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How to Stand-Out on the Web Using Free Online Business Listings
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According to Google, 97 percent of consumers search for local business online. Does your online business listing stand out from the crowd?

Even if you already have a website or social media presence, claiming and nurturing an online listing, such as a Google+ Local, Yelp, and Yahoo Local, can help your business get to the top of online searches.

Online listings also make it easier than ever for your customers to tell the world what they think of your business, thanks to built-in review and comment tools. So once you’ve established your presence, it’s equally important that you take steps to monitor and manage your online reputation.

Here are some tips for using free business listing tools, how to make them stand out, and most importantly, monitoring and responding to reviews.

Adding Your Business to Local Listings

Google+ Local, YP.com, Yelp, or Yahoo Local tend to be the most popular national free business listing tools; however, city- or industry-specific listings should not be ignored. If you’re not sure where to start, spend some time seeing where similar businesses are active. Who are the influencers in your space? Restaurants and retail stores, for example, tend to attract consumer reviews on Google+ Local and Yelp.com. Perhaps consumers are already talking about your business on these sites – if so, claim your page and populate it with accurate information and start monitoring what’s being said about your business. You don’t have to be on every listing. Remember: you’re going to need to manage your listing, so focus on 1-3 for starters.

Creating your listing is a simple process. The key to a good listing is being as specific as possible about what you do. Use keywords that describe your business in a very precise and consistent manner. And remember that key phrases are just as important as key words; people often search by phrases.

Note that search engines aggregate various listings, so a listing on Google+ Local, Yelp.com, or Yahoo, will appear on any search engine.

Make Your Listing Stand Out

Build out your listing with photos, your logo graphic, videos, or coupons. If you don’t have a business website, this is a great opportunity to bring your business to life online.

Encourage and Monitor Reviews

Reviews and word-of-mouth are a critical factor in small business success. When you pair up the power of reviews with an online listing you are also keeping your listing active and pushing it up in the rankings. To get things started, ask customers and business partners to submit reviews. Add a link to your listing from business receipts, invoices, your website, Facebook, and other places that will ensure it’s seen.

Be sure to monitor reviews. While you can’t delete reviews, try to respond to negative reviews whenever possible. This typically has to be done publicly, so be gracious; show that you appreciate the feedback and ask for additional details if you feel it’s necessary. Demonstrate that you are acting on the feedback, and even come back with an update when a change has been implemented. Don’t forget to respond to good reviews too. By responding, you are showing that you care and are actively listening to your reviewers.

Highly inappropriate reviews can be flagged and will be removed by the host site, if they agree that it’s a violation of their policies.

Check and Claim Other Business Listings

If you’ve never searched for your business online, do it now and do it frequently (be sure to search by keywords that relate to your business, not just the name itself). Even if you are listed on certain directories, new ones are always emerging, so it’s a good idea to claim your listing before someone else does.

Likewise, check third party sites for accuracy. Because online searches aggregate information about your business from across the web, it’s important that you ensure that any business listing, social media profiles, and any other reference to your business on a third party site is accurate. Conduct a quick search and reach out to any listings that perhaps have the wrong address, URL, or phone number listed, and ask them to modify your listing.

Track and Measure Results

Free listings usually come with a reporting dashboard that allows you to monitor impressions, click-rates, and so on. In addition, you can add unique codes to your coupons to determine the effectiveness of your listing-based promotions. Also, simple things like asking your customers how they found you can help you gauge your conversion rate.

For more detailed results, keep an eye on your website’s source traffic data to measure how many people are coming to your website as a result of your online listings. The referral report will tell you the source of your traffic.

U.S. Small Business Administration
The SBA is an independent federal agency that works to assist and protect the interests of American small businesses. The agency delivers the answers, support and resources small businesses need to start-up, grow and succeed through district offices throughout the U.S. and a network of resource partners including SCORE.
www.sba.gov | Facebook | @SBAgov | More from the SBA

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