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Advertising on Review Sites

Posted by Touchpoint Aug 27, 2014

Review_Site_Advertising_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

Yelp and Angie’s List are familiar names to today’s small business owners. The customer reviews collected on these sites can make or break your company, a fact that leaves independent retailers, restaurant owners, and service providers agonizing over how they can boost their ratings—particularly when Yelp actively discourages business owners from soliciting positive reviews.

Yet advertising is one tool available to small business owners to increase their visibility on review sites. It’s important to understand how critical advertising is to a review site’s profitability: Reuters reports that three-quarters of Yelp’s revenue comes from local advertising; for Angie’s List, the number is closer to 70 percent.

Jeremy Stoppelton, the founder of Yelp, insists that reviews on the site are in no way influenced by the fact that his company is almost entirely supported by advertising. In a recent Reddit AMA (an internet discussion forum where users are invited to ask guests anything) Stoppelton said: “There has never been any amount of money you could pay us to manipulate reviews. We do have an algorithm that highlights the most useful and reliable reviews on our site which is about 75 percent of contributed content.”

The benefits of advertising on review sites

Small business owners that advertise on Yelp are offered a range of marketing services, including having targeted ads appear on in-site search results pages; placement of an advertisement on a competitor’s profile page; and the removal of competitor’s ads from your own business’ profile page. Advertisers have more space to display sales collateral materials, including photo galleries, videos, and call to action buttons.

Review_Site_Advertising_PQ.jpg“Businesses that depend on their local communities for their business—service providers, restaurants, home improvement companies, and the like—will  benefit most from advertising on Yelp,” says Roland Lacey, owner of Media Right Technologies, which offers lead generating website design services. “The customers for these services look at the reviews for all the local players before making any decisions about who they’re going to do business with. Advertising gives your company more visibility on the site, and if those ads are well done, you’re increasing the odds that you’re going to get that business.”

On Angie’s List, companies can pay to have their site listing appear higher in search results, although this does not alter the number or nature of the reviews associated with that particular company. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s been a two-star company listed near the top of an Angie’s List search result, it’s because they’ve paid to be there.

Additionally, Angie’s List advertisers can opt to participate in targeted e-mail marketing campaigns, or have their offerings featured in the Angie’s List magazine, which goes out to 775,000 members monthly. Participation in advertising campaigns significantly increases your chances of being seen on the platform; according to Angie’s List own numbers, businesses that purchase a display advertisement have a 12-to-1 advantage in generating profile views from members.

Be ready to offer deep discounts

Business owners who choose to participate in the popular Yelp Deals program need to be ready to trim their profit margins. The most popular Yelp Deals are those that offer significant discounts—often 50 percent or more. These offers may be effective at introducing new customers to your brand, but they’re also appealing to bargain hunters, who may take advantage of the great deal and then never do business with you again.

Update your advertising frequently

“Just like on any other platform, you’ll want to keep your Yelp and Angie’s List advertising fresh, relevant, and appealing to your customers,” Lacey advises. “Over the course of a year, there are many different reasons that your customer may be thinking about your services.  A heating and cooling contractor will want to run different offers, depending on the season.” He recommends using the photo gallery and video advertising options to showcase the full range of your offerings. “Remember that when people are looking at Yelp or other review sites, they’re really in a discovery phase,” he says. “They’re trying to find out everything they can about your business. The more reasons you can give them to do business with you, the better.”

Live_Events_body.jpgBy Erin O’Donnell.

Live events are one of the most effective ways to imprint your brand on the consciousness of your target customer. Entrepreneurs and event planners say it doesn’t take a big budget to throw a grand opening or a party to launch a new product line.

Done right, live events can boost brand awareness, generate new leads, and build your marketing database.

When Lisa Hennessy launched Your Pet Chef last year, she incorporated live events into her marketing strategy right from the start. Hennessy’s company specializes in custom-made natural dog food for home delivery in the Chicago area and shipping nationwide. She’s also the author of the Your Pet Chef Cookbook, so she reached out to dog day care centers and pet supply stores to ask if she could do live cooking demonstrations for their customers.

The other businesses were delighted to host her, Hennessy says. And the one-on-one engagement she gets from live events helps to promote her brand while also building solid customer relationships, she adds.

“I take time to talk to each person about the product,” Hennessy says. “I like the instant feedback of the live events because I get to know firsthand what they think and get their suggestions.”

Hennessy says she spends $75 to $100 per event. That pays for the ingredients used in the demonstration plus the items in the giveaway bags, typically dog treats and yogurt. So far, the venues have been free. Finding the right price point for her classes took some experimentation. Hennessy charged $35 for the first one and included a copy of her book, but no one came. So she dropped the price to $9.95 and sold books at the event.

In Hennessy’s case, she positions her events as pet health education, sharing the story of how she created her first all-natural recipes to help her dog when she was sick. Attendees learn how to make the food and get free samples in a branded tote bag.

Make it an experience

An event should give people something to do besides eat, drink, and listen to the business owner talk, says marketing consultant Mike Dominguez, owner of RMD Strategy in Austin, Texas. “The more people are able to interact with the product and with each other, the more memorable the experience will be,” he says.

Dominguez first realized the power of live events at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, which he first attended the year Twitter debuted. The company set up a huge screen for attendees to see updates in real time. Dominguez says it proved the concept on site and gave people something to do.

Now, Dominguez organizes events for businesses, political campaigns, and nonprofits. To increase interactivity, he uses listening stations with wireless headphones that play a brief message about a product or candidate. At another event, guests went on a treasure hunt, collecting “clues” with brand messaging to earn access to a VIP area. Photo booths can let guests share photos instantly on social media, or print a photo to take home. “That will keep the experience in their long-term memory,” Dominguez says.



Set goals for the event

Events are designed to build a sales pipeline, says Mike May, president of Spear One, an event management company in Dallas. But it can be difficult to compute an event’s return on investment if you aren’t selling something on the scene.

It may be better to track your return based on the objectives you set in advance. May says that could be the number of follow-up presentations booked, or how many people take a survey. Events are also a good way to capture email addresses for your marketing list, Dominguez says, especially if you use an online RSVP system that does this for you. Set a goal for how many you want to collect, and then have a plan for following up.

Each event should also have a call to action, from which you can cull measurable data, according to Michael Westafer, CEO of Roger West Creative & Code, a digital marketing agency in Tampa, Florida. Decide what you want your attendees’ next step to be: sign up for a consultation, subscribe to a service, or register for another event.

If you don’t have past events to benchmark your goals, use industry benchmarks from organizations such as Meeting Professionals International or the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

Match your theme and venue to your audience

Make sure the event dynamics suit your demographics, Dominguez recommends. A store opening or consumer product launch is better suited to a party atmosphere than a financial services seminar. You might have live music for a young crowd, he says, but baby boomers may respond better to local artists.

Business-to-business events tend to take place during the day, May says, such as lunch at a nice restaurant. His company sometimes holds events in tandem with a professional sporting event, arena, or ballpark. But beware that you could be upstaged.

In that case, you’re not using the content or the speaker as much for the draw,” May says. “The risk is that people might come for the venue or the game instead.”

Partner with complementary businesses and nonprofits

A company can magnify the reach of an event by co-hosting with other brands or nonprofits that complement your business. Approach businesses close to your venue to donate food, beverages, or other items in exchange for promotion or a presence at the event. Offer an opportunity to support a cause at your event.

Hennessy makes a donation from each event to an animal rescue organization of the host’s choice. Dominguez organized one event that included a registration drive for bone marrow donors. For another, he chose a historic venue that was raising funds for preservation.

“If you have something that’s about giving back, people will feel it’s not only a sales event but that it’s building the community,” Dominguez says. “That can give your event a sense of purpose.”

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