Digital Blueprint for User Reviews
4 User Review Sites Web Marketers Should Consider
Consumers are making their own decisions less and less, relying on the reviews of their fellow users to determine where to spend their dollars. In fact, the results of BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review survey found nearly 70 percent of shoppers are more likely to use a local business after reading positive customer reviews, an increase from 2011 and 2012.
Customer criticisms and compliments can happen anywhere. Since users are in control, their comments about businesses are not restricted to Yelp, Google+ Local or Facebook (see sidebar). Niche review sites, like those listed here, are becoming increasingly popular destinations on the Web. They offer service providers, online merchants and information publishers new ways to promote their businesses and build their online reputations.
Catering to local service providers (across 700-plus categories), paying members grade companies on an A to F scale at AngiesList.com. To ensure trustworthiness, all reviews on Angie’s List are from identified members and are checked to prevent companies from reporting on themselves or their competitors. That said, its members add most businesses on the List, but service providers can also create free accounts to appear even without existing ratings. For its participating businesses, Angie’s List offers tools to connect with active consumers, including the ability to post deals, pay for premium placement and respond to customer feedback.
With 1.5 million-plus member merchants, MerchantCircle. com is the largest online network of its kind in the U.S. Consumers can use the website to find local businesses, get advice from nearby merchants and obtain competitive quotes from providers. Merchants will want to confirm their identities by completing MerchantCirlce’s verification process (offered on both free and paid levels), so a badge appears on their listings and next to their businesses on search results. This verification not only increases brand trust, but also search rankings on the site. MerchantCircle continually adds new features for both the consumer and merchant experience; in 2012 the site did away with anonymous reviews, although users don’t have to be members to rate businesses.
The first website mentioned here that will cost businesses to claim and enhance their listings (from $29.99 to $99.99 a month), Judy’s Book might also offer merchants and service providers the richest experiences in terms of optimizing profiles for search and social findability. Judy’s Book not only automatically syncs profiles up with most leading directories, but also sends listings and reviews to all major search engines and partners and includes social site links and buttons. As for the reviews, all pricing tiers include the ability to be notified of and respond to reviews.
Pitching Notes is a free service where registered users can share their reporter experiences with other public relations specialists. Guests can browse the site and add media members, but only registered users can see reviews, comments, links and contact information. Conversely, reporters, bloggers and editors can use the site to connect with expert sources and even tell PR folks how they want to be pitched, as well as to improve their relationships with the folks helping to fuel their content.
User reviews can happen anywhere, but there are three websites that consumers overwhelmingly flock to and trust for recommendations. These networks also cater to business needs with tools to add, update and enhance listings, as well as engage in online conversations in meaningful and productive ways. See how experts from Surefire Social, Main Street Hub and Cybermark International advise merchants and service providers to tackle the Big 3.