In Rome, Do as the Yelpers Do

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, a must-see in Charlottesville

During my winter holiday in Charlottesville, every meal we enjoyed at a restaurant was at a well recommended Yelp venue. Similarly my colleague Chris Pilbeam remarked that every venue he visited on a recent trip was suggested by travelers on TripAdvisor.

I guess the old adage should be revised: When in Rome do as the Yelpers do. After all, 100 million other people are using Yelp, too, and it ranks as a top 40 U.S. website according to Comscore.

All jokes aside, local search marketing now extends well beyond traditional SEO mainstays Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

If you have local business getting reviewed on Foursquare, Yelp!, TripAdvisor, Google+ Local, and perhaps Facebook’s new Nearby service is critical to your success.

As niche social networks and applications have arisen, their users have populated them with powerful reviews.

Now these reviews help grow the networks with searchers who are trying to find just the right place, business, service, or recommendation. For example, TripAdvisor now generates 56 million page views a month, and is consider the ultimate for serious travelers.

Recommendations are so serious that one contractor unsuccessfully sued a customer over a negative Yelp review, and Yelp has had to deploy sting operations to uncover negative reviews. Facebook Nearby simply harnesses the aggregate amount of Likes a venue receives, making soliciting Likes a critical success factor.

There are many tips out there for business owners seeking to improve their local search ranking.

Here are a few quick ones to get you started:

Determine the Right Search Networks: Find out how customers are learning about you. Even have store clerks, wait staff or other personnel ask customers on site. Focus on your top networks, for example Foursquare, Yelp and Google+ Local.

Ask for Reviews: Use signage, staff and links on your web site to ask customers to review you.

Claim Your Page on Relevant Networks: Make sure to claim your page on relevant networks. Some sites like Foursquare allow you to build in tips, deals and other critical information.

Maximize Pictures and Videos: Encourage use of photos and videos in reviews. In today’s mobile world, these go ten times as far as text heavy copy. Highlight user photos whenever possible on your social media, and use your images when you claim local review pages.

What tips would you add?

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog.