• People may think your business is a porn shop

    I was new to the Boise area and my beagle developed a cough -- so I did what any normal person would -- I typed “vet” in the search bar on Google Maps and went looking for help. I started with the locations nearest to me and found a couple of excellently reviewed clinics.

    Then I got the “XXX Vet Clinic”.

    Now, it’s not what you think (I’ll let your imagination go wild) -- it was a hijacked Google Maps account leading to a porn site instead of the small business’ homepage (which I’m assuming they didn’t have).

    This is more common than you may think. With approximately one billion searches a day, Google maps is one of the most used websites in the world and an attractive target to hackers. All it takes is for your business not to be claimed and for someone (occasionally with good intentions) to go in and change your hours, leave a negative review, or even close your location.

    Kevin Poulsen wrote a telling article for Wired.com about a business owner suing Google over having his business listing be hacked. His words of warning: “...if you ignore your Google Maps listing, you’re inviting trouble.”

    Don’t be the next XXX Vet Clinic.

    You can set this up yourself: www.google.com/business. Or you can contact me. I'd be happy to help.

  • 53% Of Internet Searches Are Locally Motivated

    If you're reading this, I am assuming you're not one of the many business who still think it's O.K. to ignore the internet. If you are (or aren't), check this out: Microsoft said that 53% of searches in Bing (their search engine) have local intent. And Google said their figure is 33%. Either way, a ton of people may be trying to find you.

    With that said, here's a tiny checklist of what you need to have up-to-date this coming year to be found online:

    1. Current / Updated Website: Most of the search engines give special attention to websites that have fresh content. This can be done by blogging, linking up with social media sites, or by simply making sure everything is current and correct on the site.

    2. Claimed Business / Organization: There are a bunch of places where you need to mark your territory or be prepared to be overlooked. Google Maps, FourSquare, and Facebook are all major players in having people find you. I can't tell you how many business have incorrect info or are not current when being searched for.

    3. Socialized: Be available on at least one social media site, whether it be Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook -- people expect to find you there, so be there.

    By the way...if you need help, just ask. (Shameless plug, I know.)

    Here's to a super happy new year!

  • Small town web presence - Google Alerts

    Many local business owners have been ill-informed to the notion that it takes too much time to manage their presence on the web...and they’re right...if they don’t have the right tools. One of the most essential utilities available to everyone for free is Google Alerts.

    Google Alerts lets you type in keywords (i.e. your business’ name) and will email you when those words are found in Internet news, blogs, videos, real time, discussions, and mentions on the web. There are a series of filter options, but ultimately, is straightforward and easy to use. There is no reason why you should go without this any longer. 

    Google Alerts Tutorial:

    1. Go to: google.com/alerts

    2. Enter your search terms. (Uses quotation marks around exact phrases.)

    3. Click the "Preview results".

    4. Adjust the settings.

    Type: What web sources do you want them to pull from?

    How Often: Chose the time frame that works best for you.

    Volume: Do you want Google to filter out some of the findings?

    Email: Enter the email you’d like the report sent to.

    5. Click "Create Alert" button.

    This will take you less than 3 minutes to set up and will help you monitor what’s being said about your business (good and bad) on the web.

  • How to help in small towns - community education

    Last week, I taught my first community education class in over ten years, "Facebook for Beginners", to a lovely group of senior citizens who were interested in this website they heard so much about. An hour and a half was all it took to set up an account, adjust privacy settings, learn the essentials, and to ultimately figure out if it was something they’d use. Nothing life changing, but none-the-less, necessary and worthwhile.

    If you care about your community, you should care about education. Young and old, and everyone in between, can benefit from a well-rounded educational system. But it takes good teachers to make it all happen. That’s where you come in. Do you have any skills, hobbies, knowledge, specialties, or general comprehension you could share? I bet you do. So once you motivate yourself to teach a class, here’s the next steps you're gonna want to take.

    Steps to creating a community education class:

    1. Ask good questions - Contact your local C.E. office and ask them about what classes they have requests for that aren’t currently filled or if there is a lack of instructors in current regular courses. Find out what resources they have available if you do teach a class (computers, classroom, copy machine, etc.). Also, be upfront when it comes to compensation, and find out what the going rate is. Don’t under-ask, cover every aspect you’re unsure about. And if you're town doesn't have a community education program, check with some of your neighboring towns.

    2. Know your subject - You don’t have to know everything about your topic, but be sure to know enough to teach it. I highly doubt you’ll cover the entire scope of astronomy in an hour, but if you’re teaching a stargazing class, you need know the basics...and a little more. Look online to see if someone else has taught this subject and use their experiences to help better yours. If the time comes where you’re asked a question you don’t know, simply reply, “I’m not 100% sure of the answer...let me find out and get back to you.” Then get back to that person. 

    3. Specialize the class - Be as specific as possible about what you’re going to cover. It will help you in creating your curriculum and in the drafting of your outline. It will also help weed out people who already know parts of what you’re going to cover and will make them feel better about paying for something they actually want to learn. If your subject has different levels, try offering a variety of classes that appeal to different abilities. (i.e. Computer classes require certain skills before using certain programs. Teach the basic skills class then a specialized program class down the road.)

    4. Keep it simple - It’s better to have extra time for answering questions and practicing skills than it is to cram tons of info into their heads which falls out later when they get home. You’re biggest fear should be waisting the students’ time by not equipping them to use what they learned out in the real world. Outline your lesson(s) and then refine, refine, refine. When it comes down to class time, those main points are the only thing you’re required to cover. Everything else will be a bonus!

    5. Think workshop - I keep referring to community ed classes when I should be calling them workshops. A classroom seems sterile and ridged whereas a workshop is pictured as active and fun. “Getting your hands dirty” should be the motto of every class you teach. People don’t just want instruction, they also want practice and experience. Be sure to let them tinker and make mistakes with whatever you’re doing. Even if you think your topic is boring and as-is, look for ways to interject activities. Your students will be more inclined to recommend you if they find the class fun.

    6. Evaluate and repeat - Most community education programs have forms for both the instructor and the student to fill out. But if they don’t, make up a quick sheet where you can get some honest feedback. If there are comment trends, take note and adjust for next time. And why not ask a friend or mentor to sit in on the session just to give you feedback? It can only help you become better. Also, be sure to teach on a regular basis. You’re doing a very good work by teaching. Keep it up and encourage others to do the same.

    Please share your experiences and strategies with community education below. We can educate each other in the process. Cheers!

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