How to improve rankings on google maps; Top 10 tips for Local SEO

Local business owners we talk to love to embrace the do-it-yourself attitude, so we thought it would be a good post to present the basics for do-it-yourself online marketing for local businesses. We often here: “Why should I pay someone if I can do it myself?” Of course, that’s usually if we had all the time in the world. Unfortunately, Local SEO can become time consuming very quickly, especially due to the complexity of the fragmented local search market.

However, it is possible for owners to work on a little bit each month to improve their rankings on Google Maps for Local SEO, or improve their Yelp profile (Online Reputation Management) to reach new traffic, or add fresh content or a blog to their website (Search Engine Optimization) in order to improve their Google Search Rankings. Part of the do-it-yourself marketing strategy is to prioritize your efforts based on what you’re trying to achieve and the amount of work that goes into each effort. Many of our customers seem to ask a lot of the same questions, so we wanted to put together this list and prioritize it for those that are just getting started.

Local SEO in the context of this article is the activity of updating your company’s business listings and content (on both local search sites and your website) in order to improve your rankings on sites like Google Maps, Yelp, and other local sites and search engines. After you have mastered, Local SEO, then you can start tackling Social Media Optimization (SMO), but that’s for another time. Here we go, hope you’ve had your coffee today!


Everything starts with this. Claiming your listing can have an immediate impact on improving your rankings on Google Maps and others. Also, you need to have control of your listings for effective online reputation management. In addition, you don’t want anyone (especially a competitor) to hijack your listings. Be sure to perform a vanity search on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Bing Maps, Yelp, Citysearch and Add listings where you’re not listed and claim all the listings you found. You will need to go through a simple verification process.


Where do you rank when you search for your primary category and local city? Are you in the first couple pages? Start by getting a good understanding of where you rank today in order to set some goals and track your performance. If you have a website, check your web search rankings for your category/keywords. If you don’t have a site, get one! Even if you don’t really need a site to drive business, it will help with validating your business and listings for local search optimization (Local SEO). You can get a very basic site up and running pretty cheap these days.


Update your listings. Be sure your information is accurate and consistent. Consistency of your business details is important throughout the web. Avoid using call tracking numbers if possible. Add photos and videos. Create/add a video on YouTube and link to it on your Google Place Page. This content can help improve your rankings, but will also differentiate you from others and provide with control over your online reputation. This content improves how a potential customer sees you, hopefully motivating them to take the next step (call or stop by). Be sure to update your categories as well. Mike Blumenthal has a great tool to help you before you login and update your Google listing. You should try to add as many categories that are still relevant to your products/services. Complete as much info as you feel comfortable and maintain accuracy (Hours, Payment Types, Menus, Email). This will help you with both improving rankings as well as online reputation management.


Consistency is vital across the web when it comes to business details. However, there are so many sites with your listings today, it can become overwhelming. If you’ve ever moved or changed your business name, then you’re old data could still be moving around the web. However, you can start at the source. Most business listings come from 3 primary listing databases. This is a great way to add your listings and clean up old data. Consistency will help search engines aggregate all references to your business (establishing “trust” for your location and listing, which can help improve your rankings for your local business). If a site has conflicting information it can’t be tagged to your business properly as a citation, losing the value of that reference from an SEO perspective. Only with true consistency everywhere can you achieve business listing nirvana! Add/update listings on these top 2 databases. Axciom is the third, but they don't allow self-provisioning.


Be sure that search engines can find your location data. At a minimum, your contact information should be in clear HTML (not an image or flash). To really comply and ensure that search engines can find you accurately, provide your contact information in an hCard or add a KML to the site. You can create a KML file (like a sitemap) to Google directly via the Google Webmaster Tools. For those of you that now have a blank stare on your face-ask your webmaster, local seo consultant, or your nephew to look into it. Here are some easy to follow blogs explaining each along with links to the tools.


On your home page and throughout your site, be sure to include targeted keywords (your categories and services) in the title tags along with your most targeted geolocation keywords (cities, neighborhoods, etc). This is very important if you are trying to improve your rankings and for General Web Search Results and optimize for your website. You may also want to have your internal site links/URLs updated to have some of these keywords integrated there as well. This will let search engines better understand what you do and what locations you serve, resulting in a greater relevance for these keywords. This greater relevance will results in higher rankings for the keywords you are targeting. Once these steps are completed and picked up by the search engines, go back and check your rankings again. For your contact page, be sure to have your business name in your title tag and listed on your page near your business details. This will provide greater validation and authority that you are the owner of these business details. If you have multiple locations, consider creating a separate page, URL and title tag for each location. (For example: That way when a user searches for your services in that city, you’ll be highly optimized for that specific location.


It’s time for you to tune your PR skills. If you’ve made it this far, then it’s likely you really are really intent on SEO. Citations are references to your business including your address or phone number and they can have a big impact on improving rankings on Google Maps. Inbound links are other sites that link to your site and this can tell search engines how important/respected your site is by others. This, in turn, can impact your rankings on general web search results. At this point, you have likely received inbound links by accident. Hopefully you’ve had some articles written about you or joined your local BBB. But for SEO, you need to kick in the PR machine. Effective SEO strategy today is often more about what is going on “offsite”. This means that search engines use content found throughout the web about your site/business to help validate it and increase the value of your site/service. For web search, this is called Page Rank. The other important thing to understand is that different sites that point to yours have different values. So if you have a New York Times review linking to your site or business listing, this is much more valuable than Mary’s Family Blog who just loves your Butter Cream Pie. The Times article is exponentially more valuable. But quantity is important too, so don’t spend all your time hounding the New York Times food editors. There are much easier ways to get started. For building inbound links and citations, take any of your competitor’s sites and see where they have links and ask for coverage. Yahoo’s Site Explorer is free and one of the most comprehensive. A well known paid tool is available from MOZ called Linkscape.


If you don’t have any reviews, get some. If you already have some, get some more! Drive a review campaign either quarterly or monthly. If you have a customer database, send out an email. Or print some business cards with reminders on them for people to review when they get home. Put it on the back of your appointment reminder cards. Make it easy. You can try to offer an incentive, but this can be a delicate line, so be careful with this approach. I suggest you just give great customer service and just ask nicely! Be sure to have your reviews posted spread across various sites, including Yelp, Google, Bing, Citysearch, etc. Not only do reviews do have an effect on local search rankings, but more importantly, they create a positive online reputation for prospective customers looking for your services. Be sure to address any negative reviews immediately by reaching out to customer and try to turn that negative into a positive. If they have an iPhone or smartphone, get them to do it before they leave!


Once you’ve done some of the basic blocking and tackling mentioned above, you can start to scope out the competition in order to get some clues on what’s working for them. For mapping sites, review what competitors are in the top 3 on Google Maps. Things to look at include:

  • # of citations (Quantity and Quality, such as BBB)
  • Review quantity and quality (Overall Rating)
  • Content (Photos, Videos, Hours of Operation, Email, Categories)
  • User Content (# of times an end user has tagged the listing)

For general web search, you’ll want to look at some of the following. Keep in mind; this is just a place to start. There is a lot more analysis that can be done once you’ve mastered this.

  1. Page Titles (Do they include keywords for services and localities.
  2. Page Description (Do they have a brief, but effective description of the site so searches are inclined to click when they see it in the search results page)
  3. URLs (Do they have keywords included in any urls)
  4. Keyword Density (Are they repeating keywords evenly throughout the copy)
  5. Fresh Content (Do they have a blog and/or regularly post new articles)


One of the most important aspects to any effecting marketing plan is to measure results along the way. We are big believer in the value of analytics to measure performance and learn what is most effective for your business. That is why we built chatmeter, so please sign up today if you have not already. The chatmeter will report your monthly rankings on both local and web search sites, measure customer feedback across multiple review sites, and indicate the amount of chatter you’re getting from blogs and social media sites. In addition, be sure to check your Local Business Center for reports on your Google listings. A great tool for your website is Google Analytics. It’s free, easy to use, and very comprehensive. If you are driving traffic to your site at all, then you must have a measurement tool in place. These tools can be great ways to measure the effectiveness of your do-it-yourself marketing strategy. If you’ve made it through this whole post, congratulations! Either now, you’re well on your way to a do-it yourself online marketing strategy, or your ready to call for backup.

If you’re interested in a FREE Consultation with an Local SEO Professional, then please contact us.

How do I make a Goldbook Business Listing?

How do I make a Goldbook Business Listing?

BEFORE YOU START: It is free to create a GoldBook listing, but not to manage. If you wish to login and respond to reviews, contact Gold Book about advertising. 

Step 1: Go to & Click: add / update my listing


Step 2: Enter the following info:

  • Select: “add my listing”
  • Enter your First & Last Name: 
  • Add your Business Name:
  • Select your Business Category:
  • Add your Business Phone Number:
  • Enter your City & Province:
  • Add your Address: (optional)
  • Choose your preferred contact type: email or phone
  • Add your website URL (optional)
  • Send a message: (optional)

Step 3: Send Request & Chat with moderators to complete your GoldBook listing.

  • After submitting your info, a GoldBook moderator will contact you to review your submissionReminder: This is only to list your business, to login and respond to reviews contact goldbook about advertising.

How do I get my Business Listed on Foursquare?

How do I get my Business Listed on Foursquare?

BEFORE YOU START: It is free to create a Foursquare listing for your business, but not to manage it (if you live outside the U.S). If you wish to login and respond to reviews, you have to claim your Foursquare listing. 

Step 1: Submit Business Info to Foursquare.

  • Go to and click signup to Create an account.
  • Go to
    • Search for your business, and select “cant find place, add listing.”
  • Add your place to foursquare
    • Enter info: Company Name, Address, Cross Street , City, Province / State, Postal Code, Country,
    • This place is inside another place, answer yes or no.
    • Adjust the pin on the map so it is over the front door of your place.
    • Add your Twitter handle (if available).
    • Select your business category.
    • This place is a private venue, answer yes or no.
    • Click Save
IMPORTANT NOTE: All business added to Foursquare for free are reviewed and published by site moderators. Free listings will take some time to appear online. If you are working on behalf of a business, show progress by taking a screen shot of listing submission thank you page, and share it with the business owner with a message stating “Your Foursquare listing has been submitted, it is pending moderator review before being published.”
Once Foursquare moderators publish your submission, send the link to the owner to check out.

How to Claim your Place on Foursquare.

After adding your place to foursquare, you can now claim it. Note: To claim a place you must pay a one time fee of $20 USD.
  • Search for, and select your Company (added to the foursquare database in Step 3)
  • Check box “I’m the owner”, and click “get started.”
    • Add a contact and billing details – Foursquare listings cost $20 USD for companies outside of the U.S.
  • Foursquare team will follow up to complete the claim process, and give you a login so you can manage your listing.

How to Fix / Update a Foursquare Business Listing 

If your business Foursquare listing has been claimed, then get login access to the account, and update the business information manually. If not, then you need to create a user account and suggest an update (need to be reviewed by foursquare moderators before updating). 
  • Create a Foursquare user account.
  • Search for and select your business on Foursquare’s homepage search bar.
  • Select the “suggest an edit” button at the top of the profile.
    • Update all inaccurate information.
    • Add any missing information.
    • Click submit.
Important Note: If you are updating Foursquare on behalf of a business, you can show the listing progress while you wait for moderators to publish your requested changes. Take a screenshot of the thank you message, share it with the business owner, and state “Your updated business info has been submitted to Foursquare, and pending moderator approval prior to publishing.”

Using LinkedIn for your Small Business

Using LinkedIn for your Small Business

Today, a LinkedIn profile acts as a business card and the content works as a great networking tool. Although, LinkedIn is a social platform, it’s unique because it’s used more as a publishing channel, as opposed to a sales channel for promoting offers and coupons. It focuses more on the foundation of a business and it’s credentials. But, do you know the rules for using LinkedIn for your small business? If used correctly, LinkedIn can help you reach your small business goals by expanding your network with key contacts and builds your credibility with content.
LinkedIn is effective for almost any type of business, however it’s especially effective for small businesses offering personal services like: financial services, spas, tutoring, real estate, photography, law, daycares, fitness, physicians, medical centres, funeral homes, etc. This is the ideal tool to showcase your credentials. The majority of prospective customers believe online reputation is especially important for businesses offering work related to health, well-being, childcare, and financial services.
Create a LinkedIn page
Signing up for LinkedIn is free! When creating your company page, highlight your services, leaders and employees to amplify your credibility. Connect with groups and local networks in similar industries or business goals.
Use your personal page and small business page as a pay-per-click or SEO campaign
Every small business should include a marketing strategy for search engine optimization. Ensure that your headline contains keywords and terms that increase your findability. The summary or job descriptions is a great place to tuck this sort of content. Run a PPC campaign on both your personal and business page to boost your opportunity for appearing in search engine results.
Blog on LinkedIn
Again, this idea goes back to optimizing your content for SEO purposes. Extend your reach to a greater audience by sharing these blog posts across social platforms.
Endorsements and Recommendations
Furthermore, positive endorsements and recommendations build your small business reputation with the ability to inspire trust in people. Before they even make a purchase from you. Recommendations through LinkedIn are like referrals, a quicker and more widespread virtual version of word-of-mouth.
LinkedIn may seem a little tricky to get a hang of. The key is to embrace the unique and professional nature of this social channel. Keep in mind that the content you would typically share on Facebook or Twitter would likely be different on this platform. Navigate through LinkedIn and get familiar with other successful business pages. Take note of tone and language used in their content when creating your content. Remember to keep it consistent, professional and of course intriguing for your audience.

How do I manage all of my Business Directory Updates?

How do I manage all of my Business Directory Updates?

BEFORE YOU START to update one of your business directory listings, check them all. When listing info is incorrect it is usually due to human error, or contact info change like moving to a new office, or getting a new phone number etc. This means the error is more than likely on other listings as well.

Step 1: Compare each directory listing against your profile.

  • Go through all your directory listings, line by line, and compare the info to your company profile (contact info, and assets).
  • Look for any errors, or discrepancies between the listing and your company profile.
    • Incorrect contact information: Address, Phone Number, Email, etc.
    • Outdated imagery: Promotional materials, logo’s, etc.
    • Broken links: Website, social media, etc.
Pro Tip: Use a free software like Airi to do this for you! She never blinks, and won’t miss a thing.

Step 2: Take Note of all Errors in a Doc.

Create a document (or Google Doc) and write down each error, and discrepancy you discover.
  • Directory Listing 1 URL:
  • Error: (info found on directory)
    • Update: (info that should be on directory)
Note: Directory updates can take a while to publish if you do not have login access. By taking note of all errors in a document, you have something to reference when checking the status of your updates.  

Step 3: Review Directory Assets.  

After all errors are noted, take a few minutes to review the assets used on each directory.
  • Is the directory displaying an old version of your logo?
  • Do you have new product or service images to add?
  • Does the directory offer the addition of extra assets? (videos, menu’s etc)

Step 4: Submit and Complete Directory Updates.  

Every Business Directory has a different process for submitting listing updates. If possible, login and make the changes yourself immediately. If not, suggest an edit as a “user” or through the directory’s update process. Site moderators will review your submission and make the change if they feel it is accurate. If you are making a big change (address or email or phone number) it may take a few tries, as site moderators want to make sure the request is legitimate before changing a business’ contact information.

How do I get my Business listed on Apple Maps?

How do I get my Business listed on Apple Maps?

BEFORE YOU START: To create an Apple Maps business listing you need an apple ID. Once you have an apple ID for your business, you can begin to create your business listing!
Create an Apple ID for your company:
  • Go to and create a company Apple ID
  • Enter company email
  • Create / confirm temporary password
  • Enter first name, last name, and birthday
  • Select and answer 3 security questions
  • Select country
  • Enter CAPTCHA -> Continue
  • Find the confirmation email and enter the verification code to confirm your company Apple ID

Step 1: Store contact info, product descriptions, and marketing materials in a single document.

Take the time to do this once, as a result, you will save hours of searching overtime. Most notably, you should have everything in one place, so you can easily share accurate – up to date – assets with coworkers and employees.
Pro Tip: Use a Google Doc to store, and share your company info and assets. Check out Airi’s Company Info Doc.

Step 2: Go to Apple Maps.

  • Login with your new company Apple ID (email and password).
  • Select your language preference.
  • Select add my business.
  • Read and agree to the terms of service.

Step 3: Add your Business.

  • Search for your company, near your city.
  • Select add a new place.
  • Choose place status. 
  • Enter country. 
  • Choose primary, and two alternative categories. 
  • Enter phone number.
  • Do you accept Apple Pay? (Yes or No).
  • Continue

Step 4: Select Verify Later.

This will allow you to skip the verification process and finish adding your account details. 

Step 5: Complete your Apple Maps Profile.

  • Enter full business address.
  • Move the map PIN to the front door of your building.
  • Enter operating hours.
  • Add website and social URL’s.
  • Continue. 

Step 6: Respond to Apple’s Alert.

Respond to alert: “Answer a call” Coordinate a verification call from Apple to your business. Apple will ask that you prompt an automated call to your business, write down a pin number and enter it online to confirm your location.
  • Call your location to ensure someone will be available to answer Apple’s verification call.
  • Instruct the individual to stay near the phone, and to write down the PIN Apple provides.
  • Prompt the verification call, wait 5 minutes, and call back to retrieve the PIN.
  • Enter PIN to confirm your location / phone number.
  • Note: any remaining alerts from apple will not hinder publication.

How do I make a 411 Business Listing?

How do I make a 411 Business Listing?

BEFORE YOU START: to create your 411 business listing, know it is free to create, but not to manage. If you wish to login and respond to reviews, contact 411 through their advertising center. 

Step 1: Submit your Company Info to  

  • Enter your Company Phone Number
  • Add Business Details:
    • Business Name
    • Business Address
    • City
    • Primary Business Category
  • Add Personal Contact Info
    • First Name.
    • Last Name.
    • Phone Number.
    • Email Address.
    • Click “Yes, I agree”


Step 2: Chat with 411 to complete & publish your listing.

  • A 411 moderator will call your personal contact number to review and verify your information. 
  • Within 10 days your business listing will be published on 411. 
  • Reminder: To login to your listing and respond to reviews contact 411 through their advertising center.

Step 3: Claim your 411 Business Listing.

Once your listing has been reviewed by moderators and published, you have the opportunity to claim & manage your listing.
  • Search for and Select your company through 411 search.
  • Click “Are you the owner of this business? Click here.” – you will only see this message if the listing is unclaimed.
  • Enter your personal contact details once more, and submit.
  • 411 moderators will be in touch to verify the claim of this listing. “We just need to confirm your details over the phone. We’ll be in touch within 10 business days.”

Step 4: Update your 411 Business Listing.

If you business has an upgraded your account, get login access to the listing, and update it directly. This will save you from the time of having moderators review & publish the change, By logging in your changes will update immediately.
  • Search for and select your company through 411 search bar on the homepage.
  • Click the Green Edit button beside “Notice incorrect or missing info?” – usually near the logo.
  • Add any missing details, and update any incorrect info.
    • Business email
    • Company Website
    • Business address
    • Company phone number
    • Business Description
    • Categories
    • Features
    • Languages
    • Business Hours
    • Certifications and Associations
    • Brands
    • Ways to Pay
    • Parking Details
    • Accessibility & Amenities

Do It Yourself Local SEO For The Small Business Owner

Learn How To Rank In The Search Engines As a Small Business Following This Step by Step Course.

Do you want to learn how to rank your business higher in Google Search?
Do you own a small business?
Do you just want to do the work on your own? 
This is the perfect course for you.
I've created a step-by-step course that walks you through everything you need to know about boosting your visibility in the Google local map pack.
In August of 2015 Google changed the "local 7 pack" into the "local 3 pack".
It's now more important than ever to be working on Local Search Optimization for your business.
Only 3 businesses are now shown within the local business pack when typical "service + city" terms are used in Google search.
In this course I walk you through the basics of:
  • Setting up your website for local search
  • Setting up your Google+ business page
  • Adding your business to important website directories such as Yelp
  • Setting up basic social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn for business.
  • I walk you through several tools that can be used for tracking your rankings and auditing your business for search.
  • I show you the importance of content and how to optimize it for your business
  • I provide ways to generate more reviews for your business on Google, Yelp and others.
  • I show you some other websites you can use to generate new clients for your business.
If you've been struggling with SEO for many years as a local business, this is the course for you!

What are the requirements?

  • You will need a basic website built with either Wordpress, Squarespace or another easy to use content management system
  • A willingness to learn, implement, read and take consistent action

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Understand what Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is
  • The Basics of setting up a small business website with Wordpress or Squarespace
  • The importance of having a mobile friendly website
  • How to setup and use Google+ for Business
  • You will understand what important sites you should list your business on
  • The importance of building business profiles across the internet
  • Basic elements of on-page and off-page SEO
  • How to outsource content writing for your website
  • How to get more reviews for your Google business page

Who is the target audience?

  • Small businesses who are willing to put in the work to rank locally
  • Those who are interested in dominating the search results for their local city
  • If you are a business owner that lacks time to take action, this course might not be for you but it will help you understand the concepts of local SEO if you are unable to implement.

How To Do It Yourself Local SEO?

Web Equity Infographic
[to top â–²]


Web Equity - owning your digital presence

Online marketing has two goals: engage and convert. The social side of the Internet encourages engagement, the search side focuses more on user intent and ultimately conversion of that intent into a sale.
The many elements of an online presence can build on each and work together for a business. The process is best done in an environment with more control rather than less.
Because of the changing nature of the Internet, a SMBs marketing investment should always reinforce and strengthen the elements over which they have the most ownership.
Can a business get by without a website by using only social media? It may be possible, but it fails to recognize that a SMBs presence on other's sites can change or disappear through no fault of their own. Like any
investment, the more control the SMB has, the better it will serve the company interests.
The services in the outer rings of this graphic should be used to reinforce those services of the inner rings where they can best nurture a business's marketing investment. If you think of these tools as investment, all equity should reinforce and build on the core.


Business Name, Phone #, & Domain Name

A business name, a phone number and a domain that NEVER change are at the core of of an SMBs online identity. Name, phone and domain; these elements are the glue that allows for both branding, and for the value of that branding to come back to the business. Pick them well and make every effort to retain them forever. If you have had to change them over the past then you need to spend some time understanding how this information appears on the Internet. It is easy to place information on the web but not see easy to the wrong information off.

All Usernames & Passwords

All too frequently, SMBs neglect to manage the very keys to access the equity that they create across the Internet. Misplace them and entrance is barred. It seems self evident, yet frequently forgotten: Keep track of all your passwords in a secure manner. If using an outside service make access to the user names/pwds a key part of the service agreement.


Provides a focal point for others to link to and is the key to conversion. Managing this central online presence allows the SMB to not only control the message, but to have meaningful metrics to able to change the content to meet the needs of the site's visitors. It also provides a platform to gather email addresses and other key pieces of information about the business's customers.


Seth Godin defines a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer”. In a more pragmatic sense it is the sum total of who you are, what you do, where and how you do it. It has become a core tenet of Google to favor a “brand” whether local or national in their search results. It should be set and then nurtured.


Are a time-honored way of engaging a customer in the activities of a business. Repurposing this content online on the SMB website adds credibility and provides recognition to customers.

Customer Feedback

The core of getting great reviews and testimonials is earning them by offering exemplary customer service and results. While most SMBs think that is what they do, they really don’t know as they don’t measure it. An integral and initial part of any review management process should be some sort of customer feedback survey. This allows the business to track satisfaction over time, improve where need be to avoid bad reviews and branch their better clients into a review management process.

Seed N.A.P.

N.A.P. - the acronym for Name, Address and Phone number. The whole of the local ecosystem uses these basic identifiers to keep track of the business listing and identity. Changing them, for whatever reason, risks confusing the many directories and search engines that are tracking the specific business location. It ultimately risks confusing the customer as well. At the top of the local ecosystem in the US is a small number of list management companies, InfoUSA, Localeze & Axciom, that provide baseline and enhanced data to nearly every directory, search engine, check in and social place service on the internet. Seeding the right information to these upstream data providers is critical for achieving an accurate representation of your business across the local ecosystem.

Email & Email List

Email is a preferred communication tool and is a proven way to stay in touch with prospects and customers. It is low cost but high touch and provides a personal way of marketing to them. This information should be meticulously backed up and preserved offline regardless of where the SMB's basic email function takes place.

Claim Directory Listings

The Local Ecosystem is a fragmented place. Being sure that an SMB listing is accurate at the most prominent directories allows the business to leverage the top notch SEO of the directory for additional exposure and reinforces the prominence of the SMB listing in Google.


Local is still a fragmented environment with new and older directory based services offering more social elements like reviews, check-ins and deals to retain and attract readers. The SMBs presence there captures some eyeballs and also reinforces your presence elsewhere on the web.


The major search engines view the SMB Place page as search engine property, not the property of the business. Google, for example, will surface any information about the business on the Places Page that Google thinks is relevant to the searcher such (i.e. a competing business). The SMB needs to enhance this content with the understanding that the reader should be encouraged to call, come to their location or visit their website. Only then do they become the SMB's customer and not Google's reader.

Citations & Links

These are effectively the votes upon which the search engines decide the prominence and rank of a business. They are the key element in any long -term marketing program to increase the visibility of the business's website and blog. If a URL or phone number changes, the equity value of citations and links can be dissipated.


A platform to set the record straight and establish authority is a key to proactive reputation management. A blog should be located at the same location as the domain. Building a blog on a third party platform, while easy, builds link equity for the 3rd party and not the SMB. Blog entries allow the SMB to build out relevant content to attract links, but more importantly encourages the community and the conversation to take place close to home.

Blog Comments

Blog readers can enhance and improve on your content. These comments can expand the depth and engagement of the blog writing. Blog commenter’s take ownership in helping convey key messages.

Owner Review Responses

The way in which the SMB responds to reviews, particularly negative reviews, can either build or destroy online equity. It is important for the SMB to remember that their response is for future prospects as much as it is for the current, perhaps angry, customer.

Claim Social ID’s & Brand

Even if a business does not have time to actively manage the many social sites, the SMB should minimally claim their brand to prevent squatting.


Have both search and social elements. They are often a search -ranking factor and provide credibility for the business at an important juncture in the consumer purchase cycle. Reviews also allow existing clients to engage on behalf of the business by highlighting the business's positives, but they are persistent and outside an SMBs direct control.

Check In Services

A social tool that can increase visitor loyalty and provide a direct way of communicating offers and deals.

Business to Business Social Web

Are a great place to build business relationships and perception of expertise. But like any social site, change can lead to loss of control and loss of equity. Don't put all of your eggs in the social basket.

Social Web

Can be used to engage both existing and new clients, build relationships and provide exposure. It is an opportunity to instill confidence and trust. Like MySpace and AOL, these properties can change course or go away. The SMB then looses not only control, but also any equity developed. The Social Web is best used to bring clients back to the SMB site or blog.

Likes, Shares, Retweets

The social and search sides of the web are merging with the content and sharing sides of the web. Making it easy for your customers/followers to reshare you content at one of the many social sites is a way of amplifying your message. These social activities are impacting the visibility of your business in both search and the social environment.

Events, Facebook Ads, Daily Deals / Coupons, Ad Words, Boost, Tags

Can be used to highlight a business to drive engagement, traffic and conversions. They can compliment search and social efforts by exposing your short -term promotions and longer term marketing efforts to new audiences.

Why do most startups fail?

If you stop to think about it, this is quite surprising. After all, entrepreneurs who choose to found a startup are usually bright, confident, and willing to take on risks . Even though they know that the startup mortality rate is so high, they are happy to challenge the existing players in the market, because they feel they can do a better job than the incumbents.

They're well-informed and expert, and the very fact that they've been able to raise money from funders means they are charismatic and can do a good job convincing mature investors that they have a dream which is worth backing. Also, one would expect that the combination of an accomplished , ambitious hard-working founder who has considerable domain expertise, along with seasoned investors with deep pockets should make for a winning combination !

Reason 1: Market Problems

A major reason why companies fail, is that they run into the problem of their being little or no market for the product that they have built. Here are some common symptoms:

There is not a compelling enough value proposition, or compelling event, to cause the buyer to actually commit to purchasing. Good sales reps will tell you that to get an order in today’s tough conditions, you have to find buyers that have their “hair on fire”, or are “in extreme pain”. You also hear people talking about whether a product is a Vitamin (nice to have), or an Aspirin (must have).

The market timing is wrong. You could be ahead of your market by a few years, and they are not ready for your particular solution at this stage. For example when EqualLogic first launched their product, iSCSI was still very early, and it needed the arrival of VMWare which required a storage area network to do VMotion to really kick their market into gear. Fortunately they had the funding to last through the early years.

The market size of people that have pain, and have funds is simply not large enough

Reason 2: Business Model Failure

As outlined in the introduction to Business Models section, after spending time with hundreds of startups, I realized that one of the most common causes of failure in the startup world is that entrepreneurs are too optimistic about how easy it will be to acquire customers. They assume that because they will build an interesting web site, product, or service, that customers will beat a path to their door. That may happen with the first few customers, but after that, it rapidly becomes an expensive task to attract and win customers, and in many cases the cost of acquiring the customer (CAC) is actually higher than the lifetime value of that customer (LTV).

The observation that you have to be able to acquire your customers for less money than they will generate in value of the lifetime of your relationship with them is stunningly obvious. Yet despite that, I see the vast majority of entrepreneurs failing to pay adequate attention to figuring out a realistic cost of customer acquisition. A very large number of the business plans that I see as a venture capitalist have no thought given to this critical number, and as I work through the topic with the entrepreneur, they often begin to realize that their business model may not work because CAC will be greater than LTV.

The Essence of a Business Model

As outlined in the Business Models introduction, a simple way to focus on what matters in your business model is look at these two questions:

  • Can you find a scalable way to acquire customers
  • Can you then monetize those customers at a significantly higher level than your cost of acquisition

Thinking about things in such simple terms can be very helpful. I have also developed two “rules” around the business model, which are less hard and fast “rules, but more guidelines. These are outlined below:

The CAC / LTV “Rule”

The rule is extremely simple:

CAC must be less than LTV

To compute CAC, you should take the entire cost of your sales and marketing functions, (including salaries, marketing programs, lead generation, travel, etc.) and divide it by the number of customers that you closed during that period of time. So for example, if your total sales and marketing spend in Q1 was $1m, and you closed 1000 customers, then your average cost to acquire a customer (CAC) is $1,000.

To compute LTV, you will want to look at the gross margin associated with the customer (net of all installation, support, and operational expenses) over their lifetime. For businesses with one time fees, this is pretty simple. For businesses that have recurring subscription revenue, this is computed by taking the monthly recurring revenue, and dividing that by the monthly churn rate.

Because most businesses have a series of other functions such as G&A, and Product Development that are additional expenses beyond sales and marketing, and delivering the product, for a profitable business, you will want CAC to be less than LTV by some significant multiple. For SaaS businesses, it seems that to break even, that multiple is around three, and that to be really profitable and generate the cash needed to grow, the number may need to be closer to five. But here I am interested in getting feedback from the community on their experiences to test these numbers.

The Capital Efficiency “Rule”

If you would like to have a capital efficient business, I believe it is also important to recover the cost of acquiring your customers in under 12 months. Wireless carriers and banks break this rule, but they have the luxury of access to cheap capital. So stated simply, the “rule” is:

Reason 3: Poor Management Team

An incredibly common problem that causes startups to fail is a weak management team. A good management team will be smart enough to avoid Reasons 2, 4, and 5. Weak management teams make mistakes in multiple areas:

  • They are often weak on strategy, building a product that no-one wants to buy as they failed to do enough work to validate the ideas before and during development. This can carry through to poorly thought through go-to-market strategies.
  • They are usually poor at execution, which leads to issues with the product not getting built correctly or on time, and the go-to market execution will be poorly implemented.
  • They will build weak teams below them. There is the well proven saying: A players hire A players, and B players only get to hire C players (because B players don’t want to work for other B players). So the rest of the company will end up as weak, and poor execution will be rampant.

Reason 4: Running out of Cash

A fourth major reason that startups fail is because they ran out of cash. A key job of the CEO is to understand how much cash is left and whether that will carry the company to a milestone that can lead to a successful financing, or to cash flow positive.

Milestones for Raising Cash

The valuations of a startup don’t change in a linear fashion over time. Simply because it was twelve months since you raised your Series A round, does not mean that you are now worth more money. To reach an increase in valuation, a company must achieve certain key milestones.

What goes wrong

What frequently goes wrong, and leads to a company running out of cash, and unable to raise more, is that management failed to achieve the next milestone before cash ran out. Many times it is still possible to raise cash, but the valuation will be significantly lower.

When to hit Accelerator Pedal

One of a CEO’s most important jobs is knowing how to regulate the accelerator pedal. In the early stages of a business, while the product is being developed, and the business model refined, the pedal needs to be set very lightly to conserve cash. There is no point hiring lots of sales and marketing people if the company is still in the process of finishing the product to the point where it really meets the market need. This is a really common mistake, and will just result in a fast burn, and lots of frustration.

However, on the flip side of this coin, there comes a time when it finally becomes apparent that the business model has been proven, and that is the time when the accelerator pedal should be pressed down hard. As hard as the capital resources available to the company permit. By “business model has been proven”, I mean that the data is available that conclusively shows the cost to acquire a customer, (and that this cost can be maintained as you scale), and that you are able to monetize those customers at a rate which is significantly higher than CAC (as a rough starting point, three times higher). And that CAC can be recovered in under 12 months.

Reason 5: Product Problems

Another reason that companies fail is because they fail to develop a product that meets the market need. This can either be due to simple execution. Or it can be a far more strategic problem, which is a failure to achieve Product/Market fit.

Most of the time the first product that a startup brings to market won’t meet the market need. In the best cases, it will take a few revisions to get the product/market fit right. In the worst cases, the product will be way off base, and a complete re-think is required. If this happens it is a clear indication of a team that didn’t do the work to get out and validate their ideas with customers before, and during, development.

Reason 6: Ignoring Prospective Customers

It has always been difficult for startups to decide on whether to work on their product towards perfection or let the market test it first. Well, talking to customers about ideas and improvements is always going to work to some extent, but this might lead startups to having almost no profit at all.

The foundation of startup-success is based on validating the market and if you fail to come up with a good product, your startup is surely going to fail. The best possible way to make sure everything works well is by measuring, tracking, validating and optimizing the data that you receive from your customers or clients.