Ten Local Business Review Sites Influencing Your New Customers

June 20th, 2012

Posted by to Online Marketing

local business reviewsEvery business –restaurants, doctors, law firms, dry cleaners and other brick (click) and mortar businesses – wins and loses new customers every day before the potential customer even sets foot out the door. Their decision to do you business with your company is often made without ever engaging with your company directly.

Some customers may even form opinions about your business without ever stepping a foot in your store. This is because online review sites make it easy for potential customers to look up businesses and compare ratings, all without ever leaving their home. And with so many businesses to choose from, being number one on Google is almost never the only deciding credibility or trust factor.

When marketing your business these days, you’re dealing with an educated consumer who does their research on review sites and does not really care what you have to say about your business. They care what others have to say. When friends and family aren’t readily available to ask for recommendations, where else can people turn but the local online community? Welcome to the new word-of-mouth (mouse) marketing.

Looking To Online Reviews

When faced with too many choices, others will rely on the “social proof” of what others think, and online reviews are a perfect example. Where are potential customers finding these reviews? All over the Internet. There are 1000s of local business review sites and directories online, but there are some that matter more than the rest combined.

Since a potential customer’s initial search still often starts with keywords typed into a search engine, while using a service-oriented keyword followed or preceded by the city in which they’re searching (ex: best Mexican restaurant in Dallas), you should first pay attention to the truly important keywords already showing up on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing for your keywords.

Once you have selected your keywords, here are ten major review and business listing sites that carry weight and have a huge online presence that your business should be taking advantage of:

1. Google Places and Google+ Local for Business

What used to be Google Local has now been combined with the new Google Places, each bringing their own unique features to the mix. Google Places and Google+ Local are two of the most important places to list your business online. They are free and easy, plus there are more than 343 million active Google+ users as of January 2013.

Google Places allows businesses to register themselves with Google, at which point they will be listed on Google Maps, as well as show up in Google’s search results with extended information and data available at a glance (such as reviews and photos). Once listed, users will be able to leave reviews for your business directly on your Google Places page. In May 2012, Google incorporated Google+ Local listings into Google Places. Google+ Local uses Zagat summaries of user reviews to assign a business a Zagat score.

After signing up for this free service, simply describe your business with location information, a listing of services, hours of operation and a link to your business website. The next step is to verify your account so that Google knows you are indeed authorized to create and manage this listing. Verification can be done by postcard or phone call. Anytime you change your address or business name, you will have to go through the verification process.

If you let Google find your business first, you’ll be rewarded with better placement on the map. Much like Google would rather find your website on its own through links rather than search engine submission, Google Maps will trust and more than likely post reviews from other review sites before submitting or modifying your listing. Often, the Google Places bot will scour the Internet for other review sites for businesses already showing your company’s offerings and experiences, so start building profiles on other business review sites first to begin compiling a healthy portfolio of reviews.

Reviews are an absolutely essential factor in achieving top placement in the alphanumeric listing of the Google Places/Google Map Listings, so be sure that your reviews are genuine – fake reviews are quickly recognized, and can not only hurt your listing position, but your reputation. A business name containing keywords and a complete Google Places profile also helps. Get started with Google Places for Business.

2. Yelp!

Since it was founded in 2004 to connect residents of San Francisco to local businesses, Yelp! has taken off and become a household name across the world. With 108 million monthly unique visitors in Q2 2013 alone, the Yelp! community has exploded into a full-fledged social community, complete with the ability to add friends, earn community reputations, a robust commenting system, and picture profiles. Plus, because of its marked popularity – with over 42 million reviews posted as of October 2013 – Yelp! reviews rank well with search engines, and are generally seen as reputable and trustworthy thanks to an algorithm implemented in 2006 that, while not necessarily perfect, helps to curb fake reviews.

To gain control of your profile, first check to see if your business is already listed; if so, then you must “claim” the listing with phone call verification.

Yelp also allows paid ads for businesses to be featured to the community and, therefore, increase visibility. Paying businesses cannot change their reviews, therefore they will still be genuine. Yelp also offers a full list of mobile apps that allow users to access it on the go. Consider the growing mobility market and claim your place on Yelp! See what others are saying about your business and talk back on Yelp.com

3. Yahoo! Local Listings

Yahoo! Local Listings are similar in format to Google Places. Complete with a map and full landing page, Yahoo! Local listings rank above organic search results and below the top three pay-per-click listings.

Promote your Yahoo! Local Listing by treating it like it’s one of the family – get reviews, flesh out the profile, add business information. Yahoo local also verifies every business that lists itself and ensures it is “local”. Therefore, E-commerce businesses without a storefront will likely get denied a listing in this directory.

Although Yahoo! currently only gets about 13.5% of the search engine share, that’s still represents a significant number of potential visitors to present your business’ listings to. Get your free Yahoo! Map Listing started.

4. Citysearch

While not as popular as it once was, this business review site has been around for many years. Citysearch was founded back in 1995 and was primarily fueled by staff reviews of local venues. Today, however, they have adopted a format very similar to that of Yelp!, showing user-posted reviews. They also boast a “Best of Citysearch” competition, allowing local users to vote for their favorite businesses in various categories to a quest to win their favorite places the crown.

Most importantly, Citysearch listings tend to show up well in search engine rankings. Unfortunately, listing here isn’t as easy as it used to be. If your listing is already on Citysearch and you simply want to claim and update it, you can go here https://signup.citygrid.com/cyb/find_business. However, if you want add your business, you have the option to manually email them with your business listing at myaccount@citygridmedia.com. You simply need to include your business name, address, and phone number, web address and category, then they will add it for you. It takes about 3 weeks total and you can check out your listing on CitySearch.com. The other option here is to sign up for a paid service with Yext.com

5. Facebook

Facebook is one of the top business review sites online. Facebook boasts over 1 billion active users worldwide and can be found on 3 out of 4 smartphones. Facebook pages for business is easy to use, lets you engage your customers, and allows for ratingss, reviews, updates, pictures, stories, maps, user uploads of pictures, tagging and much more, including hyper targeted ads to boost your pages exposure to a target audience. Create or claim your facebook for business page and connect to your customers today.

6. MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle, founded in 2005, has been infiltrating search listings and growing ever since. Originally designed solely as a user review site, MerchantCircle now sets itself apart from the rest of the review sites by touting the availability of deals and coupons available from merchants.

In February 2012, MerchantCircle announced over 15 million monthly visits and 1.2 million active registered merchant users. MerchantCircle also lets you verify your account and assigns you a score from 0-100, 100 being the best based on reviews and a variety of other factors that can set you apart from others. Join the circle.

7. Insider Pages

Insider Pages is another online “local search” service operated by IAC/InterActiveCorp, owners of CitySearch. Before its acquisition by IAC the company was based in Redwood Shores, California, and had over 600,000 reviews of local merchants around the country. Today, they claim “millions” of monthly users. Better yet, Google Maps definitely picks it up. Be an insider.

8. Angie’s List

Angie’s List was founded in 1995 in the form of a hard-copy publication that solicited user recommendations for local businesses in Columbus, Ohio. The database moved to the Internet in 1999, and has since become a dominant force in local user review websites.

Unlike other business review sites, however, Angie’s List charges a membership fee for users to read and post reviews, though listings are free for companies. Even with a fee, Angie’s List claims over 2 million members as of April 2013, with over 40,000 reviews posted each month. List your business on Angie’s List.

9. Foursquare

While Foursquare may remind you of a social network, it is one of the top review sites for businesses. Launched in 2009 at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, the community has reached over 40 million members, boasts over 4.5 billion check ins and has over 1.5 million businesses listed. You can connect with your customers or potential customers with a fully updated listing.

The app also suggests places like “best nearby” or “specials” to people nearby, so this could be your businesses moment to shine. To claim, update or list your business check in here at Foursquare.

10. Local.com

While Local Corporation was founded in 1999, it wasn’t until 2005 that the domain name local.com was obtained and a local directory was created. Growing fast, it can now claim over 1 billion ad impressions a month in combination with over 1600 partner sites.

With over one million searches for products and businesses a day, it is definitely not a site to be missed. Claim or create your listing, add pictures, descriptions and add your website to be found locally. You can also feature your listing to appear in the top of the search results. Be Local.

Three Important Local Business Review Marketing Tips

If your company plans on using local business review sites to help bring in new customers to your business, be sure that you keep the following tips in mind in order to best utilize these services:

1). Never write fake reviews or testimonials. It is simply not worth the risk of being banned, and could severely damage your reputation in the eyes of users if you’re caught. Don’t forget legal problems that could arise through misuse and abuse of review sites.

2). Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers to review after they visit or make a purchase. Many customers would be happy to, if reminded.

3). Engage with reviewers and let them know that you value and appreciate their honest opinion. Answer as many reviews as possible, and it will go a long way with your customers.

4). Don’t panic if there are some reviews which are less than 100% positive. No business is perfect, and nobody expects them to be. Instead, use any criticism as a learning tool for improving your business. If possible, follow up and see how you can fix the problem. Consumer studies and surveys have proven customers are more satisfied with a company in which there was a small issue and the issue was resolved, compared to if there was never one in the first place.

Managing your online reviews and listings can be overwhelming, and we understand that. At the Marketing Zen Group we are dedicated to helping you get your business noticed in the most positive way possible. From reputation management to review campaigns, we can assist you in reaching your customers and building a positive digital reputation.

Photo via D Sharon Pruitt

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49 Comment
  • This is a great post! One thing about Google Local Business Listings, they recently changed it to only have 7 top listings. They are making room for their Paid local listings spots.

  • I would like to let the world know of the issues that are happening with Japan

  • great post, but local listing for indonesia territory dint support yet

  • I like to know more about the part where you said let Google find your business just like in organic search by listing your business first in review sites. Do I have to promote the review sites where I have my listing to be found quickly by Google? Thanks for the info here.

  • Thanks for the advice, it’s nice to know consumers have somewhere to turn now so they don’t get robbed again!!!

  • Thanks for a concise well- written article. This article came up when I googled “best online business review sites”. Given how fast the landscape changes I’d like to see a 2011 update! I’m surprised not to see Angie’s Pages in here. I googled because a client opted not utilize my services and simultaneously offered to write a great review on “my favorite review site” and I don’t know which one to tell him! I’m also curious about the variety of aliases I utilize and how that impacts the google spiders and other ways that the search engines look for sites. Thanks!

  • Great site, but not for Mexico. I have a vacation rental business in small beach resort on the Pacific Ocean on mainland Mexico near Puerto Vallarta. We have about 70 – 80 private homes and villas for rent and, since we live here and have personally been in every house and villa many times, offer our expertise to clients re: which home would better suit their specific needs. We get rave views from our clients about our service, but do not know where we can ask them to leave a review other than our site. Any Ideas??

  • There is only one issue with the list… Yelp has the tendency to delete legitimate reviews. Try and see for yourself… it will leave you frustrated.

    • I agree with you. We had all our positive legitimate reviews filtered by Yelp right after we said no to them when they sold us their $300/month service to remove competitors listing. Do not use Yelp for any type of business listing. We just closed our account with them and will inform our customers as well.

  • Good post. InsiderPages is pretty marginal. Yelp has the best ranking usually in Google, surprising as they are competitors in a way. Really surprised there’s not a major competitor to Yelp

  • Thanks for another informative website. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I am actually looking at how to post paper reviews. Some of our customers just write feedback after they visit our shop. Is there a way I can post them online legally on these sites? Thanks!

    • Unfortunately, I think the only place you could really post these online would be in a “testimonial” section of your business’s website. However, many review sites offer free signage and window clings for interested businesses. If you’re providing these paper feedback forms, you could include a reminder that you’re also on these online review sites.

    • Reggie,

      Our CEO Shama just wrote an article on this topic! Check out her article for some ideas!

    • There is a way to collect reviews electronically while customers are at your business. Check out Terillion’s (www.terillion.com) review capture tools. I work for Terillion (just for full disclosure! :)

      • This is for the person whom asked about having a spot in their business to collect reviews of their business. Although this is a wonderful way to get reviews you CAN NOT post them to Google+ or Google Places Sure they will post fine but will disappear within days Google has so many restrictions on how they ALLOW reviews it’s actually not even worth the effort to try. The internet is full of forums on this very subject

        My advice is post elsewhere and on your own web site

  • wow what a nice list for review publication.

  • Yelp is a scam. They are SUCH a scam that there is a site named simply yelp-sucks.com. It’s a ripoff operation that blackmails good businesses into paying for “sponsership” and hides indefinite (huge) numbers of reviews. They hire shills who pose as “Elite” members to encourage perpetuating feeding their network of swindlers. This is why they have a full docket of class action suits pending. Don’t take MY word for it, just go to ANY search engine and enter YELP SUCKS- then stand back!

  • Nice list, but is it still good after 3 years? And I agree with the comment regarding Yelp, they are not very good at all.

  • Thanks for the tips. Very helpful to know what’s out there. Are there any sites that could be added to this list today?

  • Big Ditto regarding YELP. I’ve had a very negative experience with them. I have nine positive reviews and one negative – all nine are filtered out and the negative is the only one they show. Some of my positive reviewers are much more active YELP users than the person who wrote the negative review – it doesn’t matter. YELP takes off your positive reviews, leaves the negative, then hits you up for money to “solve” the problem. I have contacted them numerous times and they won’t budge. Stay away from YELP!

  • The problem with gathering reviews at a location on a computer is Ip addresses. Google tracks these. As stated earlier, Yelp has been known to hold businesses hostage. The best way to get reviews from customers is to engage with them and ask them. 1000 customers a year and only 10% review you will be fine. Many businesses haven’t even claimed or filled out their review profiles, this is an entirely separate issue.

  • Great post. As a company that looks for reviews, we like sites where the users are identified. Reviews by anonymous users can be used by competition to smear a company’s name to gain the upper hand.

  • Yelp is a terrible website and the reviews are not to be trusted. I have heard of yelpers demanding free food and drinks for not writing a bad review. Its the yelp mafia.
    Yelp members also flag each others reviews and harass members.Then there is yelps HQ that does not interact with the yelp user about issues.
    Yelp has no respect for the member or the business owner.
    No wonder they have never made a profit.

  • Kudzu.com has unfiltered reviews on thousands of local businesses. They’ve been around since 2006, so I’m surprised they didn’t show up on this list.

  • I appreciate the efforts of the author to try to find legitimate review sites that increase trust — but based on the comments it’s pretty clear that universally there is not a legitimate site that has reached the general market – yet. BUT WE ARE ON OUR WAY!

  • Love the post and topic. Not sure if I agree with the importance of Yahoo listings but the rest sure are important!

  • Gowalla and foursquare obvious.
    Hotfrog is getting bigger in Europe. http://www.gliaffidabile.it (Italy only)
    http://www.thecoffeelocator.com is great niche social profile for bars / anyone in the coffee business

  • Thank you for the great infomation, I didn’t know about some of these sites, but I agree with James not sure about Yahoo…
    Blessings to all

  • I think Yahoo is important as I have seen these reviews show up in Google Places/Local.

    Depending upon your niche, SuperPages or Trip Advisor can also be great place to have reveiws posted (a few of my favs).

  • Thanks for another informative website.

  • YELP! is definitely a biased review website. I have reviewed a Yelp-listed business and gave it a one star rating. My review stated ONLY facts and offered photo evidence to substantiate my facts. The first review stayed on the website for several days and then disappeared so, I repeated my review and again several days after my review was posted it was no longer visible. After some research, I found that Yelp had “filtered” my negative review. It WAS still listed BUT, it was 1). Not used in calculation of the businesses overall rating, 2). Only visible by clicking a very obscure link “1 filtered review” and, 3). Required the user to answer a human validation question.
    After finding this, I signed up for a new Yelp account and entered a similar review for the same business — the results were the same as the previous reviews.
    YELP! may be a well known reviews website but, based on my experience with providing HONEST reviews, they will only show the reviews that THEY decide are useful.

  • I really appreciate this article. Unfortunately, as awesome as review sites can be too many customers and employee go on those sites to post fake reviews. I’m aware of instance where disgruntled employees use those sites to taint their previous employers. I do consider review helpful but, I value direct word of mouth even more.

  • I agree with the fact that these business review site, are very important to be listed & found in. But Yelp is a deceptive company in thatit deleats & filters out legitimate reviews. while keeping negative reviews unless you sign up for their premium listing. I personally do not like doing business with a company like that. this is not just my personal view, Go to the internet and type in YELP SUCKS and see what happens.

  • How can a website charge to join like Angie’s list, no thanks many free websites out there

  • YELP! does remove legitimate negative listings. If this happens for a restaurant or spa, the worse that will probably happen is that you will lose time and money. However, when they remove infomation that can impact someone’s health, this is a major concern. I posted information on a dental office that caused my mother to have a stroke. I was immediately contacted by someone else who also had a bad experience at this office, but had their review removed. If this review was allowed to stand, i probably would not have gone there. And they have since removed my review of this business. I received an e-mail (that I could not respond to) that I did not have standing to write the review since it happened to my mother and not me. I suppose the fact that I was at every appointment, paid for the service, and took her to the ER and visited her in the hospital did not count. So a YELP! account was opened for my mother, and a first hand account was written. The review never posted. I e-mailed YELP!’s customer service, and have not heard back yet.

  • Interesting article, YELP is far from a legit site, they have been sued countless times for everything from fraud, extortion copyright infringements and more. There are much better sites out there.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am searching for the best website review list,take it.If you own a business, someone somewhere is talking about you. Thanks to online review sites, everyone else on the web can be exposed to your business so I appreciate this post.
    Again Thanks

  • Іt’s in point of fact a nice and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • your posting blog is nice its helpfull for users for locla listing. very very thanks.

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  • Thaks a lot for sharing such commendable thoughts.

  • Love the post and topics, thanks for the tips!

  • I know this is an old post, but I would throw Manta into the mix as well. I’m paying $39/month right now and I can list my website in several categories, cities, and states.

  • I used to like leaving reviews on Google but I am not interested in joining ‘Plus’ so I no longer post there.

    Yelp has been useful but I do not agree with the filtering or removal of reviews, and I always read the filtered reviews anyway.

    I like Kudzu but I can’t leave a review for a business not listed on their site; do not see a way to add the business unless you are the owner.

    Have found reviews on CitySearch and Merchant Cirle that have been helpful.

    I do not subscribe to Angie’s List; not interested in paying a middleman to obtain information.

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