Local Marketing Online: Part 5: City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations

When developing your local marketing strategy it’s important to include local city sites, the vast array of consumer review sites, and the variety of user recommendation tools in your marketing plan. The significance to you of these platforms and tools is the influence they have on your search listing results and your online authority.

As part of the paradigm shift away from the website owner and toward the website user, search engines are using consumer comments, reviews, star ratings, and the various voting tools such as the Facebook ‘Like’ button and Google’s +1 button, to identify and determine popular sources among users for information or shopping sites that are relevant to a user’s search. Once again, the idea is that what comes “straight from the horse’s mouth” is most reliable and hence, most relevant, to others searching for the same things. So the first thing to do is to ensure you can be found on the sites where your market research has determined your target audience groups spend time.

City and review sites are a hybrid of web directory and social networking.  These include CitySearch.com, Yelp.com, Foursquare.com, Local.com, Yahoo Local, Google Places, and many more. You are generally given the opportunity to ‘claim your listing’ (see Part 2: Web & Map Listings), select the categories appropriate to what you offer, and fill out your profile with your optimized contact information, description, and an image or two. The local aspect of your listing corresponds to the address of your physical location. Some of these sites will charge you a nominal yearly fee if you want to include a link to your website, additional images, and other profile items useful to marketing to your targeted audience groups. Depending on the volume of traffic the site gets relevant to your objectives, it may be worth budgeting for a few listing upgrades, particularly if you are targeting consumers.

Shopping sites and cart tools like Amazon.com and Google CheckOut, two of the many available, allow for customer reviews and ratings. Google CheckOut actively encourages users to provide a ‘1 to 5 Star Rating’ of their experience with the online merchant. Amazon solicits customer reviews, which are willingly provided as seen by the number of reviews available for items sold by the shopping site. These reviews and ratings are aggregated by search engines and not only factored into ranking of search results but often are attached to the search result via a link, making them readily available to users as they search. Particularly if you market to consumers, you may benefit greatly from the collective power of these online giants. As you have probably witnessed, Google groups relevant shopping results and posts them towards the top of the first page of the search results. The more popular your item is among consumers and the better their online shopping experience was with you, the more likely your item will appear in the top listings for relevant searches.

Recommendation tools such as Google’s recently introduced ‘+1’ button and Facebook’s ‘Like’ button are simple ways for users to recommend your products, services, or company simply by clicking the button. The Facebook ‘Like’ button is a tool that you can have implemented on your other web content such as your website, blog pages, and other social media posts. The Google ‘+1’ button works much the same way. Acting as a counter that tallies the number of ‘votes’ your content has received, the Google ‘+1’ and Facebook ‘Like’ buttons provide information to users and search engines about the number of people who have recommended your content. Although the recommended content on the Facebook and Google platforms is accessible to users within the social circle of the person who made the recommendation, the Facebook ‘Like’ button offers the additional benefit of sharing your content on its platform as well. Obviously the more recommendations you get the better the overall effect on your search ranking and traffic results.

The lesson to take away here is that the opinions of others matter not just to consumers but to the search engines as well. Users now have an easy way to share their experiences with limitless others online. So you better make sure your website and all the content you present meets their needs and demanding expectations. The power of word-of-mouth via these numerous recommendation and rating sites and tools affects your online business results now more than ever before. You want to be present and encourage positive customer response. Good or bad, online word-of-mouth spreads faster than a bush fire in California on a hot August afternoon!

In Part 6 of the Local Marketing Online series I will talk about how you can Share Content and encourage your targeted readers to do the same as part of your strategy to boost your online authority and rankings.

Read the Series:

Local Marketing Online: Part 1: Intro
Local Marketing Online: Part 2: Web & Map Listings
Local Marketing Online: Part 3: Google Place
Local Marketing Online: Part 4: Search & Social Media
Local Marketing Online: Part 5: City Sites, Reviews & Recommendations
Local Marketing Online: Part 6: Share Content
Local Marketing Online: Part 7: Email Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 8: Pay Per Click Integration
Local Marketing Online: Part 9: Mobile Marketing
Local Marketing Online: Part 10: Optimized Web Design