Are you Kevin Bacon Close to your Customers?

Are you Chuck Norris Bacon Close to Your Clients?

Chuck Norris Bacon Number

Google just added a new search option, called the Bacon Number. Adding Bacon Number to an Actor or Celebrity name will calculate and display the other actors that have mutually worked with Kevin Bacon or your provided actor in the same movie. Or worked with an Actor that later worked with one of them. For each actor that is needed to link the original actor to Kevin, that counts as one degree of separation.

This fun little actor trivia game is based on Six degrees of separation, a concept that refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare.

So, now that you have Google’s help, see if you can find an Actor with a Bacon Number greater than 3. You’ll likely be amazed how small, or tight, the “Hollywood” industry appears when viewed from a “How Connected Are They” search tool.

Unfortunately, your industry doesn’t have a Bacon Number Tool, but it is almost certainly as connected. You are probably no more than 3 degrees, and no further than six degrees, away from every client or potential client. And they are that close to each other as well.

This close connectivity within an industry, or a community, is what makes social networking so effective for businesses, even small ones. Ask your next new customer how they found out about you. If it’s a person, thank them on your Facebook page and Twitter.

Big Change in SEO “Best Practice” – Anchor Text in Links

One of the toughest things for small business owners is keeping up with all the important advancements or changes in technology that impacts many aspects of their business. Unfortunately, these advancements might be in areas that are NOT the business owner’s core competency, such as Web design, Quick Books updates or new Trade Event booth designs that dramatically cut costs.

Was Ten, Now Nine SEO CommandmentsImproving and keeping your search engine results are one of those areas as well. And for some months now, it appears that Google has drastically changed a top ten “SEO Commandment” I call “standardizing keyword use with inbound link anchor text”. This commandment from now on needs to add “NOT” in it. The updated commandment and the explanation are as follows:

Thou Shall NOT use the same Anchor Text Keywords within all inbound Links 

During most of 2011, Google has focused on trying to reduce the “black hat” SEO sites that are merely content farms housing shallow information that is seldom what a searcher is seeking. One item they continue to analysis AND penalize involves paid links. Their house cleaning consists of punishing violators who are obviously paying for links on a site that isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be sending traffic to the violator’s site.

Small business owners are easy, constant targets for the “we can guarantee your company will show up on Google’s first search page”. One of the often used methods is to sell a service that will increase the amount of incoming links.

FOR YEARS, SEO experts have know that using your most important keywords CONSISTENTLY in the link on the other site increased the importance of showing your site when someone searched on those exact words. This recommendation has been considered a White Hat Best Practice since its inception.

Now that same behavior could get you penalized. Just like JC Penny and Overstock.com (for slightly different link building schemes). Google has determined that if too many of the links on other sites that are pointing to your site use the same exact text in their link, you are probably paying for them.

We would recommend that you build up an expanded list of your most important keywords. If you have the opportunity to request what anchor text to use on another site, keep track. Use Google Webmaster Tools to periodically check natural growth in inbound links. Make sure to include product and company brand names in the links now to further change the links from being all the same.

Google assumes “natural links” would not always use the same words. And if they suspect you are buying those links, they’ll silently penalize you from being displayed on their search results.

Yes, this will happen even if you have only been following Best Practices or Used an professional SEO expert in the past. By the way, this is also the reason you shouldn’t think of SEO as a one time task.

Claim Your Business’s Google Places

I’ve posted previously about the importance of “claiming your Google business listing” on Google Maps. Last year, Google renamed this feature and created Google Places. Well, it is even more important for businesses to claim their Google Place and start improving or adding to the information that Google has chosen to include. This should help your search engine results on Google AND help customers learn about your business from YOU as well.

Claim Your Google Place

We recently added a new client that has been in business for a little over a year. They chose to start their company in a facility that houses other small businesses…which means they all share the same physical street address, except for their Suite number.

This client didn’t show up on Google Maps, even if you keyed in their phone number OR actual address. I was actually surprised they didn’t show up at all. Of course, in this case, Google’s authentication method wouldn’t allow the use of their phone number, because Google hadn’t put the two connections together within their indexing. I had to use the slower post card mail route.

Now, can you imagine the frustration of users today who might be trying to locate your business AFTER arriving close by. Now that they’ve claimed their Google Place, they show up correctly on Google Maps as well.

FREE Google PlacesIf you are a retail establishment that relies on foot traffic/local traffic for your revenue, I cannot stress how important doing this simple, FREE, easy process is for your company. If you need help, give us a call.

SMB Online Reviews: Still no Sheriff in the Wild Wild ‘Net

Do you know what your customers are saying about you online?

If you’re like me, you are more frequently searching for businesses or products online…and reading reviews that people have posted about it.

Google Online Reviews

Click on

I started spending hours on Amazon reviews back in the 90’s when I realized you have to somewhat figure out the perspective, and ‘likes’, of the reviewer before you can really make a decision based on it. Matter of fact, I learned that you can only educate yourself better, but not decide anything, if there are only a few reviews.

For several recent years, I’ve accessed Star ratings and associated reviews on Google and Yahoo search engine pages (SERPs). And I’ve actually caught “fake” reviewers on a few businesses that were obviously their competition or an angry ex-employee, once you look at when the account/profile was created, what other reviews they’ve posted (frequently, it’ll only be for that business), unusual misspellings that are common between posters that seem to support each other…and were created on the same day, etc. Further investigation on one I was doing for a client actually drilled down to the same exact person using four fake accounts, something I’m certain happens MUCH MORE than many ‘lay people’ small business owners realize. It’s even rampant on Apple’s App store, especially in the $.99 apps market. (Access the iTunes store on your computer, not phone, and click on reviewers names to see their ‘other reviews’. You may easily notice a pattern that suggests whether this is a paid reviewer because all his reviews are 5 stars and only for apps from the same company. And competitors will be the opposite of that pattern. Seriously, how often do you make an effort to award 5 stars to a company, but have NEVER posted a 1-4 star with a complaint.)

And now…there’s lots of smartphone apps that HELP people review your business right after finding out that last sale item is no longer available. Yelp, Foursquare, Urbanspoon…and really TWITTER is just a big megaphone shouting out how bad your business is to anyone that might ‘hear it’.

Many business owners I talk with haven’t even tried searching on their own company and accessing the reviews. But when they do…that’s when the pain can really set in. Bottom line? Business Owners cannot do anything about negative reviews, except to proactively promote good reviews in various ways.

If you want to know how NOT to handle bad reviews…plus some positive ways you should handle them, read this long Inc Magazine article, “You’ve Been Yelped“.

So, if you’re now thinking you need to take action, what steps should you follow?

I’d start by searching for your business on Google’s, Yahoo’s, Bing’s and Yelp’s sites and review what people are saying online. DO NOT post right away, rather read them all, have a trusted peer or co-worker review them. Consider if valid issues have been resolved, maybe you can email the reviewer and ask them to check back and update the review. Maybe you need to start some type of ‘loyal customer’ campaign where you ask your customers to consider posting positive reviews.

When I last visited my GP, I mentioned to the Dr that they have some people complaining online about the long waits. I suggested he should add wi-fi in the lobby as well as promoting his new appointment system that significantly reduces waiting and really communicating this with signage in his lobby to both reduce waiting times and making it more productive while waiting. If nothing else, it will show he is listening and cares about his customers.