Why Free Local Search Listings Help Online Business Visibility

Today’s announcement that £1.5 million is to be made available for High Street regeneration at various locations across the UK highlights that local businesses need investment to survive.Local Search High Street

The sum of money available isn’t huge, especially when you compare this to health and education budgets for example, but at least it highlights that investment is crucial if local stores are to become a solid foundation again for the traditional town shopping centre whilst helping to boost local economies.

Free Local Search

It also highlights that whilst money is tight, businesses must begin to utilise all the means available to them to ensure that they succeed. One way to do this is to ensure an online presence, either through a website or simply through using free existing systems to ensure that appearances are made in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Google Places

Google, the Internet search giant, is by far the most popular search engine used by UK users. This is good news for all businesses (even those without a website) because Google allows businesses to create free listings for their business which it then includes in their SERPs – it’s called Google Places.

Google Places - Free Local SearchGoogle Places is a way for businesses with a physical address (this could be an office, shop or warehouse for example) and telephone number to describe their products, display photos, offer special discounts and list opening time information to promote their business online for free. Whilst it’s possible to link the listing to a website (and local businesses will usually stand a better chance of being found online if they do this) it isn’t essential before creating the listing or to appear in the search results – it all depends on the competition for the business’ sector.

So, if a searcher looks for ‘florists in Nottingham’, Google Places listings will invariably appear with the relevant local florists for that area. And, because Google can recognise where a searcher is based geographically, simply typing ‘florists’ could bring relevant local shop information to the search results without the need to include the keyword ‘Nottingham’ in the search. Not only that, Googlers can find contact information on the search results page directly – meaning that they can contact the business without the need to click through to a website first.

The emphasis on local search results has been something Google has been constantly improving throughout 2012, especially through the ‘Google Venice’ algorithm update from February (detailed information about this can be found in this great blog post at SEOmoz), so from an search marketing point of view, the information here has never been more relevant.

Bing and Yell.com

Bing too allows businesses to list themselves online and it’s important to ensure that directories such as Yell.com have an optimised listing. Again, as with Google, this can be done simply and for free. For yell.com for example, a business simply claims the information Yell.com already holds by creating an account and completing the relevant information about the services, products and company information.

Brand Consistency

The importance of maintaining consistency throughout all online entries on Google Places and Yell.com is also very important (as explained in this excellent SEOmoz Whiteboard Takeover from October 2011 on brand domination in the search results). If for example a business uses the abbreviation ‘Ltd’ in their company name, then they should make sure they use this abbreviation everywhere, rather than using ‘Limited’.

The aim here is to give Google consistent information so that it begins to recognise a brand online from several different sources. If consistency isn’t apparent, then Google naturally gets confused – how is it supposed to know that all the multiple entries of a business online are the same if names are spelt slightly differently or main telephone numbers are different for example? If Google can’t tell, why should it ensure regular page one listings for a business in the SERPs? The more consistent entries a business has across different sources tells Google that it’s important – which ultimately can assist with good rankings, both for websites and for Google Places listings.

It’s also just good practice.

Contact Landingnet

If you’d like further information or advice about free local search listings on Google Places or elsewhere, please get in touch.

Responsive Web Design

The Problem

With more and more internet users around the world using their mobiles and other portable devices to surf websites, designers and developers of these websites are no longer able to assume that what they create will be viewed specifically and exclusively on average resolution computer monitors.

The Solution

Web designer Ethan Marcotte has come up with the solution to this ever growing problem; Responsive Web Design. Whereas before web designers had to build separate sites for each mobile device, they are now able to build one single site that adapts itself to each of these devices. To read an explanation from the man himself, click here.

Owners of mobile devices expect to be able to access websites just as easily as they do on their PC or laptop and that is driving the demand for responsive web design.

responsive web design for a mobile phone

responsive web design for a standard resolution monitor

The images show an example of a responsively designed website theme. As you can see from the first picture on the right, this is the website as you would see it on your computer or laptop monitor. The second picture on the right is what the website would look like if it is accessed via a mobile device such as a phone or an internet browsing tablet. You can see this in action by looking at these examples on your PC and then resizing the browser window, or try looking at it on a tablet and turning it on it’s side.

Responsive Web design doesn’t only cater to devices with smaller screens as more and more people are browsing the web using widescreen TV’s and by developing the website in this way we can ensure that the usability and visitor experience is as good on a smart phone as it is on a 50 inch monitor.

One of the first key ideas of responsive web design is using something called a fluid grid. In the web design world, using a ‘liquid layout’ when creating a webpage that expands with the page hasn’t been as widespread as creating fixed width layouts. But in recent years, with the ever growing demand in the market for internet tablets, mobile devices and larger monitor screen resolutions there are more and more reasons why using fluid grids is not only easier, but also more beneficial.

In the not too distant future, maybe all websites will be created using responsive web design. You as a user can expect to see this method of web design more and more often, and next time you’re surfing on your tablet or mobile device, you’ll be able to see which websites are created using responsive web design and which are not!

If you would like to talk to us about creating a site for you that will cater for every device that modern technology can throw at it then give us a ring on 0843 289 0120 or send an email to info@landingnet.co.uk

Optimizing Search Engine Marketing For Small Businesses

Swathe of Changes

The recent swathe of changes and developments in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Industry has left many of the most vulnerable businesses teetering on the brink. Owners of small businesses, who often exist in the smallest of margins, can ill afford to have weeks or months of uncertainty with how their businesses or products are being promoted through web giants like Google. Unfortunately that is precisely what has happened recently and left many diminutive companies looking at their vacuous joint account balances and wondering how they can stabilize their income in what is often a mesmerizing tide of misinformation.

Re-indexing and BuildMyRankgoogle penguin

The recent algorithm readjustments and re-indexing which occurred across the entire Google database has caused much confusion. Particularly disconcerting for many were the changes which occurred for the BuildMyRank Blog, which stimulated in excess of a million ‘unnatural’ link alerts for websites.

Matt Cutts Comments

Coupled with this was the wave of speculation which occurred as a result of comments made by the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, about the issue of over-optimization on business websites. On the back of these comments Google published information about their new algorithm designed to handle webspam. They believe this new feature will combat promotional tactics like spun content and keyword stuffing. The results are yet to be seen but for many small businesses, that do not have the flexibility in their business models, waiting for these results may spell disaster, and in the interim period their businesses might disappear altogether.

What Exactly Do The New Rules Mean For Companies?

Certainly things have moved on significantly this year and are a considerable step up from the Panda update of 2011, where the target for removal was low quality content that had been machine generated and altered. The question now is ‘Is it still possible for small businesses to access the traffic provided by the web giant?’ The answer is yes, but there are some key features which must be built in to your web presence before this can happen.

The First step is Diversification

For an effective approach to SEM small businesses need to look seriously at how they can fragment their approach. Those that have had to learn theseo penalty hard way from the recent changes have pointed to an over emphasis on link building within one blog network. There is no guarantee that these are not vulnerable and might result in your website being completely removed from Google searches. In order to ensure your business is Google proof in this respect an alternate array of marketing strategies is key. In addition to having a website which is not likely to fall foul of search engine optimization there are other aspects to promotion which should be developed. It is important to ensure you have a strategy to develop business even if Google axes your links. Using customer reviews, email marketing and development of social media links can provide a strong range of alternative sourcing for your business.

Getting Involved

There are many solid examples of where getting involved seriously enhances the prospects for maintaining and expanding a business portfolio. For many small businesses social media is regarded as a sideshow distraction from the real source of business on the web. The recent shift in how people use their social media means that this area can now generate significant traffic and in the case of small businesses may be sufficient to sustain or grow the company.

There are some tactics which can be employed to ensure that social media is effectively used. Collecting customer reviews is an excellent feature of social media marketing which is often neglected by small businesses. In addition talking in forums and writing guest posts on blogs shows a clear sense of involvement. These involvements leave back link footprints and are widely recognised as an effective part of a successful SEM strategy.

Focus on the End-User

This is a tactic which can help ensure your pages are bookmarked and ensure the return of traffic not just for products but for in

google penguin and panda

formation. It is essential that you create a web presence which has your client in mind and not just as a marketing vehicle. The perceived wisdom here is to use something that your customers will find educational, informative or entertaining. All businesses have wisdom to share; a builder can upload a DIY video, accountancy firms can include tax code information. This sort of marketing will leave your website on the positive side of the search engine optimization line.