Visibility is the cornerstone of business growth and success. The easier it is for customers to find you and assess your reputation, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Online listings play a crucial role in every business’s digital strategy. However, there is so much a business needs to know, monitor, and leverage to make the most of listings.
This blog post gives you an overview of a panel discussion on mastering online listings for your business. Nate Henry – VP of Channel Sales, Birdeye, and Elijah Lee, Digital Marketing Manager, Harbinger Marketing, bring you the top insights to ace marketing with online listings.
Table of contents
Key takeaways from the “Mastering Online Listings: Boost Visibility, Reputation and Conversion” session:
- Online listings are fundamental to organic SEO, yet they often remain underutilized.
- Maintaining accuracy in the business name, address, phone number, and services across all possible listing sites tells Google that you are a relevant and trustworthy business. This boosts your website’s authority and improves your chances of ranking higher in local searches.
- Using tools like Birdeye’s Local SEO Audit tool can help businesses identify areas of improvement in their listings.
- Birdeye’s AI tool can help businesses generate SEO-friendly business descriptions to elevate their search rankings.
- After listings, reviews determine a business’s online success. Businesses with a plethora of high-quality reviews stand a better chance against their competitors.
- Responding to all reviews, particularly the negative ones, is essential. It showcases a business’s accountability and commitment to valuing customer feedback.
- For mobile users, convenience is important. Businesses must ensure that websites and listings are set up in such a way that users can quickly call/text a business without the hassle of filling out forms.
- A top emerging SEO trend is the advent of AI. As consumers move towards conversational queries, voice searches, and AI-driven results, businesses need to center their strategies around customer experience and adapt accordingly to these trends.
Watch the full webinar here to get the complete information on how mastering listings can revolutionize your business:
“Mastering Online Listings: Boost Visibility, Reputation and Conversion” session transcript:
Nate: Hey there, everybody; I am Nate Henry. Welcome, I’m the Vice President of Channel Sales at Birdeye. I’m going to be your host for our session today. We’ve got a very interesting
topic that’s dear to my heart. We’re gonna be chatting about “Mastering online listings: Boosting visibility, reputation, and conversions.
I am joined by an expert today, Mr Elijah Lee. He is the digital marketing manager of Harbinger Marketing. He has a wide array of responsibilities, from managing paid media to SEO, listings, and reviews.
So, get ready to explore the world of listings and optimization with us. Let’s give a warm welcome to Mr Elijah.
Elijah: Thanks, Nate. I appreciate the intro; I’m excited to be here. It’s always an honor to participate in any Birdeye event. I very much admire and respect what you guys do.
Regarding local listings, we’ll be covering an important topic that I believe doesn’t get enough attention, so I’m thrilled to be here today. Thank you
Nate: Yes, it is our pleasure. You’ve been a long-standing partner with Birdeye, and we’re very excited to have you here.
So, to get started, would you just give the audience a brief overview of what Harbinger Marketing does? What problems do you guys tend to solve for your clients, the services you offer, and how do you go about solving those problems?
Elijah: Absolutely. Harbinger Marketing is a fully outsourced digital marketing agency. In terms of marketing as a whole, we pretty much offer the whole nine yards that you can imagine a small business or a large business would need to grow. That could range from custom website design, development, graphic design, and so on.
We have a full video and photo department in-house, a post-production team in-house, a digital marketing department handling all ads, SEO, local listings, and review generation, and a content team handling all social media, email marketing, blogs, and so on.
We offer a fully outsourced digital marketing approach in-house. One of the ways in which I believe Harbinger marketing is unique in that way is in what we offer and the convenience in which we offer it. With us, through one point of contact, you get everything.
“Review generation is one of the most valuable pieces to your puzzle. It’s how we indirectly tell our story: through our customers who have used our services, have experienced our value, and can tell the public.”Elijah Lee
It is also in the uniqueness in which we care for our partners and our culture as a whole.
There are a lot of marketing agencies out there, and what I think sets us apart and makes us unique is truly the culture that we have built and the way that we care for our partners and their growth and the people here at Harbinger Marketing.
Nate: You guys have such a wide array of responsibilities, I think the service you guys are providing is really important just to local business in general. I think it’s a great duty that you’re fulfilling. So many SMBs and local businesses are overwhelmed and they just can’t manage all the things that you guys do for them on their own. They don’t have the budget to hire CMOS to run all that stuff for them.
So, now, can you give the audience some of your perspective and your stance on listings and the importance that they play in the local search or local SEO ecosystem?
Elijah: Yeah, I think local listings are probably one of the most foundational pieces of an organic approach altogether for digital marketing. It’s also one that I think is oftentimes overlooked, mainly because it doesn’t seem like the big player in the strategy. It’s in the background, but the impact it has overall on the strategy is huge.
Most people, when they hear local listings, they’re thinking of the Google Business Profile, which is that rectangular box that shows up on the right side of your Google search. It is the most predominant local listing directory but your local listing, when set up correctly, is like presenting your case to the public.
- It can give them a quick glance at your business in about 10 seconds. They can understand your business title, your services, what you do, your location or the areas you serve, your reviews, your reputation, what your customers are saying about you and how you are perceived by the public.
- If that wasn’t good enough, you have your photos so people can also build trust by seeing faces in the company and the work you’ve done in visual form so that ties together.
- Next, it has your phone number so people can contact you if they think they’ve seen enough and want to partner with you or use your service. It’s all there at the grasp of their hands.
So, it is like presenting your case in a very shortened, condensed, and effective way. So if you’re missing out on that or if you’re doing that incorrectly, you miss out on a host of benefits from having that public.
Also, this is not just Google. It is Google and 50+ other local listing directory sites that are also available to enter your business information into.
So, in the digital marketing ecosystem, it plays a huge part in the organic approach. We have SEO, local listings, website content, and several other areas that play a part in that organic approach, and local listings are a huge part of that.
“Responding to the negative reviews is even more impactful because we’re showing that not only do we care, but we’re going to make things right.”Elijah Lee
Nate: Thank you for sharing that. It’s been such a huge part of it for so long.
If any of you guys didn’t get a chance to hear, Birdeye is coming out with AI-generated business descriptions that help with listings and help with optimization, making it very easy for a local business or an agency to generate SEO-friendly descriptions and contribute to publishing relevant content.
I think that there’s a ton of potential value in there and giving some more content for search engines to crawl, so I’m really excited about that.
So, Elijah, what tools do you guys use to help your clients understand the value of listings? It’s great that you do it and you’re fixing it, but how do you help your customers understand that?
Elijah: One of our main tools is through Birdeye- the local listing scan tool.
During our assessment process, we show our prospective customers where the biggest areas for improvement are, especially on the organic digital side, as that’s typically one of the areas where we see the most lack of attention.
We use the tool to scan and check if the information that their business is trying to communicate to the public is properly, accurately, and consistently displayed.
We take the listing scan tool and input the business title of the prospective customer, their phone number, and their address. That scan will take 50 to 60+ local listing directories into account and say either it’s incorrectly displayed across those platforms, or it’s not displayed at all.
Then, we get a percentage score back on that accuracy report.
So that allows us to know that prospect ABC Roofing wants to know if their title, business description, website, hours, phone number, and address are showing up correctly across the web.
Oftentimes the majority of prospects that come to us have a very low percentage score. And that is usually for two reasons –
- They haven’t set up any of their listings at all and haven’t taken advantage of this tool.
- They or somebody else set them up, but the information is incorrect.
So, from the Google perspective, that’s definitely a red flag and we try to button up immediately as soon as we become partners with these companies. We want to make sure that their information is relevantly, consistently, and accurately displayed across all local listing directory sites.
When that’s done, Google views that as a green flag and that will help that website or that company rank higher over time by building trust with Google.
So, you can’t neglect the fact that it’s more than just Google, Facebook, or Bing. Those are the heavy hitters for sure, but you have to make sure that you’re just as accurately set up with e-local, Foursquare.com, Citysearch, and other listing sites.
No one’s going to go to those local listing directory sites to make a business decision. That’s not where someone’s going to go to make a phone call, but it helps Google see across all of these local listings that you have the proper information in place.
So, Google sees that, and they reward that, which means your website rankings overall will increase.
So, that’s been the biggest thing that we’ve tried to point out to our partners that you can’t neglect the ones that you think don’t matter because in the grand scheme of things they matter very much.
We want to prioritize Google, Facebook, and the heavy hitters, but we can’t leave out the other ones because they play just as much of a role in your organic performance.
Nate: I think, especially for so many people in the audience today who have been marketers for a long time, it’s easy to get a bit numb to listings because it’s a technology that’s been around for many years. It’s been the backbone of local search since people started using technology to fix listings. It’s good for us to remember that those fundamentals are important.
Google is really complex. There are tons of intricacies, and it can feel like a black box.
So, I love how you guys are going the extra mile to explain what you’re doing and why. It’s also a wonderful rapport-building exercise for relationships, which is important for both sides.
Elijah, how is Harbinger measuring success for your clients outside of making them understand the value of listings?
Elijah: Yeah there’s only so much you can do with listings in terms of growth. You can set it up for success and make sure that the proper information is there. But then, what do you do to grow it?
That’s often the question we get. Next is reviews.
Reviews are a huge part of that whole strategy of local listings.
When you’re researching a company or if you’re a business owner in a battle with competitors within your industry and location, what are the things that separate you and your competitors?
It’s the amount of reviews, it’s the quality of the reviews, the rating of those reviews, and the responsiveness to those reviews.
Review generation is another thing that’s overlooked by a lot of businesses and you can’t overlook that because that’s one of the most valuable pieces to your puzzle. It’s how we indirectly tell our story through our customers who have used our services, have experienced our value, and can tell the public.
Again, we use Birdeye’s review generation tool and help our partners with a very quick and convenient way to ask their customers – “Hey, would you mind leaving us a review for the work we’ve done?”.
93% of all consumers reference at least one review before making a purchase. So, if you’re neglecting reviews, you’re missing out on a huge trust factor for a potential consumer to look at your reviews and say, “Hey, I see what other people are saying about them; I’m going to purchase from them or use their business or partner with them.”
So, that statistic basically means almost everybody who’s ever going to make a business decision is going to see what someone before them has said about you to determine whether or not they want to move forward.
The responsiveness to those reviews is also equally important.
When business owners or the business themselves are responding to the reviews, that communicates to the public
- that you care about the feedback and
- you want to say at least thank you for the feedback.
If it’s a conflict, the review response is even more impactful, especially in a one-star review.
Let’s say someone had a horrible experience. How would you feel if you saw the review and noticed that no response was ever made, especially if this review was left weeks or months ago?
It creates a feeling that this company is not going to keep themselves accountable; they don’t want to deal with an upset customer and they don’t want to make things right. Which means they’ve lost my trust.
So, responding to the negative reviews is even more impactful and has a greater effect because you’re showing that not only do we care, but we’re going to make things right. We’re going to be accountable for our own mistakes, even if it wasn’t necessarily our mistake. You put the customer first.
“Taking care that businesses look good on reviews is what’s going to ultimately help customers convert. It is what the customers care about.”Nate Henry
So, all those things being communicated to the public can only help you build trust and your reputation.
So, when we’re measuring success, we’re looking at review generation as a whole and how that impacts their reputation.
Are they actively asking their previous customer base to share their experience? Because a lot of people don’t realize how much of an impact that has on how your business grows, who trusts you versus the competitor is based on their reviews. So it’s easily neglected, but it’s a vital part of the whole strategy.
Nate: Yes, perception is key to helping local businesses generate more and more leads. Usually, clients hire companies like Harbinger for leads, but there’s this technical side. It’s great that you guys are executing it really well, controlling what you can control and optimizing listings.
Then there’s this whole consumer side of it. Taking care that they look good on reviews is what’s going to ultimately help them convert. It is what the customers care about.
Every website we go to to buy anything, reviews are always really high up on the UI. There are always the gold stars in the upper right-hand corner, and they are closely designed to be in the middle of the page or with the most pertinent information on the page.
So it’s no secret, and it’s going to continue to be more and more important.
So, switching gears, Elijah, mobile devices are dominating our lives. Over 85 percent of people now have a smartphone worldwide, so how important is mobile optimization? At Harbinger, what are you seeing in your research and practice on how that impacts search rankings and listings?
Elijah: Yeah, it’s a huge part of what we do. We are optimizing for the mobile user, but we’re not doing away with the desktop.
We’re not yet at a point where the desktop is considered to not be the majority and no longer the norm. It’s still very much part of the picture right now. The way I see it is a pretty even split between desktop and mobile, with mobile on the rise.
We’ve kept our desktop strategies up to code on how we portray business information for our partners to the desktop user. But one of the things we’re realizing is that mobile user activity is growing and we have to make sure that it’s also up to code.
So, from a mobile standpoint, you’re thinking, how can we set up each partner that we have for success to be as conveniently placed as possible? Because everything on the mobile side is about convenience.
How easy is it for them to get the full picture of what you do and what you offer, and how quickly can they contact you without having to go to a website, fill out a form, and go through this whole process? They want something quick. That’s why they picked up their phone rather than going to their laptop or their desktop.
So, one of the biggest ways I’ve been keeping that up to code is by making sure that our listings are appropriately set up for a user to read through everything and then make a quick phone call.
So, we have the phone call feature built in and enabled. Then comes the messaging feature, making sure that people can click on the messages and submit messages directly to the business from the listing without having to go to a website or go through any loopholes.
Everything is right in front of you; it’s easy, it’s quick, convenient, and fast.
It’s all been about convenience because that seems to be the thing that’s growing the most.
The same thing goes with how the website is structured. So, if a user decides to go from the listing to the website, we think that we are giving them a pretty good experience on listings and then a pretty harsh experience on the website.
We have to make sure both are consistent so we don’t focus all of our eggs in one basket. It has to be consistent across the board.
So, with a website, the form is right in front of you, and the call now action button is right in front of you. It’s all easily accessible throughout your entire experience. So, I would say we’re not neglecting the desktop because it’s still a big part of the overall digital strategy, but mobile is on the rise, so we can’t ignore that, too.
Nate: Yeah, it’s really helpful. The user experience is so important. It’s not really fair for SMBs, depending on how you look at it. We hold SMBs to Amazon-like standards. We expect everything to be perfect everywhere because it is on Amazon, so why shouldn’t it be with my local plumber or law firm or whatever the case may be?
So, it’s great that you guys are taking that all-encompassing approach.
As a marketer, can you share any emerging trends that you foresee in SEO and online listings?
Elijah: So, from the SEO standpoint, AI is developing. I think it’s taken off the most in the past year, 2023. On our side, we’re constantly seeking to find and identify where our partners need to be up to date the most.
So I’m sure everyone is aware of chat GPT, Google Bard, and all of these new AI platforms that are easy to access and ask questions to get quick results from. We now realize that what we have been doing the past two to three years is no longer what’s going to work in the next two to three years, with AI in the picture.
So Google’s new SGE has been rolled out over the past few months now. It’s called the
Search Generative Experience. Google did away with its pages, and now from one to six or so, it is just one scroll, and the information being searched is much more AI-focused.
It is ironic, but the search results are less robotic and more conversational.
So, typically, for example, let’s say you’re looking to buy basketball shoes in a store. People would typically search for a basketball shoe store near me. But now they’re moving towards the searches that are more conversational now. For example, it is now “What is the closest athletic store that offers basketball shoes in my area?”
Now, the results are more catered toward the conversational approach, and a lot of people are utilizing voice text now as well. They’re saying hey, Google, hey, Siri and asking a question.
Again, they’re moving towards convenience, and the platform is catering to what people are doing to find what they want. They’re not sitting there typing everything out. Most people are now using voice search or asking their phone to find it for them, and then it pops up.
So, we are working on how to change our strategy to meet both the previous normal and what worked for the formal searches, as that’s not completely done away with. But, there is a gradual transition happening, so how are we still catering toward the previous approach of what worked while also shaping our strategy to the new approach of what will work and what is working now?
So, we’re making sure that our whole digital marketing team and SEO team are involved to know:
- What the newest Google rollouts are going to be with SEO, SGE, and AI?
- How is it going to impact our partners?
And for businesses on the call or agencies with similar partners as us, you have to be ahead of the game and know what’s coming out, when it’s coming out, and so on.
Our whole team was putting these strategies into play while SGE was in beta testing and before it even became live. We were figuring out what we change and why and how we explain this to our partners to help them succeed.
Nate: Well, that’s a great insight. Elijah, I really appreciate you being a partner with Birdeye and spending the time to join us today.
Master your online listings and reputation with Birdeye View
Knowing how to master online listings, review management, and reputation monitoring can help a business outshine most of its competitors. Birdeye’s user conference, Birdeye View, is packed with sessions with experts helping business owners understand how to leverage these tools effectively.
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