Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?

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Google is still in the early stages of injecting ads into the Google Maps 3-pack.  Google never met an ad it didn’t like, so the only question is when (not if) the map pack will become Times Square.

The thought of a pay-to-play local map scares the bejeezus out of many local business owners and local SEOs.

Will you lose your seat at the Local Feast to a big dumb corporation that can shovel more money into AdWords than you can?   Or, if helping people with local SEO is your business – and you don’t do PPC – will you be lying in chalk?

No and no.  Not if you apply a strategy (more on that in a second) that’s based on a few truths:

1. As long as there are local customers, local businesses, and the Web, there will always be local SEO. It’ll just continue to morph over time, as it always has.

2. Your “Google Maps” visibility has a huge amount of overlap with other areas of online marketing – particularly with your organic-search visibility (read: your links and content) and with how good you are at earning reviews on a variety of sites.

3. The local map is not the holy grail. Keep in mind that I make a living in large part by helping businesses get visible there, so I’m the last guy to say it’s not important.  But I’ve seen people dominate the local pack and not get any new business.  Also, Google can always mess it up (even more), lose the trust of searchers, and reduce the potential payoff.  If your one source of leads is your Google local-pack rankings, you are mooning a lion.

4. Local SEO is not just about rankings (duh). When you need something, do you automatically hire whomever ranks #1?  Neither do most people.  Local searchers are not a captive audience.  Most of them will dig until they find a business they trust.  Visibility in Google is only one part of becoming that business.

Fine, but what do you do if Google’s local map becomes prohibitively expensive, or worthless, or disappears entirely?  What’s left?  Is it Van Halen without David Lee Roth?

Local SEO wouldn’t be lessened, or even all that different.  If we write off the map results, your local SEO campaign becomes a combination of your work on the following:

  • Branded search results.  When people look up your business by name, can they immediately tell your site belongs to you and not to a sound-alike competitor?  Are they impressed by your customers’ reviews of you on all the review sites that show up on page 1 for your name?  Have you received any local press?  Are you listed on niche sites?

  • Organic visibility.  It’s usually the business with the best organic visibility that ends up ranking best on the local map.  Often, that comes down to strength of your links.  But you may also want to write blog posts on extremely specific topics in your industry or city, or create good “location” or “city” pages, or both.  Arguably even now you’re not necessarily better off if you rank well in the local pack but not in the organic results; they’re neck-and-neck.  But if the local pack becomes a total trash heap, your organic visibility pays off even more, because people will go back to looking there for all non-ads search results – just as they did before Google Places came onto the scene.
  • Barnacle SEO.  Getting your Yelp, Facebook, YouTube, or other non-company-website, non-Google online properties to rank for “local” keywords can help you haul in more leads, even when your other rankings aren’t so good.
  • Facebook.  It’s slowly waded about shin-deep into the local pond, but there’s no reason to think the shirt isn’t coming off.  It’s only getting more important, and there any many ways to use it to get more local customers.
  • Other local search engines: Apple Maps and Bing Places and Yahoo.
  • Local directories or review sites. Not the rinky-dink ones, but rather places like Yelp, Angie’s List, and maybe even nasty old YellowPages.
  • Industry-specific directories or review sites. Zillow, Avvo, HealthGrades, TripAdvisor, DealerRater, etc.  Those are the big names, but even small niches have directories, and you should pay attention to them.
  • Sites and apps not yet created. Local search in general has gotten bigger over the years, not smaller.  It’s become more of a part of everyone’s life, and will continue in that direction.

If Google’s local map results change significantly or go away, it’s not the beginning of the end, but maybe just the end of the beginning.

Now, I would be surprised if the local map ever becomes 100% pay-to-play, and I’m certain that it won’t change to that overnight.

But you still want a bunker plan.  That means you need to stock up the bunker with MREs and batteries and road flares and ninja throwing stars and whatever else before all hell breaks loose.

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That’s why, even if the local map-pack remains free and a meritocracy at least in theory, I suggest you work on the things I just described no matter what.

What are some important non-Google-Maps aspects of local SEO?

What’s in your “bunker plan,” in case the local map gets too pay-to-play?

Leave a comment!

Google Shoehorns Critic Reviews into Desktop Local Search Results

Google’s hustled on this one.  Less than a week ago, reviews from “critics” started appearing in the local search results on mobile devices.  Now they’re showing up in desktop search results, too.

Right now, “Critic” reviews only show up for restaurants and the like.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains that way, but I could imagine Google doing the same for hotels.

This latest tweak is a number of things: a bite out of Yelp’s pie, possibly a sign that Google knows it’s got quality-control issues with Google reviews, and definitely a test to see whether users click on and read and trust “critic” reviews more than those written by the unwashed masses.

Of course, it’s all part of an effort to jack up AdWords use in one way or another – whether or not anyone outside of Mountain View knows yet exactly how.

One thing that puzzles me about this update (or swiftly rolled-out test) is it’s not clear how Google might extend “critic” reviews to showing up in the local search results for industries where business owners really lay down the Benjamins for AdWords – legal, medical, home-improvement, realty, insurance, etc.  Most restaurateurs aren’t big on PPC.

What do you make of “critic” reviews?

Are you seeing them in any non-dining search results?

Leave a comment!

How Do Local SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization Overlap?

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You want better local rankings.  But rankings won’t pay your bills, so you also want to do a better job of converting traffic.  One is useless without the other, so you need to do both from the start.

A few months ago I weighed in on a Google+ post where the concern was how to “balance” local SEO and conversion-rate optimization on your site.  As I mentioned there, working on your local SEO and boosting your conversions may sound like two separate projects, but they’re not.   There is a lot of overlap, and there are many ways to kill two birds with one stone.

Here are some steps that might help you boost your visibility and traffic and your ability to convert that traffic:

1. Create a separate page on each specific service you offer – or at least on the services for which you want to rank and get more customers.

For instance, until you rank at the top of the local heap for “dentist,” you’re more likely to rank for “pediatric dentist” if you have an in-depth page on how you do a great job for kids.  You’re also more likely to interest parents who are looking for that specific service – more so than if you come across as a generalist.

2.  Make those pages in-depth and detailed, with your USP info, plenty of reviews/testimonials on the page, good photos (preferably not stock), and a clear call-to-action at the end. You’ll give both Google and people more to sink their teeth into.

3.  Create in-depth FAQs pages – or, in general, just answer questions on your site Q&A-style. Not only will this help you convert more traffic, but it’s also more likely to get the right people to your site – the ones who know exactly what they’re looking for.  I’ve written on how you can do this.  Also, it’s the best way you can apply what Dan Leibson calls “Answer-box SEO.”

4.  Build city pages that don’t suck.

5.  Make your site more user-friendly. Google knows if people get to your site and just hit the “back” button, or if they venture deeper and spend some time looking around and take the next step.

Include plenty of internal links to relevant pages, create a main “Services” or “Products” page, make your contact info hard to miss, and remember that there’s no such thing as too long – only too boring.  See my post on analyzing visitors’ click-behavior.

6.  Having a mobile-friendly site. It doesn’t need to be mobile-responsive; it can be on a separate domain (m.yourwebsite.com) – like the kind you might get from Duda.  It simply needs not to frustrating for the average person who might pay you for something.

7.  Write catchy title and description tags. When done right they can get you higher click-through than the next guy gets.  That will likely help your rankings if you sustain it, and it can bring more of the right customers to your site (as opposed to tire-kickers).  You attract to the degree you repel.

8.  Embed a prominent Google Map – in a place on the site where visitors might want to know how they can get to you.

I like to customize the dimensions and put it in the footer.  Making it easy to get driving directions is smart for obvious reasons and, when combined with an influx of reviews, driving-directions lookups may be a minor ranking factor.

9.  Offer old-school driving directions. Landmarks, turn-by-turn, from the north/south/east/west, etc.  Some people prefer them, and it’s “local” content that gives Google more info as to where you’re located.  May also help you rank for some of the ever-increasing number of “near me” searches.

10.  Work like a beast to pile up online reviews on a variety of sites (even on the mediocre ones).

 Getting happy customers to speak up usually isn’t easy, but hey, few high-payoff things in life are easy.  It’s worth the trouble.

Having impressive reviews makes your website’s job easier in at least two ways: people aren’t as likely to leave your site to look up your reviews (especially if they’ve already seen the reviews, and they’re more likely to arrive at your site pre-sold on how good you are.

Your site can be a wounded animal and you’ll still probably get a surprising number of customers if your reviews stand out.  But combine them with a sticky site (see points 1-8) and you’ll win yourself a full goblet and a pile of turkey legs at the Local Feast.

Can you think of more areas of overlap between local SEO and CRO?

What’s something you did that helped you on both counts?

Leave a comment!

Google Makes Local Knowledge Graph King – for a Day?

When you search for a specific local business, you may no longer see the knowledge graph appear in the right-hand sidebar.  Google appears to be testing its position on the SERPs.

The knowledge panel has moved to the left and fully above the fold.  It’s gone from shy prince in the margins to turkey-leg-chomping king in the middle of the court.

Of course, after I went to all the trouble of writing those two paragraphs, the knowledge graph moved back to the right.

And now I’m seeing the new layout again.

It seems to be another of Google’s tests, but it may be the start of a permanent change.

It may be partly for user-experience and to show local “one-box”-type results in a way similar to how they appear on mobile (that is, front and center).  I’m sure it also fits into another of Google’s schemes to squeeze out more AdWords revenue, though at this point it’s not clear to me how.

What would a bigger, bolder knowledge graph mean for you, the business owner?  Probably nothing you weren’t aware of already.  But if this change sticks, your Google reviews will get even more noticeable, important, and worth working on.

Have you seen this larger, shifted knowledge graph when you search for a company by name?

What do you make of the test?  What do you think Google is trying to accomplish?

Leave a comment!

Why Send Good Customers to Crappy Review Sites?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kim_scarborough/687997996/

Isn’t that a huge waste?

Think of how hard you worked to learn your craft, start your business, stay in business, get customers, and do a great job for them and earn those positive reviews.

That’s why it’s stupid not to ask for online reviews.  That’s even stupider than Stone Cold.  You’re missing half the payoff.

But isn’t it equally dumb to get reviews on sites most people ignore?  When there are Big Boys like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, why on earth would you ask a happy customer to go to a YellowPages or a SuperPages or a CitySearch to write a review?

Well, there are some reasons you shouldn’t overlook the smaller, less-prominent, less-glamorous review sites.  You should work them into your larger review strategy.  Here’s why:

1. They corroborate your reviews on sites where it’s harder to get reviews. Let’s say you’re killing it on Google, but you look like a one-hit wonder because you’re not doing as well on Yelp.  Getting reviews on other sites that rank well when you search for your business by name will make the Google reviews look less like flukes, and may make the bad Yelp reviews look more like the whiny exceptions.

2.  You’ll get more review stars showing up when potential customers search for you by name. Even if they don’t click through to your YellowPages listing (for example), good reviews there add to the overall effect of, “Hey, these guys have consistently solid reviews.”

3.  They’re easy backup options, for customers who don’t want to bother with Yelp or Google. Many sites even allow reviewers to log in with Facebook, rather than create a separate account just to review you on a given site.  Also, Yelp and Google are the only sites that really filter reviews (Yelp much more so than Google).  You don’t want to send everyone into the meat grinder.

4.  You can repurpose those “easy” reviews as testimonials on your site. That is OK, even on Yelp.  They won’t get filtered.

5.  You can include badges on your site that link to your reviews on the overlooked review sites.

6.  You’re more likely to rank well in those sites, which themselves often rank well in Google for relevant keywords. You might cultivate a little stream of non-Google referral traffic.

7.  You can always ask if they’ll post the same review on another, slightly more difficult site – like Google – where you’d like more reviews. I mean, they’ve already written the thing.  It’s the online-reviews equivalent of an upsell.

8.  There’s a small chance that reviews on “easy” sites help your Google rankings. I don’t know one way or the other (and neither do you), so please take that comment with a grain of salt.  I’m simply saying it’s possible.  Stranger things have happened.

9.  Those sites may become more important in the future.

10.  Sometimes the alternative is to get no reviews at all.

11.  Some customers might actually care about reviews on CitySearch or DexKnows or MerchantCircle.

12.  As Aaron Weiche of GetFiveStars pointed out, you’ll want to create the maximum “wow” effect when customers search for the name of your business + “reviews.” For that matter, even the overlooked sites often rank well when customers search for a specific keyword + “reviews.” It’s just smart barnacle SEO.

Do you agree it’s worth peeling off at least a few customers to review you on sites other than the Big Boys?

What’s your favorite under-appreciated review site?

Why do you like it?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Elite Saga Ends in Blaze of Glory

After 3 years as an “Elite” Yelper, I get this email out of the blue:

I’m only surprised by how long it took them to wisen up.  My Yelping was an experiment from the very beginning.  Also, since my profile has had a link to my site from day one.

Of course, their “conflict of interest” concern is ridiculous in my case. An unethical business owner wouldn’t need to be “Elite” to sabotage his or her competitors’ reputations. And if being “Elite” makes them better able to do so, I’ve laid out the rhyme and reason to that program. Unethical business owners could easily do it, and Yelp’s either unable or unwilling to stop them.

Which one of my deep crawls into Yelp’s rotting guts got their attention?

Yelp Elite for 3 Years with Only 66 Reviews: How?

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

New Spammy Emails from Yelp to Business Owners

20+ Depressing Observations about Yelp Reviews

Can You Repurpose Customers’ Yelp Reviews on Your Website? An Answer from Yelp HQ

Yelp Monetizes the Description?

Yelp Ranking Factors

(Yes, there are even more.)

I’ll keep reviewing businesses from time to time.  I’ll also continue to use Yelp as my little laboratory, and share with you everything I discover about how the sausage is made.

In the meantime, let us join in a glorious death-scream.

What are some questions you’d like me to explore next, as part of the ongoing “Yelp experiment”?  Leave a comment!

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

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You may know about Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature, which allows you to see whether specific customers (or other people) have joined Yelp.  This is a great way to encourage customers to write you a review, in a non-pushy way.

You may even know there’s a way to look up customers en masse.  You can connect Yelp to Facebook…

…or you can connect Yelp to your email account…

…and it will show you all your contacts who have Yelp accounts.

But you might run into problems, especially if you go the Facebook route:

Problem 1: You’ll have a bunch of non-customers among your email contacts or Facebook “friends.”  You don’t want reviews from them, and you don’t want to burn up a bunch of time on vetting your list.

Problem 2: Yelp will only give you a way to contact them in Yelp – in a message you can send customers if you add them as a friend – when you may prefer to send them an email.

Problem 3: You might want to be organized about how you contact Yelper-customers: you may want their full names next to their email addresses, next to some notes on their jobs, next to date you sent your first email or added them as a friend, etc.

It may sound like a pain, but working off a list of your customers’ email addresses is the only way (that I know of) to look up a long list of customers.

I recently vetted a list of 2500+ customers for one of my clients.  What could have taken me or someone else 10 hours ended up taking only a little over an hour, with some fancy footwork.

I suggest using my bulk-lookup approach if you’ve got more than about 100 customers on your list.  With fewer than that, it’s quicker just to customers’ email addresses one at a time

A couple other people have written about this – there’s a mediocre Wikihow post here and a decent post here – but they leave out some crucial details that may mean the difference between wasting time and saving time.

Eduard de Boer of Whitespark (and a key part of the LocalSpark service I offer jointly with Whitespark) also has an effective, somewhat different method that involves Yahoo mail instead of Gmail.

But Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews, you say.  You don’t want to run afoul of their rules, you say.  Well, to that I reply:

  • Yelp’s “don’t ask” rule is stupid.
  • Yelp doesn’t filter reviews you asked for; it filters reviews based primarily on how many reviews someone’s written. Yelp doesn’t trust reviewers who’ve written no or just a couple reviews.
  • What you choose to do with the info you gather is up to you. Maybe none of your customers is an active Yelper, or maybe they’re all grumps who never give a business more than 3 stars.  But if you’ve identified some solid Yelpers, you can ask them point-blank for a Yelp review, or give them a nudge, or just say you’d love a review somewhere, or not ask at all.  Your call.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of the steps to do a clean and efficient bulk “Find Friends” lookup:

Step 1: Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

Step 2: Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

Step 3: Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

Step 4: Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

Step 5: Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Step 6: Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Step 7: Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Still not 100% clear on the steps?  Here’s much more detail:

Step 1:

Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

The first names should be in column A, the last names in column B, and the emails in column C.

Again, make sure to save it as a .csv.

On the off-chance you’ve got more than 4200 contacts you should break up your list into two CSV files.  Yelp can process up to about 4200 contacts, but chokes if you try more than that at once.

Don’t have your customers’ email addresses?  Unless you’re Starbucks and don’t even know their names, not having those emails is madness.  Come back when you’re serious about marketing.

Step 2:

Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

It needs to be a dedicated Gmail address so that you don’t run non-customers through Yelp’s “Find Friends” lookup.  I’m sure your college roommate and Aunt Ruth would be glad to put in a good word for you on Yelp, but that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Step 3:

Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

First click the “Gmail” tab in the upper-left, then “Contacts,” then “Import.”  Then select “CSV or vCard file.”

If asked, choose to import from “old” Google Contacts.

Click “Import Contacts” (on the left).  Upload the CSV file you created in step 1, so Gmail imports that list of customers.

Once the import is done, stay logged into this Gmail account.

Step 4:

Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

It needs to be a personal Yelp account, not a business account (the kind you create at biz.yelp.com), because there is no “Find Friends” feature in a business account.

If you’re doing this on behalf of someone else (e.g. a client or employer) it’s fine to use your personal account, because you don’t need to contact any customers through Yelp, or even actually add them as friends.  All you need to do is identify who the active Yelpers are, so you can match them to names and emails on your spreadsheet.

But if you do want to “friend” them – as your initial way to contact them or as a friendly follow-up – you’ll probably want to set up a separate personal Yelp account and use that here.


Step 5:

Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Make sure you’re still logged into the Gmail account you created in step 2.

Once you click the option for Gmail, just wait a minute.  As I mentioned, Yelp will be able to process a list of roughly 4200.  If you’ve got more than 4200 contacts, make sure you’ve split it up into two or more CSV lists, as I described in step 1.  Compete steps 6-7 for the first list, and hold off on processing the other(s) until later.


Step 6:

Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Why only pay attention to people who’ve written more than 5 reviews?  Because Yelp usually filters reviews written by people who’ve written no reviews or just a couple.  I’ve found that Yelp starts “trusting” reviewers more after about 5-10 reviews.

Anyway, what I’d do is add another column to your spreadsheet – one with the number of reviews each customer has written.  Put “13” next to Nick, and “675” next to Jim and Suzanne, and so forth.  Again, I wouldn’t bother with any people who’d written fewer than 5 reviews.

So no your spreadsheet should look like this:


Step 7:

Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Only now can you can decide exactly what to do with those contacts.  What I’d do is prune the list a little.  That means you:

  • Cross off anyone you think had a mediocre-to-poor experience with you. (If you haven’t done so already, you should probably contact them to see what you can do to make things better.)
  • Read at least some of your customers’ reviews of other businesses. Cross off any clearly grumpy reviewers.  Don’t contact people who seem stingy with stars or who gripe too much about minutiae.
  • Contact people who already reviewed you on Yelp, but whose reviews got filtered. Thank them, and ask them to consider posting a review (maybe the same one) somewhere else.

(By the way, if you had more than 4200 contacts and had to break up the list into more than one CSV file, now you’ll want to process the remaining contacts. First log into the Gmail account you created specifically for friend-finding, and delete all the contacts you just processed in Yelp.  Then import into Gmail another batch of them (up to 4200) and repeat steps 4-7.)

Your list is probably pretty short by now – which is good, because it’s payday.  Here’s where I’d send each active Yelper on your list a quick email, in which you ask for a review.

If you’re going to be a goody two-shoes about it, you don’t need to ask specifically for a Yelp review; if you just ask these customers for a review somewhere, it’s likely they’ll pick Yelp by default.

Keep the email short, but as personalized as possible.  Try to allude to the specific job you did: “I hope you’re enjoying your new ___” or “It was a pleasure helping you to ___ your ___” or whatever seems appropriate

If you want, include a link to your “Review Us” page.

Congrats.  You’ve smelted tons of ore into gold, and you’ll probably get some nice Yelp reviews out of the deal (especially if you apply my basic strategy and troubleshooting tips).

Any first-hand experience with finding and contacting “friends” on Yelp?  What were your results in terms of reviews?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

Yelp Elite for 3 Years with Only 66 Reviews: How?

I like to support local businesses that I want to stay in business, I love to write, and as an SEO I must experiment every now and then.

That’s why in spring of 2013 I started crawling around in Yelp’s guts, as just another local reviewer.  I’d written a couple reviews on Yelp a few years earlier, before I even knew about the filter, so those reviews never saw the light of day.  By 2013, I wanted to understand the filter better, mostly so I could help my clients put together a review strategy that didn’t just send perfectly good reviews into the grinder.

I learned some useful tidbits, like that a 3-star review is more likely to stick than a 5-star (even if written by a new, less-“trusted” Yelper), that the first review of a business is more likely to stick, and that it typically takes about 10 reviews – spread out over several months – for Yelp to stop filtering your reviews.

But things only got interesting once I accidentally became an “Elite” Yelper.

It wasn’t part of my intended experiment, nor do I have a particular fondness of Yelp.

It was also a surprise, because although there are people who’ve written hundreds of reviews who aren’t “Elite,” most EYs have written hundreds.

But then I get the nomination email in February 2014, after I’d written only 26 Yelp reviews in 2013 – for a lifetime total of 26 reviews.

I wrote those 26 reviews in a span of 8 months.

I kept up the reviews throughout 2014, but only wrote 20 that year.  Good enough for “Elite” again.

Same deal in 2015: only 20 reviews again (purely by coincidence).  Still an EY.

So even though I’ve never attended the little “Elite Squad” parties, have shown zero interest in becoming part of the “community,” rarely compliment or “friend” local reviewers, and have written only 66 reviews, they’ve kept me around for 3 years now.

Clearly becoming an EY doesn’t have much to do with quantity of reviews.  Or length or detail: most of my reviews are maybe 2-4 short paragraphs. 

So what factors do determine who gets the dubious title of “Elite” Yelp reviewer?  Yelp won’t tell you much.  But there are 7 factors that I’ve noticed (so far):

Factor 1: Reviewing some of the same businesses your “community manager” has reviewed.

Particularly places he or she likes and that you like.   I suspect this is the only person who nominates “Elite” Yelpers, so if you write a zinger review of a restaurant or some other place your CM likes, all of a sudden you’re on your CM’s radar, and you’re kindred spirits.  That didn’t even occur to me until I after I reviewed one of my favorite restaurants, which my CM also happens to like and frequent, at which point she sent me a Yelp “compliment” on my review.

Factor 2: Quality over quantity.

This one’s tough.  I’m not saying to channel your inner Tolstoy.  Many Yelpers get into narcissistic amounts of detail that nobody wants to read.  But it’s hard to pump out tons of reviews that still manage to be helpful, and it’s even harder to pump out reviews that people (especially a “community manager”) will enjoy.

One way to keep your reviews helpful – and sometimes funnier than you’d expect – is to review really boring businesses, which usually makes you dig deep to think about what you can possibly say.

Factor 3: Humor.

This one’s the toughest.  But even if your humor is the corniest since Roger Moore played 007, I’m tempted to say it doesn’t matter.

All that seems to matter is whetheryour “community manager” likes your reviews, and whether you get lots of “votes,” or if maybe even a “Review of the Day.”  Which leads me to the next point….

Factor 4: “Votes.”

Whenever someone labels one of your reviews as “Useful,” “Funny,” or “Cool,” that’s good (at least as far as Yelp is concerned).

Factor 5: Be the first to review some businesses.

Yelp wants to enhance its data on local businesses.  Also, once a business gets a review, Yelp has an occasion to call the owner and pitch ads as a way to keep the good times rolling.  Who better to carry out those two tasks than some chump who’s willing to write about local businesses for free?

Factor 6: Your re-nomination pitch.

If you’ve written at least a few reviews in the year, around Thanksgiving Yelp will email you to ask whether you’d like to remain “Elite.”

They’ll ask you to send in a pitch if you’re interested.  The substance and length are up to you.

You’ll want to put thought and creativity into this.  It shouldn’t necessarily be a rational argument.  Write it as you would one of your Yelp reviews – in the same voice (especially if that voice squeaks with corny humor).  Except this time you’re reviewing yourself.

 

Factor 7: Keep writing reviews even after you re-nominate yourself.

You’ll hear back around early January if you’re still “in.”  So from roughly Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day you’ll probably want to rip out a couple of reviews, just so the powers-that-be can see how much you care about Yelping and that you have no life.

Speaking of which, at this point you – a business owner or local SEO – might be wondering:

God, what a dweeb this guy is.  I don’t even like Yelp, and who cares who becomes an “Elite” reviewer?  I want my 10 minutes back.

Well, it’s important to understand how Yelp works if you want to get good reviews there.  For better or for worse, there is a huge human factor to Yelp.  Also, if for whatever reason you want to become an “Elite” Yelper yourself, any time you submit an edit or flag a review, they’re a little more likely to act on your suggestions.

Or maybe you’re just a curious cat, like me.

Have “Elite” Yelp reviewers affected your business in any way?

Any questions or relevant experiences?

Leave a comment!

Yahoo Local Review Stars No Longer Show in the SERPs

As a local search engine, Yahoo has long been the equivalent of an ’80s hair metal band, still squeaking along decades after its heyday.

For the last few years, its only real boon to your local visibility was that it still ranked well in Google for brand-name searches.  Even if your Yahoo listing only reflected your Yelp reviews, at least it gave you “review stars” in the search results, which can help impress would-be customers.

In theory, Yahoo was a place where you’d still want to get at least a couple reviews from customers.

No mas.

Now the only reason to get reviews on Yahoo is to impress the five people in your area who use it as their favorite local search engine.

What do you think?  Do Yahoo Local reviews have redeeming qualities I missed?  (If so, I’ll eat my hat.)  Leave a comment!

Announcing the Definitive List of Local Review Sites

Photo used w/ permission of Danny Nicholson of whiteboardblog.co.uk

How complete is your collection of reviews?

To know that, you’ll need to know of all the sites where customers can (and should) review your business.

I’ve found 398 local review sites so far.  Some you already know about – and may even have reviews on – but others are overlooked opportunities.

I’ve put together a handy spreadsheet for you.  It’s not in this blog post: I made a page for it because it’s a little easier for me to keep the list up-to-date that way.

Go there to sit through my preamble, to get your hands on the spreadsheet, and to read my liner notes.

See the list of review sites

By the way, right here is the place to leave comments or questions.  Don’t hold back, now.