Directories & Free Listings

Hair Cuts

Why are online directories helpful? For one – they’re free.

An important way to leverage these listing is to make sure your business profile and contact info are on as many of these free directories as possible.

Reason being – many clients clients do some sort of research about your business before they reach out about a job request. So the more your business is present across all these listings online, the more comfortable clients get that you’re a legit business.

In addition, as your business presence increases across many of these sites then this builds up your SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”), so that your business name has the higher likelihood of popping up high on Google search results when a client is doing a search for [service industry] in [city, state].

In addition, free listings give you a helpful platform on which to build public customer reviews and content, which will in turn help your business go viral.

What’s the deal?

Yelp is one of the more well-known websites when it comes to people searching for services.

Yelp has built a highly engaged community of consumers who are passionate about writing reviews on businesses. As a result, Yelp is very useful in terms of asking your own clients write glowing reviews to help you grow…that’s the magic here.

Once you set up a Yelp account, first – send every single client you’ve done business with in the past a link to leave a review on your profile. And don’t worry how your clients will react to this – this is not an abnormal request. Your clients won’t hate you for asking them for a review. Most customers know how helpful Yelp can be and just need to be asked directly to leave you a review. Your customers are busy with their own lives as well, so send follow up emails if clients don’t review you right off the bat. Send one, then another 1 week later, then one more 3 weeks later. Then stop. You want to remind clients to review you but 2-3 follow up emails is a good amount until emailed requests start becoming “spammy”.

Adding reviews to your profile is crucial because the more reviews you build on your Yelp profile, the higher up you show on Yelp’s search results. Essentially you’re leveraging your clients to help with marketing.

Yelp gives your current clients a voice to express their opinion of you, which puts you more prominently in front of new clients searching for services in your industry and location. Put some upfront effort in to really get clients to leave you reviews. Heck, even ask a few friends to leave you positive reviews to get the ball rolling. It depends on your industry and location, but the global rule is the more positive reviews the more likely you will reach that #1 listing…

The secondary effect in building up a Yelp profile is that many other (smaller) directories use the ratings data on Yelp as their own reviews. Yelp allows other platforms to tap into business reviews, and display Yelp reviews all over the web. So building up your brand and quality rating profile on Yelp will indeed pay dividends for you across the web.

How do I set it up?

Make sure to “claim” your business profile here: https://biz.yelp.com/  Search for your business – just so you know, sometimes Yelp will auto-add businesses to their site or clients will add businesses even without being asked by the business owner. If you do not see your business listed, then just tap on the “Add your business” link towards the bottom of the page…

Setup takes just a couple minutes, and then you are free and clear to share your business profile link to all your current clients!

What are the risks?

Yelp has been known for its sketchy “fake review” strategies. That is, if you don’t pay to advertise on Yelp (we’ll cover that in the “Paid” section of this Handbook), then they’ve been known to sick fake 1-star reviews on your account to penalize you. This topic has been widely covered and has been consistently denied by Yelp management: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/yelp-extortion/

There’s no real way to fight this risk. The one thing I will say is to make sure you have your profile on other platforms (as discussed below) as well so in case the “review-extortion” happens to you, clients can see more legitimate reviews of your business elsewhere.

What’s the deal?

Google’s basic search platform has enabled local professionals to get discovered easily online. Local and Google My Business allows you to get listed and show up on Google search results in a more relevant fashion.

Google processes over 40k search queries every second, so it makes sense that your profile should show up in search results. Adding your business profile on Google will ensure you show up in the major search engine’s results list. Similar to previous free listing sites, fill up your profile with client reviews so your business can show up as close to the top of search results as possible.

Google is always a great place to appear because it’s just a box that can be checked – in the client’s mind – about your business’s legitimacy. Not to mention, setting up your business account will allow you to delve into other Google advertising products (as discussed herein) to evaluate their usefulness in terms of growth.

How do I set it up?

Set up your business to be listed on Google: https://www.google.com/business/  You’ll be able to find your business (if it’s already listed somewhere on Google), or add it yourself. In a matter of minutes you’ll have your profile live, and it’s up to you to start sharing it with clients to update reviews!

What are the risks?

Just like with many Google products, Google My Business has not seen a lot of active investment from Google (so it seems). That means the amount of information a client can find on your Google profile is rather limited. A screenshot below is an example of what your business will look like – not as content-rich as other listing platforms.

In addition (and the sad reality), your business is always listed next to competing professionals so the client can never really get a focused view on just you with a bit of distraction.

What’s the deal?

Facebook (“FB”) is typically known as a place to simply share photos and comments with friends, but the FB team has spent a considerable amount of time and money building up its business ecosystem – specifically for small business and service providers.

Facebook just recently launched it Facebook Services search product: https://www.facebook.com/services. FB users can now search, browse and book local service professionals direcly on Facebook (albeit they are in the early stages of this search directory). Translation: you want your business to have a Facebook Business page ASAP.

Similar to Yelp, once you set up your FB business page, start filling it up with content. First off that means reviews. Send your FB page to clients and friends (either email them your link or message them your link through FB messenger) and ask them to post reviews on your page. That not only will make you look like a higher quality business to prospective clients, but will now boost your ranking on the new FB services search…

Other “content” (as I mentioned above) means photos and posts. Show off your personality, build your brand – post pictures and any relevant articles or announcements that are relevant to your business.  Even post deals or coupons. Show visiting clients that there is indeed activity and engagement going on on your FB page. Let prospective clients know that there’s a person behind that business name.

The great thing about FB is that clients can like, comment and message you – loads of ways to engage with current clients and show off engagement to leads. Not to mention – the average American spend 40 minutes a day on Facebook, so you’ll be showing activity where your future customers are spending tons of time.

How do I set it up?

Setting up is easy and free. Just go to “Create a Page” FB. Choose “Local Business or Place” as your entity, and then choose the correct “category” and sub categories…these and also your location are important so that you show up on the relevant search results when FB users are searching for service professionals around them.

One other crucial setup piece is to make sure – once your FB page is live – is to give clients a CALL-TO-ACTION on your page. That means giving them something to do once they arrive on your page, read your content, and are ready to reach out. FB added a “Book Now” call-to-action. You can link to your website or any nifty booking tool you have already set up (e.g., like an FB booking link).

What are the risks?

Facebook requires a good amount of time to keep investing in. If you set it up and don’t continue to post status updates, announcements, photos, etc., then your business can look a bit dull and inactive. That might reflect on your very brand – inactive, not particularly caring, unresponsive even. Now, that’s probably not true (since we know that most professionals like you are simply busy), but with so many professionals to choose from and so many platforms to search through, prospective clients have the ability to be picky and jump to conclusions.

Get in the habit of posting at least 2-3 times a week some sort of relevant content to make your clients feel comfortable that you are the man or woman for the job!

What’s the deal?

Craigslist used to be one of the highest trafficked sites across the internet. It was the place to go if you want to buy or list any services, products, etc.

It still is highly trafficked although not as “professional” (per se) in terms of purchasing and offering local services as its peers. But don’t get me wrong – interested clients are still on the platform.

Clients can go on and search the Services section of Craigslist:

So depending on the industry they are searching for, prospect clients can search in an industry section and browse the postings of those people who offer the requisite services. Searching for a music lessons? The choices are plentiful of local folks willing to help – each posting can be clicked on with your – the professional’s – details.

As you can probably see for yourself, the marketplaces and directories today are enhanced versions of this type of model with better design and offerings. But at the end of the day, this is commerce at in its most basic form, and a place where you can absolutely meet interested customers.

How do I set it up?

Go to the account creation page on Craigslist, and all you need is an email to set up an account. No one can browse your profile – people can only browse classifieds (that’s what Craigslist calls job posts) that you post. So go create one.

Go to your home screen and tap on the top left where it says “Post to classifieds”. Choose the “Service offered” option so your post fits in the proper category.

There you’ll be able to fill out the specifics of your skills and offerings. You can post as much or as little detail as to the services you provide in each posting. I would try to appear as legitimate and detailed as you can. Especially since Craigslist doesn’t have reviews or other types of fancy content ability as others. You can share your business information where potential leads can research more information about you.

What are the risks?

Craigslist unfortunately can be known for some sketchy dealings. There’s limited oversight so posting can definitely filter into the “adult services” bracket, which generally attracts sketchier types of folks.

Due to this risk, some people advise hiding your contact details on the postings on Craigslist at the risk of you getting low quality or sketchy people calling you. Craigslist supports hidden email addresses so clients can reach out to you via the job posting, but they can’t see your actual email address.

The site is declining in overall traffic so you can attract some potential clients on it today. Three years from now I’m guessing this won’t be part of your overall lead generation strategy.

Overall Free Business Listing Platform Thoughts

Yelp, Facebook and Google really are the “Big 3” when it comes to listing your business online to get consumers to find you.

Some other directories include Yellow Pages, Porch.com, Manta, Merchant Circle, and the Better Business Bureau. A good resource if you want to dig deep into online directories can be found here.

If you have the time, set up profiles on all these websites – it can build your SEO as you can link back to your website or Facebook Business page. Meaning you will show up organically when people Google for specific services near you.

The goal here is to just attack that low hanging fruit. You’re doing your business a disservice actually by not being listed on these directory platforms. They provide many potential clients with the easiest ways to find you. Don’t make that step difficult – you’ve already got enough things to worry about!

Cost Per Click

Advertising

The “cost per click” model was coined by Google, and is ideal to capture those potential clients who are at the brink of consumption – a product, a service, etc.

As explained in the “Free Listings” part of our Growth Blog, the ideal is to have your profile or website pop up organically under Google search. But Google and other search engines allow you to pay to be put in front of consumers and even pay only if consumers click on your ad.

What’s the deal?

Google Adwords allows you to present any advertisement (about your company) at the top of Google whenever someone is searching for certain keywords. And those keywords can be chosen (or “purchased”) by you. Even the ranking of your ad can be purchased by you.

If you are – for example – a personal trainer in Des Moines, Iowa, you can purchase keywords like “personal trainer” and “Des Moines, Iowa”, so that when people are searching for those very keywords in Google, you can set a short advertisement with a link to your website where “clickers” will get sent to. Ads will appear either at the top of search results or the side.

Google Adwords are great if you want to pay to drive traffic to your website. And not just random traffic, but traffic of those people who were actively searching for topics or needs that are related to you and your business. You’ll be able to set bid prices on these keywords in your Adwords account, set daily budget limits, and choose any number of keywords or combinations of keywords.

How do I set it up?

Setting it up is pretty easy. In fact, I personally like the very clean “How It Works” page to help you get a sense before you get started.

You’ll be prompted to sign in with your Google account (if you don’t have one, then you can set one up for free), and you’ll be guided through how to set up your first campaign. Free tip of advice: call the Adwords Setup Support team at the # (1-800-848-9256), and ask for free Adwords credits…they are pretty generous in giving you $100 in credits to start things off.

What are the risks?

Conversion is the key thing to look out for with Adwords. That is, you need to make sure that when those people click on your ad on Google, they are sent to a place (like your website) that has helpful content with a clear call-to-action (to book you, or call you, or email you).

Conversion is key to look out for on the Adwords platform for a couple reasons:

(1) It’s very easy to spend a lot of money with absolutely no results. Be careful setting up those daily budgets and cost per clicks. Don’t be tempted to chase up cost per click bids. Constantly analyze your clicks and traffic and see if that’s turning into real bookings. It’s easy to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Adwords after a few months without seeing any real results.

(2) If you do not convert a click to at least collecting client’s contact information (through a sign up flow, for example), then there is no way to re-market to these potentially interested clients. On other platforms, when someone engages with your ad or profile, you can see who they are (take Facebook for instance) and follow up with them or re-market to them. But on Adwords, you don’t know who is engaging with your ad unless the person emails you or calls you or takes up some effort to reach out to you.

What’s the deal?

Most people don’t think about Yelp in the “cost per click” type of way, but they released a relatively new advertising product/platform to drive people to your Yelp profile and engage in specific ways. And you can pay only if they engage in ways you want the profile visitors to.

You’ll be able to pay to drive people on Yelp to:

·         Click on your profile

·         Click on message the business (that’s you!)

·         Click on request quote

·         Click on your website

·         Click to call you

Those are some more popular ones. You’ll also be able to set up deals/discounts and have Yelp promote them and then pay Yelp a fee if that promotion is booked through Yelp. Some visuals (always helps give you some context) of how potential leads will be directed to take certain actions can be seen below:

Also, a pretty cool dashboard is set up for you to view the trends of how effecting your advertising has been:

How do I set it up?

Simply go to the Call-to-Action landing page on Yelp: https://biz.yelp.com/support/call_to_action

If you’ve already claimed your business listing, then it should be pretty straight forward. If you haven’t, then sign up and create or claim your business – then you can get going.

What are the risks?

Unlike other ad platforms where there is no minimum spend, on Yelp you need to commit to a minimum budget amount and timeframe. The average spend per advertising business on Yelp is $5,500 per year (sourced from recent earnings) – so that can be a sizeable budget if you’re just getting started with your business.

For ad packages Yelp forces to you sign contracts so you can find yourself stuck in ad deals even if you aren’t seeing good returns.

There’s also a lot of chatter from folks who have spent money on Yelp, and then withdrew advertising because they weren’t getting enough business. As a result, their Yelp profiles all of a sudden became filled with 1- and 2-star reviews out of a no where. You can Google more stories such as this one about Yelp extorting its business for not advertising or for pulling advertising on its site.

Mitigating this risk goes back to getting as many clients and friends to give you legitimate 5-star reviews and building up content on your profile. Just be weary of the large budget requirements and the sketchy dealings that are widely reported with Yelp.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

There are other platforms that offer pay/cost per click ads – like Yellow Pages and the Yahoo! Bing Network – but Google and Yelp are probably the most well-known. However I would urge you to check out a number of them. Check out this good comparison piece

Cost per click can be both time and capital intensive. It can take up a lot of your time to monitor different keyword campaigns and make sure your cost per click is low enough where the spend makes sense, and to make sure you’re experimenting with different keywords based on the business you run and where you operate. In addition, budget minimums can be a hurdle for businesses if you’re just starting out and don’t have such a large marketing budget.

The interesting thing about platforms like these though is (in theory) you’re getting yourself in front of the right customer. That customer who is searching for a specific business or service type, will see your name at a time when they are prime for consumption. Not only that but they are given clear calls to actions to continue – click or buy or call, etc.