Social networking site MySpace.com recently joined with local guidebook site Citysearch.com to launch MySpace Local, which will combine the social and directory aspects of each site, allowing users to rate, review and comment on local small businesses. The site is currently in beta and right now seems to focus on Citysearch’s database of bars, restaurants and clubs.
The site will compete with other local rating sites like Yelp.com, and is surely an effort to monetize the hugely popular MySpace network. Small businesses can have profile pages where users ratings and reviews will appear along with basic information like address, hours and directions. Companies can advertise through brand sponsorships – Coors and Outback Steakhouse are two of the first – and also through the MyAds platform which allows you to allocate how much to spend on advertising targeted by geography and user demographics.
We asked three search and social media experts to weigh in on this venture and what they think it means for small business and whether it should affect their SEO and social media strategies.
David Hoffman, Search Smart Marketing:
This is a natural evolution for social-networking sites as they try to monetize their high traffic volume and member loyalty. Neither has been historically successful at generating advertising revenue; this may help get them there. It could be a good fit for the shopping, entertainment and travel advertisers that Citysearch caters to while helping MySpace become more relevant after losing their cache to Facebook.
Chris Finken, Orange Soda:
Although the word social is very interesting to small business owners and “social media” is the new must have term for any advertising agency, the issue continues to be adoption of these marketing options by small business owners. For the myspace local offering to be used by small business owners and then to have them start paying for it will require MySpace Local to be the destination of customers for business information. Sure, the partnership with CitySearch sounds nice but for this to hit mainstream and not just be viable for Bars, Clubs and Restaurants, they will have to find a way for the business owners themselves to get excited about listing, updating and managing their information on MySpace.
The interesting things that MySpace does offer is that they are an engagement site for a specific demographic. What MySpace and IAC will be watching and hoping to find out over the next few months is whether or not the myspace demographic and user base want to talk about businesses and if sharing and recommending businesses on MySpace means more customers for the business owners. With Facebook offering business profiles, Twitter being talked about by everyone from Oprah to Stephen Colbert and sites like CitySearch, Yelp and Local.com all competing for business listings, it will be hard for this deal to mean anything significant to the vast majority of small business owners.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all offer local listings and most people start their searches with one of those three companies. MySpace is losing marketshare to Facebook and the question remains, will a CitySearch/MySpace relationship make a difference for the average small business owner in Columbus Ohio, Denver Colorado or Lafayette Louisiana? I doubt it, but am very open to watching to see what happens and offering it to our clients if it’s proven to work.
Paul Burani, Clicksharp Marketing:
Fusing a site like MySpace with local search could be a major step forward in the quest to monetize social media. It remains to be seen how closely these business listings will be interwoven into the MySpace user experience, but any business which is already active in this space will now have a vehicle and new entry points to further prime its audience for action: signups, referrals, sales, etc.
From an SEO point of view, there’s less leeway. Right now, MySpace Local defaults the title and meta description to focus on “reviews and ratings” information. This means that if a business listing appears among the search results for a given keyword, it is most likely to be clicked by someone specifically looking for reviews and ratings… and perhaps not a menu or driving directions. Furthermore, the meta description is set to show the number and quality of reviews. Therefore, if you have zero reviews, or a bunch of reviews and an average grade of C, this could erode the searcher’s likelihood of clicking through to your site.
The best SEO strategy for MySpace Local is to collect good reviews, and keep the SEO focus on the official website, so that it appears #1 anytime someone searches for the business name or any of its brands. When collecting inbound links, it is important to use the business name (or brand name) as the anchor text, instead of the URL itself (anchor text refers to whatever words are underlined within a link). Over time, fusing SEO with marketing strategy is only really possible on a site over which the business has complete control.
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