If you need to find a plumber, electrician or gas engineer, you tend to ask friends or family who live close by to recommend on for you. You will probably ask your friends how good their work is, how quickly they get work done, do they answer phone calls and how much they cost. And you ask these people because they belong to a circle of people you trust. But with more of our time being spent online and our reliance on information from Google and social networks, we are moving these questions online.
A popular website when it comes to 'peer reviews' is TripAdvisor. Most of us will have had experience of using this site and of being guided by the feedback that hotel guest leave. Sometimes we find them unfair and probably contrived; very often we trust what they say. And from TripAdvisor to Marks and Spencer we are seeing that companies are inviting us to leave reviews on products, services and brands and online users are increasingly all to willing to leave their opinions.
And so this leads us back to local search. If we don't know who to ask or plain can't find the right person, we are increasingly going to Google.
Recently, I moved in to a new house and was able to identify (through friends) a gas engineers and someone to do ceilings. When it came to electricians we couldn't find people - in two cases they were people we had used before and who were expensive and not very good. At this point I decided to 'trust Google'. I typed in the magic keywords:
The interesting thing is that my eye was drawn to the final result you see here and primarily because of the number of reviews that it had received. How could a local electrician have 60 reviews? I later found out - because he was pretty good at what he did. What's also important is that people (60 in total) had taken their time to write good reviews about this electrician - not one of them was bad. Further digging revealed that this company had taken the time to construct a website which ticked some big boxes as far as I'm concerned:
- Clear contact details
- Local address
- Accreditation badges
One thing that did surprise me was that even though they had done many of these things, they weren't using Google Places to its full potential. They didn't have a full description or images.
The more that we are defaulting to Google for local search, the more important it is for businesses to get things right. Here's the bottom line: Google Places can list up to 7 companies ABOVE the organic listings. Not being listed here can damage your business. If you are listed here remember that people's eyes are drawn to ratings - popularity and volume. But, like the local electrician, don't forget that you're driving traffic to a website whose primary purpose should be to convert. Is your company or your client's doing this?