The Stationers Guild

Posts Tagged ‘local search’

Don’t be Discouraged: Think Local!

Friday, April 19th, 2013

I realize that there is a lot of  ”gloom and doom” scenarios in the stationery industry, but I remain quite optimistic that the tide is turning.  Sadly, some of the Big Tankers in the industry are slow to recognize the obvious and appear to embracing internet marketing strategies that are no longer fashionable.   Crane’s marriage of convenience with Paperless Post is simply one example of that trend, but I suppose that “Paperless Paper” makes sense to some MBA consultant who is still wet behind the ears.

GPS enabled “Smart Phones” is the current rage.  Why?  Because people are  trying to search locally.  Granted, many are looking for a pizza or perhaps a pair of shoes, but the real point is that they are trying to find businesses in their immediate neighborhood.  In fact, for the past two to three years internet search marketing is focused on local businesses – not online portals.

Google has a huge advantage, but there are many other players scrambling to catch up;  particularly the Yellow Pages which found it difficult to give up their $17 billion in annual autopilot sales to poorly served and hopelessly overcharged local businesses.  This is very good news for the stationery industry and local businesses in general.   Mind you, the devastated retail landscape is still recovering, but business owners who “think local”  and, more importantly, market locally should have a major competitive advantage.

To get an idea of what is going in the area of local search, sign up for one of the many seminars available to explain what you must to to rebuild your local relevancy.  Found below is their sales pitch:

Did you know that 97% of consumers search online when they want to find a local business or service provider? That’s a number worth paying attention to, especially when you consider the many different places they may be looking — sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, mobile apps like Apple Maps and Google Maps, directories like Superpages and YP.com, social sites like Yelp and Facebook … the list goes on. As a local business, you can’t afford to be missing from these sites or to have customers directed to the wrong address or phone number.

Now, I have no idea who UBL is (and I won’t be attending the webinar), but I suspect that they want to part you with some of your hard-earned cash.    I have seen many similar webinars.  I suggest that you sign-up for the webinar and listen, but don’t take any action until you have claimed your business on most of the local search registries highlighted on GetListed.org.   Mind you, services like UBL are useful for those who truly don’t want to do anything for themselves, but subscribing to the basic listing services (see below) is always the most cost effective.  FREE is even better if you want to do it yourself.  In this case, a little knowledge is a good thing!

From my perspective, claiming you business on Google and Bing, together with a Facebook Page and a Google+ Page is sufficient to be ahead of 80% of the competition.   If you are a bit adventurous, get a Pinterest account (drop me an email and I will send you an invitation).  Forget about Twitter as most internet marketing people feel that it will fade into oblivion within a couple of years.

Richard W. May
email is rmay@stationersguild.org

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Think Local and the Big Things will fall in Place

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Many people accuse me of looking only at the “dark side” of fine stationery industry.  Like most paranoids, I may often appear to be somewhat delusional, but I see no merit in engaging in the “happy talk” that currently surrounds our industry.  Let’s face it,  the stationery industry is in crisis and in desperate need of inspired leadership.  (Actually, I would settle for “competent” leadership.)

“Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder,” but comparing an engraved invitation on 100% cotton paper to the dreary outcome of a flat-printed web template design is like comparing “apples and oranges.”  Nevertheless, the “new demographics” gurus would like the consumer to do precisely that.   Personally, I think the consumer needs a “real” choice.

As I have stated previously, I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know that unless you have an active and targeted online presence you will fail.  This is as true for bricks-and-mortar dealers, our vendors and  home dealers as it is for online re-sellers.   The value proposition that a bricks-and-mortar dealer (and some home dealers) provides a prospective client is that you are seeing “the real deal”:  real paper, real colors and three-dimensional printing.  None of these distinguishing features are available on the internet.

The selling argument is quite simple:  Why should a smart consumer short-change themselves on quality by basing their purchasing decision on a low-quality facsimile and limited experienced service?  Julie Holcomb says it best when speaking to a consumer buying wedding invitations:

If you are like most people, you have never ordered any kind of custom printing prior to ordering your wedding invitations. You can benefit a great deal from the experience of your local stationer, who orders all kinds of custom printing, from many vendors, all the time. They’ll help you make sure you’re covering all the bases and making decisions you’ll be happy with for a long time.

If you are a local business, you can position yourself to attract that smart consumer in your neighborhood.  This is the consumer that wants to get it “right” by making an informed decision based on the price/quality trade-off.  In fact, Google makes it easy for you to be featured on the first page of Google if you make a minimum effort to CLAIM and PROMOTE your business.

Best of all, it is FREE (or mostly free if you decide not to engage some of the paid services).  Just think, Wedding Paper Divas is spending hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars to be featured in your zip code and Google is giving your local business Prime Space on the first page of Google for FREE.

If you want to find out how search relevant your business is, simply enter the name of your company and zip code into http://getlisted.org.  If your business is not over 45%, you probably have some serious visibility problems in your market.  Personally, I don’t find the search results nearly as accurate as they were before GetListed.org was acquired by SEOMoz.    In any event, it is easy to start improving your ranking by claiming your businesses on these various local search engines.

Stationers would be silly if they failed to avail themselves of this FREE service.  This should be your number 1 priority!

Richard May
Discouraged but not despondent.

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Google+ and Facebook

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I have just participated in a brief interactive tour of Google+ or Google Plus, which is Google’s new social media platform which will be launched shortly to compete with Facebook.    Unfortunately, I was not on the short list to Beta test Google+ so I really can’t comment on how effective it will be in reshaping the social media arena.

Nevertheless, most of the techies seem to think it will be big.  If you are new to the social media game or simply reluctant to jump into the arena, I suggest that  you give Google+ a chance, because it incorporates many other local search features (Google Places) that are critical to the success of small businesses.

Let’s face it, Google has been helping small businesses develop a presence on the internet for FREE for a number of years.  From my perspective, they have done more to encourage local business owners to stake a claim in cyberspace  than any other company.  The addition of the social media component (Google+) to Google Places is a very powerful marketing tool for local store owners.  Doesn’t it make sense to invest a little time and find out how claiming your business can help you?  It’s FREE and well worth your effort.

Mind you, I like Facebook, but Google has a lot more going for it than becoming a fan of Kim Kardashian.    While it’s best to have a foot in both camps, I’d jump into Google+ as soon as it is launched.

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Google changes the landscape of Local Search

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

It has been awhile since I have posted articles on the Stationers Guild website. It isn’t for lack of interest, it is simply that I have found that the landscape of SEARCH and INTERNET MARKETING is changing so radically that  it is difficult to know how to position one’s business.  The new search parameters imposed by Google are so impactful that most local business owners need to seriously rethink their overall marketing strategy. 

For the most part, I believe that these changes are “good” (where “good” is a relative term) for local business owners since geo-targeting capabilities in most new cellphones raise the importance of local search results.  The bad news is that if a local business doesn’t have a website or has a website that is not properly configured for local search, they will be left out in the cold.  Found below are – in my estimation - some of the more impactful implications of Google’s emphasis on “Google Place Results”:

  1. In the past, a local business did not need  a website to be listed on the Google 7 or 10-pack list of local businesses.  The Google Lucky 7-pack has now disappeared and has been replaced by Google Place Search.   Don Campbell of Expand2Web describes the impact of these changes on local search.   If you don’t have a website, get one now!
  2. New and growing constraints on AFFILIATE marketing by Google are designed to provide an online  buyer or visitor with improved or more relevant SEARCH results.  Gone are the days when one could throw up an affiliate website designed to generate commissions if one clicks on the embedded link and buys something on a sponsor’s site.   In fact, I have recently discovered many websites designed to link to third-party websites may have already been deindexed by Google and may not even show up in search registries. 
  3. While all of these factors are positive for local businesses over the long term, it does require a greater commitment by local business owners to embrace internet marketing.  Fortunately, there are a number of relatively inexpensive ways to do so.  Nevertheless, it is important to act now.

Because of these changes, I have decided to overhaul the Stationers Guild website.  These changes will occur over the next several months but are designed to enhance the visitor’s website experience and  promote affiliate programs with established vendors who have a commitment to excellence and support their storefront dealers.  I think you will find the Guild website will become increasingly more valuable as it will begin to support your local marketing initiatives.  More on this later. 

For those who wish to learn more about creating a viable online presence, I have established a sister website called www.rite4u.com which will give you the lastest insights into the latest changes in internet marketing and the “best” tools to take advantage of these changes in technology.  Through this website you will be able to access valuable affiliated resources such as Don Campbell’s Expand2Web which builds local search friendly Wordpress websites. More information on Expand2Web will be forthcoming shortly. 

If you value your business and seem confused or concerned about the evolution of the stationery industry, I suggest that you register now at rite4.com and learn how you can protect and grow your investment.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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If you want traffic, claim your business on Google

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

As most of you are no doubt aware, I have written extensively on how important it is to claim your business on Google.  This service is FREE and THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE!   Google has just made it more so, by eliminating other “local” search directories from search queries that contain a local qualifier.   For instance, if one is looking for “wedding invitations Omaha” on Google you will no longer be able to find directories such as local.com or YELP search rersults.  With one deft stroke, Google has killed the competition for local search directories that have been piggy-backing for free on their search network.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. If you have not claimed your business on Google, do so immediately.  It is simple, FREE and the most valuable investment you can make.  Just click on the hyperlink and do it now.  It takes about 15 minutes.
  2. If your store is listed on Google, make sure you spruce it up with photographs and other goodies.  Post a couple of videos of your store  on YouTube and have it linked to your local listing.  YouTube is owned by Google and they love to see you playing the game.
  3. Visit getlisted.org and see how you rank for local search.  It is FREE and simple and I would certainly follow the hyperlinks and get listed on these five local search registeries.

Over the next couple of months, I will be rolling out a few inexpensive and easy business strategies to position your business for online search.

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What Get Married, The Knot and Martha Stewart Weddings don’t want you to know

Friday, May 21st, 2010

This week at the National Stationery Show (“NSS”) a colleague of mine told me that the Editor of Get Married, an online wedding website, was going to visit a bricks-and-mortar stationery store and find out what actually goes on when someone seeks advice on wedding invitations.  I was intrigued:  gosh, will a “real world” experience get in the way of shamelessly promoting the same monotonous and tedious designs from online resellers?  Sceptical, but willing to give Get Married the benefit of the doubt, I trekked over to their booth at the back of Javits Center to see if they had made any relevant  improvements to their website.

I came across an enthusiastic young woman explaining the benefits of advertising on Get Married to two stationers.  As they were wrapping up, I jumped in and asked:  Will I be able to find a “real” stationery store on your website?    Using Connecticut as an example (my home state), I asked to see if they had any stores listed under invitations?

Get Married Local Search

As I suspected, the only “local” stores you can find are “national” online resellers.    I think most people are savvy enough to know the difference between a business that sells “nationally” online and a local store, why can’t Get Married see the difference?    Despite the fact that wedding sites like The Knot, Martha Stewart Wedding and Get Married like to hype the local shopping experience, local relevance is determined solely by how much advertising dollars you are prepared to spend to “buy” local space. 

I explained to the young salesperson, that I considered this to be a deceptive promotion and it was causing people searching for local resources to move away from wedding portals.  She promised to bring this to the attention of her superiors.   Fortunately, I believe that mobile search will eventually kill these relics of self-promotion and deceptive claims whose primary interests are selling advertising and generating affiliate income.  Information from these websites is little more than promtional hype.  Let the buyer beware.

If you are an independent stationer thinking you will benefit from these websites, think again.  The money you spend on online marketing is far better spent promoting your own website and engaging in local search optimization. 

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Google Places for Stationery Stores

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

As reported earlier, Google is aggressively reaching out to local businesses to improve search results for people who place a local qualifier in a search.  Google Places is certain to overhaul the search dynamics and improve search results for those seeking “wedding invitations Greenwich, CT” or “wedding invitations 06830″.  The natural or organic search results will return a stationery store -hopefully yours – in local search results for “wedding invitations” in your town or zip code.

Clearly, mobile search has been driving Google’s effort to improve the search experience for a growing number of consumers using mobile devices.  This is a tremendous opportunity for mom and pop stores and smaller businesses to effectively position their store for mobile search.  To determine how effective your online marketing is working for you, visit getlisted.org to see how well your store stacks up for local search in the four key search engines. 

Twitter is also beginning to make “big” noise on the local search front.  While I have reluctant to recommend Twitter and other social media tools, the local search component has caused me to reassess my position.  With technology, it is difficult to forecast what is coming next, but clearly the time of Twitter and Facebook has arrived.  If you value your business and want to help tech savvy consumers find your business, it is about time to reallocate your Yellow Pages advertising budget to online search.  You will be glad you did and so will your new customers.

This is also the death knell for wedding portals who have so corrupted the local search component.  If you are paying for advertising on The Knot, Martha Stewart Wedding or other wedding portals, this money should now be reallocated to local search.  It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and far more effective.  Why pay for advertising to compete with the likes of weddingpaperdivas.com who are paying close to $50 for each sale in your local space?  Makes no sense.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Claim your business on Google: It’s easy and fun!

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Emi Havas and Deidre Karner, the talented stationers at Paperfolio in Summit, NJ, have taken a very important step to promote their bricks-and-mortar store on the Internet:  They have claimed their business on Google.  Emi reports that “claiming my name (store) on Google was the easiest thing I have done on the computer other than turn it on.  And now we’re even going to add some photos.  It’s easy, fun and free and there is no reason not to do it immediately.”

Experienced stationers like Emi and Deidre have discovered that buyers have migrated from the Yellow Pages to online search for stationery services such as custom wedding invitations, fine business and social stationery and distinctive invitations.  Stores such as Paperfolio have a huge competitive advantage over online resellers.  Unfortunately, online buyers often cannot locate an experienced stationer in their neighborhood to discuss paper options, printing processes and to see a wide array of fine papers and designs that are simply not available on the internet.  As more and more experienced stationers take advantage of the local search capabilities provided by Google, Yahoo and MSN, discerning consumers will soon have an opportunity to reconnect with fine paper and the stunning designs that are simply not available on the internet.

This is a story worth following and I will keep track of their efforts to upgrade Paperfolio’s presence on the internet.

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Finding Local Wedding Invitations: An online con job!

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I’ve got a beef (or “tofu” for vegetarians out there!):  I hate to be lied to by wedding portals and “local” search engines that favor their advertisers to the detriment of their search audience.  Specifically, when I type “wedding invitations” and a “zip code” into a search bar, I expect to find a brick-and-mortar stationer who sells wedding invitations in the general vicinity of my zip code.  Unfortunately, your search result is likely to return a slew of silly-named national printers that “service” your local market.

Companies such as local.com, the Knot or the many varieties of online Yellow Pages should know the difference between a “local business” and a ”national business” serving local markets.   I have spoken with many representatives of these firms and most will tell you that they recognize the shortcomings of the search function.  Nevertheless, to paraphrase a recent conversation with a local search company representative, ”we can’t do anything to alienate our advertisers since they are paying for that particular zip code or geographic area.”  With the possible exception of Google (and they too have their faults), your online “wedding” search results are largely determined by advertising dollars and not relevancy, let alone competence.  Is there something wrong with this picture or am I just naive?

It is largely in response to this online playing field of false expectations that the StationersGuild was established.   On this website you can locate qualified stationers in your neighborhood and research fine paper lines without too much editorial commentary.  Buying fine stationery and invitations or  buying flowers for your wedding is personal.  It requires a connection at that most basic sensory level. 

We can only hope that wedding portals and “local” search engines will begin to rethink their strategy of putting the all powerful advertising dollar in front of honest search results.  Personally, I believe that a balanced approach to local search marketing would be helpful for the public, the search engines and wedding portals that sponsor true local businesses. 

Richard W. May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

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