There are many aspects of local business directories and reputation marketing that business owners should be aware of. This is a very effective form of marketing since it utilizes word of mouth marketing and keeps it published online.
Traditionally, getting a business listed in a local directory was only a matter of registering a phone number to have a simple line ad in the Yellow Pages. (For the millennials who may be reading, the Yellow Pages is a printed phone book where the pages are actually yellow; you may even have one in your house since they’re still distributed gratis). Also, a similar form of reputation marketing was predominantly accomplished with a good rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). However, if any members of the younger generation are reading this page, they may not even know what the Yellow Pages or BBB are. Although both resources can still be utilized since they do have a user base online, and the older demographic still refers to traditional forms of marketing, including the printed phone book.
The landscape has changed somewhat for modern marketing. Now, there are many local directories online, including databases for smart phones and GPS devices. (For the older generation who may be reading, “online” means on the internet, and there’s not enough room on this page to completely explain smart phones and GPS devices. If you need this kind of help, congratulations for navigating your way to this page and call (480) 744-5919 for a free consultation). Many online business directories have a review feature where previous customers can leave a star rating and comments about your business. Most internet users read these reviews and accept them. So if the reviews are good, they’ll try your business. That’s why “local business directories” and “reputation marketing” are both included in one internet marketing strategy, because the same resources online provide both features.
Local Business Search Engine Results
Active participation in local business directories is one of three ways that a business can get listed on search engines. The other two ways are via search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC). There is a place on search engine results pages that is dedicated for local businesses and there is often a map displayed that shows where those businesses are located. Active participation with Google Places and Google Plus (Google’s social network), increases the chances of appearing under local search results on Google. Other search engines combine their data with other local directories, like Yelp, for their search engine results. This type of marketing is also called geomarketing, local search, and local SEO. Participation in local search marketing can also help organic search engine results since search engine algorithms are now partially counting reviews as authority.
Local Business Directories Online
The most popular local directory online is Yelp. A small business could possibly even do all their marketing exclusively through Yelp and survive. Yet there are many major competitors – Angie’s List, Google My Business (formally Google Places), Yahoo Local, Bing Places for Business, Merchant Circle, Foursquare, Mapquest and so on. Additionally, there are industry-specific directories, core data providers which provide data to these sites, and there are databases that aggregate data for smart phones and GPS devices. If you list your business manually on more than one directory, be sure that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are all written and spelled exactly the same across the board. When search engines crawl these sites to gather data about your business, this helps them confirm that the profile on each site is indeed yours. Also, many of these sites will send a verification code by snail mail that you must enter online to confirm it’s your business.
For better results, Mirex Marketing has a tool that is used to synchronize all your listings in a partnered network. The partnered network is comprised of over 50 websites, which includes Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, Merchant Circle, Foursquare, other major sites, smart phone directories and GPS directories. Two major competitors that are not part of this network are Angie’s List and Google Places, so your business profiles for these two sites must always be entered manually. Others that are not part of the network are industry-specific directories. By synchronizing your profile on these sites, your business could potentially get better search engine results over time. The actual business profile on each of these sites looks better for the internet user. Also, much time is saved since the business profile doesn’t have to be created manually on each site and you don’t have to wait for the snail mail verification code.
Out of all these sites, Angie’s List is the only one that does not share data with the others and they’re the only one where the customer must pay to read the reviews. Angie’s List is an island when it comes to the local search ecosystem and their business model is extremely rare compared to other internet-based companies. The demographics and mind set of customers that come from Angie’s List are significantly different than those from other sites. It is more difficult to obtain these customers, but they are usually more loyal and better-paying than other customers. They’re more concerned with value than price.
Once you’ve created a profile with each of these sites, they will each contact you regarding upgraded paid advertising. Your Mirex Marketing manager would be happy to consult with you to determine if this is a good fit for your overall marketing plan.
Reviews & Reputation Marketing
The review feature of local business directories, like Yelp, was game-changing for business and marketing. This is one of the reasons why internet marketing is said to be word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. A customer who has tried a business can voice their opinion of that business publicly and nearly permanently by going online and leaving a review. Other potential customers read these reviews and often accept them as if they came from a friend they were having a conversation with. The review feature usually allows the customer to give a star rating between 1-5 stars, with 5 stars being the best. The customer can also leave a comment or explanation.
It is part of human nature to vent about bad experiences more often than to consciously recognize good service and volunteer a recommendation to others. That’s why it can be challenging to avoid bad reviews online and build up multiple good reviews. Furthermore, one bad review online among many good reviews can sway potential customers away. When potential customers are reading these reviews, they don’t consciously think that it’s simply impossible to please everybody. The concern on their mind is that they don’t want the same bad experience, and they especially don’t want to pay money for a bad experience.
Good communication and excellent customer service are essential for businesses to build a good reputation online. Business owners and staff must constantly request feedback from customers and improve their products and services. For this reason, Mirex Marketing provides two important services. One is an email-based tool that does much more than just facilitate feedback. It’s a review-generation tool that reminds happy customers to leave reviews when they’re conveniently at their computer, and it keeps negative feedback internal to help avoid public, published negative reviews. Once a negative review is published, it is possible but difficult to change. A much more effective strategy is to avoid it in the first place.
A second service offered by Mirex Marketing is a mystery shop evaluation of your business. This is when an anonymous shopper visits your business without you and your staff knowing that you’re being evaluated. It can provide important details which may affect how people review your business online.
Also, Mirex Marketing recommends constant monitoring of your reputation online. This can be done for free with the use of Google Alerts (alerts.google.com).
Local Directory Marketing vs Social Media Marketing
Local Business Directories and Social Media Networks may have some similar features. They are both Web 2.0 resources, meaning they encourage user participation. Some local business directories have social features, such as adding friends, leaving comments and even blogging on some resources. Yet, the main purpose of these sites is to act as a local business directory which connects potential customers with local businesses.
Some social networks also have the review feature, which is the key feature for many local business directories. Yet, their purpose is to provide social interaction online, which may or may not include one friend recommending a business to another. Facebook business pages have a review feature in addition to their “like us” feature. For even further confusion, Google My Business, Google Maps and Google Plus get harder and harder to distinguish over time. Yet, they each specifically serve a different purpose while acting collaboratively.
When it comes to marketing, the purpose and strategy is different between local directory marketing and social media marketing. That’s why the Mirex Marketing team has both local business directory experts and social media experts.