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Google Sitemaps – Another great tool

I’m sure you’ve read about Google’s sitemap initiative, but if not, it’s worth your while to learn enough about it to implement it yourself or demand that your web person understand it.

Basically, Google is allowing website owners to submit a map of their website in a special XML file. This file is then used by Google to crawl the site. The XML file also automatically adds any new content and alerts Google to have a look at the new content. On the surface this seems like a perfect new tool and it is.

Brand new sites have a much better chance of being listed immediately and spidered deeply – something that could take months in the past.

I added to Google sitemaps to all of my sites when I first heard about them, but frankly, my sites were indexed already. About a week ago I launched a brand new shopping site for a client and wanted to test the Google sitemap on this clean slate. This was a brand new domain and brand new site. I added a Google site map, submitted the site map to Google and did nothing else. No submissions, no RSS feeds, no inbound links from high ranking sites – nothing. Within 48 hours, all 18,000 pages from this site had been indexed and traffic from Google searches started to show up.

And, it gets better. In the last few days Google added some statistics to the site map program. (They also added the Urchin Analytics program but it is having some function issues so far – more on this later.) For instance, you can now see top search queries and top search query clicks for your site. Top search queries are the top queries to Google that return pages from your site. Top search query clicks are the top queries to Google that directed traffic to your site (based on the number of clicks to your pages in our search results). Good stuff to know.

Okay, now that I convinced you to check into this, here is a list of great Google sitemap resources:

By the way, I use the VIGOS GSitemap software for my sites.

Small Business Innovation – Extending Brick and Mortar

There is a hardware store in my neighborhood that harkens back to a day when hardware stores had well-worn wooden floors and a staff that knew something about how to fix everything.

Kevin and Kathy Euston are second generation owners of a type of small business that has, for the most part, gone away.

So, what’s kept Euston Hardware going? Innovation and the ability to change. It’s the same thing that helps millions of small businesses survive.

Get close to your customer and find out how to keep them coming back.

First, Euston Hardware added a tool and equipment rental business. This step allowed them to bring something into a urban neighborhood that the chains couldn’t

This week, Kevin tells me, they officially launched – NeighborhoodHardware.com – an online hardware store with over 3000 items. Another revenue stream and the ability to appeal to millions of online shoppers who, like me, love to support the local small business.

You know you want that 19 volt cordless drill!

Stop Wasting Prime Web Real Estate

A bit of a soap box speech today, but I can’t take visiting another small business web site only to be greeted by a home page that says – Welcome to our web site! (then of course, the title tag is the name of the company) It’s like someone wrote this rule that, if you call it a home page, it’s like the cover of a book. No, think of your homepage as the only 3-4 seconds you may get to convince a prospect that you have something worth sticking around for. (And don’t make me go into my flash only intro page rant.)

Look, web surfers are the poster children for attention deficit. When you are strolling in the park, it’s okay to exchange pleasantries. On your web site, you’ve got to grab people by the throat and immediately convince them that this place is worth their time.

Think of your home page as an ad for your web site.

With that in mind, write a powerful headline that grabs your visitor’s attention. Then, spend the rest of the words on that page pointing out in very specific terms how your firm in unique. Blast them with the 3-4 top reasons they need to know all about you. And please, go beyond the basic description of your business and it’s services. Go beyond explaining the obvious expectations. Dig deep and layout that you get who THEY are and what THEY need.

Lastly, write, or have your web designer write, a meaningful, keyword rich title and tag for the page. Something that might actually look like a search phrase.

Something like:
Kansas City’s Most Trusted Remodeling Contractor-Schloegel Design Remodel

is far more effective than – A.J. Brown Construction Services

Where In The World Is Local Search?

Look, I’m not going to waste too much time trying to convince you that people are searching for every kind of business, right there in you hometown, using the Internet. Every major search engine is rushing to become the next local phone book and you need to get your business listed now, while it’s still free.

Here are the major plays you need to make today. (Of course, this will change by next week but, it’s a start.)

Register your web site and business listing with each of these local versions of search engines.
Google Local
Yahoo Local
Super Pages (provides listings for many search engines and part of Verizon)
City Search (said to feed AOL)
MSN Local

Let’s say you were looking for a marketing coach and you typed in “Marketing Coach Kansas City, MO” in Google Local. This is what people do and they need to be able to find you when they do!

Free Local Keyword Tool

Creating localized keywords, internal links and Google Adwords campaigns is a great strategy if you are trying to win local searchers.

You know, the person that is looking for just the right remodeling contractor in their upscale suburb.

One strategy that I’ve employed is to sprinkle targeted suburb names in a visually pleasing, contextual way throughout your web copy. In other words, don’t just list all of the suburbs in your community and expect it to make a difference.

If you write a blog, occasionally mention a local neighborhood, in your internal links, add city names [kansas city pet food] as opposed to [pet food].

Lastly, if you use pay-per-click advertising, (and since you can choose local options for advertising you should!) create keyword lists to bid on that contain all of the zip codes, neighborhoods, suburbs and communities you want to attract visitors from.

Anyone who has created this type of list can tell you that the work is tedious, to say the least. Your eventual list may be 400-500 entries long. Here’s a free tool I stumbled across that automates a fair amount of the work of creating localized keyword lists. You just put in a zip code and determine how far out you want the search to go [how many mile radius], select some other features and presto you get a big fat list of keywords containing all of the localized info you could dream of (I found suburbs I didn’t even know existed.)

Now, many of these very specific keyword terms won’t get much traffic but, when they do, you will own the work and the traffic will be very targeted.

Check out the Free Local Keyword Tool

Blogs, Web Sites and Email – Together At Last

Blogs are hot and with reason. They help you tell your story, generate tremendous search engine attention and create content that can be syndicated and read by a growing number of people.

Having said that, let me state that blogs are only a tool and not THE tool that so many “Internet Marketing Gurus” would have you believe. Blogs can and should be on every marketers list as a powerful way to integrate and supplement the primary marketing messages. If you look at blogs that way, then you can begin to understand the true value of adding a blog to your marketing mix.

    Every small business should have in the marketing and communication toolbox:

  • A Blog
  • A Content Rich Web Site
  • An Email Based Newsletter
  • Educational Based Printed Materials
  • White Papers Housed On Their Web Site
  • A Referral Strategy
  • A PR Strategy

. . . and a couple hundred other things!

The point is, let your marketing tools work together and you will find the greatest audience for your marketing message.

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Podcast

One of the latest Internet crazes is this thing called Podcasting

I must admit that on the surface it sounds pretty cool, but then the hype started. . .and I got suspicious.

The Internet marketing folks want you to believe that this is the next great way to make a bundle but nobody seems to notice that podcasting isn’t some new form of content it is just another way to distribute content. Upon further study you will notice that most podcasts are little more than mp3 files.

But here’s the real problem I have from a business use. The people who have time to listen to audio files all day long already do so. True, now they can listen on their iPod and so maybe there is value in packaging up some information that can be accessed this way but stick to your blog to really tell your story and develop your market.

Yahoo Offering Free Web Sites

I don’t know if it’s just me but it sure seems like Yahoo is working overtime these days.

Today Yahoo announced a major enhancement to their local offering – free websites.

Now, any business with a physical address can create a very simple 5 page web site using a templated wizard type form. These sites are not works of art but they may get the job done for a business that currently has no web presence.

The sites are actually part of Yahoo’s free and enhanced local listing offerings.

“This is a no-brainer opportunity for any business to sign up and get a web site for free,” said Paul Levine, General Manager, Yahoo Local.

You can find more info and even build your site here (If your business is already listed in the Yahoo directory you are on your way)

Okay, but here is what I am wondering. If a business already has a web site, perhaps this free site with Yahoo is a good way to get even more exposure within the Yahoo search engine. There is plenty of data to suggest that search engines play favorites with their own offerings. This play might make sense on some level for every business. Here’s an example of one I created in about 5 minutes for a Kansas City Remodeling Contractor. – Note the URL Yahoo creates – http://mo.local.yahoo.biz/remodel