The Value of Online Listings and Review Sites to Small Businesses

Remember the distant days when we flicked through the text-heavy pages of a phone book to find a plumber or a vet? As evidenced by the uncollected and unloved piles of these books that we sometimes see left in the rain outside homes, like the relic of a forgotten civilization, the days of tangible Yellow Pages are long gone.

Today Yellow Pages is primarily an online listing; just one of many services and review sites that offer another marketing tool for your business. There’s also White Pages and Yellowbook but no trees were harmed in the creation of these listings.

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As a local business, you should consider your presence on online listings and review sites, even though it can be difficult to know where to start or where to spend your hard earned dollars.

In the past small businesses found it hard to compete online with the big multinationals. However, Google recently leveled the playing field for small, local businesses with its “Pigeon” update in 2014, that recognizes the importance of local search engine optimization (SEO). Google has been positively oozing with love for local businesses of late. Google’s “Venice” update of a few years ago means if a searcher in Lynchburg seeks “tractor supplies,” for example, the first results to come up will be local ones rather than a company in Richmond, which may have happened before the update.

You don’t need to know the intricacies of Google’s updates but you do need to know Google remains the most important search engine out there and it likes local online listings and review sites.

Here’s what you should know about local listings and review sites.

1 They May Be the First Exposure People Have to Your Business

As anyone who has Googled a restaurant knows, the pesky Yelp review that gave it one star and mentioned the cockroach in the burrito has a habit of standing out from the crowd. Google+ listings of your business invade a lot of real estate on searches as they provide a map and a star review system, so make sure to claim them.

2 Concentrate on the Best Listings for Your Business

Yelp remains an important site and reviews on the site are integrated on Bing – the second largest search engine. But more people are going to search for a restaurant on Yelp than for a dentist. In the same way, professionals such as estate agents and lawyers, have dedicated listings that carry more weight in their professions, such as Super Lawyers and Avvo in the legal profession.

3 Maximize Free Listings

Be wary about paying a lot of money for a Yellow Pages listing that the sales guy tells you will “kill the competition for SEO.” There are a lot of free local listings, including YP listings, that may provide as good a bang for your buck. The VerticalResponse blog provides a suggestion for the top 20 places your business needs to be online. Even if listings are free they’ll eat up a lot of your marketing time in setting them up one by one. If you use citation services such as Yext or Moz Local, they will get your business on a considerable number of local listings for an annual fee. These services also clean up the listings you already have, ensuring the consistency that reassures the search engines.

4 Local Listings Will Provide Backlinks

Backlinks (also known as inbound links) are links to your website. They are described as one of the building blocks of SEO because if sites are linking to yours, it must be worth checking out right? Local listings are a good way to get more backlinks to your site and Google gives more credit to sites with good backlinks. In recent years, it has become more important to get “quality” backlinks that are relevant. So if you run a hat store, links from directories in the fashion industry are a lot better than a link from your friend’s bait and tackle shop website.

5 They Send Referral Traffic

Your listings are not just good for the backlink. That link sends people to your site where they may contact you online or pick up the phone. By being listed on multiple sites, you are increasing the chances of a potential client or customer finding you.

6 Reviews are Influential

A recent survey by Search Engine Land found 88 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s a lot of faith to put in strangers who post online but it highlights the importance of getting the positive experience that we hope you are giving customers, out on the Internet.

If you don’t have listings on directories and review sites it’s high time to do so. That’s not to say you should go crazy but you should dip your toe in the water. Consider taking out a paid listing as well as some free ones and monitor them to see what works best. Ask people who contact you where they saw your business and encourage them to write positive reviews.

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About davidlmacaulaymedia

I am an award winning, experienced journalist who has worked on national and local newspapers for more than 20 years in the United Kingdom and the United States. I am a blogger, a photographer and a legal marketer. I run a freelance writing and legal marketing agency.
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