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All the search engines have a place for local businesses to claim a local listing. Google Places, Bing, and Yahoo! Local are all tied to the Maps feature at the search engines and each one has a way for customers to write reviews of the business. All the reviews – positive and negative – have the potential to help your business rank in the search engines.

You’ve heard the expression “content is king.” What that means is any content has the potential to help your site, or your business, rank.

Let’s say, for instance, that your business listing at Google Places has 50 reviews. Forty five of them are positive reviews and five are not. Even those five negative reviews are helping your local business listing rank at the top of the search results for searches related to your niche.

But your website can benefit from negative reviews too. Add a reviews page to your website and allow your customers to write reviews on your website. The more reviews you get, the more likely you are to have that page rank in the search engines for searches related to your business.

While negative reviews can help, you can encourage positive reviews by providing excellent customer service and by asking your good customers to write reviews. If you add your Google Places listing and your website’s reviews page URL to your business cards, brochures, and shopping bag inserts, you’ll encourage customers to write reviews of your business. Provide them good service in the process and they’ll be good reviews.

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