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A picture is worth a thousand words: Why pictures are such a critical part of your local search strategy

Local Search Strategy

The cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words has proven true over many years and across many mediums – especially in local search strategy for businesses. Pictures are so effective because a large part of the human brain is devoted to visual processing. In fact, studies have shown that we can recognize a familiar image in just 100 milliseconds. When you consider how difficult it is to capture your target audience’s attention in today’s short-attention-span world, it’s easy to see how pictures can help you do it quickly and effectively.

Using images is just as important as using keywords in helping drive traffic to your website. Finding the right ones – in addition to using those specific to your business – is easier than you may think. Try using Google’s Images search; this is Google’s own images index where it keeps billions of pictures. Although using these is an often-overlooked strategy, they can drive traffic to websites as people search for examples of all sorts of products, activities, services, etc. More than 10% of all Google searches are for images and daily page views of Google images number more than a billion.

When you use unique, quality pictures that help tell your brand’s story and provide visual cues for location and service, you can convert more customers and improve discoverability through image searches. In addition, geotagging each picture is essential. Geotagging is the process of storing the latitude and longitude of your current location with your pictures so that the data is picked up by those using devices for local searches of businesses to patronize.

For businesses that have a Google My Business (GMB) profile, pictures play an exceptionally important role in optimizing their local search presence. Google My Business is a directory that Google created; it presents results on branded and generic keyword searches of your business and for keywords related to products and services you provide.
To have the best chance of your listing grabbing someone’s attention, the following images are key:

  • Logo – Help your customers recognize your business on Google by including your logo. For businesses that have their basic information (phone number, hours, etc.), the Business Profile portion of the listing will highlight the logo.
  • Cover photo – Add a cover photo to the top of the profile that best represents your business. This photo, like your logo, goes a long way to establish your brand’s identity.
  • Additional photos – Add additional photos to highlight features of your business that customers consider when making purchasing decisions. Your business will look best on Google if you add category-specific photos. The pictures you add to your profile can also help differentiate your business from others on Google.

Types of business-specific photos to include in your GMB profile:

  • Exterior photos – These help customers recognize your business as they approach from different directions.
  • Interior photos – These help your customers get a feel for the ambiance and décor of your business.
  • Product photos – These should be representative of your products or of your popular products to give customers a better understanding of the kinds of goods you offer.
  • Team photos – These are important to show the personal side of your business.

The use of similar pictures and videos on social media and across other local listings profiles also delivers results in several powerful ways:

  • Pictures call attention to your profile and posts.
  • On social media, photos and videos help your audience remember your message.
  • Using the same types of images across several social media platforms and local listings profiles will help define your brand and establish a brand that customers will recognize.

DAS Group can assist your business with ensuring photos are part of your local search strategy. Contact us today!

Understanding General Data Protection Regulation Compliance

Understanding General Data Protection Regulation Compliance

The deadline for compliance with the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Compliance Regulation (GDPR) is approaching fast. By May 25, 2018, all companies that do business in the EU, process the data of EU residents, and have more than 250 employees must show that they are taking substantive measures to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states.

The GDPR also regulates the exportation of personal data outside the EU and affects companies with less than 250 employees whose data processing rights impact the rights and freedoms of data subjects on a more than occasional basis and include certain types of sensitive personal data.

Essentially, any company doing business in the EU’s 28-member states or utilizing the data of EU citizens is subject to the regulation’s standards. Understanding how to meet these standards is particularly important for US businesses and others worldwide that operate internationally – specifically those with customers in the EU. In addition, all data processors and data controllers that work with these businesses must be in compliance – the reasoning being that if your vendor is not in compliance, then your company cannot be in compliance. So, all contracts with vendors of this type must be updated to reflect that systems and practices have been put in place to comply with the GDPR. As with individual businesses, these vendor contracts need to define consistent processes for how data is managed and protected, and how breaches are reported.

While GDPR standards are considered high, they are uniform across all EU member states – so initiatives can all meet one standard. However, a recent report by Ovum found that about two-thirds of US company officials feel they will have to rethink their strategy in Europe due to system and business practice requirements, and nearly 85% feel the GDPR is putting them at a competitive disadvantage with European companies.

About 68% of US-based companies expect to spend $1 million to $10 million on systems to meet GDPR requirements, while another 9% expect to spend more than $10 million, according to a recent PwC survey. The type of basic identity information companies must now protect includes name, address and ID numbers; web data such as location, IP address, cookie data and RFID tags; health and genetic data; biometric data; racial or ethnic data; political opinions; and sexual orientation.

The first step in protecting data is to make certain that your company’s IT and security teams understand how it is stored and processed. The GDPR specifies the roles that are responsible for ensuring compliance as the data controller, data processor, and the data protection officer. The data controller defines how personal data is processed and the purposes for which it is processed. The controller is also responsible for making sure that outside contractors comply.

Once your team of professionals has worked together to gather the necessary information for GDPR compliance, they can then agree on a compliant process for reporting, articulate that in a new policy for the company, and include it in new contracts with vendors.

Companies that do not take these steps internally and with their data management vendors by the May 25 deadline are at risk for being charged EU regulatory non-compliance fines, which historically have been steep. However, there is little need to place your business at risk of GDPR non-compliance. With careful attention to detail and proactive initiatives, companies can meet the GDPR standard and at the same time know they are protecting customers and their own business by making all less vulnerable to data breaches.

At DAS Group, we are aware of the GDPR requirements and are ready to ensure we advise our clients to ensure they are also taking the necessary measures. It bears repeating that compliance is required by all companies with customers in the EU as well as by all vendors who have clients with customers in the EU. If you have questions about meeting GDPR compliance, contact DAS Group. We are happy to discuss your concerns and help your brand ensure compliance.

Google Launches New Next-Gen Local Discovery Tool

Google

Google’s new “tappable shortcuts” now make it possible to find key localized information without the need to use a search box for users in the United States of the Google app on Android, IOS and Google.com on the mobile web.

Google says search app users will need to have the most updated version of its app to have access to the shortcuts. Then, with a tap on a shortcut icon, located just below the search engine’s search boxes, they can find quick information about weather, sports, food, television programming and other entertainment. The data is grouped by interest, cuisines, atmosphere and various other attributes.

The search engine also said it will soon introduce new shortcuts for “big moments and events” that may be one-off shortcuts for things that attract a lot of search queries – like elections or the Olympics.

Driven and accompanied by rich data, Google’s new move provides a strong incentive for businesses to add more enhanced data as part of their local SEO strategy.

“The Google search box is great when you’re looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest,” writes Google’s Vice President of Product Manager, Tamar Yehoshua, on the Google Search Blog that announced the shortcuts.

He added that Android users will have access to even more shortcuts, including translation tools, nearby attractions, travel information, a currency converter, games and more. The blog also offers a short video that explains how the shortcuts work.

The new launch is likely Google’s bid to compete with Yelp and other such providers of local content, industry experts have said, as this sort of machine learning-driven activity entirely bypasses the traditional search box.

“These are essentially prepackaged queries, using a range of data behind the scenes, to replace typing with tapping,” writes Greg Sterling of industry publication Search Engine Land. “The experience represents a template for other kinds of mobile search results beyond the four categories currently present. Shopping and Travel come immediately to mind. Android features more shortcuts than iOS. Currently, you can buy movie tickets via the entertainment shortcut. We can expect more transactional capabilities like this to roll out to other categories.”

He added that, while there are no advertisements currently on Google’s shortcuts, he assumes there will be if the tools gain widespread usage – especially if we see large numbers of people entirely bypassing the search box in key categories.

“The changes also come at a time when the major technology companies are bringing back the idea of portals as a stepping off point to the web,” elaborated Sarah Perez from Techcrunch.com.  “In the internet’s early years, users would visit their favorite homepages for this sort of information — news, weather, local, sports, etc. Now, they’re being shuffled off into apps. Facebook, for example, has been trying to combat this shift, by steadily adding features that would have otherwise necessitated users to exit its own app for others — like weather, shopping, jobs and more.”

DAS Group is available to help your business make sure it’s on top of the latest digital marketing trends; we would be happy to share ideas with you.

Angie’s List is Now Free: Now What? What the Change Means for Your Business

angie's list

The importance of reviews

Reviews matter to businesses more than ever. Once upon a time, word of mouth, advertising and formal reviews in traditional media were the only way for businesses to receive publicity, and it was relatively easy to prevent negative reviews from affecting your business. Now, reviews are crowdsourced and easily accessible to any consumer with a computer or phone. In fact, 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, while 39% read reviews on a regular basis. Reviews give customers a voice and influence the decisions of other potential customers. Additionally, today’s online reviews can add credibility to a business’ website, and therefore influence the business’ appearance in local search results rankings. For these reasons, obtaining positive online reviews is a crucial component of contemporary business marketing, reputation management and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

What is Angie’s List?

Today, many think of Yelp or Google reviews when they think of online reviews, but the impact of online reviews began in 1995 with the founding of Angie’s List, now the oldest online review site on the web. For a subscription fee, Angie’s List enabled users to browse and post both positive and negative reviews of home, yard, auto and health service providers. Angie’s List currently reports 10 million verified reviews from its members.

The problem for Angie’s List was that, until now, the site was viewed by just over 3 million paid members, which translates to less than 1% of the population. Today’s digital consumers are often unwilling to pay a nominal subscription fee when they have free access to alternative review sites. This meant that, while Angie’s List subscribers were better informed than the vast majority of review readers, the site did not have a significant effect on businesses.

However, the number of consumers reading and providing reviews will soon grow and make Angie’s List a much more formidable component of lead generation for businesses. Last March, Angie’s List announced its intention to abandon its subscription model and open the website and services up to the general public, free of charge. As of June 2016, this change has taken effect. This decision to change the Angie List model may stem from recent competition by newer sites like Home Advisor and Thumbtack and free sites such as Yelp. Competition from these sites has been affecting Angie’s List’s earnings in recent years, well before the company decided to remove the paywall.

Without its paywall barrier, Angie’s List will most likely be a key player among review sites due to its unique, end-to-end customer experience. When announcing the change, CEO Scott Durchslag noted that Angie’s List gets “over 100 million [unique] visitors each month, but 90% of them have been bouncing because of the reviews paywall . . . We expect to see traffic explode with the change.” Since then, Durchslag has reported that “new member sign-ups increased nearly fourfold compared to a year ago and, among those members, unique visits more than doubled. In that same period, unique members searching have more than doubled and the number of service provider profile views from those members more than doubled.”

What the change means for your business

Angie’s List’s impact on search results will grow with these recent changes, making it a necessary tool in reputation building and local SEO strategy. Reviews, and good reviews in particular, contribute to a business’ website traffic. Google’s local search algorithm uses data from third-party directories and platforms, including review sites such as Angie’s List, as a key determining factor to authenticate a business’s website and thereby increase or lower its search rankings among competitors. Businesses will now have to account for Angie’s List in their SEO strategy along with other popular review sites such as Yelp and Google reviews.

Unlike the average review site, however, Angie’s List’s longevity and commitment to quality make it an extra credible and “weighty” site among search engines. A business website linked to Angie’s List reviews will have an improved Search Engine Results Page. Furthermore, because of the site’s emphasis on length, Angie’s List reviews simply contain more content than typical blurb-type reviews and will provide more weight than reviews from other sites.

This all simply means that businesses should work to encourage positive reviews on Angie’s List as a major part of their marketing strategy. However, many business’ current monitoring tools may not be able to identify reviews from Angie’s List since the site’s content was, until recently, secured behind a paywall. In order to make sure that you can detect and track Angie’s List reviews, you can claim your business’ Angie’s List profile by proactively registering your company on the site.

As Angie’s List grows, it will most likely expand into different markets and categories of business. Even if your type of business is not included in the scope of Angie’s List currently covered business categories, it may soon be, as the company continues to look for growth opportunities.

If you would like to ensure that your business and site are fully optimized for this change and others to come, contact DAS Group.

Google Releases Amplified Mobile-Friendly Algorithm

mobile friendly algorithm

“In the United States, 94% of the people with smart phones
search for local information on their phones.”
(Webmasters Mobile Guide)

Google will release a gradual update to amplify its mobile-friendly algorithm, beginning in May. The algorithm, launched on April 21, 2015, was originally designed to boost mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results on Google. Just this week, it has been announced by Google on the Webmaster blog that this feature will now be amped up even more. Another ‘Mobilegeddon’? Not quite, as this was the nickname of the first update due to the massive impact delivered upon release. Still, we are promised a direct mobile impact with this update.

Mobile-Friendly Update Factors

‘Mobilegeddon’ yielded the following mobile-friendly page preferences, extending Google’s reach even further into mobile expansion:

  • Avoids software that is uncommon on mobile devices, such as Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Fits content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

These updates will soon mesh with the new features to build an even stronger platform for successful mobile search engine results. Some boosted effects for the new algorithm push are:

  • Increased effect of mobile-friendly ranking signal
  • Minor drop-off on non-mobile-friendly websites over an indefinite amount of time

The new and improved algorithm is a page-by-page signal, and as this rollout slowly progresses, subtle changes are bound to populate our screens. Rankings, including over 200 qualifiers, are assigned by Googlebot to determine whether or not your site is mobile-friendly.

There is no grey area – you’re either in or you’re out.

Click the link to see if your website is mobile-friendly: Mobile-Friendly Test Tool