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Getting the most out of (or any other directory/listing/comparison site) for your business

December 6th, 2013

One of the advantages of being listed on CanadianISP is that it is the single most visited site in general for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Canada.

Just listing your ISP and then forgetting about it, however, certainly is not going to see the benefits to your business that one might think. Like any other communications with the public, it takes some regular care and a little effort.

Keeping up to date

One of the things the general public finds extremely annoying is thinking they've found a solution to their problem when searching online, only to find out that the information is up to date. Recognizing that, CanadianISP shows, by default only ISPs that have updated in the past 365 days. I add emphasis to this because out of ~224 ISPs currently listed on the site, 114 of them have not updated in the last year - This means that when customers search for an ISP in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa (the four most popular searches in 2013 to date), they're not seeing your ISP as an option in the results. (They can, if they choose, click on "show outdated ISPs", but that is not a very frequently used option).
Nothing shows this better than actual search numbers from CanadianISP, itself. For this example, I have taken two well known ISPs - One who last updated their profile in October of 2010, the other who last updated in September of this year (2013) (Neither ISP use or have used promotional, highlighting or advertising services on CanadianISP, which make a massive difference to the positive:
Chart showing the differences updated ISP listings make From January 1st, 2011 to present (The graph, above, was created from this data):
ISP who hasn't updated since 2010 Difference from
out-of-date ISP
4% conversion
(from clickthroughs)
Average detail views per month 215.91
Average clickthroughs to their site per month 55.34 2.21
Total detail views for period 7,557
Total click throughs for period 1,937 77.48
ISP that updated three months ago
Average detail views per month 1,087.20 +503.54 %
Average clickthroughs to their site per month 470 +849.3 % 18.8
Total detail views for period 38,052 +503.53%
Total click throughs for period 16,450 +849.25% 658
For comparison:
ISP who keeps up to date and uses advertising services
Average detail views per month 4,241.4 +1,964.43 %
Average clickthroughs to their site per month 1,699.49 +3,071 % 67.98
Total detail views for period 148,479 +1,964.79%
Total click throughs for period 59,482 +3,070.83% 2,379.28

It is worth pointing out that both ISPs have identical coverage areas and identical pricing.

The "4% conversion" is an advertising industry standard rate that says if you present a well designed and accurate ad to your target audience, on average, 4% of those that view it should become paying customers (And this holds out to be true, in large part, for ISPs, as well, based on discussions with many of them over the years).
So what this means is that the first ISP, who hasn't updated in three years, is lucky to see a little over two customers per month from their outdated listing. The second ISP, who doesn't spend a dime in advertising on CanadianISP is seeing nearly 19 new customers per month - all for simply keeping their listing up to date at least once per year.

At an average of $5 profit per month, per customer, this means that the first ISP is missing out on $34,831.20 a year in profit, simply by not updating their listing (Profit based on $5 X 4% conversion X 12), compared to the ISP that does. That is one low-to-mid-level salary that could be paid, right there.

You can see from both the numbers and the graphs the HUGE difference keeping your listing up to date makes to your day to day business.

To compete on price or not ?

One thing that traffic stats definitely show is that a large volume of traffic tends to go to the lowest priced ISP for any given service. Naturally, many ISPs choose to list their lowest price as their "Lite" service, usually their slowest and/or with their lowest caps. Whether you wish to do this is a business decision that is entirely up to you: One of the disadvantages of competing on price is the fact that the type of customer you get often tends to be either price hoppers or high-maintenance (I am intending no offence to non-ISP readers out there, but this does tend to be a very, very frequent experience for ISPs). If your business infrastructure is such that you are highly sensitive to the costs of high turnover or high-maintenance customers (many hours used by tech support, billing or PR/CR reps), then this might be a strategy you'll want to think twice about. This is an issue that is quite common in many industries, not just Internet provision.

Give a reason for customers to visit your site!

Is your listing or profile actually complete ? Do you offer VoIP, but haven't entered your rates or indicated that you offer it ? For customers to whom that is important, if the data isn't on your profile, they will select your competitor over you.
Have you recently changed your prices ? Do you have a promotion or a special running ? Reflect this in your service listing! - Just as you can lose customers for inaccurate or out-of-date information, you will lose potential customers if you are running a special price and no one knows about it!
Do you advertise the fact that you include free modem rental ? Free web space ? 24/7 support ? Multi-lingual support ? Make sure to point out what makes you different from a "vanilla" ISP!

Is your site actually conducive to new customers ?

One common mistake in this industry is to assume everyone knows all the basics to getting online; This could not be further from the truth: Even in this day and age, for many, computers are "Black magic" - Remember the KISS principle on your site. By all means, have links to more detailed information for your customers who want to see it, but your initial pages that describe your service and benefits (for public, residential service, anyway) should be understantable to someone who has just purchased a computer for the first time in their lives.

Does your site look professional ? Are you sure about this ? Have you compared your site to those of your competitors ? Sites that are overly busy, too text-heavy (like this article, for example {grin}) or use graphics that are primitive or obviously clip-art - They're going to turn customers off: If the subconscious impression is that it's an amateur web site, it will extend to your business as well and customers will not want to risk their time or money with you.

Do you encourage customer reviews ? Do you respond to ALL of them ?

One of the best impacts on a business is customer reviews - And not just positive ones, believe it or not: An ISP is no different than any other business: Sometimes, you have off-days, sometimes your staff screws up and, yes, sometimes you have the "customer from heck" that just seems to complain all the time: How you respond to even the most negative reviews can gain you legions of new customers, as long as you are professional, courteous and genuinely helpful.
Do you encourage your happy customers to review you on the site ? One of the most naive objections I hear to this is "I don't want my customers seeing my competition" - Here's the news: The fact that they are not with their local telco or cableco means that not only are they well aware of your competition, but they CHOSE YOU to begin with! There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your customers to share positive reviews on your company on a review and comparison site - It ABSOLUTELY helps your business. There is also code within the ISP Only section that allows you to host the review form on your own site without showing them your competition, so even that argument is moot :)

Don't forget that it is not only the negative reviews that you have to put your best foot forward for: Common courtesy in posting a "Thank you for your kind words" reponse to a positive review makes the customer feel appreciated that they went out of their way to give a boost to your company!

Still stuck ? Contact the site owner!

As many ISPs have learned over the years, I am always more than pleased to take a look at both your listing and your site to offer suggestions to improve performance - This can also include comparing you to your closest competitors on the site, too. There is no charge for this, no effort to sell anything: After all, if YOU succeed, then succeeds: It is literally win-win for me to do my best to see ISPs do their best.

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