Online Reputation Management: How to do Reviews

Reputation management is yet another candidate in a long list of considerations you need to take into account when managing your online presence. In addition to proactively keeping your citations correct, building links, posting fresh content, structuring your site, and on and on, it can be tiring to know there’s one more thing that threatens to undermine your hard work and past successes. But anyone who tells you marketing is easy is a liar. There’s a reason this is our job.

 

What is reputation management? Why is it important?

The concept of reputation management is as simple as it sounds. If you want to be found (and subsequently hired), you need to put your information out on the internet. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factor survey listed review signals as having 10% of total influence on search rankings. In addition, online reviews are trusted more than ads in almost every medium, and 35% of clients say they use online reviews to research new attorneys (thanks to the legal technology team at Software Advice for going out of their way to provide the raw info from that study). Having profile pages on sites like Avvo, Yelp, Google+, etc., makes you more likely to be found when someone searches for your practice. But getting clients isn’t just about whether your online presence is big or small, it’s also about whether that presence is good or bad. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top of the local pack for “personal injury lawyer New York” – if you show a 1-star average from 10 reviews, people will skip over you and go to the next attorney in line.

Managing your reputation means getting high-quality reviews from clients across multiple platforms, making sure those ratings are glowing and natural (no spam!), and dealing with bad reviews as they occur. It also means ranking well for search results directly related to your business, so that your results stand above any bad PR pieces that show up in the SERPs. But that’s a lot of moving pieces, so this post is just going to focus on one of the most obvious parts: getting good reviews. Let’s look into what you can do to have a great online reputation.

 

Getting clients to review you

The most important step towards getting good reviews is providing excellent service. You will find it very hard to get praise if you don’t deserve it. But once you’ve jumped over that minor hurdle, the next the best catalyst for reviews is asking. If you don’t ask for reviews, the only people who will give you any are the ones who seek out opportunities to do so. This usually lends to you looking worse online than in real life because angry clients are far more likely to go out of their way to review than happy ones.

At Mockingbird, we find that the best way to ask for reviews is in person after the case is over, then letting clients fill out the review in their own time afterwards. Strike up a conversation when the client comes by to fill out paperwork or make a payment, and tell them how much a review means to your business. Getting a verbal agreement from your client is one of the most effective means of guaranteeing they will review you afterwards. Look them in the eye, and gain their approval with a handshake. After that meeting, make the process is easy as possible by following up with an email linking them to your relevant profile(s) – except for Yelp, more on that in a bit. Another benefit of asking for reviews individually is that you can pick and choose who you want to represent you online. If you won a case but you don’t think the client will be receptive, consider not reaching out for a review.

Some people just don’t have the time to watch all their review sites and check in with each individual client, so they turn to automated review management tools like GetFiveStars or other automatic review solicitors. The usual trick with these is to send an initial email asking for feedback. If the reviewer gives a low score, they are thanked for their opinion and nothing else is done. If the review gives a high score, they are instead prompted to voice their opinions on one of several sites. We’ve tried this before, but our conversion rates were almost non-existent. The major problem is that this tactic is used for business with large client volumes, like restaurants or hair salons. Law firms and attorneys don’t deal with nearly as many clients, so you end up with a pretty bad return on investment. If you’re still interested in watching for reviews, consider a tracking software like ReviewTrackers so you don’t have to constantly visit your Justia and Avvo profiles.

 

Optimizing your impact

The strength of reviews is dependent on a lot of factors beyond your average ranking. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey emphasizes the following:

  • Quantity of reviews
  • Authority of sites hosting those reviews
  • Diversity of sites hosting those reviews
  • Freshness of reviews, and the rate those reviews were added
  • Whether your rating shows up next to your search result (need 5 or more Google+ reviews)

The first on that list is quantity, which has become more important over the past year. Only about 8% of potential customers consider a business trustworthy if there is 1 review. For 85% of potential clients to consider you trustworthy, it’s good to have at least 10 reviews. Now these should be quality reviews so you can’t expect this to be done in a few days or even a few months. Like everything in SEO, good reputation management takes time.

In addition, you should be aware of what sites your reviews show up on, because there are a lot of options. A surprisingly large amount of users go through Yelp, along with Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and Avvo. You can get reviews on Google+, Avvo, Justia, Yelp, and other directories, but ask your clients where they found your business so you what to focus on.

Yelp is a unique beast in that they don’t want you to ask your clients for reviews, something we’ve discussed in one of our LMQ videos. However, Yelp’s suggested ways to “remind customers”, such as profile links in your e-mail signature or stickers on your business door, aren’t effective for attorneys (and can be very tacky). We firmly believe that you should still proactively ask your clients for reviews, but avoid invoking Yelp’s ire by not explicitly stating where to go. A softer approach is more appropriate: “We really appreciate reviews because it helps our web presence, several places you can go are: [your top 3 targeted directories]”. In a follow-up email, don’t send them a direct link to your Yelp page, but ask them to search for your name.

Important Note: Even though you won’t be regarded as trustworthy if you have no reviews, potential clients will find you even less trustworthy if you have mostly bad reviews. Do not ask for a review unless you’re confident it will be a positive one.

 

The evils of astroturfing

It’s common to want an easy way out of this problem. Despite your best efforts, clients may not be likely to review you and not every review will be a raving 5 stars. At these times it may be tempting to look for another way to get your ratings up. But fight the urge. In addition to be less than fair to potential clients, it’s also dangerous for you.

Yelp is big on keeping reviews legitimate. They’ve sued attorneys for faking reviews before (we blogged about that incident), and they go over reviews to make sure nothing looks spammy or forced. Avvo will investigate reviews by hand multiple times, even to the point of asking reviewers to provide evidence that they worked with given attorneys. Remember that these sites make their livelihood off of consumers’ trust, so they are just as willing to crack down on scummy review practices as potential clients are. Even state governments have taken action against fake reviewing companies.

There are other tactics out there from attorneys and firms trying to slip under the radar. But this is the same story with so much of SEO – people try to game the system, and sometimes succeed for a short time, then get smacked once the system improves. Remember that if you want a good reputation, the best thing you can do is provide excellent service. Once people are willing to talk about how great you are, just nudge them in the right direction.

 

We’d love to hear your feedback in the field of review management. Have you used review management software? What do you think is the best way to get reviews? What do you think of Yelp’s opinion on review solicitation? Let us know in the comments.

You can find the sequel to this post here: Dealing With Bad reviews

Citations – Overlooked Boon for Legal Industry

What is a citation?

Citations are a key determinate of your firm’s success in local search engine optimization.

Definition – mention of your business name, address, and (ideally) your phone number on webpages across the Internet. The distinguishing factor of a citation: a link to your website is not required.

Citations come in different forms. It could be a mention of your business name all by itself; a mention of your name and phone number; name, phone number and physical address; or name, phone number, physical address and website link.

The two main types of citations are structured and unstructured.

Unstructured citations are exactly how they sound – they are less formal and may only mention one of the NAP (name, address, phone number) components for your business. You will see this type of citation on blogs, in job descriptions, online news articles, etc.

Structured citations are what you see most commonly on the web. These are listings found in directories like Yelp, Citysearch, Manta, etc. We spend a lot of time at Mockingbird ensuring structured citations are listed consistently. They are the most complete representation of your business and, for the most part, the easiest to update (with some noted headaches).

Why citations are vital to your firm’s local SEO

The legal industry is arguably one of the most competitive verticals on the web. Lawyers need to utilize every tactic available, and acquiring citations is seldom done correctly if at all.

Citations are a critical component to major search engine ranking algorithms. Moz explains the different ranking components in their 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors study. Screen shot from this study below.

Local Search Ranking Factors Pie

In English: search engines pull basic business information from your website and a multitude of directories across the web in order to integrate that information into a single listing to show users. Google and Bing only want to present results that they trust are accurate. Why? Their success depends on it – sending a user to an incorrect address is the easiest way for a search engine to lose trust with that user.

So how can you build trust that your physical location is actually where you say it is? Consistent citations.

Google will trust that you are in fact a local business if your basic information, also known as NAP (name, address, phone number), is exactly the same across multiple authoritative sites and directories (think Yelp, Yellowpages, Avvo…). This helps separate the real businesses from the fake, spammy ones trying to game the system.

Let’s talk about something we all know; lawyers long for the coveted number one spot in the local pack. We can’t blame them. If you’re unfamiliar with the term local pack, it’s the group of local business listings that appears directly above the actual search results.

For example the local pack for the search term “Seattle marketing firm” looks like this:

Google Search Seattle Marketing Firm

Moz explains in their local search ranking report that external location signals (or citations) are the third most important factor used to rank businesses. If you’re wondering, the first two are on-page and link signals. Your name, address, and phone number should show up exactly the same across the web if you hope to show in local searches.

It’s an important task and something that every law firm must do.

Where to start

Starting is hard. It’s long, tedious, and frustrating work. Trust me I deal with this dirt every day.

Your first step is to choose a name, an address, and a single phone number that represents your business. Then find and edit every inaccurate listing out on the web. Tip: Keep an excel file that documents all of this information as you go. You can use this simple template we’ve created. Here are the top-tier directories and data aggregators you need to get right:

  • Acxiom
  • Factual – can’t edit
  • Infogroup
  • Localeze (Neustar)

Google trusts these sources because they are not easily polluted. Learn more about updating these main data aggregators, and the level of difficulty for each.

Top tier directories/citation opportunities

  • D&B
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • Google+ Local
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp for Business

Google and people alike trust these sources and actually use them.

Low-hanging fruit (not included in Moz Local or Yext subscriptions)

  • Thumbtack
  • Yellow Pages
  • Manta
  • Angies List
  • Yellowbook
  • Kudzu
  • BBB.org
  • InsiderPages

Not the SEO savior you are searching for…

4 Citations Local Pack

Citations are not the be-all and end-all SEO solution that everyone is searching for (in case your hopes were rising). However, they could be your demise. Solid NAP consistency may be taken for granted if you have it, but if you don’t have it, you may never find yourself in that local pack.

Obligatory lawyer example

You are a personal injury attorney in NYC. Competition is cutthroat because of your practice area and geographic location.

Here’s the case. While crossing the street, an unfortunate New Yorker is struck by a taxi. Upon release from the hospital, the victim takes the obvious next step and searches for an experienced PI lawyer. He searches for “New York Personal Injury Attorney” and lands on your law firm’s listing in Google’s local pack. BOOM. All your hard work to improve your local visibility has paid off. All you have to do is pick up the phone and turn that lead into a lucrative client.

Local Pack Show Me Money

But that doesn’t happen. Instead of getting your firm’s front desk, the disgruntled New Yorker has called your old number, which is now the local UPS office. I highly doubt the victim wants legal representation from the men in brown. This is annoying, but only a slight inconvenience for him because he calls another listing from the local pack. Now your qualified lead is a client for your most loathed competitor, Joe-from-down-the-block. Don’t send clients to your competitors. That’s not good business.

The Facts

  1. Citations help your local SEO.
  2. You need proactively monitor citations for consistency.
  3. There’s a partial citation, and a complete citation – aim for the complete.
  4. It’s not easy work but it pays off.

Parting notes:

  • Evaluate the situation – https://moz.com/local/overview is a great place to start.
  • Start with your Google+ profile – fixing this is easy and will have the maximum ROI (or really ROTI).
  • Consistency over quantity – get it right before you run wild with building citations.

Go forth and take citations into your own hands. Or call us for help… that works too.

How To Update Your Business Information on the 4 Main Data Aggregators

In a relentless quest to become the most reliable provider of data on the web, Google and Bing do their best to display correct contact information for every business. In order to do this, search engines rely on data aggregators, which vary by country, to provide reliable information. Other directory sites, such as Yelp and Yellow Pages, also pull information from these major data aggregators. If your business information is incorrect in the aggregator databases, you can expect it to be displayed incorrectly in numerous other places across the web. Therefore, making sure your business information is correct on applicable data aggregators should be at the top of your local search improvement to do list.

According to Moz, there are four main data aggregators in the U.S.: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze and Factual. Unfortunately, figuring out where and how to check and change your business information in these aggregators is often more difficult than it should be. We’ve broken down each directory to give you a quick look into what’s required to update information in each one.

[We’ve also scored each directory in Pigeons. In this game, the fewer pigeons, the less annoying the aggregator is to work with.]

Infogroup

Annoyance level:  Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.00.53 AM

Infogroup is without a doubt the easiest to navigate of the four aggregators. It’s simple to find your listing and to update your information once you’ve claimed your listing. You can manage multiple locations under one account, and the verification process is relatively painless. On the downside, there doesn’t seem to be a set process for removing duplicates. Your best bet in that situation is to give them a call, or to claim all duplicate listings and delete the ones you don’t want.

How to Claim Your Listing & Update Information:Express Update

  1. Search for you business via phone number, business name, or address.
  2. If no business appears, click “add it now.” Otherwise, skip to step 4.
  3. Enter business information. Wait for an email saying your listing has been approved.
  4. Complete phone verification. As you press the “Yes, Call me now” button, the screen will refresh and display a 4-digit verification code. Simultaneously, they will call the number listed. The call will be automated and prompt you to enter the code.
  5. Once the call is complete, you will be prompted to sign up for an account.
  6. Once you have phone verified and created an account, you can update the business information by clicking on the business name in the upper left of your account dashboard.

 

Nuestar Localeze

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.35.38 AMAnnoyance level:  Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.03.45 AM

On the surface, Localeze follows a similar process to Infogroup. The major differentiator is that for a free listing, Localeze only allows you to update your information once a year. NOTE: lately (the past 3 weeks, give or take) Localeze has been impossibly glitchy. It’s favorite new party trick is to show your listing, prompt you to claim it, and then redirect you to your main account page when you press “claim now.” It’s other new favorite thing is to serve an “Sorry, an error happened while processing your request” page every few minutes.

How to Claim Your Listing & Update Information:

  1. Search for your business. Request to claim or press “add it to our directory.”
  2. Fill out your remaining business information and/or replace any incorrect information. Select whether you want a free or paid listing.
  3. Complete phone verification. When you press “call me” Localeze will call the number listed and an automated voice will give you a code to enter into the website.
  4. Press “proceed to checkout.” You’ll be redirected to a page prompting you to create an account. Don’t worry, your hard work is not lost — the listing will be submitted as soon as your account is created.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

 

Acxiom

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.34.48 AMAnnoyance level: Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.04.14 AM

Acxiom is the most frustrating to work with of the four. However, since it’s verification processes are so stringent, one can only hope it is therefore weighed more heavily in the eyes of the search engines. If you have a semi-established presence on the web, it’s likely your business is already listed on Acxiom.

How to Claim Your Listing & Update Information:

  1. Create an account using your name, business name and location, user name, and password (which must be 10+ characters, have no repeating characters, and contain at least one number, one upper case letter, one lower case letter, and one special character).
  2. Verify your account via email.
  3. Search for your business via phone number or business name. If it’s listed, request to claim it. If not, skip to step 6.
  4. Complete phone verification. In order to complete this step, you must call Acxiom from the phone number on your business listing, and navigate through their pre-recorded answering system in order to leave a message with your business name and your account user name. NOTE: You must state your business name exactly as it appears on the listing. If there’s an “LLC” or “Inc.” after your business name, you must include it in your message or your attempt to claim will be rejected.
  5. After you leave a message, you’ll need to wait a few days until Acxiom reviews it and then sends you an email with approval. From there, you can edit all your listing information – with the exception of your business name and phone number. Note: If either of these are incorrect, the only way to get correct information listed is to delete that listing and create a new one. In order to delete the listing, you will have to claim the listing by following the process above and delete the listing yourself.
  6. To create a new listing, you are required to enter your business information, and upload one of the following: federal tax license letter, business license, doing business as license, or fictitious name registration. Then, you’ll need to wait at least 30 days for Acxiom to approve your edit.
*The following sections have been updated as of July 10, 2017

Claiming and Fixing Multiple Listings*

If you have multiple business locations, or have found multiple listings of your business that are incorrect, the process to claim and fix/remove these will be a little more complicated.

For example, your business may have 3 different locations, but you discover 8 listings with your business name and an incorrect phone number (and address) on Acxiom. Your only choice here is to try and get these removed. However, with every additional listing over 5 that you claim, Acxiom charges $50. Obviously you want to avoid forking over an extra $150.

The below steps outline the best plan of action for getting these removed:

  1. Collect documents showing proof of ownership of the correct listings. Like the process above, you will need either a federal tax license letter, business license, doing business as license, or fictitious name registration to show that you own each business location. If your business USED to be in a different location but has moved, and thus is the basis for the incorrect listings, be sure to provide documentation for this as well.
  2. Draft an e-mail to mblm@acxiom.com explaining your circumstances. Be as detailed as possible, listing what citations and information is incorrect. Be sure to specify that you want the listings removed. Note whether they are duplicates of your correct listings, are old business locations, or simply do not exist.
  3. Attach documents to the e-mail. Be sure to explain that the documents show proof of ownership of the business and the several business locations.
  4. Include your Acxciom account username/e-mail address so Acxiom knows what account you want to claim the listings from.
  5. Send the e-mail and wait. You should either receive an e-mail back from support directly OR you will get a confirmation e-mail saying that they have claimed the listings for you. If the latter is the case, the listings will then appear as Claimed in your Acxiom account and you will delete them manually. If the former is the case, hopefully Support was able to remove them for you, or let you know that they need additional info. Acxiom does not provide any information on how long it will take for them to get back to you. *sad face*
  6. Wait, again. Acxiom says that your listing will take approximately 30-60 days to propagate. Once the incorrect listings are removed, it will take a while for this to push out to other directories. This will significantly help your NAP consistency across the web.

If Your Listing is Already Claimed*

If you come across your listing on Acxiom, and it is already claimed and is incorrect, your best bet is to contact Acxiom support (mblm@acxiom.com) and request ownership. If you think you already claimed the listing and have forgotten your login credentials, be sure to note that in the e-mail. Acxiom may request further verification to prove that you own the business.

If you have found a listing that is claimed and does have correct business information, it may be too much of a hassle to go through the claiming process just to have access to it. If you do decide that you want to claim it, contact Support via mblm@acxiom.com explaining your circumstances.

Factual

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.44.59 AMAnnoyance level: all of it

At first blush, Factual seems pretty standard. There are options to log in, add your business, etc. However, a few months ago they changed their model (we wrote about it here). Now, you can only change your business information 1 of 2 ways.

  1. Write API.
  2. Through a “trusted data contributor” like Yext, Where 2 Get It, Moz, UBL or GoDaddy. Read: through sources you have to pay for.

In a nutshell, Factual has made it impossible for a non-developer to edit their business information for free.

 

Tips for the Road

First things first, claim or create your listings in Infogroup, Localeze, and Acxiom. Make sure this information exactly matches what appears on your website/Google + listing. Moving forward, any time you stumble across incorrect information about your business, do your best to correct it.

 

What do you think? Are our pigeon scores correct?

Factual Changes How to List Your Business

Update (3/29/2016)*: Factual is now accepting manual submissions and revisions here: https://factual.com/contact#update_add_business

By now, we should all know the importance of having a consistent business name, address, phone number and domain listed throughout the web. Inconsistencies within directories send different signals to the search engines and can negatively impact your local listing position. Pigeon, the latest Google local update, seems to solidify this point with their move to more “traditional ranking factors” for local search.

Last week, I had one of our Marketing Managers help create and clean up a list of directories for one of my clients.  Each directory has a different process to adding and updating business information, but Factual was unique enough for me to remember that the process entailed and actual email to the company.

This is the process that was outlined on their contributing/correcting data page last week (you can also find this catalogued in the way back machine on Jun 25, 2014):

Factual Listings Before Change

Here’s what you see now:

Factual Listings After Change

Like many other directories, Factual is relying on “trusted data contributors” to list your business. Not surprisingly, Yext is one of the top recommended data contributors.

Unfortunately, this is taking the control of small business listings out of the hands of small business owners and into the hands of online marketing experts and tool providers. Does anyone else feel like they are being backed into a corner when it comes to managing your business information?

*Thanks to one of our readers Nigel Allen for the tip!

Latest Google Algo Change Hits Local: Pigeon

Pigeon UpdateGoogle local results have long been a mess; complicated by semi-annual rebranding.  Frankly, local results have been a hodgepodge of mistakes and spam, so I’m not surprised to see an algo update – pushed out quietly late Thursday night.

What exactly changed?  It’s very hard to say, as the announcement was phrased as the lovechild of geek and marketing speak that even I can’t decipher anything substantive:

the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.”

They also announced improved signals around distance and location – which seems strange as that doesn’t seem like a very difficult factor to measure.  The update is currently rolling out across the US – so you may see some variability within local search results in the upcoming week.

The Results so Far?

Early results indicate improved performance for major local directories which I find both surprising and disappointing, as it seems counterintuitive to the entire concept of local search. You’ll remember that the results of the Panda 4.0 update were large improvements for Avvo.  Given some of Cutt’s comments, I’ve long believed that Google will back off the directories in favor of smaller businesses.  The directory angle may be a response to Yelp’s recently leaked anti-trust whinings pointing out that even branded searches were failing to reach Yelp.

The Important Takeaways

  1. Pigeon impacts both local AND natural search results – so for law firms, the overall impact may be fairly significant.  Cross your fingers and watch your natural search traffic over the next two weeks.
  2. Google remains in the middle of an anti-SPAM rampage.  Combine that with the rampant spamming of localized results and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pigeon may also have teeth – negatively impacting those of you (and yes there are lots of you) who are faking your office locations – to the detriment of your actual office location.  (This is 100% conjecture.)
  3. Care about your Yelp profile . . . . I hate to say it (and never advertise with them) but customers vetting lawyers may increasingly be led to Yelp.

Yelp Releases Nielsen Survey Data and Declares Itself King of Local Directories

A few days ago, Yelp released parts of a new Nielsen survey on their blog. The results, as stated by Yelp, were as follows:

“When compared to TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other local directories, people name Yelp as the review site most frequently used when searching for local businesses because they see it as the most influential, most trustworthy and with the highest quality reviews.”

This news was picked up and commented on by many, such as Greg Sterling over in Search Engine Land. His response article voiced a few concerns about the study…

First and foremost, why weren’t Google and Facebook included? According to Yelp, Google and Facebook aren’t “solely focused on local business directory,” and therefore were not eligible. Though technically correct, it’s important to keep in mind that there is certainly a person or two (or millions) who used Google and Facebook when searching for a local businesses.

Another concern Sterling brought up is that 668 out of the 1000 respondents were Yelp users. Yelp’s response? They didn’t pre-screen users based on which review sites they used, so the skew merely shows dominance in the market. Again, a technically sound defense. Whether or not that affects the integrity of the survey is another issue.

So, what does this mean for me (a lawyer, SEO enthusiast, or general internet dweller)?

Well, uhm, er, basically… a whole lot of nothing.

At first glance, Yelp declaring itself the fairest of them all may send you into a panic chasing after more Yelp reviews. And that, my friends, is not necessary. Don’t get me wrong, Yelp is a strong player and is very influential, especially in certain industries. But you, the Internet savant you are, already knew that. What may have slipped your mind is the following:

  1. This survey compares Yelp as a general local directory to a handful of competitors as general local directories. It was not (as far as we know) divided up into sub-categories for each industry. So, yes, Yelp apparently beats out Trip Advisor for the review site more frequently used when searching for local businesses. This does not mean that Yelp would beat out Trip Advisor in a similar survey that solely focused on the travel industry. Additionally, Yelp being a good general local directory doesn’t take away from efforts you may be putting in to a more specialized directory.
  2. Two thirds of the respondents were already Yelp users. Generally speaking, if people are using a service, they probably like it (read: it’s not exactly a scientific discovery that people who use Yelp like Yelp and rated it highly). If we surveyed a bunch of Avvo users on whether or not they thought Avvo was influential and trustworthy, chances are they would say it was.
  3. Just because Yelp has officially decreed themselves King of Local Directories doesn’t mean anything has actually changed. Yelp is equally as important to your SEO efforts today as it was a week ago. So while the Neilson study was without a doubt helpful in boosting Yelp’s collective ego, it wasn’t necessarily helpful for a business owner.

 

Moral of this story: keep on keepin’ on. Don’t let Yelp, or anyone else for that matter, convince you they’re the reason the sun rises.

Where Have All My Reviews Gone?

Today, there are a variety of places for your customers/clients to review your business. Your patrons may leave you a review on your Google + local page (which you can now respond through on your Google Places for Business pages). Back in June of 2012, Yelp joined Bing to provide users with Yelp reviews in the Bing search results pages, in addition to reviews from CitySearch.

 

Mass Injury Firm P.C Yelp/Yahoo Review

 

If I’ve already lost you, you’re in good company. In addition to what I’ve mentioned, there are a myriad of other review sites that businesses should have their eye on. We can even jump outside of the box for a moment and consider positive and negative blog posts about your businesses that start showing up in Search. Make no mistake, reputation is an important aspect of every business – online and off.

 

The Latest News in Online Reputation

Mid last month, Yahoo formally announced a partnership with the popular review site Yelp. What does this partnership mean for you and your business? If you’ve been attentive to your online marketing and have invested time into building out your online reputation on Yahoo Local, it could mean a lot – All of your reviews from Yahoo Local are disappearing. If you have far fewer reviews in Yelp than Yahoo, frustration wouldn’t even begin to describe your feelings. It is widely understood that when researching businesses, users look for quality and quantity. Diminish either of these and that will have a negative impact on your online reputation. We know that reviews play a role in mapped results, what we don’t know is how this is going to affect them. 

 

Angry at Yahoo Local

 

In an article in the WSJ, they explain how Colonial Hardwood Flooring of Lexington, MA had managed to genuinely build 50+ positive reviews on Yahoo Local. What is now displayed in the search results is a single, positive review from their Yelp page. Thankfully, this Yelp review is a positive one; just imagine the alternative. The WSJ goes on to state that Yahoo will continue to display reviews within their system until that business gets a new review on Yelp. After which, your yahoo reviews will disappear from your Yahoo Local listing.

What Can We Learn?

  1. Reputation is vital – People rely on reviews. Reviews are showing up in search results. Major search engines are teaming with major review sites. How many hints much proof do you need?
  2. Diversify – Just like investing in your retirement, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Invite your clients to review your business online by giving them options.
  3. Things change – Market your business for the long run and understand that some things that work today may not work tomorrow… Always be working for tomorrow.

Is Local Search Optimization About to Get Easier with Moz Local?

One of the most important things that attorneys can do to drive business and generate new clients is local search optimization. If you do it correctly you’ll get priority placement in the search results with a map listing and the onebox local listing which features your business phone number, address, and any reviews you have, like this:

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Showing up in the local search listings isn’t necessarily a complicated task, but it’s not necessarily straightforward either. Before Google decides to place you in their local listings they want to confirm that your location and contact info is legitimate. After all they don’t want to go directing people to abandoned buildings, or bogus phone numbers. Such a thing would be a bad user experience.

The Trials and Tribulations of Local Search Citations

So, in order to confirm your address and phone number, Google fact checks that information by looking at other sites and directories to see if your information is cited consistently. It essentially does a scans different directories like Yellow Pages, Citysearch, and Yelp to find the name of your firm, address and phone number.  If your name, address, and phone number are found to be consistent across multiple sites, that information is deemed to be more reliable. Therefore Google’s more likely to list you in the local search results for your location.  On the other hand, if you have multiple listings with different firm names, or old addresses and phone numbers, Google’s not sure which data is accurate.  Therefore they’re not going to list your business in the local search results.

Sounds simple right? Just make sure that your business information is consistent across multiple directories. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever gone down the path of claiming or updating directory listings for your business you might have found a tangled mess.  If your law firm has ever changed names, or moved locations, the chances are high that you have multiple duplicate listings with inconsistent information. We see this on a daily basis at Mockingbird, and we’ve spent weeks in some cases cleaning up “bad listings”. The problem is that these listings tend to propagate and spread across sites, and there’s no central place to update them. In short, it can be a nightmare to clean up. And it’s not something your average attorney has time to worry about, or should even have to worry about. That’s why I’m ecstatic to see a tool created under the guidance of one of the most prevalent names in local search marketing, David Mihm.

Managing Local Search with Moz Local

Yesterday, in David’s Moz blog post, announcing the release, he described the initial goal of Moz Local as being to “solve the fundamental pain points of local search “ensuring accurate, consistent business listing information on the important sites on the web”.

While Moz Local will most likely evolve in future releases to help manage listings on more sites, right now the paid version allows you to easily manage listings across eight of the most important data aggregators and local directories:

  • Infogroup
  • Neustar Localeze
  • Acxiom
  • Factual
  • Foursquare
  • Superpages
  • eLocal
  • Best of the Web Local

If you’re using Moz Local or any other similar service, like Yext, it’s important to realize that these aren’t a one stop solution for your local search marketing efforts. But, it will help you manage some of the most important listings and get a good start, which is probably more than much of your competition is doing.

Check Your Local Search Health with Moz Local’s Free Tools

While Moz Local’s paid search tools will help you easily manage and update your directory listings from one place, some of its most useful tools are actually free.  If you’re curious how your firm is doing in local search, they have an easy tool to check your listings. All you have to do is enter your business name, and zip code.

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After you enter your business info, you’ll receive a report to show you how your business is doing in local search, and highlight listings which are incomplete, inconsistent or duplicate. So, even if you don’t pay to manage your directory listings you can get a health check to identify discrepancies that may be holding you back in local search. If you’ve never paid attention or examined your firm’s local listings you might be surprised.

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