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Posts Tagged: business advice

When it comes to attracting online customers you want to start with an attractive website that is fast, secure, and optimized for search engines. However, that is only the foundation for a successful internet presence. Outside of your website, there is a whole network of third-party local listing sites and directories which provide information about your business.

These third-party directory sites are beneficial because they display your business information at no cost to you. However, this information may be incorrect or misleading, and some websites may not realize your business exists at all. In fact, the information on these sites can directly influence your business’ exposure in the search results! To ensure that you are making the most out of these business listings, it is important that you practice NAP consistency and take control of your information.

The Importance of NAP Consistency

The acronym “NAP” stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number, which are the three most basic things about your business that should be correct. You can achieve “NAP consistency” by making sure that all references to your business across the internet are both accurate and consistent across all platforms. Additional business information – such as hours or a link to your website – are also important.

There are two main reasons why you should ensure that your business listings achieve NAP consistency – improving your customer experience, and improving your business’ presence in local searches.

Improve your customer experience

The information about your business should always be accurate so customers can contact you or find you. If you own a storefront that closes at 5 p.m. but your Yelp listing says that you close at 7 p.m., then you may have to defend yourself from unhappy customers who drove across town to find your doors locked.

Improve your performance in local search

Search engines like Google are constantly crawling the internet to obtain more information about your business and website. When your business listings are the same across the internet, it sends a relevancy signal to search engines. Google and other search engines use this data to place your business listing in “near me” searches and location-based queries.

How does NAP consistency affect local search?

Imagine this: you own a floral shop called “Fresh Flower Shop”, meanwhile, a competing business, “Floral Farms”, is located across town. You both have 20 local listings on various third-party publishers, such as Yelp, Yahoo!, MerchantCircle, and DexKnows. However, despite having the same number of local profiles, both businesses have a different level of NAP consistency:

  1. Fresh Flower Shop – 17 of your listings display your business name as “Fresh Flower Shop”, but your Yahoo! and MerchantCircle pages list you as “Fresh’s Flowers” and your DexKnows page calls you “Fresh-Flower-Shop-LLC”.
  2. Floral Farms – All of their business’ local listings are correctly listed as “Floral Farms”.

A potential customer lives halfway between both businesses. They use the virtual assistant on their phone to ask “Where can I buy fresh cut flowers?” Their phone responds to them: “Floral Farms sells fresh cut flowers and is located 3 miles away.”

Why did this customer’s phone suggest FLoral Farms? Because all 20 of Floral Farms’ profiles had the same information, Google’s found 20 relevant sources to grab information from. Meanwhile, there were three variations of “Fresh Flower Shop” throughout the internet; in Google’s eyes, they believe that “Fresh Flower Shop”, “Fresh’s Flowers”, and “Fresh-Flower-Shop-LLC” are three different businesses.

As Google’s search algorithms continue to evolve, NAP consistency becomes more important than ever. The growing popularity of virtual assistants, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, have a big influence on shaping search engine behavior. Because many potential customers increasingly rely on voice search, you need to make sure that your internet visibility is as large – and accurate – as possible.

How to build a successful local profile

Now that you know why NAP consistency is so important, you can begin to take the necessary steps to take control of your business’ internet presence.


Find one business name to use and stick with it.


If your business has a brick-and-mortar store or a physical location where customers can find you, then you should make sure that your address is accurate on every platform and does not contain any “variations”. Some common variations can include:

  • Abbreviations (e.g. one listing of your address saying “123 Main Street” and another saying “123 Main St.”).
  • Unit numbers (e.g. “123 Main Street, Unit 20C” vs. “123 Main Street #20C”).
  • Directional variations and abbreviations. For example, “123 West Main Street” may be on the opposite side of town from “123 East Main Street”. Also, make sure the abbreviation (or lack thereof) is consistent (e.g. “W. Main Street” vs. “West Main Street”).
  • Different road names. For example, some major roadways have a name as well as a number designation. Your address may be known to locals as “Main Street” but might also be labeled “Route 9”.

Additionally, if you are a brick-and-mortar business with multiple locations, you should create a local profile for each location.

If you are a business that does not have a physical address for customers to visit, you can still maintain local listings without displaying your address. This is referred to as a “service area business”. When setting up your local profiles as a service area business, there are two important things to keep in mind:

  1. Do not list a PO Box or UPS store as your address. Google will not let you verify your Google My Business profile with either of these address types. You should use your home address and hide your address.
  2. Make sure to specify your service area. This helps you appear in listings for those areas, although Google does prioritize listings with a physical address that customers can access.

Phone Number

Make sure that you are using one phone number for every platform. Sometimes, businesses may utilize multiple phone numbers to track the success of their various marketing campaigns. While this is an easy way to find out how many customers converted from a paid search campaign or from an ad in the local newspaper, this confuses search engine crawlers and can negatively affect your business’ search presence. If you want to use a tracking number, choose a service that uses a code that dynamically swaps out your phone number for targeted users.

How to ensure you have NAP consistency

You now know the importance of NAP consistency as well as the building blocks for building a successful local profile. What comes next? There are additional steps that you can take to make the most out of your business’ online presence.

Make sure you have business listings on all sites.

By now, you probably know about a handful of third-party local listing publishers – Google, Yelp, Yahoo!, TripAdvisor, maybe even YellowPages and Manta. However, there are many other sites that you probably had no idea even existed (Opendi? Tupalo?) Even though you may never have visited some of these directory sites, Google knows that they exist – and they trust the information on those sites.

It is important that your business is listed, accurately, on as many directory sites as possible. While most of your customer base is likely not finding you through lesser-known directory sites, it is a good way to build up your business’ authority in the eyes of search engines.

Lock down your local listings

Just like the example from earlier, you may notice that some (or many!) directory sites have incorrect information. Directory sites scrape the internet for business information and gather business details from sources like real estate transactions, tax records, or information that they scrub from other websites. With a solid local listing management plan, you can become the gatekeeper of your information, ensuring that your directory data is always up to date.

Include Enhanced Content to your listings

Many third-party directories give business owners the option to add enhanced content and attributes to your listings. These attributes may sometimes include built-in structured schema that search engines use to build their local search results. Often referred to as “rich listings”, enhanced content gives consumers more information about a business.

Some examples of enhanced content lists include listing your hours, a description of your business, staff member bios, events, specials, product lists, and a description of your services. While each publisher has different limitations on what types of enhanced content they include, it is a good idea to fill out all of your local profiles with as much information as possible.

Many business owners are aware of how important online reviews are when finding new customers, but many struggle with actually getting people to leave reviews. We all know that the best way to get 5-star ratings is by perfecting your customer service, but actually getting that review can be a bit trickier. We’ve put together a few ways to get positive reviews so you can quickly grow your online authority.

Recognize the value of getting more reviews

Before we look at how to go about getting more reviews, you should understand why reviews are important. Let’s break a few of these down in a little more detail.

SEO Boost.

Search engines will display businesses in both organic and local results more prominently if they have a high number of authentic reviews with good ratings. When Google decides who to include in their local 3-pack (the three listings that are displayed under the map in local searches), reviews is one of their main ranking factors. As Google states, “more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.

Better Click-through Rate.

Users are more likely to click through to websites listed in Google’s 3-pack. They are even more likely to do so if they have positive reviews associated with their listing.

Higher Credibility.

Aside from better search results, having more reviews helps to build your business’s credibility. Every time you receive a 5-star review, it works to bump up the overall ranking of your listing. Also, the greater the amount of positive reviews that you have makes it tougher for one or two bad ratings to hurt your overall score.

Make sure you have a profile on review sites

The first step to collecting online reviews is an important one – make sure you have profiles on review sites. The most popular places to leave reviews are Facebook, Google, and Yelp. Often times, these aggregate sites will rank in the top spots of organic search results, so having a profile with them will give you greater exposure.

Make sure you have access.

Some of these sites may require you to request ownership access or verify your identity. This not only ensures that you can respond to your reviews, but also lets you control aspects on the listing such as hours, phone numbers, and photos. For Google My Business, Google will send you a postcard in the mail to verify yourself as a business owner. On Facebook, make sure that you have reviews turned on for your business profile, as they are not turned on by default.

Ensure NAP consistency.

“NAP” stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. These three things should be consistent on every online listing for your business. When Google decides which businesses to rank in their 3-pack and local search results, they crawl the internet for local directories (like Yelp, Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, etc.) to make sure that your NAP information is consistent. If this information is inaccurate or different across multiple sites, it can hurt your ranking. As Google says, “Your business information’s placement in search results will vary, but having correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date business information is the most effective way to ensure the best possible ranking.

Take advantage of a local listing service.

Searching for new reviews on all your local listings takes precious time away from running your business. Thankfully, there are services that will automatically populate your business information onto hundreds of local profiles and review sites across the internet, and alert you whenever someone leaves feedback on a third party site, so that you can see it and respond right away.

Make it easier for customers to give feedback

When a customer interacts with you, heading to a review website might not cross their mind. Many will not take the effort to figure out where to leave a review unless they have a bad experience that they are eager to vent about. For that reason, it is important to make it as easy as possible to leave a review, and give ample opportunities for customers to access your review pages.

Prominently display links to review profiles.

The first step is to include links to your review site profiles on your website and in your email signature. Some sites offer widgets and plugins to embed in your website that show your reviews in real time, along with a call to action (CTA) for users to leave feedback. Yelp offers downloadable badges for websites that link to their profile, as well as stickers to display on doors and windows.

Utilize Receipts.

Most customers who give you a rating will do so after they make a purchase or utilize your services. So naturally, a good place to ask for feedback is on their receipts. If you are a brick and mortar store that prints receipts, try including a call to action on the bottom with a web address showing customers where they can leave a rating. In an emailed receipt, you can take it a step further by including links to your review and social profiles.

Send email and text alerts.

Another way to get more reviews is by sending automated emails and text alerts to your customers after they’ve completed a purchase, or recieved a service. This makes it easy to get more customer feedback on a regular basis by sending review requests to your customers at critical customer journey touchpoints (i.e. after a transaction) to connect with customers in-the-moment. In these messages, make sure to thank them for their business, and provide a simple way for them to go online and leave a review of their experience.

Do not incentivise

It might be tempting to want to offer incentives to customers in order to persuade them to leave a positive review. This is not the best idea for a few reasons.

Offering financial incentives for reviews is against the law, and can result in fines – regardless if the review is positive or not. Paid endorsements are legal as long as it is explicitly mentioned that the reviewer is paid for their opinion – which is not a good look either. Google, Yelp, and other sites have stated that offering coupons or incentives for leaving positive reviews is against their terms of service.

Some brick-and-mortar enterprises may set up a tablet or kiosk for customers to leave reviews while in-store. This is an easy way to “corner” people into leaving feedback when they are put on the spot. Some review sites do not approve of this, and will penalize listings that have too many reviews from the same IP address.

Taking it a step further, Yelp’s terms of service flat out discourages asking for reviews at all. If Yelp sees that a listing is getting many reviews from new profiles or rarely-active users, they consider it “spam” and will either suppress or remove the reviews.

The easiest way to get around Yelp’s “no asking” rule is by making the process of leaving a review as easy as possible. This includes displaying links to your review sites on your website, emails, and other forms of communication with customers. Taking advantage of Yelp’s free website icons and window stickers is a smart way to grab the attention of avid Yelp users who will be more likely to leave a review, while people unfamiliar with the platform will ignore it. This way, you are not explicitly “asking” for reviews, but still leaving the door wide open for feedback.

Respond to all reviews

A best practice to online reputation management starts with responding to feedback – both positive and negative. When you respond to your customers’ feedback, your customers will feel like their comments are appreciated, and outsiders will view you as a business owner who values their clients’ opinions.

Make sure all feedback is honest

Reviews are an honest and open look into your business. Your reviews should be as candid as possible and not influenced by any outside means or incentives.

First and foremost, do not ask friends and family to review your company, especially if they are not a customer. Even if they have paid for your products or services, it would be a good practice to discourage them from leaving a review just to be safe. This is against the terms and conditions of many review sites, and it hurts your credibility.

Reviews do not exist to make you look good. They act as a “confession box” of what customers really think. When receiving a bad review, it should be a learning experience to see how you can improve in the future. An unprompted positive review should be a compliment to your outstanding work. Having tons of 5-star reviews is always nice, but they need to be genuine.

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Pros and Cons of Listing Prices and Packages on Your Website

If you’ve ever struggled with the decision of whether or not to publish your prices online for all to see, you’re not alone.

No matter your industry or niche, there are a few important pros and cons to consider before determining if it’s a step in the right direction for your business.

Challenges of Listing Your Prices and Packages Online

1. Those who are just “shopping around” may pass you by, strictly based on price alone without meeting you or talking with you at all. Many business owners out there call this the “sticker shock” factor, and it’s a big valid concern.

2. Competitors may see your prices and undercut you. Although not guaranteed, this is a possibility, and it does scare entrepreneurs into keeping prices hidden behind closed doors.

3. You’ll have to manage your website pricing information on a semi-regular basis. Do you plan to change your prices every year? Although changing content on your website isn’t a terribly difficult task, it can be something you forget to do at the right time.

4. Listing prices or packages can be hard to do if you offer custom work or services. Whether your customers come to you for customizable options or each of your services may vary greatly in size and scope, listing only one or two prices can be a significant challenge.

Benefits of Publishing Prices and Packages on Your Website

1. Fewer emails from price shoppers. If you’re struggling to get inquiries as-is, this may worry you at first, but don’t be alarmed. By publishing your prices online, the inquiries you do receive will likely be more serious about purchasing from or hiring you. And you may even hear from people who would have assumed you to be out of their budget’s price range, but are now excited to speak with you after knowing your prices up-front!

2. You’ll be more transparent. Here’s the truth: customers of all kinds these days want pricing information, and not just those comparing rates left and right. The internet has made everything easier and faster to do electronically. By listing this information publicly, your potential customers will be more likely to appreciate the honesty.

3. You may gain more confidence. It might surprise you, but by putting your pricing out there and hitting the publish button, you might feel a bit more confident in yourself. Many entrepreneurs, especially those within the first few years of doing business, know the “panic” feeling of getting another inquiry in their inbox. Should they send the rate they sent someone else? Are they charging enough? Too much? Many of these doubts and fears may fade if you are more “sure” of your rates and list them online.

4. Others in your industry may not be publishing their prices. And by sharing yours, you may win out against them!

5. Publishing a starting rate can be a great compromise for businesses with customizable package options.

6. Less “sales”. Hate the process of “selling” your business? Cut out the initial portion of those types of conversations by listing prices on your website. By the time they speak with you, you won’t have to talk about pricing as much as you would have otherwise, and likely less time haggling with them.

7. You’ll save time and energy! 

Create an Impressive Website Today!

Whether you end up deciding if publishing your prices online is right for you or you’ve realized it’s not a good fit, be sure your website can help you seal the deal with all of your potential customers.

liveBooks offers mobile-responsive, customizable website templates for creative professionals and businesses worldwide.

The best part? Our website designs are ready for search engines and look great on any mobile device!

We’ve also got a top-notch support team who’s here to help you every step of the way. Start for free here.


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