4 Do It Yourself Local Search Marketing Tips

I’ve been finding alot of uses for SEO lately in the local business arena.  So many small business owners are trying to supplement their marketing efforts by moving online, and many of these owners understand that online search is ‘where it’s at’.

So, because I’m a nice guy  😉   I want to reveal a few of the tactics I use to help small businesses succeed in local search:

Getting Started:

First, you’ll want to have a website of course.  Most small businesses already have this covered, and hopefully the site is at least somewhat search engine friendly.  There is alot that goes into this, but generally, if your site is text based, easy to navigate, and has helpful content, you are probably ok.

Next, you need to get it into your head that your website is more than an online business card.  It can work as a marketing tool too.  But this means that you have to commit to developing it (which I’ll touch on in a minute).  If you’re willing to spend the time writing, marketing the site, and networking online, you’ll stand a good chance of turning your local website into a successful business generator.

4 Local Search Marketing Tips For a Local Business Website

1)  Create More Content:

This is a really common tip in the internet marketing industry, but most local business owners don’t realize that they need to spend time writing and developing more valuable content on their sites.  Try to write a few new pages per month for the site.  Having trouble coming up with ideas?  Here are a few:

Martial Arts Studio: Publish up to date class schedules.  Take video of some talented students for the site.

Accountant: Articles on new tax code and how it will effect local tax payers.

Real Estate Agent: Publish up to date market reports on local housing market activity.

Plumber: Post helpful home plumbing tips, or seasonal information about maintaining your home.

Dentist: Publish coupons for certain services and write about proper care of teeth.

Local Marketing Consultant: Publish cases studies on previous successes you’ve had with other clients.

Hardware Store: Post on new inventory, or a new tool or equipment line you carry.

Hair Salon:  Post pictures of recent customers that had styling done.

Those are just a few… hopefully you get the point.  You need to have valuable content on the site in order for local visitors to even consider visiting.  It can also work as a great marketing hook and help you drive more search engine traffic based on all of the new content you are writing about.

2)  Reach Out To a Local Audience:

Surprisingly, this is rarely practiced among most business owners.  In order to be effective locally, you have to connect with a local audience.  This is just as important offline as it is online.  Local networking groups, clubs, chamber of commerce, recreational groups, etc.  All can be effective in getting your name out there.  Online is just as important depending on the size of your target market.  If you live in a location with less than 20,000 people, it may be difficult to find online communities to participate in.  But most of the time, there is alot of opportunity right under your nose in the local online scene…

  • Find local blogs and participate by commenting or writing guest articles.  Try to reach out to the author of the blog for networking or linking opportunities.  (this is where having useful quality content on your website would come in handy)
  • Find local message boards.  Usually the more popular ones will be on a local newspaper website, or a large national community site like Topix or Yelp.  Participate where available and don’t forget to place your website in the signature of your posts.
  • Give something away for free to other local business owners to earn their trust.  Even if you’re not targeting them directly as a customer, chances are they have a significant amount of influence and have their own client bases.  If you can build a solid relationship, they will probably recommend you to others.
  • Reach out locally with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and any social site that allows you to group together with local people.

3) Get Included in Local Directories

Very few people use the text version of the Yellow Pages anymore.  That market share has been snatched up by search engines, and other sites called IYP’s (Internet Yellow Pages).  These IYP’s are important to be listed on because a large number of people use them to find local business.  And when someone is looking for a local business they are usually in the mood to buy something…

You can start with the major sites like Google Local & Yahoo Local, but you’ll want to move on to some of the others such as:






There are a host of others, but ths will get you started.  If you’re interested in a service that will create all of these listings for you, try Universal Business Listing.  They will submit to about 40 sites for only $30.

4) Market the Website to Current Customers

The often overlooked audience of potential web marketing is your current customer base. They already know you and your business to some extent.  They trust you, and they are one of your largest sources of new business.

  • Do any of your customers have websites?  If so you should be exchanging links with them and talking about how you can help each other market.
  • Hand out some small cards with your website address, or social networking contact information.
  • Start an email marketing list that continuously offers coupons, special services and reminders.
  • Place your website and calls to action to your website on every piece of marketing material you have.
  • Provide exclusive web content.  Tell people that you have special online only coupons, or some other valuable information that they can only get online.

I hope these tips were helpful.  Keep a look out for a special small business marketing DIY checklist I’ll be publishing soon…

More Reasons Why Quality Content is Important

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you probably realize by now that the best way to market online is through quality content.  By content I mean: articles, posts, pictures, video, etc…  I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you that putting quality stuff on your website is the best way to market.  But besides from the obvious, why is this the case?

I just want to review a few reasons WHY quality content is important.

People Don’t Care About You And Your Business

I hate to break it to you, but people could really care less about you, your business, and your website.  If I’m going to take the time to visit your website, I want to know what is in it for me.

  • People don’t visit websites just for fun
  • People don’t visit websites because they’re curious
  • People don’t visit websites because they have nothing better to do
  • People don’t visit websites because they can’t help but spend money


Think about it.  Why would you visit some random website unless there was actually something valuable for you there.  Give your visitors something real, or at least create the perception of value.

100% Commercial Content = Buzzkill

Nothing can kill a website or blog faster than spammy commercialized content.  We’ve all seen it.  You click a link and find yourself on a website that only talks about how great it is.  In fact, if this website were a person it would have an ego size comparable to Beckham.

No one wants to see a website that is obsessed with self promotion.

Why Building Quality Content is Best For SEO

In case you didn’t know, building authoritative links is one of the best ways to improve your ranking in search engines.  And there are plenty of ways to build those links… but the best way is to write/build/share something on your website that is of true value.  When you do that, people will be much more likely to link to you.

If you create a website that simply talks about how great your company is but doesn’t actually provide anything of value, you shouldn’t expect to get any respect from the internet community.  Traslation: no links.


Last Thoughts…  If you are one of these companies that have made these errors, there is still hope for you.  Simply create something of value for your website visitors, and stop making people drink from your firehose of self promotion.

firehose of self promotion

The Publisher’s Guide to Understanding RSS

RSS is such an interesting technology.  It has truly spearheaded a complete mind shift in the way people design, look at, and interact with the internet.

When I first read an e-book in 2003 about this new RSS technology that was becoming more mainstream, I have to admit, it was a little fuzzy.  The only RSS readers available were software programs you had to download and install.  Only a few sites even published RSS feeds, and the few popular blogs that existed only had a handful of subscribers.  But even in my ignorance, I ran out to get a blog realizing at the time, that it was one of the fastest and cheapest ways to publish your own RSS feed.

Now look at where we are today!  Most sites that publish content on a regular basis have an RSS feed.  All blogs have one, or multiple feeds.  We have over a dozen very high quality web based RSS readers that keep getting better, and subscription options are more plentiful than ever.

Awareness of RSS is still growing, and it has really begun to pick up steam in the last 2 years.  Even for people that aren’t very technically saavy… it’s easier than ever to get them plugged in as an RSS subscriber through new easy to use tools.

Still Unclear About RSS?  Here are some resources and a video that will help:

Great Video Explaining RSS:

If you are just getting started, I highly recommend the new version of bloglines, which can be found at: http://beta.bloglines.com or Goolge Reader.  Both offer easy ways to subscribe to new feeds, and are really easy to manage.  I particularly like Bloglines because it has a great folder organizing option, and automatically checks off articles you’ve already read.

Quick Steps to Getting Started as an RSS User/Reader/Subscriber

If you are still unclear about how to sign up to an RSS feed, I’ll make it really easy for you:

Step 1:  Make sure you have Firefox 3.0, or Internet Explorer 7 or 8 installed.

Step 2: Navigate to a website you want to subscribe to.

Step 3: Find the Orange RSS Icon rss in the browser bar and click on it.  (some sites don’t have an RSS feed)

RSS Tutorial

Step 4: Choose Your feed reader

rss 2.0

Step 5: Visit your RSS reader to make sure you subscribed (optional)

RSS is my friend

Do You Publish An RSS Feed?  If You Have a Blog, Then The Answer Is YES!!

In this post, I want to review not only what it means to be an RSS user/reader/subscriber, but what it means to be an RSS publisher! If you have a blog, chances are you already have an RSS feed

First, find your RSS feed by navigating to your website or blog and following the instructions I gave above.

This RSS feed is important, it’s your lifeline to your readers.  One of your primary goals as a blogger is to get as many people as possible to subscribe to your feed.  The beautiful thing about RSS is that your content will be pushed to your subscribers.  You won’t have to trust that people will come back to your blog every time they want to read your articles (which isn’t likely to happen).

Your basic RSS feed is a good thing, but it can have it’s shortcomings…

What is Feedburner, and Why Should You Care?

Feedburner is a Google owned company (as of recently), that is in the business of RSS delivery.  In a nutshell, they will take your plain old RSS feed, and will provide a number of services including:  more browser flexibility, more subscription options, subscriber statistics, RSS email delivery, and alot more…  Feedburner is your RSS feed on steroids.

If you are serious about getting RSS subscribers, giving your readers more flexibility, viewing subscriber stats, and delivering your feed via email, then I HIGHLY suggest you sign up for feedburner.

Getting Your RSS Feed Set Up With Feedburner:

Step 1: Sign up for an account at Feedburner.com

Step 2: “Burn” your RSS feed.  (tell Feedburner to start managing your RSS feed)

Step 3: You’re done…. wasn’t that easy?  Now you simply need to promote your feed.

How to Promote Your Feedburner Email Subscription Form

Next I want to go over a few ideas for promoting your Feedburner email form.  You’ve probably noticed by now that the html form I showed you last time isn’t compatible in many places.  You can’t place it into many blog platforms, and you can’t place it in your email signature.  Unfortunately, there are many places you can’t place an html form.  But, the good news is that you have other options.

Just because you don’t have a nice form to give to people doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.  At this point, I think it would be helpful to point out where you can get a hyperlink to your email form.  A hyperlink has ultimate versatility.  You can attach it to a banner or button, you can put it in your email signature, you can create a text link… you can use it just about anywhere.

But, to get the link you need, you’ll have to follow a couple steps.

First, navigate to your Feedburner feed.  Mine is at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/hismove

Then, follow these steps:

Feedburner is good

Make sure to hang on to this link.  Bookmark it, write it down, whatever… just don’t lose it.  You’ll want to use it later.

Pretty simple so far right?  Remember, you can take this link just about anywhere to allow people to sign up via email.

In my opinion, your email subscription tool is one of the most powerful in your entire arsenal.  You should be promoting it religiously everywhere you leave a footprint online.  You can even promote it offline if you have the means.  I had a student that sent out blog announcements to their SOI offering a free $5 Starbucks card for the first 50 email subscribers.  It was a great way to build awareness and get new subscribers.

Tips on Increasing Your RSS Subscribers

Here are some tips that I’ve personally used to help increase my RSS subscribers:

  1. Write Great Content – Ok, ok… it’s not earth shattering, but you have to have a solid base to work from.  If you write bad articles, building a subscriber base will be excruciatingly difficult.
  2. Write Consistently – This was found to be one of the number one reasons why people UN-subscribe from a blog.  Lack of consistency will kill you.  Even if you can only realistically write 2 posts per month, that’s better then setting a 1 post/day precedent, then not writing for 3 weeks.
  3. Give Some Incentive – People like free stuff.  A gift card can work well, but if you’re working on “the cheap”, try offering a free e-book to subscribers.  If you promote it right you’ll create a great value, and build your subscribers at the same time.  If you really want to get advanced, you could offer exclusive content in the feed itself.  This would create a sort of “secret tips” feed that only your subscribers can see.  There is a post here on how to do it.
  4. Don’t Just Promote It On Your Blog – If you’re like most bloggers, you probably have a pretty large online footprint… Social Networking, Forums, Bookmarking, Social Media…  these are all places where you can promote your feed.  We typically use our websites as a signature, but why not our RSS URL’s as well?
  5. Publish a Full RSS Feed – It’s tempting to want to publish a truncated version of your feed to try to drive traffic back to the site, but it rarely works like that. What you end up doing is just making people mad.  This was listed as the 3rd most popular reason why people UN-subscribe from blogs.
  6. Place an RSS Icon in a Prominent Place – This is an easy one, but you’d be suprised how much it can help.
  7. Seek Out People that Didn’t Confirm – One of the frustrations of Feedburner is that it’s a double opt-in system.  It’ good for protecting spam, but sometimes people will try to subscribe but never confirm their subscription.  These people are listed in your Feeburner account.  Simply email them again asking them to confirm their subscription.
  8. Stay on Topic & Don’t Overpost – These were both popular reasons why people UN-subscribed from blogs.  If you write a mortgage news blog, don’t write about what you had for breakfast.  No one cares.  And if you’re a prolific writer, try to keep it down to 1 per day.  Each post you write should be very high quality.  If you have too much to say try using Twitter as an outlet…
  9. Write Great Content – Um… did I already mention this?

I hope this guide was helpful to you as an RSS publisher.  Please email me if you have any questions about how to implement the above tips and suggestions on your site.

Oh… and don’t forget to sign up to my blog!   😉

Email:  www.searchingsolutions.com/email

RSS: www.searchingsolutions.com/rss

8 Unique Ways to Use Google Alerts To Capture New Customers


What are Google Alerts?

I’ve heard some talk lately about Google alerts, and I was interested to find that there seemed to be quite a few people that have never used them before or didn’t know how to use them properly.

If you do have Google Alerts already set up, don’t tune me out yet! There may be a few ideas in here that you haven’t tried yet…

Google alerts are notifications that you receive by email when a particular search query you have pre-set gets found by Google. The most common is a URL alert. For example, I could tell Google that I want it to notify me every time it finds a new mention of: http://www.hismove.com/blog anywhere on the internet.

To set up an alert, go to www.google.com/alerts

You’ll immediately notice a few options for the type of search you can perform although I usually suggest just choosing the “comprehensive” search so you cover all the bases.

The most common searches most bloggers enter in are:

  1. Their own URL(s)
  2. Their full name (usually in quotes)
  3. A keyword they are targeting

Those are all great alerts that every blogger should have set up… but let me suggest to you a few more ideas that may help:

How to Set Up Unique Google Alerts

  1. Treat the “Search Terms” setup on the alerts like it’s a real Google search box. It can include operators that will help you find specific things you might be looking for. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try this page on Google Search Operators. An example would be an alert like: [keyword site:www.wikipedia.org] this alert would notify you every time a specific keyword was found on wikipedia. Play around with some of the different operators… you may get some interesting results.
  2. Set up an alert that focuses on the keywords you want to rank for. Such as: [“port orange real estate listings”]. Make sure to put quotes around the phrase so you don’t get unrelated results. You can immediately see the value in a search like this because it will let you know who else is writing about that particular phrase, essentially identifying your competition. You may want to consider excluding your domain name from this search so your results don’t get skewed. Here is the command: [port orange real estate -www.portorangejuice.com]
  3. Set up an alert for a phrase about your community like: [“port orange schools”] or [“port orange local events”]. This will allow you to keep tabs on what is going on in your community, and can often turn into ideas to write about on your blog depending on what is popular within your local community.
  4. Search for customers. This one is the most undervalued of them all! What are your potential customers looking for? Are they asking specific questions online about your market? Take some time and think through this… then set up a few test alerts. Here are some examples for the real estate industry: [“how do i find foreclosure properties in port orange”], [“how much is my port orange house worth”], [“where can I find port orange homes for sale”], [“looking for new home incentives in port orange”]… In case you haven’t noticed, buyers and sellers are online. And they are actively asking questions about real estate in their area. The hard part is how to find them… that is where Google alerts comes in. It will do the hard work for you. Once you find someone that is asking a question, or needs help, simply go to the page and respond to their inquiry. Sometimes this might be a question on a Yahoo Group, or a question on Trulia Voices, or maybe even a question about a specific property on Zillow.com. Don’t be afraid to set up 50+ alerts for specific search phrases. These are real leads, and because of the specific nature of the query, you probably won’t get more than a couple alerts per week.
  5. When setting up an alert for your website, don’t just put in your home page, try putting in specific URL’s for popular articles you’ve written so you can see who is writing about those specific topics.
  6. For less important searches, choose the “once a week” notification option so you aren’t inundated with emails every day at random.
  7. Spy on your competition. Try some alerts like this: [link:www.mycompetition.com], [“keyword” site:www.mycompetition.com], [allintitle:”keyword” site:www.mycompetition.com]
  8. One last tip… this tip exploits the fact that most popular bloggers have Google alerts set up for their website and name. Start linking out to some famous bloggers and see what happens. In most cases you will see that person you linked to come around to your blog within 24 hours to check it out. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to people you want to connect with. You can build quite a reputation for yourself in a short amount of time by linking out to other bloggers you respect. This is hugely important to the new blogger trying to make a splash in the blogosphere.

I hope some of those tips helped. If you have any other ideas, please share them here!

How to add a feedburner feed into your email signature

Syndicating your content is pretty important these days. My students often get overwhelmed when I tell them all the places they need to submit their blog to including social bookmarking sites, activerain, carnivals… the list goes on and on.

Things can get more complicated when you try to market your blog on and offline, and you can quickly get burned out with manually adding your blog to hundreds of different places.

Well, here’s an easy way to get your blog out to everyone that you converse with on a day to day basis through email. A banner in your email signature that shows people your most recent posts, and provides them with a link to the blog itself.

First, you should have a feedburner account. If you don’t, get one.

Second, login and navigate to Publicize, then Headline Animator

Then, choose a clickthrough URL. By default, this will be your feedburner RSS feed, but I recommend changing it to your blog URL. You can also choose a theme, and customize it however you like.

Once you have customized it to your liking, click activate, and you will have a nice looking banner that rotates with your most recent posts.

Real Estate Marketing Tools

At that point, you have a number of options. Feedburner will provide you the code to post the banner on blogger, typepad, wordpress, and a number of different email platforms. It works well for most applications because it simply renders the banner as a graphic, and so any email program that lets you add html to your signature will work.

Alas, there is no support for html in gmail which is my email client of choice. But there are a few work arounds.

Adding a banner feed like this to your email is a great way to build awareness of your blog. There are a number of other ideas to create calls to action within your email, like providing a link for people to subscribe to the blog via email, or an RSS of the most recent comments on the blog. The possibilities are endless. Be creative, and drive traffic to your blog!!

How to Avoid Suffering From Blogging & Social Media Overload


As we enter into the golden age of blogging, and the maturity of social media websites like Facebook, Linkedin, ActiveRain, and others.  I’ve begun to see a trend emerging among real estate professionals.  Many of them simply don’t care about social networking, reading other blogs, participating in a community, or contributing in any way.  Does anyone else see that?

In some respects I even see that happening in my own online experience.  The hundreds of feeds in my Bloglines reader just don’t do it for me like they used to.  I broke my addiction to points on ActiveRain, and I’m totally bored with websites like myspace.

Maybe it’s just me… but there seems to be a similar sentiment with other bloggers that I talk to out there.  The focus has shifted more towards lead generation, and monetization.  Gone are my 2004 blogging days where I was simply excited just to receive 1 comment.

As we usher in a new generation of hungry bloggers, what will we see?  Will they spend alot of their time in social media or jump straight for the money and bypass all the time wasting sites out there?

Maybe I’m just growing weary of the number of options.  Who is able to manage 50 different profiles anyway?  The People I’ve seen that do it effectively are the full time guys that make a living from it based on advertising or some other model…  That’s great for them, but what about the real estate agent that only has 2 hours per week to develop an online presence?

Waste 30 minutes on facebook customizing your profile, take 15 minutes on Activerain to make a couple of comments, take another 15 to invite 2 friends to Linkedin, take 30 minutes browsing your rss reader, another 15 minutes reading top stories on digg… and what does that leave you?  15 minutes to actually spend time writing a blog post.

As I see it, there are a few solutions to this problem…

Define Your Goal:

How will you achieve your goal?

Here are some strategies, assuming you want to generate leads through blogging:

  1. Be diligent to write 3–4 new posts a week.  Most of these should be about a local market
  2. Put yourself on a strict regimen to blog.  Look at it like an appointment with your computer
  3. Block out your time:  1 hour writing, 30 minutes reading, 20 minutes commenting, 30 minutes researching, etc.
  4. If you want to network with other bloggers or real estate professionals, only do it to generate referral business
  5. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your blogging efforts, just stay focused on your goals.

How will you avoid getting sidetracked and wasting time?

  1. Don’t visit Myspace or Facebook during business hours (unless you have an exact strategy for generating business from them)
  2. Don’t waste time on Digg, Reddit, and other social bookmarking sites looking for something interesting to read
  3. Don’t use your Stumble toolbar unless you have a clear strategy to use it properly to drive traffic
  4. Don’t wander aimlessly around on the web looking for content… instead, set up an rss reader and block time out for reading
  5. Don’t waste time participating in Active Rain only for the points
  6. If you want to harness the power of the internet to generate business, cut out those time wasting activities that sidetrack you from the important stuff.

You have to ask yourself, “am I doing this for money, or is it just a hobby?”  The focused person who can answer that question definitively will be successful.


The Art of Puking Your Business Identity Onto the Internet

Normally, I’d place an appropriate picture relating to the title here, but decided that this time it wouldn’t be prudent.

This post was spawned off of an article I read by Brian Brady on the new real estate weblogging 101 website. Although I didn’t completely agree with his perspective on SEO, I understand where he is coming from. Basically, his method is… “puke” out your picture and sales pitch to every imaginable website or online space that lets you have a free profile and see what sticks.

Brian does a heck of alot of writing. You can find his work regularly on his blog, the Bloodhound Blog, NELA, ActiveRain, and an occasional guest post on other real estate related blogs.

He claims to have had over 1,000 online inquiries in the past 12 months which is pretty impressive. On my real estate related profile radar, I’d probably place his online presence in the top 20 of all real estate related people.

So how is this done? How does the average real estate agent or loan officer develop that kind of online presence? I thought it would be helpful to make a list of many of the places you can create an online profile, and network with people. Some are obviously more successful than others when it comes to generating business, but for this model, we are using the “puke” method. Place yourself in as many places as possible, write new content like your life depended on it, get your face and message to as many people as possible, and see what happens…

Real Estate Related Websites: (in no particular order)

ActiveRain.com — Quickly becoming the mother of all real estate community websites. Create a profile, start blogging and networking, and create some referral business from other members around the country.

Localism.com — Tie into your Active Rain account, and post articles and pictures about your local community.

Zillow.com — Lots of options here: Contribute articles to Zillow’s Wiki, post your listings, and… uhhh… other people’s listings, chat on Zillow’s Discussion board, or contribute to a neighborhood page

Trulia.com — Answer real estate related questions from the general public.

RealEstateVoices — Digg for real estate. If it is eventually able to create some more traffic for itself, having a high ranked profile may come in handy.

Inman Wiki — Similar to Zillow’s. Contribute articles to the general public about RE.

Yahoo! Answers — Similar to Trulia. Start answering people’s questions on real estate.

WannaNetwork.com — A Myspace clone for real estate agents

There are alot of options for getting your face out into the RE.net… be creative. Blogging is obviously huge. Take a tip from some of the more prolific real estate writers out there: start networking and maybe you could start guest authoring posts on popular RE blogs.

Participate in the conversation! – Start commenting on real estate blogs & on message boards where people are asking real estate related questions. If you can successfully set yourself up as an expert on any given topic, you will get leads. If you don’t know where people are asking real estate questions online, try setting up a Google Alerts account, and tell it to search for instances where people type in questions like: “when should I buy a house?”. When you see someone asking a question like that, go see if you can help that person.

Real Estate Forums & Message Boards: Point2Agent, Yahoo!, RealEstateForum.com, REW, AgentsOnline.net, CREN, RIS Media, Flipping Pad, RealTown

Get Your Content out to the General Public!

There are so many websites and tools that you can use to promote your real estate business. I’ll try to stick to the sites that deal with social networking, article distribution, online communities etc.

Social Networking:

Facebook.com – There are many great tools that can turn facebook into a fantastic networking tool, and they are adding more all the time.

Myspace.com – I personally can’t stand all the slutty ads that are targeted at my demographic, but some agents swear by the value of networking to a younger crowd with this social networking giant

Linkedin.com – A more professional approach to networking. More of a B2B kind of service, but still a helpful tool.

Mybloglog.com, friendster, orkut, biznik, ning, squidoo, Gather, Yahoo! & MSN Groups… the list goes on & on & on.

There are so many great ideas out there for marketing yourself online. Social media, and online discussion are only a couple of the ways real estate agents are finding success.

I could probably add another 5 pages to this post, but I think I’ll just stop with the websites that I have seen real estate agents be successful on. Large lists make my brain hurt anyway.