[News] Small Business Optimism Hits 6-Year High

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Economy News] Small Business Optimism Hits Highest Level in 6 Years

News Source: Fox Business News

This week, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its latest Small Business Optimism Index, showing an increase of 1.4 points in May for a total of 96.6 points—the highest index reading since 2007.

A few key factors contributed to business owners’ improved outlook  in May:

  • Employment: May was the eighth consecutive month of increased employment.
  • Job Creation: Planned hiring increased 2% above and beyond expected seasonal hires.
  • Sales: Small business owners reported higher nominal sales to date in Q2, and 15% of participants said they expect sales to improve over the next quarter, the highest percentage since mid-2007.

Key Takeaway: The lingering effects of tough economic times haven’t been eradicated by any means, but the Optimism Index indicates that the tide may be finally turning for small businesses. As consumer confidence continues to rebound, let’s hope that local establishments reap the benefit! 

[Social Media News] SMBs Experience Positive Return on Twitter Investment

News Source: AllTwitter

This week, Twitter released a new study on SMB Twitter usage and perceptions. The social media company surveyed 1100 small and medium business owners in the U.S.

The major findings of the study were generally favorable toward Twitter as a platform for market seeding and customer support:

  • 74% of respondents feel they receive a positive return on time invested in Twitter.
  • 73% view Twitter as a quick way to address customer service issues.
  • 72% agree that it’s important to be on Twitter.
  • 70% post on Twitter at least once a day.
  • 68% feel that Twitter is important to their marketing strategy.

Key Takeaway: Twitter is becoming a more important marketing tool for small businesses as owners begin to see the benefits of investing in the platform. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Only 58% of survey participants currently use Twitter for business, although more than 70% feel that the social network is an important channel. If you haven’t yet gotten in the social game for your small business, now is the time! Local consumers are looking for you there—don’t miss out on the opportunity to start a conversation with prospects and engage your current customers.

[Local Search News] Apple Acquires Social Maps Search Engine

News Source: Tech Crunch

Apple acquired social search engine Spotsetter last week. The startup, founded in 2012, was spearheaded by two ex-Google Maps engineers who have now joined Apple’s team.

Spotsetter’s technology works to layer friends’ recommendations, reviews, and other social information on top of a standard map interface to make local search a more social experience. The algorithm pulls in content from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare, as well as review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, and Michelin.

As of summer 2013, Spotsetter had 5 million user profiles, 40 million venues mapped, and 1 million curated venue content items worldwide.

Key Takeaway: Given the epic failure that Apple Maps has been to date, Apple’s acquisition of Spotsetter makes sense. If Apple can augment its proprietary maps technology with additional data that competitors like Google and MapQuest aren’t providing, they may be able to woo back iOS users who gave up on their Maps app early on.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Yelp Listings Integrated with Yahoo Search

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Listings News] Yelp Listings & Reviews Now Showing in Yahoo! Search

News Source: The Next Web

There’ve been rumors for a few months about a potential partnership between Yahoo and Yelp; on Wednesday, those rumors came to fruition with the release of integrated Yelp listings, reviews, and star ratings within Yahoo search results.

Yelp photos and listings information is shown at the top of the results page, with star ratings and reviews beneath the basic business information—following a similar format to what Yelp shows on their own site. A list of regular search results appears next to the Yelp content.

Key Takeaway: Both Bing and Yahoo are now integrating Yelp listings into their search results, and Google is a step ahead of the pack with the release of integrated menus. If you haven’t claimed and perfected your business listings on major publishers yet, now is the time! Take advantage of the latest technology by making sure that accurate, engaging information about your business is everywhere potential customers are looking. 

[Social Media News] Facebook Rolls out New Design for Pages

News Source: Mashable

Facebook has been pushing a number of design changes to its site lately, including a complete News Feed overhaul. This week, they began rolling out an updated look for Business Pages as well.

The new design includes a large right column with Posts and a left column with information about the brand or company. This revised layout makes it easier to users to follow the flow of Posts in chronological order, without having to jump back and forth between two columns as the previous design required.

Page Administrators can also view a revamped Metrics section that includes Likes, Post Reach, ad stats; soon, this section will also include a Pages to Watch feature, which allows you to benchmark your Page’s stats against those of similar Pages in your industry.

Key Takeaway: While not everyone is thrilled about the News Feed redesign, the new Pages design definitely helps improve the flow of content and makes it easier for Page Admins to check up on their stats at a glance without having to click into the Insights panel. These changes should help small business Page owners present content more effectively, and help their followers interact with their content more seamlessly.

[Ecommerce News] Instagram Grows as an Ecommerce Tool

News Source: NY Times

Instagram has long been used to share photos with friends, family, and strangers across the web, but it was never designed to be an ecommerce platform. However, businesses are now taking advantage of the social network to engage consumers with visual marketing and drive online purchases.

For Fox and Fawn, a local small business in Brooklyn, Instagram marketing was purely an experiment at first. Now, after a year and half of posting, the store sees 20-40% of its daily revenue coming from purchases made by Instagram followers.

Other brands have also found ecommerce success on Instagram, citing that the platform feels more “intimate” and “personal” than Facebook or Twitter, where brands tend to sell more directly to consumers via ads or sponsored posts.

Key Takeaway: The power of visual marketing isn’t going away any time soon, and Instagram is taking off as a great social network for both shoppers and marketers alike. If you sell items for your small business online, Instagram might be a good platform for you to try out if you aren’t already.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

Google Adds Menus to Search Results

If you’ve searched for a restaurant menu on Google in the past week or so, you may have noticed something different. As of last Friday, menus are now being displayed directly in search results pages, rather than requiring searchers to click through to a restaurant’s website or third party review site such as Yelp. So far, the feature has only been deployed in the U.S.
Restaurants with more robust menus feature tabs with different sections that you can click through to see drinks, wine lists, appetizers, main courses, desserts, and more.

Menu Content in Google Search Result

You can also click on the “More about” link at the bottom of the menu; this opens a new page of search results that includes the business’s Google Local information in the right frame.

More About Menu Link on Google

Where is this menu data coming from? Google partners with a few third party menu providers, including SinglePlatform, who aggregate and distribute menu information for thousands of businesses across the U.S.

While Google is just pulling in basic menu item information right now, there’s great potential to do more with these menus by enhancing them with rich content such as photos, specials, announcements, and coupons.

For restaurants and other businesses with menus to share, this new feature provides a great way to engage online consumers who are searching specifically for their menu. However, the feature isn’t very useful for users who don’t have a specific restaurant in mind—a more general search string such as “Italian restaurant menu Brooklyn” yields no menu results from Google. Review sites and apps that specialize in restaurant listings still have an important role to play in helping consumers discover new local businesses.

If you don’t see a menu for your business in Google’s results, or see a menu that’s out of date, never fear: SinglePlatform can create a menu for you or update your existing one! Find out how on our website

Local Search: 6 Types of Data to Include in Your Local Listings

Local search is one of the best ways to generate leads. A quality local search presence starts with taking control of your business listings and providing the key points of data that consumers are looking for as they make purchase decisions.
The type of information you can provide varies by publisher, but you should make sure to include these 6 types of data in all your local listings to ensure that your online presence is cohesive and consistent.

1. Business Name, Address, Phone Number, and Hours

Make sure you enter this information exactly the same way across all sites and apps to avoid duplicate entries (e.g. don’t submit Joe’s Towing to one site and Joe’s Towing, Inc. on another). This can cause a less than optimal experience for consumers who may be looking at your listings in multiple places.

2. Service Area

If you have a business that doesn’t have a physical street address, or one that offers deliveries to a specific region, you’ll want to include your service area.

3. Business Categories

Select relevant business categories, as these are the keywords consumers will use to locate a specific business, product, or service. For example, if you own an Italian restaurant that serves pizza and subs, you might choose the categories Restaurant, Pizza, Subs, and Italian.

4. Your Business Description

Provide a concise description of your business that includes the city and state you service.

5. Relevant Keywords

Use keywords whenever possible so that local consumers can find the information they need. This provides a positive experience for the consumer.

6. Rich Content and Links

In addition to your basic information, you can also include rich content such as photos, menus, product and service lists, videos, special offers, and more. Additionally, you can provide links to your company website, social media accounts, and directions to help people find you online and in person.

The Bottom Line

Providing cohesive, detailed information about your business on listings sites and apps will ensure that consumers can find you when they perform a local search, which means more leads for your business.

Want to learn more about how you can use local listings to benefit your small business? Download our free eBook, The Mechanics of Local Listings today.

[News] Google Introduces Maps Engine Pro

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Search Engine News] Google Introduces Maps Engine Pro to Help Small Businesses Visualize Customer Data

News Source: TechCrunch

On Monday, Google introduced Maps Engine Pro, a new utility that allows small businesses to use Google’s location tools to create maps out of proprietary data uploaded as a spreadsheet.

The tool is designed to help small business owners visualize and filter location-based data to help make better decisions about staffing, regional services, customer engagement, and other business practices.

For example, Pure Fix Cycles, a pilot tester for the program, used Maps Engine Pro to visualize the locations of East-Coast customer service calls. The program allowed them to determine which location would be the best to send a customer to based on proximity, inventory, and other factors.

Maps Engine Pro is currently available on desktop and Android mobile devices.

Key Takeaway: Google has spent a lot of time and effort building out robust map features for consumers and enterprises, but this is its first utility built specifically with small businesses in mind. If your business collects location data, this tool will be a huge help in identifying trends in and drawing conclusions from your data sets.

[Location App News] Foursquare Revamps Website, Highlights Nearby Hot Spots, Offers and Tips From Friends

News Source: The Next Web

Foursquare has focused on revamping its mobile apps for the past few releases. This week, the location-based social network rolled out extensive updates to its desktop site, Foursquare.com.

The site can now:

  • Detect a user’s location
  • Highlight exclusive nearby offers and deals
  • Highlight relevant locations based on the user’s local time
  • Serve up tips and highlights for any destination a user searches for

These changes will make Foursquare site much more useful to consumers searching for local businesses at home or at work on a laptop or desktop.

Key Takeaway: Foursquare has invested serious resources to improve both their mobile and desktop experiences-which is great news for businesses on the platform. Make sure your Foursquare profile is up to date and as complete as possible (note: including your full menu of products or services is a must). Also encourage your customers to check in and leave tips so that Foursquare has plenty of material to serve up to local consumers.

[Social Media News] LinkedIn Launches New Mobile Apps for Intro, iPad, and Pulse

News Source: Tech News World

LinkedIn rolled out new mobile apps this week to improve customization, reach, and productivity:

  • A new iPad app includes enhanced search, job listings, and productivity features.
  • Pulse, LinkedIn’s news service app, also relaunched with new personalization and productivity features.

Key Takeaway: These new apps make it easier than ever to share and view personal and company profiles on mobile. Make sure your personal LinkedIn Profile is current, and if you don’t already have a Company Page, consider setting one up so that viewers can find and follow your business.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!

New Research: Mobile and Web Search Leads to Action for Restaurants

We’re excited to release our newest study in partnership with our friends at market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, which shows that restaurants are the most searched industry by consumers through both mobile applications and browsers. The study, compiled through the feedback from 1,497 consumers who own a smartphone, found that 81 percent of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92 percent through a web browser in the last six months, outperforming other highly searched industries, such as entertainment, retail outlets, hotels, and personal services.

Even more important, 75 percent say they often choose a restaurant to dine at based on those search results.

With all those searches, it’s never been more important to make sure that your menu, prices, and other key information is up to date on all of the platforms potential customers search…. from Yelp to Yellow Pages to Google to Foursquare. (And SinglePlatform can help.)

Our key findings about how smartphone owning consumers find local businesses:

  1. 81% have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app in the last 6 months (tweet this)
  2. 92% have searched for a restaurant on a web browser in the last 6 months (tweet this)
  3. 75% often choose a restaurant to dine at based on search results (tweet this)
  4. iPhone owners are more likely to search for a restaurant than other smart phone owners (tweet this)
  5. 80% think it’s important to see a menu before they dine at a restaurant (tweet this)
  6. 84% are likely to look at more than one restaurant before choosing where to dine (tweet this)
  7. 70% think it is important to be able to read the menu of a restaurant on a mobile device (tweet this)
  8. 62% are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu on a mobile device (tweet this)

Download the full report for more information

[Study] 78% of Local Businesses Believe New Customers Find Them via Search Engines

On this blog we often talk about how the way that consumers find local businesses has fundamentally changed over the last few years.
While traditional methods of attracting new customers to your location still may work, those local businesses who do not take advantage of online and mobile search directories, ratings and review sites, and social networks to find new customers will be left behind. In fact recent industry data shows that 2/3 of consumers use local search to find businesses at least once a week.

The good news is that many local businesses are starting to reap the benefits of this leveling of the playing field.  Today, you can win by being found online without buying tons of ads that many small businesses can’t afford.  But it’s not enough to just have your name and your hours published in your online listings across the internet.  You need to be include your products, your services, your prices, and more so whatever people are searching for they will find your business if you have what they need.

According to Google, more than half of local searches don’t have a specific destination in mind.  That means that your potential customers are searching for things like “flowers” or “buffalo wings” or “auto repair” near them and not just “Danny’s Pizza” or “Flower Barn.”

In fact, according to our own just released research, 78% of small businesses believe that they are getting new customers through search engines today and 85% of small businesses already believe it is important to be seen on major search sites like Google, Yahoo, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Yellow Pages .

While local businesses have traditionally been slower to adopt emerging avenues for getting new customers in the past, tons are already seeing the benefits of creating compelling digital storefronts across the web.

If you’re not putting your best foot forward by featuring your products and services on key search sites and mobile apps, you may be missing opportunities to reach consumers as they search for a great local business to visit.

Learn more by downloading our free eBook, 10 Facts: Why Small Business Owners Need to Pay Attention to Mobile and Local Search.