Which Review Sites Should You Use?

I am frequently asked: Which reviews sites should I send my clients to? Which one should I pick?

My answer: think about your customers needs first (easy, choice), think about your business needs second (leverage) and consider using as many sites as make sense.

I asked this question of David Mihm, Local SEO expert, and his response was:

The syndication value of reviews on well-spidered portals like Citysearch, InsiderPages, and DexKnows appears to me to outweigh any special ranking given to Google’s own reviews (which are of course not syndicated). Additionally, I think Google places extremely high trust in reviews it finds on leading vertical portals like TripAdvisor, Healthgrades, and Avvo.

I strongly agree with David’s premise. Citysearch by virtue of its extensive syndication and still strong visitation puts its reviews almost everywhere (for a list see the end of this article). Citysearch uses Facebook Connect for its login making guaranteeing that most of your clients have a login at the ready and its reviews show up regularly and quickly in Google Maps. By virtue of pervasive syndication, Citysearch reviews have as much as 15% more exposure than a review written in Google Maps.

I would also recommend adding Yahoo Local to David’s list. Many users already have a Yahoo login making it easy for them. More importantly Yahoo Local reviews are the only reviews that show in the Yahoo Universal results. If maximum exposure is the objective then showing in Yahoo Universal (plus Google & Google Maps) results in far greater visibility that even the total exposure to review provided by Citysearch.

Should you use Yelp or Google?

There is strong sentiment in the SMB world against using Yelp for a number of reasons. I though would suggest that it be a business case decision rather than an emotional one. Yelp can be considered either a very large vertical review site or a very small general review site. In certain industries it is critical and in certain markets (SF, NY) it is widely popular. If you are in the restaurant business or in a market where they are popular then I think you should offer it as choice to your clients. Yelp does effectively bury reviews from new reviewers AND does not syndicate their reviews to Google. That all being said, I am sure that the customer can make a reasonable decision as to whether to use Yelp or not.

In the hinterlands and in many service related businesses it has yet to have much impact particularly when you consider the very limited syndication of their reviews. I recently added it as a choice for my small jeweler because she asked me about them. I assume that if she is now interested her clients are as well.

Google is a harder question. Since they don’t syndicate their reviews, their total review exposure is less than even smaller review sites like InsiderPages, Judy’s Book or Angies List. They also have the most restrictive removal process of any of the major sites. That being said many of your customers have the appropriate login, trust Google and they are rapidly increasing their review base…

So where does that leave you? Here’s what I created* for Barbara Oliver & Company Jewelry review page on her website (it would work equally well via email) :

We’ve found that customer reviews are very helpful in keeping our business thriving so that we can keep crafting the jewelry you love. We would truly appreciate a review from you!

Visit your preferred site to leave a review or comment. If you already have a GMail, Yelp or Yahoo Mail account, choose one of those. You may use your Facebook login at Citysearch & Insider Pages. Otherwise a quick registration at Citysearch or Insider Pages might be easiest.

What would you change?
——————————————————-

Here is a (partial?) list of sites to which Citysearch syndicates:
Search Engines & Directories

  • Google
  • Bing Local
  • Yahoo Local
  • MapQuest?
  • YP.com
  • Superpages
  • Local.com
  • Merchant Circle
  • City Grid

Mobil

  • WHERE
  • Buzzd
  • go2
  • Living Social
  • Loopt

*I have in the past extolled Miriam Ellis’s web copywriting skills. She also helped me with the phrasing on this page. As in all of her work, she did a yeomens (yeopersons?) job of copywriting on my behalf.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Which Review Sites Should You Use? by

36 thoughts on “Which Review Sites Should You Use?”

  1. While I really like the way that you worked the links for the reviews into the usually stodgy testimonials page, I think that it is going to be missed by most visitors since it sits at the very very bottom of the page.

    You should also point out that linking out to your review pages from your site will transfer some of your site’s authority to that page, ensuring that review is crawled, giving it a higher chance of that review being picked up and listed in Google/Yahoo/Bing’s Local listing to improve your local ranking in the “10 Box”.

    However, to increase the visibility and interest of those links, I’d put it into the right column where you currently have that blue testimonials button header. I’d also work to make it a little more visually interesting. Maybe throwing out some of the logos for the review sites to trigger brand recognition.

    I think some of these sites have widgets for site owners to see the review on the site- It’d throw that in there if it was possible, and then the link calling them to action.

  2. I tried City Search. I spoke to a sales rep. They have a new sort of pay per view system. So unless you pay huge amounts of money, there is little chance your listing will even show up. So getting a review there is tough based upon my research, unless you pay a TON of money in “bids”.

    Also, the salesperson said there is no bogus review removal process. So if a competitor makes a bogus report to hurt you, your SOL.

    It is a popular site, but I would suggest a free service like Yelp!

  3. Hey Panzermike, Citysearch does offer paid services to advertisers, but this article is simply referencing the power of a Citysearch review in regards to increasing your SEO and Google Maps presence. Citysearch doesn’t charge to have a free listing on our site and we certainly don’t charge to leave a review. Citysearch doesn’t have a “bid” system as you mentioned– anyone can leave a review for any company. And yes, of course, we have a review removal department if a review is deemed fraudulent or bogus. Let me know if you have any questions about our services.

  4. @Philip
    Thanks for the clarification. You took the words right out of my mouth

    @foot&mouth

    at this point I don’t control the site. I will recommend your ideas when they upgrade. At this point they are handing out a review request at the point of sale with a noted URL of domain.com/reviews which redirects to the review area of the page. My sense was that initially the owner was nervous about highlighting the on-site review links. Now that she has more comfort with the review process she is more receptive to visually highlighting the page.

    The suggestion of the icons is great!

  5. @philip: I appreciate your input. But then what is the “sponsored” listing that shows at the top? Your rep said that is a pay per view on a bid system. Was she being disingenuous?

  6. I have been getting the best results from reviews left on Judy’s book. Google has picked up all 5. On Yelp I am down to only one review. A year ago I had a dozen or more but they have disappeared. Google never found them and added them to my local business. I signed up for CitySearch but I can not see how I can add my business and it is not listed there already so I can not claim it. Insider Pages has one review and google picked it up fine.

  7. Yelp reviews rarely show up on Google as their business relation seems to prenvent that. The reason to use Yelp would be direct benefit that you might get from Yelp and the few sites that they syndicate (bing and dexknows).

    Your point about Citysearch is a valid one. If there is an error on Citysearch it is also not possible to correct.

    Given the vagaries of Google I would recommend that you refer your clients to multiple sites.

  8. Good Afternoon Professor,
    We’ve been doing what Foot&Mouth has referenced – using the actual logos of reviews sites – for clients’ sites we’ve designed of late. Mike, if you check out Grah Safe & Lock’s About Page (http://www.grahsecurity.com/about.htm) you can see an example of this.

    I like how this looks, and intuit that it might help people who are less web savvy to feel a little more comfortable because they recognize the logos. No idea if this is true, but I sense that it might be.

    This was a great post, and I am flattered by the kind mention.
    Miriam

  9. @panzermike, Your Citysearch rep was likely speaking to you about a pay for performance campaign. With a campaign like this, your company would be featured in rotation in your chosen categories (personal injury attorney, family law attorney, etc). This campaign would extend to around 60 of our local business directory partners such as yellowpages.com, superpages.com, etc. However, I hate to get off topic explaining our pay per click services, when people are reading these comments to further their education in regards to utilizing reviews to increase their presence on Google Maps. Let me know if you want me to email you directly so that we can further discuss. Thanks for your follow up.

  10. Phillip

    thanks so much for stopping by. Would you be able to address Daniel’s question about how a new business can make it into your index and mine about how to change an outdated
    listing?

  11. @philip: Sure anytime…but no calls ok?

    Already too buried saving the world from evil insurance companies ;-) issuethewrit at gmail.com

    And yes, I found my free listing. I guess the point I was making, is that you cannot rank or be found on citysearch under a given category unless you pay big bucks in the form of a bid. Too much risk over benefit for my taste if that is the case.

  12. Hi Mike!
    Excellent post!

    Dear Philip Jordan,
    We have an account on Citysearch & I would love to get your advice. How can I contact you? :-)

  13. While I’d think that CitySearch is of value to the US…as you may know, we can’t use same up here in canuck land, eh!

    There is however a yelp.ca that seems to work nicely and our clients do get some juice from same…

    Note: up here in canuck land, we like social media too folks!

    ;-)

    Jim

  14. @Jim

    There is a dirth of major review sites in Canada and the EU.

    Yelp.ca should work well in some industries. Is it syndicated to Google.ca? Or just Bing?

    In Europe revues from qype and 11870 are both scraped/syndicated into Europe

  15. @ Jim, I have found a few interesting such as Yellow Pages which allow you to add your business listing (but it usually requires to pay).

    I can also recommend you to look at your local competitors listings and see where they have their listings (which websites) and copy the formula.

  16. Great one, Mike!

    I’m not surprised that most of the comments here are about City Search; not only that Philip participating this discussion but City Search itself is a main player in the Local world.
    It’s a great reviews provider but, more than that, it’s a great listings provider to other (main) directories. I just wish that they had a better customer service. I’m working with them for 5 years & representing 7 different clients with a total budget of $6000 & you CAN’T imagine how they treat us. Sometimes I overwhelmed with the gap they have between their great product & their bad customers care..
    About the reviews exposure, I’d like to mention Yahoo Local- 2 weeks ago Google Maps opened up the gate for info sharing with Yahoo Local. Reviews, Description, Web Pages, etc.. is flooding Google Maps listings. This reinforce what Mike wrote about Yahoo’s reviews exposure. Now it’s been exposed more than ever!

  17. @jim

    As for Canadian site – I agree with that Yelp & Yellowpages work well. Reviews from Weblocal.ca (it is the Canadian version of Yellowbot) also appear strong and sometime show up in google.ca listing.

  18. @ Philip

    Thanks for the reply & for your willingness to help, Philip!
    I’ll write you to your personal e-mail soon.
    Thanks, Abby.

  19. This was a great post, and it got me thinking outside the box about reviews…

    As I brainstorm ways to get customers to leave reviews for the clients I help, it seems apparent to me that the most important strategy is an offline one. In most cases, I can’t see a customer visiting a business’ website after the service… why would they?

    I think 99% of the time, if you’re going to get a customer to leave a review on one of these IYP type sites, you have to get them in person. I like the idea of doing a small business card with 3 or 4 tiny URL’s with direct links to the review page… but I’m sure there are plenty of creative ways you could do it.

    Any thoughts on how to grab people’s attention offline to do a review? Maybe incentive based??

  20. @Justin

    The goal is to reduce friction for the customer so that they can have a smooth ride.

    If you are going to give them a business card just put one link on it like domain.com/reviews (have that redirect to the correct spot on your website) that takes them to the links that are a simple click to get to your review pages….that removes the frustration of the client typing in a long arduous url and not getting to the right spot…

  21. Hey Abby and Mike, thank you both for your emails– unfortunately, they both were sent to my junk box. I added you both to my safe list and will reply to both of you today. Thanks again, Philip.

  22. @Phillip

    Was just getting ready to ask everyone here if they had heard from you and then beat up on you :)

    Mike

  23. @Philip
    Thanks for all your help!
    Hopefully we’re reaching now to solving our (old) open issues with our account! I feel much more calm now to know that there is someone else who is willing to help us on Citysearch!

    & of course – thank you, Mike, for your excellent posts which attract people’s comments from all over the arena :-)

  24. Mike: I’d like to address reviews, review management, customer service on reviews, and the difference in search engines in this note.

    As you know I recently contacted you to let you know that I had become a convert on review management. My reluctance to deal with reviews stemmed from the fact that we have run a number of smbs for many years, they tend to not be in the mainstream of industry types that generate reviews, and generally we had received very positive feedback, word of mouth, and testimonials. My perception was that opening up to reviews would open up a can of worms focused on generating negative scam attacks from competitors.

    All that changed. One of the smbs, that incidentally gets the most positive feedback from customers and has done so for decades received a scathing attack review on a web review site. What could I say. The particular bad review was real.

    Its put us into motion.

    First off as business operators we have always asked for customer feedback. Appropriate management response is to read these comments. We have always practised that if we see a series of bad reviews/comments in a short time period we need to take corrective action. When we see one bad set of comments from one customer and without similar comments from others, we tend to ignore it. We know we can’t satisfy ever single customer every single time. Regardless, the internal process to monitor these comments is focused on ensuring that we always meet and hopefully exceed expectations. If we do that, we end up running a successful and profitable business.

    Of our businesses we know some work better than others. We strive to improve the smb’s that work less well. We try and do that internally through training staff.

    Back to reviews:

    Upon seeing one bad (scathing) review we have moved into action as follows:

    1. We are gathering (managing) reviews. We are asking for reviews from myriads of satisfied customers. Of interest we are getting them and in very quick order. The particular business generates incredibly positive response from an incredibly high percentage of customers.

    2. Per this post by you, we are in the process of spreading the reviews in a variety of review sources. Diversity is the best response. If one review site goes down, or gets far less visibility the others remain. To the extent that we can generate positive reviews (and we can) seeding them in a variety of places will be more helpful.

    3. We are writing a response to the real review which attacked us. Its not a gut response. We have discussed this internally and addressed the details of the bad review. We are addressing the complaints. We respect the bad reviewer. We are treating the complaints in a serious manner.

    4. The bad review makes us ever more aware of the need for outstanding customer service. As referenced above, not only does it long term sustain a business and keep it thriving, but in this environment, with the web accomodating the enormous spread and visibility of reviews and testimonials it is more important than ever before.

    5. Finally I’d like to comment on how search engines and websites/review sites in particular respond to reviews.

    We found a bad review in Yahoo. We strongly believe it is a scam review probably planted by a competitor. It lacks depth, specifics, and it reflects the kind of spam attacks we have seen in this industry, all probably planted by competitors. It had none of the specifics of what we know to be a real review by a real customer (regardless that it was extremely negative).

    6. We contacted yahoo about the suspected scam review. Yahoo contacted us back. It occurred in a day. They said they had read it. I haven’t seen it taken down….but OMG….they treated us with respect and responded to us.

    I contrast that response with that of Google. Google invariably never responds or leaves you in the dark.

    I’ve actually recontacted Yahoo with more detail showing the difference between a suspected spam attack and a real review.

    What will Yahoo do? I dont’ know. At the least though, it treats our business with respect, interacts with us, gives us a chance to make a case, lets us know they are addressing the issue.

    That is in utter contrast to how Google responds. Its a stark contrast.

    One only hopes that Google increases its customer service to smb’s treats them respect, and engages them as does any other business with regard to reviews or other issues.

    Google could learn from Yahoo’s lead.

  25. Exposure is exposure, and the more the merrier, in my humble opinion. Spreading yourself as wide as possible through as many channels as possible is key to getting the traffic and the links which you require for your online efforts to be deemed successful.

    This post was very helpful in highlighting the pros and cons of various review sites, and I especially enjoyed the comments that this post gave rise to. It is comforting to see the response and input of people like earlpearl in this manner. The beauty of the internet is that you can draw on the experience of others without having to go down that road and find out for yourself, by yourself. It really works for me!

  26. We are a local directory. We choose to not allow commenting due to the fact that small businesses can be adversely effected by negative emotional comments from the public or by their competition.

    SMB’s have enough to do just running their own business. How can a small business possibly protect their reputation with all the directories and search engines allowing this to go on without a business owners permission? Without an easy remedy to repair the damage done by negative posts? We find that many of our clients are not even aware of the comments.

    Is there a way for business to opt out of these directories?

    I look forward to your response.

  27. @Colleen

    At least in the case of Google, it is relatively easy to opt out. I assume, but do not know, the others allow for opt out

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