Mike Manual at Media Guerrilla wrote an interesting and provocative post today in which he advocates Yahoo! Local and Google Local over blogging for small businesses. This is surprising coming from a blogger.
I disagree with Mike and suspect that he does not really understand what a blog can do for a small business, or perhaps the profile of his typical client is quite different from mine.
Mike advocates encouraging your customers to share their experiences with your business in local search engines like Yahoo! Local or Google Local. There is no doubt that a bunch of positive reviews about your business on a local search engine will help. Nothing is as powerful as word-of-mouth advertising. Does the number of reviews at local.google.com affect your Google rankings? I don't know. Getting clients to actually spend the time and energy to write and post a review is a problem.
And you're going to have to take the bad with the good. You don't have control over what gets published about you on Yahoo! Local or Google Local, but you do have control of the testimonials you publish on your website and your blog, and you can respond.
Influential People Read the Blogosphere
The mainstream media folks read and monitor the blogosphere. A single thoughtful blog post on a controversial subject can result in a whole lot of exposure in the mainstream media. I don't think you can say that about local search engine listings.
While the local search engine reviews do give you some exposure, a blog is your best option for having your own words heard.
If you are a consultant who has amassed years of experience in your field, no one can showcase that better that you. A local search engine listing is no match for a blog in this regard. A blog allows your potential clients to gain an appreciation for the bredth and depth of your experience and knowledge. The idea situation is to educate your potential customers to the point where they realize that they need help and you are very qualified to give it.
What can you do about those negative reviews on the local search engine? Not much. A negative review (in the form of a comment) on your blog gives you a chance to respond. I recently told one client that he should pray for a negative comment because it would present him with a golden opportunity to show the world how he responds.
Humanize and Build Trust
Your business is built upon relationships. Your clients don't do business with your company, they do business with you. A blog is a wonderful tool for allowing people to see you as a three-dimensional person instead of just a cold business. Granted, a good testimonial on Yahoo! Local can do that too but the blog wins hands-down in this department too.
Surfing Google Local is probably not a great way to hear what other experts in your field are talking about. A blog however allows you to engage them in conversation and learn from each other. And remember, Markets are Conversations and we can learn from them.
I think Mike is seeing a blog as a big time sink. It can be, but DL Byron to Click-N-Seal from zero sales to 100,000 unit/yr with nothing more than a daily blog post. (Actually, I think he recently said that his posts are about twice weekly.) I think this is far less effort than it would take to coax a couple of decent reviews per week out of your customer base.