“Google and Online Marketing Seminar” at Buffalo State College – part one

Small business owners, marketers, and students got an introduction to Google Tools, Places and AdWords during Tuesday night’s “Google and Online Marketing Seminar” at Buffalo State College.

Seth Meyerowitz, owner of UBE, Inc., a Long Island based website design and search engine optimization company, lead the seminar along with help from Tony Maggiotto, Jr., a business advisor at the Small Business Development Center. Meyerowitz is a Google AdWords Certified Partner and has held Google-related seminars in the past.

Google Places and Search Engine Optimization for small, local businesses

Meyerowitz said that as the top search engine, Google has the potential to bring a lot of visitors, and business, to a company’s website. In New York State alone, Google drives 6.3 billion dollars in economic activity. A big part of getting that business is being found online and small business owners should start by claiming their business on Google Places, especially since 20% of searches are conducted for local services.  Google Places, or local listings, allows business owners to claim their business listing on Google for free.

In order to rank high organically, your website should be search engine optimized which takes good content, frequent updates, traffic, and incoming links to your site. Meyerowitz cautioned against using “Black Hat SEO” tactics in order to fool Google. He said you will get caught and penalized for such actions.

“Don’t place white text on white background; you will get demoted for it,” said Meyerowitz.

Even large corporations, like J. C. Penney cannot pull a fast one on Google. Google demoted J. C. Penney’s when in early 2011 it was discovered that the company had paid links on thousands of websites, artificially inflating the number of backlinks to its site for selected key words.

Even after doing all these things, SEO takes time to work – anywhere from two to  six months or even a year. And even then, you need to be continuously working to improve your site, your incoming links, increasing traffic and updating your site with new content.

“It’s very important for Google to see you are a continuing good source for information,” said Meyerowitz. “Good content and inbound links are the two most important things for SEO.”

In order to drive traffic to your site, Meyerowitz suggested using e-mail and social media in order to promote your site, send special discounts or coupons and to ask your customers to write reviews.

“See where Google is placing customer reviews,” said Meyerowitz. “If Google is using Yelp for your competitor’s customer reviews, ask your customers to go to Yelp and write reviews for your business.”

As part of Google places, businesses can list information about their business, add coupons and upload photos and video of their business for free.

“If you are a restaurant, hair salon or any business where atmosphere or decor is important, you want to put up photos to show what’s inside,” said Meyerowitz.

Virtual or online-only businesses can still take advantage of Google Places, according to Meyerowitz. He suggested filling out a Google places listing and using your home office as an address but selecting “do not show address” as part of the listing. That way, you can still tell the public that you are a local service provider.

“I tell everyone to do a places page– it’s free – it doesn’t make much sense not to,” said Meyerowitz.

You will need a physical address for setting up virtual offices, PO Boxes will not work; you need a physical address with a phone number.

Maggiotto had two pieces of advice for business owners; make good use of e-mail signatures and use customized URLs on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIN.