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Google Places could be a valuable tool for businesses

By R.K. Castillo

LAST UPDATED: 1:24 a.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

QUESTION: What's the most important thing a business should do to be found online?

ANSWER: The most important thing a business needs to do right now is set up their Google Places account. Google recently created a site for every business they know of and began to show those sites above all their other search results. The problem is 95 percent of those sites haven't been claimed, according to Google. If you've ever typed something into Google and noticed a map and some business names and phone numbers, you're seeing those sites. All you need to do is go to to claim, or verify, your business account.

To get that site to the first page of Google you'll want to add as much information as possible. Here are some suggestions:

» Business categories

» 10 pictures

» 5 videos

» Reviews from happy customers

The entire site should be optimized around the terms that are searched the most by potential customers.

Q: What makes Google and other search engines "like" a particular site over another?

A: Google has one objective: the best and most relevant answer to any question anyone would ever ask. So the company has created a way to find out which sites are most relevant to the questions people ask. Google officials have said they look at a couple hundred different things but those are kept secret. To find out what makes Google and the other search engines favor a site, look at the sites on the first page and ask why they are there. It really comes down to 2 things: on-page optimization and off-page optimization.

On-page optimization is about having each page of your site built around only one keyword, creating great content around that keyword and making sure that keyword is in the four most important parts of your site: title, description, url and H1 tag.

Off-page optimization is about how many other websites are linking back to your site. Every link is a vote in the eyes of the search engines. More votes means more relevance and higher rankings.

Q: Why should a business use social media marketing and what's the easiest way to get started?

A: The Internet has made a major shift to be social. Nearly 600 million people have joined Facebook and over half of them log in every single day and spend an average of 51 minutes there. People are always looking for businesses and reading reviews about them from other people. Google is now even ranking businesses according to what people say about those businesses on the social networks. The easiest way to get started is to create a blog for your business and provide useful information about whatever your business does. Then create a Facebook page and Twitter account and whenever you create new information let everyone know. But the important thing about social media marketing is that you want to be social. It's about interacting with people, getting involved in the conversation and providing value. It's not really about selling stuff. Selling should happen on your site, not in your social media.

Q: What is video marketing and how can businesses use it to increase visibility?

A: YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. People will visit YouTube and use it like they do Google. So video marketing is the same as search-engine marketing. You want to provide great, relevant content to whatever questions are being asked in your industry and provide those answers in video format. People get scared of video because they think they need to be able to create TV or movie quality videos. That's just not true in the YouTube world. You don't even need to record anyone to make a YouTube video. Just make a screenshot video that records your computer screen as you answer people's questions. And here's the kicker: if you have just two videos in your YouTube channel you are 51 times more likely to be found in the search engines because Google also ranks videos on the first page.

Q: What is email capture and why should a business use it?

A: Email capture, or lead capture, is just another strategy to interact with your clients. You offer something of value for the price of an email address. You could do something like,"Free Report Reveals the 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Ever Visit a Chiropractor." When a person submits their email address, they will get that report and you have just provided helpful information to your potential client. And when you can show yourself as helpful, people are more likely to do business with you. Or a restaurant could get a customer's email and send them coupons on their birthday. We offer a "Free Daily Webinar That Shows Businesses How to Grow Their Business Using Social Media." It takes an average of seven touch points until someone will usually do business with you. So you can even create an automated follow-up system once they have signed up for your email list. The opportunities are pretty much endless when it comes to email captures.

Q: Are keywords really that important and if so, how can businesses find out which matter most to them?

A: Keywords are the foundation for anything having to do with Internet marketing. A keyword is basically a question someone is asking. You go to Google or Bing to ask a question. So we do keyword research to find out what questions are getting asked the most. To find out how many people are searching for the keywords related to your business, go to and type in "Google Keyword Tool." Then, click on the first site that comes up and type in whatever your business does and click "search." (This step) will give you an idea of what terms are getting searched for the most. When working with local businesses, we will always add a local modifier, i.e. "Plumber Honolulu" to see how many people are looking for plumbers in Honolulu.

Q: What range of services and prices are available for Hawaii businesses that want to optimize their websites?

A: Our company works with businesses according to their marketing budget. Our prices range from $297 to $2,000 a month.

Interviewed by Allison Schaefers. "Akamai Money" seeks out local experts to answer questions about business in Hawaii. If you have an issue you would like us to tackle, please email it to and put "Akamai Money" in the subject line.

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