30 things you might not know about Google Search

As you might guess, Google search is smarter than you think. Here are 30 tools that you can use to improve your search experience.

http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features.html

This link will help you search with power in the following areas:

  1. Google Weather search
  2. Google Stock Quote search
  3. Google Time Zone search
  4. Google Sports Scores search
  5. Google Music search
  6. Google Sunrise & Sunset search
  7. Google Calculator
  8. Google Book search
  9. Google Earthquakes
  10. Google Unit Conversion
  11. Google Public Data
  12. Google People Profiles
  13. Google Synonym search
  14. Google Dictionary Definitions
  15. Google Spell Checker
  16. Google Local search
  17. Google Movie Showtimes
  18. Google Health Conditions
  19. Google Medications
  20. Google Poison Control
  21. Google Suicide Prevention
  22. Google Flu Vaccine search
  23. Google Flight Planning
  24. Google Currency Conversion
  25. Google Maps
  26. Google Plus Operator
  27. Google Related search
  28. Google Fill-in-the-blank
  29. Google Package Tracking
  30. Google Patent Numbers

For more information about how to appear on searches and use the web to your business’s benefit, contact me.

Securing your Facebook Places page

Facebook has recently released their Facebook Places pages. These will eventually replace the Facebook Business Pages that are tied to physical locations.

NOTE: please keep a look-out for this message when you sign in to your Facebook Business Page:

If you see this message, that means that Facebook has already identified that you can transition your Facebook Business Page to a Facebook Places Page.  The Facebook Places Page contains the same information that the Facebook Business Page has, except that it shows a verified business location.

There are many benefits to verifying your Facebook Places Page:

  • Verified business listing will secure you as the owner of your physical location.
  • Facebook users can TAG themselves and other users at your business location giving you free advertising.
  • Places pages are search engine optimized for your location and will show up in local searches.
  • Removes duplicate listings when having both a Places page and a Business page.
  • You can use Facebook Deals with your Places page.

After clicking on the prompt, look for “claim it now” on your new Facebook Places page.

Facebook Places - Claim it Now

a verification box will appear:

Next you will have to verify your physical location by having a phone call from Facebook to the business number listed on your Places page.

Verify by phone - Facebook

If you can’t answer the phone or the wrong number is listed, there are other methods of verification. Once you have verified your business, you’re done! Enjoy your new Facebook Places Page!

Where to start with Online Marketing Strategy in 7 Strategic Steps

It is not enough to hire an SEO firm to over-haul your website. Sure, work can be churned out quickly in the form of link building, keyword research, competitive comparisons, social network and reputation management but the ultimate goal may still not be met and frustrations continue to rise because of one key element. Focus.

Your Brand must be of a single focus and well defined. This may already be the case, but for many businesses, there is a misconception when it comes to branding. Your Brand is not a product. It is not an ad or a tag-line. Your Brand needs to stand for something. It is the question that you come back to whenever you make a business or marketing decision in your company.  It is the character of your name.

There are a few strategic steps to discovering and implementing your Brand:

  1. Discover what your Brand/Focus is… and is not.
  2. Find your Place within your industry.
  3. Define your Target Audience
  4. Competitive Comparisons
  5. Discover your Opportunities and Low-hanging Fruit
  6. Develop SEO strategy based on your Brand
  7. Evaluate results

When a clear objective is kept in mind, the primary Focus becomes clear. At the end of each cycle, evaluation of results based on your Brand will increase conversion of lead/visit/customer acquisition in your target market thus increasing your overall return on investment.

The Importance of Design: 3 seconds to make a First Impression.

Have you ever hired a website design/marketing company that built a website or ad and then weeks or months later you realize that the site they built is ugly? One of the worst things that can happen to a business is to have a bad company image in the form of a website, logo, or advertisement. This has detrimental results when your website or ad fails to generate leads. You really don’t get a second chance to make a first impression when you only have about 3 seconds before your clients are make a deciding opinion about you.

Confucius Say: “Too many hands make bad web design”

The challenging part is that most of the time, the template or design that was picked in the beginning of the ad-making or web-design process was beautiful. Too many hands in the pot creates something doesn’t even resemble the edgy design that spoke of flow and harmony that you originally chose. There doesn’t seem to be a way to prevent the degradation of your company image when so many people clamor to have their ideas “flash” and “pop” on in the front. Now let me be clear, I am not down-playing a call-to-action; however, too many calls-to-action confuse clients, create very ugly designs, and produce very few leads.

Get to the Point. Find your Purpose.

The solution is to find your purpose behind your web design or ad and stick to it. Your Sales Department sells cars. Your Service Department services cars. Your Finance department finances loans. Your Accessories department sells accessories. Sounds simplistic because it is. Any business will fail if they do not stick to their business model and follow their business plan. The same is true in advertising. Before making a quick decision when each new 3rd party lead provider walks in the door to “put a big button on my home page for this great new feature,” stop and consider what your website or ad’s primary purpose is.

Don’t Forget the Meat & Potatoes.

What do your clients come to your website to do? They are interested in buying a car or getting their car serviced. If there are too many things distracting them and getting in the way of them doing those things… you’ve lost your lead.

Leads dropping by 30% from last year?

It is no surprise to anyone that a statement like “the world has changed in the past year” has affected everyone in the automotive space in a big way. Belts are tighter, economists are wringing their hands, and car leads are seemingly drying up. It is also no small wonder that lead sources that dealers have depended on so heavily in the past years such as Cars.com, Autotrader.com, and AutoByTel are raising their prices and providing fewer and often un-qualified leads. This is a big problem.

Overcoming this situation forces us to be smarter at the way we approach the acquisition of leads. Customers are smarter and dealers must adopt a holistic approach to online marketing. Overall automotive industry leads are down nearly 30% but that doesn’t mean the customers aren’t still out there. One of the best things that members of the automotive industry are good at is networking and keeping relationships. Unfortunately, that hasn’t made its way into the online space. If by treating a dealership website just like a brick and mortar dealership, horizons can be expanded to reach customers where they are by means of networking, social interaction, constant contact, and friendly support.

Okay, so this may be an idealistic situation and it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The world is changing though and the way that people communicate is changing also. Here are a few examples:

  • The average teenager sends over 1000 text messages per month.
  • The average age of a facebook user is 35 years old.
  • The normal internet user would rather be emailed then pick up a phone.

To put this in dealership terms when we take a look at our processes, both fixed and variable, we have to be able to use all of the tools that are available to reach out to where customers live. That may be by text message, facebook or twitter, email, missed opportunities in old customers, accessories, or simply by an interesting and regular communication with information that can’t be ignored.

So overcoming a 30% downturn in leads is actually possible. It just takes a bit of a process change. This may be painful, but no guts – no glory, right?

3 Ways to Overcome Bad Yelp Reviews

A special thanks to Tom Pellegrino for his contribution to this post:

Quote:

I actually have a few friends that work at Yelp have have talked to them about this exact thing … the criticism from business owners is that some user reviews are unfair, and there isn’t a proper mechanism in place to work out issues related to bad reviews (or bogus ones by people with an axe to grind, or even the competition themselves – which in the BMW case, some look suspiciously like a rival dealership). Yelp’s stance has always been – community first, consumer/user second and businesses last.

I can only recommend two things:

They can reach out to the bad reviewers via private message (but only once I think) … I suggest they do something more than just apologize or ask “what can we do to make you feel better” … actually invite them to the dealership for a free oil change or something similar, then ask them to post a follow-up review.

Otherwise, they’ll need to take a proactive approach to educating people about their business listing on sites like Yelp.com and citysearch, etc and ask for them to review their experiences at the dealership … perhaps even put a placard on the front counter, or a sticker in the window that say, “hey, we’re on yelp.com – review us!”

They’ll also need to constantly review their profile on sites like yelp, looking for bad reviews … I also suggest they get in a habit of sending messages of appreciation to positive reviews as well.

This is community building. At the end of the day, all dealerships are going to have pissed customers … it’s the dealers responsibility (and ours too as a service provider) to educate themselves on the tools out there and learn how to incorporate them into their everyday marketing efforts.

…. The third option would be to do business w/ yelp as an advertising business with an enhanced profile .. those negative reviews miraculously disappear or get buried – yelp’s been called out on the carpet for this many times. Sometimes they’ve even removed bad reviews the day before a sales call, only to have them put back up after a “no thanks”.

Google Site Performance Tool in Webmaster Tools

I recently discovered the “Performance Tool” under the Labs section in Google Webmaster Tools. I was pleased to find out that the sites that I host are faster than 89% of websites that are monitored by Google Webmaster Tools. To find the Performance Tool, log into Google Webmaster Tools, click the new “Labs” menu link and select “Site Performance.”

This tool will show a graph by day of the average loading time for pages on your website. It is also very helpful for suggesting ways of increasing your site’s speed. Here are a few of my favorite recommendations for speeding up your site:

  • Decrease photo size. Always optimize photos for the web. A great (free) program that lets you do this is: http://www.irfanview.com/
  • Be careful of embedded objects. Social media sites offer many embedded objects these days and it is easy to drag your site down with lots of plug-ins. Examples: youtube, facebook badge, sharing buttons, flickr slideshows.
  • Minimize DNS lookups. This is similar to the recommendation above, but if possible don’t frame in pages from other sites or display photos hosted on another URL.
  • Combine external CSS. Getting rid of bloated code is always helpful and will speed up any website. Consolidating server side files will decrease the number of lookups and increase your website loading time.

Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with this tool. If anything, you will make your visitors happier that the page appears quickly. I know I’m frustrated by this when I’m accessing sites from my tethered cell phone.

Review on Widscale Social Networking Update Tool

http://ping.fm I discovered this tool today for utilizing wide-scale social networking broadcasting. It made me stop to think about the sheer number of social sites that I subscribe to and keep up with along with the time spent massaging the my total online social status. The light came on with this tool and this being the first post that I am sending out using ping.fm, I am looking forward to the ability to shorten my work-load all the while widening my social reach with social networking avenues that I have not yet harnessed.

This method of social broadcasting can be very useful to link building, branding, and in general creating a buzz. My only reservation about a system like this is the obvious problem with unique user generated content since I refuse to copy and paste any of my written work to multiple social networking areas. This method will certainly be studied and monitored. There must be some value to sheer hard work with creating unique content since as we all know, “content is king.”

Launched Video gets over 73,000 Impressions

It started out as a bad problem with one irritated customer who decided to bad-mouth Hendrick MINI on YouTube resulting in a first-page Google listing for the bad review. After consulting with izmocars, the solution to this problem was presented. The only way to get rid of the bad review was to bury it with good videos. It took about an hour to walk around the dealership collecting videos with a common digital camera (www.flipvideo.com camera recommended) as well as downloading the available videos from the MINI manufacturer website. These videos were uploaded and marketed across the web totaling about 20 videos in all. The bad review was buried within 24 hours. One of the videos went Viral (became very popular) and has received over 73,000 views so far.

Video Link: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2790186/hendrick_mini_toll_booth/