The print media was king for many years but for advertising purposes the landscape has changed enormously.
We have relied on the web because of its searchability and great as that is it also has acquired limitations. This is very much a case of progress, much like when we grew up. One of my greatest thrills was to climb aboard the first passenger jet yet my children almost never experienced a propeller driven craft; they cannot imagine a world without TV or computers and likewise my grandchildren don’t know a world without tablets and smart phones.
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Having been in industry all my life the first advertising “bible” became the once ubiquitous Yellow Pages yet just as for my children that publication has almost reached the end of its life. Hands up all who still rely on and refer to that publication. From two volumes that weighed about 4kg in its heyday to a diminutive volume is what is left from the tool on which we spent a small fortune to have our businesses listed.
So where can one, does one, spend our advertising dollar now? Of course you have your web sites but are they really retaining their premier position? I for one don’t think so. No, I am not suggesting you scrap your web presence. Indeed I encourage you to improve your presence and the image you create thereby for your business.
But have you noticed how advertising is now being channelled into specific applications?
After Google, Twitter, and Facebook, Yelp is arguably the Internet company next in line to have its name converted into a verb. If you want to find a restaurant, a plumber or even a lawyer, Yelp probably has you covered.
Today, however, Yelp is only part of the puzzle. Assorted competitors, some from the giants of the web, also give consumers a venue where they can express their views about all manner of service providers. Navigating this landscape of user-review services is tricky, since it’s hard to tell at a glance how popular or comprehensive a site is. Many sites actually license reviews borrowed from older and more populated sites. Most of these actually have little bearing in Australia.
Listings are free but as always there is a catch. Should you wish to expand your listing with, for instance pictures, costs usually start to appear.
Very much like the old Yellow Pages that became regionalised, these newbie tools have some restrictions which then begs the question of where one should have a presence. A full comparison of user-reviews sites is too long for our purpose here but I will try to briefly listed their services and costing methods.
Yelp has become the leader with a massive presence and hence power in this industry. Restaurants and other service businesses go out of their way to cater to prolific Yelpers, to curry those coveted five-star reviews. It covers the almost the whole of the service industry.
Yelp has attracted some flack for a host of perceived slights, including accusations of phoney reviews and predatory practices that allegedly goad the recipients of negative reviews into upgrading to a higher tier of service. Yelp defends against these accusations by saying that it actively polices reviews through an automated filter system and that all businesses can claim their account on the site free of charge. Business owners can respond to any review, as well.
Even paying members can’t remove negative reviews and can only upgrade their pages and sponsor search results. Prices range from hundreds to a thousand dollars per month. A Groupon-style Yelp Deals service is available. Whatever the criticisms ignore its reviews at your own peril.
Google Places is now adding a million reviews a month, becoming one of the fastest-growing services on this list. As is mostly the case it is well integrated with other Google services is free for both users and businesses, and results automatically show up during searches. Photos etc are free but to expand your entry further requires an AdWord account. Considering the low, zero cost, you cannot afford not to have a presence there.
Judy’s Book and Angie’s List are substantial but only have a real meaning in America.
Yahoo Local is similar to Google Places. Yahoo Local automatically adds reviews to search results and maps that users generate through searches on the wider Yahoo platform. As such, you don’t need a separate account on Yahoo Local to see reviews. These are automatic for anyone using any part of Yahoo and has more than 50 million reviews written on the site, and tens of millions more available through third party content.
Listing is free. Upgrades cost around $10 per month, making Yahoo Local one of the best bargains in this summary. Businesses however can respond to user reviews on the site. Yahoo may not be the first stop in a search for review content but is still a major Web destination with Yahoo Local being surprisingly busy.
Womo is an Australian service directory but appears to be going places. It is very much like Yelp and certainly worth to be included in your arsenal.
I have skipped several listing services but cannot conclude my article without including probably the most recognised directory.
TripAdvisor is probably familiar to you. It advertises itself as the world’s largest travel site and travel community. The site’s coverage of this industry is massive. Its 60 million reviews make it nearly three times the size of Yelp, despite having fewer than 2 million businesses listed.
There’s no denying that if you operate any accommodation establishment, you need to be listed with TripAdvisor. Restaurants, particularly those that cater to tourists, are also popular here, but on a considerably lesser scale.
Hotels can claim their TripAdvisor page for free and respond to comments. Upgraded accounts let businesses add web links, contact information, and special offers to their pages. Their fees depend on the number of rooms your establishment has, are charged monthly and can be some hundreds of dollars if you have more than 25 rooms.
Clients and associates do agree that with a little thought and care listing on these vehicles does bring returns. They all have their various strengths but at the starting price of zero dollars it is hard to find an excuse for not dipping your toes into this arena.
I can only encourage you to make full use of these facilities. Do prepare a cost analysis of these platforms to the more conventional forms of advertising you may be using at the moment. As I have said before, the digital world will rule!