How to Make Sure Your Digital Marketing Strategy is Results-Driven 0

Posted by Alex-T

To measure, or not to measure?

When it comes to outlining potential metrics in digital marketing, I always ask myself a question: “Can I measure this?”

For the most crucial elements of your strategy, the answer will likely be yes. But digital marketing involves tons of metrics that we must track on a daily basis. The majority of the data we gather gives us a general understanding of what’s going on, yet keeps us too far away from reaching our business goals. For instance, Google Analytics alone has more than 75 standard reports and each of them can be modified, providing us with even more data. Trust me, it’s hard to stick to your goal if you delve too deep into analytics. So, yes, the struggle is real.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. In this article I’ll break down the most important steps you need to take when you are at the crossroads of defining your company’s short- or long-term digital marketing objectives. What if things go south, you ask? How do I fulfill my boss’ expectations? Will I ever be able to get over a failure? OK, let’s not get overly dramatic here. Read on to learn why I believe in the power of KPIs, reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, how to properly set up your “plan, act, measure, improve” routine, and which metrics can be deemed reliable when you work with digital marketing channels (and how to not get misguided by them).

Selecting the right goals

One question that you really don’t want to spend more than a few seconds answering is: “Was it worth it?” To ensure that the effort, time, and money you put into your marketing journey aren’t wasted, you need to have a clear vision of where you’re headed.

So how do you know which goals are right for you?

Your best bet would be to split your goals into two separate groups that are focused on:

  1. Business objectives
  2. Tracking your own internal progress

Now, let’s see what these goals are all about, and what achieving them entails.

Business goals

Bertie Charles Forbes once said, “If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business.”

Steering any type of business in the right direction is never a piece of cake. And no one ever called finding a roadmap for how to get there a no-brainer.

Goals are the essence of expectations — the expectations of your boss, your clients, the CEO of your company, or anyone else whose opinion should be taken into consideration when it comes to your business strategy. Will there be any room left for a compromise? It’s up to you to decide, since these goals aren’t “one-size-fits-all.”

But what I can tell you for sure is that you have to “keep it real” and ensure that your business goals are attainable and realistic. Setting them requires determination, hard work, and perseverance. Here are a couple of handy tips for you:

  1. Do some research and find out what the major current trends in your industry are. Is your industry growing rapidly? Numbers don’t lie. Look into the matter and find the percentage of growth.
  • Use Statista.com to can learn about your general industry trends. Statista is particularly useful when it comes to digital markets.
  • Another great place to learn about industry trends is SimilarWeb. They have a solid list of industries that should give you an insight about what traffic sources are the most advantageous and why.
  • Remember the past, live in the present, and think about the future. Gather as much historical data as possible. Historical data is vital — it helps predict the future of a company and a market.

    The results here should be delivered based on internal data gathered from Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, with an emphasis on the number and type of transactions and information about your clients. In order for the results to be accurate, this data has to be gathered for at least a few months. It’s essential to detect a trend because you need to understand the following issues:

    • Whether your business is affected by seasonality. For instance, the B2B SaaS industry normally experiences a recession close to the middle of July, and enters a ramp-up mode at the beginning of September. But without having YOY comparison at hand, you can’t say whether it’s a trend or not. Besides that, seasonality should also be taken into serious consideration if you’re planning to grow your conversions.
    • Trends will help you identify which channels have performed better. Sometimes you can see that an overall sessions’ trend in Google Analytics is rising on a monthly basis, but it could be due to paid channels boosting your traffic flow. In this case, something could be wrong with organic traffic. Analyzing trends allows you to see how various digital marketing channels differ from one another, what tactics you need to bear in mind, and what specific aspects to focus on.

    Are you looking to increase your bottom line? Willing to pump up your sales? Rome wasn’t built in a day. Think of a smaller goal that can be expanded upon rather than being apologetic at the end of the quarter. But don’t get too comfortable. Goals must challenge you. That’s how great things happen!

    And whenever you’re measuring your business goals, money is the most accurate indicator. The more, the merrier. What’s the point of all the hard work you put in if it doesn’t maximize the bang for your buck?

    Tracking your internal progress

    Previously, I mentioned that we get bombarded by all kinds of digital marketing data flowing from various channels or tools. This data will remain fruitless unless it correlates with your business goals, but this is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) become highly relevant. A KPI is a measurement that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving its key business objectives.

    If you lock down the right KPIs to track, you’ll insure yourself against making uneducated marketing decisions. Each company has unique needs. So when faced with choosing your KPIs, obviously you should go for those that will assist you in reaching your business goals, not obstruct you.

    Here I’d like to accentuate those KPIs that don’t assist you in accomplishing your business goals.

    Based on my past experiences, here’s what I’ve come to realize:

    1. In event marketing, it’s a common practice to use the number of leads gathered during an event as an indicator of success: the more, the merrier. The problem, however, is that this metric doesn’t really speak for the sales activity. You try to score as many leads as you can, desperately scan each and every badge, including those folks at the booth nearby, so that you can impress your boss with a big number. In the end, you may have a lot of leads, but most of them are going to be useless. What’s the point in having heaps of leads if your dominant KPI is sales? You could have had only two successful sales meetings but still reach your quota.
    2. Another metric that I think email marketers shouldn’t sweat at all is keeping your unsubscribe rate as low as it could possibly be.

      It makes no sense if what you’re after here is sales. No doubt, you should keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate, but it’s not a key metric here. Users who have unsubscribed aren’t interested in your services, so get over those clients and focus on the ones who are interacting with your messages. Try to increase the amount of these users. You need less people that have accidentally subscribed to your list, and more people that will open, click, and then purchase. Simple as that!

    Let’s say you want to set goals for your SEO strategy. The business goal here would be to increase your revenue streams from organic traffic. You also need to define an exact number to aim for in both the short and long term. However, in order to implement these tactics, you need to consider internal processes like:

    • Site visibility (rankings, content, backlinks)
    • On-page user behavior (bounce/exit rates, usability, session duration)
    • Technical considerations (site speed, redirects, accessibility, site structure)

    These groups are generic and will almost surely be different for every site out there, depending on which processes you focus on the most. The good thing is, once determined accurately, these internal metrics should help you understand whether your business goals are attainable early in the development stage.

    The power of experimentation

    When it comes to any business process, you should be open to experimentation. Data can give us clues about users’ past behavior, not about how they will respond to daring future changes — that is, if your process and your number of users allows for it. There’s no point in such a trivial exercise as an A/B test if you only have 100 users on a daily basis. Luckily there are plenty of other things that you can work on, such as operating within channels that allow you to see results in a short-term perspective. And where SEO is concerned, that definitely includes analyzing traffic, so that you can see whether getting a link from a particular site was worth the trouble.

    According to Jim Manzi, founder of Applied Predictive Technologies, and Stefan Thomke, a Harvard Business School professor, the process of experimentation is easier said than done, owing to a myriad of organizational and technical challenges.

    The authors of the article conclude that companies need to ask themselves several crucial, yet painfully obvious questions: Does the experiment have a clear purpose? Is the experiment doable? How can we ensure reliable results? Have we gotten the most value out of the experiment?

    Take a moment and think if you can answer any of these.

    Plan, act, measure, improve

    I see digital marketing as a combination of facts and judgement. There’s no one analytic approach that can ultimately tell you you’re on the right track, give you a pat on the back, and say, “Great job, pal! Way to go!” That’s why I feel like the atmosphere within the digital marketing industry is filled with hesitation, uncertainty, and doubt.

    Some marketers think that the answer to sharpening their judgement in this perpetually changing environment is data (you don’t say!), and some companies are gearing up with intricate analytical tools.

    Yet, it’s next to impossible to integrate all of this information and make it serve answers that you can trust unconditionally. We get stoked by the prospects that “big data” and advanced analytics create — no doubt about that. But data continues to be only as valuable as the expertise you’ve nurtured, and good judgment will continue to be a hallmark of the best marketers.

    However, if you create a process for planning, acting, measuring, and improving right off the bat, then you’ll be able to fully accomplish your business goals.

    But before you try to make it happen, I want you to consider the following:

    1. Your processes should be measurable (otherwise, there’s no room for improvement).

    If you want to analyze the performance of your “Buy Now” button, then you need to make sure that you have everything to do that. I prefer to work with Google Tag Manager because it allows you to add new goals and see a user’s activity without bugging your developer to update scripts and things like that. It gives you the freedom to act, and that’s exactly what you need.

    Note: Don’t forget to personally verify that all triggers are working properly and that you have all stats registered in your system.

    Here’s a couple of great resource to help you understand and master Google Tag Manager:

    2. You’re very likely to fail at your first attempt at choosing the right metrics (which is a part of the process; no one is insured against that).

    You live, you learn — whether you’re the last one to know about the latest trend, or you’re too busy struggling to get this one thing right. Whichever your case, I feel your pain and I can assure you it’s absolutely normal.

    Here’s my example: For a while, I considered the number of registered users to be the main metric for my own online event (and I still rely on this metric). However, I’ve learned that I can’t fully rely on this metric since the number of subscribers doesn’t really affect the number of actual live listeners. Recorded videos aren’t very popular among my audience, either; I suspect the reason for that is because my users want to consume content right when they’re becoming my subscribed users. And because it’s free of charge, there’s not enough incentive to come back for more. Human psychology is indeed an intricate thing.

    3. Either your approach needs a slight adjustment, or it has to be replaced with a completely different tactic.

    I think the best example here is a social media arena where experts have their sleeves rolled up, tweeting their day away, too busy to slow down and… analyze. There, I said it! You can go ahead and hate me now.

    But that’s the reality. Some well-known companies publish works that say we need to post more, especially on Twitter, if we want to increase clicks, retweets, or shares. However, if you apply a little bit of common sense and dare to doubt such research, you’ll see that there’s no correlation between the number of posts and the level of engagement or number of clicks.

    With that being said, the best approach here is to concentrate on conversions, rather than impressions — a metric that can be helpful when trying to increase brand awareness, but doesn’t generate clicks or retweets. The more time you spend improving conversions, the better results you’ll have in the end.

    Take a look at SocialBakers’ report, which investigates the matter of tweeting frequency:

    bakers.png

    In order to shed some light on an everlasting problem, SocialBakers compared the Total Engagement Rate with the Average Engagement Rate of over 11,000 tweets between May 25th and June 25th back in 2013.

    One of their major findings: you must figure out how to balance things and avoid “extremes,” and that three tweets a day will keep the decline of your engagement rate away.

    Putting theory into practice

    Moving on, I’d like to present you with some statistics from the Digital Olympus Twitter account:

    November

    December

    January

    Tweets Per Day

    3.8

    15.16

    4.61

    Avg Impressions Per Day

    3,700

    5,100

    4,500

    Engagement Rate

    0.80%

    0.50%

    0.80%

    Clicks

    158

    248

    241

    Retweets

    211

    239

    224

    Likes

    302

    409

    345

    As you can see, in January we were able to improve our retweet/like and click activity. We experimented with different tactics. Our final goal was to get as many clicks as possible and a satisfying engagement rate. Back in December 2016, we were tweeting much more than we normally did, and it never affected our click rate. In January we decided to take it easy and started tweeting less, which was, in turn, more cost-effective. As you can see, the results were pretty good.

    However, we did lose some traffic, which means we need to generate more than 4.6 tweets per day.

    And as I’ve already mentioned, currently my main business metric is our number of subscribers, which has decreased slightly lately.

    The graph above also tells me that even with fewer tweets, we’re still able to attract the right type of audience and to convert our registrants (in our case, the conversion is registration).

    Wrap-up

    Metrics aren’t always perfectly revealing. Nevertheless, the volume of data accessible nowadays should make analytics doable. In this article I offered you insight into my way of defining business goals, managing internal processes, and dealing with such prosaic activities as measuring, which should never be underestimated. Provide yourself with everything you might possibly need to measure accurately, and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all part of the process, believe me.

    We’ve learned that setting your business goals requires some legwork, like collecting historical data and researching current industry trends. And once you’re certain about your KPIs, you should always keep them on your radar because they demonstrate how fruitful your efforts are on the way to accomplishing your business objectives.

    Never stop experimenting with your business ideas, set goals that will challenge you and your team, and don’t go overboard with dubious practices. In this case, less is more.

    Now, off to reaching new heights, guys!

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    Source: Moz

    Wow Your Restaurant’s Instagram Following: 3 Elements of a Great Food Photo 0

    At Main Street Hub, we know that running your restaurant requires time, energy, and hard work. We also know how important it is for your restaurant to have an online presence to get new customers and stay ahead of your competition.

    Because Instagram is all about capturing what’s happening the instant that it’s happening, it’s a great place to amplify your restaurant’s social media marketing, without spending too much time. Snap a photo, edit right there in the Instagram app, and voila! Your post is served.

    Ready to take control of your restaurant’s online reputation? Check out our tips for getting more Yelp reviews!

    Once your followers feast their eyes on your content, they’ll swing by your restaurant to feast on your delicious menu!

    Here are 3 tips for posting the best food photos on Instagram:

    1. Framing

    The first step to creating a crave-worthy food photo is to choose the right composition. You want to frame your picture so that it guides the viewer to the best part of the shot. Find a simple surface or backdrop that will complement, rather than overpower, the delicious food you’re photographing.

    When taking photos of your signature dishes, don’t be afraid of trial and error! Because many smartphones have wide-angle lenses, it might take a couple tries to get the framing, zoom, and placement just right. Try out different angles, like shooting from above, shooting straight-on (in line with the table), and zooming in close to the dish for detail shots.

    Don’t forget to follow the rule of thirds when taking food photos! Imagine there’s a grid on your photo, dividing the image into nine equal parts. The most important elements of your image should be placed along the intersections of the imaginary grid lines.

    2. Light

    Lighting is a key element of any photo, especially food photography. Try to stage your photo with only one light source, as opposed to several conflicting ones, and avoid using flash at all costs.

    If you can take your food photo outside or near a window, natural lighting will complement your dish without being too harsh. If you are relying on a lamp or other bulb, make sure the light source is not directly overhead. Simply move your dish over to allow for side lighting or backlighting.

    Seeing too much shadow in your shot? Tap the brightest part of your screen before taking the photo, and your phone will meter the light for you! Similarly, tap the darkest part of the screen to get a bit more light in your shot when you need it.

    3. Filter

    Once you have taken a balanced, well-lit photo, you’re ready to get it into Instagram and post! While Instagram has a wide variety of impressive filters, we recommend you use them sparingly, if at all.

    Your loyal followers know what your food looks like. If you overly adjust the colors and tones, the photo will appear fake. Trust your food and your photography to stand on its own!

    If your photo needs more punch, try increasing the contrast and/or saturation slightly. Chances are, that’s all it needs!

    Now that you have all the tools to become an expert food photographer, you’re ready to post on behalf of your restaurant! We suggest posting no more than once a day to avoid overwhelming your followers’ feeds. Two to three Instagram posts per week will keep you top-of-mind with your existing customers and expose your business to new potential customers. Don’t forget, time of day matters, too — posting a beautiful shot of an espresso in the morning or a delicious cheeseburger at lunch could be just the thing to get a new customer to pay you a visit.

    Bon appetit!

    Sound time-consuming? Click here to get your restaurant started with Main Street Hub, and we’ll run your Instagram for you!

    For more social media resources and local business tips, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram!



    Wow Your Restaurant’s Instagram Following: 3 Elements of a Great Food Photo was originally published in Main Street Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


    Source: Main Street Hub

    Trademark Lawsuit Claiming Organic Search Results Create Initial Interest Confusion Falls Apart–Larsen v. Larson 0

    Disclosure note: I provided an expert report in this now-dismissed case, so you might consider my comments to be advocacy. I’ll explain my expert role in a bit.

    The Court Opinion

    Susan Larsen practices business law in the Denver, Colorado metro area under the name Larsen Law Offices. She claims she’s been using the name since 2003, though she did not register the name as a trademark (and would need to address the obvious secondary meaning issues to do so). David Larson practices estate planning law (and more) in the Denver metro area as well. In 2013, Larson set up a website at the domain name davidlarsonlawoffice.com, and he used the domain name larsonlawoffice.com starting in 2016. In 2016, Larsen sued Larson for trademark infringement, ACPA and more. After the complaint, Larson’s website removed references to Larson Law Offices, adopting the name David M. Larson, PLLC. Larson partially moved to dismiss.

    Cybersquatting. The court says “Plaintiff does not allege that Mr. Larson had actual knowledge of Larsen Law Offices’ existence in 2013, or that he has ever conducted a Google search that returned plaintiff’s name.” Further (cites omitted):

    davidlarsonlawoffice.com and larsonlawoffice.com both consist of a descriptive component (“law office”) and Mr. Larson’s name. And Mr. Larson has apparently used these marks for years in connection with his legitimate business. Plaintiff does not allege, for example, that Mr. Larson has offered to sell these websites to plaintiff for profit or that he falsified registration information in obtaining the domain names.

    The court grants the motion to dismiss the ACPA claim.

    Protective order. Larson sought a protective order against discovery into his financial affairs. In theory, such information would be relevant to damages. The judge isn’t willing to allow it (cites omitted):

    I am not going to let plaintiff go digging in the books of what plaintiff asserts is a competitor when its case is hanging by a thread….

    Plaintiff has already obtained most of the relief it seeks: Mr. Larson has changed his business’s name and removed all potentially infringing language from his websites. But plaintiff forges ahead simply because defendants continue to use the websites davidlarsonlawoffice.com and larsonlawoffice.com. The former domain name uses Mr. David Larson’s first and last name, casting doubt on the claim that this website could be confused with the site for Ms. Susan Larsen’s firm. And plaintiff did not notice this website for the first three years of the site’s existence, suggesting that Mr. Larson’s legitimate business activities did not actually harm plaintiff. As for the latter domain name, plaintiff’s exhibit shows that while Mr. Larson began using this website in 2016, the site has been used by others since 2001, if not earlier—at least two years before Larsen Law Offices was formed. Furthermore, plaintiff uses the plural “offices” in its name and website despite having only one office, possibly because larsenlawoffice.com is used by yet another attorney whose last name is Larsen. Thus, plaintiff might have some issues of its own.

    To sidestep the discovery request, the court bifurcates liability and damages:

    I cannot say that it is completely inconceivable that plaintiff could prevail in the end. However, plaintiff is going to have to show me that defendant is liable for disgorgement of profits before his books become fair game.

    The plaintiff internalized the judge’s doubts about the case. The parties settled a week later, the plaintiff dismissed the case, and she wrote a check to the defendant.

    My Role as an Expert

    Nowadays, I’m careful about undertaking new outside professional activities because of my personal obligations, but I couldn’t say no here. The plaintiff’s trademark claim basically asserted that Larson’s website appearing in search results for “Larsen Law Offices” created initial interest confusion. Regular readers know how I feel about the initial interest confusion doctrine (hint: I think it’s bullshit), and I couldn’t believe that a putative trademark owner (of a dubious mark, no less) in 2017 was willing to go to court claiming that organic search results create initial interest confusion. Recall my tip to plaintiffs from yesterday: “If success in your case depends on establishing initial interest confusion, DON’T BRING THE CASE.” So I decided I couldn’t watch this case from the sidelines.

    To support the initial interest confusion claim, the plaintiff procured an expert report from a technologist, Peter Kent. Read his report. I was asked to prepare a report rebutting Kent’s report (rather than prepare my own standalone expert report). Read my rebuttal report. As you know, expert reports become publicly available relatively rarely, but both reports were filed in PACER without redactions, so I’m sharing them here. As much as was possible within the scope of a rebuttal report, my expert report lays out some of my latest thinking about the initial interest confusion doctrine (especially as applied to organic search results), so I encourage you to take a look.

    Case citation: Larsen Law Offices v. David Larson, 2017 WL 1131885 (D. Colo. Mar. 14, 2017). The complaint.


    Source: Eric Goldman Legal

    Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back 0

    Posted by Casey_Meraz

    For years, I’ve been saying that if you have a problem with spammers in local results, you can just wait it out. I mean, if Google cared about removing spam and punishing those who are regular spammers we’d see them removed fast and often, right?

    While there are instances where spam has been removed, it seems these are not fast fixes, permanent fixes, or even very common. In fact, they seem few and far between. So today I’m changing my tune a bit to call more attention to the spam issues people employ that violate Google My Business terms and yet continue to win in the SERPs.

    The problems are rampant and blatant. I’ve heard and seen many instances of legitimate businesses changing their names just to rank better and faster for their keywords.

    Another problem is that Google is shutting down MapMaker at the end of March. Edits will still be allowed, but they’ll need to be made through Google Maps.

    If Google is serious about rewarding brands in local search, they need to encourage it through their local search algorithms.

    For some people, it’s gotten so bad that they’re actually suing Google. On January 13, 2017, for instance, a group of fourteen locksmiths sued Google, Yahoo, and Bing over fake spam listings, as reported by Joy Hawkins.

    While some changes — like the Possum update — seemed to have a positive impact overall, root problems (such as multiple business listings) and many other issues still exist in the local search ecosystem.

    And there are other technically non-spammy ways that users are also manipulating Google results. Let’s look at a couple of these examples.

    It’s not all spam. Businesses are going to great lengths to stay within the GMB guidelines & manipulate results.

    Let’s look at an example of a personal injury attorney in the Denver market. Recently, I came across these results when doing a search for trial attorneys:

    2017-02-28_1137.png

    Look at the #2 result listing, entitled “Denver Trial Lawyers.” I originally thought this was spam and wanted to report it, but I had to do my due diligence first.

    To start, I needed to verify that the listing was actually spam by looking at the official business name. I pulled up their website and, to my surprise, the business name in the logo is actually “Denver Trial Lawyers.”

    business name.png

    This intrigued me, so I decided to see if they were using a deceptive logo to advertise the business name or if this was the actual business name.

    I checked out the Colorado Secretary of State’s website and did a little digging around. After a few minutes I found the legally registered trade name through their online search portal. The formation date of this entity was 7/31/2008, so they appear to have been planning on using the name for some time.

    I also reviewed their MapMaker listing history to see when this change was made and whether it reflected the trade name registration. I saw that on October 10, 2016 the business updated their MapMaker listing to reflect the new business name.

    mapmaker-history.png

    After all of this, I decided to take this one step further and called the business. When I did, the auto-attendant answered with “Thank you for calling Denver Trial Lawyers,” indicating that this is their legitimate business name.

    I guess that, according to the Google My Business Guidelines, this can be considered OK. They state:

    “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online.”

    But what does that mean for everyone else?

    Recently, Gyi Tsakalakis also shared this beautiful screenshot on Twitter of a SERP with three businesses using their keywords in the business name:

    It seems they’re becoming more and more prominent because people see they’re working.

    To play devil’s advocate, there are also businesses that legitimately sport less-than-creative names, so where do you draw the line? (Note: I’ve been following some of above businesses for years; I can confirm they’ve changed their business names to include keywords).

    Here’s another example

    If you look closely, you’ll find more keyword- and location-stuffed business names popping up every day.

    Here’s an interesting case of a business (also located in Denver) that might have been trying to take advantage of Near Me searches, as pointed out by Matt Lacuesta:

    lacquesta.png

    Do you think this business wanted to rank for Near Me searches in Denver? Maybe it’s just a coincidence. It’s funny, nonetheless.

    How are people actively manipulating local results?

    While there are many ways to manipulate a Google My Business result, today we’re going to focus on several tactics and identify the steps you can take to help fight back.

    Tactic #1: Spammy business names

    Probably the biggest problem in Google’s algorithm is the amount of weight they put into a business name. At a high level, it makes sense that they would treat this with a lot of authority. After all, if I’m looking for a brand name, I want to find that specific brand when I’m doing a search.

    The problem is that people quickly figured out that Google gives a massive priority to businesses with keywords or locations in their business names.

    In the example below, I did a search for “Fresno Personal Injury Lawyers” and was given an exact match result, as you can see in the #2 position:

    fresno-.png

    However, when I clicked through to the website, I found it was for a firm with a different name. In this case, they blatantly spammed their listing and have been floating by with nice rankings for quite some time.

    I reported their listing a couple of times and nothing was done until I was able to escalate this. It’s important to note that the account I used to edit this listing didn’t have a lot of authority. Once an authoritative account approved my edit, it went live.

    The spam listing below has the keyword and location in the business name.

    We reported this listing using the process outlined below, but sadly the business owner noticed and changed it back within hours.

    How can you fight back against spammy business names?

    Figuring out how to fight back against people manipulating results is now your job as an SEO. In the past, some in the industry have given the acronym “SEO” a bad name due to the manipulative practices they performed. Now it’s our job to give us a better name by helping to police these issues.

    Since Google MapMaker is now disappearing, you’ll need to make edits in Google Maps directly. This is also a bit of a problem, as there’s no room to leave comments for evidence.

    Here are the steps you should take to report a listing with incorrect information:

    1. Make sure you’re signed into Google
    2. Locate the business on maps.google.com
    3. Once the business is located, open it up and look for the “Suggest an edit” option:

      suggest-edit.png

    4. Once you select it, you’ll be able to choose the field you want to change:
      click on what you want to edit.png
    5. Make the necessary change and then hit submit! (Don’t worry — I didn’t make the change above.)

    Now, don’t expect anything to happen right away. It can take time for changes to take place. Also, the trust level of your profile seems to play a big role in how Google evaluates these changes. Getting the approval by someone with a high level of trust can make your edits go live quickly.

    Make sure you check out all of these great tips from Joy Hawkins on The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Spam on Google Maps, as well.

    Tactic #2: Fake business listings

    Another issue that we see commonly with maps spam is fake business listings. These listings are completely false businesses that black-hat SEOs build just to rank and get more leads.

    Typically we see a lot of these in the locksmith niche — it’s full of people creating fake listings. This is one of the reasons Google started doing advanced verification for locksmiths and plumbers. You can read more about that on Mike Blumenthal’s blog.

    Joy Hawkins pointed out a handy tip for identifying these listings on her blog, saying:

    “Many spammers who create tons of fake listings answer their phone with something generic like ‘Hello, locksmith’ or ‘Hello, service.'”

    I did a quick search in Denver for a plumber and it wasn’t long before I found a listing with an exact match name. Using Joy’s tips, I called the number and it was disconnected. This seemed like an illegitimate listing to me.

    Thankfully, in this case, the business wasn’t ranking highly in the search results:

    2017-02-28_1254.png

    When you run into these types of listings, you’ll want to take a similar approach as we did above and report the issue.

    Tactic #3: Review spam

    Review spam can come in many different forms. It’s clear that Google’s putting a lot of attention into reviews by adding sorting features and making stars more prominent. I think Google knows they can do a better job with their reviews overall, and I hope we see them take it a little bit more seriously.

    Let’s look at a few different ways that review spam appears in search results.

    Self-reviews & competitor shaming

    Pretty much every business knows they need reviews, but they have trouble getting them. One way people get them is to leave them on their own business.

    Recently, we saw a pretty blatant example where someone left a positive five-star review for a law firm and then five other one-star reviews for all of their competitors. You can see this below:

    review-spam.png

    Although it’s very unethical for these types of reviews to show up, it happens everyday. According to Google’s review and photo policies, they want to:

    “Make sure that the reviews and photos on your business listing, or those that you leave at a business you’ve visited, are honest representations of the customer experience. Those that aren’t may be removed.”

    While I’d say that this does violate the policies, figuring out which rule applies best is a little tricky. It appears to be a conflict of interest, as defined by Google’s review guidelines below:

    "Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you're a business owner, don't set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business."

    In this particular case, a member of our staff, Dillon Brickhouse, reached out to Google to see what they would say.

    Unfortunately, Google told Dillon that since there was no text in the review, nothing could be done. They refused to edit the review.

    And, of course, this is not an isolated case. Tim Capper recently wrote an article — “Are Google My Business Guidelines & Spam Algos Working?” — in which he identified similar situations and nothing had been done.

    How can you fight against review stars?

    Although there will still be cases where spammy reviews are ignored until Google steps up their game, there is something you can try to remove bad reviews. In fact, Google published the exact steps on their review guidelines page here.

    You can view the steps and flag a review for removal using the method below:

    1. Navigate to Google Maps. 2. Search for your business using its name or address. 3. Select your business from the search results. 4. In the panel on the left, scroll to the “Review summary” section. 5. Under the average rating, click [number of] reviews. 6. Scroll to the review you’d like to flag and click the flag icon. 7. Complete the form in the window that appears and click Submit.

    What can you do if the basics don’t work?

    There are a ton of different ways to spam local listings. What can you do if you’ve reported the issue and nothing changes?

    While edits may take up to six weeks to go live, the next step involves you getting more public about the issue. The key to the success of this approach is documentation. Take screenshots, record dates, and keep a file for each issue you’re fighting. That way you can address it head-on when you finally get the appropriate exposure.

    Depending on whether or not the listing is verified, you’ll want to try posting in different forums:

    Verified listings

    If the listing you’re having trouble with is a verified listing, you’ll want to make a public post about it in the Google My Business Community forum. When posting, make sure to provide all corresponding evidence, screenshots, etc. to make the case very clear to the moderators. There’s a Spam and Policy section on the forum where you can do this.

    Unverified listings

    However, some spam listings are not verified listings. In these cases ,Joy Hawkins recommends that you engage with the Local Guides Connect Forum here.

    Key takeaways

    Sadly, there’s not a lot we can do outside of the basics of reporting results, but hopefully being more proactive about it and making some noise will encourage Google to take steps in the right direction.

    1. Start being more proactive about reporting listings and reviews that are ignoring the guidelines. Be sure to record the screenshots and take evidence.
    2. If the listings still aren’t being fixed after some time, escalate them to the Google My Business Community forum.
    3. Read Joy Hawkins’ post from start to finish on The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Spam in Google Maps
    4. Don’t spam local results. Seriously. It’s annoying. Continually follow and stay up-to-date on the Google My Business guidelines.
    5. Lastly, don’t think the edit you made is the final say or that it’ll stay around forever. The reality is that they could come back. During testing for this post, the listing for “Doug Allen Personal Injury Attorney Colorado Springs” came back within hours based on an owner edit.

    In the future, I’m personally looking forward to seeing some major changes from Google with regards to how they rank local results and how they monitor reviews. I would love to see local penalties become as serious as manual penalties.

    How do you think Google can fight this better? What are your suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.

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    Source: Moz

    Does “Raiders Fancast” Infringe the “Fancaster” Trademark? 0

    I don’t normally blog demand letters, but this particular matter would benefit from additional visibility.

    Over 5 years ago, I blogged a lawsuit involving the Fancaster trademark, which I characterized as “the saddest trademark case of 2011.” Among other rulings, the court tossed Fancaster’s trademark infringement claim against Comcast for its now-defunct fancast.com service. Recently (in the last year or so), Fancaster contacted me to say that its settlement with Comcast wiped away the ruling as precedent, which made my blog post misleading. I figured savvy readers would recognize how ridiculous that is, so I added a disclosure. I thought it was silly to worry about such an old and lightly-trafficked blog post, but now I suspect Fancaster cared about that blog post because it may conflict with ongoing enforcement efforts.

    This weekend, I learned that Fancaster has sent a demand letter to the operators of the “Raiders Fancast,” which describes itself as a “podcast by fans for fans.” Fancaster asserts that using the term “fancast” violates their trademark rights, so the podcasters should drop it and the associated domain name (implying that they’ll be sorry if they don’t walk away now). See the Fancaster demand letter dated March 24, 2017 (note: I blocked out the sender’s phone number, email and signature). Among other problems, the letter takes a strangely revisionist twist on the Comcast case, implying Fancaster got a good outcome despite a judge’s ruling I consider quite unflattering.

    To me, it seems problematic that the sender believes that the “Fancaster” trademark restricts a hobbyist’s use of the word “fancast” for podcasting by fans, even though (a) someone else has a trademark registration for the term “fancast” (Reg #87322736), and (b) more importantly, I (and probably others) consider “fancast” to be generic for podcasts or vlogging (see, e.g., the “Hugo Award for Best Fancast“). It makes me wonder how many other hobbyist podcasters or vloggers have gotten similar demand letters with an ownership claim over a possibly generic diminutive.


    Source: Eric Goldman Legal