The Tragedy of Third Party and Review Sites and How Content Marketing Can Fix It

by Marcus Sheridan

REviewSites2

That’s right, YOU should be in the middle of these guys…

I had the pleasure this morning to speak to 700 attentive faces at the 2014 Innkeeping Conference and Expo and was reminded of a subject that has been bugging me for some time now—which is this:

Too many businesses are allowing 3rd party sites (like Trip Advisor, Yelp, etc.) to control their industry and ultimately impact their company’s financial peace.

Now before you say, “But Marcus, it’s just the way it is and those sites cannot be controlled,” I’d submit you consider what I’m getting ready to tell you.

Just because I'm a reseller of HubSpot doesn't mean I can't write a review article about it, just as I did with this one over 3 years ago, which has since that time generated dozens of HubSpot leads and clients.

Just because I’m a reseller of HubSpot doesn’t mean I can’t write a review article about it, just as I did with this one over 3 years ago, which has since that time generated dozens of HubSpot leads and clients.

As many of you have heard me discuss in presentations and on this blog before, there are essentially 5 subjects that move the needle online for every industry—at least when people are in the research phase of the buying decision. In my opinion, nothing can impact the efficacy of an exceptional content marketing campaign more than a massive focus on these “Big 5.” To reiterate, the “Big 5” are:

  • Cost/Pricing Questions
  • Problems/Issues/Concerns Questions
  • Vs/Comparison Questions
  • Review/Opinion Based Questions
  • “Best” Questions

With every client I’ve ever had at The Sales Lion, all our focus in building a powerful editorial calendar that gets results has been built around these Big 5. And although I’d love to spend time discussing each one in detail today, we’re just going to focus on “Reviews” and “Best” Questions as it pertains to the critical subject at hand.

Take the Innkeeping/Bed and Breakfast Industry as an example. Let’s assume you’re visiting Charleston South Carolina (where I am at the moment) and you’ve decided to go online to find the perfect “fit” for your bed and breakfast experience. What are some of the questions you might go to Google and ask? (BTW, the greatest content marketers in the world understand how to answer this question exactly as a consumer would, so please, take a second and think about the questions you’d ask in this situation.)

If I were a consumer with such a need, I might ask (search) the following questions:

  • What are the best Bed and Breakfasts in Charleston South Carolina?
  • What are the best Bed and Breakfasts for families in Charleston South Carolina?
  • What are the most romantic Inns/Bed and Breakfasts in Charleston South Carolina?
  • Reviews of the best Bed and Breakfasts in Charleston South Carolina

Are you seeing where we’re going with this? These are just a small sampling of the potential questions one might seek online if they were in a position of researching the ideal Bed and Breakfast in Charleston.

A search for "the best bed and breakfast for families in Charleston SC" render a bunch of 3rd party sites, none of which answer the actual question.

A search for “the best bed and breakfast for families in Charleston SC” renders a bunch of 3rd party sites, none of which answer the actual question.

But this is exactly where we get to the “tragedy” I mentioned in the title of today’s post. You see, if you went online right now and typed in each one of those questions, the only thing you would see is 3rd party sites:

  • Yahoo Answers
  • Trip Advisor
  • Yelp
  • Etc.

And do you know what you wouldn’t see?

Yep, that’s right—Actual bed and breakfasts.

In other words, the businesses that live and die by these critical online searches are the very ones who are left on the outside looking in, never to be a part of the conversation…that is, unless they start thinking outside the box.

What I mean by this is that it’s time businesses started taking things into their own hands and begun controlling important conversations had online about the “Big 5”—especially when it comes to reviews, best, etc.

You may ask how this happens. The answer is simple, and the same one I’ve been preaching as hard as I possibly could for 4 years now.

My friends at Yale Appliance are absolute blogging masters, mainly because they aren't afraid to share their opinions, which is why posts like this one have been read thousands upon thousands of times.

My friends at Yale Appliance (clients) now dominate their industry due to articles like this one, focusing on the “Big 5″

By following the principle of They Ask, You Answer—and aggressively tackling every “Review” and “Best” question a possible customer might ask, you’re going to put yourself in position to do 2 main things:

1. From a search standpoint, you might rank for these critical keyword phrases (including those of your competition). This can ultimately lead to a mountain of qualified traffic, leads, and sales you never would have interacted with in the first place had you not thrown your hat in the content ring.

2. From a thought-leadership standpoint, your entire industry (vendors, competitors, and consumers alike) will take notice of the fact that you’re willing to be the go-to source for information they care about. This doesn’t even account for the fact that you’ll naturally attract more social presence and inbound links due to your willingness to think outside the standard “content box.”

Upon reading this, some of you may be wondering how to write a Review article without sounding like a slimy sales person, to which I’d respond the key is using a technique I call “disarmament,” which you can read about here.

Should you write "review" and "best" articles that discuss your competition? Of course-- that is if you want to be a part of the conversation and dictate your financial future. The article shown about has made my swimming pool company over $250,000 in sales we would NOT have had if we had simply ignored the hard questions like everyone else.

Should you write “review” and “best” articles that discuss your competition? Of course– that is if you want to be a part of the conversation and dictate your financial future. The article shown above has made my swimming pool company over $250,000 in sales we would NOT have had if we had simply ignored the hard questions like everyone else.

The thing to remember though is this:

When it comes to reviewing other products, companies, methodologies, etc—YOU are in charge of what  you say. You’re in charge of how you say it. You can be vague or you can go into details.

But you MUST address the question.

By so doing, at least you’ll have a fight chance because you’re now part of the conversation.

And frankly, being a part of the conversation is what great content marketing is all about.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

MIchael Kawula January 15, 2014 at

Great post Marcus and I’m sure that the presentation was Awesome!

You know I’m a huge fan and believer of your Big 5.

Its funny I was talking to a few local business owners at a Meetup who were complaining they don’t get enough reviews. I in-turn asked how many leave reviews for other Small Businesses in the area and none of them did.

Give & you shall receive. Safe travels sir and sorry didn’t see you at NMX this year. You’re one of the best dynamic speakers I’ve ever heard. Kawula

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Great points Michael, and sorry I missed you as well at NMX. But hopefully you had an incredible time and walked away w what you were looking for.

Thanks for your support and readership bud,

Marcus

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Meredith Juengel January 15, 2014 at

Wow, Marcus! The ideas for new articles I can write are just flowing. Carving out time in my schedule now. Thanks for another thought provoking blog articles that actually explains the “How” and not just the “Why.”

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Meredith, it’s my pleasure. I hope you implement some of these right away :)

Best to you!

Marcus

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Ryan Hanley January 15, 2014 at

Marcus,

I’ve been following you for a long time. When I read your “Best of” idea for the first time I knew how genius it was. I wrote a post list the 5 best insurance agencies in Albany that day… That was a year ago at least. We get calls because of that article almost every week.

People love that we had to balls to do it.

Keep rocking hard my friend.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Hahaha, Hanley, and this is exactly why I love you brother. You don’t sit there and question the way it has always been done– you just get it done.

It amazes me how many folks have disagreed with me over that strategy, but yet when people actually DO IT, they are blown away w the results.

Thanks for being a leader RH,

Marcus

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Sally Black January 15, 2014 at

GREAT article as always Marcus – I would have given anything to hear you specifically address travel industry issues!
The travel sector is a bit unusual when it comes specifically to reviews. Many seasoned travelers know to go directly to review sites (tripadvisor) instead of simply doing a generic Google Search. Lately we’ve been taking a blitz approach for the resort properties we sell – 1. A separate review page on our website more factual, 2. a blog post review which is more fun/casual. 3.We also post our own review on sites like tripadvisor. We cannot be “salezy” but just give our honest opinions addressing more kid/family travel issues which most reviews do not address. 4. Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to post honest reviews and just include the line “we booked our trip with Vacationkids” or “We first saw this resort on Vacationkids”. We figured out, if you cannot beat them, join them and so far, it seems to be working. It’s a lot of work but we think it gives us more opportunities to score big.

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Sally, super cool! LOVE what you’re doing and it sounds like you all are seriously working some angles over there.

Keep up the great work!!

Marcus

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Sheryl Kurland January 15, 2014 at

Marcus, another point I’ve come to realize is that, unfortunately, there are business people (or people they ask to do this…) who go on the “third party” sites and slam their competitors. So, a consumer could be over looking an excellent company due to “bad” reviews. Your points are on the money, for sure.

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

That’s a big bummer when I see that Sheryl, as it has happened to me before in the swimming pool industry by competitors.

So yes, anything we can do to positively impact the conversation, the better off we are.

Great seeing you Sheryl!
Marcus

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Teena January 15, 2014 at

Hey Monsieur Lion!

As always your blog posts leave me wanting MORE — I could’ve kept reading your wise words for at least another 15-30 minutes :-)

I agree wholeheartedly — I think many of the types of businesses you mentioned put this kind of problem in the “too hard” basket, and don’t want to face it because they don’t think they can do anything about it.

In this post I love that you don’t only give us examples, but show what’s worked for your own clients in real-world situations.

I’m on the bandwagon, waving the flag for this type of content marketing — and I’m pleased to say slowly but surely people are starting to pay attention and listen.

Thanks so much Marcus! PS — hope that health scare recently got sorted.

Ciao for now
Teena

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Teena, you’re too kind! And I’m so happy you found some value here.

And yes, I’m feeling much better!! :-)

Marcus

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Churchill Madyavanhu January 15, 2014 at

The “Big 5″ just gave me ideas for blog posts for my school. I have been trying to find what to write about, but it hasn’t been easy. Michael Kawula also has a point when he says you need to give first in order to receive. That’s something to keep in mind when dealing with other businesses that also need positive reviews.

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Churchill, thrilled to hear it helped. Generally speaking, if someone is really thinking creatively, the Big 5 can go and go and go.

Good luck w this and let me know how it goes for you!

Marcus

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Henry Johnson January 15, 2014 at

Marcus,

I agree with this, so many people shy away from these kind of posts and they are some of the best you can do. Actually all of the Big 5 except “best” questions really seem to be challenges for business owners to agree too but they are the best ones do. I believe you did a post on writing a review post before, you should link that here, I think it would really help the people who havent read your Ebook yet.

Also, Churchill Madyavanhu I recommend you read Marcus’s Ebook, a lot of gold in there.

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

Really appreciate the kind words Henry :-)

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Jeremy Abel January 15, 2014 at

Hi Marcus,

Excellent topic for discussion- your approach to using reviews for building a wider [and relevant] presence in the search engines, establishing thought leadership, and creating trust is top notch. As you know the hotel/lodging industry is my specialty so this topic certainly resonates.

But there’s another element that hotels and lodges are severely overlooking when it comes to creating review-oriented content for current and potential guests- and that element is sharing information about their region.

From best local restaurants to things to do to area attractions and events, travelers aren’t heading to Google just to book a room; rather, they’re searching for information about the region that will help shape their entire travel experience. And who better to provide them with this information than a business with deep roots in the region and is already in-tune with their respective travel needs/preferences?

Today, with the ease by which we can obtain such detailed information about our target market and subsequently use that data to publish timely and relevant content, hotels/resorts/inns need to think of their website, blog and social media platforms as a “Digital Concierge” for guests’ travel needs. By providing helpful information that extends beyond their own offer (i.e. rooms), hotels can have a significant impact on a larger part of guests’ travel experience, and in so doing, expand their presence in the search engines while becoming a trusted resource for all travel-related decisions.

Closing thought: All businesses should be striving to become the “digital concierge” of their respective industry by sharing relevant advice pertaining to their audience’s entire consumption experience.

Again, excellent topic for the hotel/lodging industry and beyond, and one that certainly deserves further discussion. I’m sure you rocked the house at that conference!

As always, thanks for sharing your insights, Marcus. Keep changing lives my friend.

Jeremy

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Marcus Sheridan January 15, 2014 at

GREAT points Jeremy. Love your big picture thinking with this…boy some folks could use your brains in the hotel/B&B industry!!!

Always am grateful when you stop by my man,

Marcus

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Adam Dukes January 16, 2014 at

Another great post and I have bought into your “Big 5″ as well. In fact, I wrote a blog post last summer highlighting the best 3 social media companies in Vegas, the funny thing was — 2 of my “competitors” shared it with their following. I need to write a follow up post titled “How I Get My Competition to Share My Content”.

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Marcus Sheridan January 17, 2014 at

You made me laugh out loud with that one brother. Love it!!!

Marcus

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Sunday January 16, 2014 at

You are spot on Marcus, ” it’s time businesses started taking things into their own hands and begun controlling important conversations had online about the “Big 5”” I couldn’t agree with you more.

Developing an effective content marketing strategy would help most businesses control the level of engagements and ultimately conversions that would accrue to their sites. Your post is a readily a thought-provoking one!

This comment was left in kingged.com where this post was found and aggregated for online marketers.

Sunday – kingged.com contributor

http://kingged.com/the-tragedy-of-third-party-and-review-sites-and-how-content-marketing-can-fix-it/

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Marcus Sheridan January 17, 2014 at

Appreciate your thoughts and you stopping by Sunday.

best!

Marcus

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Marcel January 16, 2014 at

Hi Marcus,

Thanks for the post – it definitely was a paradigm change for me.

I’ve always been sort of a micro person whereas your post is definitely about a larger macro picture.

Plenty to chew on.

Marcel

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Escadas Caracol January 20, 2014 at

Boa tarde Marcus.

Seus posts são incríveis! Muito claros e de fácil entendimento. Não sou do ramo mas com certeza venho agradecer pois a cada postagem sua entendo um pouquinho mais e consigo bons resultados.

Parabéns…

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Sally Black January 21, 2014 at

Considering our recent discussions here I thought I’d share this article on how Expedia recently got “spanked” with their Google ranking do to the use of “unnatural links”
http://hotelmarketing.com/index.php/content/article/expedia_lost_25_of_their_search_visibility_in_google

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Marcus Sheridan January 21, 2014 at

Nothing worse than Google Spankage Sally! ;-)

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abhishek January 27, 2014 at

thnx a lot for the great post ..totatly agreed with you about the role of third party

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