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>

Yellow Pages, Let’s Make Seattle More Pretty

August 19, 2010

Yep, another post about the yellow pages, but I have a genuine offer for a couple  print yellow pages advocates. More on this below.

Apparently, Seattle has a yellow pages opt-out program in legislation which would penalize those who deliver these books to homes and businesses who have requested to not receive them. A guy named Ken has something to say against it. He thinks delivering multiple yellow pages to doorsteps each year is a good thing.

I did leave this comment last week, although he didn’t accept it.

An acquaintance of mine named Eric had something to say which was accepted, then had another thing to say which was not accepted.

Apparently, those of us who do not find print yellow pages valuable have awakened a sleeping giant named Wayne Mulling who had something to say. Nope. I haven’t heard of him either.

“I will guarantee you that the gentleman (and I use the term loosely) that is sponsoring this bill, has probably never run a business before going into politics, has never had to go to sleep at night worrying about how to keep his business viable, how he’s going keep the people he has employed (whose families look to that job for a living), or any of the other 1000 concerns small business owners have – which includes how do I best promote my business.”

The gentleman Wayne is talking about is Seattle Councilman Mike O’Brien. After about a 30 second search on him, it turns out he doesn’t just hold a MBA, but has been the chief financial officer for a $10 million law firm for ten years.

I’m guessing Mike is very knowledgeable about running a business. As a CFO of a good size law firm for over ten years, he has probably been in charge of a ton of advertising dollars spent with the print yellow pages. It turns out that attorneys like to advertise.

Wayne Mulling, you shouldn’t be slamming Mike. You should be thanking him for every dime he spent in your industry.

Here’s where the offer comes in. Thanks to a wonderful Sun Country Airlines promotion, I’m able to travel at-will on weekends for over a month. Ken and Wayne, I hereby invite you to join me in Seattle to recycle unwanted phone books. Sometime in September, SuperMedia should be dropping off these books.

A week after these books are delivered, it’s safe to assume that books left on lawns and abandoned homes are unwanted. Seattle happens to be an available city for the Sun Country promotion. Would you like to meet me there on a late September or early October weekend? Together, we can help make Seattle more pretty.

Thank you for your consideration. This is a sincere offer.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Sun Country Airlines Promotion Taking the MN Out of LocalMN

August 18, 2010

The title of this post looks negative at first. It’s not. It’s awesome!

Thank you, Sun Country and your Fall Free for All promotion for allowing me to take five straight weekend trips for not a lot of money. This way, I get to visit new destinations, meet people through social media connections, interact with businesses all while being in Minnesota during the work week.

So glad I saw this Twitter message:

When I visit local places, I plan to be social not just in person but online as well. Businesses who treat me well deserve to be mentioned on sites like Google Maps, Citysearch, Yelp, Twitter, Flickr and this blog.

Note – aside from the print yellow pages industry, I almost solely have positive things to say about businesses.

I’ll also be looking for hotels to stay. I’m not too picky. Fancy hotels are great although my needs are basically room Internet access and a bed.

Nonetheless, ten hotel stays in just over a month adds up. I would love it if a hotel chain (or any other business) would help sponsor this experiment in some sort of way. So far, I just followed a few hotels on Twitter, including:

I’ll try to follow a few more, too. Now, most marketing departments in the hospitality field will have some type of online reputation management program, which hopefully means they’ll see this blog post + notice that I follow them on Twitter.

So, wonderful hospitality industry folks. Please consider sponsoring this experiment in some sort of way. We all know that Word-of-Web marketing is like Word-of-Mouth except when online you’re telling everybody. I want to say nice things about you!

I have decided on four weekend places to visit: San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Boston. The other place or two will be decided later.

The plan will be to arrive at my destinations Friday evenings and find an event/attraction/anything blog worthy that night or Saturday. Then, I’ll make sure to use Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, local review sites and this blog to mention what hopes to be fun experiences. Sundays will mostly be returning to Minnesota.

I’m really looking forward to this and hope to showcase many worthy businesses across the country.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Google Tags, Hair Salons, Clever Uses of Google Coupons

July 29, 2010

Recently, I was chatting with Clint from ThinkSEM with a laptop in front of us looking for hair salons. Nope, not for me but for one of Clint’s clients.

The reason was to check local Google listings and see if any salons were using Google’s new Tags for coupons. If you haven’t seen these yet, this Google LatLong post sums it up quite well.

With Google Tags, you control its destination, most likely a section of your Google Places Page you want emphasized. This can be photos, video, custom message or in our search, a coupon. Success from a simple coupon can be easily measurable. If only 25 people a month show their coupon (printed or mobile device) to an advertiser’s salon(s), the $25 flat monthly fee is worth it many times over.

Here’s a nice use of a coupon. A salon in Jacksonville uses it as a gift card to attract new clients.

The coupon?

Here’s a scrunched up screenshot of the Google 7 Pack in Houston. Two salons use their $25 monthly tag to link directly to their website… right underneath the free link directly to their website. Not the best use?

Another scrunched screenshot, here’s a very clever use of a Tampa salon using their Best of Citysearch award and turning it into a coupon.

One of their coupons?

It’s not just coupons. Here’s a great use of a salon in San Jose providing driving directions.

We thought of other industries who would use Google Tags and SEO did come up right away. Another scrunched screenshot shows a free website evaluation at the top of Chicago results.

The evaluation.

Disclaimer – I don’t know of this company and have no opinion of them yay or nay. They’re more than welcome to chime in. $500 in value seems quite a bit to offer for free. A search marketing agency who charges $125/hr would spend four hours on one evaluation. Even a lawyer won’t spend more than 15 or 30 minutes on a free consultation.

What do you know? A segue.

From a previous position in Eagan, MN, I learned that many lawyers like to play on Google. This isn’t a good or bad thing. It’s what it is.

Here’s another scrunched up Google 7 Pack – this time for a personal injury lawyer in San Jose.

Notice there’s one with a free consultation? I’ve been to San Jose twice, didn’t injure myself either time, but if I did and saw this I may have taken them up on that offer. It’s a much nicer touch than a $25/month link to visit their website directly under a free link to visit their website directly.

Somewhat related, someone out there thinks that keyword stuffing a Google coupon gives them magic Google love.

Accident Lawyer

Accident Lawyer! Accident Lawyer! Accident Lawyer!

I wonder if that will make this post on Google’s first page for accident lawyer? No? OK. Moving on.

I wasn’t surprised then to see the same firm with tons of reviews loaded with keywords. Maybe Lycos or something still puts weight on bold words in their search ranking algorithm.

Disclaimer – Most attorneys I know are fantastic.

This is getting a little off topic. Hair salon owners, get listed for free on Google Places and consider a $25/month creative use for Google Tags.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>

Round Two-of-Three for Yellow Pages Companies Making Minneapolis Less Pretty

July 17, 2010

Just a couple months ago, Dex started the first round of making Minneapolis less pretty by dropping their print yellow pages on unwanted doorsteps.

Rumor had it Yellowbook did the same thing last week while I was out of town. The condo I live at only allows one yellow pages company to dump their pile. So, I decided to send a quick Twitter message:

I did get a confirmation first by Cory Taj Bolton and then a fun, snarky response from my friend, Glenn.

So, I took my camera to the same south Minneapolis area visited two, short months ago. It was a copy of what it looked like in May. Yellowbook phone books were sitting on people’s lawns, porches and steps. Here’s a book placed at a condemned home.

This one just looks lonely.

These are just two examples and feel free to view the entire Flickr set of 54 pictures.

Print book advocates would argue their value by touting stats like “X percent of users view the yellow pages 1.4 times a day” or something, but pictures don’t lie.

What print book advocates also say is to simply recycle your old yellow pages when your new book arrives. OK, this does make sense. So, you should accept the Dex book that comes in May and then put it in the recycle bin in July when your new Yellowbook shows? In September, you can then recycle your Yellowbook when Verizon Supermedia drops off your new book.

I doubt advertisers would want their print ad viewed for only two months out of the year. According to the timing of distribution, Supermedia would at least be the newest book for eight months of the year.

I’ll give Yellowbook credit. Most of the books do land closer to a door. Dex didn’t appear to have very good aim.

Nonetheless, this is just my lil’ part to try to make yellow pages opt-in.
Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>