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>

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?

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David Mihm’s New Local Search Ranking Factors are Out

June 7, 2010

A couple months ago the fine folks at LocalU came to the Twin Cities for a no-gimmick clinic on how to use the Internet to leverage your physical, local business location(s). Great knowledge was given and I got to meet a few people I haven’t before including Ed Reese, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm.

David was gracious enough to ask if I’d be willing to participate in the 2010 Local Search Ranking Factors. It’s definitely a task but one well worth it. It’s very appreciated.

A few items I noted:

People are pretty much in agreement that stuffing keywords in your business title is not a long-term solution… and pretty ugly.

My favorite quote comes from Aaron Weiche at Five Technology when asked about using an 800 number:

Nothing says “not local” like an 800 number. There is no location tie to an 800 number, use your local number.

Couldn’t have said it better… and well, I didn’t either. 🙂

KML location-based site maps were talked about quite nicely. This is one thing I’ve only toyed with. I do run into duplicate and incorrect location data often and really hope this is something that will help. I recently started trying Geo Sitemap Generator and it uploads location files really slick. I’m hoping to see results soon.

These are only a few examples. I really recommend viewing the whole 2010 LSRF report and seeing what may work well for you.

Like years before, David provides this cool badge for contributors.

LSRF Badge

LSRF Badge

The current site is a 2005 version with a new design and overall structure hopefully later this year. I like the badge and it will add a nice touch to the new site.

I don’t think many northeast Ohio people read this blog, but if you’re one of them check out the next LocalU they’re bringing to suburban Cleveland on June 30th!

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Local U – Just a Few Days Away & Special Offer

May 10, 2010
Local University

Local University’s Local University – Twin Cities is just a few days away, and there are still tickets available including a special coupon offer.

One of the speakers contacted me over the weekend asking if I would be interested in an agency rate. Well, Localmn is pretty small but figured I’d ask around to any clients or trusted folks I work on projects with. Discounts are good.

Enter Barb. She’s the owner of Snap Communications and is one of the best writers you’ll ever meet. Turns out she knows a lot of people in creative fields (writers, designers, photographers, etc.), she sent out the word and got amazing results.

So, the fine folks at GetListed gave Barb her own coupon code for any who haven’t signed up yet. Go to Local University – Twin Cities, enter SNAP in the coupon field and you’re in at only $49.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the speakers I can tell you that they are smart, stand-up folks who will give you real-life strategies on how to use the Web to strengthen your local business. No gimics, no magic, just flat-out great advice. You won’t be disappointed. Hopefully I’ll see you there!
Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>