One of the most interesting aspects of marketing on the internet is how things change. Specifically, how Google is constantly trying to improve the results of its search engine, all while trying to discount the efforts of the people who are trying to game the system.
Years ago, when Google was still a little unsophisticated, people would fill the blank spaces on their web pages with keywords coloured the exact same shade as the background colour. People looking at those websites wouldn’t see these same phrases repeated over and over again, but the search engine could. The brainless little bits of computer code saw the keywords repeated many times and elevated those web sites to higher ranks. That worked for a while, until Google clued in. The effort continues.
More recently, people with things to sell developed software that would almost instantly create websites, populate them with “spun” articles (articles that had been rewritten by software, using synonyms and word and phrase relocation to give the appearance of being fresh content) and then point back to the websites that the gamers wanted to rank highly. In addition these scam artists used “link farms.” Blogs that had been purposely created on educational and sometimes government sites (highly regarded by Google) simply so comments with links pointing back to targeted websites could be left on them.
Google previously worked on the assumption that any website with lots of links pointing back to it must be relevant for particular keywords. And especially if the links came from a website on a server owned by a government agency or an educational institution. Whole businesses were started that could generate hundreds of links back to your site, for a fee as low as $40.00 a week. So Google made some changes. Google always will make changes to try and counter the gamers, that is my point in this long, rambling article.
Which brings us back to Google Maps. I have recently found out some information that can help your Google Maps ranking and thought I better pass it along.
I have already told you the importance of having photos on your Places listing. Well, it turns out that Google likes it better if you get your photos from a web location. When you are completing your listing, you have the option to select the images from “your computer” or “from the internet.” The most recent advice I get is to upload your photos to a site like Picasa or Panaramio, both owned by Google. Both of those sites allow you to “geotag” your photos, which is nothing more or less than actually associating a photo with a particular location. The process is relatively simple, sometimes as simple as dragging an icon to a particular location on a map. If you do that with your photos, and drag the icon to your business location, they will be geotagged with your businesses address. Google sees this as an additional layer of credibility for your listing. Then when it comes time to upload your photos, just point to their location on one of the two sites above.
One other thing. If you want to do really well with your listing, go to a larger center, and search for businesses in the same field as you. If you have a restaurant, set your Google Maps search to “restaurants Toronto Ontario” and look at the results. Look at the two or three top ranked sites. Now look at the reviews they have received. Scroll down the page, past the review examples until you see the phrase “Reviews from around the web.” You will see the top rated restaurants getting reviews from just a small number of review sites.
Make sure you suggest to your customers (and family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances etc.) that they place reviews on those sites. Nothing wrong with a person leaving two reviews, on two different dates a few weeks apart. Just make sure none of the reviews for your business come from your own computer, or from one inside your home or business.
I know some of this might not seem important to you now, because you might have very little competition for business. But one other thing Google does is to credit longevity. Two websites with exactly equal content, relevance wise, and equal backlinks, will not rank the same. The older one will rank better.
There is another whole industry that has grown up around finding and buying (then selling) older websites with domain names related to your particular area of commercial endeavour. A website that is five years old is way preferable to a brand new one. Same thing for existing content that links back to your site.
So what does this have to do with you, if you have no competition? Well, look at Hastings. Two new housing developments are on the books, one under construction right now. In another three years there could be 200 new homes in town. A lot of these new folks will be very comfortable doing online searches for products and services. In fact that is how they are used to finding things.
A new commercial development is under consideration for the downtown core right now as well. There will be room for at least three new commercial establishments, maybe more. They could be here in a couple of years or less. New businesses are opening in Warkworth, Campbellford, and Norwood. People from the 401 corridor are moving north, to take advantage of lower real estate prices and a nicer lifestyle. With expanded population comes more businesses. Some of the new businesses will have owners who are used to a higher level of competition and who are comfortable with online marketing.
Maybe you have little or no competition right now, but that could change overnight. So take some steps today, to establish your online presence. It’s not very hard. it just takes some time. It will be worth it. I have provided suggestions and guidance on these pages. use what I have provided and you can always do some research on your own. It’s never too late to learn.
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