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>


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 Localmn.com 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!

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>


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

May 22, 2010

For years, print yellow pages advocates have touted their stats including efforts of opting out. The YP Association reluctantly even put out their own option called YellowPagesOptOut.com and claim this one actually works.

Based on what I saw today, I highly doubt this is true. Pictures don’t lie – only people do. On a short area on Cedar Ave S. in Minneapolis, there were a ton of Dex books being ignored on steps, lawns, fences, and even on an obvious foreclosed and an abandoned home.

These have been left by Dex approximately 5 days ago so it’s safe to assume the vast majority of these folks don’t want the book. If they did, they would have brought them inside.

Originally, I wanted to return these to a local Dex distributor. You know what? Turns out the one thing impossible to find on the Internet is a phone book distributor. I wonder why? Instead I took a bunch of pictures and put them on Flickr.

Dex, do the right thing and come back to pick up your trash that makes Minneapolis less pretty. Yellowbook and Supermedia, take notice as you get your turn to litter Minneapolis soon.

Here’s an example of Dex littering our city.

Yellow Pages on Apartment Doorstep

Yellow Pages on Apartment Doorstep

This house had a locked gate so you can’t get to the doorstep. I suppose tossing the bag over the fence for them to get wet works just as well.

Unwanted Phone Book Getting Wet

Unwanted Phone Book Getting Wet

Maybe the delivery person was scared of the dog?

Beware of Dog

Beware of Dog

OK Dex, this is a foreclosed home. Whoever delivered this would easily know this. Why did you deliver here?

Yellow Pages at Foreclosed Home

Yellow Pages at Foreclosed Home

And of course the big pile in our parking area. Like every recent year, there will eventually be a dent. Around 4-6 months from now someone  (hopefully Dex) will come take the rest away.

Yellow Pages in Parking Garage

Yellow Pages in Parking Garage

I mentioned earlier, but you can view the whole set on Flickr.

Big YP companies don’t like it when information like this gets shown. The more books that get delivered allow the YP association to artificially inflate their circulation stats. Who pays for this? The business advertiser who is getting ripped off. It’s also just one reason YP fights opt-out lists.

Again, pictures don’t lie. Aside from the last picture downtown, these pictures of over-delivery are just on one street in south Minneapolis. Can you imagine how much litter the whole city is receiving? This is just Dex. Up next, Yellowbook and Supermedia.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>


Think Local, Buy Local, Enjoy Frozen Fruchi

May 19, 2010

A few weeks ago, a local PR firm asked if I would try a product. In return, I mentioned I would talk about it online in some form.

Well, the product is called Fruchi. Basically, it’s a natural frozen smoothie… and is admittedly awesome, and local.

The Fruchis arrived and the security folks at the River Towers were kind enough to keep it in a freezer for me until I came home.

Frozen Fruchis

Frozen Fruchis

Turns out they gave me two boxes, not just one. Win!

Two Boxes

Two Boxes

Sure looks good, and it is! This one is Strawberry Escape.

Strawberry Escape

Strawberry Escape

All you do is take one out of the freezer and in 10-15 minutes it starts to turn slushy. Rip the top off and enjoy!

When talking with a contact, he joked that it works well with alcohol. I wasn’t sure if he meant side by side or if it helps the morning after. Nonetheless, here they are together 🙂

Not Fruit, Then Fruit

Combo not Recommended in Tandem

All of this said, I really, really like this stuff. Brought it into office, tried my first one, sent this tweet:

Twitter Message

Twitter Message

@arok puts in his two cents. Apparently it looked like I was eating out of an astronaut pack. He couldn’t stop laughing. Admittedly it WAS funny!

Ol' Timey Astronaut

Ol' Timey Astronaut

Fruchi is now on Twitter as well. Feel free to follow them at @FruchiFruitSmoothies.

Seriously, they are very tasty, natural, and healthy, too. Think of it as a locally-owned frozen smoothie not unlike what you get at Jamba Juice.

Part of me wants to get into the shape I was 10 years ago. If so, obviously increasing exercise would help. Another could be drinking/eating these for breakfast or early snack. Why? Each pouch has 30 carbs or so. Eating these early should boost energy when you naturally burn more calories. Then go for protein later in the day.

But, what I say and do are usually different so for now I’m just going to enjoy them. They truly are tasty, healthier and more natural than other snacks. Oh, to the FTC – no one is paying me to say this.

They are available at Kowalski’s and Cub Foods, although when I went to the St. Anthony Cub they weren’t to be found. I’m sure they will be more populated soon. To add, I just noticed they’re also in all 21 area Lunds & Byerly’s stores. Win!

Lunds & Byerly's

Lunds & Byerly's

One very cool thing is they are one of many local vendors at the new Target Field! Apparently they have two concession stands and gate vendors. If you see them, try it out!

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>


Local U – Just a Few Days Away & Special Offer

May 10, 2010
Local University

Local University

GetListed.org’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>


Twin Cities Human Social Scavenger Hunt is Back!

April 24, 2010

I’m so glad. This is what made me join Twitter in the first place around 3 years ago. Today was the first 2010 Twin Cities human scavenger hunt from the Least Dangerous Game.

This is cool for many reasons. You learn new things about your area, you meet new people, and local businesses get both exposure and revenue!

@ldg left a couple initial Twitter clues which I didn’t quite get, then headed to Calhoun Square once I saw this Tweet:

Dump Updale

Dump Updale

Turns out when Calhoun Square was built, there was a big opposition because they thought it would suburbanize such an urban area. I did not know of this.

Anyway, I found Aric for the initial clue. He gave me a word puzzle which led me to Galactic Pizza to get a picture taken with one of their super-heros:

Galactic Pizza

Galactic Pizza

Another thing I didn’t know – their super-heros are the delivery folks. How did I not know this? This is awesome.

Then, they gave me this clue for the next stop:

What the...

What the...

I met another hunter and together took a 10-minute penalty to get the business name. Turns out if you switch the letters and numbers around, it says 2648 Lyn (short for Lyndale) which takes you to Robot Love.

Robot Love

Robot Love

I’ve driven past this place many times having no idea what was inside. They basically sell designer toys, books, clothing, etc. I’ll be back as a holiday or birthday shopper.

Then, the puzzle.

Nonogram

Nonogram

I was in the store with @MSPdude (Eric) and (I think) @Ry4an (Ryan) with his daughter in stroll. They were both figuring out the final nonogram clue while I was trying to figure out what the hell a nonogram was on my iThing.

Ryan solved it first, and 5 minutes later I conceded with this Tweet:

I Concede

I Concede

Got to my car, and saw Eric walking behind and into the Sauce Spirits and Soundsbar! Turns out my car was parked right at the final destination so I followed him in. I already conceded but it was fun to meet and enjoy food/drink with the participants. This pizza was really tasty, although I’m a spice wuss and just had a few bites.

Pizza at Sauce

Pizza at Sauce

Our server was nice enough to take our picture. I’ll be back. Sauce is a very cool place!

Myself, Aric, Eric

Myself, Aric, Eric

I really hope events like this flourish. Everyone wins including local businesses who take part. It’s also a great example on how to use social media tools like Twitter.

Thanks to Aric and all the local businesses to make this happen.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>


NYC Dream Theater Ticket Giveaway – Human Scavenger Hunt Style

April 8, 2010

In July, I’m going to New York City with two tickets to see Dream Theater (DT) and will be giving away the other ticket randomly through a Manhattan human scavenger hunt. Why do such a thing?

A few reasons actually. One, I take Dream Theater for granted. They’re not huge in the US and seem to play select cities. Well, Minneapolis is almost always on their list. I buy tickets online, walk the 7 or 8 blocks to the Orpheum or State Theatre and am home 20 minutes after the show. It’s time for me to man-up and travel to a DT show.

Another reason is simple. I’ve never been to New York and this is a perfect reason to go.

The third is to do good with social media. We’ve all seen tweets about what people are currently eating or what book they’re currently reading and have probably been guilty myself.

I want to meet people, use different tools such as Flickr, YouTube and Twitter to showcase these interactions. So, I’ll be doing a human scavenger hunt in Matthattan either July 10th or 11th giving Twitter clues to my whereabouts. The first to find me wins the extra ticket.

Plus, although DT isn’t huge in the US, we fans are loyal! The lucky winner will hopefully be more than excited to win one of these two tickets: (the other’s for me)

DT and Iron Maiden

DT and Iron Maiden in Madison Square Garden

Yep, the tickets say Iron Maiden. DT is the opening act. Maiden should be fun, too. Haven’t really heard of them since high school.

The seats – Section 331, Row 1. Not bad. 3rd level near stage looking right down at Dream Theater!

Decent Seats

Decent Seats

Hopefully, news can spread and potential sponsors get interested such as NYC radio stations or stores that sell DT merchandise. That would sweeten the pot for the lucky winner. There is an upcoming blog for this, and a YouTube, Flickr and brand, new Twitter account (@DTinNYC) for those who want to follow along. You in the New York area and want a chance for the ticket? Just follow the above DTinNYC Twitter account.

Here’s to NY and here’s to the lucky winner in July!!

Update: There will be a separate blog for this DT scavenger hunt coming and will then be displayed in the Twitter account.

Bookmark on Google :: pos</p>