Do Local Business Reviews Matter?

 

There’s a lot of buzz in the Internet marketing world these days about reviews.

And it’s also a big topic of conversation for local business owners as well. Hardly a week passes without me having a conversation with a business owner who’s ticked off about a negative review of their business and wants to know how to get rid of it or who wants to know how their competition is getting so many more reviews than they are or who want to know how to rack up the 5 star reviews.

But are reviews worth all the fuss?

If the data from a recent study from Cone LLC (a PR and marketing agency) are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

Here’s a few key pieces of data from their study

  • 89% of consumers say they find online reviews sites as honest and trustworthy sources to get product/service reviews
  • (Here’s a biggie!) The report finds that 4 in 5 consumers have changed their minds about a purchase decision based solely on negative information they’ve found online (that’s up from around 67% just a year ago)
  • 87% of respondents agreed that reading a positive review has confirmed their decision to purchase
  • 85% consumers say they are more likely to “open their wallet” when they can find online recommendations to support offline advice they get (as opposed to 77% last year)
It’s important to note that this data does not just apply to local businesses, but to products as well. While I would like to see just local business focused data, reviews are clearly a key factor (and one that’s getting even more important) consumers use to make purchasing decisions.
If your business does not have a plan in place to get reviews (ethically!) and address any negative reviews you may have, you’re ignoring one of the most influential factors for prospects when it comes to your business.
We’ll have a lot more on reviews in the future. In the meantime, if you’re not sure where to get started when it comes to managing reviews for your business, sign up here to talk with one of the Main Street Marketing Community experts.

 

 

Where Do People Turn for Info About Their Local Community (Surprising Results?)

Found this interesting report put out by the Pew Research Center titled “How People Learn About Their Local Community“.

Among the interesting findings of particular interest to local business owners…

  • Internet rules for local restaurants and businesses. More adults (28%) rely on the Internet for information about restaurants and other local business than any other source. Newspapers are the 2nd preferred source (around 17%-18%) and Word of Mouth was 3rd (13%).
  • 55% of adults surveyed said that, at least occasionally, they get information about restaurants, clubs or bars from the Internet. That figure was 60% for “other local businesses”.
  • While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were included in the above “Internet” category, they run a distant third to search engines and special topics sites (like Yelp and Craigslist) as a source people rely on for this information. For restaurants, only 2% of respondents cited social media, compared to 21% for search engines and 9% of the special topics sites. For “other local businesses”, only 1% cited social media (21% for search engines and 10% for special topic sites).
  • Not surprisingly, the percentages of people who relied on the Internet for this information was much higher for respondents who were younger, wealthier and had lived in their city for a shorter period of time.
  • Print is not dead. Local newspapers are the #1 source people rely on for 11 of the 16 types of local information the research looked at.  (Though most of these topics are not followed by most people on a regular basis.)
Takeways?
Most people are looking for your local business on the Internet (though we here at Main Street Marketing Community have known that for a while!). However, don’t forget about newspapers. Especially if you’re targeting an older demographic, paying some attention to newspaper coverage/advertising may be worth your while (especially if your competition is ONLY focused on the Internet).

 

 

Google+ Now Open to All

Earlier this week, Google’s infant (but fast growing ) social network, Google+, was opened up to everyone. Up until this week, you had to have an invitation in order to join.

Google made it pretty obvious to those who went to Google.com where to go to sign up (good marketing lesson here, by the way)…

We wrote about what Google+ means for small business owners a few months ago and, nothing has changed in our recommendations since then.

Sign up for a personal account (no business accounts are available yet, but look for them to come sooner, rather than later), play around with it a little (it has some very cool features), and watch as Google adds more features and integrates it more and more with other products and services.

Google+ is not a huge factor for small businesses right now, but look for that to change quickly!

 

Can Local Business Owners Ignore Bing?

Bing logoBelieve it or not, there are other search engines besides Google!

With around 65% of all U.S. searches taking place on the Big G, it certainly makes sense for business owners to focus their search engine marketing efforts where most people are searching.

However, you shouldn’t completely forget about the other search engines, especially Bing.

A few years ago Bing and Yahoo! combined their search engines so that Bing now powers searches performed on both Bing AND Yahoo!. Combined, these two search engines get about 29% of all U.S. searches on the web.

Looking at the search traffic patterns for most of my local business clients, I see they’re getting about 20% of their organic search engine traffic from Bing and Yahoo!. It’s not 29% (and your mileage may vary), but that’s still nothing to sneeze at.

So what does this mean for you as a local business owner?

Three important takeaways…

1. Pay attention to where you rank for your top keywords on Bing and Yahoo!. Once a month, look at the Analytics data for your site and see what keywords people are typing into Bing and Yahoo! that are leading them to your site. There may be some good keywords there that you could further optimize and climb higher in the Bing/Yahoo! rankings for (and with relatively less competition on Bing/Yahoo!, it may be easier to claim the top spots for choice keywords for your local business there than on Google).

2. Get your local business listed on the Bing Business Portal. It’s Bing’s equivalent to Google Places and there’s a lot to love about the features it offers. At the very least it’s a good place to get another citation to help you in the Google local rankings but, again, with Bing accounting for 29% of search engine traffic, the Portal may be a good place to pick up some extra visibility for your business.

3. If you’re using Google AdWords, it’s worth testing Microsoft AdCenter (Bing is a Microsoft product). It’s not nearly as slick as AdWords and doesn’t get nearly as much traffic, but with a 30% market share, you could be losing out on a lot of business by not being there.

There used to be a time when I’d tell local business owners to forget about Bing. I can’t do that any more. While I’ve yet to hear stories of Bing/Yahoo! rankings making or breaking a local business (Google can and does), don’t ignore Bing.

Especially if your competition is just focusing all their efforts on Google, spending a bit of time focusing on Bing may give you a few extra leads your competitors are missing!

 

 

Why Blog? The Eyebrow Raising Discovery That’s Got a Local Attorney Back on the Blogging Bandwagon

“I can’t write.”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
“I’m too busy.”

Mention blogging and most business owners immediately come up with one or more of excuses above on why they don’t want to blog.

There are a number of reasons blogging helps your business but I want to share a story today that highlights one of the biggies.

A few weeks ago I was sitting down with one of my clients, Alex, who’s a tax attorney in St Louis.

When Alex set up the website for his firm last year, he added a blog. Between October 2010 (when his site launched) and April 2011 wrote 13 blog posts, which is about 2 a month. Then, like most business owners who start blogging, he stopped. His practice was growing and he had other priorities so blogging got pushed down the To Do List.

During our meeting, I pulled up Google Analytics for Alex’s site. (Analytics is free software from Google that lets you gather information about traffic to your website.) One of interesting tidbits of info you see in Analytics is the exact search terms that people typed into Google to find your site.

As we started looking at the terms that got people to Alex’s site, he noticed (much to his surprise!) keywords related to various tax laws and regulations that he had blogged about months ago.

The simple act of sitting down and writing a blog post about a tax law was enough to get him high enough in the search engines for people to find his site!

Seeing that data and seeing that his blog posts had a real effect on driving traffic to his site was enough for Alex to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

Adding a blog to your site is one of the best things you can do to help your site’s ranking on Google.  And blogging is not as bad or as painful as it seems.

Every day you have little conversations and interactions with clients that can easily turn into a blog post. In fact, sharing this story about Alex to a new client who was resistant to blogging led me to write this post!

And, remember, Alex got results from just 13 blog posts spread over 6 months so you don’t even have to blog that often!

The Bottom Line

Blogging is not a difficult, time-consuming endeavor. Add a blog to your site, add a few posts a month and, like Alex, you may be very surprised to see more people finding your blog and website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Way to Find Truly Accurate Local Keyword Data

When it comes to finding local keyword data, there are a lot of ways you can go about finding the best ones for your business. But there is only one source you can turn to get accurate, reliable data about what local keywords people are typing into Google and how many (if any) are typing them in each month.

In this video, we reveal what that source is and share a real world example of how powerful getting this accurate data can be.

 

Are Your Reviews For Real?

Local business reviews are a big deal.

Many of your prospects will read reviews others have left about your company and use them as a major factor in deciding whether to do business with your local business or not.

And, as you might expect, when it comes to something that can have such a big impact on a business, there are unscrupulous people out there trying to game the system. In this case it’s either paying for fake reviews or having friends/family members/employees write fake ones.

An interesting article from the New York Times gets into the issue of fake reviews and the problem it’s posing for review sites like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor. It also describes work being done by some Cornell researchers who have developed an algorithm that can supposedly tell real reviews from the fake ones (not surprisingly Google has already asked at least one of the members of this team for a resume!).

You can read the New York Times article on fake reviews here.

We’ll be talking a lot about reviews in the coming months…how to get good ones (ethically), what to do if you get some bad ones, what sites you want to get reviews one, etc.

The important thing for now is to understand that reviews are a big deal and, if you haven’t already, check out review site like Google, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch and others to see what your clients are saying about your business (and your competitors’ businesses).

I Really Want to Recommend Google AdWords Express, But…

The other week I posted an article with some words of warning about Google AdWords Express.

I really want to be able to recommend it to small business owners. Truly I do.

Google AdWords is a great marketing tool and having an easy, efficient and effective way to use it would be a huge help for many small local businesses.

Since writing that last article, however, my view of Adwords Editor has not gotten any better. Two reasons why…

1. A very pushy Google AdWords Express rep called a client of mine. The rep had my client on the phone for a long time and, despite the client telling the rep he was already using AdWords, the rep persisted. More to get him off the phone than anything, my client relented and signed up for Express.

But here’s what really got me about this situation…

AdWords Express targets searchers in your local area. 99.5% of my client’s customers come from outside his local area so spending money advertising on a local level does him little good.

Google’s pushing this service really hard, but, unfortunately, at least some of the reps are just looking for the sale and don’t even take the time to see if Express can actually help a local business get clients or not.

2. Take a look at this screen capture…

These are the results of a Google search I did for the term “drug crime lawyer” (and, in case you’re wondering, this was for research purposes for a client NOT because of any drug crime I committed!).

Notice that last result on the bottom right with the blue pushpin looking icon next to it? That’s a Google AdWords Express ad…and it’s for a bankruptcy lawyer.

Yet the AdWords Express algorithm is showing this ad for a search related to drug crime lawyers. Not the best targeting there!

And, unfortunately, there’s nothing this lawyer can do about it because, unlike with “regular” AdWords, in AdWords Express you can’t go in and tell Google not to show your ads when certain words show up in the search query a user types into Google.

I do have faith in Google and believe(hope!) that this algorithm will improve over time.

Until then, I can’t recommend Google AdWords Express for the small local business owner.

The Ninja Keyword Trick for Finding Local Keywords Your Prospects Are Typing Into Google (Even if Google Tells You They’re Not!)

You’ve done your local keyword research and found a keyword that would be awesome for your business.

Problem is, the Google Keyword Tool indicates that keyword gets zero search each month. Bummer? Maybe not.

Especially for relatively low traffic local keywords, the data you get from the keyword tool can be highly inaccurate.

This video shows you a simple, yet powerful, trick you can use to see if people are actually searching for that keyword or not.