Yelp gets into the Lead Gen Game

Yelp announced today that they will be adding a feature to all claimed business Yelp pages which allows customers to contact a business directly through Yelp. Personally I feel that this adds another layer for a customer to contact the business. I am sure people will use it but am concerned that small businesses will have to keep their eye on yet another communication layer.
If you are a business owner this means you need to keep an eye out for Yelp notification emails as they may be potential clients:

While some customers prefer to pick up the phone, others would much rather communicate via a keyboard, so this feature adds one more way to reach out to businesses, while giving business owners another opportunity to close the loop and receive even more leads. Biz owners will receive an email when they get a message from a consumer and can reply directly from that email without even having to log into their business owner’s account. When people click on the “message the business owner” button for a particular business, they’ll be shown the average response time to help them understand when, on average, they might get a response.

Yelp Message the Business feature
The average response time feature is interesting but it seems like just posting a business’s email address would be more helpful for the customer.
The good news is that you can opt out of this feature if you want to. I am interested in seeing how it works out.
Yelp Press Release on Message the Business Feature

Screencast Google Places Phone Support Verification

Had a great conversation at the Arizona Biltmore where Clio put on an event for lawyers. Talked with their co-founder and COO Rian as well as Cindy Castillo of Castillo Law.

Paul mentioned his frustration with Google Places for Business Verification and how the postcards never seem to show up. I explained how Google has phone verification and today had discovered that the process has been greatly simplified as explained in this video.

Google lays the smack down on Mobile SEO

Google has been saying that website owners need to get their mobile game plan together. My suspicion is that they are tired of seeing all the bounces from non mobile websites when people search on their phone. Personally I have stopped using Google as much on my mobile phone especially for local searches. Yelp for better or worse is my goto resource for getting local information on my phone because I know I will be able to read Yelps pages easily. On google it is a crap shoot.

But just having a mobile website is not entirely enough. You also need to deliver a relevant experience to your users. Yesterday Google came out with specific details where it will be penalizing websites that don’t deliver what users expect when searching in google. For example if the Google result is for a specific page on your site but when a mobile user clicks on the link they get delivered to the home page of your mobile website. I have first hand experience of this and it is frustrating and always causes me to hit the back button.

The simple answer to a lot of mobile seo it to convert your website to a responsive layout. This allows you to keep your existing URL structure and deliver the same website to all devices but it will adopt the layout to the screen size you are currently using. There are a number of things you can do in addition to this but making this change will have the most dramatic effect while minimizing your effort.

Guest Blogging

Guest Blogging is in some corners the new dirty word for link building but if done with tact and restraint it can not only help with SEO but create direct leads for your business. Since Google got into the zoo business and started pushing out the Panda and Penguin updates a few years ago the SEO world has been scrambling to figure out new ways to get links that Google likes. One method has been the Guest Blog where you find another website and give them content to publish that contains a link back to your website. The idea is that good and useful content is being created which Google users find useful when searching for information and Google links that to your website as well as the one it was published on.

The problem is that just as with link building before lazy and nefarious people have made it into a new arms race of how many links can be created quickly and cheaply. This misses the underlying focus of the Guest Blog which is to create relevant and useful content for users.

My suggestion is that if you are going to partake in the Guest Blog method that you keep high standards not only for the content you create but for the websites that you have it published on. This takes more work which I know everyone wants to avoid but compared to digging a ditch its pretty easy stuff. First of all start writing about what you know and why people should pay you for your knowledge. Then search out similar people to what you do and check out their websites for good content. See that they care about what they are putting online and then reach out to them and see if they might be interested in taking a Guest Blog post from you.

The same goes for accepting Guest Blog posts onto your own website. Be very wary of anyone reaching out to you. Make sure they are legitimate and have their own domain name email address as well as good content on their own website. The lazy people are sending out email blasts to anyone and everyone trying to get their poor content and links on as many sites as they can.

You should be highly selective with giving and taking any content online. Instead of thinking mass marketing think individual readers. If you spend 4 hours writing up a couple of articles and then get them on the right websites you should expect to get inquiries from them. As an added bonus you might get more search traffic as well.

Requesting Customer Reviews Online

Ah the once shiny promise of online customer reviews has taken a beating in the last few years. For customers there have been problems with credibility of existing reveiws leading them astray into thinking a business is better or worse than it really is. For businesses there are problems ranging from spiteful former employees to competitors to the review websites filtering real reviews off.

The good, bad, and ugly of the situation is that as a business owner you have to take action and make requesting customer reviews a regular practice at your company. The problem is that you have to be tactful in how you take action. Offering incentives to get customers to write reviews is a good way of getting yourself in trouble with the likes of Yelp and Google. Both companies have policies in place that forbid businesses from incentivising customers to write reviews in exchange for a discount for example.

While you want to ask your happy customers to leave a review you have to be natural. You also want to ask for reviews from people who already write them. You accomplish this by asking them if they use Yelp. If they do great ask them if they have written a review for your business or some other way of being playful about it. You want to avoid making them feel uncomfortable as they may take it out on you in their review. If they dont have a Yelp account move on and see if they have a Google account. There are two reasons you want them to already be a review writer: 1) They have an account setup and you dont have to play tech support walking them through that and 2) If they havent written many reviews on Yelp there is a good chance that their review will be filtered off.

If they dont write reviews online already you should ask them if they will email you a testimonial or better yet grab your video camera and ask them to do a video testimonial that you can put on your website. Keep the video short and simple. No sales pitch, make it honest and from the heart. Try to get decent lighting and audio. Be wary of background noises.