>This article was originally published in Antique Trader
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“I’ve never been lost,” said Daniel Boone; “But I was once perplexed for a few days.” It’s said that Boone was a master at staying found. Making his way through the wilderness with nothing more than an incomplete map, a compass, and his own sensibilities, he blazed a trail that thousands would follow from Virginia to Kentucky.
“Staying found” is a significant challenge for bricks-and-mortar Antique stores. New customers will stumble upon stores that are located on well-travelled thoroughfares. Dealers who pump money into traditional media advertising (newspapers, radio, yellow pages) may also attract new customers. But, high-traffic locations and traditional media advertising are very expensive, and many dealers simply can’t justify such high overhead. So, they hope that new customers will find them through word-of-mouth rather than a proactive promotional campaign.
Before you turn the page, let me tell you that this isn’t going to be another column about the virtues of inexpensive Internet advertising. You should already know that your business needs a website, and that the website has to have good content, targeted keywords, and be search-engine optimized. However, you can have all that and still be lost in the wilderness of Google or Bing search results.
If your website is lost in the wilderness, Google Places can significantly increase your chances of being found, and it’s free. It will take you about fifteen minutes to get it set up, and another couple of hours to optimize your listing. If you’re already on Google Places, I’ll tell you a simple trick to optimize your listing and improve your chance of moving up in the Google page ranking.
For those who are not familiar with Google Places, it is an online business listing that produces targeted local results whenever searchers search by keyword and geographic location. Returned search results include a map with push-pin graphics which are coded to match the search results and show the geographic location of the business.
When a geographic location is included in the search inquiry, Google will always list the “Google Places” results at the top of the search results. If your website has been languishing on page four or five (or worse) of search results in your area, Google Places will move you forward in the results.
However, even though you may be moved up in line, remember that sometimes it can be a very long line. A search of "antiques Washington DC" returned over 13 million Google results (note these are results; not the number of stores!), and the first 15 pages were all Google Places business listings. Even in this exclusive group, your business can still get lost in the wilderness.
The keyword “antiques” has a lot of competition; it’s a very broad term. If you want more customers to find you via the internet, you’ll need to be more specific with your keywords, and tie them in to Google Places. For example, let’s say that one of my shop’s profit centers is antique lighting. When I’m filling out the listing form in Google Places, I’d list “antique lighting” as one of my categories. That way, I stand a better chance of being found.
To really focus on your keywords, use Google’s Keyword Tool to choose keywords with the highest number of actual searches and the lowest amount of competition.
Step by step, here’s how to get more customers for free by maximizing your Google Places listing:
- If you haven’t already, sign up for a Google Places account.
- Before filling out the GP form, correlate your profit centers with high-volume, low competition keywords using the Google Keyword Tool (link above) and use those keywords as your categories. It’s to your advantage to use keywords that searchers are actually using.
- Do some random searches on your products, competition, and city.
- Take note of antiques and related businesses (art, framing, restoration, etc) that consistently get high page position in your searches.
- Glean the keywords of the top websites in your desired categories. Their keywords were a factor in getting them top page position, and there’s no legal or ethical reason that you can’t use them as well. Here’s how to find out what they are:
b. Right-click anywhere on the page; when the menu comes up, choose “View Page Source”
- Look for the line that says “keywords.” What follows will be their keywords; find ones that apply to your site.
- In the Google search bar, enter each keyword that you intend to use.
- When the results display, go to each website listed in the Google Places results and view the businesses review page.
- At the bottom of the review page, you will see a link that says something like “reviews from around the web”. These domains are where Google is pulling the information to rate and review the business. More quality links = better rank. Many of these sources are open directories and review sites where you can list your business. Use as many of them as you can to build links back to your Google Places listing.
It’s critical that when you list your business with these directories that each listing perfectly matches the information in your Google Places listing. The Google Maps algorithm relies not only on the number of links back to your listing, but the quality and consistency of those sources. So, if your listing address is 161 West Street Annapolis MD 21401, don’t use 161 West St. Annapolis Maryland 21401 in the review directories. Every listing must match exactly so that the search bots see them as the same address.
If Daniel Boone’s wilderness had changed as often as the Google landscape, he might never have made it through the Cumberland Gap and back. For Boone, at least, landmarks stayed put. Not so with Google. They update their ranking algorithm once or twice a year, and every time they do they throw the online world into a tizzy. For now, Google seems to be moving in the direction of improved local search. If you want your business to “stay found,” local search is the bandwagon that you need to be on.
Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. Learn more at his website http://www.waynejordanauctions.com, at 276-730-5197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from Wayne Jordan
- Behind the Gavel: How to be the antiques dealer who knows something about art
- Behind the Gavel: Why the U.S. antiques trade needs a real national association
- Behind the Gavel: An antique shop owner’s exit strategy takes time and preparation
- Behind the Gavel: Worthpoint survey shows small antique shops must diversify
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