If a major pizza chain’s phone number was incorrect in local search results in Toronto, that company could lose around $2.5 million in sales annually.
That’s what Michael Mire, co-founder and chief executive of Montreal-based SweetIQ, says his company has calculated. He adds that according to one source – a survey by online marketing company Constant Contact – 50 per cent of small businesses have seen inaccurate listings for their businesses online.
The trouble is, finding and fixing those inaccurate listings is a challenge. Mire and his two partners, Ravdeep Sawhney and Mohannad El-Barachi, found that out when they started a search engine optimization consultancy in spring 2010. After signing up more than 300 customers in four months, they had to stop taking on new business because they couldn’t handle any more work.
The partners looked for better tools to help them check their clients’ local search presence, Mire says, but they couldn’t find what they wanted. “We saw that there was a clear need in the marketplace for these types of tools,” Mire says – so they set out to build one.
Originally named Get Me Listed, the company launched its first prototype last March. It gives companies a dashboard from which they can see what local search sites say about them. When they find errors, they can submit corrections to the sites themselves, or they can ask SweetIQ to handle the updates for them.
Mire says SweetIQ set out from the start to build a unified platform, so the software includes other capabilities as well, such as the ability to see how local competitors are showing up in search results. It also helps businesses monitor what is being said about them online on ratings and reviews sites. Mire says that can help businesses identify where they might have problems such as poor customer service at some locations.
Though they started off looking for a tool to help them manage small businesses’ local search profiles, SweetIQ’s founders soon realized the need wasn’t limited to local businesses. So they now market to two categories of customer. A big part of SweetIQ’s business comes from major chains, among them Domino’s Pizza. But marketing agencies – such as Cossette Communications – also use SweetIQ to help them provide search engine optimization services to businesses large and small.
Carolina Bedding Direct, a Jacksonville, Fla., mattress retailer with 115 U.S. locations, only began building a serious online presence recently, and adopted SweetIQ late last year “to make sure that we were doing the process right,” says Steve Jones, the company’s vice-president of advertising.
When Carolina Bedding began using SweetIQ none of its stores’ web sites were showing up in the first page of local search results on the three major search engines, Jones says. Now the company appears on the first page on all the big search sites in all the cities it serves. When competitors do better in local search, Jones adds, SweetIQ helps Carolina Bedding see how they’re doing it.
“I find SweetIQ to be the best tool to manage where we are standing in the three major search engines,” Jones says.
SweetIQ now has eight full-time employees. Mire won’t disclose revenues, but he does say sales have been increasing about 50 per cent month over month since October, and the number of locations served has tripled since December.
About 70 per cent of SweetIQ’s business is in Canada today. Mire expects the U.S. market to account for 60 per cent of sales within the next year, and soon the company will start moving into overseas markets – it has already had inquiries from several countries, he says.