There are tons of business listing sites out there, and more pop up every day. Some are geographic, some are by industry, some are like yellow pages, some are just shady. Lots of them try to capture the business owners’ attention and dollars. Which ones should small businesses spend time on?
|Too many choices|
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the online sites that list my liquor store:
BizRate.com, MerchantCircle.com, Manta.com, ServicesListed.com, CitySearch.com, YellowPages.com, Ziplocal.com, Local.Yahoo.com, Nexport.com, Likeme.net, Insiderpages.com, GBiz.org, Yelp.com, ineedthis.com, Yellowise.com, Citysquares.com, YellowUSAPages.com, YellowPagesGoesGreen.com, 8coupons.com, b2bYellowPages.com, Liquorstoresearch.com, and ShopAlva.com
And that was just the first 3 pages of Google results. You know there are more. And I get calls, postcards, and letters all the time to pay to put my business in someone’s directory so we “can be found in the search engines.” Please do me a favor, and don’t make any more business listing sites.
Oh, wait. Location based services! Google Maps/Local has a page on my business, and Facebook has a Places page on it. FourSquare, Gowalla, Yelp, and more I haven’t heard of have a listing for the store.
Every single one of these sites wants me to log in as business owner and provide them with specials, coupons, updates, photos, or something. I hardly have time to update my own site. Where will I find time to do all of these? And how do I know which ones are worth the effort?
All small business owners have a similar problem. The natural reaction when business owners are faced with so many competing choices is no action at all.
How to compare listing sites
How does a small business decide whether any individual site or listing is worth the effort, and the cost for those that charge? The only answer is to be where your customers and potential customers are looking. You can ask your customers, look at their social profiles through social CRM tools, and you can check public statistics on websites. That’s the absolute best method. After that, we have to resort to measurement.
First, let’s look at the traffic. Take up to three of those sites to Compete.com. See how they do on traffic. Here’s YellowPages.com, InsiderPages.com, and CitySearch.com:
Does that help you decide which ones you are worthwhile and which ones are worthless? You can throw some out immediately with this. In fact, you can probably throw most of them out with this one test.
That was just the first round.
Second, let’s see how many searches are done for your niche. I have a liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma. How many searches for “liquor store Alva” happen each month? Google knows the answer. Go to Google AdWords Keyword Tool.
I put in “liquor store”, “liquor store Oklahoma” and “liquor store Alva” to compare how many searches each generates for Google. The estimate is hundreds of thousands for just “liquor store” but only a few hundred for “liquor store Oklahoma” and not enough results to show for Alva. This is only the result for Google searches, but take it as a kind of barometer for search traffic. To me, the search data says there are not enough people searching for Alva liquor stores to bother with online ads.
Based on these results, my plan for my store is to stay focused on my liquor store’s own site, Facebook page, and Google Maps/Local listing. It’s up to you to make your own plan based on what you learn.
Here’s the lesson: focus your efforts on sites:
- where your customers are,
- that have sufficient traffic,
- and that match the search habits of your customers.
This process applies just as well to small towns and tourism efforts.
E-podunk lists every small town out there, and so does Wikipedia. Most state tourism websites offer their small towns a page. And lots of other tourism related sites profile small towns. Just like the business listings, they are competing for the attention and dollars of the small towns. Which ones should you spend time on? Find out where your current and potential visitors spend time online. Focus your efforts there. If you are trying to decide if a particular site is worth your effort for tourism, start by checking them at Compete.com against your own site, or the site of your state tourism group. Build your plan from there.
What is your plan for your business or small town?
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I have found, that MerchantCircle.com is by far, the BEST way to market your small business. I have spent COUNTLESS hours (Approx. 20-30 hours a week using all the FREE tools MerchantCircle offers. I’m very active on MerchantCircle, and know how to use it, to get great results. (That’s why they call me the MerchantCircle GURU)Once my page was completely optimized, (Optimized by Marcus with Admax Media) I began to see my business coming up #1 under SEVERAL (about 30) search terms in and around the Whole State of Minnesota for my services. I was beating out ALL my competitors big fancy and probably expensive websites. with my LIL OL MerchantCircle page.
Becky McCray says
Ken, I understand why you choose to spend that much time with MerchantCircle, but I cannot agree that many small town business owners should follow your lead.
First, I never advise that small business owners make themselves completely dependent on any one outside company, especially one that is structured in a way that draws attention away from their other online promotion efforts.
Second, for small town businesses serving their local market only, there simply are not enough potential customers searching at MerchantCircle to spend that much time.
Third, that same 20-30 hours per week could be spent on a more balanced portfolio of online activities that would yield similar performance in search results, in addition to the many other benefits.
Your goal has been to become the MerchantCircle Guru, and you are that.
For my retail business, I have a complete MerchantCircle listing. I would never consider making that my main online presence.
I recommend that small town businesses carefully weigh MerchantCircle the same as all other online business listing services.