New Yellow Pages Opt-Out Opportunity… Hopefully

February 2, 2011

This is nice. Apparently, there is a new site to opt-out of the yellow pages you receive. There have been ways for a few years, but apparently this updated site is different for two reasons:

  1. This one is an all-in-one spot to opt-out of all directories. (I thought they already had this but maybe I’m wrong) Here’s an example for the 55401 zip code.
  2. The print book folks say this one actually works. Opt-out has been available for a few years but so far the word hasn’t really gotten to the people who actually deliver the books.

Here are two tips when filling out the opt-out form since almost all fields are required:

  1. For your required email field, use a Yahoo address. I’m guessing their main reason your email is required is for confirmation purposes. If they also decide to use your email to sell you advertising, a Yahoo email is good at filtering out spam.
  2. For your required phone field, use a Google Voice number. I’m guessing their main reason your phone number is required is for confirmation purposes. If they also decide to use your phone number to sell you advertising, a Google Voice number is good at blocking callers.

Condemned homes unfortunately have no way to opt out.

Not sure what their condo and apartment opt-out policy will be.

I’m curious how many people will use this service. Although the opt-out site was slowed down considerably yesterday, I think the percentage of households who use this will be low for a few reasons:

  • Consumers may not want to provide their email or phone number (see tips above)
  • Some people just don’t care and automatically trash or recycle the book
  • Condemned homes and condo/apartments may not be applicable (see above pictures)
  • Some people young and old happily use the print yellow pages

As a consumer, do you welcome the opt-out site? As an advertiser, do you also welcome this? It’s at least a start to make circulation stats more realistic.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>


Google Places & the New Postcard-Only Validation Process

January 27, 2011

A little new, a little well-known. The newer information is courtesy of Mike Blumenthal letting folks know that Google Places has been tightening up their verification process for new businesses.

I really like this, even though it can (and has) take more time to get listed. About a month ago, a company with a new location caused Google to allow only the postcard option. It looked something like this. Notice there’s no phone option?

In early 2007 and before, the postcard option was it and often took a lot more than 2-3 weeks to receive. This time, it took about 1-1/2 weeks. However, it took another 2 weeks for the listing to show after I confirmed the listing. This is from a business that’s been trusted in Google Maps Places for years. Another new location just this week also gave the postcard only option.

I still welcome this. If Google is indeed tightening up like this, it would sure be harder for those who want to artificially manipulate local results.

With this said, there are a few tips to make sure the postcard option is working. These aren’t new tips, maybe more of a refresher and communications is key.

  • Call and then send an email to your contact(s) including whoever is responsible for receiving mail. In the email, explain exactly what you’re doing.
  • Include an image like the one above
  • Explain how important it is to not throw away the postcard and to call or email you back with the 5 digit confirmation code provided
  • For good measure, copy and paste the image below to show what the actual direct mail piece will look like (not the best quality image, sorry)

Having the phone option with almost immediate results is sure nice and definitely preferred. Having the postcard only doesn’t have to be bad. Maybe it can at least be another communications opportunity.

Have you seen Google’s new process for new business locations? Let us know of your experiences…. Good or bad.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Buffalo MN – Getting Local and Social in the Holiday Season

December 4, 2010

First, if you’re a sibling of mine hit the back button. If you’re a sibling and don’t hit the back button, and is on my gift exchange list, please act surprised when opening your Christmas gift.

Today is the 2nd year of buying holiday gifts away from the metro and learn about a smaller community at the same time. Last year was Delano. Today is Buffalo, MN. Here’s the Flickr set.

It was a very worthwhile venture. After checking, none of the local businesses I visited has a verified Google Places listing. Businesses of Buffalo, definitely consider claiming your business. It’s the first thing any local business should do online, even if they don’t have a website. Here are some tips and guidelines straight from Google. Plus, it’s free!

With that said, the venture started out by parking on Division Street and heading into A Wreath of Franklin.

I like to give positive user reviews on Google Maps. I try not to give 5 stars because it seems less real. There was simply nothing about this place to give it less than 5 stars. They were so appreciative of why I was shopping at their store. So, off to Google Hotpot. End result?

Just across the Street is Buffalo Books. They have a few nice reviews written on Google Maps and even has a coffee shop in back. I felt the need to check in on Foursquare. Don’t know why. I didn’t really have anything to say.

Anyway, a book form of People of Walmart will be gifted at my sis and bro-in-law’s place in Rochester later this month.

By chance if you’re looking for a larger office space at a smaller town price, here’s one for you. It’s right downtown and I believe it used to be a department store. I’m just surprised there’s not a yellow pages mountain dumped in front.

Another place recommended was Now & Again which sells hard-to-find items. Turns out they out-grew that store and leased the building across their back alley named Now & Again, Too. This store features some larger (and smaller) used and antique items. An example are two ol’ timey Dr. Seuss books. I hope Alana will enjoy these as much as I did when I was her age.

What’s a good reason to visit Buffalo? To visit Aaron Weiche of course! He helps lead Five Technology and is an all around great guy. He also treated me to BJ’s Deli. Looks like Aaron gave them a great review today as well! Note – the woman playing Christmas music on the keyboard is putting a yellow pages book to good use. It’s a useful seat riser.

I can’t recommend downtown Buffalo enough. If you’re shopping for people who either have everything or want hard-to-find items, you’ll find something you’re looking for, something you didn’t know you’re looking for, or both. Just take State Highway 55 to Buffalo, find Division Street, park (all free) and walk around a few square blocks. You’ll enjoy yourself.

Have you shopped in Buffalo? If so, please let us know your experiences. We’d love to hear your input! If you’re on Twitter, lets build the #BuyInBuffaloMN hashtag.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

New Localmn Site Coming Soon

November 11, 2010

It’s been two + years of thought and we’re now getting close to a new relaunch. We optimistically hope to launch and replace the current 2005 version before the 2010 calendar ends.

The new site will have a brand new look with more transparency and social features. The core of the site will remain the same. Let’s get people away from their computers and to your business door. Here is our new logo.

More on Dave below, he’s customizing some cool rotating imagery for the home page. Here’s a dummy pic. Funny, Dave.

We’ll be offering the same local search marketing as always, plus a few new features like local online reputation management, content strategy consulting (Barb), front-end design (Dave) and more.

Several have mentioned to make the new site more engaging. Personally, I’m not a social media guru/ninja/sovereign but I am a user. I’m transparent, too. So, there will be access to what’s up on Flickr, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, YouTube and of course this blog which will be finally integrated in the site (bye WordPress-hosted blog).

There will be serious talent behind the site as well. I’ve been lucky enough to have years of projects with Barb Prindle, writer extraordinaire and all-around very nice and organized person. There’s also a front-end developer/designer available for clients who need it. Dave Dechant and his site Face Your Design is a pretty dang good resume. He’s got mad skills making sites tick in both form and function.

Check out their sites. Maybe you just need writing or front-end developing needs.

A photo shoot for us three may happen next Saturday (site TBD – possibly the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden). We’ll have a couple somewhat regular poses to put on the site. We’ll also have a Flickr set and are planning for some creative fun! There may or may not be a field goal attempt using a yellow pages book. I have complete confidence this can be achieved.

Want to be creative and have fun next Saturday? Let us know!

More to come…

Bookmark on Google :: post to facebook

Weekend 5 of 5 For Sun Country Promo – Tacoma

October 10, 2010

This is it. Thank you Sun Country for five weekends of travel for not a lot of money. I’ve seen new places, met new people, saw current friends in Vegas, old friends in Tacoma, gave plenty of local ratings and reviews and flat out enjoyed new experiences.

The first four weekends were in places I’ve never been to. Weekend 5 of 5 was Tacoma. Not only have I been there, I worked there for four years and still have dear friends who live there. It was hard to say goodbye after being there only two days.

I did give a couple reviews including a restaurant called Harbor Lights. I’ve never been there and it’s right on Puget Sound and Ruston Way.

With that said, sometimes local search and online reputation management can succeed just by caring and being passionate at what you do. Enter Ted Brown Music. They were my employer from 1995-1999 before I decided to move back to Minnesota.

Over the years, their Google Place Page has received a few honest, positive reviews. Even KING 5 is involved as they showcase a 2010 Best Of image in the page.

At some point, they decided to create a Facebook Fan Page. They keep it updated fairly regularly and do have a nice number of fans. Why? Truly caring can only help.

While getting a tour of their flagship store (nine years old, new to me) from my old boss Whitney on Friday, there were a number of people I got to see working there for the first time since 1999. Why? They care and love their jobs.

After that tour, Whitney invited me to visit Gail at their newest Puyallup store. Gail happens to be a perfect person to manage a store. Why? She seriously cares that much.

Here’s Whitney, Gail and myself at lunch. Two people don’t age a bit. The other one loses the rest of his hair 🙂

We talked zero about local search and don’t know how much attention they put to it. All I know is their passion for music and music education is still second to none, and it shows.

Aside from this visit, I enjoyed seeing longtime friends, Oktoberfest at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, and sitting in my official happy spot. Yep, I do have a Flickr photo set for the trip.

I do have some overall thoughts regarding the whole Sun Country promotion I wrote about in August. First, thanks again to Sun Country for allowing me to have a great experience for not a lot of money. I’m now definitely a long-term customer. They fly out of Terminal 2 so the lines are much smaller. They’re also worth a follow on Twitter.

For those of you who fly a lot for a living, kudos go out to you. It wore me out. I can’t specify how, but it’s probably a combination of going to different time zones, sitting in ten germ tubes in five weekends and general stress of air travel.

San Diego, Vegas, Boston and Seattle airports have free Wifi. This encourages me to arrive even earlier at an airport, therefore giving me more time to purchase four-dollar waters.

Other things I noticed:

  • I’m not a big fan of the car rental industry. Their sales models aren’t far from the print yellow pages level.
  • Minnesota-based Schmitt Music is part of the Omega Group. I’m guessing they benefit because of it.
  • I miss Tacoma already.
  • Vegas will eat you up and spit you out.
  • Marketing with Foursquare means just using common sense.

I look forward to more Sun Country promotions. I couldn’t be happier with the one that ended just a few hours ago.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Weekend 4 of 5 For Sun Country Promo – Cape Cod

October 4, 2010

Another weekend of the Sun Country Free Fare for All program is in the books. This time was a short visit to Cape Cod. As fun as this project has been, I’m pretty wiped and am glad there’s only one more weekend left.

What a cool place, and again here is a Flickr photo set to go along with it.

Many businesses were visited as well and unfortunately wrote my first 1-of-5 star review of this rental car Google Place Page. There was a chance for another one as my hotel was closed for the night but found the Heritage Hotel soon after and gave a very nice review.

To turn a negative car rental into a positive, while finding out the terminal was closed a police officer was doing her rounds. She stopped to help locate the mysterious key drop they have somewhere that is not visible. She was frustrated as well and was kind enough to hang around to find a cab number. So, thank you Barnstable Police Department!

Went to recommended Spanky’s Clam Shack and noticed the Gophers were on TV (they lost). But, I chatted with a few locals, have some great local seafood and left a nice review.

Here’s the cool bike rental shop I used while having to return a car rental key that Budget refused to pick up.

Sunday was a full day of travel. In addition to the Flickr set, I’ll just say the Bay State Cruise Company is fantastic and can get you to and from Boston to Provincetown. Note, you’re going 30+ miles on the open sea. Bring your Dramamine if the waters are inclement.

Notice most of the links above are to Google Place Pages rather than their own website. Sometimes there’s just more interactive information on Place Pages.

Next weekend is 5 of 5 and will be around Tacoma. I look forward to seeing old friends. Plus, I’ll get a tour of Ted Brown Music. Awesome company who I was lucky enough to be a part of from 1995-1999 (Go, Road Reps!). They’re a perfect example of a family run business gone good, generation after generation.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Weekend 3 of 5 For Sun Country Promo – Las Vegas

September 26, 2010

OK, weekend three of five for the Sun Country promo is in the books. This post will be a bit different. The first two weekend trips were solo and just went to businesses on my own time to hopefully have good experiences to showcase via reviews or social media formats.

This weekend was different. Close to 20 of us met in Vegas to help four people celebrate turning 4-0 this month. This was more about having fun amongst friends. To my knowledge, none of us have big things to hide so we can apply the phrase “What happens in Vegas, goes on Google Maps, Twitter, Foursquare and Flickr”.

Again, speaking of Flickr, here is a small picture set of the short trip.

Thanks to Sun Country and the promo, I did unlock the Jet Setter badge on Foursquare upon checking in at McCarran at 7am this morning. That’s right, 7am. The airport was busier than I would have figured.

Don’t care? Yeah, I really don’t either.

I did have one, absolute five-star review to give to a place called The Griffin. The bar is in the downtown Fremont East district. The area apparently used to be pretty shady but has certainly cleaned up. The place is wonderful!

This next four-star review for Uncle Joe’s Pizza probably should be closer to a three-star but it was still fast and convenient.

I’m big into staying at locally-owned hotels/motels. The staff are often the owners and they always appreciate your business. This time, the dollar won out as the downtown Super 8 was available for something like $55 a night through Expedia.

I had to have a little fun with Aaron Weiche when he heard I was going to Vegas.

4am in Minnesota is 2am in Vegas. We all had our fill of food and drink Friday night and got back to my motel about 1am. I didn’t have any uploaded pictures at the time but decided to somehow wait until 2am to send him a random DM on Twitter. Aaron was definitely amused. At the airport this morning, I sent this.

Weekend four will be in Boston (Cape Cod) with hopes to showcase nice locally-owned businesses. It turns out Boston itself is very expensive but you can get to Cape Cod and live very thrifty for a couple days. See you soon, Hyannis Holiday Motel and thank you, Vegas!

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Weekend 2 of 5 For Sun Country Promo – Los Angeles

September 19, 2010

It’s weekend two of five for the Sun Country promotion. This time it’s LA (Long Beach) and am staying at the Beach Plaza Hotel. I wound up choosing this motel after scrolling LA area beaches on Google Maps finding the most affordable, locally-owned motel.

Arriving at LAX, it was nice to immediately find a SuperShuttle attendant at ground transport. I haven’t always had the best luck with them but they have it nailed down at LAX. Here’s a Google Maps Review:

They politely dropped me off here:

The place is fantastic! More to come below.

Arrived at motel hungry and had pizza delivered. It was nothing to write home about but it’s a true local joint and gave La Rizza’s a three-of-five Yelp review. If there was a 3.5 option, I would have chosen that.

I gave one review on Saturday. It wasn’t as much the service itself, but its destination of Catalina Island. I was in awe of Avalon and the surrounding hills of Catalina. Here’s a Flickr set which doesn’t come close to giving the place its due justice.

So, here’s the review for Catalina Express, the ship that takes you to heaven in an hour.

The hotel itself was perfect for my needs. I wanted to stay at a locally-owned place. It’s essentially a full, one bedroom apartment right on Long Beach at a price you would get at a Holiday Inn in suburban Minneapolis/St. Paul.

It doesn’t have the amenities that many hotels do. My needs don’t change. Internet access, shower and a bed is just fine. Here’s the honest review I gave the Beach Plaza Hotel.

I tell you what, the two owners/managers work hard! Both woman and man were there Friday evening to check me in AND Sunday morning for checkout. I told them a gave them an honest, positive Google Maps review and they couldn’t have been more appreciated and both stuck out their hands for humbling handshakes. That made me feel pretty warm.

Side note, apparently I’m seven days away from becoming their mayor on Foursquare.

Back to Minneapolis. Bye, LA.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Weekend 1 of 5 For Sun Country Promo – San Diego

September 12, 2010

Over three weeks ago, I took Sun Country Air up on their Fall Free-for-All promotion. I wanted to get local and social in-person and online with businesses and events. I also implied lodging was going to have be on the cheaper side. Ten stays in five weeks sure add up.

So, I just got back from my first destination, San Diego. What a wonderful city! It turns out I have very nice things (mostly) about places I got to visit. There’s a Flickr photo set as well.

The only unpleasant place was at Paymore Payless Car Rental. I didn’t feel the need to write a review. They did upgrade the car for free though because their free shuttle never showed up and I had to cab it to their airport rental location. You online reputation management types, they may be a good client for you.

From there, everything went uphill, metaphorically and literally. I then went to the hotel.

It’s kind of a dump, right in between two very nice hotels on the beach. So, I had a bed, wifi, mini fridge and I’m on the same beach paying about 1/4 of what I would have next door. Awesome!

What else makes this motel awesome? An actual use for a yellow pages book. It serves as a TV riser.

Saturday night, the room wifi wasn’t working well. Talked to the manager and he suggested I bring it down to an ocean view patio table. I then sent out this Twitter message with a picture link to a new view with wifi.

They weren’t listed as a Foursquare venue either. I’m now the proud mayor of Pacific Beach Motel in San Diego, CA.

Who cares? OK. Moving on. I enjoyed the motel enough to give them an honest 4 out of 5 star review on Google Maps.

I wound up telling the manager about the review and he thanked me very much and was serious about how much he appreciated it. Why? I’m guessing he has vested interest in this small motel.

On to more places.

During my short visit, I tried to keep busy. Cowles Mountain is a shorter but pretty technical climb, 20-25 minutes from the motel. The peak is even a Foursquare venue.

After that I decided to keep the adrenaline going. It turns out a shop three blocks from my motel called Pure Life Surf Shop rents both bikes and boogie boards. These guys are awesome! And funny. I couldn’t help but to give them a 5 star review.

They noticed I was wearing a U of Washington cap on and selected a great cruiser with UW decals. Very cool of them. They even took a picture of me and the UW cruiser in an erroneous attempt to look cool with my ride.

After a failed attempt at boogie boarding, it was time to hit Hennessey’s Tavern to wind down. At first, it was really annoying solely because of frat folks. So, a small personal Facebook rant:

Once they left, it was great. Chatted with a nice, older English couple and listened to an acoustic duo play some songs. Turns out Hennessy’s is a Foursquare venue, too. Hopefully, they use it well.

One last place I wanted to mention. How many of you enjoy airports unless you’re going somewhere fun? Well, the San Diego airport provides you free wifi and USB access! I’m sure there are other airports who have this too. If so, please let me know which ones exist.

I immediately sent this Twitter message along with the picture link. Features like this make me want to go to the airport very early in the morning almost no matter what time the flight leaves. You can avoid long security lines, get work done while keeping everything charged, and most importantly for the airport, spend more time (thus more money) during your airport stay.

1st weekend was a total success. Thank you, San Diego! Again, here’s a Flickr photo set.

Next weekend, LA & Long/Huntington Beach, CA. Then comes Vegas, Boston and Seattle. See you soon!

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Google Tags for Bulk Listing Uploads… or Not?

August 25, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on how different hair salons were using Google Tags. This time, it’s the same subject with a different twist.

Something odd appears when creating Google tags for bulk listing uploads. In a picture…

I left the name of the company out but notice you can create a tag for the first one and not the other three (actually, there are 26 others). The first listing was created manually and the rest were created through Google’s bulk listing format.

I did a quick search, didn’t find much but did notice someone else had the same issue.

As of this writing, no one has answered his question. Maybe not being able to create tags in bulk listings is just a glitch on Google’s part, maybe it’s one of those things that’s a simple fix from the user end. Figured I’d throw it out there for you smart, local search folks. What are your thoughts?

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>