WEDDING PLANNING SITES
The real skinny on how to find the BEST Wedding Day Vendors for YOU!!
Did you know that something like 97% of all couples getting married used the internet to plan their weddings? Many Wedding Planning Sites can offer you planning tools, helpful articles. Some even have Wedding Professionals listed on their sites. So, how do you choose which site to trust and then again..which vendor to pick?
I'm a local Wedding Coordinator in Erie, Pa with Erie DJ Entertainment, and I run a Wedding Facebook page to assist brides in buying, selling, and finding the right wedding items and professionals. I get to talk to dozens of brides each week about how they are selecting vendors and why. One such recent conversation led me to research those 'helpful' wedding planning sites a little deeper. I'm here to give you the real skinny on how these sites find the vendors they list and how they are listed. I decided to review 4 top sites that couples use to find wedding vendors. My focus of this blog was two-fold: HOW ARE VENDORS LISTED IN RANKING ORDER ON THE PAGE (top to bottom)? HOW ARE REVIEWS COLLECTED ON THE SITE?
You'll notice upon visiting the first two sites that professionals are found by doing a search of "your vendor type" in "city of your wedding." This will pull up a list (ranked top to bottom) of the closest pros to you. I was quite surprised with some of the answers, and I hope this helps you when choosing your vendors Let's break them down now.
Visit the knot, and you'll get a nice list of Local Wedding Vendors. The top ranking Professionals in any given category are your 'FEATURED' vendors. A nice photo from the business is displayed along with their star ranking and the number of reviews collected on this site. Further down the list, you'll see some vendors that are not featured without photos displayed. Their star ranking and number of reviews is also posted. Now time to answer those critical questions.
QUESTION: HOW ARE VENDORS LISTED IN RANKING ON THE KNOT?
Featured vendors receive their placement on The Knot BY PAYING THE KNOT MORE MONEY. That's right; the top ranking vendors aren't the ones with the highest or best reviews. They don't have the most feedback or the most experience. Vendors have several options for the type of listing they want on The Knot. The higher ranking vendors are the ones spending the most per month on a subscription. The vendors without a photo, the ones that are listed at the bottom are there because they either have a free listing or they have chosen a subscription that costs less. Those high ranking vendors are spending more marketing dollars to get your attention when you perform a search.
QUESTION: HOW ARE REVIEWS COLLECTED ON THE KNOT?
Reviews are solicited BY THE VENDOR ONLY. This means that the wedding professionals you're looking at have selected the weddings and events they feel they've performed their best at. They've only sent review requests to those couples. To be fair, not every review is solicited by the vendors. Couples are free to go online and visit The Knot after their wedding and review the vendors without being asked. The Knot also does not verify reviews. By verifying a review, you can know for a certainty that the reviewer was a real-life client of that vendor and not just a family friend or relative that went online to fluff the vendor's profile.
Visit Wedding Wire and similar to The Knot, you'll get a nice list of vendors with photos at the top and as you dig deeper vendors without photos. Wedding Wire also has a little green tag across the photos of some vendors letting you know they are offering a deal of some sort. Let's break it down now:
QUESTION: HOW ARE VENDORS LISTED ON WEDDING WIRE?
Featured vendors on Wedding Wire are higher ranking because they pay for a higher ranking. Just like the previous wedding site we looked at...Wedding Wire pros have a choice on what subscription tier they want. The higher the tier they pay for, the higher they rank in your search. Once again, experience, quality, feedback, times hired....these things don't matter.
QUESTION: HOW ARE REVIEWS COLLECTED ON WEDDING WIRE?
SURPRISE!!! Reviews are solicited by the vendor only and are not verified by Wedding Wire. Just as with the previous site couples are free to go online and review the vendors without an invitation, however, reviewers can remain anonymous on Wedding Wire. That means you have no idea if it's an actual client reviewing your vendor or a friend or family member.
Google is quite different than the first two sites we looked at. Unlike the first 2 sites we looked at, Google is a search engine that's available to any person browsing the internet. Business's can create a Google Business page to be found easier, but even if they don't Google will find their website and rank them in your search.
QUESTION: HOW ARE VENDORS LISTED ON GOOGLE?
Well, your highest ranking individuals usually have paid for a Google Ad. You can usually tell them apart because they're listed in a box at the top or side of your search AND there's a nice little icon next to their information letting you know it's an AD. This is clever marketing. Don't be fooled by a business's standing based on their ability to pay for an AD on Google. After that, it's about something called SEO and more recently reviews. Google searches websites for what you typed into your search bar. The closer the wedding vendors website wording matches your search...the higher they place. If you're looking for 'Shoes in New York, New York and a shoe company has that phrase in their website, Google will find it and show you because it assumes that site meets your needs. So, to secure a higher ranking the pros have to take a lot of time on their own researching how people search for wedding vendors and then create their websites to include that wording so you can find them, or they pay a professional web designer a lot of money to do that for them. Does it make them a better pro? Well, it does make them smarter about being found. The newest feature that Google has added is ranking for reviews. In order to remain at the top of the list vendors must receive positive reviews. If their reviews slump, so does their rank.
QUESTION: HOW ARE REVIEWS COLLECTED ON GOOGLE?
Reviews are solicited by the vendor for the most part, or a happy...or very angry...client goes online and leaves a review for the business. The problem with Google is that there is even less accountability than The Knot and Wedding Wire when it comes to fake reviews. You have no way of telling if the review is from an actual client or a spammer unless the person has a Google+ account. At least then you can see that they are more likely a real person. Pay close attention to Google reviews to see if the business is responding to reviews. That can be a huge clue to the authenticity of review and to the integrity of the business. If a poor review leads the business to respond in a negative or argumentative way it may be showing that the business isn't the right one for you. If the business has ignored a review all together they may not care much about the responses of their clients.
Believe it or not, Facebook has become an AMAZING tool for finding local wedding vendors, as long as that vendor has decided to enter the social media world. I have had numerous couples find and book us through Facebook.
QUESTION: HOW ARE VENDORS LISTED ON FACEBOOK?
In order to be found on Facebook a vendor must first make a Facebook Business page to begin displaying their work. When you perform a search on Facebook, it simply pulls up the pages or people closest to you that best match your search. So, if you're looking for Photography in New York City, and a local guy's business name is NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHY...he's going to pull up pretty high in your search results. Pros...there is no rhyme or reason to Facebook search...Cons....there is no rhyme or reason to Facebook search. Vendors don't try to outdo each other by paying more to rank higher. Plus side to Facebook...you can see a vendors "likes." Chances are the more likes they have..., the more people are happy with their service and the more experience they have.
QUESTION: HOW ARE REVIEWS COLLECTED ON FACEBOOK?
For the most part, like every other site so far, reviews are solicited by the vendor ONLY. But, just like the rest, as long as a client has their very own Facebook account they can leave a review for whomever they wish. Bonus to Facebook.....reviewers, leave behind a clickable link to their profiles...so you can do a little research on your own to 'verify' those reviews. You can view how many other reviews that person has left on Facebook. You can see if that person is personally connected to the vendor...for instance, is the vendor listed as a family member of the individual? Does the reviewer have a profile picture showing their wedding? Chances are if they are proudly displaying wedding photos and have recently reviewed the vendor your considering...it's a legit review.
So let's summarize what we found:
My word of caution is RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!!!!
Just because a vendor is listed first on the most popular Wedding Planning site, they are not the most suitable choice for you. Considering that on The Knot and Wedding Wire those vendors pay for the higher slot, I would dig deeper. Those Wedding Planning sites will sell you on the paid ranking by telling you that the higher paying vendors obviously are the better choices because they are choosing to pay more to put themselves out there for you. I say...BOGUS. They may have the resources to pay more because they have more experience, a larger company, or they may have more resources because they took a loan out from a friend or a family member gave them the money to start off. Don't base your decision on the ranking on a Wedding Planning site when payment for higher ranking is the top factor.
Because of the way the sites rank pros, I would suggest that the sites you can trust best in order are:
1. Facebook: Because a Facebook uses a search engine similar to Google and because reviewers leave a link to their own Facebook profile....Facebook comes in before Google
2. Google: Because ranking on Google is MOSTLY from a vendor doing the hard work of creating a website that will attract the search engine, that shows real dedication to promoting themselves.
3. Wedding Wire & The Knot are tied in last place for trusting their rankings because the vendors PAY for a 'Featured' spot. I am NOT at all impressed by this. It gives no real credibility to the vendors at all.
Based on how reviews are collected my suggestions are that you can trust the sites in this order:
1. Facebook: Because of that link back to the reviewers own personal profile page.....Facebook places #1 in trusted review sites. With a little research, you can see if it's a real reviewer or a fake.
2. Google: Google only gets 2nd place by a small fraction. There isn't a great way to tell if Google reviews are trustworthy, unless the person has a Google+ account and you can link back to them. So, they aren't quite as reliable as Facebook.
3. Wedding Wire & The Knot tie for last place AGAIN for reviews because Reviews are mostly solicited by the vendor only. Wedding Wire & The Knot take no interest in verifying that any of the reviews posted on their sites are real or fake and there is no way for you to check into the reviewer.
Overall, my top 2 choices are Facebook, and Google as great resource tools in finding Wedding Vendors. I told you my results were surprising!!!
Good luck choosing the BEST WEDDING VENDOR for YOU!!!!!!
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