servicesIt’s true that a good word from a trusted source can go an awfully long way. But what happens if one of your prospective customers has a referral that points to you and to someone else? What then? Or what if there’s no referral at all and the homeowner needs to rely on an impartial source to find a credible contractor?

In the past, this is where a consumer might explore the Better Business Bureau to see if the business was listed and how it was rated. However, two of the more popular rating services, Angie’s List and Yelp make the field a little more crowded – and for businesses like yours a little more confusing as to where you should be listed, if listed with any of them at all.

Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

The Better Business Bureau is certainly the most well-established organization of its kind, being over 100 years old. Companies are rated on an A+ through F grading system. There are millions of businesses in its database but only a portion of those are referred to as “accredited” businesses by the BBB. Once the business pays an annual fee and meets a variety of requirements from the BBB, it is eligible to be an accredited business in the database. Despite some controversy in recent years about accredited businesses in the BBB receiving special treatment, there’s no evidence of this.

Angie’s List is a 20-year-old business with at least two million members and, like the BBB, grades on a system of A through F. Consumers who pay an annual fee for membership can review companies, but anyone can leave a review of a company, member or not. A couple of distinguishing differences about Angie’s List you should be aware of: 1) Companies that are rated high enough by consumers can buy advertising that puts them at the top of many searches. So you’re not getting a completely unbiased system in terms of visibility. 2) Grades are done on an average of reviews, which is fine for giving a good picture of a company if there are many reviews, but if a company only has two reviews, it can feel a bit skewed. Despite this, Angie’s List appears to maintain good credibility overall as a ratings service.

Finally, there’s Yelp, which may offer the greatest visibility in terms of number of visitors to its site. People don’t pay to use Yelp and can leave a review any time they wish. Is it perfect? Frankly, no. When you have a system where anybody can leave a negative review, it’s not so easy for a company to reach out to that person to make things right. There are positive stories of customers amending reviews, but it doesn’t always happen.

Knowing this about three of the most popular ratings systems, where should you list yourself as a contractor?

Remember that trying to list yourself everywhere might not be the best policy. What you really may need more than anything is a solid number of positive reviews on one site. Then, once you have this, you have a place that you can point prospects toward by saying, “Go to this site and check out what people are saying about me.” After all, if you have this going on in the form of 10, 20, 50 different reviews…do you need to be anywhere else? Probably not.

So after a successful job, encourage your customer to go on the site you’re most comfortable with being listed and provide a positive review if they were happy with the service. Because that glowing review will mean the most to a prospective customer evaluating your services, no matter where it’s found.