In the offline world it’s hard to figure out exactly how your business gets a certain reputation, or exactly how “word gets around.” But online this is something you can actually figure out pretty well.
How? By knowing which online review sites are the most influential and “contagious.” (Not “viral” – that’s an overused, exaggerated term.)
There are two kinds of online local-business reviews: ones that have “legs” and ones that don’t.
Many IYP (“internet yellow pages”) sites share reviews with other sites. For example, the reviews in Bing local say “Powered by Yelp.” CitySearch feeds 14 other major review sites – possibly more. The same reviews that appear on CitySearch and Yelp appear word-for-word on other sites (often with attribution to the original source). That’s what I mean when I say one site feeds reviews to or shares reviews with another site.
Customer reviews written on Google+Local pages pretty much stay at home and eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in their bunny slippers.
I bet you can’t ask customers to review you on 20 different sites. You probably can’t even easily monitor what’s said about you on the dozens of sites where customers might drop you a review. But if you know the few linchpin sites that feed the others, you can focus your review-gathering efforts on those sites. It’s the 80/20 rule.
I’ve mapped out which major (and some not-so-major) US sites share reviews with each other. Check out the Ecosystem:
(click to enlarge)
Wrapped your head around all of that yet? No? Well, I’ll move on to a few notes on the Local Business Reviews Ecosystem anyway:
- If you’ve ever seen David Mihm’s unfairly awesome “Local Search Ecosystem,” you’ll notice the resemblance. I’ve always liked that layout, and I thought it would be a good fit here.
- Not every review on a particular site always gets fed to other sites. For instance, even though InsiderPages feeds some reviews to JudysBook, it doesn’t seem that every InsiderPages review for a given business finds its way onto the JudysBook reviews for that business. I haven’t figured out the rhyme or reason, but I do know that the transmission usually isn’t complete.
- Reviews don’t seem to “trickle” too far. Even though InsiderPages shares with SuperPages and SuperPages shares with YellowBot, I’ve found that you won’t necessarily see a bunch of InsiderPages reviews on YellowBot.
- The Ecosystem doesn’t include certain types of sites. It doesn’t include paid review-management sites like DemandForce and which sites their reviews are fed to. Nor does it inclue include industry-specific sites like UrbanSpoon or Fixr: the focus is on “horizontal” directories that any business can be listed on. Last, it doesn’t include really little sites: for instance, I know that InsiderPages feeds Goby.com, but I’m not sure that many people here in the States use Goby, nor would that fact change your review strategy a whole lot.
- Don’t feel like looking at the arrows again, and just want to know which sites I think are the ones you really need to pay attention to and (ideally) get reviews on? I’d say it’s a three-way tie between Yelp, CitySearch, and Google+Local (although it doesn’t really feed reviews to other sites, it’s Google, so it’s essential). Then InsiderPages, then JudysBook. Not only are these sites the biggest and most popular, but they’ll also spread your reviews all over creation.
- Yelp reviews will be feeding Apple Maps pretty soon. So in the not-too-distant future Apple will trot into the Ecosystem and start eating some of the other critters.
- By the way, you may have seen my Google+ review handouts, but I also make review handouts that can help you on other sites.
- These are all the sharing/feeding relationships I know of. I just know there are others out there. But these are the major connections, from what I’ve been able to tell. If you know of any sites that share reviews, please let me know!
Darren Shaw says
Dang! Great work Phil. had no idea that some of these sites shared reviews with each other. This is a super handy reference
Thanks for the compliments! Yeah, I knew about some of these connections, but only maybe 20%. Toying with the idea of doing one for Canada some time…
Trayan Minchev says
Yellow bot also get reviews directly from Google +… so you have to correct the scheme Phil! 😀
Thanks for the observation! Could you post a shortened link to a YellowBot business listing that’s receiving Google+Local reviews? Or a screenshot.
Fortunately for me, there aren’t too many arrows between Google+ and YellowBot 🙂
Niladri Sarkar says
Good post again Phil. Looks like Citysearch has removed the option to add a free listing.
Thanks, Niladri! Yeah, the CitySearch people are impossible. I don’t get why they keep messing around with the free listings. But I believe I’ve been able to add them just by using the contact form. In any case, if you’re listed on the other big sites, your free CitySearch listing should eventually show up.
matthew hunt says
Phil, Nice work! will reference this for sure in my Google+ Local tutorials.
Sounds like an awesome plan, Matt – thanks!
Jo Shaer says
Grrr… I just wish I could use that over here! It must have taken you ages to work out and then draw out. It will be really useful for US businesses.
Kind of like what I mentioned to Darren about Canada reviews, I’d strongly consider mapping a UK reviews ecosystem. That would be cool, indeed. Some gruntwork was involved here, so I’d certainly be willing to collaborate on such a thing in the future.
Linda Buquet says
Wowser Phil. Great graphic AND info. You always have the best posts. When are you going to come and blog for me? 😛
I’ll be adding a link here in my Advanced G+ Local training and heading off now to Scoop and Tweet this.
Hey Linda, thanks for spreading the good word!
When would you like me to blog for you? 🙂
Linda Buquet says
Seriously, love your stuff ,so any time you want to blog for Catalyst I would love it! Email me and I’ll set up an account for you if you are game.
Awesome! I’ll be in touch soon.
Victor Velasquez says
Hi Phil, this is a great post. I will definitely share and reference. I am looking at the map and will let you know if I find any other sites that share reviews. Have a great weekend!
Thanks! Yeah, it would be great if you were able to find other big or medium-sized sites, especially ones that feed others. I mean, YellowBot is a cool site, but there’s little need to ask your customers to go on there and review you, because it pulls in reviews from so many sources.
Margaret Dasso says
Wow, Phil, you’ve nailed it again. Thanks for doing all that hard work for all of us. You are amazing!
Hey Margaret, thanks for the kind words! I hope business has been great recently (it’s been a while since we touched base).
Jim Rudnick says
Canada calling….hey, where’s our Cancuk List, eh?
Hey Jim – the Canada Reviews Ecosystem right now is but a few humble neurons, floating somewhere between my right lobe and the part of my brain that just wants to kick back, grab a cold brew, and watch Weird Al videos on Youtube 🙂
Great info, thanks for the post. I have noticed that Citysearch reviews do appear on a good majority of the primary us business directories. Just goes to show you defiantly need to have your business information displaying accurately on CitySearch.
Indeed. Of course, the catch is that CitySearch’s free-listings feature is totally unreliable – as in there’s no way to edit your listing, and the “Submit a listing” form isn’t even on the site any longer. Which makes having InfoGroup/ExpressUpdateUSA.com listing even more crucial, so that you’re on CitySearch in the first place and can eventually ask for reviews there.
Thanks for the feedback!
Thank you Phil!
This post, combined with the post about how to get listed on Citysearch has been a real help.
Any time, Matt! Glad you’ve found those two posts useful.
Thank you, this is insanely helpful. I saved it in my folder of marketing cheat sheets and even printed a copy to pin on my corkboard.
I am building our search marketing plan with only Google and intuition as my guide. I quickly got the impression that it’s not humanly possible (or even beneficial to local SEO efforts) to submit to every single directory, but that there are a handful of key players that are worth the manual submission effort. We will also be using a modified version of your review handouts, and only want to establish as many ‘listing hubs’ as are need to cover our customers’ regular watering holes.
Again I am flying solo in our in-house marketing department so anything that saves time by pointing me toward a shortcut is a day-maker. Thanks for putting this resource together and pointing me in the right direction, you earned a new subscriber.
Sounds like a good plan. You’ll probably still want to go to the trouble of manually submitting to several dozen sites – over time, of course – but you’re right in saying that you don’t need to so for hundreds of them.
As for reviews, you’ll want to have a plan to get them on Google+Local, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, and maybe an industry-specific site – at the very least. Takes finesse and patience, but it’s worth it.
I’m sure you saw my “Complete Guide to Google+Local Reviews” post; it’ll help you with Google (obviously), and the best-practices I describe there also apply to other sites.
David Cohn says
Great Reference! I just printed it out to hang on the wall.
Rob Amoroso says
Hi Phil—awesome article! Thank you for that (even years later!). Can you offer insight on two more sites that seem to advertise themselves as “the source of all review site content”?… They are “Localeze,” and “Yext.” It’s very confusing what role these guys play in the whole “spreading of content” arena..
Sure thing, Rob. Thanks for the compliments. Yext and LocalEze do not deal with reviews. At all. Only basic business info.
Thanks. I guess I should have been more clear. I have taken a great deal of time claiming my business listings all over the internet (which so happen to be all the main review sites, like Yelp, Citysearch, YP, super pages, insider pages, etc, etc). The assumption is that I wouldn’t need the services of such business listing aggregators if I update all those pages myself. But it seems that I am now running into situations where I cannot update my own business information on sites like local.com and map quest.com without doing it through Yext, for a fee. It’s also not clear if I were to sign up with one of these guys, if they would override all the sites I’ve updated myself, or create dupes.
That’s a good question, but a complicated one – and I can’t address it fully here. But in short, to update certain sites you have no choice but to use Yext. Yext deals with a lot of important sites, but I wouldn’t worry about trying to update the ones that can ONLY be updated through Yext.
Thanks Phil – this is great information. I have been looking for a reference such as this. Two follow up questions:
1. the original is 2 years old. Do you by any chance have more recently updated version? Or do you feel that in essence it’s still the same?
2. Would you mind sharing the basic sources of this information? I wanted to do some digging in a specific area and could use a starting pointer…
Again – thanks for such a high quality reference material!
1. The ecosystem hasn’t changed too much since 2014. The only semi-significant changes I noted here:
2. It was original research. Some sites indicate which sites feed them reviews. In the other cases, let’s just say there was a lot of hard digging involved.
Ah.. Got it – thanks for the reply and the link Phil. It gave me a better understanding what involves in researching this kind of connections. Mostly through the news/announcements on the sites, not via any of the system-level visibility. I can appreciate the amount of work it took…
Actually, most of my research involved Googling excerpts of a review, seeing which sites come up in the results, and then figuring out which site the review was published on originally. And then repeating.
Very interesting to see what was happening in 2012. Today in 2015 it seems like Yelp is the one that now shares its reviews with many other and also that is used most by people. Yelp is getting bigger every year.
You got that right, Carlos. That was the case in early 2014, too:
Then there are some smaller, niche sites that seem to use Yelp’s API to show Yelp reviews.