Is it a business directory? Is it a business networking site? Is it an overzealous hybrid destined to over-extend itself and die on the vine? For our purposes today we’ll refer to them as “biz sites” and it can’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the wide range that are available. They’re free to use, easy to sign up for and potentially helpful to your company or agency in a wide variety of ways you may not have realized.
Although LinkedIn and Plaxo have an imposing headlock on the B2B and B2C business networking space, there are a lot of others jockeying for position whom you likely haven’t even heard of – let alone begun to utilize. Although taking the time to register your own company or that of a client on these “2nd-tier” networks probably won’t result in the flood of direct traffic, leads or new contacts that the major players may have driven – there are still very tangible and numerous benefits to taking the time to build yourself a presence on each. These are listed in no particular order as I recommend them all as part of any comprehensive ORM or SEO effort:
Social Networking Sites for Business
- My Cubicle Space: Their stated mission is to provide a search engine platform where any business can promote their product or service in a creative way to the fore front for millions of people. Free to use and includes press release submission, blog and keyword targeting capabilities. HQ: Watertown, MA.
- Ryze: Members get a free networking-oriented home page and can send messages to other members. They can also join special networks related to their industry, interests or location. The local features are particularly impressive and should be perfect for businesses with physical store locations or service areas. Both free and paid options exist. HQ: San Francisco, CA.
- Ziggs: A definite fore-runner of the emerging LinkedIn competition, Ziggs allows you to build a profile, network, post jobs and other classifieds and is strongly marketed as an online brand management resource. HQ: Boston, MA.
- Naymz: Naymz’s solid tagline “Empowering Reputable Professionals” relays their understanding of ORM’s massive importance. If you maintain a decent “rep score”, based in large on how many people you get to vouch for you and therefore refer to the site, they will create a Google ad for you with a budget of $10. HQ: Chicago, IL.
- FastPitch: Billed as a “professional social network”, Fast Pitch has added an impressive amount of useful features during their short existence including a press release submission option, blogs, event calendars a helpful tour, some early integration with other social networks and the ability to see a list of other online members. HQ: Sarasota, FL
- Spoke: I like the fact that Spoke features rotating member profiles on their home page. They heavily tout the lead-generation potential of their network as a strength, possibly making it more apt to attract those with B2C lead generation as opposed to networking priorities. HQ: San Mateo, CA
- Zoom Info: One of the more established sites on this list, Zoom Info has been around since 1999 and according to the home page has over 42 million people and 3 million companies as part of their database. The site is clearly defined for three specific purposes: searching for people, searching for companies and searching for a job. Personal profiles are free to create and company profiles are apparently coming soon. HQ: Waltham, MA.
- Konnects: No identity crisis here. Konnects is a B2B networking site with a very human-oriented feel. Lots of headshots, rotating newest member list on the homepage and a big focus placed on physical events. Free to sign up and you can request via email a “group” for your organization which I am assuming means an eventual quote on a branded community. HQ: Tacoma, WA.
- Upperz: The “social network site for professional use” has a long way to go before nipping away at anyone else’s market share, but the latest member blog postings and media gallery featured on the front page are a bit of differentiation. A serious lack of company (I can’t tell for the life of me where they are head quartered) or feature information puts Upperz on my “maybe someday when I have a lot more free time” list.
- Direct Matches: It sounds and frankly looks a lot like a dating site, but Direct Matches is aimed at business people. Their mission states that they are the first site to “deploy a multi-matchmaking system that helps people locate everything from business contacts to finding friendship and dates online”. I spoke too soon. Perhaps they are over-reaching but the dating angle is certainly unique – and potentially the basis for an equally unique sexual harassment suit. HQ:
- Xing: The “first Web 2.0 site to go public” definintely looks the part. The clean design, mobile capabilities and numerous mentions in top trade publications make it 2.0 all the way. Purporting to transcend all countries, languages and industries – Xing is definitely a must for professionals who do a lot of business internationally. HQ: Hamburg, GER.
Business Networking Sites for Direct Traffic
How many of today’s most successful web entities started in a dorm room? What is small time today might be huge tomorrow and even if you don’t start immediately having your door beaten down by contacts and customers who find you via Zing – you never know. It’s also important to take into consideration where some of the new or lesser business networking sites may have a strong foothold internationally. Even if a given biz site is only big in Asia it’s still going to provide you with a brand new link. Considering the supplemental benefits we’re discussing today I believe they are worthwhile if well designed and well intentioned – regardless of a site’s current popularity.
Business Sites for Search Engine Optimization
Unless you’ve been exiled to Siberia for the last two years you know that building one-way, incoming links to your website is an enormously important facet of SEO. All of the aforementioned sites allow you various levels of link inclusion. Some limit you to a URL, some automatically link the URL with the company name you input and others allow for the embedding of links in HTML-friendly summary sections allowing you to craft the hyperlink text to your target keyword specifications. A few hours spent creating presences on all of the aforementioned sites is going to be of better SEO value than a week of submissions to crummy “directories”.
Business Sites for Online Reputation Management
On many of the sites I list below you can get your company or personal name into the URL, header tag, title tag or a combination. As these three elements are held in very high regard by search engine algorithms, biz sites can be tremendously helpful for online brand reputation management. If someone Googles the name of your company, for example, and finds your dedicated page on Spoke – that could mean a negative blog post from a critical customer being pushed down to the second page of the search results for a potential one.
Do you use a similar biz site that hasn’t made our list? Am I using terminology or descriptions that can be tightened up (one of the things that perplexes me about this space is how to properly categorize the different sites)? Do you represent one of the sites listed and want to provide a little more info? Please let me know and we’ll keep this post evolving. Get networking/SEOing/Reputation defending and I look forward to your additions and comments.