Every business wants to stand out by ranking well when a potential customer or client does an Internet search. Local search is now becoming the normal way potential clients and customers find a business to purchase goods and services from. In fact over 65% of potential customers and clients use the Internet to find local goods and services.
Reviews, in my opinion are the major tie breaker for local search listings. All things being equal more reviews, from more sources will help put your listing at the top and keep it there. It may also catapult your listing into the top ten where it previously was not found. Google likes to see there is interest in a business from the community. Additionally potential customers like to see reviews as the number one factor for many people is what other existing customers have to say about a business or service.
In most cases hospitality businesses and service providers will typically already have citations in various locations around the Internet. Here are some of the directories where you will find reviews:
· Insider Pages
· Yellow Pages
· Ask Business Search
· InfoUSA Sales Solutions
· Judy’s Book
· Angie’s List
In most cases these are legitimate reviews left by actual customers. In some industries there are marketing service providers that generate user reviews. I was told by a dentist their competitor used such a service to generate tons of reviews. I also know some businesses contract with service providers who go offshore (Philippine Islands mostly) and have reviews artificially generated.
For new businesses and independent professionals you will want to develop a plan to generate reviews. Ask your friends to help get the ball rolling. Ask existing customers if they will help. Offer new customers an incentive if they leave a review. Make it easy for them to do this, provide specific links and instructions. Offering a bonus like a Starbucks gift card, a discount on future business will all help your efforts. Be cautious though, don’t bunch reviews up at once, space them out. It looks odd if you get ten reviews one day and none for the next two months.
Citations are also like backlinks. Links in sites that have your business contact information also help the cause. Mentions in local newsletters, event calendars, media sites (radio, newspaper, and TV) will create backlinks and citation mention for your local business listing.
Some important considerations in your review strategy:
· Obtaining Reviews From the Major Directories- The list above covers most of the major search directories. There are likely smaller ones serving regions or individual cities. As I mentioned if you have a hospitality business (restaurant, bar, hotel, etc.) then you likely already have reviews.
· Local Citations- Web sites that serve the local community such as media, Chamber of Commerce, city guides and so forth may have mention of your business or service. Be sure they have accurate links to you and contact information.
· Reviews in Search Engine Listings- The major search engine local business listings allow you to leave reviews. This is an easy and convenient place to leave reviews if you are not in the hospitality or contracting business.
· Customer Reviews at Third Party Websites- There could be hundreds of these in any locale. They may also include local blogs. Again, be sure your mention contains accurate location information.
· Positive Customer Ratings- Oddly enough it appears that it does not really matter whether the reviews are good, bad or indifferent. This only applies in regards to the success or failure of the listing, not too customer’s perception of your business.
A little time spent on cultivating reviews will lead to big dividends in your search presence and success. Take a look at how many the first couple of local listings have. That will be your target to beat!