Friday, June 26, 2009

Optimized Local Business Listings

Local Business Listings as you know can be found in places such as Google Maps and They are free to create in most cases and help customers determine where to shop. Business owners that invest time and creativity into their listings achieve the most success.

To get started with Google Maps you need to create a profile. This creates your listing and allows you to return to make changes. You want to include as much information about your business as possible.

Besides the obvious stuff (company name, products/services, etc.) include your business hours, charities you support, and local organizations to which your company belongs (local chamber of commerce, little league team, BBB, and local networking groups). These give you local ‘street cred’.

Next, place your ‘pin’ at the correct location on the map. Google Maps doesn’t always put it in the right place. You can also customize your pin to be a picture of your choosing. The best photo to have would be one of your storefront. This helps customers know exactly what they’re looking for before leaving the house.

Ok, now you’re all done. Not! Local business listings are free, but they take work. Google Maps and Yelp work on mutual benefit. They promote your business, and you promote theirs. You can get stickers to place in your storefront window which reminds some observant people to review you or look at your reviews, but that’s the minimum.

You need to ask your customers to write one. Even better, give them something for it. A coupon off their next purchase or a gift that’s appropriate for your product/service.

One mattress company is doing the latter with great success. Keetsa is an eco-friendly mattress store. Their products have names like “Tea Leaf Classic” and include features like “green tea memory foam”. My Mom went there to get a new mattress for her guest room. After her purchase they gave her a bag of green tea with their logo on it and asked her to write a Yelp review. This is what she wrote

Lynne A.
Alameda, CA

We needed a new mattress and bed for our guest room. We did not want to spend a ton of money but we wanted out guests to be comfortable. We found just what we needed at the Keetsa store. Our shopping experience was great at the Keetsa store in Berkeley. Robert really helped us and worked with us the whole time. The mattress came in a box small enough to fit in our car (it expands after you take it out of the box) and the frame or stand was so easy to assemble you can do it without tools, Keetsa has really changed the mattress buying experience.

With Yelp, the business owner is notified when a new review is posted. He sent an email to my mother thanking her for the review. If you go to Yelp and look up this company, you will see many positive reviews about them from one-time and repeat customers.

The business owner at Keetsa is achieving online success with local business listings. By prompting his customers, whether they found him online or not, to review his business he is

· Gaining local credibility
· Improving customer service and
· Controlling word-of-mouth/ brand reputation.

All these things bring him more customers and more success. Your business could easily do the same. Check out Yelp and Google Maps for yourself. If you’re not sure which is the best review site for your type of business, contact the experts at WSI Magic Web.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Are Local Business Listings Important?

Local Business Listings done correctly are a great way to attract local buyers. Customers love them, because they can compare reviews from one company to another. After the buying experience customers can join the conversation by writing their own reviews.

Business owners like the listings, because they can see how people rate their business. They can see where they are doing well and what needs to be improved. The savvy business owners will even address customer complaints to ensure a positive word-of-mouth.

Before review sites, companies could not be a part of the word-of-mouth they generate. Now that the conversation between customers has gone online, the business owner can join it. In the pre-review era all a company could do was to ask customers to "tell their friends". Now the business owner can incentivize customers to review them online which reaches a greater audience than just a circle of friends.

Another reason for encouraging patrons to review your business is to gain higher display frequency. Google's local business listings (Google Maps) are rotated for each search. This means that for competitive keywords your listing might not show up a lot of the time. Listings with a greater number of reviews are rotated in more often than listings with little to no reviews. This is because Google sees reviews as business creditability and rewards companies with greater creditability.

Local business listings are a great place to start your Internet Marketing portfolio for your local business. The next post in this series will teach you how to get started and how to leverage your listings for online success.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Word About Word-of-Mouth

Talk to most business owners and they will tell you that word-of-mouth is their best, if not only, source for attracting new customers. And why not? It's free (almost).

There are some costs to achieving positive word-of-mouth. You must have spent money training a knowledgeable and friendly staff to ensure the best customer service possible. You've no doubt given discounts, refunds, and give-aways to satisfy unhappy customers. You probably spent time and money trying to measure your customer's experience with customer comment cards and surveys. Even after all these efforts your business can't be there when word-of-mouth takes place, or can it?

Your customers are talking about you online. Search around on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Myspace, and other Social networking sites to see exactly what I mean. If you don't see anybody talking about you, then try refining your search locally. If you still don't see chatter about you, then you have an even bigger problem, and also a great opportunity. (Funny how crisis and opportunity appear at the same time.)

First, let's talk about what to do if you see people talking about your company, products, or services. You simply need to join the conversation where the word-of-mouth is happening. You may ask," How do I find out all the places where my customers are talking about me?" Your WSI Internet Consultant has tools and reports to find out for you. We can simplify the process of gaining a presence in the Social Media sphere of influence. Now let's look at the second scenario.

So, you can't find any word-of-mouth about you online. What does that mean? It does not mean that your customers don't go online. Unfortunately, it does mean that your business is not creating strong word-of-mouth, which is as good as no word-of-mouth at all. Fortunately, like having no credit you have a great opportunity to build good standing. With the slate blank you can start the conversation then invite your customers to join you. In turn, you improve customer relations and build a community around your business.

Community organizing and involvement are buzz-words today that cannot be ignored. Look at how much success it brought to the Obama campaign in 2008. It has a powerful impact in your market share. Banks have to be involved in the community by law. Most successful small to medium businesses support local Little League programs or charities. There are communities built around these important organizations on Social Networking sites. Your business could support them online as well as off. People like businesses that act beyond their bottom line. Thus, word-of-mouth grows from community involvement.

Want to know more? WSI Internet Consulting and Education is a great place to start. Visit our website to learn more about marketing your business or non-profit on the Internet.