspecs will perform at noon). Hope to see you there!

 


LocalMN Interactive
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48 Hours in Minneapolis/St Paul with a Custom Map

What should you do? Plenty I suppose! It’s really easy to get around, especially with public transit and bike-sharing. You can even add to the map for others to enjoy. First, a link to the map as well as the map itself.

A few notes:

I put just one place for accommodations for each city. I highly recommend setting up at the Radisson Red Minneapolis. Use your phone to book your room, open your door, order a pillow, order just about anything then head down to their OUI Bar & Ktchn and have Sari, #bridgey, Wil and Matt serve you food and beverages. They are four individuals that work perfectly together as one team.

Downtown St. Paul is really unique. It’s large enough to pretty much do anything, get around by foot, Green Line Light Rail, bus and Nice Ride bike-sharing. Even in the coldest winter days you can walk around via skyway.

The Ft. Snelling/Mendota Bridge area is a hidden gem for trail-walking. Remember to bring hydration for all of you as there aren’t really any convenience stores nearby. As close as it is to city limits, it’s pretty much you, scenery and the wilderness.

Familiar with the areas? Add to the map to share with others! We’d love to hear from you.