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Video: Mike Blumenthal on review attribution in local search

Reviews can be used for a way to speak to your customers and as a competitive intelligence tool.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Holiday 2020 is do or die for many SMBs

Small businesses need to focus their marketing on key consumer sites, especially Google, for survival into 2021.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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How to Post to Instagram From Your Computer [6 Easy Steps]

I’ll admit it: this post is incredibly timely for me.

I recently watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, a docu-drama that explores the potentially addictive qualities of social media.

Considering I spend 3+ hours a day on Instagram, I was already all-too-familiar with the habit-forming nature of social media apps.

As a result of watching the film, I immediately deleted the Instagram app from my phone — but not my computer. I’m still allowing myself to check out friends’ posts, or post my own content, via my desktop. I just don’t want it within easy reach on my phone.

If you’d prefer to post your Instagram content from a computer, you’re in luck. Here, we’ll explore how you can post images and videos from your desktop computer.

Can I post to Instagram from my computer?

Yes, you can post to Instagram from your PC or Mac desktop, as well as a browser on your phone instead of in-app.

Instagram doesn’t offer an official desktop desktop version, however. The social platform is primarily meant to be consumed in-app, which means some features can be a little trickier from your computer.

Having said that, it’s absolutely possible to post to Instagram from your computer. There are a few different reasons you might want to do this — for one, if you work as your company’s social media manager, it might be easier to upload company posts and videos via your desktop, rather than having your smartphone open at work.

Plus, your company’s files might be more easily accessible via desktop than mobile. For instance, if you use Photoshop to edit company photos, it’s likely easier to click “Upload” from your desktop when you’re done editing, rather than sending that same photo or video to your personal phone.

Alternatively, perhaps you simply prefer the larger screen of desktop. Or, maybe you don’t have access to a smartphone so you can’t download the app on your phone.

Whatever the reason, don’t worry — there’s a solution for you. Let’s dive into that, next.

How do I post to Instagram from my computer? [PC and Mac]

How to Post a Photo on Chrome Browser

1. Go to in your Chrome browser. Click on your Settings (click the three dots in the top right corner of your browser).

Instagram Account Credit: @Goodtomicha

2. Scroll down to “More Tools” in the drop-down menu, and then click “Developer Tools”.

find developer tools on google chrome copy

3. Click the “Toggle Device Toolbar” mobile button.

clicking on mobile toggle to change the desktop version to mobile instagram copy

4. Choose which mobile device you’d like on the drop-down menu, as well as how zoomed in you want to be. Then, refresh the page. Now, you’re seeing the mobile interface of Instagram from your browser.

changing responsive design on desktop so it resembles instagram on mobile copy

5. You can upload a Instagram post the same way you would via mobile — by clicking the “+” button:

clicking add post on desktop

Then, choose filters or other editing features like you would normally, then click “Next” in the top right of your screen:

instagram filters on desktop

Finally, add a caption, location, or tag people. When you’re ready, click “Share” in the top right of your screen.

typing a caption on my instagram post on desktop copy

How to Post a Photo on Safari Browser

1. Go to in your Safari browser. Select “Safari” and then “Preferences” in your menu bar.

safari prefences drop-down menu2. Toggle over to “Advanced Features” and check the box that reads “Show develop menu in menu bar”.

safari advanced preferences copy

3. Click “Develop” in your menu bar and then scroll to “User Agent”. Choose which mobile device you’d like on the drop-down menu.

Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 1.06.11 PM-min

4. Refresh the page. Now, you’re seeing the mobile interface of Instagram from your browser.

Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 1.06.29 PM-min

(From here on, the instructions for posting an image to Instagram are the same as they are for the Chrome browser instructions, listed above. You can upload a Instagram post the same way you would via mobile — by clicking the “+” button, adding a filter or editing the photo, adding a location and caption, and clicking “Share” when you’re ready for your post to go live.)

How to Post a Video on Desktop

To upload a video to Instagram from your desktop, you’ll need to use a third-party service that offers social media scheduling software.

There are a few you might try, including the Flume App for Mac (Pro version is $20) or Lately Social ($14 per user per month for Agency plan).

For our purposes, I used Lately Social’s free personal plan to upload and post a video directly to my Instagram:

lately social tool dashboard

Of course, if you’re doing this regularly it might be worthwhile to explore all the social media scheduling tools at your disposal to choose the one best-suited for your business’ needs.

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11 Email Marketing Stats to Guide Your Strategy

Email marketing can be one of the most effective methods of outreach for your brand. Do it right, and it might even be the most effective. Having a direct line to your leads’ inboxes is a powerful thing, providing you with an opportunity to send targeted, action-driven content that results in more traffic to your…

The post 11 Email Marketing Stats to Guide Your Strategy appeared first on Benchmarkemail.

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How To Overcome Data Onboarding Challenges For Software Products

Companies willing to pay good money for a new piece of software are most likely not starting from scratch. They’re running an established business, with well-built and documented processes. So, they have tons of data to carry over.

As a result, the decision to bring a new app into the fold is not one they take lightly. Internal processes need to change. Getting the team to adopt the new solution can take time. Integrating it with existing systems and external tools can be a problem. Oh yeah, and there’s the matter of compliance to worry about, too.

This means there’s a lot of pressure on new software to provide a top-notch experience from the get-go. Fail to provide companies with a simple and intuitive way to onboard their data and you can expect high rates of customer churn as a result.

If you’re designing a product that needs data from customers in order to be of any value, here’s what you need to know about building out your data onboarding process.

How Data Onboarding Correlates With User Satisfaction

Business software is essentially just an empty box waiting to be filled with its users’ data. Without the ability to flawlessly onboard users’ data, the software essentially becomes useless.

Let’s look at what happens when you get the data onboarding process right.

End User Benefits

If you can nail the data onboarding piece, expect your end users to reap the following benefits:

  • They’ll be more confident in their decision.
    With complete and accurate data transferred into your software, users actually see how valuable it is soon after signing up. This leaves little room for second-guessing their decision, which leads to greater satisfaction overall with the product, and ultimately more money for your business.
  • You’ll get greater team buy-in.
    A positive data onboarding experience lets customers use your product faster, reducing the time needed for them to get value. So, really, data onboarding sets the stage for how your customers and their team will view the rest of your app.
  • They’ll experience more success with the software.
    Since users won’t have to stress about data formatting and cleanup or troubleshooting error-ridden import processes, they can get more out of the product and its features.

Software Developer Benefits

The software provider (you and/or your client) benefits, too:

  • Improve user satisfaction.
    Your end users don’t need to be technical wizards to figure out how to onboard data into your product. When you make light work of this, you reduce churn, attract more users and retain more loyal users over the long-term.
  • Spend less time on customer service.
    You can stop worrying about having to support a faulty data onboarding process as well as taking over tasks like data formatting and validation for your users. Instead, put your time and energy towards building better relationships with customers instead of putting out fires all the time.
    Kelly Abbott, Co-Founder and CTO of Tablecloth, can attest to this:

    “We have cut the amount of time we spend wrangling with files by 95%. We basically had all hands working to solve those problems at times.”

  • Have greater confidence in your product.
    When you have a data onboarding solution that’s flexible and powerful, you don’t have to restrict what data your users can or can’t import. It’s no longer a limitation.
    As Abbott explains:

    “It has made us more contemplative about the data we are asking clients for. We no longer have to avoid asking for data that may require too much time to fix. Flatfile eliminates that problem and has improved our willingness to experiment with different types of data we can incorporate into our analyses. The more time we spend tinkering with different data types, the more likely we are going to uncover the insight that produces additional value in the marketplace. That is indispensable for a startup like us.”

  • Save money.
    Although you’ll have to spend money on a third-party data onboarding solution, you’ll save your company the time and money otherwise spent trying to manage a custom-built data importer, onboarding process and client relationships. (Tablecloth, for instance, saved tens of thousands of dollars when they adopted Flatfile.)

The Challenges Of Data Onboarding For Software Products

Let’s have a look at the common challenges in data onboarding and how Flatfile Concierge removes them:

Challenge #1: There’s A Lot Of Data To Aggregate

When signing up for new business software, users probably expect to do a little work upfront, like filling in basic account information, configuring settings and adding users. The last thing you want to do is surprise them with a data importer that’s going to cause more work for them.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve built a CRM.

Unless the software targets startups and other new businesses, users are going to have a ton of external data to bring along. For instance:

  • Contact info for clients, prospects, vendors, partners and team members;
  • Existing customer data like account and sales history;
  • Prospect data like communication history;
  • Sales pipeline details;
  • Team and individual goals and metrics.

Unless your CRM directly integrates with every one of your users’ previous CRMs, how are they going to move this data over? Copy and paste? CSV templates?

An animation demonstrating Flatfile Concierge data models. Companies can create specific data models as a guide for customers to use when importing data. (Image source: Flatfile)

Plus, you have to think about all of the other sources a CRM pulls info in from. Payment gateways. Spreadsheets that live on a sales team’s drive. Signed contracts that have been emailed or faxed to your company. There’s a lot of data coming from different places and people.

The Fix

There are a number of things Flatfile Concierge does to fix this problem.

For starters, it allows data to be imported from a variety of file types:

  • CSV,
  • TSV,
  • XLS,
  • XML,
  • And more.

With this kind of flexibility, your users won’t have to worry about transferring data to one specific file type and then cleaning up errors that occur during the transfer. Flatfile Concierge can handle various file types, of varying data types, and easily validate it all.

Another thing to think about is how your software is going to track and organize each imported file and its corresponding data.

What Flatfile allows your users to do is create collaborative workspaces to place data in. When a team member adds new data to the workspace, a record is captured containing the:

  • Date of upload,
  • File name,
  • User who submitted the data,
  • Number of rows added,
  • Version history,
  • Upload errors.

Flatfile Concierge animation demonstrating notifications for when spreadsheets are imported. (Image source: Flatfile)

This will keep things organized while also keeping everyone accountable to the data they contribute. And with this information readily available from a centralized dashboard, there’ll be no secret as to what’s been uploaded, by whom and when. Import errors can also be fixed collaboratively, without the need to re-upload spreadsheet data.

Challenge #2: Data Is Imported In A Variety Of States

When you give your software users the ability to transfer their data into your product, there’s not a lot you or the software team can do in terms of formatting or cleaning up end users’ data beforehand. Nor should you have to. Your job is to ensure customers see the value in the software; not to struggle with importing data.

You could give them a spreadsheet template, but that would require them to spend time reformatting all their data. You could point them to the knowledgebase, but, again, that assumes that your end users will be willing to do that extra work.

In reality, your users are going to be in a hurry to get inside the new software and get to work. They’re not going to stop to deal with this. That’s the software’s job.

However, many data onboarding solutions don’t handle messy spreadsheets very well. Not only do they have a hard time recognizing what some of the data is (often because the data model doesn’t match their own), but then the application refuses to accept certain spreadsheet columns.

Even if it’s the end user’s fault for not properly organizing or labeling their data or teaching their team how to do so (or just not knowing what to do in the first place), who do you think they’re going to blame in the end when their data won’t import?

The Fix

Flatfile Concierge’s importer is AI-powered, which means that your software (and data importer) really can do the work for your end users.

Using advanced validation logic, the data importer can figure out what the data is and where it goes.

While Flatfile will automatically match columns and corresponding data to your software’s actual data fields, users get a chance to confirm that’s the case before allowing it into the system:

Before this happens, you can do a little work on the backend to ensure that Flatfile knows what to do with your users’ data:

  • Create target data models so Flatfile can navigate complex spreadsheet formats and datatypes your users will likely try to import.
  • Create a template with validation rules so Flatfile’s AI knows exactly how to map everything out.
  • Validate imported data against other databases to help the importer contextualize, validate and clean up the data over time.

Once you’ve done that upfront work, the rest is easy.

The bulk of the work will be done by Flatfile Concierge when it transforms imported data into something clean and useful. In fact, about 95% of imported columns will automatically map to your software thanks to Flatfile’s machine learning and fuzzy matching system.

The end user will have the opportunity to review the parts of their data that contain errors. If they find any, they can repair the errors inside Flatfile, rather than have to fix it in a spreadsheet and re-import.

Challenge #3: Getting And Tracking Data From Multiple Users

When there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, there are a number of things that can go wrong.

Data can sometimes live on team members’ computers, or worse, sent over email, which can be a huge security concern for sensitive data. This can happen if users aren’t given access to the software platform or find the data importer too intimidating to use.

On the flip side of that, with the wrong data onboarding process, it could become like a free-for-all where people add whatever the heck they like to the company’s data. While the data does get imported, there’s no review framework so the company’s database is filled with errors and duplicate entries.

Your end users need to be able to maintain order, control and security when dealing with something as serious as company data — especially if you want your software to be usable.

The Fix

Flatfile Concierge has designed the data onboarding process to be a collaborative one.

As you can see, company admins can invite specific collaborators (i.e. customers) to add data to their workspaces. But this isn’t a blanket invitation to import data.

Admins have the ability to create an approval process. They get to:

  • Ask for specific data sets from team members.
  • Control which workspaces they’re allowed to import data to.
  • Review all data submissions before flowing the approved data into the platform.

Admins can also import data on the customer’s behalf. Flatfile Concierge ensures that data onboarding is never a dead-end for customers.

Not only does this ensure that the right data ends up in the software, but the controlled flow means the data will end up being cleaner and more accurate, too. All of this, while providing a seamless data onboarding experience for users.

Challenge #4: Data Security Is Always A Concern

When it comes to web and app development, user privacy and security are top priority. If our customers and visitors don’t trust that their information is safe from prying eyes (and isn’t being sold off to advertisers), they’re going to stop using our solutions in the first place.

The same thing happens with software — though it’s not just the company’s personal data they have to worry about securing.

Often, when companies import data into software (like the CRM example), they’re importing their customers’ private and sensitive data. Allow that to be compromised and you can kiss your software goodbye.

So, yes, the software itself needs to be secured. That’s a given. But so, too, does your data onboarding process. It’s a huge point of vulnerability if left unchecked.

The Fix

The first thing Flatfile Concierge does is to encourage users to move away from sharing sensitive data over email, FTP, and other unsecured platforms by providing a user-friendly data onboarding solution.

The second thing it does is provide an authenticated and compliant workspace for users to import, validate, and post their data to your software.

Here’s how Flatfile Concierge secures its workspaces:

  • Each collaborator enters the data importer through an authenticated invitation.
  • Data is encrypted in transit and stored in an encrypted Amazon S3 bucket.
  • The data onboarding platform is 100% GDPR compliant.
  • Flatfile is HIPAA and SOC2 compliant and can adjust for other compliance requirements as needed.

In addition, once data is successfully migrated into your application, it’s deleted from Flatfile. This way, you only have to worry about securing your data within your software and not on previous platforms it’s touched.

Wrapping Up

With an insufficient or error-prone data onboarding process, you, the software provider and its end users are going to spend too much time manually cleaning and validating spreadsheets. This won’t just happen during the initial user signup either. If the data importer isn’t up to the task, you’re all going to be throwing away a ton of time and resources every time data needs to be uploaded or transferred into the platform from existing customers.

Of course, this all assumes that your importer can even get user data into the software. (Sadly, this happens with too many custom-built solutions.)

Needless to say: Your data onboarding process must be flawless for your team and customers. It’s the only way to keep user churn rates low and user satisfaction high.

Data onboarding is a really complex process to handle. Save yourself the trouble in trying to develop your own data onboarding solution and the time trying to troubleshoot the problems with it. With an AI-powered data importer like Flatfile Concierge, everything’s taken care of for you.

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The 9 Best Free Email Accounts and Service Providers of 2020

You need it for networking, job recruitment, downloading resources, transferring files, setting reminders, meeting with colleagues, and so much more.

Even with the rise of office chat platforms, you still depend on email for a surprising number of things. But unfortunately, not every email service is completely free. And even the free ones might not be the easiest to use or have all the features you need.

It can be a challenge to find an email service provider at no cost that balances the right features with usability. To help make your search easier, we put together a list of the different types of email accounts you can set up, followed by the nine best email service providers you can host your account on right now for free.

Types of Email Accounts

There are two main types of email service providers to choose from: email clients and webmail. When you use your provider to access your email from a different device or location online, you can use one of three major email protocols to do so: POP3, IMAP, and Exchange.

Let’s briefly go over these different types of providers and protocols.

Email Clients

Email clients are software applications that you install onto the computer itself to manage the email you send and receive. To access this email, the client interacts with a remote email server.

Email clients you’ve likely heard of include Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple Mail.

If you want to access this type of email from the web, rather than the client’s computer application, the email client uses one of the email protocols described below. For example, although you might have Outlook installed on your computer, you can also log in to your email account via using a specific email protocol.


Webmail is a form of email you access exclusively from the internet, and therefore exists primarily on the cloud rather than your computer. Instead of an installed application fetching your email, you manage your inbox right from your internet browser.

Webmail providers you’ve likely heard of include Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and AOL (all of which have made our list of best free email accounts, below).

If you want to access your webmail from a mail app on your mobile device, rather than your desktop web browser, your webmail provider can use one of the email protocols described below.

Now, before we get into the best free email accounts, let’s talk about those email protocols.

Email Protocols

Email protocols are the systems that actually retrieve your email for you. They can be used to fetch email client accounts on the internet, and fetch webmail accounts on a mobile app. Here are the three main types of email protocol your account can use.


POP stands for “post office protocol,” and is best suited for people who have just one email account and email client. POP3 is the latest version of this email protocol, and allows you to access email while offline. It therefore requires less internet bandwidth.


IMAP stands for “internet mail access protocol,” and is one of the older email protocol available today. IMAP4 is considered the latest version, and unlike the POP protocol, you do not download your email to your offline email client. Instead, all your email stays online while you’re accessing and managing it.

IMAP is particularly useful for people who have more than one email account and access them from multiple devices or locations.


Exchange is a Microsoft email protocol, and is pretty similar to the IMAP protocol explained above. This protocol allows you to not only access your email over the internet from multiple devices, but also tasks, calendars, and contact information tethered to that email address. For this reason, it’s particularly helpful to organizations whose employees share many types of information and collaborate remotely.

Now, take a look at seven of the best free email service providers you can get your hands on today — both webmail and email clients included. For each email service provider, we highlighted a unique feature to help you find the best fit.

1. Gmail

Unique Feature: Native File Collaboration

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: anyone who already uses and loves the rest of Google’s products.

It might seem like an obvious top pick, but Gmail is just too versatile to not award the first slot. Gmail has the second-highest email provider market share (behind Apple iPhone’s native email app), according to Litmus Labs. And ironically, one of the reasons Gmail has become so popular is because of all the communication options in your inbox that don’t involve email.

Gmail is an everyday email inbox you can sign up for by registering for a Google account. But it’s built into Google Suite, a group of free apps that allow you to chat, video-conference, and share files with the people in your contact list.

Google Hangouts, available from your inbox’s left sidebar (or the right — you can customize how you inbox is displayed), lets you text and video chat with other Gmail users for the things that might not warrant an email message. Like most other email accounts today, Gmail also has an intuitive calendar where you can set meetings and reminders.

Pro tip: You can also use a free product like HubSpot Meetings to easily schedule meetings without back-and-forth emails.

Unlike other email accounts, you can use your Gmail address to log into and manage your YouTube account, as well as collaborate on shared documents and spreadsheets right from a cloud-based Google Drive.

Offering a generous 15 GB of free email storage, Gmail does everything it can to make your inbox less chaotic, including advanced filters that automatically push emails into separate folders as they arrive. And none of these functions costs a dime.

2. AOL

Unique Feature: Unlimited Storage

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: people who use email for most of their communication.

America Online (I feel nostalgic just typing those words) has quietly kept up with today’s standards for a good user experience. The classic AOL is now once again one of the best free email accounts available to you.

Purchased by Verizon in 2015, AOL delivers you email from its classic news-driven homepage, and comes with the contemporary spam filters and virus protection you’d expect from your email provider. You can also send text and instant messages from specific windows in your email inbox.

AOL does have something over Gmail, though: unlimited storage. Additionally, you can import email contacts from a CSV, TXT, or LDIF file so you’re not creating your “buddy list” (get it?) from scratch.

3. Outlook

Unique Feature: Multiple App Integrations

Sign up here.

Type of email: Email client

Who should use it: people who use many different platforms to connect with others.

If you ever cringed at the sight of a “” email address, you can thank Outlook for this outdated domain name. But there’s good news: Microsoft has reinvented its longstanding email service, and your free email address has many progressive features waiting for you.

While it touts a calendar and message filter that is similar to Gmail, Outlook also integrates with a number of other popular communication apps. You can connect Skype, Facebook, PowerPoint, PayPal, and even task-management software such as Trello — making it very easy to reach and work with non-Outlook users without leaving your inbox.

Outlook offers 15 GB of free storage for each user, along with a super-clean interface.

4. Zoho

Unique Feature: 25 Business Addresses

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: startups and small businesses.

This is the first of the lesser-known free email accounts to make our list, but it holds a lot of potential for businesses.

The first thing you’ll notice about Zoho is its user-friendliness. From integrating with Google Drive, Box, and other cloud-based file managers, to its built-in task manager, this email service offers a simple way to accomplish all of your daily tasks.

The real difference-maker, though, is the ability to customize the domain name for up to 25 connected email addresses. Want to replace “” with the name of your business’s website? You can do so under Zoho Lite, which gives you 5 GB for free — all under


Unique Feature: 200 Custom Domain Names

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: small businesses, freelancers, and the self-employed.

It doesn’t get more self-explanatory than “,” does it? This email provider knows its audience — or should I say, audiences.

Right off the bat, you’ll probably notice doesn’t have stellar storage space compared to the options above: only 2 GB. But what this webmail service lacks in gigabytes it makes up for with … drumroll … 200 free custom domain names. You can replace “” at the end of your username with just about anything that describes you. Here are some options has precreated for you to choose from:

  • (who knew she was online?) doesn’t rest on its 200 laurels, though, as the email provider also comes with a calendar for creating and tracking your events each week.

6. Yahoo! Mail

Unique Feature: Media and attachment history

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: creatives and those who send and receive attachments frequently via email.

Yahoo! Mail, another well-known platform, sits just behind AOL in storage space with a whopping 1 TB (that’s a terabyte) for free, along with a few key social media integrations.

In addition to custom background themes and being able to search key information from your inbox, Yahoo! Mail also makes it easy to find every photo, video, and document you’ve ever attached or received via email in their own tabs on your inbox’s sidebar. This makes the platform especially appealing to those who share documents on a regular basis or simply want an album made of every photo they’ve ever had shared.

7. ProtonMail

Unique Feature: Encrypted email

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: people who send and receive sensitive information.

ProtonMail offers just 500 MB of free space, but for the worthy trade of encrypted email, allowing you to send messages that nobody else can see, and disappear after a month.

What’s the catch? Is the service hard to use? As with most webmail platforms, ProtonMail is easy to use on any device without any software needed to encrypt your emails. Its inbox interface is as easy to understand at a glance as the other email services on this list, and offers quick color-coded labels to help you further organize which emails deserve the most care and protection.

8. iCloud Mail

Unique Feature: Label senders as VIPs

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: people who use Mac and want everything on one system.

If you’re a Mac user, you may want to consider using iCloud Mail as your email provider. Their free email account comes with 5GB of storage that you can use to sync your photos, files, or email. It’s important to note that storage is shared between all of your apps and devices — so if you take a lot of photos on your iPhone, you may eat into your email storage allowance for the month. Upgraded plans start at $0.99/month and go up to $9.99/month.

One of the biggest advantages of using iCloud over other email providers on this list is the ease of integration. Apple builds its desktop and iPhone mail apps with all email clients in mind, but it pays special attention to making the experience delightful for iCloud users. 

Some of the pros of iCloud Mail include an easy to use search functionality, easy-to-use rules, and an ability to label senders as VIP. When a contact is marked as VIP, new messages will automatically filter to a separate tab on the left, saving you both time and energy. 

9. GMX Mail

Unique Feature: Alias email addresses

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: people who need multiple emails with one central inbox.

While you may not have heard of GMX Mail, it’s been around for quite a while (since 1997) — and it has a bunch of features that make it worth considering. First off, GMX offers 65GB of storage. That’s a lot of storage for a free email service. In fact, they claim that allows you to keep nearly half a million messages in your Inbox!

Another feature worth noting is the ability to send large attachments. While many services have caps for your email attachments, GMX Mail allows you to send files up to 50GB. That’s great if you share a ton of photos, presentations, or other large files from your account.

But the feature of GMX Mail that really sets it apart is the ability to set up to 10 alias email addresses all from within one account. This can be useful in many situations — both personally and professionally. On a personal note, you could use one alias for all of your online purchases and logins — to keep marketing emails separate from your personal messages. From a business perspective, multiple email addresses can be useful for managing role based emails such as or

10. Mozilla Thunderbird

Unique Feature: Customization features, and the ability to open multiple emails in tabs

Sign up here.

Type of email: Email clients

Who should use it: anyone looking for a simple, but customizable email inbox.

Thunderbird, a free email application from Mozilla, known for Firefox, offers a quick email inbox setup and a simple, easy-to-use user interface.

The app offers customizable features, such as theme settings and app extensions that can improve your email experience. The email app also allows you to open multiple emails in tabs, similarly to how you would open multiple web pages in Firefox browsers.

11. Yandex Mail

Unique Feature: 10 GB of free cloud storage

Sign up here.

Type of email: Webmail

Who should use it: anyone seeking a free email with additional storage capabilities.

Yandex is a Russian web company that offers a global email tool. With the tool, you can sign up for a free account, link it to your Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail accounts, and personalize your email inbox.

Source: LifeWire

Like many of the other providers on this list, Yandex’s email inbox can be set to filter or prioritize emails so you see messages from real people. It can also recognize keywords in messages and subject lines and organize emails into categorized inboxes. Additionally, users who sign up for Yandex mail get 10 GB of free cloud storage.

Making the Most of Your Email

And with that, you have some of the best options for free email accounts this year. But who knows? Your next email address could be entirely different while giving you just what you need to succeed.

Once you’ve chosen an email provider and launched a new email address specifically for your marketing needs, you should also leverage apps, outside software, and APIs to add to your email strategy.

One powerful tool worth noting is HubSpot’s Free Email tool. The tool allows you to link your email address to the HubSpot CRM, while also allowing you to build email templates and send messages straight from the HubSpot software. Even more beneficial? The software even lets you track basic analytics and collect email subscriber contacts in your CRM — which can then be added to your email marketing lists.

To learn more about our free email tool, click here

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Meet me at the drive-in: How COVID-19 reinvigorated—and reimagined—an American pastime

If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that it would be the year that reinvigorated the American pastime of going to the drive-in, I wouldn’t have believed you. But 10 months and a pandemic into the year, I found myself watching the Drop Dead Drag Pageant at the Lakeshore Drive-In in Chicago. As the drag queens danced in their Halloween eleganza, cars honked and I sipped the brand-sponsored drinks supplied, I grew curious about what other socially distanced drive-in events people are flocking to. Social media data confirmed that movies, political rallies, sports screenings and spooky season are all taking place at the drive-in.

Using Sprout’s Social Listening platform, we looked at recent conversations about the drive-in trend to understand what kinds of creative events businesses are hosting, what people are saying about them and what sentiment looks like for this renewed pastime. We analyzed more than 95,000 messages across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit and the web in the two-week period from October 8 to 21, 2020. Even in that short time, the growing interest in going to the drive-in was clear.

The popularity and number of drive-in theaters in the U.S. has dwindled over the years, but in those two weeks, more than 65,640 unique accounts posted on social about drive-in events, leading to nearly 1.7 billion potential impressions. COVID-19 may have disrupted most in-person experiences this year, but drive-in theaters have become a haven for the entertainment and interactions that people have been missing throughout the pandemic.

What’s on at the drive-in, and where?

As people are increasingly eager to go out and experience some novelty after spending most of the year close to home, what activities are getting them to buckle up and head to the drive-in? The top five drive-in activities start with a classic and give us a sense of what’s top-of-mind these days.

  1. Movies – 18,564 messages
  2. Political rallies – 14,711 messages
  3. Concerts – 5,764 messages
  4. Baseball – 5,022 messages
  5. Halloween activities – 3,957 messages

These drive-in experiences are more popular in the United States than in other countries, and the top five states talking about drive-in events on social span the country.

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. New Jersey

Of these activities, people have the greatest positive sentiment about:

  1. Concerts – 51% of messages were positive (16% negative, 33% neutral)
  2. Baseball – 49% of messages were positive (24% negative, 27% neutral)
  3. Movies – 48% of messages were positive (20% negative, 32% neutral)
  4. Halloween activities – 48% of messages were positive (25% negative, 27% neutral)
  5. Political rallies – 42% of messages were positive (28% negative, 30% neutral)

Let’s dig into some of the most popular—and timely—drive-in experiences happening now.

A tradition restored

It may come as no surprise, but movie screenings are still the most popular drive-in events—and in fact, there were roughly 28.6% more people posting about drive-in movies than the next most talked-about activity, political rallies. They were so popular, in fact, that the Oscars updated eligibility rules so that films shown at drive-in theaters qualify for this year’s awards show. And just like in the 1950s and ‘60s, the drive-in movie has become a destination for date nights and nights out with friends.

Whether they’re fall classics like “Hocus Pocus” or new releases like “Honest Thief,” movies at the drive-in have regained their crown as one of America’s top pastimes.

Other artistic pursuits are among the activities audiences are enjoying the most: live concerts are the fan favorite when it comes to positive sentiment on social, with 51% of messages rated as positive. Concert series like Concerts in Your Car and Live From the Drive-In are hosting everyone from indie bands to the world’s most famous musicians.

Two great American pastimes, one screen

Live sports all but disappeared during the first few months of the pandemic. Though games are back now, they’re still closed to fans. Drive-in sports screenings are a way for fans to watch their favorite teams together while still socially distancing—and when it comes to drive-in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ games make up the vast majority of the conversation.

Since the start of the MLB’s National League Championship Series, Dodgers fans have been making a ton of noise on social media about watching their team on a 60-foot screen in the Dodgers’ Stadium parking lot. Now, as the Dodgers take on the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, fans might just be able to honk and holler loud enough for their team to hear.

The emotions throughout the games might be all over the place, but social listening sentiment analysis shows that LA fans are feeling good watching their team at the drive-in: 49% of the social conversation about drive-in games has been positive and only 24% of messages have been negative (a surprise for any sports fan). Drive-in sports viewing parties bring fans together, make use of what would have been an empty lot and generate revenue for stadiums and other venues in a challenging time.

Voters and politicians are rallying

As politicians around the country continue to campaign ahead of the election, they’re hosting drive-in rallies to mobilize voters. When we filtered the drive-in listening data to look only at rallies, we found that this topic received, on average, 29.6 engagements per message—which is 81.2% more than the average for the drive-in conversation as a whole. And the majority of those engagements are coming straight from Washington, D.C.

COVID-19 has created polarizing political conversations. By hosting highly publicized drive-in rallies and showing up masked, politicians make their stance on the pandemic clear. And when big-ticket speakers like President Barack Obama show up to speak, locals are incentivized to turn out. During presidential candidate Joe Biden’s drive-in rally on Wednesday, October 21, former President Obama joined him on stage—and on that day alone, the topic of drive-in rallies generated more than 6,270 messages and nearly 265.7 million social impressions.

Political candidates’ marketing strategies are becoming increasingly savvy and quick. These drive-in rallies are an opportunity to drive home a campaign’s key messages, get more content for campaign ads and social feeds and engage with voters in close proximity before the polls close.

Halloween 2020: not canceled, just different

This year’s spooky season has demanded creative approaches to everything from trick-or-treating to classroom celebrations. And, from the safety of their cars, people are enjoying haunted houses, scary movies and other Halloween experiences.

Even streaming services are jumping on the in-person opportunity for drive-in events, with brands like Hulu hosting a “Huluween” drive-in experience in LA that brings the trend in drive-in4 movies and seasonal fun together.

The Halloween trend is a great example of another target demographic for drive-in activities: parents and families. More than 7,160 of the social messages about drive-in events also included mentions of family, children or parents, and that volume has grown as the weather gets colder. These messages also had largely positive sentiment: 58% of messages about families at the drive-in were positive.

Buckle up for more creative experiences this winter

As winter approaches, I know many of us are feeling pretty stir crazy after spending so much time at home. But as entertainment venues, brands and even local governments get more creative, I expect we’ll see even more drive-in and virtual experiences to brighten our days.

If you want to learn more about emerging trends and what to expect this winter, social listening can be a valuable tool in your research. Check out our piece on using social listening for consumer research or request a free Sprout listening demo to learn more.

This post Meet me at the drive-in: How COVID-19 reinvigorated—and reimagined—an American pastime originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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How to effectively run a multi-location review management strategy

Managing reviews can be a challenge for businesses with a single location, so when you have multiple locations or a franchise model, the effort is multiplied. Responding to reviews is an important task in maintaining your brand’s reputation. Fortunately, with a well-planned strategy, you can make tackling the challenges of managing reviews across multiple locations easier for your team.

do you read reviews graph

According to BrightLocal’s 2019 consumer review survey, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses and of those who read them, 97% read the businesses’ responses to them. Managing reviews are not only part of maintaining brand reputation, they’re also paramount to sales. That’s why it’s essential for businesses of all sizes to find a way to stay on top of their reviews.

With the right tools and a solid plan, review management doesn’t have to be the headache you might imagine it to be. Whether you’re researching possible strategies or reviewing your current one, we’ll cover the considerations you should take for multi-location review management.

Multi-location models for managing reviews

Multi-location can mean two different things: you’re a corporate office with franchise locations or you’re a business with multiple locations. Either way, the two models below are options for review management. A possible third model would be blending these two.

Corporate manages all reviews

Your first choice is having the corporate office manage all the reviews, whether it’s a franchise or multi-location. In this scenario, the corporate office has a marketing or customer service team that can handle the volume across all locations. The benefit is that you control the brand image, communication and responses. You also are able to track analytics easier because it’s all managed in the same place.

The downside to corporate managing reviews is that corporate doesn’t know everything that is happening in each location. Depending on the type of incident, it might take more time for corporate to research and decide how to handle it than if the location’s manager had immediately responded.

The individual location manages reviews

The next choice is to have the individual location manage their own reviews. In the franchise model, some locations are given free rein on their marketing and customer service. The corporate office might send a plan or strategy document but the location is still the first to look at and respond to reviews. When individual locations manage their own reviews, they tend to be instant feedback to the managers, who can quickly correct any mistakes.

On the other hand, you risk brand dilution. Your company could have 90 successful locations and 10 poorly reviewed ones, but the poorly reviewed ones that don’t successfully align with your strategy may continue to stand out and define your brand.

What to consider when creating a franchise review strategy

How do you decide which review model is the best for your business? There are several components that you need to consider.

Who is managing the workload?

If you’re a small local cafe chain where locations are carbon copies of each other, it might make more sense to let corporate take the reins on review management. A centralized person or team could easily manage a few locations’ reviews.

If locations vary from each other or you have hundreds of locations, then the individual location’s manager might make more sense to be the point person for reviews. Having individual locations manage their reviews means that you need to have a designated person or team at that location with proper training. That work needs to be factored into their day. Corporate might provide oversight and note trends across locations but it’s still on the location manager to execute.

How much control does corporate need?

As we mentioned before, brand reputation is one of the reasons for managing reviews. The more people who are involved in the review process, the more you risk brand dilution. If corporate handles all of the reviews, then responses will be similar across all locations. But if franchise locations are given more freedom in their management, then reviews would fall under their workload, so they’ll need the bandwidth to handle them and the training to represent your brand identity well.

How much friction will be created by your strategy?

No one likes red tape. Ideally, reviews are responded to promptly and if needed, solutions are offered to the consumer. What you don’t want is having a corporate office read the review, talk to the location about it, have a meeting to discuss options, respond to the review and then have the location handle the solution when the customer comes in again. It’s a lot of back and forth that might take up valuable time. Sometimes, the easiest solution is best.

Where are the locations?

The more locations you have across more demographics, the more you will need local support. A bakery with two local locations would usually have just one main team that handles general management. But when you cross cities or states or even countries, you wade into different cultures and demographics. Those on the ground at the individual location will be more in tune with the customers submitting reviews than the corporate office that might be thousands of miles away.

Which industry are you in?

Some industries lean more into a need for centralized review management than others. Think about how you currently manage your social media profiles and customer service requests.

A clothing or technology store that has the same inventory and store training for each location would do well with corporate managing reviews. This way, they’ll be able to collect information on which products aren’t working well and note those trends. Reviews based on location are not as important as reviews based on the products that they’re selling.

The hospitality industry, however, does rely on individual locations performing well and tracking the differences between them. One hotel location’s experience could vary drastically from another’s, even under the same brand name. It is also an industry where quick responses are desired. You don’t want to wait a week before hearing about someone’s poor stay at your hotel.

Setting up review sites for multiple locations

Whichever review management model you’ve chosen, you still have to establish your active presence on the various review sites. If your business or location has been around for a while, it’s very possible that a listing already exists on a review site even if no one has claimed it. Depending on the industry you’re in, Yelp and TripAdvisor are also important sites to claim your business on.

Google My Business

Google My Business reviews show up in various places connected to Google such as the search results sidebar and Google Maps. If the location is established on several review sites, Google will average out the star rating. Keywords are also pulled out from reviews and highlighted. To manage your reviews, you’ll need to set up your Google My Business account and verify your business.


Facebook has the same format for both kinds of multi-location business models. There’s a main company Page and then you have the ability to add locations. Each location is also a Page that can be individually managed, if desired.
pep boys facebook page
When you click on “More” in Pep Boys’ main Page bar, you’ll see Stores, which will lead you to a map of all of their stores. Each location marked leads to its own Page where the individual location manager can reply to the reviews. Alternatively, corporate can still handle reviews.

Managing multiple location reviews

There are ways to make it easier for everyone to be on the same page on review management even for a large chain business. Here are a few ideas on how to better manage your reviews across locations or franchises.

Review management tools

To blend management strategies, Sprout’s enterprise solutions include adding multiple social profiles, review sites and locations all under one account. It’s the best of both worlds: corporate can track performance and trends and even reply or allow permissions for individual locations.

sprout reviews

Covering Facebook, Google My Business, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, one location can see all of their reviews in one place. Using a tool like this will help you streamline your efforts and put your focus where it’s most important: responding to reviews.

saved replies within sprout asset library

Another important part of Sprout’s enterprise solutions is the Asset Library. Not only does it include image storage that can be easily shared across locations, but it also contains the Saved Replies feature. Saved Replies are essentially template replies for the most common messages that you receive, such as frequently asked questions you know your customers often have. For reviews, corporate can add these Saved Replies so that individual locations can use them as a starting point and customize as needed. This keeps the core information consistent and accurate, while allowing personalization for the specific conversation.

Create a review management strategy

To make sure everyone’s on the same page for multiple locations or franchises, creating a review management strategy is the best thing you can do.

This way, everyone is synced on what different types of reviews require in responses. Perhaps in a Level One category where reviews are positive, the individual location can manage. And then in a Level Five category where it’s a major complaint that might be a trend across locations, it’s an automatic escalation to corporate.

Create templates & a brand voice guide

For common complaints and praises, you’ll find yourself repeating the same thing over and over again. This is where reply templates come in. Having corporate create these templates will help keep your brand more consistent.

If the individual location is allowed some freedom in their replies, then creating a brand voice guide will be helpful. This way, all customers will receive the same general brand personality whether it’s from a location in Miami or in Boston.

Analyze the reviews

All this management work needs to have concrete results. You can’t tell if a strategy is successful without looking at its analytics. When you look at the reports, you’ll be able to note important things like product trends, interests and common friction points. Perhaps multiple stores have reviews about how a pizza topping is not up to par. That would be cause for an investigation into the topping supplier.


smart inbox tag hover in sprout
cross channel tag report in sprout

To help figure out your reports, Sprout’s tagging feature allows you to create tags and tag any message. The resulting report can help you spot trends in volume among different types of tags, whether you set these up to represent new products, recurring complaints or customer issues of different severity.


Are you feeling ready to take on multi-location review management? Sign up for a Sprout demo to see how you can easily manage reviews for any type of business model.

This post How to effectively run a multi-location review management strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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The State of Local SEO: Experts Weigh in on Industry-Specific Tactics

Posted by MiriamEllis

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we engage with local businesses. We’re ordering more food for delivery, spending more money in online shops, and checking for safety measures on the web listings of businesses of all kinds. But what do these new trends mean for the ways businesses market themselves online?

We asked five local SEO experts to zero in on the trends and tactics businesses across five industries should focus on to get ahead — and stay ahead — during this time. 

For more local insights, download our State of Local SEO Industry Report.

1. 70% of local marketers reported marketing budget cuts due to COVID-19, leading marketers to focus even more on the most impactful local SEO campaign elements. Which three local search marketing tactics are delivering the most value for businesses right now, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

1. Detailed, recent reviews — especially on Google Maps, but preferably also on other sites. 

2. Where applicable, a “telehealth”-type page that goes into great detail on what specific problem(s) the doctor or wellness profession can help with remotely. 

3. A detailed page on every specific service, procedure, or condition the practice handles, each with a section that explicitly states whether a telehealth or similar “virtual” option is applicable to it.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

1. Link building. A lot of businesses have a hard time getting quality links on their own, so when you have link building tactics at an agency that work, it can be a huge value add.  

2. Optimizing internal linking structure on the business website. Most websites for small businesses are not structured properly, and making a few adjustments to internal linking can make fairly impressive changes in the search results. It also impacts both the local and organic search results, just like link building.

3. Localizing content on the website. Taking existing pages on a business’ website and optimizing them for city, county, or state queries can have really great impacts on both local and organic results. We’ve also seen great results from optimizing for “near me” queries.

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Blake Denman: Home Services

For home services, identifying and reporting Google My Business spam/violations are the most impactful. Why? If you’re using accurate rank tracking and see that you rank #5 for a popular keyword in your target market BUT three of the listings above you are violating Google My Business guidelines, getting those listings updated or removed (depending on the violation) would move you up three spots. Knowing the Google My Business guidelines is crucial along with knowing how to spot violations. 

The second most impactful marketing “tactic” is implementing and maintaining a review building strategy. You can’t outrank a sh*tty reputation. 

The third most important marketing tactic is understanding who your customers are, where they live, how you can relate to them, and what they care about. From a strategic standpoint, the more information you have on your target customers, the more you’re able to get involved in the local community that they belong to. For local search, I’m of the opinion that Google wants to highlight popular companies from the offline world in the online world. Start focusing on building a better, LOCAL brand.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

For restaurant and hotel listings in particular, there’s certainly a lot that can be done to stand out from other listings. With COVID, both categories have been impacted heavily. Many listings needed to either be marked as “Permanently Closed” or the newly created “Temporarily Closed”. Three tactics that are important to utilize right now include:

  1. Effective attribute usage: There are now attributes in GMB for “Health & Safety” and “Service Options”. Both are extremely important right now, especially the mask-related attributes, which can give customers a lot of reassurance. The same goes for how hospitality businesses are operating with respect to whether there are in-store or pick-up options.
  2. Google Post notices: Google Posts are an effective way of communicating important changes to operations. The COVID-19 update post is a great one to use because it never expires. But there is the downside that other posts are buried (COVID-19 posts are given prominence).
  3. Proactive updates: For hotel listings, GMB can be a complicated space with how booking sites are deeply integrated into the UI. As COVID regulations change based on your location, details on these sites need to be kept updated quickly to reach customers and avoid negative experiences.
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Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Make sure that your GMB listings use the COVID posts to share information about how you are keeping your clients safe. Our financial client created COVID landing pages for both personal and business accounts. This client saw a 95% increase in organic goal completions from February to March. There was also a 97% increase in organic goal completions YoY. Google posts that focused on coronavirus-related services and products have also performed well.

2. 75% of marketers agree that elements of Google My Business profiles (categories, reviews, photos, etc.) are local search ranking factors. Which three GMB elements do you recommend businesses focus on right now to influence their local pack rankings, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Number one: reviews.  

Number two: categories — particularly the “primary” category.  

Number three: getting your “practitioner” GMB pages right, by which I mean you’ve got a detailed “bio” page serving as the GMB landing page, a primary category that reflects the practitioner’s specialty, and Google reviews for each practitioner from their patients.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

There are only four elements inside Google My Business that really impact ranking.  Since the first one is the business name, I’d suggest focusing on the other three: Reviews, the page on your website you link the listing to, and the categories you choose. For example, in this article, I detailed the difference between the family lawyer category and the divorce lawyer category, and which keywords they correlate to.

Blake Denman: Home Services

Specifically for the home services industry, adjusting your primary category in Google My Business when seasons change. HVAC company? Winter is fast approaching, your primary category should be changed to a relevant heating category instead of your summer category, AC. Your primary Google My Business category is going to have more of a ranking improvement than secondary categories. 

I hate to sound like a broken record, but take a look at all of your competitor’s listings for Google My Business violations. And finally, reviews are going to make or break your listing. If you haven’t implemented a review building strategy by now, you really need to get one set up ASAP.

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Brodie Clark: Hospitality

As a starting point, opening hours and whether a listing is marked as permanently/temporarily closed are major influencers of local pack rankings. Each is key to showing up at all, but incremental increases can certainly be achieved with gaining a high volume of positive reviews and making sure both your primary and secondary categories are set effectively. With categories, a great place to start is completing a competitor analysis with GMBspy Chrome extension.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Reviews are one of the most important ranking factors, as well as being important for improving conversions. 

Second is the proximity to searchers — are there ATMs or branches that currently do not have GMB listings? New listings can help increase visibility in Google Maps.

Build local links. Now is a great time to work on link building. Try to find directories and organizations specific to your geographic location to join.

3. 90% of our survey respondents agree that GMB reviews influence local pack rankings. What advice can you offer businesses looking to maximize the value of reviews?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Stop going for easy, fast, drive-by email requests, and start trying to identify patients who might go into a little detail in their reviews. Lazy requests result in lazy reviews.  At the very least, don’t send “Dear Valued Patient”-type requests by email, but ideally you also find a discreet way to ask in-person, with a follow-up email to come later.  See my 2017 post on “Why Your Review-Encouragement Software Is a Meat Grinder”.

These days, more than ever, patients want to know things like what safety and hygiene procedures you follow, what wait times are like, whether the standard of care has changed, etc. Longtime patients are in the best position to write crunchy, detailed reviews, but you should encourage every patient to go into as much detail as they can.  Try having a designated “review person” who knows a thing or two about any given patient, and will take a couple of minutes to make a personal and personalized request. Do it because you want “keywords” in your reviews, and because a five-star review that doesn’t impress anyone won’t help your practice much.

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Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Make sure you ask every customer for a review and come up with a process that is streamlined and easy to keep organized. We normally suggest using a paid platform for review management (we use GatherUp) because it can automate the process and send reminders to people who haven’t responded yet. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Figure out the best method for earning reviews. Test email, texting, and in-person requests from your team, physical cards with a link, etc. Test each one for a few months, then switch to a different method. Test until you find the method that works best for your customers. 

The other thing that really needs to be considered is how to get customers to write about the specific services they used when working with your company. Little prompts or questions that they could answer when you reach out will help customers write better reviews.

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Getting reviews on GMB has never been easy. You can always try to take the manual route, but that’s impossible to properly scale. I rely on and recommend using GatherUp for hospitality business with multiple listings that need an integrated strategy to gather reviews effectively. The upside of using GatherUp is that you can capture first party reviews to use on your website or as an internal feedback mechanism. 

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

My number one tactic for reviews has always been to have an actual person ask for a review during key points in the customer journey. For example, an associate that helps someone open a checking account, a mortgage advisor who is helping a family refinance their home, etc.

4. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 78% of local marketers agreed with Mike Blumenthal’s popularized concept that Google is the new homepage for local businesses. Do your observations and analytics data indicate that this concept is still correct? Has the role of websites for currently operational businesses grown or decreased as a result of the public health emergency, and what does that mean for those websites?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

I’ve never been too much of that school of thought, and have been even less so since roughly the start of the COVID era: See my March 26, 2020 post: “Is COVID-19 the End of “Google As Your New Homepage?

For casual, drop-in businesses, where customers or clients don’t need to do much research or make a big decision, I could see how maybe Google has made the SERPs an almost-suitable substitute for the homepage. That may also be true of medical practices to the extent they have current or returning patients who just want or need quick information fast on a practice they’re already familiar with. But when people’s health is at stake, they tend to dig a little deeper. Often they want or need to find out what procedures a practice does or doesn’t offer, learn more about the doctors or other staff, learn more about insurance and billing, or confirm what they saw in the search results.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I agree that Google My Business is becoming a more important factor, as there are a ton of options that Google is pushing out due to COVID-19 that you can take advantage of.

For example, you can use the online appointments attribute, which shows up prominently in the Knowledge Panel and the 3-pack. They also recently added online operating hours as an additional hours set. 

I think it’s important, though, for people to realize that Google My Business is mainly there to provide the opportunity to share more about what your business does and provide ways for customers to contact you. Most of the fields inside Google My Business do not impact ranking. Traditional SEO factors are needed to make sure your business actually ranks on Google, and then Google My Business will help ensure those customers see the right information. Additionally, Google My Business has not replaced the need for a website — it’s simply another place that needs to be monitored and updated frequently. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Yes, Google My Business might be the first interaction people have with before (or needing) to go to your website. Websites are still really important — not just for traditional organic SEO, but for traditional SEO signals that influence Google My Business rankings, too. 

Since the public health emergency emerged, we’re seeing an uptick in traffic to websites. Yes, you can add certain attributes to your GMB listing to address public health concerns, but people need more information. What kinds of protocols are you taking? How far out are you booked? 

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

It really depends on the business type, but at the moment, many local businesses (especially in hospitality) are under a lot of pressure. This means they might not have the capacity to keep their websites updated or their GMB listings in check. So, they’re having to resort to food delivery services like UberEats — which has become far more mainstream in recent years, and I’m guessing there’s been an increase during 2020. And hotels, where I’m located in Melbourne, anyway, haven’t been able to operate for some time, but I probably wouldn’t be relying on their GMB listing to give the most up-to-date information.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

The role of the website has definitely grown for our financial clients. Websites are hubs for useful information, especially in the case of a crisis or for products and services that play a large role in your life. For many business categories, the information found on GMB listings is enough to get conversions. Consumers do significant research when choosing a financial product, and they need all of the information they can get to make a well-informed decision based on rates, fees, and policies.

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5. Only 39% of marketers feel that Google’s emphasis on user-to-business proximity always delivers high-quality results. In the industry, does Google tend to prioritize proximity over quality for core search terms? Would you say they over-emphasize proximity in your experience?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

That’s truest in saturated industries, in my experience. But in more specialized fields, or for more specific (niche) terms, Google doesn’t seem to fixate on proximity as much. To some extent that’s because it can’t: Google needs to go a little farther afield to grab enough relevant results to fill up a page or a 3-pack.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

Absolutely. Proximity is one of the main reasons why spam is a problem in the legal services industry. Marketing companies will create lead-generating Google My Business listings and be able to get them to rank simply based on having keyword-rich business names. They create them in mass so they rank when people close to them are searching (due to the proximity factor).  

Here is an example of some of the spam we see in the legal services industry. 

Blake Denman: Home Services

Proximity for certain types of industries (restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, etc.) are great, but for others, like home industries, they are not. Most home service businesses should not be displaying their address since they are a Service Area Business, but this doesn’t stop some from keeping their address up to rank in that city. 

Google does tend to prioritize proximity in the home services industry, unfortunately. 

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Brodie Clark: Hospitality

I think Google does a reasonable job at dialing up the proximity meter where necessary. If you were to pin keywords in a business listing name against proximity, keywords in the business name would win nine times out of 10. So in that instance, other signals should be dialled up further, but proximity may only be relevant in certain cases.

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Absolutely. With digital banking and the amount of trust we put into financial organizations, proximity isn’t a major factor when considering a financial service provider, but Google results don’t reflect that. 

Proximity is a much bigger factor when you’re choosing a place to order takeout from than it is when you’re choosing who to trust with your 30-year mortgage. Reviews should definitely play a bigger factor than proximity for financial institutions.

6. 91% of marketers tell us they have a strategy in place for capturing featured snippet visibility in the SERPs. Which featured snippets should businesses focus on most, and why?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Focus on FAQs, particularly on your “service,” “treatment,” or “condition” pages. Focus on those sorts of pages rather than on blog posts or other purely informational resources, which generally are less likely to help bring you new patients.  

Those FAQs and your answers, of course, should be specific to the service, treatment, procedure, or condition you describe on a given page. The questions should be phrased in the way your patients (or searchers) would phrase them, and your answers should be blurb-length and relatively simple.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I have seen featured snippets for lots of really long-tail, commercial-intent keywords that probably shouldn’t have featured snippets. These can be really amazing sources of traffic if you get one of them (see photo below). Additionally, creating content around things like “can you sue for [insert information]” can be a great way to win featured snippets.

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Blake Denman: Home Services  

With more and more personalization coming into the SERPs, I believe that featured snippets will become more and more regionally specific. If you do a search for “new water heater cost” you see a featured snippet for Home Advisor. If a company that is local to me published content around the cost and installation, why wouldn’t Google serve that snippet to me instead of what is shown nationally?

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Featured snippets are a topic that I write about regularly. When it comes to hospitality businesses, featured snippets can be a lower-end priority. According to the MozCast, featured snippets appear on ~9% of all SERPs in the ~10K MozCast query set. I would expect it to be lower than that for most hospitality businesses. Focus on the featured snippets that provide the highest return for your time, and ensure you’ve got a tracking strategy in place. I wrote a post recently that described a method for using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to capture these insights.

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Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

We teach our financial clients to focus on educating their customers by making sure we research the right topics and provide the best possible answer. Paragraph, table, and carousel featured snippets are typically the types that we see financial websites achieving most often.

7. We saw an increase in the number of consultants advising clients about offline strategy, instead of keeping strictly to online SEO consulting. What can businesses be doing offline right now to strengthen their chances of success?

Phil Rozek: Health and Wellness Services

Don’t keep patients waiting anywhere close to how long they’d wait pre-COVID.  Patients should think, “I wish it happened under better circumstances, but I do like that I don’t wait around as much as I used to.”

Make sure your patient-facing staff are always friendly, patient, and organized. Many practices get bad reviews online not because of the doctor(s), but because of complaints regarding staff. Yes, admins and other staff have a tough job, and no, patients aren’t always reasonable. Just the same, staff-patient issues can bring down a practice. Continually working with staff on soft skills is time well-spent.

Get to know more doctors or business owners outside of your field of practice.  Occasionally they have great ideas that you can adapt to your situation, to your practice.

Joy Hawkins: Legal Services

I would focus on tactics offline that would increase branded searches on Google.  Branded searches are one of the things we’ve found that correlate with your business getting a place label on Google Maps. Our study on this is releasing later this year.

Blake Denman: Home Services

Start focusing on building a BETTER. LOCAL. BRAND. I’ve come across websites that have a horrible backlink profile or haven’t updated their website since 2010, yet they rank prominently in their market — why? They have been involved in their local community for a long time. 

If you know who your customers are and have dived into your affinity categories in Google Analytics, you will have a really good understanding of what your target audience cares about outside of your service. 

Brodie Clark: Hospitality

Talk to your customers. Ask them questions and understand their concerns. Taking important conversations offline still plays an important role in your marketing strategy. 

Amanda Jordan: Financial Services

Review strategies should include offline tactics. Community outreach and involvement are crucial. I would argue that anyone who is consulting about online reputation management should focus on the company’s reputation offline as well.

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Every business is different and no tactic is one-size-fits-all. As with all good things in SEO, the key is testing. Whether you’re releasing a new product or service, upleveling your review management process, or changing the way you use Google My Business, we encourage you to try out some of these expert tips to see what will stick for your business.

Have a local SEO strategy that’s working well for your business, or want us to feature your industry in our next post? Let us know in the comments below.

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4 Google My Business Fields That Impact Ranking (and 3 That Don’t) — Whiteboard Friday

Posted by JoyHawkins

With so many customization options in your Google My Business profile, it can be tough to decide what to focus on. But when it comes to ranking on the SERP, there are actually only four GMB fields that influence where your business will land. 

In this brand new Whiteboard Friday, MozCon speaker and owner/founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins, takes us through the fields she and her team has found do (and do not) effect rankings.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hello, Moz fans. My name is Joy Hawkins, and today I’m going to be talking about which Google My Business fields impact ranking in the local pack. At my agency, Sterling Sky, we do a lot of testing to try and figure out what things actually influence ranking and what things do not.

We’ve come to the conclusion that there are only four things inside the Google My Business dashboard that a business owner or a marketing agency can edit that will have a direct influence on where they rank in the local results on Google. 

1. Business name

So to start us out, I’m going to start with the first thing that we found has impacted ranking, which is the business name. Now this is one that’s kind of frustrating because I don’t think it should have so much of an influence, but it does.

This year in the local search ranking factors study I actually put this as my number one. Of all the things that influence ranking, this one, in my experience, has the most weight, which is again unfortunate. So as a business owner, obviously you’re thinking, “I can’t really change my business name very easily”. If you do happen to have a keyword rich business name, you will see an advantage there.

But the real action item would be to kind of look to see if your competitors are taking advantage of this by adding descriptive words into their business name and then submitting corrections to Google for it, because it is against the guidelines. So I’m not saying go out there and add a whole bunch of keywords to your business name on Google. Don’t do that. But you should keep an eye on your competitors just to see if they’re doing this, and if they are, you can report it to Google using the Google business complaint redressal form.

Now one thing that’s kind of a tip here — it has nothing to do with Google — but we’ve seen the same thing on Bing, which doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, but on Bing you’re actually allowed to have descriptors in your business name, so go ahead and do it there. 

No impact: Q&A

Now I’m going to switch over to something that we found has not influenced ranking at all, which is Q&A. I kind of shoved it over to the section over there because it’s not actually in the dashboard currently. There isn’t a Q&A section in there, but it is on the knowledge panel on Google, and it is something that you should get an email alert about if somebody posts a question to your listing. 

So we did a bunch of testing on Q&A and found, despite putting random keywords and very specific things in questions that we posted and also in the answers, there was no measurable impact on ranking.

So, unfortunately, that is not one area where you can kind of manipulate ranking for your clients. 

2. Categories

Moving on to the second thing that we have found influences ranking — categories. Categories might sound kind of simple, because you go and you pick your categories. 

There are 10 that you can add on there, but one thing I want to point out is that Google has around 4,000 categories currently, and they keep adding categories, and then they also sometimes remove them.

So we have been tracking this month over month, and we usually find that there are about two to 10 (on average) changes every month to the categories. Sometimes they add ones that didn’t exist before. For example, we found in the last year there have been a lot of restaurant categories added as well as auto dealer categories. But there are also some industries like dentists, for example, that got a new one a couple of months ago for dental implants.

So it is something that you want to kind of keep track of, and hopefully we will have a resource published soon where we can actually log all of the changes for you. 

No impact: services

Now moving on to another thing that does not impact ranking, we’ll move over here to services

So the services section — at first glance it looks like an SEO dream. You can put all kinds of descriptive words in there. You can tell Google a lot about the different services you offer.

But we have found that whatever you put there has no actual bearing on where you rank. So it’s not something I would spend a lot time on. Also, it’s not very visible. Currently it’s not really visible on desktop at all. Then if you go onto a mobile device, it’s kind of hidden off to a tab. It’s not something we have found really has a lot of weight, so spend a few minutes on it, but it’s not something I would revisit quite often.

3. Website

Then moving back to the things that do impact ranking, number three would be the website field

So this is something where you do want to kind of think and possibly even test what page on your website to link your Google My Business listing to. Often people link to the homepage, which is fine. But we have also found with multi-location businesses sometimes it is better to link to a location page.

So you do want to kind of test that out. If you’re a business that has lots of different listings — like you have departments or you have practitioner listings — you also want to try and make sure that you link those to different pages on your site, to kind of maximize your exposure and make sure that you’re just not trying to rank all the listings for the same thing, because that won’t happen. They’ll just get filtered. So that is a section that I would definitely suggest doing some testing on and see what works best for you and your industry.

No impact: products

Now moving on to something that we have found did not impact rankings — products

So this is a feature that Google launched within I think about a year or so ago. It’s available on most listings. They are actually slowly rolling it out at the moment to all listings with the exception of a few categories that don’t have it. This section is kind of cool because it’s very visual.

If you’re a business that offers products or even if you offer services, you can technically list them in this section with photos. One of the neat things about the products section is that they are very visible on the knowledge panel on both desktop and on mobile. So it is something you want to fill out, but unfortunately we have found it doesn’t impact ranking. However, it does have an impact on conversions for certain industries.

So if you’re a business like a florist or a car dealer, it definitely makes sense to fill out that section and keep it up to date based on what products you’re currently offering. 

4. Reviews

Then moving back to the final thing that we found: number four for what influences ranking would be reviews (which is probably not going to be shocking to most of you). But we have found that review quantity does make an impact on ranking.

But that being said, we’ve also found that it has kind of diminishing returns. So for example, if you’re a business and you go from having no reviews to, let’s say, 20 or 30 reviews, you might start to see your business rank further away from your office, which is great. But if you go from, let’s say, 30 to 70, you may not see the same lift. So that’s something to kind of keep in mind. 

But there are lots of reasons as a business, obviously, why you want to focus on reviews, and we do see that they actually have a direct impact on ranking.

There was an article that I wrote a couple of years ago that is still relevant, on Search Engine Land, that talks about the changes that I saw when a whole bunch of businesses lost reviews and just watching how their ranking actually dropped within a 24 to 48-hour period. So that is still true and still relevant, but it’s something that I would also keep in mind when you’re coming up with a strategy for your business.


So in summary, the four things that you need to remember that you can actually utilize inside Google My Business to influence your ranking: first is the business name, second would be the categories, third would be the website field, and finally the review section on Google. 

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please hit me up in the comments.

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