Whether or not your business has a website or offers online retail, you have an online presence. Your reputation and chances of being found in online searches rests in the hands of customers, directories and review sites. We find out how you can claim this cyber turf.
If you’re a business owner, googling your company name can be an eye-opener. Chances are, you’ll not only find your business website if you have one, you’ll also find your business contact details, customer reviews and more on online directories and review sites, such as Trip Advisor, TrueLocal.com.au, the Yellow Pages Online, Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) and Yelp, among others.
The information these sites provide about you not only affects customer purchase decisions directly, it can also influence your search rankings, making it easier or harder for people to find out about you in the first place.
“An online presence is extremely important for businesses,” says TrueLocal’s general manager, Simon Carson. “Increasingly, consumers are looking online for ideas, to find out where businesses are, how to contact them and if they offer a good customer experience.”
According to The Yellow™ Social Media Report released on 29 May 2012, ratings and reviews are influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions. According to the report, 24 per cent of Australian internet users have provided online ratings for businesses, most commonly for accommodation, restaurants / bars, stores and mobile apps. Importantly, 62 per cent of all users read online reviews or blogs, reading five reviews on average before deciding where to take their custom. In addition, 16 per cent of all users research products and services online. Of all searches conducted 40 per cent resulted in a purchase, 72 per cent of which were made online.
In the case of Google+ Local, TrueLocal and Yelp, business owners can claim their listings for free.
“This gives you the opportunity to update your details, add images or other information about your business and respond to customer reviews,” says Angela Tangas, product development manager, emerging business and innovation group at Sensis, who is closely involved with Yelp. “It’s a superb reputation-management tool for business owners that allows you to build a rapport with your customers.”
Research by TrueLocal indicates that businesses get 60 per cent more traffic if their listing is claimed. Businesses with customer reviews get four times more traffic and, if you have more than 10 reviews, businesses get 20 times more traffic, on average.
Because reviews can be submitted by anyone, directory sites are mindful that business owners and their competitors could bias the ratings. While Yelp’s business model is built on organic user reviews, Carson suggests that businesses can let their customers know that they are listed on TrueLocal, to encourage customers to give them feedback.
“Yelp has stringent review moderation and verification processes,”
says Tangas. “To assist in ensuring that review content is relevant
and from a trustworthy source, users must create and log into their Yelp profile to contribute rating and review content, and may have
their review patterns examined. This allows Yelp to take a closer
look at all review contributions, both positive and negative. Reviews must be useful to others and offer an unbiased view, so a review
like ‘Great food’ is unlikely to get published. Yelp also verifies user updates to primary business information such as phone numbers, to ensure that listing accuracy is maintained.”
Carson adds that all reviews are moderated. “Users must review the business; they can’t mention particular staff by name, for instance. If you feel that a review is offensive, you can flag it with the moderators.”
Managing your directory listings is also a useful stepping stone for people who are still wary about taking their business online. “An online directory is a step between a traditional phone directory listing and your own website,” says Carson.
For businesses that have a website, claiming and managing directory listings can help with search engine optimisation (SEO). “A directory listing with a reputable site can help Google recognise your business website and index it more efficiently,” says Carson.
“It also gives your business an instant social-media presence,” adds Tangas.
Useful tools and resources
- TrueLocal.com.au is an Australian consumer review and online business directory website.
- Sensis owns the Yellow Pages and has an exclusive relationship with Yelp, which is responsible for the Australian Yelp site, where users can read and post reviews of local businesses.
- Google+ Local is another directory that’s free to join and is easily integrated with Google AdWords advertising.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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