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Word-of-mouth buzz: how to build it online

by on
in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Is your business under review?
No, we don’t mean an IRS review. Are you under review from your own clients?
More customers—both the happy and unhappy versions—are using web sites such as CitySearch.com, Local.com and Neighborhood. com to post reviews and rate local businesses. Even paid-search vendors like Superpages.com encourage users to post reviews that appear with the business listings.
It often doesn’t matter whether you’re paying to list your company on these local sites. Many local-review sites post business listings free. This gives visitors a reason to use the site for local searches.
 Even if you’re not listed at a local search site, any client who has ever used your services can write about them at “share the word” sites such as Yelp.com.
This isn’t a trend you should ignore, even if you’re not web-savvy. A recent survey says 62% of consumers check online reviews before making certain purchases. When it comes to services, word of mouth is particularly valuable to online searchers who want to find a reputable, “right fit” provider.
Advice: Find out what’s being said out there, and then use reviews to edge out competitors.
If a potential client enters your industry’s keyword and your city, you might be all but invisible in a list of a dozen competitors. But if your listing is flagged with a review, you differentiate yourself immediately and give that online prospect a good reason to click on your listing. Follow the action plan in the box at right to turn online reviews into new clients and good PR.

Who’s rating whom
Here are some of the more popular sites that cater to locals. Some offer free listings for businesses, some require companies to pay in order for their listings to appear—or to appear higher in search results.
Google Product Search (www.google. com/products). This service was formerly known as “Froogle,” but the company dropped the popular name in 2007 in favor of a more mundane moniker. This giant shopping search engine accepts local business listings free, and customers can search for specific products by location. Merchants also can upload entire product catalogs.
Yahoo! (http://listings.local.yahoo.com). The other big guy on the block. Offers both free and premium (paid) listings.
Citysearch (https://selfenroll.citysearch. com).
One of the leaders in community web sites. It focuses on up-to-date city guides with businesses, restaurants, services and reviews.
an online yellow pages and search engine that offers free listings for businesses. The Paid Local Promote option gives more control over their listings and distributesinformation to other online networks.
MerchantCircle.com, a comprehensive search-optimized site that caters to small businesses’ local listing, advertising and networking needs. It uses MySpace-type profiles and can couple them with an automated B-to-B referral service.
Other local-only sites worth a look:
• Askcity.com
• Craigslist.org
• ReachLocal.com
• RegisterLocal.com
• TrueLocal.com
• Neighborhood.com
• YellowPages.com

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