Do you read online reviews about companies or products before you buy? Of course you do; so does virtually everyone else these days. Study after study shows that online reviews are increasingly becoming the leading factor in what drives consumers to purchase. With this fact, how can any business choose to ignore their bad online reviews?
It seems like a no-brainer, but even today many companies fail to appreciate the power of the online review. Many are simply ignorant to the latest consumer trends, or perhaps they feel that negative comments by just a few unhappy customers isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Boy, are they wrong.
Research suggests that the majority of consumers don’t just take online reviews to heart, but they even trust them as if they had been written by someone they actually knew and loved. This gives online reviews an inordinate amount of power over your customers. But, this can be a good thing. Yes, negative reviews have influence, but so do positive ones. This is why online review management is also so useful in today’s online marketplace.
We can help you take control of your online reviews. We can bury those negative reviews and “rip off” complaints and replace them with the good feedback your company deserves. Our teams are experts at helping companies of all sizes take control of their online reviews and put an end to the tyranny of negative reviews.
Contact us today to learn more.
Think your brick and mortar store exists only offline? Chances are you’re wrong. And a bad online reputation can affect your business’s bottom line. Follow these techniques to more effectively manage your online reputation.
Figure out which social media networks, blogs, etc. your customers frequent and make sure you have active accounts in those channels. Nearly 40% of businesses haven’t claimed their listing on OpenTable, Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Places for Business, etc. At minimum, your company should have Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Knowledge of your customers and your type of business will determine which platforms you should add. If your product is visual, take advantage of Instagram and Pinterest. B2B, high-tech and/or professional businesses might benefit from creating both company and employee pages on LinkedIn. Still not convinced? Small Businesses with free Yelp for business accounts see an average of $8,000 in annual revenue from the site. Comparing products and businesses online is becoming the protocol for any purchase. Today’s customers are relying less on advertising and more on search results. Without a solid online presence your business isn’t even in the running.
A checklist of profiles to maintain: Google+ Local, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, Angie’s list, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Citysearch, Insider Pages, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, OpenTable.
Listen to what people are saying for brand sentiment on social channels. About 80 percent of companies think they’re crushing it at customer service, but only 8 percent of paying customers agree. This disparity shouldn’t happen if you’re using social media correctly. If you are paying attention to what customers are saying online, you’ll be aware of trends and consequently better able to tailor your offerings to your customer’s needs. Multiple negative reactions to the same thing might signal that you have a flaw that needs to be acknowledged and corrected. Setting up automatic alerts (Google alerts, comment alerts) along with checks to be performed daily (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or weekly (Topsy) will help you stay on top of your reputation.
Say You’re Sorry
Be genuine and address the issue head on. If possible make amends by offering the customer a free product or service. Just one angry customer can cause widespread damage across multiple platforms. A negative comment on social media, if unaddressed could lead to a negative review. Since 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, it’s better to take care of the situation before it gets out of control. If the situation turns nasty, be careful not to let the argument go too far in a public setting. As seen in the real life examples earlier, heated arguments can escalate quickly and look amateur. Stay professional and continue the conversation through email to reach a solution.
React Quickly And Politely
Respond to customer questions through your social media channels. 38 percent of customers will feel more negatively toward a brand that doesn’t meet their standards for a timely response, and 6 out of 10 will continue to take action to share their dissatisfaction. Whether the comment is negative, a product question, or a comment respond as soon as possible. This creates brand loyalty and trust. Engaging with customers demonstrates that you care and they will feel more comfortable giving you their business in the future if you show you are ready to help with any issues that may arise. Answer questions publicly. Chances are multiple people have the same question so answering it will clear up the issue for everyone while at the same time establishing positive customer relationships. A simple thank you in response to a compliment leaves a customer feeling valued by your company.
Another way to gain customer trust is to show you have nothing to hide. This can be risky, especially if a major problem arises. If a problem does come up, be as open as possible about the action your company will be taking. Let your customers know what the issue is and what is being done to fix it. Other ways to remain transparent are to ask for feedback, allow employees to talk about products and services publicly, and to address criticism instead of hiding it.
Encourage Customers To Speak Up
A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue. To online customers, reviews signify legitimacy. Don’t let a few negative reviews skew your ratings. Disgruntled customers, motivated by their anger, are more likely to act and write reviews online. Satisfied customers need to be encouraged. Boost your positive reviews by making feedback as easy as possible. Offer incentives to say thank you for customers’ time and effort. With Belly this process can be fully automated right from your Belly iPad, but more on that later.
Create or share content that your customers want to know about. If you provide worthwhile, relevant, and valid information customers will respect you and view you as an expert in your field. When the time comes for them to make a purchase, they will more than likely choose the company they know and trust. Blogging also helps with SEO and is a great medium for addressing issues and responding to criticisms.
If you’re doing it right, your company has a presence on everything from Facebook to Yelp to YouTube. Your next challenge is to make sure that each of these accounts are consistent. If multiple people are involved in keeping each of your company’s accounts active and populated (or if a single author doesn’t have a clearly defined voice), it may seem as if each account is a different brand. If the tone and content that you share is different depending on the platform it can be very confusing for a customer. If content comes from different sources, it might be a smart idea to designate one to rewrite and post.
Collect Feedback In-Store
69% of small business owners prefer feedback to be nonpublic. Make it easy for customers to provide comments before they even leave your store. If you, or your staff, feel uncomfortable directly asking for reviews, consider providing a comment card along with the receipt or prominently display a suggestion box. Physically posting some of the comments along with an answer from your company gives results similar to an online forum, but with more control on your end. With either of these options you have the ability to address negative comments before they are shared with the online community.
Claim Brands And Products
Have more than one brand or product within your company? Online reputation management is important for each of these brands and products. They are just as vulnerable to social media attacks and negative reviews. Follow the same steps to develop both websites and social media and create a presence. Even people who represent your company, such as a CEO or prominent employees, should be sure to take all the same steps as your main company.
Create a loyal following by interacting with customers in original ways. There are countless ways to spark attention on the web. You could host an instagram contest, or encourage customers to post videos of themselves using your product to YouTube. As an added benefit, videos are great for search engine rankings. Build your image as a innovative brand and keep your company at the top of the customers minds by having something new and exciting happening regularly.
Have A Plan
Don’t wait until a crisis happens to create a plan of action. You’ll keep your head and be smart about your response to a disaster if you’ve already thought through possible problems and their corresponding solutions.
Ever wish you could scrub embarrassing college pics from Facebook? Or the string of negative reviews about your small business that an embittered customer posted? Do you worry that prospective employers will see the youthful mug shot that you can’t get off the first page of your Google results?
As we increasingly live out our lives online, we’re finding that not only are there major downsides to all of that social media over-sharing—but we may have little control over the way we appear on the internet. A person who wants to do damage to your reputation will find few obstacles online, easily tarnishing your good name.
Enter online reputation managers.
Part PR gurus, part tech experts, they specialize in providing online makeovers—often by burying negative search results and promoting content that accentuates a client’s desired image.
To find out more about these digital disaster fixer-uppers, we spoke to Michael Fertik, the founder of one of the world’s largest online reputation management companies—Reputation.com.
So what exactly does a reputation management specialist do?
Michael Fertik: Our customers range from moms and dads to Fortune 500 companies. And we try to give them maximum control possible over what people view about them online—whether it’s information that they want others to see about professional history or info that they don’t want seen, like a medical past.
Why might someone need help managing a digital reputation?
The rise of the internet has given birth to a lot of good things … and a lot of things that are not so good. Now your good name can end up in the hands of people you can’t identify—and who are in places you may not be able to point to on a map.
If someone says something negative about you or something true but old and obsolete—perhaps it’s that you were fired from your last job—these things can really damage your future. At the same time, your digital reputation also creates significant opportunities. If you aren’t taking advantage of what your reputation could be or hanging your digital shingle the way it deserves to be hung, people aren’t seeing your best foot forward.
A lot of things in life are not fair, and perhaps few things are as unfair as an undeserved bad reputation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for a company to develop a bad reputation online. Depending on the amount and quality of reviews a company has, as little as one bad review can almost completely tarnish their good name. Just a few, but very vocal irate customers can virtually own what the Internet thinks about your company.
In the business world, a bad reputation might not only hurt a company’s bottom line; it can also sink their ship. Imagine all your years of hard work and otherwise good customer service being undermined by something as seemingly frivolous as an online star rating? It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is.
Luckily there is a solution. Reputation management is the key to unlocking the door to good reviews. It’s how you translate your everyday five-star service into an actual, visual five-star rating online. It’s how you take control of the conversation the Internet is having about your company.
Our reputation management Los Angeles based specialists are experts at helping companies large and small seize control of their standing online. We monitor what the public is saying about you throughout over 300 leading review sites. Moreover, we allow your happy customers the opportunity to share their good reviews, so that the world can see you in the right light.
Let us help you manage your online reputation.
Online brand protection combats the loss of revenue, reputation and customer trust that occurs when someone else exploits your brand for their own gain.
The web’s tremendous reach and economies of scale have revolutionized the way brands engage customers and drive revenue. But the very qualities that make the web so attractive to legitimate business make it extremely lucrative for brand abusers to hijack powerful brands online.
In this anonymous, global medium, threats to your brand can come from anyone, anywhere. A counterfeiter can set up an eCommerce site, download some product images and compete with you for customers. A misguided affiliate can purchase your branded search terms and compete with you for traffic. A pirate can upload a digital version of a film—or any other type of digital content—and steal your revenue. In the digital world, any enterprise with a recognized brand is a potential target for a sophisticated and evolving array of attacks.
Brands Lost Over $350 Billion to Online Brand Abuse Last Year
The financial impact of online brand abuse is substantial and pervasive, resulting in revenue loss, increased customer service costs and exposure to legal liability. Other impacts of online brand abuse are more insidious, leading to significant erosion of margins, brand reputation and customer trust. For example, brand saboteurs can hijack search engine marketing, infiltrate social media and impersonate trusted brands to steal web traffic and peddle fake and pirated goods. Brand abuse in the digital world occurs across channels and leverages best practices to cause tangible harm.
Online threats to brand revenue and reputation are significant—and growing:
- 28% increase in domain squatting in 2010
- 53 billion visits to rogue sites in the last 12 months
- 14% of branded paid search traffic is hijacked
As brand threats evolve, so must brand protection strategies. Companies invest time, money and resources to build value both online and offline. Smart brands are recognizing that in the digital world, safeguarding this investment demands a proactive, strategic approach, and an experienced partner to deliver cost-effective solutions with immediate impact. Over half of the Fortune 100 has chosen MarkMonitor. See what we can do for you.
In today’s digital age, how would you feel as a small business if you found out that 90% of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews?
I’d imagine that you’d perk up and either pat yourself on the back if your business already has a strategy in place for acquiring reviews and managing your online reputation, or you’d scratch your head and think ‘dang, I better get on this.’
Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, online reviews are important for a number of reasons, and have major implications through their ability to affect:
Your rankings in local search engines
Which search results actually gets clicked on
Consumers purchasing decisions
That makes online reviews as critical to your local SEO strategy as building citations and on-site optimization. In my previous posts, I covered the nuts-and-bolts of building citations, and provided a primer for local SEO to help you digest some of the concepts.
In this post, I’ll be covering how online reviews affect modern-day consumer’s decision-making, along with where they fit into your Local SEO campaign, how you can go about acquiring them, while proactively managing your online reputation.
Let’s get started.
How Consumers Use Online Reviews
Before we get into the data surrounding how online reviews are used by consumers and how it impacts their decision, it’s important to consider where they fit into the purchasing cycle for desired products and services.
Typically, by the time someone has started looking at reviews, they’ve already figured out their need/want, how a business might ideally fulfill that need/want and are now in the process of selecting a business.
The critical thing to note is that the mental gap between reading a review and making a decision to purchase from a business is ridiculously small, and typically results in a yes/no decision almost immediately. So as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line.
But, how many consumers actually read online reviews? According to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, roughly 85% of consumers reported reading online reviews.
But, exactly, how many reviews do they read before making up their mind? Luckily, the survey also had an answer to that. About 67% of consumers will read 6 reviews or less before they form an opinion about a given business.
Meanwhile, another survey conducted by Dimensional Research found that 90% of their respondents claimed that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions, while 86% had responded saying that negative reviews impacted their decisions.
Hopefully this helps you understand from a consumer perspective just how important online reviews are in helping steer their purchasing decisions for the better or worse. Up next, we’ll look at how reviews factor into local SEO signals.
Why Online Reviews Matter For Local SEO
Local search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews. They’re in the business of providing people on-the-go or at home with the most accurate information to help them predict and make decisions around their future purchases. The faster they can do that, the more consumers will turn to them time and time again. Have a look at a screenshot of results from Yelp for the keywords “fashion boutique Toronto.”
Additionally, according to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. Here’s a pie chart they provide to visually break down the different variables:
Next up, we’re going to take a look at how you can craft a review acquisition strategy and later, how you can proactively manage your online reputation.
Crafting a Review Acquisition Strategy
Before you embark on creating a review acquisition strategy that works best for your small business, it’s a good idea to give some thoughts on which review platforms would work best for you.
To determine that, simply start by going to Google and doing the following search, “[Industry] + reviews” and see which sites pop-up on the first page. For example, have a look at what shows up for “shoe store reviews”:
The other thing you can do is mouse over the leading search results and you’ll see two arrows pop-up which enable you to open up what Google refers to as the “Knowledge Panel” for that business and look at the sites listed under “more reviews.”
However, one thing to note is that some online review platforms keep their reviews exclusive to their site, while other platforms syndicate their reviews to other search engines. Here’s a graphic from Phil Rozek that shows how the local business review ecosystem works:
The other thing to keep in mind before we get into how you can obtain more reviews in understanding the different review policies each platform has that you should abide by. For example, Yelp strictly forbids small businesses from soliciting online reviews and will act swiftly if it detects something fishy. Meanwhile, the other platforms don’t really have any issues with businesses making the ask.
Here are some review guidelines for some of the most critical review platforms:
Once you’ve had a quick look through those, here are some tips to help you get started:
Use this awesome “Review Handout Generator” by Whitespark and Phil Rozek that let’s you create handouts for customers to provide clear-cut instructions on how they could leave you a review on Google.
Link to your review profiles on your website
Create print materials that list all the different sites customers can review you
Train staff and yourself to “make the ask” upon the completion of the transaction. If you’re new to this, read ConstantContact’s short guide on asking for referrals.
Request a “Find Us on Yelp,” if you haven’t gotten their “People Love Us On Yelp” sticker.
Online Reputation Management
Now you’re probably wondering how to respond if you happen to get a negative review, but before that I recommend getting set up on a service like Google Alerts to get notified every time your business is mentioned online so you can take a more proactive approach to online reputation management.
What you don’t want to do is get riled up and have your blood pressure rise through the roof the first time or anytime you see a negative review. Your first instinct might be to contact the review platform and request that they take down the review, but before doing that, it might be worthwhile to listen to what Deanna Yick, spokesperson for Google Places has to say about that:
“Reviews are a form for users to share both positive and negative opinions. We do not arbitrate disputes and more than not, we leave the review up.”
Instead of allowing your emotions to cause you to react, take a deep breath, and deal with negative online reviews like you would with any general criticism.
Treat the review as a conversation where you have to go in, diffuse the situation, offer to make up for whatever their dissatisfaction was, and of course, end with highlighting the positive when possible and point to more positive reviews and ratings. Of course, there’s plenty of other ways to deal with customer complaints, as outlined on the HelpScout blog.
The other thing to keep in mind is that negative reviews should be catalysts for internal conversation and actions for improvement. This means getting to the bottom of some potential pitfalls in your existing operations.
For example, the Dimensional Research survey found the following factors to be problematic whenever poor customer service was the root cause of a negative online review:
This could lead to staff and management meetings in which you could brainstorm how you can better improve your customer service, whether it’s through policies, or by empowering your front line workers, it’s really up to you.
Good news for local business owners: Americans plan to spend a lot of money on holiday shopping, and the majority of shoppers want to spend those dollars with you! Yelp commissioned a survey conducted online by Harris Poll in September to find out how Americans age 18+ will be shopping at local businesses this holiday season. We found that 64% of Americans plan to shop at local independent retailers, and Millennials are leading the pack! Nearly 7 in 10 Americans age 18-34 say they plan to shop for the holidays at local businesses, more than any other age group. What’s more, local shoppers plan to spend an average of $258 each at local businesses, totaling nearly $40 billion* in all to be spent with independent retailers this holiday season.
There’s a lot of opportunity for small businesses this holiday season, and these insights can help local retailers attract more shoppers. When asked what motivates them to support small businesses in their city, the majority of those likely to shop local this holiday season said they shop local to find unique gifts (67%), 55% said they like supporting the local economy, and 44% said they shop local because it’s convenient. Additionally, shoppers aren’t just looking at retail to purchase gifts this year. We found that over half of Americans (53%) plan to purchase experience-based gifts at local businesses this holiday season, such as restaurant gift certificates (34%), theater or movie tickets (18%) and salon or spa services (17%).
According to a 2015 survey by the National Retail Federation, 1 in 3 smartphone owners will use their device to look up retailer information like store hours and directions. With nearly 90 million unique monthly visitors to the Yelp app each month and 7 in 10 Yelp searches conducted via mobile, these tips can help small business owners use Yelp to attract on-the-go shoppers and get a slice of that $40 billion holiday pie:
Build out your Yelp Business Page. Claim your business for free at biz.yelp.com and make sure all your information is up-to-date, including your address, phone number and holiday hours. Also consider turning on the free Message the Business Owner feature so that potential customers can ask questions and get in touch with you quickly and easily.
Add lots of photos. Let consumers know what your business has to offer by adding photos of your space and your holiday inventory. Use photo captions to tell potential customers about your products and pricing. If you have a beautiful holiday display in your store, add photos of it to Yelp to show you’re in the holiday spirit.
Create engaging promotions. With 7 in 10 Yelp searches conducted on mobile, a Check-In Offer will help you cater to your on-the-go audience. It’s completely free to create and can be something as simple as a free hot chocolate. You can also create Yelp Deals and Yelp Gift Certificates allowing customers to transact with your business directly through your Yelp listing.
Drive more eyeballs to your Yelp page. According to Nielsen, 82% of Yelp users visit the site intending to buy a product or service and 89% of those who buy do so within a week. Consider targeted local advertising with Yelp to put your business in front of consumers nearby who are looking to make a purchase.
*Based on 234.6 million American adults (according to US 2010 Census) multiplied by 64% of Americans planning to shop local multiplied by average spend of $258 = $38.7 Billion
As you know the Internet is a vast and wonderful network that allows for amazing innovations in business, distribution, and marketing. Unfortunately, this landscape also produces innovation in how fraudsters scam consumers and companies, alike. This fact has made brand protection more important today than ever before.
The list of what Internet scammers can do to steal from companies is long and the list is growing. A few examples of brand theft are:
• False association with your brand
• Pay-Per-Click tricks
• Gray Market scams
These cyber-pirates make a living off the good reputations of reputable companies. If nothing is done to stop them, they will simply chip away at a company’s online reputation. Consumers will eventually learn to no longer trust certain brands after they continually find themselves the victims of one scam or another.
We can help your company aggressively combat these scammers. We are brand protection specialists that can expertly identify and then eliminate instances of brand fraud. We can help your company maintain its integrity online and protect your customers from being tricked and abused.
Speak with one of our representatives to find out what we can do to protect your brand online.
“A good reputation is more valuable than money.” – Publilius Syrus
That quote is over two thousand years old, but it just shows how some things never change. A good reputation holds a lot of value to us humans, but nowhere is it more important than in business. This is especially true in a world of choices. Unless you have cornered the market in your industry, chances are your customers have options. One of the first questions potential customers will ask themselves is “can I trust this business”? This is why people love online reviews. It’s a quick and easy way for them to gauge reputation.
The Internet loves its customer review websites. The problem is the Internet is like an elephant that never forgets. Your company may have a bad review from five years ago that shows up prominently every time someone looks you up. Whatever that problem was could have been solved years ago, but that negative review never went away. This is just a simple example of the problems thousands of companies face given the realties of the Internet today. Fact is, there are hundreds of websites that contain consumer complaints, reviews, and critiques that are trafficked everyday by millions of people from around the world.
Are you aware of all these customer review websites? Do you know what people are saying about your company?
We ask these questions because the answers are so very, very important to knowing exactly how the rest of the world perceives you. It’s not enough to let the fates judge how you are perceived online. Businesses today need to take an active role in managing their online reputations.
Our company is based out of Los Angeles, where reputation matters. We understand how important good repute is to the overall success of your business. Our Los Angeles reputation management specialists are highly trained to monitor over 300 different review websites and ensure that your hard work isn’t being undone by negative criticism.