Working the Web: The Lowdown on Local SEO

By Carl Weiss

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a bit like the Army Air Corps in World War II.  It was great when it came to carpet bombing cities.  But it was woefully inadequate when it came to discriminating individual targets.  The phenomenon of Local SEO is a lot like that.  Type in keywords like Jacksonville Video Production or Jacksonville Boat Club and the companies that pop up on page 1 of Google are listed based upon their overall SEO score. 

While this works out fine for video production companies and boat clubs, where customers are prepared to drive clear across town to get the best deal, it doesn’t work so well for businesses (such as Auto Repair, Dry Cleaners or Pizza Parlors) that draw their customers from a smaller geographic area.  Although Google sometimes displays a map of the surrounding area where you can select businesses close to home, it has been proven that search engines have a built-in bias that favors firms located close to the city center. A recent article by Search Engine Journal pointed out that,

“Google uses something commonly called “centroid bias”, which means that if someone searches for, say, Seattle Dentist, there will be a bias towards the dentist locations that are closest to the center of the city. While it is possible for a business in a neighboring city to rank for a metro keyword (i.e. a business in Cambridge trying to rank for a Boston keyword), if you’re on the outskirts of a city, or in a city neighboring a major metropolitan area, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.”
The reason this bias exists is mainly due to the fact that when search engines were developed, they were never programmed to deduce the location of the end user.  That's why it's called the World Wide Web.  For instance, when you type in the keywords “Jacksonville Pizza,” Google relates the search to 9,970,000 results, of which it displays 11 pizza parlors on the first page.  While pizza is a popular dish and Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the US, I seriously doubt that there are nearly 10 million pizzerias in town.  More disturbing still is the fact that of this result, the “geo-targeted” listings on the Google Local map start with the three located closest to downtown and work their way out.  Still, if I was the owner of a pizza parlor, I would rather be listed than not.  So how can a business take advantage of local SEO.

In order to get on the map you need to register your business with Google Places and then you need to complete all the information requested.  And I mean 100% of it.  Having an 80% or 90% score is going to cause more harm than good. It also helps to embed your Google Map and Google+ link on your homepage.  Google+ even offers a widget for both the social posts and the +1 icon that help steer your visitors to your Google+ page.  The most important thing to remember when feeding the 800 lb gorilla in the room named Google is that he is a picky eater that prefers to eat his own products.  So you should also take advantage of this by also posting your blog on and your videos on YouTube.

SEO is Still a Popularity Contest

Anyone who knows anything about SEO knows that when you boil it down, SEO in general has for the past few years boiled down to a popularity contest.  That’s why the search engines put such a high premium on such things as backlinks, positive reviews and reposts of blogs and social commentary.  When it comes to local SEO, this goes double.

Quotes Search Engine Journal, “The three biggest factors in local listings appear to be the number of citations, the number of reviews (primarily on your Google Places listing, though other places do count), and how positive the reviews are overall. From what I’ve seen, positive reviews will trump citations, so persuading your customers and clients to leave great reviews on your Google local page is the single most important thing you can do. Of course, there are some things that have a big impact and that may not be directly in your control, such as how close your business is to the city center.

While it is highly unlikely that you are going to move your place of business in order to take advantage of this last point, it is possible to garner the first.  Many businesses routinely ask their best customers to write (or better yet video tape) testimonials that refer to their business in glowing terms.  Why not ask these same customers to write a review on Google, LinkedIn, Merchant Circle or any local directory in which you participate?  Since it takes less time to write a review than it does a testimonial, it shouldn’t take much persuading to get the task done.

As for such things as comments and reposts on blogs and social networks, that takes a bit more organizing.  But it is well worth the effort.  One of the ways to accomplish this task would be to partner up with other local businesses in a kind of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” alliance.  The way this works is that you would recruit 5 or 6 non-competing businesses in your area.  When you write a blog (which you should do once per week), you would forward it to your teammates and they will comment on and rebroadcast the blog via their social networks.  You will then do the same for them. 

If you don’t want to go through the time and trouble of creating these alliances yourself, there are SEO clubs such as that will organize, manage and train you in these and other online marketing techniques.

Buying Your Way into the Game

While it is possible to use all the tactics above to position your site prominently on the search engines, there is one other way to up the ante. You can buy your way into the game. 

“Use a service like Yext to make sure that the information from your Google Places page is spread across all of the other major local platforms, in the same format. Each of these will become a citation, which is hugely valuable.

Third, use a tool like KnowEm to snag all of your social profiles (while not strictly local-centric, many profiles will show your name, address and phone number, which will instantly give you a whole pile of local citations.) Google of course is free, but using Yext and KnowEm will set you back $500 to $1,000 per location depending on the packages you select (KnowEm is a one-time fee, but Yext is ongoing.)” - SEJ

Also there are companies like ours that will provide search engine/directory posting to the top 100 search engine/directories starting for as little as $250 for a one time post and $200 a month for monthly posting. 

Regardless of how you get the job done, the most important things you have to ask yourself when it comes to local SEO are:
1.      What would it be worth to have my site prominently displayed on page 1 of the world’s most popular search engine?
2. What does it cost me if my competitor is on page 1 and I am not?

While it might cost you time and money to win the war of online dominance, this is one war that you can’t afford to lose.

Carl Weiss is president of WSquared Media Group, a Jacksonville-based leader in online marketing.  He is also co-host of the radio show Working the Web to Win which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

The Definitive Guide to Local SEO – Search Engine Journal

Will Web TV Change the World as You Know It?

By Carl Weiss

When it comes to the Internet, there are a number of sites and technologies that have truly been game changers.  When Jeff Bezos founded in 1994, he started an etail revolution that would eventually put the fear of God into brick and mortar retailers. In 1995 eBay was founded, which would change the face of auctioning forever. Then on September 4 of the following year, a pair of enterprising Stanford University students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, the search engine that would later go onto dominate web search.    

Along the way, technologies came and went.  Online empires (such as Netscape) rose and fell.  It wasn’t until February of 2005 that three former PayPal employees named Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim started  A little more than a year later, on October 9, 2006, it was announced that the company would be purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in stock. And the rest is history.

Just to give you some idea of the lightning fast growth of YouTube, you have to keep in mind that from the start, the video portal was one of the fastest growing sites online.  Even though it had started less than a year before, by the summer of 2006, YouTube was already ranked by Alexa as the Internet’s 5th most visited website. According to a July 16, 2006 survey, 100 million video clips were already being viewed daily on YouTube, with an additional 65,000 new videos being uploaded every 24 hours. This was the same year that Time Magazine featured a YouTube screen with a large mirror as its annual ‘Person of the Year.’  By May 2011, YouTube reported in its company blog that the site was receiving more than three billion views per day.  In January 2012, YouTube stated that the figure had increased to four billion videos streamed per day.

4 Billion Viewers Can’t All Be Wrong

One of the reasons that YouTube has developed so many viewers is due to the fact that not only is it owned and operated by the world’s most visited search engine (Google), but it has also created a number of strategic alliances with broadcast, mobile and gaming companies. 

YouTube entered into a marketing and advertising partnership with NBC in June 2006.  In November 2008, YouTube reached an agreement with MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment, and CBS, allowing the companies to post full-length films and television episodes on the site.   A TiVo service update in July 2008 allowed the system to search and play YouTube videos.  In January 2009, YouTube launched "YouTube for TV", a version of the website tailored for set-top boxes and other TV-based media devices with web browsers, initially allowing its videos to be viewed on the PlayStation 3 and Wii video game consoles. Some smartphones are capable of accessing YouTube videos, dependent on the provider and the data plan. YouTube Mobile was launched in June 2007, using RTSP streaming for the video.

What this has done is made YouTube the most watched TV station on the planet.  Better still, it is the world’s most democratic TV station, since all programming is on-demand, with viewership solely at the discretion of the public.  Best of all, for programmers, this is one Super Station that is free of charge.  Anyone with a video can set up an account and begin streaming content without charge of any kind.  What started off as a repository for shaky camera work and stupid cat tricks has evolved into a place where fledgling TV producers, wanna be TV moguls and savvy entrepreneurs can create, grow and interact with an almost limitless audience.

That in itself has spawned a flurry of web series, some created by professionals and others started by rank amateurs.  Of the latter, a number of series created by the public have created something of a cult following.  Some of the top producing series tout millions of viewers per week and compete head on with network fare.

Top 10 Series on YouTube 2011
2.    jennamarbles
3.    freddiew
4.    machinima
5.    smosh
6.    EpicMealTime
7.    FPSRussia
8.    nigahiga
9.    collegehumor
10.  kevjumba

Other notables include The Annoying Orange and Mystery Guitar-man. 

So how does this rock your world?  More importantly, how does it relate to building your business online? In the first place, YouTube videos are a great way to promote your business and your products to the masses.  It’s a proven fact that people online would rather be shown than told about most any subject.  It’s also a proven fact that people are 5 more times as likely to click on a video as a website.  SEO aside, with a little imagination and follow through, Web TV could be a game changing way to promote your business.

With a little help from your friends

While many businesses today have created a smattering of YouTube videos, what most haven’t realized is that the door is wide open for entrepreneurs to create Web TV series around their businesses.  For years Cable broadcasters have been turning contractors into TV stars by creating reality TV series that focus on such things as buying and selling homes, chefs, loggers, fishermen and even pawn shop owners, just to name a few.  A number of these people have become stars in their own right.  All of them have seen a quantum leap in their businesses.

You Don’t Have to Wait for Hollywood to Come Calling

Currently the public clearly has an insatiable appetite for video, whether online or on TV.  While it is a real boon for those lucky few businesspeople who have been deemed worthy of the attention of cable TV, in reality you don’t have to wait for Hollywood to come knocking at your door.  With a little bit of creativity and staying power, it is now possible for individuals and businesses to create and broadcast their own reality shows, talk shows, and variety shows that can be used to leverage huge audiences.

All you have to do to take advantage of this opportunity is answer this simple question: “What do I do in my business that would be of interest to the public?”

Bear in mind that major TV series have been created by having the public watch paint dry and bricks be laid. (This Old House)  Everyone from lobstermen to lumberjacks have been turned into TV stars.  All it took was finding the drama, the conflict and sometimes the controversy in these blue collar businesses.  If you want to create a sustainable series, this (and humor) is what you need to tap. Then you need to produce four short episodes per month and you are in the game.

While creating an episode per week sounds like a daunting task at first, take heart.  Unlike network television, with Web TV less is more.  Most of the top ranking YouTube series offer microcasts of 2-5 minutes in length.  Production values are limited and with a few exceptions acting skills are also simplistic at best.  Even the technology used to produce most series is quite basic in nature.  What this means is if you can dig deep and tap into the drama of your workaday existence and bring it to the masses on a weekly basis, then Web TV could literally change your world as you know it. 

Carl Weiss is President of W Squared Media Group, a cutting edge producer of Web TV productions and online marketing that is designed to grow, manage and interact with the public.  He is also co-host of Working the Web to Win, an online radio show that airs Tuesday at 4pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.  

Cyber Security Shuffle

By Carl Weiss

If you’re like most people, you probably only react to cyber security matters when your computer is so infected with malware that it refuses to function.   This is what IT professionals refer to as locking the barn door after the horse has bolted.  In today's wired world, what you have to consider is that everything from your PC to your smartphone is subject to attack by hackers who are out to sell your personal information, steal your financial data and do much more than mischief.  What many people don't realize is that this problem is so serious that even governments are having problems dealing with it.  

Two recent articles come to mind.  One which was published in on August 13, quoted General Keith B. Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency as stating,

“Hackers can and must be part of a collaborative approach with the government and private industry, he said. "You know that we can protect networks and have civil liberties and privacy, and you can help us get there."

The second, which was published today on, quotes an unnamed researcher at Russia’s Kaspersky Lab as asking the public for help in cracking an encrypted warhead that gets delivered to infected machines by the Gauss malware toolkit.

“We are asking anyone interested in cryptology, numerology and mathematics to join us in solving the mystery and extracting the hidden payload.”

Now I know what you’re thinking, “I thought that government agencies were supposed to be responsible for cracking down on cyber criminals.  Now they want to hire them?”

Welcome to the wacky world of cybercrime.  The sad fact of the matter is that governments have been notoriously lax when it comes to taking a bite out of cybercrime.  On an international level, Interpol, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the G-8 have been trying to address the issue of cyber security through international cooperation.   The fact that cyber attacks were a worldwide problem surfaced in 2007, when Estonia faced a series of online attacks so serious that NATO was called in to intervene. 

Of course, the US is hardly immune to this phenomenon.  The NSA’s General Alexander also warned that cyber attacks were causing “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”  He also cited statistics from leading computer security authorities which touted the losses to American companies at $250 billion per year. (Worldwide losses to business are estimated at $1 trillion.) This figure does not address the loss of income to the American public, where such things as viruses and outright theft of financial data costs billions more per year. 

With these kinds of dire circumstances rearing their ugly heads on almost a daily basis, you would think that  cyber terrorism would merit some kind of direct response from the government. You would be wrong.  Far from creating a response, much less a defense against these attacks, on August 2 senate Republicans blocked a bill intended to boost U.S. computer defenses.  James Lewis, technology program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington summed it up best.

‘‘Nobody in Congress denies that we need to do something, but between business pressures and electoral pressures there’s no way they’re going to do anything useful. The game now will be each side blames the other.”

Far from being an isolated case, on an international level, feet dragging appears to be the norm.

 “It can take up to two years to receive evidence using a mutual legal assistance treaty," said Brad Marden, coordinator of cybercrime operations for the Australian Federal Police, at an IBM security event in Sydney on August 14. "Bear in mind that in the Australian legal system, police have just three months to present a brief to a court on someone who has been arrested.

This kind of interdepartmental foot dragging brings back another familiar case.  If you will recall the brouhaha that occurred when it was revealed how the NSA might have prevented 9/11 if it had been more willing to share its data with other agencies.  Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA in his 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, and found that the agency had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden's operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden's satellite phone, starting in 1996.  Bamford reported in a PBS documentary entitled The Spy Factory,

"The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington.”

(View the complete Nova broadcast here.)

As shocking as this item is, what would be worse would be if history were getting ready to repeat itself.  As the arena of warfare moves steadily from the battlefield to cyberspace (like the Israeli designed Flame virus that was designed to slow Iranian nuclear efforts), is society ready for an all-out technological attack that targets major financial institutions, air traffic control, or the nation’s power grid?  When you realize how technology dependent modern society has become, this could be the Western world's real Achille's heel.  If you think having your computer laid up by malware is an inconvenience, imagine how much of a monkey wrench a banking or power grid meltdown would rock your world.

What it boils down to is that when it comes to the government’s lack of a response to this impending menace, are we prepared to face the threat of cyberwar?  Or, is the government and the public at large  going to continue to do its rendition of the cyber security shuffle until it’s too late.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Marketing Group and host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win radio show," that airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.  Join Carl and co-host Hector Cisneros today as they discuss how to secure your online future.

Researchers Seek Help Cracking Gauss Mystery Payload -
NSA Chief Seeks Help From Hackers -
Top Australian Cybercop Laments Slow Official Evidence Exchange -

Augment This!

By Carl Weiss

Since the early days of online gaming, people talked about the day that virtual reality would be able to deliver the goods and produce an experience so incredibly realistic that you would be hard pressed to decipher where the game ended and the real world began.  There were even sci-fi movies that not only forecast what the world would be like after the advent of VR, but it also predicted the potential perils that could occur as a result of being jacked into the virtual world.  While neither the hardware nor the dangers of VR have thus far materialized, it is interesting to note that an offshoot of this paradigm has taken root.  What I am talking about is the man/machine interface known as “Augmented Reality.”

Through the App Darkly

For starters, let’s take a look at such technologies as social networks.  Most people wouldn’t think that a medium dedicated to making the world a more connected place would have anything other than the real world with which to converse. These people would be dead wrong.  It turns out that one of the fastest growing trends is the advent of non-human Twitter accounts.  That’s right, you can now read tweets from such things as a Boston Housecat, a pigeon who talks like a truck driver, an Olympian’s towel and even the San Francisco fog, just to name a few.  Why anyone would want to trade barbs with Rick Santorum’s sweater vest is besides the fact.  The reason that thousands or in some cases millions of people have been enticed into playing along with whimsical characters just goes to show you how far down the slippery slope that humanity has slid in its attempt to thwart boredom, loneliness and the daily grind.

Speaking of playing along, this brings us to the next online phenomenon, virtual worlds.  Second Life(SL) is one of the most prominent virtual worlds online today. Developed by Linden Lab and launched on June 23, 2003, this Internet based alternative universe currently boasts more than 800 thousand people who log in more than once per month, who collectively log some 105 million man hours per month.  Unlike other massive multiplayer games that have sprung up like weeds online, SL is not built by its developers (Linden Lab), but it is created by its members.  More importantly, once a member joins they have the ability to create their own avatar and can do such things as purchase virtual real estate, open virtual businesses and create a virtual world so all-encompassing that virtual therapists can be found on the site that charge $100 per online session.

The use of avatars is even becoming commonplace in business.  Take IBM for example. Back in January of 2007, CNET reported that, IBM envisions many businesses and nonprofits thriving in virtual worlds. Marketers can use the so-called metaverses to project a cool image of products, and retail outlets can use them to sell real-world goods. Lawyers, accountants and real estate agents could also set up shop in virtual worlds to meet with clients informally.
Virtual employee meetings and business teleconferencing could also benefit from the fact that virtual-world avatars can express emotion and gestures, adding life to otherwise remote events. In fact, IBM's McDavid said virtual worlds could ultimately be more of an affront to the airline business than teleconference services like WebEx. "A lot of this is a change of mindset," he said.

Even more astounding is the fact that IBM has been conducting virtual meetings worldwide with its employees via avatar for years.  If the article is any indication, they expect this trend to continue.  Consider this statement by McDavid,”
“A generation of kids reared in virtual worlds like Second Life or MTV's Laguna Beach are eventually bound for a work force that will need to cater to their experiences by creating virtual worlds for the corporate intranet.

Smartphone Wars

While losing yourself in an alternative realm may seem way out there for many people, allow me to point out the fact that more and more smart phone users seem to be in a world all their own without having to resort to an avatar.  You know who I am talking about.  These are the folks you see texting nonstop at the Monday morning meeting, or walking down the sidewalk talking to themselves.  Want to start a riot at the office tomorrow, ask the crowd at the coffee machine whether they would be willing to give up their smart phones for a day, or ask four coworkers whether Apple or Android is going to be the dominant form of communications in the next two years.  (Be prepared to run after posing either question.)

And smart phones are only the tip of the technological iceberg.  Have you heard of Google Glass?  This is the wearable computer that Google is developing that look like a pair of lensless spectacles.  If you think that your auto insurance is high now, what with every teenager in town texting while driving, wait until eyeglasses that automatically respond to your environment make their debut in 2013.  Look at the sky and these babies will supply you with the latest weather forecast.  Say the word and the glasses will start recording video. (This could be a good thing or a bad thing to try should you get pulled over for speeding.)

Of course, the main question to ask is whether wearing this kind of gadget while behind the wheel or even while crossing the street is a good thing or a bad thing.  That this kind of scenario is nearly inevitable was brought home last week in Paris when Dr. Steve Mann, the original inventor of digital eyeglasses, was assaulted in a Paris McDonalds when a customer attempted to rip the device off the doctor’s head.
This from 

While in line at the restaurant, a McDonald's employee asked Mann about the glasses. Given that Mann and his family had "spent the day going to various museums and historical landmark sites guarded by military and police," he had a doctor's note regarding his computer vision glasses, which he showed to the employee.

"After reviewing the documentation, the purported McDonalds employee accepted me (and my family) as a customer, and left us to place our order," Mann wrote. Through the remainder of his story, Mann referred to that employee as "Possible Witness 1."  After placing his family's fast-food order with the cashier, or "Possible Witness 2," Mann sat near the restaurant entrance to people watch.

It was at that point that a man, who Mann dubbed Perpetrator 1, tried to take his glasses. "The eyeglass is permanently attached and does not come off my skull without special tools," he wrote.

Mann attempted to calm him down by showing him the letter from his doctor. Perpetrator 1 brought Mann with him to meet two other men (Perpetrators 2 and 3), one of whom was wearing a McDonald's employee shirt and carrying a broom and dustpan. All three men reviewed the doctor's note, then crumpled the paper and ripped it up.

"Perpetrator 1 pushed me out the door, onto the street," Mann wrote.

The irony of the situation came directly from Mann's glasses, which processes imagery using Augmediated Reality, Mann said, in order to help him see better. But when the internal computer is damaged, by, say, physical assault, it retains photos that it would otherwise erase, therefore capturing images of the situation.

There’s that term again.  Well, sort of.   Wikipedia defines the term as, Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer generated input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality where a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.”

What the concept boils down to in practice is instead of merely using technology as an afterthought, in AR the man/machine interface is much more proactive in that much of what you see, hear, read and watch is filtered, metered, repackaged and broadcast via computer.   Where you currently send text and photos via smartphone whenever the mood strikes, in AR mode you would simply tell your wearable multimedia computer to snap photos or shoot video which you will then broadcast to a person, or a crowd (think Google Hangout) just by commanding your wearable computer to do so. 

While this kind of process doesn’t seem to be all that different from what many of us in the wired world currently do on a daily basis, the very idea of throngs of camera toting, online broadcasting throngs could well change the way in which individuals are perceived.  

·         If you think Rodney King made the headlines back in 1991, what do you think will happen when thousands or even millions of people equipped with wearable video technology will do to the world of network news? 

·         Will state governments enact laws that make AR behind the wheel a punishable offense?
·         Will airline passengers be forbidden from bringing their Google Glasses onto commercial airliners?
·         Will the authorities be able to issue a court order that allows them to review your video feed shot via wearable computer that clearly shows you drinking and then driving?
·         Will a divorce attorney be able to download compel a judge to allow a spouse’s Google Glass data to be held against him or her in court?
While the possibilities seem nearly endless, once AR becomes a reality that is embraced by the public, will this technology further erode the real world connections that make relationships possible.  Or, will we simply live, work and connect in a virtual world via avatar from the comfort of our own home?  Either way, it sure beats paying $3.50 per gallon at the pump.

Carl Weiss will discuss this topic yet further in his weekly Working the Web to Win radio show which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.  He is also president of W Squared Media Group and owner of Jacksonville Video Production.

Wearable Tech Pioneer Assaulted at Paris McDonalds by Stephanie Mlot (,2817,2407258,00.asp)
Meet Me in My Avatar’s Office by Stephanie Olsen (