Google’s New Emphasis on it’s Own Reviews

Written by cormiston. Posted in Google Places, Local Marketing, SEO, Social Media

Google has changed the layout of their Google Places yet again.  In fact…they have removed all references to other review sites except for user reviews from Google.  It is widely known the issues Google has had with Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other review sites in the past, it seems they have done away with listing these 3rd party reviews in lieu of their own. With the popularity of local search and the rush for placement, Google is constantly changing it’s features and placement of items on a regular basis.  Google announced this new look on Thursday and mentioned that there are still more changes to hit soon.  With a new emphasis on Photos to show the business and it’s products/services it’s clear that they are helping businesses target their audience who recognize their businesses from the pictures.

Some other changes are apparent with their new emphasis on their own reviews (big surprise).  It only makes sense that they trust their own reviews more than other sites because they can control the authenticity of these reviews easier.  With the rash of outsourced reviewers from countries such as India and the Philippines, Google is beginning to crack down on these bogus reviews in place of those placed from Google users.

You will notice the BIG RED “Write a Review” button to encourage their users to write reviews right from Google Places.   This gives them greater control to manage people who post reviews for a restaurant in New Jersey from their office in Hyderabad, India.

While citation sites may still play a role in authenticating the place of business, it’s clear that external reviews are now gone from Google Places.  This is both good and bad.  Bad for all the companies who have accumulated excellent reviews from their customers (which no longer count towards their popularity), and good for companies who would like to get more reviews.

It has been very difficult for Social Marketing agencies to help companies instruct small business’s  loyal fans on how to write reviews.  They would have a lengthy instruction manual starting with how to sign up for an account on Yelp, or Judy’s Book.  Then end with a convoluted explanation on how to post the correct company name (spelled exactly like this…), address, and Phone number.  Now, it’s plain simple…..”Click the red button when you find us on Google Places”.  This should make it much easier for businesses to obtain more reviews.   This will also start a brand new wave of massive reviewing to rank their places listings.

So whether you are looking for a great restaurant in your area, or marketing for other companies….you can expect more changes to come with Google Places.



12 Promotion Methods for Your Blog

Written by cormiston. Posted in Blogging, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media

Image representing Squidoo as depicted in Crun...

One of the hardest things about starting a new blog is attracting readers.  Unless you have the fortune of already being a well-known or well-loved blogger who has fans, you’re going to have to do a bit of work to get your blog out there and known to the masses.

1. Turn your posts into articles.

A great way to spread around links to your blog is to create articles out of your posts.  There are several free sites where you can post articles about a variety of topics, including EzineHubPagesSquidoo, and Buzzle.  By creating an article to post, you can advertise your blog in a resource line underneath the body of your text.  Provide a link and people will know where to go for more information.  This also helps by providing links to your blog that a search engine spider can crawl and find, helping your search engine ranking as well.

2. Alt Text

Label the alt text on your pictures that are featured in your posts.  A great post on Social Media Today talks about the importance of labeling your alt text.  Labeled pictures help your images get pulled by major search engines when someone searches under for those keywords reflected in your label.  Here’s a great tip sheet on how to choose labels.  And don’t forget, that posting pictures to your blog is always preferable to no pictures, as pictures increase the value and quality of your content!

3. Sign up for a subscription service.

People still rely on e-mail to know about the newest and latest products, and your blog posts are no different.  Services like Feedburner will let people follow you and will send them an e-mail when your blog is updated.  There are other services if you want more control over your lists, but having an option to be updated by e-mail is a good idea.  Plus, e-mail brings on the possibility of readers forwarding on your post to a non-subscribed friend.

4. Build links.

This one may be intimidating for new bloggers, but one way to get readers to come to your blog is by exchanging links with similar minded blogs.  Is your blog on movies?  Look for other comparable movie blogs and ask if they want to switch links with you.  Post intelligent comments on other blogs, engage in other blog communities, or include links to your blog in you Facebook page, Twitter profile, etc.  No one likes a spammer, but people are generally reasonable about helping.  Link to small sites without exchange, and chances are, they’ll link to you in return.  Beware of linking to big sites, however, as they may not even realize you’re linking, and there’s a good chance they won’t bother returning the favor.

5. Optimize!

Just like search engine optimization for websites, optimize your blog for search engines.  There are several ways to do this that we list in a previous article written (ADD LINK TO SARAH’S ARTICLE).

6. Ping your site.

There’s debate about how useful pinging actually is, but it never hurts to send a ping out to services and search engines to let them know that you’ve updated.  That way, your website is updated in search engine rankings and the service will include your newest post with your new keywords when someone does a search for them.  Here’sa great way to ping with one click.

7. Set up other social media sites.

Set up a Youtube account to display video you want to share.  Create a Twitter account and update it daily, if not more than once daily.  Make a Facebook Fan Page and start advertising to your friends!  By having these sites set up, you are reaching a wide and varying audience at times.  Each of these sites allow you to post a link to your site in your Tweet/update/profile and you’re just creating more links on other sites for those search engines to find.  And be sure to add widgets and plugins that let people share your post on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc.

8. Invite guest bloggers.

Do you know someone who blogs about the same topics as you, and has a fan base?  Ask them to submit a short blog post.  They may or may not agree, but if they do, chances are they’ll let their own followers know where to find the post and you can get some of their traffic.  Maybe a few will even stick around!  Be sure you get permission to edit their post, however.  Disagreements about this can be nasty and you don’t want to be locked into posting something blind as what they submit could be complete junk.

9. Go to conventions.

If you can afford it and are serious about your blog making it, consider going to conventions.  Believe it or not, there are blog expos, conventions, and fairs out there that you can appear at and meet other bloggers.  This is a great way to network and can help you find that guest blogger.


No one likes great blogs that only post once a month.  Update at least once a week, it not more, and while you’re at it…

11. Write quality content.

The occasional LOLCats post is ok, and posting a great joke isn’t bad either, but write content consistently that is interesting to your market and readers.  If you’re writing about painting, write about it!  Use your own voice and write what you find is engaging and interesting.  If you enjoy writing about it, your passion will shine through and draw readers in.

12. Create a brand that people want to follow.

Respond to comments made.  Engage people on Twitter.  Address issues people have with your website.  Acknowledge your readership and audience and let them know that you paying attention!  People follow brands because they like what they promise.  Create your blog like you would a brand by offering something people want and something they can rely on for that want.  Be receptive and don’t put out the idea of having your readers interact with your blog.  Post a poll or ask what they’d like to see, and don’t ever forget that your audience is there!  After all, they can spread the word as well if they like what they see.


Blogging Platforms: #1 What Do I Use?!

Written by cormiston. Posted in Blogging, Blogging Platforms, Social Media

So you want to be a blogger! Maybe you’ve blogged hundreds of times, maybe a few, and maybe you’re just someone who skims blogs and has the sudden inclination to try it yourself. Good for you!

Now what blog service do you use?

If you didn’t know, there are dozens, if not several dozen blogging sites out on the Internet – and I’m only talking about the popular ones. It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out which is right for you, and like insurance or clothing, you want one that will give you the functionality that bests suits your interests.

So what type of blogger are you?

Chances are, you’re a hobbyists. According to Technorati.com, hobbyists make up the largest percentage of their annual survey of the blogosphere (other categories included self-employed, part-timers, and professionals).

72% of respondents in the 2009 survey said they blog for fun, usually about whatever is on their mind. Most of these hobbyists update weekly and don’t make money off their online blog.

However, some people blog professionally and do make good money; some even make six figured salaries that would make doctors jealous! (Check out the 30 top earners!)

Granted, most of us won’t be making that much a year in our lives. But still, we blog anyway, and as you can suspect, the needs of a recreational blogger are different from a professional or power blogger.

First, decide what you want to use your blog for. For fun, for profit, for advertising? Who do you want to see this blog? How many people do you want to reach, if any? How you use your blog is going to help determine which blogging platform you choose.

For example, a hobbyist blogger won’t care if they have their host site in the blog title URL (ex. blogtitle.blogspot.com). It doesn’t necessarily matter that their blog doesn’t have it’s own domain name as the blog is for fun or for personal venting.

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to advertise your business or company with a blog, having the host site in your URL name might not be professional enough, and could make your blog seem to have less authority. Thus, a TypePad blog might be a better choice.

Also consider how customizable you want your blog. Do you want to post and go, or do you want to be able to tweak how many columns the page has, where such features as Follow Me Twitter banners are, and etc. Again, some blogs are more customizable, and can range in ease of usage from caveman-easy to HTML-expert. One way to promote your blog or company is with Name Dynamics, Inc.

Now that you’ve decided what exactly you are going to use your blog for, we’re going to review five of the more well-known blog sites in the next few posts. We’ll look at four categories: cost (free or paid host), customization (how much can you edit and change), promotion (high traffic or low search engine optimization?), and use (who would use it).

In the next post, we will be looking at five top blogging platforms that have at least three privacy settings (public, private, and protected) and have the basic abilities to edit HTML, spell check, edit text, add widgets, set up RSS feeds, and many more features that are considered basic.

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