Great summary of local sites.
Since a potential customer’s initial search still 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 six of the major review and business listing sites which hold weight and have huge online presence. Learn the six biggies.
1. Google Local Business Listings (The “10 Pack”)
You can get your business listed on Google’s map and show up directly on the search results by registering at the Google Local Business Center http://www.google.com/local/add Describe your business with location info, services, hours of operation and business website link. After you have a listing, your goal is get reviews. 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 Local Listing bot will scour the Internet for other reviews sites already touting your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on some of the other sites first and you’ll already have a diversity of amazing reviews before you expand. Another backdoor is getting your business listed on the BBB’s website or InfoUSA.com to ensure your Google Local presence. Reviews are by far the #1 one factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Local Business Listings/Map Listings. Make sure the reviews are real though. Having keywords in your business name and a complete profile also helps. Get started at the Google Local Business Center.
Almost tripling in traffic from 10 to 25 million unique visitors over the last year, this community has exploded becoming a full-on social community with add friends function, reputations, commenting, and picture profiles. Yelp! has recently opened its doors a little more allowing business owners to talk back. Yelp! shows up well in search and they have the trust factor down due to their proprietary algorithm which has been cutting out fake reviews since 2006. To gain control of your profile you should first see if your business is already listed, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification. It’s the same process with most of these sites.
See what others are saying about your business and talk back on Yelp.com
3. Yahoo! Local Listings
Similar to Google Local Listings above, Yahoo! now offers the “10 pack,” only it’s three instead of ten. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! local shows up above organic search and below the top three pay-per-click listings. It’s wise to 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! only gets 20% of the search engine share, that’s a pretty big chunk of search engine goodness. Get your Yahoo! Map Listing started.
This business review site has been around for many years. I can remember at least 10 years ago, when I wanted to be a “City Expert” reviewing restaurants and the like in my area. According to Wikipedia, Citysearch started in 1995 and although much of their content is not user-generated, they do have the notoriety to command attention when they put out a top ten list. Each review, although staff provided, seems thoughtful and specific. The most important aspect of the site — they show up well in search for Google and even better in Yahoo!. Get your business listed, and it may even be worth to have an “enhanced listing” for a monthly fee. Check out CitySearch.com.
Somewhat new on the scene, this company started in 2005 and has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. In June 2008, MerchantCircle announced over 5 million monthly users, 500,000 registered merchant users, and over 5,000 paying clients, with 4.3 million visitors a month according to Quantcast in 2007. Join the circle.
6. Insider Pages
Insider Pages is an online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp. 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. Insider Pages was founded by Stuart MacFarlane in 2004. On March 27, 2006, the company announced an $8.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital, Softbank Capital, and Idealab. The company addressed a demographic (by its description) of young and middle-aged families who own homes in urban and suburban areas. Add you business. Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.
Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips
1). Never fake reviews or testimonies, it’s not worth the consequences (possible banning).
2). Ask happy customers to review right after he/she has bought, and keep reminding.
3). Don’t freak out if there are some less than 100% positive reviews.
To address the last one, potential customers expect a balance with everything veering on the side of positive and not for your business to be perfect. If there are any negative reviews follow up with that person by contacting him/her and try to make their after experience a good one. 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. The more reviews and complete your business profile the better.
For almost five years, Neil Lemons 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 since 2004. He is the lead SEM Strategist at MarketingZen.com, a Dallas website design company. For more information on Internet Marketing, SEM & SEO contact The Marketing Zen Group for a free site evaluation.
I would also include Superpages.com (which includes Switchboard.com and LocalSearch.com) on the list. Although, after Chris Smith left the company, Brian Gulledge from Inceptor took over the search marketing objectives for the company and they have become significantly less innovative, strictly focused on a single tiered approach in search marketing via paid search (as opposed to SEO & Google Maps,) as well as offering less contribution to local search at local search SEO conferences, seminars, and discussions. He and Briggs Ferguson (the former CEO of CitySearch) are not the leadership Idearc needs. I blame this on CEO Scott Klein. I also feel they have shifted away from Google focus beyond PPC.
Klein showed an error in judgement when he went to market with SMLocal (1.0) while not having the staff or tools to support sales. He also had PPC managers on gag orders by giving directions to managers not to disclose the amount of clients they were managing. According to a former PPC manager at Idearc, he was responsible for well over 100 accounts. In my opinion it is impossible for 1 individual to manage more than 15-20 accounts. Unless of course you use the taxonomy of Superpages.com for keyword research. lol. Wonder when the last time someone searched on Google for a “Plumber Licensed Commercial & Industrial”?
I have a strong hunch that Briggs Ferguson will soon leave Idearc Media.