The primary tools to find businesses today are online. By and large, when a need arises, the answer is sought via inquiry to search engine like Google or Bing at the nearest device.
This article is for the savvy business and organization seeking to harness the power available in the digital space. I will drill into the topic of harnessing the directory and review site for growth.
First thing’s first – let’s define what we are discussing. Directory and review site are not the same as social marketing channels (although in some cases there are overlapping functionality). The distinction I use establishes a clear difference. What are the activities your business or organization engage in these spaces for which results?
- The social marketing channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — require a content strategy and a schedule of publishing and sharing unique and interesting content to achieve objectives such as engaging a loyal following, educating and informing on your industry expertise, facilitating a conversation around a current topic of interest and directing followers back to your website. A mobile dog grooming salon posting schedule of recently groomed pets, and schedule of broadcasting a series of blog articles on how to groom the trendy styles – this content engages your followers with unique and interesting information.
- The directory and review sites — Google+, Yelp, Angie’s list, Amazon — require different activities and achieve different objectives altogether. These are spaces in which reviews can be posted about your business, products and services. The ratings and reviews on trusted sites strongly influence the choices of your potential clients. Ensuring your contact information, location, products, services and offerings are listed accurately and optimally (to include as many quality images, descriptions, back links as available) increases your search engine optimization, which is to say, the likelihood that your potential clients will find you.
Establishing the difference in terms of the activity required of you is not to say that your job is done once you are listed! It could be argued your activities to succeed in this space are more complex — you must provide quality goods and services and authentically inspire your clients to add their authentic reviews! This is no easy task!
Now, I want to pause to address a common concern. Various clients hesitant to claim their spaces in Google+, Yelp and other review sites articulate concerns over the possibility of negative reviews. However, a negative review is a good opportunity for two reasons.
- Establishes authenticity Internet users are highly sensitive to spin, sales speak, and advertising. These sites influence decisions because they are not controlled. You may not be able to remove a bad review, but a list of glowing perfect reviews is suspect.
- Opportunity for client engagement How much more influential is a bad reviewer turned advocate? A few actions on your part could have the effect of providing an incredible story. Further, in the event something inauthentic is happening, such as fraudulent bad reviews from a competitor… your efforts to engage the client in this space will work to your advantage. You may be surprised at how adept your readers are at sniffing out a fraudulent review.
Now, I’ll provide descriptions and advantages for the two review sites I recommend clients spent their time on when they don’t have much time to spend. These are the most trusted, highest impact, most common.
- Google+ Google outperforms every other search engine, with billions of searches per day. Registering a business listing on Google is free and not very complex. Business listings appear on Google Maps as your potential clients are driving by you! It takes very few positive reviews on Google+ to have a high impact on catapulting you to the top of Google search engine rankings. Here is a link to Google Places for Business.
- Yelp With 83 million unique visitors per month, and many more returning visitors, Yelp is a trusted source of reviews. You can create deals for loyal customers in this space and send messages to your reviewers publicly or privately. Trends are available on Yelp’s reporting tool. Here is a link to claim your Yelp.
However, there are others worth considering if you have time.
- Angie’s List for service providers in particular
- Kudzu for home improvement services
- Foursquare for businesses active on social
- Citysearch for urban based bars, restaurants, spas, hotels, etc
- MerchantCircle for local audiences, and offers blog
- Manta another fast growing directory, not as established for reviews
- Bing Places for Business the second most visited search engine after Google
- Yahoo Local the third most visited search engine after Google and Bing
- Trip Advisor products and services at tourist destinations
There are a host of others, especially industry specific directory and review sites that you may consider researching as you tailor your strategy, such as OpenTable, UrbanSpoon and Zagat for dining, WeddingWire and the Knot for wedding industries, or Houzz and Fixr for contractors.
Directory and review sites can be powerful tools for the business or organization for growth, as they are strong influencers of the decisions being made by your potential clients. I hope this article has clarified the space here and inspired you towards a streamlined plan for harnessing this tool for your growth.