I just read an excellent article on creating loyalty programs for small businesses. It’s by Derek at Social Triggers and it really makes some good points. One of the key takeaways from the post is how big of an impact giving your customers a head start on earning a reward can be if you do it right.
Loyalty programs work for a lot business types from Subway locations to Car Washes and Massage studios. Some industries struggle to make them work. Services with infrequent transactions are a lot harder to come up with a good loyalty program. It isn’t very easy for a dentist or a real estate agent to create something compelling. (If you have heard of some awesome one though let me know!)
Here’s a link to Derek’s article… good stuff!
There was a post recently on the Small Business Search Marketing blog pointing out some of the weaknesses in a recent article by NAR attempting to give advice to Real Estate Agents on how to improve their search engine optimization and therefore rankings. In general I agree with the points made by Matt McGee in the article except I’m tempted to condemn comment spam in more stringent ways. If you are a real estate agent take the time to read the points in the following article:
SEOmoz came out with a great post on how to go through the Google Local results of competitors to find directories that are being used by the algorithm to rank businesses. Of particular note is the importance placed on perfect consistency from one listing to another. The general idea is that by looking through the reviews on each business you can click through to the sites themselves and add your information too. At the very least you get some link-building done and at best reinforce your businesses credibility with Google. The post itself has screenshots and instructions. You should read the post and do what it says for your business. And, you should probably do it soon!
I’ve been playing with Google Buzz off and on trying to evaluate it both for my personal life and as a tool for business. I’m not sold on it yet for business. That isn’t the same as saying that I don’t see potential there! My personal view is that I’m going to wait a little a while and see how the eco-system around Buzz develops as well as what kind of changes Google makes to the service going forward. There were a flurry of modifications early and it seems likely that additional updates will be flowing pretty frequently in the coming months. Adam Ostrow wrote a brief post on Open Forum that breaks down 5 Opportunities for Small Businesses in using Google Buzz. It’s a little mis-named since it largely describes how Buzz works and echoes my hesitations but there are some points in there about the differentiation of Buzz from other services that are good to know about.
Well, it was bound to happen. Google noticed how many spammy, manipulative business entries were being made in their database for the Local Business Center. Their “Business Listing Quality Guidelines” are posted for all to see and abide by. Ignore at your own peril! You never know how long it will take for them to enforce these guidelines or how rigorously they will but rest assured if Google thinks the results are being degraded for their users, they won’t hesitate to bounce businesses out of the listings or blacklist you. Check out the guidelines and make sure you play nice!
Google has made a couple of moves recently that show it is serious about moving to defend it’s turf in local search. Google dominates search in general and efforts by other companies to carve out a local search niche have not gone unnoticed! While Google maps have long provided excellent local search functionality there are two relatively new releases or enhancements that demonstrate Google’s commitment. And THAT is the really scary part if you are Yelp… Google is likely to continually enhance and improve their product as fast or faster than anyone else can keep up. Here are the two developments that have recently rolled out:
- 1) Google Place Pages – Place Pages take the previous bubbles in Google Maps and gives them their own page. Who cares right? Not quite… it also gives them their own URL. That’s where the big change is. Now Google can index those pages and start serving them up in non-maps searches for businesses or categories in their main search results. Over time, this probably means that top 10 results are really just top 9 results because a Place Page will likely take up one spot most of the time.
- 2) Improvement to Mobile Search – Google added functionality to improve the ability of users of their mapping application to do business searches on smartphones. Yelp had previously offered superior functionality in this regard and appears to have perhaps hoped it could be an ongoing source of differentiation and value. So much for that idea. Just like the mobile GPS manufacturers just found out… Google isn’t going to stay satisfied with their current offerings for very long in any area. The moral of the story is that if you have a business that remotely competes with Google you had better sprint full-speed ahead on innovation and improvement. In a tie, Google will win with consumers due to the comfort level of their brand…
I’m looking forward to seeing how Google continues to develop in these directions… I don’t really know if there will be long-term survivors from the mix of companies that were hoping to find a home in the local search or directory niche. Things are going to get a lot worse for them before it gets better. I assume Microsoft and Bing can’t be far behind in this area either.