When’s the last time you actually looked up a business in a phone book? It’s probably been years for me.

Whether I’m looking for a plumber or a pizza place, I turn to Google (sorry, Bing). It’s faster and more efficient. Within seconds, I can find the local businesses I’m looking for. And not only can I get their contact information, but I can read reviews, view images, and get directions for that business.

Phone Book

Naturally, this means local businesses face a new challenge: building an online presence. With people like me turning to search engines, it’s important that local plumbers and pizzerias appear in those results pages. Otherwise, people are going to take their business elsewhere.

Luckily, though, the challenge isn’t as daunting as you may think. There are a number of tools on the Web to help local businesses boost their search engine visibility.
Here are two of my favorites.

Yext
Yext Power Listings Plus is a unique tool that can help add rich content that answers the “who, what and the when” of any business. Yext allows businesses to add dynamic product listings, professional bios, event calendars and more to their listings on over two dozen sites. Everything gets controlled from a central account. When a listing is displayed it has the option to give deeper results. It can help include a menu to a restaurant, different products or services businesses offer, calendars of all types and biographies of individuals working at an office such as a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, etc. Rather than just making the listing, this product helps explain the listing. It is imperative to have rich content associated with a business listing. This enhances the user experience by delivering more information to your visitors. You want the listing to be as helpful as possible. You can maintain the information of all of the listings from one location on Yext.

Yext

Whitespark
Whitespark offers a local citation finder. It hunts down citation sources all over the web for you after you submit a form with the company information. I like to use Whitespark more and more as a research tool, shedding light on where the competitors are using their citations and knowing where other citations are needed. The tool requires the country, state, city and a main keyword relating to the business. Once you submit the information, it will search for as many citation sources you can get your company listed on. Once the search has ended you can go ahead and see all the other sites that are ranking for that specific keyword and see where they have their site’s listed. It will show all sites that are ranking on the first page for that localized key term. You have the option to see all the citations that those sites’ currently use. It will display the type of site, the Domain Authority, and whether or not your site is currently listed there. The coolest thing about it is that it gives you the option to submit the URL to your site or even submit the entire business’s information. All in all, Whitespark gives you the option to see where all the top ranking competitors are getting their sites listed.

Whitespark, a local citation finder.
These two tools should help get your local business a nice jump start. Hopefully with these two tools, you can start to build your online presence and no longer rely on the hopes and prayers that people find you in the phone book.

Google continues to roll out new offerings with their primary product: search. Moving into the mobile market, the social space, and other areas, Google has constantly been trying their hand at new functions, growing their reach and relevance, and for their sake, an ever-increasing user-base that enjoys what they offer.

Even in the midst of a projected push from Google for mobile development by industry analysts, search remains their focus, and obviously their primary driver of revenue (ppc) and web dominance. Many of these offerings have varying direct impacts on SEO and paid search, but many influence the overall experience with Google, which does ultimately impact how people use the search engine to find what they need.  With this context, we look at their latest offering impacting their search functionality – handwritten search queries.

How Relevant are Handwritten Queries?
Yes, they brought us voice and image searching, and now they are delivering a convenient handwritten search query capability for mobile devices. On smartphones and tablets, users can spell out the desired words via their own fingertips right onto the screen, and Google’s handwriting decryption technology translates it to text in the query box.

It remains to be seen how much more convenient than typing searches this features ends up being, and if it will become a preference of mobile users. Some feel this is simply a gimmick, and opinions will vary, however, there is worth to the function. Users on the go may find it easier to handwrite the desired search term or at least a few letters rather than bringing up the keyboard and typing.

In essence, the feature highlights the importance of Google Instant which will be prominently used with the handwriting feature. As seen in Google’s promotional video for the feature, often users will not type the entire word or phrase, but only handwrite a few letters and then rely on the Google Instant results to connect them to the right query. This is a connecting step, but not a large one.

SEO Implications
Due to its sole use on mobile, local SEO for businesses serving specific markets is most directly impacted. Local businesses must be sure to optimize for the most relevant keyword that people would be likely to “handwrite” and optimize that term for their specific location. People will most likely only be writing one or two words, so when people search this one term, for example, from their handwritten search, businesses want to make sure they are represented in the SERPs in their localized market as the search engine will return the most relevant results for that term in that specific area where the search was done, unless another area was specified.

With reliance on Google Instant that this feature brings, businesses and their marketers need to be aware of what the Google Instant results are for words related to your business or keywords, and evaluate the worth of optimizing for them. Do so only if they directly relate to information on your site and the main products and services you offer, otherwise building out such content would be pointless for you (non-conversion traffic) and misleading for the user.

Otherwise, this will be fun to track how much it gets used and what else search-related it impacts. Next up…will this handwritten search functionality start showing up in secondary searches on ecommerce and search-reliant sites.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen(at)webimax.com and @ryanwbudd for thoughts or comments on this or other topics.

It seems not a week can go by without Google raising more alarms within the SEO community. Online businesses that have been watching their web analytics over the last few weeks may have noticed some alarming trends. Traffic has been dropping steadily for many online companies and the page rankings have been falling along with it. While not everyone has been affected by these disturbing trends just yet, more and more pages are experiencing the impact of Google’s constant search engine revisions.

Just this past weekend, webmasters checked their analytics to find that their sites were hit severely by what many suspect is a silently rolled-out Google search engine update. From Friday through Sunday, site traffic and Google referrals changed so dramatically that a fair bit of speculation has been made as to whether Google has already begun implementing its long-promised search algorithm overhauls. While no one can say for certain whether the weekend’s traffic trends were a result of the Easter holiday or something nefarious from within Google itself, the fact is that many people have already begun to panic once more.

Times are Changing and SEO is Changing with It

Regardless of whether your company’s website is already SEO friendly or has yet to be optimized for search engine relevance, the fact is that every site online today will need to be prepared for the coming months. Many businesses and even some webmasters still haven’t heard the news of Google’s upcoming massive Panda update, which will include revisions to punish sites with excessive SEO activity. Because of the update, everyone is waiting on pins and needles as countless search engine result pages will appear radically different in only a few weeks’ time. So how does one best prepare for the future?

As WebiMax continues to revise its own SEO development practices for the upcoming Panda update, we strongly recommend that every online business and organization owner revises his or her own web content. In the past, internet companies could observe simple SEO practices and implement them in order to create more search engine friendly sites. Yet with Google radically revamping how its search algorithm operates, many of the techniques the SEO industry has come to rely upon are going to fall by the wayside very soon.

We have the Solutions you Seek

Always forward-thinking and progressive, WebiMax has been working overtime with its clients to better prepare them for the looming threat of the new Google algorithm. Our staff of expert SEO developers and project managers works together with businesses to provide exceptional local SEO support and a design process that yields proven results every time. Even though the future may be an unsure time for many internet companies, we are able to provide a little peace of mind in the days ahead. With Webimax here to help, no online business owner needs to panic.

If you’re more curious about the upcoming Panda updates, we suggest reading more about it. We are proud to offer a great overview on the topic. It can be read here.