Seven Local Business Review Sites Influencing Your New Customers
June 20, 2012 - Posted by Shama Kabani
Every business – including dry cleaners, auto mechanics, accounting firms, moving companies, restaurants, doctors, law firms, and other brick (click) and mortar businesses – wins and loses new customers every day before the potential customer even sets foot out the door. This decision is often based solely on past and current customers’ opinions posted has online. With so many businesses to choose from, being number one on Google is almost never the only deciding credibility or trust factor. These days, you’re dealing with an educated customer who does their research and does not care what you have to say about your business: they care what others have to say. When friends and family aren’t readily available to ask for recommendations, where else can people turn but the local online community? Welcome to the new word-of-mouth (mouse) marketing. When faced with too many choices, others will rely on the “social proof” of what others think. Online reviews are a perfect example. Where are potential customers finding these reviews? The truth is, all over the Internet. There are 1000s of local business review sites and directories – but there are a handful that matter more than the rest combined.
Since a potential customer’s initial search still often starts with keywords on a search engine using a service-oriented keyword followed or preceded by the city in which they’re searching (ex: BMW mechanic Dallas), you should first pay attention to the truly important ones already showing up in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN for your keywords. Below are seven of the major review and business listing sites that hold weight and have huge online presence. Learn the seven biggies.
1. Google Places for Business
Formerly known as Google Local, Google Places allows businesses to register themselves with Google, at which point they’ll be listed on Google Maps as well as show up in Google search results with extended information and data available at a glance. After signing up for the free service, simply describe your business with location information, a listing of services, hours of operation and a link to your business website. Once listed, users will be able to leave reviews for your business directly on your Google Places page. In May 2012, Google incorporated Google+ Local listings into Google Places. Google+ Local uses Zagat summaries of user reviews to assign a business a Zagat score.
If you let Google find your business first, you’ll be rewarded with better placement on the map. Much like Google would rather find your website on its own through links rather than search engine submission, Google Maps will trust and more than likely post reviews from other review sites before submitting or modifying your listing. Often, the Google Places bot will scour the Internet for other reviews sites already touting your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on other review sites first to begin compiling a healthy portfolio of reviews. Reviews are an absolutely essential factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Places/Google Map Listings, so long as your reviews are genuine – fake reviews are quickly recognized, and can not only hurt your listing position, but your reputation. A business name containing keywords and a complete Google Places profile also helps. Get started with Google Places for Business.
Since it was founded in 2004 to connect residents of San Francisco to local businesses, Yelp! has taken off and become a household name across the world. With 71 million unique monthly visitors in the first quarter of 2012 alone, the Yelp! community has exploded into a full-fledged social community, complete with the ability to add friends, earn community reputations, a robust commenting system, and picture profiles. Because of it’s marked popularity – with over 27 million reviews posted as of March 2012 – Yelp! reviews rank well with search engines, and are generally seen as reputable and trustworthy thanks to an algorithm implemented in 2006 that, while not necessarily perfect, helps to curb fake reviews. To gain control of your profile, first check to see if your business is already listed; if so, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification. See what others are saying about your business and talk back on Yelp.com
3. Yahoo! Local Listings
Yahoo! Local Listings are similar in format to Google Places. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! Local listings rank above organic search results and below the top three pay-per-click listings. Promote your Yahoo! Local Listing by treating it like it’s one of the family – get reviews, flesh out the profile, add business information. Although Yahoo! currently only gets about 13.5% of the search engine share, that’s still represents a significant number of potential visitors to present your business’ listings to. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.
While not as popular as it once was, this business review site has been around for many years. Citysearch was founded back in 1995, and for many years was fueled by staff reviews of local venues. Today, however, they have adopted a format very similar to that of Yelp!, showing user-posted reviews. They also boast a “Best of Citysearch” competition, allowing local users to vote for their favorite businesses in various categories to a quest to win their favorite places the crown. Most importantly, Citysearch listings tend to show up well in search engine rankings. Check out CitySearch.com.
MerchantCircle, founded in 2005, has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. Originally designed as solely a user review site, MerchantCircle now sets itself apart from the rest of the review sites by touting the availability of deals and coupons available from merchants. In February 2012, MerchantCircle announced over 15 million monthly visits and 1.2 million active registered merchant users. Join the circle.
6. Insider Pages
Insider Pages is another online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp, owners of CitySearch. Before its acquisition by IAC the company was based in Redwood Shores, California, and had over 600,000 reviews of local merchants around the country. Today, they claim “millions” of monthly users. Better yet, Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.
7. Angie’s List
Angie’s List was founded in 1995 in the form of a hard-copy publication that solicited user recommendations for local businesses in Columbus, Ohio. The database moved to the Internet in 1999, and has since become a dominant force in local user review websites. Unlike other business review sites, however, Angie’s List charges a membership fee for users to read and post reviews, though listings are free for companies. Even with a fee, Angie’s List claims over 1 million members, with over 40,000 reviews posted each month. List your business on Angie’s List.
Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips
1). Never write fake reviews or testimonies. It’s simply not worth the risk of being banned, and could severely damage your reputation in the eyes of users if you’re caught.
2). Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers to review after they visit or make a purchase. Many customers would be happy to, if reminded.
3). Don’t panic if there are some less than 100% positive reviews. No business is perfect, and nobody expects them to be. Instead, use any criticism as a learning tool for improving your business. If possible, follow up and see how you can fix the problem. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place.
For over ten years, Idan Shnall has worked behind-the-scenes to help create exposure, traffic, leads, and sales through major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Calling upon his diverse background in copywriting, advertising, marketing, and sales, he has been learning traditional SEO and SEM tactics for many years. He is the lead SEM Strategist at MarketingZen.com, an innovative online marketing company. For more information on SEM & SEO and reputation management contact The Marketing Zen Group.