10 Underrated Local Review Sites You Overlooked

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hardlyneutral/16119317027/

You know about the big local-business review sites.  You know about the review sites that matter most in your industry.  You probably know about the pipsqueaks, too.

But what about the review sites that matter more than you know?  Isn’t it possible there are some gaps in your online reputation?

If there aren’t, I’ll eat my hat.  There are always gaps – even for businesses with tons of reviews on many sites.  You probably know the benefits of diversifying where your customers review you.  Those benefits also extend to sites you might have dismissed as irrelevant or insignificant, or that you didn’t even think of.

I’m not saying all of these review sites are relevant to your situation, but at least some will be.

Here’s a rundown of what I consider the 10 most-overlooked local review sites:

Care.com
Why it’s overlooked: it’s not a super-established “brand.”  Partly because the name itself is mushy, and partly because it’s not a search engine or a social network or a startup run by drama queens.  It’s just a solid reviews site.  It’s also visible one.  Care.com is all over Google’s search results in the in-home care and education spaces, for example, and most “service” businesses are eligible for a listing there.

WeddingWire
Why it’s overlooked: because there’s a good chance you don’t run a bridal shop or a tux shop, or are a florist or photographer.  WeddingWire also lists businesses in all kinds of related industries: limos, venues, jewelry, and so on.  You can also get listed and reviewed there even if you own a car rental or a cryotherapy place, or if you’re a dentist, a dermatologist, or a plastic surgeon.  Maybe they’ll even allow divorce lawyers.

Zillow
Why it’s overlooked: because most people think it’s just for real-estate listings and agents.   It’s not.  Pretty much any contractor or other home-improvement professional can have a listing there – and reviews there.  Though Zillow isn’t the 800-pound gorilla in the contracting space that it is in real estate, it may just be a matter of time.  In the meantime, anyone who sees your Zillow reviews there is probably pretty close to calling you.

Thumbtack
Why it’s overlooked: because it’s got a home-improvement bent, it’s up against more-established sites like HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Houzz.  Also, Thumbtack doesn’t seem to go out of its way to encourage reviews – for customers to write them, or for businesses to ask for them.  Still, the site is pretty visible in some niches, and can serve as a nice barnacle site – especially for “near me” search terms.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Thumbtack is acquired by an even-bigger player one day.  I’d scare up at least a few reviews there.

Groupon
Why it’s overlooked: Groupon deals can be business-destroyers.  They often attract crybaby customers.  It doesn’t help that new businesses and businesses in dry spells are the ones most likely to offer deals.  Often those businesses also are the ones least-equipped to pull off the deals without incident – or to handle an online reputation disaster well.  But if you’re a pretty established business and aren’t dying for customers (but still want to attract more of them), look under the Groupon rock.  Yes, Groupon takes a big cut of the deal, but you can get reviews that stay up long after the deal ends.  Those reviews are highly visible, because Groupon is.  Even if you don’t want to offer a deal, you can get customers to “recommend” you and write “tips.”

GlassDoor
Why it’s overlooked: customers don’t talk about it, because customers can’t write reviews there.  GlassDoor is a place for employees (past and current) to review your company anonymously.  Just the same, because customers can see what’s on GlassDoor easily enough, because it’s on Google’s local results like stink on a monkey.  If you stop short of encouraging everyone on your team to review you (anonymously), at least encourage the happy people to say their piece.  The angry ones will.  Time is of the essence.

https://youtu.be/DoQwKe0lggw

InHerSight
Why it’s overlooked: because it’s relatively new (started in 2015 or 2014, from what I can tell).  It’s similar to GlassDoor, except it’s specifically for women.  InHerSight is not exclusively a review site, but on it women can review (anonymously) places they’ve worked.  As of this writing it’s not a super-visible review site, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes off.

WebMD (doctor.webmd.com)
Why it’s overlooked: if you’re anything like me, you associate WebMD only with feeling a mysterious new pain, Googling it, reading the WebMD result, and concluding you’ve got 3 days to live.  But it’s also a giant healthcare directory.  If you’re a doctor, do what you can to rustle up reviews there.

Amazon Home Services
Why it’s overlooked: Amazon hasn’t done much in local search yet, and most business owners don’t want to wet Amazon’s beak or possibly deal with frustrating leads (a la Groupon).  Still, if you can get listed, it’s probably worth having a few reviews there, which can benefit you both before and after the sleeping giant wakes up.

Better Business Bureau
Why it’s overlooked: most business owners associate the BBB with “complaints” from customers and with questionable accreditation ratings of certain businesses.  But it’s also a local-business reviews site, in the mold of Yelp and Google and so on.

BBB results often are extremely visible in the local organic search results – maybe more so than they should be – both for brand-name terms and often for the terms you really want to rank for.  Because people can (but don’t have to) write anonymous reviews there, and because an angry customer is likely to be there anyway to lodge a complaint, bad reviews are especially likely to appear on BBB – and to stick out.  The good news is good reviews stick out there, too.  Of all the “underrated” review sites I’ve mentioned, I consider BBB the most overlooked one of all.

What’s been your experience with those review sites?

Can you think of other review sites you consider overlooked?

Leave a comment!

Update 10/9/17: For a short list of overlooked review sites in the UK, see the comment from Caroline of Alba SEO.

Amazon Home Services for Local Businesses: the Ins and Outs

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I’ve wanted to write about “Amazon Local SEO” for a while now.  I had it planned out.  But then last year Amazon retired their daily-deals program, at which point 50% of my content became about as timely and relevant as MTV.  Oh well.

But the other part I wanted to write about was Amazon Home Services, which is relevant to your local visibility if you’re a contractor, and it’s a program that seems to be expanding.

Yours Truly had procrastinated for only about 2 months when Corey Barnett of Cleverly Engaged sent me some good lab notes (as he did last year).  His observations and insights impressed me, so I decided to accept a guest-post on this blog for only the 2nd time in the last half-decade of blogging.  (Colan Nielsen put together a mean quiz here 3 years ago.)

If you’re in the home-improvement space, you’ll benefit from these pointers on Amazon Home Services.  Here’s Corey:

Search results have become more crowded in recent years. National brands have earned more SERP real estate, often at the expense of local businesses. Even competitors to Google’s model (Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.) received increased visibility in 2015 as reported by Search Engine Journal.

The fundamentals have also changed, like with all seven packs decreasing to 3-packs. Sure, free directories are still very visible for many local terms: Yelp, Yellowpages, and recent entrants, Groupon, Houzz and Facebook.

Yet more paid lead-referral networks are starting up and gaining traction online, especially in specific industries. The auto industry has RepairPal, MechanicAdvisor, OpenBay and others. And the home services industry? Quite a few, including HomeAdvisor (previously ServiceMagic), Lowe’s Porch.com, Home Depot’s RedBeacon, Thumbtack, Adopt a Contractor – and Amazon Home Services.

I’ve dealt with Amazon Home Services for some clients, and here’s what I’ve observed:

1.  Amazon Home Services Is Still a New Kid on the Block

So new is Amazon Home Services, that the network appears quite empty for some services in large Metropolitan areas. The service launched in March of 2015. On their page, Amazon reveals which cities have a high number of services.

However, a simple search for HVAC services in Dallas only brought up a handful of providers. There were only about 20 service professionals either in the city of Dallas or that mentioned Dallas in their profile for all home services on Amazon.

(To research in your own city and avoid submitting a quote, do a search in Google like the one above.)

One of the HVAC contractors listed had 6 Amazon reviews and revealed they have had about fifty customers from the platform in the last year.

2.  But It Has High Standards for Acceptance

Unlike other lead networks, there isn’t a sales team that pesters you into an application. The email used throughout the application process – selling-services@amazon.com – doesn’t even seem to be managed by a live person. On top of that, there isn’t a phone number for potential pros to ask questions.

One requirement that scared away a few of my clients were background checks. The background checks don’t need to include every employee, only those responding to Amazon requests.

Yet the most frequent cause of denials is reviews. Within the application process, Amazon asks for links to 3rd party reviews. They give examples to Yelp and HomeAdvisor, which is odd because HomeAdvisor is a competitor and another paid lead referral platform.

Above is an example of a denial, which is often the result of poor online reviews. Having experienced both clients getting approved and denied, here are some insights.

Yelp is heavily scrutinized. You can include reviews to Google, Angie’s List and other platforms in the application, but they will look at Yelp regardless. For example, I worked with a fence contractor earlier this year on the application. They have hundreds of positive reviews on YellowPages, Angie’s List and Google. Google alone has close to 50 five star reviews. Yelp has always been troublesome for their business and they have a neutral to negative reputation from only 3 Yelpers. Needless to say, they were denied, with Amazon citing reviews as the reason.

Another client I worked with was in a smaller market: Lubbock, TX. Despite a neutral to positive reputation online and the highest rating of any Lubbock company in their industry, they were denied. This was truly odd, considering Lubbock only has 1 approved service provider.

Amazon is apparently willing to sacrifice revenue, denying a service provider that would be first in their category for a market.

3.  The Catch: You Pay a Referral Fee

The actual cost of paying Amazon for the lead varies, depending on your service. It’s best to educate yourself on their website.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/protohiro/3847864550/

4.  More Services Appear to Be on the Way

If you take a look at the application process, many more services are available than are currently on the website. Some border on the truly bizarre and specific including: Sommelier, Rubbish Hauler, Misting System Specialist, Mime, Fire Breather, Pet Waste Removal Service, Astrologer, Palm Reader and Paranormal Investigator.

Amazon has added coverage for new cities and expanded the line of services offered. But with a name change last year from Amazon Local Services to Amazon Home Services, perhaps the goal of site won’t be as expansive. In the application process, there is an entire section on business services, but none are currently offered in any city.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/skuds/4302240794/

5.  Should You Sell Services on Amazon?

A recent Forbes article asked a great question, “the best contractors are always busy, do they have time to apply on Amazon and send quotes to customers?”

This is really a dig at all paid lead generation services. A contractor always has time to answer a phone call from a potential customer, which could have come from Google Search, Facebook or due to positive reviews on Yelp. But selling on Amazon Home Services takes time to respond to quotes.

Customers also tend to use Amazon already for finding the lowest price on everything. If that’s not the type of customer you want to reach, it might not work for your business. The prices are set by Amazon and can’t be influenced by service providers, so make sure you have room to make a profit.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/comedynose/6247314317/

 6.  A Case Study on Using Amazon Home Services

If you’re still on the fence about using Amazon Home Services, then check out this interview with Bell Hops, a national moving company that has had success on Amazon.

Have you used Amazon Home Services?  What’s been your experience so far?

Any questions for Corey?

Do you have a favorite cat?

Leave a comment!

Citysearch Local Rewards: the Newest Answer to Yelp’s Elite Squad

When I went to Citysearch today, I noticed a wee something on the homepage:

Citysearch has been in the reviews game for years.  But this is CS’s first attempt at creating a program akin to Yelp’s well-known “Elite Squad” and Google’s lesser-known knockoff, “Local Guides.”

CS’s twist is that die-hard reviewers get Amazon gift cards.

Here’s the full announcement:

Citysearch users want to know what businesses you like and why. They want to know what businesses to avoid. And we want to reward you when you take the time to provide your opinion, photos and more. We also want to provide you opportunities to earn rewards for supporting local businesses. The points you earn can be converted to an Amazon Gift Card at any time, once you’ve earned at least 1000 points. To start earning points all you need to do is create an account and verify your email address.

There are lots of ways to earn points.

  • Be the first person to review a business.
  • Be the first person to upload a photo for a business.
  • Write a review that is helpful.
  • “Send” a business to your friends.
  • Support a qualified business (COMING SOON).

Have you done the following before?

  • Review a business.
  • Vote a business “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”
  • Upload a photo.
  • Create a Guide.

It’s nice to see a general local directory get more serious about reviews, and not simply sit ringside while Yelp and Google slap at each other.

A few problems:

a) Not many people use CS.  Its troubles are well-documented.

b) It’s not as prominent in Google’s search results as it used to be.

c) It’s riddled with bogus reviews.

Also, the fact that Citysearch is offering Amazon gift cards for reviews may mean that people crank out thoughtless reviews just to score some of that Monopoly Money.  (Not that CS would be the only site with that problem.)

Still, CS has long been a site that I and others have recommended scaring up some reviews on, partly because those reviews get syndicated far and wide.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Local Rewards program takes off, and whether it brings somewhere Citysearch with it.

What do you think of the program?  Will this change your reviews strategy at all?  Leave a comment!