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How and Why to Claim your Business on Google

Google just announced on 4/6/2009 that they were becoming more focused on ( )local searches! and what they mean by this is that they will be adding more of the “Onebox Results” into the regular Google searches. In the past, you might have seen these “Onebox Results” when you searched for a business and a specific area like “Redlands hair stylist”. It would generate a list of the top 10 locally ranked businesses, with their phone number, website address, number of reviews and a link to more information. With this new change, these type of “Onebox Results” will actually be showing up in more and more searches. Now when you search for a term like “real estate agent” then mixed into your search results you will see a resulting “Onebox” list of businesses based off your current I.p. address.

You can get your business, as a Realtor or as a brokerage listed in these results, giving you additional search engine exposure! This makes claiming your local profile even more important than ever!

Staking A Claim in Local Search

Google wants to make sure that it lists only valid businesses who have some type of geographic central location for their services. Local search results don’t include online services like e-commerce or blogging.

So here are the steps you need to verify yourself with Google local. First go to and sign up for an Igoogle account. You don’t have to use a Gmail account, you can use your existing email address for this process. Once you’re signed in, then go to the ( Link Google Local Business Center , Click Add new listing, and then input your basic business information on the first page.

If you are an individual realtor, and not a brokerage, it is acceptable to register yourself as something like “John Doe Neopolis Real Estate Agent”. On the next page, you’ll enter in what categories are related to your business ( Real estate consultant, real estate agency, Realtor), enter your operating hours and specialties.

I strongly recommend uploading as many images related to your business as possible, both of yourself, your office and your city to flesh out your profile. It is also possible add actual videos to your local listing. You should know it has been shown that adding Youtube videos to your profile actually increases your chances of being contacted through your listing, so it may be worth looking into as an option.

Verification and Optimization Once you submit that information Google will use one of two methods to verify your business. Either they will give you a pin code, and call you on your listed business phone number, or they will send you a post card with a pin to verify the account.

Shortly after you verify, you will be available to be listed in Local Search results! Now to get better placement in local search, Google will look around to sites like,, and see if you’re listed, and if you have any reviews. If you do, then it will pull them into your profile and increase your chances of being listed high in local search and get the benefit of additional visitors to your site.

Google Update Expands Context and Snippets

Google just released a 2 part update that they have announced through their blog. The first aspect is the addition of related search results to your serp pages and new technology (The Gypsy indicates it’s part of a larger algorithm) for Google to correlate terms, the second is an extension of the Description field in the Google “Snippet”, which should prompt us to review our current SEO practices to make sure it’s still the most rational approach.

Context is Everything

Google hopes to  enhance the search experience by better understanding user intent. First up, a new technology has been deployed to understand the associations of a given search phrase. Google offered up the example of “principles of physics.” With the new technology, Google now understands that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “Quantum Mechanic” are all related terms, and will alter SERP behavior accordingly. This is important to bear in mind as you write your content that you need to focus on a broader range of related keywords, because Google isn’t looking just at how many times a single keyword is appearing, it’s looking contextually. Therefore you need to provide a broader context for your content in order for you to show your relevance to that set of related keywords.

Sorry Guys, but Google Says Longer is Better

When you enter a longer query, with more than three words, regular-length snippets may not give you enough information and context. In these situations, we now increase the number of lines in the snippet to provide more information and show more of the words you typed in the context of the page.

Sounds great right? Well, you need to look at this a little bit harder to see how this could impact your search engine optimization of your website. In the past, the limit of approx 140-160 characters for your description was  pretty standard, because that’s what would actually display on the serp. However, this question comes to mind:

Is the expanded Snippet the Meta description or text from the page to provide “context”?

Now I had previously done some research on how Google uses DMOZ information in their snippet results. So I started with that URL to provide a historical sample so we could compare.

Well here’s a query for []

Short Snippet Of a Google serp resultand here’s a much longer query

[Indianapolis real estate services and homes for sale in Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, Westfield, Geist, Morse, Zionsville and other Hamilton County areas]

Longer Snippet from Google

From this example we can see that this snippet extension will, for longer query terms, increase the size of viewed characters in the meta description as well as pull in contextual text bits separated by an ellipse. The length can be more double and triple the previous 140 character limit. The good news is that in context it may uncover extra details from a long description, but I would still say that it would be best to provide a 140 character limit meta title and let Google grab extra snippett description from the page to provide content.

The Take Away

It is interesting that Google is taking steps to encourage long tail searches. With the release of the Google suggest, we saw an increase in “Fat Belly” terms…but this change while focused o nthe user experience, shows Google is interested in serving long tail queries more effectively. You need to provide a broader context for your content, and it will lend itself to supporting long tail queries.

Help Me Crack the Code to Save Alf

The Background

In high school, I was given a bobble head Alf for Christmas. He’s stuck around through the years, adorning the dash of my first car, second car, my 3rd car’s trunk, my closet, my shelf at home, then after a “suggestion” from my wife, my desk at work.  Last year, I got engaged in a contest, a rank race for Content Writing Advice and I decided that the person in the office leading the race would get to have Alf at their desk, as a physical reminder of the contest. He has now gone missing! At first I just believed he would be returned shortly… but then I received a cryptic (and encrypted) note…

The Victim

Have You Seen This Bobble Headed, Cat Eating Alien?
Have You Seen This Bobble Headed, Cat Eating Alien?

The (Presumably) Ransom Note

This is the cryptic note that appeared on my floor several days after he disappeared.


Please Help!

If you’re familiar with this particular font, can you let me know? If you’re good at cracking codes, give some tips or let me know what it says so I can save Alf!

My assumptions:

  • It’s a type of font- but not web dings, or wing dings(at least not ones that were loaded in my MS word
  • I don’t even know if I’m looking at the note upside down…
  • Most likely the word ALF was used in the note
  • The note is most likely in english, transposed into those characters…


I spent my lunch pouring over the note, and used Alf as a clue, and was able to crack the code….Others in my office are now pointing out that it was Kryptonian used for an english translation.

I have ALf if you want him back send email to alftheft gmail

I immediately grabbed the email and sent a message: I beleive it was an auto responder but it says:

I almost sold Alf on Ebay yesterday; he ate my cat and I thought you
were probably glad to be rid of him.

Your next assignment:

Which is another clue in another translated language

Now this one I recognized right away as Klingon!

Off to find a translator!

Update (1:50 Pm March 17): Looks like I’m getting some Twitter help from a twittering Klingon named Qurgh!

Qurgh the twittering Klingon!So with those clues I think it should read

About time I was thinking you did not want alf back respond with pizza

Aight, so emailing “pizza” back to alftheft… Lets see what’s next!

Ransom Update:

Well done!

I guess Alf on Ebay got you nervous?

This one will reveal the approximate location of Alf; after that you are on your own.

The final ransom note for AlfOh geez…  This one looks a bit more complicated- Post up if you have tips or suggestions, looks like I might get Alf back soon!

Update: Victory is Mine!

I got this message below shortly after Corey in my office sent me a tip that it was the Futurama Alien Language, then about 5 mintures later @shirleytipsy got finished before me and asked if it was under my desk… I looked..but it wasn’t under my desk– but the message read really strange due to being part left, part right, part upside down!

I know the third encryption is harder. It is meant to be. Are the words going up and down? Left to right? All of the above? Do words really merge like that of a crossword puzzle? That is for you to find out and for me to know; truth is, even I have a hard time reading it after I carefully crafted it.

Because this has been an absolute thriller experience for me; whoever cracks this puzzle and e-mails me what it reads, I’ll treat them out to lunch next week. Of course they have to be working at the same company or be willing to come out to Anahiem Hills during my lunch hour to cash in on the prize.

Oh and of course, this only applies if you this entire e-mail message on your blog.

I have figured out the message to be something close to

“I’m impressed with your skills.
Can Find Alf Under desk in Box.”

I did just a little hunting in our office and found my Alf stashed under the spare desk in the office, stored in a box full of random computer parts. Hooray!

Alf Returned!


I got an email from the Alf Napper, giving me a clue to their identity! This one’s tough though, it looks like it’s in all three of the alphabets that the previous clues were using! Help me solve this one too!

the identity of the Alf Napper

Google Profile is a Valid Anchor

Google profile

Several months ago Google started offering an additional option for Igoogle account holders. Each igoogle account holder can create a profile, with their contact information and important details. Also, you can add in a website address with your own anchor text! I did this recently for one of my clients who is a mortgage planner in corona, and at the same time I created a Google Webmaster Account, and verified his site.

Google Profile Value

One of the major benefits of verifying your site via webmaster tools is that it will report recognized links as well as “anchor text” to indicate the relevance of that link. As you can see here in these screen shots, Google’ webmaster tools is recognizing the link from the Google profile, as well as recognized the anchor text utilized. The lessons here are obvious, take advantage of the Google Profiles and Webmaster tools.

Roadmap to Results

When you’re looking at your online profile for your website there are two different terms to define an online strategy of success for your website. These are two varying approaches to the same strategic goal of increasing your business by engaging a client base that is turning more and more to online resources. The first strategy is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, and it harnesses websites online called search engines, like Google, Yahoo and MSN to send you traffic without having to directly pay for those visitors. SEM or Search Engine Marketing is a technique that focuses on utilizing paid online marketing opportunities to gain targeted website traffic and convert it into leads and client opportunities. Both of these strategies have their benefits but have competents that contrast and compliment each other if used properly, and also can be a waste of time and money if implemented poorly. It’s also important for Realtors(r), who are the ultimate small business, to know what these actually mean, so they can avoid unscrupulous people who take advantage of lack of knowledge in this area.

Search Engine Optimization: The short overview

The goal of websites like Google, Yahoo and MSN is to provide a search utility for their visitors that provides a resulting list of websites, pictures, local businesses, video and more that relates to “keywords” like “basketball”,”homes for sale” or “denver real estate”. Google and the other search engines have a list of criteria that they use to determine what websites online are trustworthy, quality websites that will fulfill their visitors needs and make sure that the visitor returns to the search engine the next time they need to locate information online. Search engine optimization looks to update and fix websites so that they comply with Google’s guidelines for webmasters, and appear as reputable as possible so that they will receive recognition from the search engines in the form of higher “rankings” for those keywords. A second component of search engine optimization looks for valid relevant opportunities to get a “link” from another website. These links act as a type of online referral, and depending on the source, can indicate quality as well as relevance to a particular topic or keyword. Now that we have a general understanding of the practice, lets look at  4 specific best practices of Search Engine Optimization, specifically for Realtors before we look at “SEM”.

Quality is it’s own Reward

Quality content is rewarded with rankings and respect from users.

There’s No Place Like Home

What do you sell? Homes! Houses! show them!

Shady Mcgee of Flyby Night Inc.

You are who people say you are. The referral is just as valid and you can also become guilty by association.

Brick and Mortar Advantage

Harness your competitive edge by recognizing the leverage of being a legitimate business in the offline world. Yellowpages online etc

Search Engine Marketing: The Short Overview

Google gotta get paid

Your Online Reception Area

Wouldn’t direct people to sit in a room that has dozens of advertisements and brochures from other companies.

Accurate Advertising

Traditional marketing rules apply, grabbing the clients is key by being relevant and on target to their needs and wants.

Quid Pro Quo

You can track your exact results to the penny. ROI and conversion are 100% trackable, indexable and adjustable.

Dilema of Choice

banner advertisement, content network, listing in directories, facebook, myspace.

Contrast: Long Term Vs Short Term

SEM will send traffic as soon as you flip the switch, short term gain. It’s like a water wheel, as long as you keep the advertisement money flowing the wheel will keep on turning. SEO is like planting and tending a garden, you have to start out smart, nurture it, expand it and spread the word before you can reap the harvest.

1 for 1 or 1 for many

You can track and traces every jot and jit with SEM, but with SEO, your efforts are multiplied by time and may yeild an exponential value.

Time is the Great Equalizer

Set it and forget it? NO! Online marketing, both SEO and SEM is not a hands off possibility. You have to be aware that there must be proper management of yoru seo campaign, or your sem campaign in order for it to give results. If you’re going to outsource your program, it will still take your investment of interest in the program to be successful. You can’t be angry at a consultant who you never asked a question.

Your Events can Help Your Website

Get a Cup of Coffee, And Build Your Link Profile

The internet has a myriad of different functions, and one of them is connecting like minded people and their efforts. As a real estate professional you have a reservoir of experience and knowledge that is valuable to people, and you can take advantage of that and build your client base while building your website profile.

Event Marketing for Real Estate

There are a number of different platforms out there that let people know what local events are taking place in a community. There’s, Zvents, Eventful, and more. These websites represent a double opportunity for you as a real estate agent. First, they’re an opportunity for you to offer your expertise, and setup a real estate meetup at your local coffee house or restaurant. You could potentially attract future clients or perhaps other professionals that you could exchange resources and referrals with.
Secondly, as you create online profiles on these event websites, and list your event, you can reference your website. These online pages listing a real estate event will be seen as a relevant link to your website. Additionally, when you create a profile on these sites, it will gain in validity and authority over time as you continue do plan more events. Since most of these profiles include a link to your site, you can pass that value from your profile to your website.
The best of the event idea is that even if you don’t attract anyone to join you at your local coffee shop to talk about real estate, you still get the benefit of the links to your site…and a cup of coffee too!