Small business owners know that one of the best marketing tactics is the one you have little control over - word of mouth. Yes, you can do good work, have intentional language, and provide excellent customer service. These are what bring about good testimonials and reviews. But you still don't have control over what people say.
Almost everyone relies on recommendations from friends and family. We trust the people close to us more than paid advertising. And, when a friend or family member isn't around to recommend a business, we rely on reviews and testimonials. We may not know the reviewer, but these can show us an authentic connection and impact made by that business.
Reviews and directories provide more than an online version of word-of-mouth. These listings are a key part of your SEO plan, too. Brian Dean, the SEO wiz at Backlinko, says that accurate information being cited on other websites has a significant influence on your SEO ranking. Specifically, NAPs (name, address, phone) need to be listed on assorted sites and they must be accurate.. Review Signals (online reviews) have a similar positive impact.
But the most important take-away is that the data has to be accurate on all of these sites that link back to you. The more citations you have with correct info, the better off your SEO will be. And that means your business is being seen by more prospective customers.
A Guide To Creating Profiles
Have s system in place before you start this project.
Step 1: Gather all of your business info
I mean this literally. Create a document where you paste or type up the information that will be used on all of these review sites and directories. It's up to you to make sure your business is listed AND that the information is accurate and matches up. Plus, going through this process will allow you to review how you describe your business AND you'll make your work a lot easier if you start out organized.
So, first thing's first: compile into a single document all of the information you will need for the majority of these sites. I made you a very simple Google Sheet to get you started. The link is at the bottom of the post. You're welcome.
- Email address that you will use to create your accounts
- A different password for each site (data breaches happen, so minimize the risk)
- User name(s)
- Business Name - Use your complete business name, preferably with type of business included in the title (Bobs Tow Trucks, Martha's Excellent Preschool, etc).
- Public Contact Info - The info you want customers to use:
- Phone Number(s)
- Physical Address
- Mailing Address
- Email Address
- A few sentences about what you do
- Mission, Vision, Values
- A collection of photos (optimally sized, compressed, optimally named and ready to load)
- Hours of operation
- Statement about operations during COVID / protocol you've implemented
As you create accounts, you'll be re-reading the information over and you may think of different ways to describe what your small business is about. Make sure to copy and paste any language revisions you make on a particular site.
Step 2: List of Sites
Now, add a section on that document where you list out all of the sites you know you want to list on. Include space for the website name, their URL, and your login name & password.
There are the heavy hitters and then many others that tend to be niche sites that are specific to an area of work.
- Google My Business is a free way for businesses to manage your online presence across Google, including searches and Maps. You already know that Google is the popular search engine. According to Internetlivestats, the giant gets 3.5 billion searches every day. So it is imperative that you create a profile. But, your Google Business Profile is more than a listing. They allow for posts and updates, photos, menus, hours, logos, and reviews. It needs to be used regularly, such as checking and responding to every review, whether negative or positive. Google likes that. Customers like that.
- Facebook is an important place for your business to have a presence, but you have to be engaged and monitor what people are saying. People are increasingly checking and leaving reviews on Facebook. Make sure your interactions are used as more customer service. If you aren't intentional with what you post and how you interact with people, things can get out of hand. This is not your personal Facebook. If you wouldn't say it to a customer in your shop, then don't say it here.
- Trip Advisor is good for any business that gets tourist clients. That includes any business a tourist might visit, such as restaurants, outdoor activities, shopping, galleries, classes and workshops, spas, etc.
- I have mixed opinions about Yelp. They will stifle some reviews and make viewers go to another page to read them, and these reviews are selected most based on aspects of the reviewer rather than the business. You also can do very little when you get a negative review and even one negative review can impact your rating. And, if you pay, your business does better. But, it is a highly visited review site. Yelp has 73 million unique monthly users on their mobile app, and over 100 million unique monthly users on their desktop site.
Sites to check
- The Better Business Bureau aims to stop fraudulent businesses. BBB is built on trust and viewers can see a history of complaints.
Here are some of the top review sites in 2020, some of which are industry-specific.
- Angi's (formerly Angie's List) is for home service businesses.
- Manta is a directory for small businesses.
- Yellow Pages is free and trusted.
- Foursquare, whose largest target group in the US is 18-24 year olds.
And so many more....
BrightLocal is a marketing software company who kindly compiled review sites and directories in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia, then organized them into 30 individual business categories. Because it is such a broad reach, I recommend you check out every site listed in your industry and see what region that review site caters to.
Step 3: Tell people
When you have the major accounts created, tell people! Your low hanging fruit - the people most likely to say yes to a request - are your repeat customers and recent customers. Send a personal email to repeat customers asking them to share why they like you, and give them the links to a few of the review sites. And, incorporate one or two option in any follow up you do with new customers, include in your newsletter, post about it on Facebook.
Step 4: Keep Going
Start with a few of the major sites. But spend time building your list. You need to list on way more than three review sites. But, it doesn't need to take up all of your marketing time. Keep adding ideas to your list. Create one or two new accounts each week or so. Slow and steady.
Make it a little easier on yourself and set up a review tracker so you don't have to continually go check every site.
It may seem like a lot to deal with. And, to be honest, it is a lot of information to pull together, photos to prep, research to do. But it's not a race and it doesn't have to all be done immediately. Just incorporate this into your marketing plan or weekly admin duties. And, if you get everything organized before you start, you won't feel overwhelmed. If business is booming and the reviews are rolling in, it may be time to check out on-line review trackers or other services to help monitor. Until that time, make a Google sheet to track it all.