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.

12 Kinds of Duplicate Content in Local SEO: Which Ones Are Trouble?

There are two intertwined myths about duplicate content:

1: That Google is on the warpath against it, penalizing sites left and right.

2: That duplicate content is a thing – one specific problem.

Neither is true, because of one fact: there are many different types of duplicate content.  (Google says so, too.)

That’s even more true in local SEO – because to rank well in local search you’re not just dealing with your site, but also with a bunch of listings.

Some types of duplicate content hurt your rankings, whereas many are just a mild drag or are harmless.

It’s not bad SOP to try to make all your content everywhere unique.  But sometimes it’s just not necessary, and you don’t want it to suck up too much of your time and distract you from stuff that really matters.

I can think of at least 12 types of duplicate content.  Pay attention to the types that (at least in my experience) might hurt you, and don’t spend time worrying about the harmless ones.

Bad:

1. Mirror sites
Same content, different domains.  The rationale is that maybe both the sites will rank well, or that one of them will have a call-tracking number to “prove ROI!”

Google’s warnings are strongest for wholesale duplicate content between sites.  In my experience, using mirror sites never ends well.  Either one site ranks OK and the other doesn’t, or neither ranks well.  Mirror sites confuse Google and would-be customers alike.

 

2. Duplicate / near-duplicate Google listings

Google listings that have nearly identical names, addresses, and phone numbers can hurt your rankings.  Use Michael Cottam’s excellent duplicate-finder tool to uncover them.

By the way, “practitioner listings” often aren’t a problem, in my experience.  (In other words, if you’re a doctor, lawyer, real-estate agent, or insurance agent, it’s OK if you have a listing in your name and the practice or agency has one in its name.)

3. Duplicate citations
Not a big deal if you have 2 very similar listings on, say, MojoPages or Brownbook – one of those little sites.  But do you have one YellowPages.com listing named “Acme Dynamite” and another named “Acme Dynamite Company”?  Delete one of them, or else Google might scrape YP (a trusted third-party source) and create an unwanted Google Places listing for you.

Also, you should be gung-ho about removing duplicate listings on highly visible sites like YP, Yelp, and Facebook.  To the extent you get reviews on those sites, you’ll want to get the reviews piled up on one listing, rather than spread them thin between several listings.

4. Internal duplicate title tags
Does your “Services” page have the same title tag as your homepage?  Google won’t penalize you or anything; it’s just that you’ve lost an opportunity to help different pages rank for different search terms.

5. Duplicate title tags between sites
Similar problem as in point #4.

But there’s an additional problem: if you have multiple sites that include the name of your business in the title tags, you may mess mess up your brand-name search traffic.  When people search for your business by name you want one site to come up in Google, so that everyone goes to that site.  Why?  Because Google loves brands.  The more you can seem like one (i.e. popular offline and online), the better.  But you don’t want to confuse Google as to what site represents your “brand.”

6. Duplicate / near-duplicate pages on your site – particularly “city” pages
I’ve never noticed a site get penalized specifically for barfing up two dozen pages that target different cities by swapping out the city names (“HVAC Contractors Atlanta,” “HVAC Contractors Decatur,” etc.).

But a few problems remain: (1) those clone pages often don’t rank well, (2) even if they do rank well they eventually drop because users pogo-stick away from them, and (3) they usually don’t produce many phone calls.

Low-quality “city” pages aren’t as much a drag on your rankings as they are a giant lost opportunity.  Yours don’t have to suck, though.

7. Reviews cross-posted by customers
Scenario: a customer writes you a nice review on Yelp, so you ask her to write a review on Google+.  Just make sure it’s not the same review.  Make sure the words are significantly different, or the review might get filtered on both sites.  (By the way, Yelp and Google are the only sites that aggressively filter reviews – at least as far as I know.)

Not a problem:

8. Reviews that you copy and put on your site
This isn’t against Yelp’s or Google’s (or other sites’) policies, and I’ve seen so many businesses copy and paste their reviews onto their sites that I’ve concluded it’s just not a problem.

9. Duplicate descriptions between listings
You can use a different description on Yelp from the one you use on Manta, or you can have those descriptions and all your others can be pretty much the same.  (I say “pretty much” because different sites have different length requirements for your blurb, so a little variation is inevitable.)  Doesn’t matter.

10. Website content cross-posted on listings
Want to use a blurb from your homepage as your description on Angie’s List?  Harmless.

11. Google+ posts duplicated on multiple Google Places / Plus pages
If you’ve got multiple locations – each with a Google Places page – it’s OK to publish the same post in each one’s “Posts” stream.

12. Re-posting Google+ reviews
Google allows this.  Very few businesses know that they can show off their Google reviews in their “Posts” stream.

Can you think of any other types of duplicate content, in the context of local SEO?

Which ones have you found to be harmful vs. harmless?

Leave a comment!

Industry-Specific Local Review Sites: the Definitive List

(Update 1/4/16: There’s a list of all review sites here.  Of course, it includes the industry-specific sites listed in this post, but it also lists places you can get reviews regardless of your industry.)

“Niche” review sites are underrated.  You’re crazy not to get reviews there.

Sites like Avvo, DealerRater, and HealthGrades (to name well-known examples) tend to rank well in Google’s organic results, especially these days.  Getting reviews on those sites is the best “barnacle” SEO technique there is.

Also, the people who go to those industry-specific sites and see your listing are farther along in the “buying” process.  They generally know what they need and are just looking for who should provide it.

OK, now that I’ve convinced you, the question is: what are your options?

What review sites are specific to your type of business?

I’ve compiled a list.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

(Oh, and here’s the spreadsheet – where I have a column that lets you sort the review sites by what type of business they specialize in.)

AllTherapist.com
AGFG.com.au
ApartmentRatings.com
ApartmentReviews.net
AutoBody-Review.com
AutoMD.com
Avvo.com
BarShots.com
BedandBreakfast.com
BestCarFinder.com
BestPlumbers.com
Booking.com
CampusExplorer.com
CarDealerCheck.com
CarFolks.com
Caring.com
Cars.com
CarTalk.com
ChoiceHotels.com
CiteHealth.com
DealerRater.com
DemandForce.com
DentistDig.com
Doctor.com
DoctorOogle.com
DoctorsDig.com
DriverSide.com
Edmunds.com
Education.com
EquallyWed.com
Expedia.com
Firmoo.com
Fixr.com
ForeLinksters.com
GigSalad.com
GolfCourseRanking.com
GolfHub.com
GolfLink.com
GolfNow.com
GolfReview.com
GreatSchools.org
HappyCow.net
HealthGrades.com
HolidayCheck.com
HomeAdvisor.com
HomeOwnersCircle.com
HomeStars.com
HomeTownRoofingContractors.com
HotelClub.com
HotelsCombined.com
Houzz.com
LateRooms.com
LawFirmDirectory.org
LawyerRatingz.com
Lawyers.com
Lawzam.com
LocalGranite.com
LuxuriousLandscapes.com
Martindale.com
MechanicAdvisor.com
Menuism.com
MenuPages.com
MyTravelGuide.com
Networx.com
NursingHomeSite.com
OpenTable.com
Orbitz.com
OurParents.com
PublicGolfCourses.net
RateMDs.com
RealSelf.com
RepairPal.com
SelfStorageFinders.com
SeniorAdvisor.com
SeniorHomes.com
SmileReminder.com
SpaFinder.com
SpaHunter.com
SpareFoot.com
StorageQuote.com
StorageSam.com
SureCritic.com
TheKnot.com
TradeCritic.com.au
TripAdvisor.com
Trulia.com
UrbanSpoon.com
USBankLocations.com
VirtualTourist.com
Vitals.com
WeddingBee.com
WeddingWire.com
Wellness.com
Zagat.com
Zillow.com
ZocDoc.com

Once you dig into your industry, you might be surprised.  I’m surprised at how many golf sites I found, and how few relatively attorney directories actually let clients post reviews.

And who knew Click and Clack allow reviews on CarTalk.com?

You’ll notice I called this the “Definitive” list – not “Ultimate” or “Complete.”  That’s because I know I’m missing some sites – probably a lot.  That’s why I’ll keep building this list over time.

But I hope you found at least a couple that you didn’t know about, where you can get reviews from customers.

By the way, on most if not all of these sites, you can also get a citation.

Thanks to the following people for contributing sites:

Jon Hall of Grade.us for reminding me about Martindale.com.

Mike Blumenthal for telling me about LawyerRatingz.com and RealSelf.com.  Check out his GetFiveStars review tool.

Christina Black of ViveVirtual for reminding me about AllTherapist.com.

Gary Smith of Pixel Dust Weddings for telling me about EquallyWed.com, as well as some wedding review sites that were just feeders I had on the list.

Margaret Ornsby of More Customers More Sales for the two Australian sites.

Dan Hiestand of Chico Car Care for SureCritic.com and DriverSide.com.

Brian Rys of Swingset Solutions for PatientFusion.com.

Do you know of any industry-specific sites that should be on the list?  Let me know of them and you’ll make it into the “Credits” section 🙂

16 Reasons to Get Reviews on a Diversity of Sites

Even business owners who are good about encouraging reviews often make a mistake: they steer would-be reviewers toward the same site.  Usually it’s Google+.  Sometimes it’s another site.

As in the gene pool and in one’s diet, variety is healthy.

Here are 16 reasons you should encourage customers to review you on different sites:

Reason 1:  You’ll keep your eggs in several baskets.  You don’t want all your reviews on Google+.  You really don’t want them all on Yelp.  And may the Big Guy Upstairs smile on you if you went heavy on Yahoo.

Reason 2:  The search results will look good when people search for you by name.  Google often shows off your reviews for you.

Reason 3:  It builds credibility.  Having reviews on a diversity of sites helps confirm that your 5-star reviews on one site aren’t a fluke (or a fabrication).

Reason 4:  It lets you offer customers choices of where to review you.  You want them to do what they find easiest.  That gives them more drive to review you – and fewer excuses not to.

Reason 5:  As a result of Reason #4: encouraging reviews on different sites lets you figure out which sites customers find easiest, which allows you to make the appropriate tweaks to your strategy.

Reason 6:  Diversity of reviews helps your Google Places rankings, in my experience.

Reason 7:  It’s the best way to rank well within those sites.

Reason 8:  It’s a great barnacle SEO technique.

Reason 9:  You might cultivate little streams of customers from those other sites.  Want to “Google-proof” your business?  Start here.

Reason 10:  It’s more raw online info about your business.  Some people will do homework on you.  Do what you can to make it worth their trouble.

Reason 11:  Customers / clients / customers can write reviews on the sites they consider private enough.

Reason 12:  You can learn more about your customers and where / how they found you in the first place.  You’ll probably see patterns.

Reason 13:  Some sites feed reviews to other sites – and search engines.

Reason 14:  To rank for city + service / product / business + reviews is pretty sweet.  (Example: “Monterey dentist reviews.”)

Reason 15:  You may be better able to track referral sources in Google Analytics.  (Useful in a “(not provided)” world.)

Reason 16:  Past / current and potential customers are a little more likely to write reviews of you if they see that’s what others do.  You’re in good shape if you create the impression, “Wow, everyone seems to review this place!”

Late addition – Reason 17:  Review sites themselves come and go and change over time.  See Dave’s great comment, below.

How best to diversify?  Totally depends on your current methods.  Try different printed, verbal, or email instructions.  You might also consider GetFiveStars or Grade.us or my 3-site review handouts.

Can you think of any more reasons to diversify?

How about arguments against mixing it up?

Leave a comment!

17 Sites That Allow Private or Anonymous Reviews of Local Businesses

Some of your customers, clients, or patients might only review you if they don’t have to reveal their names in the review.  Why?

  • They might be embarrassed about the problem that caused them to come to you.
  • They might need privacy to give you honest and complete feedback.
  • Maybe they just wear tin-foil hats.

You need to know about the more-private review sites for at least three reasons:

(1) So you know where to point would-be reviewers who are concerned about privacy.  You still want reviews from those people.

(2) So you can encourage reviews without running afoul of any regulations in your industry – especially if you’re a doctor or lawyer.

(3) So you know where to look for negative reviews that people may have posted anonymously.

Besides finicky Google+ and Yelp, most review sites offer some anonymity.  Possible reviewers need to know you don’t want “Google or Yelp or nothing.”  You want reviews on other sites anyway – especially if they’re influential in your industry.

Here’s a breakdown of 17 prominent sites that allow private or anonymous reviews – and exactly how private each site is:

17 private/anonymous review sites (click to enlarge)(click to enlarge – it’s a big PDF file, so give it a second to crunch)

A few notes

My goal for this was to mention least one private / anonymous site that you can encourage reviews on, no matter what your industry is.

That’s why I have some sites that may seem “niche” – like WeddingWire and Zillow.  WeddingWire isn’t just for dressmakers and cake-bakers; you can also be listed and get reviews there if you’re a photographer, jeweler, florist, or DJ.  Likewise, Zillow isn’t just for real-estate agents; you can get reviews there if you’re a roofer or landscaper (for example).

I didn’t want to dwell on one industry.  That’s why you won’t see more than a couple examples of private / anonymous sites for a given industry.

Even if there’s not a review site that’s specific to your field, you’ve still got Angie’s List, CitySearch, InsiderPages, Yahoo, and YP.  It’s good to get a smattering of reviews at those places anyway.

When I say a “real name” is required, I’m referring only to the rules / preferences of a given site.  It may have no way to tell a reviewer’s real name from an alias.  I doubt Sarah B. would get in any hot water if she created an account as or wrote a review as Penny O.  Make sure your customers know that.

This list is US-specific.  I’m guessing the equivalent of YellowPages in other countries – YellowPages.ca, PagesJaunes.fr, PaginasAmarillas.com, etc. – allow private reviews.  I’d be curious to learn about other sites.

Last but not least, huge thanks to design whiz David Deering for putting together the “Top Secret” report.  I suggest you check out his offerings.

What’s a private / anonymous review site you think you’ll be working into your review strategy from now on?

Any current favorites?

Not sure which ones are worth pursuing?

Leave a comment!