7 Ways You Can Take Control of Your Online Listings

The ways consumers find new businesses has changed a lot in recent years.
In addition to search engines like Google or Bing, consumers are using city guides like Citysearch, review sites like Yelp, and mobile apps like Foursquare to discover new businesses. This is great news because there are now even more ways for new customers to find you.

But it also creates a bit of a problem.

There are now more places for you to manage. Many of these listings are automatically generated and can often contain incorrect or out-of-date information. This incorrect or out-of-date information is not the first impression you want someone to have of your business.

That’s why it’s so important to be in control of your online listings.

Here are 7 ways to do it:

1. Identify your industry’s hot spots

Take the time to identify the places that your target audience is turning to when searching for businesses similar to yours.

The best way to do this is to search for your business on a site like Google and see what type of results show up. Be on the lookout for any publishers that specialize in your particular industry, as they will offer the biggest opportunity to reach your next great customer.

Once you have an inventory of the information that’s out there, you can start to take steps to control it.

2. Claim your listings

A lot of the top publishers will give you the opportunity to “claim” your listings.

This is something all businesses should take advantage of. Claiming your listings lets you take control of the information that people are finding on these sites.

You can manually update contact information, upload photos, and even share updates about specials and promotions, depending on the platform you decide to use.

3. Optimize your website with location information

Publishers like TripAdvisor or UrbanSpoon rely on your websites to populate their platforms.

Making sure your contact information is up to date on your own site will help avoid having potential new customers sent to the wrong location.

4. Offer location information to data aggregators

As you may suspect, collecting information from across the web and publishing it in a single location is hard work. That’s why many of the top publishers rely on data aggregators to provide relevant information about your brand.

While it’s natural to want to be protective of your information online, making basic information like location available to these companies can go a long way in keeping your listings up-to-date.

5. Encourage reviews and recommendations on social

You may not realize it, but the interactions you have on social media can positively impact your search result rankings. That will improve your chances of getting the highest quality of information in front of potential customers when they’re searching for your business online.

Encouraging your fans and followers to share feedback and interact with your business on sites like Yelp or Foursquare will also help ensure the quality of user-generated content. The reason being is that it will be coming from people who know you best.

6. Pay to sponsor listings

Just like you can pay to promote posts on sites like Facebook or Twitter, you can also pay to sponsor your listing on a number of the top listing sites.

This is another option you may want to consider after identifying the places where potential customers are most likely to be looking.

While this won’t help update information on other sites, it will increase the visibility of your best information on your most important platforms.

7. Find a better solution

As you can see, a lot of work goes into taking control of your online listings. And you may have already started forming a mental to-do list while reading this post.

The good news is that there is an alternative to doing it all on your own.

With a tool like SinglePlatform, you can manage all of your listings from one place and make updates across our entire publishing network of search engines, city guides, review sites, and mobile apps. You can also add your menu, products, and services everywhere that matters online.

Find out how SinglePlatform can help you take control!

Keeping Up With Consumers: The Toughest SMB Marketing Challenge

I’m admittedly a bit of a social media/tech geek.  I love to try out the latest and greatest (or not so great) social networks and apps and often insist on telling people about them.  I also generally like everything. To that point where I have even come around on Google+, which I used to really enjoy bashing.
But I am a marketer by trade and literally get paid to know all this stuff. As a local business owner I can only imagine how it must all feel.  Just when you start getting comfortable with one marketing channel, another appears.  And another, and another and another.

In fact, our latest eBook shows that 70% of local business owners state that they don’t have the time to keep their online listings up to date on all of the networks that consumers use.  Heck, I barely have time to keep up with all of networks and I’m not trying to run a spa or a restaurant or a construction business.

So, what should you do about it?  I have three pieces of advice.

1) Focus on the networks that matter to your core audience.  Maybe you know what your customers like already, but it never hurts to ask them what channels they like and what they want to hear about from you.  For some businesses Twitter is right, for others it’s Yelp.  For many others it’s Facebook.  Don’t risk wasting your valuable time by just guessing!  Not sure what each network does?  Check out Constant Contact’s Social Quickstarter web site for a quick overview.

2) Use a tool to help you manage your listings.  While there are certainly challenges associated with the multitude of listing sites and social networks there are also many positives.  Even as the Internet splinters into tons of networks you can get your products and services in front of people by using software (like SinglePlatform) that lets you update once and publish everywhere people search online.  You can make yourself crazy by trying to be everywhere at once but there are tools to help make your life easier!

3) Run your business first.  My friend Mark Schmulen, co-founder of NutshellMail (also acquired by Constant Contact), likes to say “there is no marketing cure for sucking” and I totally agree.  If you’re not creating a great experience for your customers when they visit your business than it doesn’t matter what networks you are on.

How much do you worry about keeping up with the latest consumer networks?

Download our free eBook to see how local businesses are using local and mobile search to drive their business.

[Study] 78% of Local Businesses Believe New Customers Find Them via Search Engines

On this blog we often talk about how the way that consumers find local businesses has fundamentally changed over the last few years.
While traditional methods of attracting new customers to your location still may work, those local businesses who do not take advantage of online and mobile search directories, ratings and review sites, and social networks to find new customers will be left behind. In fact recent industry data shows that 2/3 of consumers use local search to find businesses at least once a week.

The good news is that many local businesses are starting to reap the benefits of this leveling of the playing field.  Today, you can win by being found online without buying tons of ads that many small businesses can’t afford.  But it’s not enough to just have your name and your hours published in your online listings across the internet.  You need to be include your products, your services, your prices, and more so whatever people are searching for they will find your business if you have what they need.

According to Google, more than half of local searches don’t have a specific destination in mind.  That means that your potential customers are searching for things like “flowers” or “buffalo wings” or “auto repair” near them and not just “Danny’s Pizza” or “Flower Barn.”

In fact, according to our own just released research, 78% of small businesses believe that they are getting new customers through search engines today and 85% of small businesses already believe it is important to be seen on major search sites like Google, Yahoo, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Yellow Pages .

While local businesses have traditionally been slower to adopt emerging avenues for getting new customers in the past, tons are already seeing the benefits of creating compelling digital storefronts across the web.

If you’re not putting your best foot forward by featuring your products and services on key search sites and mobile apps, you may be missing opportunities to reach consumers as they search for a great local business to visit.

Learn more by downloading our free eBook, 10 Facts: Why Small Business Owners Need to Pay Attention to Mobile and Local Search.

Rich Digital Listings are Good for All Local Businesses

If you’re like most people, when you hear the word menu your first thought is probably about a restaurant.  But the fact is that anyone who offers products and services can –and should- have a menu that tells potential customers what you offer and how much it costs.
Think about it this way, you would never build a website that didn’t say what you sold.  And you’d never have people in your store without showing them your products.  So why is it that so many local businesses don’t look at their online listings the same way?

In talking to small businesses, I see three primary reasons:

  1. They’ve invested in their website and want all of their traffic to go there.   Anyone who has ever built a website for their business can attest to the fact that you have an emotional attachment to it.  You’ve poured time and money into the site and you want people to see it.  Which is all understandable except for one problem, it’s not a very customer friendly notion.  If the end goal is to drive store traffic or inquiries, you want to reduce the number of steps involved between someone searching and taking action.  The more information you can provide at the point of discovery, the better  (even if that means lower visitor numbers to your web site.)
  2. They don’t have an easy way to digitize their “menu.”  Most small business owners have outsourced their web development and the idea of paying hundreds of dollars to add or update what they offer is an unplanned and potentially unreasonable cost.   With self-service tools (like SinglePlatform) available to update and integrate your menu on your website, you don’t have to pay a web developer every time you want to add a new item or change a price.
  3. They aren’t thinking about their online listings at all.  We recently conducted research that shows 49% of small business owners have never updated their online listings.   That means that they could be inaccurate and outdated, and almost definitely don’t include a digital menu of your offerings.  That also means that most local businesses aren’t putting themselves in the best possible position to attract new customers.

The truth is that today’s consumers are less likely to truly “shop” than ever before.  They want to find a place via online or mobile search sites and apps that has what they are looking for in the limited time that they have to get things done.  Simply put, if you’re not creating a digital menu of products and services for your business, potential shoppers  are more likely to choose someone who is.

Four Reasons Your Digital Menu Needs to Be on Your Facebook Page

It’s no secret that when people are checking out your business, one of the places they are likely to look is on Facebook.  Even more importantly, Facebook is one of the best ways to get free visibility courtesy of your existing and potential customers.
In fact, every time someone “likes”, comments, or shares one of your posts or photos there is a chance that their friends and family will see it too.  With all of that great social visibility, don’t you want your menu right there on your Facebook Page as well?

Here are four reasons that adding your menu to your Page is a no brainer:

  1. People are on Facebook to be on Facebook – don’t try to send them away.  It’s great if consumers are interacting with your business on Facebook but that is probably not the primary reason they logged on in the first place.  Make it easy for potential customers to find whatever they are looking for without driving them to your website or directory listing.  That way you can be part of their social experience instead of trying to end it.
  2. Facebook is all about showing the personality of your business, and what shows your personality more than your menu?  You know that people decide to visit you based on what you have to offer and the experience they are going to have.  Both of which are encapsulated best by your menu and photos!
  3. It’s no extra work to be there.  Once your digital menu is set up with SinglePlatform it takes about three clicks to get it added as a tab on your Facebook Page.  Seriously, it’s that easy.
  4. People really do look at menus on Facebook.  In fact, customers using the SinglePlatform menu app drove over 173,000 menu views in 2012.

The truth is that you want an accurate, easy to read menu everywhere people might search for you or interact with your business.  Don’t forget to include your Facebook Page in the mix!