Service businesses can expect a greater share of their new customers to come from the web as the practice of researching online to buy offline (ROBO) has become a standard part of the local buying process. Contrary to some persistent misconceptions, this form of Internet research is not reserved for young, tech-savvy consumers looking up trendy bars and restaurants in their area.
According to the most recent Local Insights Digital Report by YP.com, three of the top local search categories were auto repair, building contractors, and professional services, such as legal and financial. In fact, two of the fastest growing categories were HVAC & AC contractors and Landscape & Lawn Services.
Consequently, local businesses will continue to increase the number advertising dollars allocated for online marketing, with much of the emphasis is on Google Local optimization. To be clear: that is a very good idea, but it is also worth acknowledging that a significant percentage of leads from online come via local directory listings and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP).
We have written before about the Local SEO benefits of claiming and matching data across listings. Aside from ranking higher in Google+ Local, competitive differentiation within the directories themselves can increase business from the web. So, as a first action step, it is worth finding, claiming, and filling out to completion your business listing on as many of the top local directories as possible. As always, Andrew Shotland provides a resource for finding and claiming listings.
As with Google+ Local, customer reviews remain the best way to achieve competitive differentiation on directories. The same logic applies: Customer reviews are a sought-after and valued resource for consumers conducting Internet research. It seems obvious that business listings with the most positive reviews would be more competitive, but what is less obvious is how to ensure your customer reviews populate across directories. To that end, it is worth getting to know CityGrid.
Self-described as the largest local ad and content network, CityGrid content, including customer reviews and ratings, populate in many of the top local directories, such as CitySearch, Kudzu, Judy’s Book, and Superpages. Reviews cannot be posted directly onto CitySearch. Instead, reviews come from syndication partners and participating directories. Once in CityGrid, the content then spreads across the network. To ensure content distribution, CityGrid should to be one of the first stops in the process of claiming listings and matching data.