Optimizing Local Reviews For Your Small Business
In business, reputation has always been one of the biggest factors in a customer’s buying process. Even before brick-and-mortar stores were built, traders and merchants were known to be fair and good or deceitful and unscrupulous. Before internet age, restaurants were written up on a weekly basis by newspaper critics that could seal their fate as a hot place for a bite, or a low-rent establishment to avoid at all costs.
No matter the time period, the industry, or the location, consumers have always looked towards each other for more information and suggestions about businesses they have yet to go to. Today, how people speak about businesses to each other is one thing and how people review businesses online is a whole different animal. To take advantage of local search, business owners must learn how to deal with the hundreds of review sites, how to interact with those reviews, and how they can be proactive before having to be reactive.
The amount of different review sites on the internet is staggering, each catering to a different industry or a niche group of people. Learning how to manage incoming reviews and interacting can be very overwhelming in itself, but a necessary evil for all business owners. People can be ruthless online, slandering your business and giving it 1 star for very small instances of bad service or experience, which is detrimental to how you appear online to potential new customers.
The first thing a business owner should do is claim all of their listings on review sites and take the wheel moving forward, you can’t help yourself by being a passive bystander.
Next, turn on review notifications on all of these sites and deal with each review as they come in. Positive, negative, or neutral, feedback is everything; tell your happy customers you’re happy they had a good time, and most importantly, show your unhappy customers you care! Don’t stoop to their level by telling them they’re wrong about you, put yourself in their shoes, show some empathy, and try to work through the issues.
In some instances, unhappy customers may even take down the review because of your response. On top of helping out your image, search engines take these interactions into account and will boost your local presence for being an active participant in the community discussion.
Responding to reviews and working with unhappy customers is a great place to start with local reviews, especially if you’re an established business taking the reins of your online presence. However, there are plenty of ways to get ahead of negative reviews and manage your reputation with offense instead of defense. Let’s work with the example of an established local restaurant.
You’ve been around for a while, have a had your fair share of good and bad experiences over the life of the business, and are located in an active community. Use that to your advantage! The best way to get ahead of bad reviews is to have your listing flooded with positive ones from your customers. Reaching out to past customers or regulars are the first people you should look to help you! Surely, they have helped you via word-of-mouth, but ask them to leave you a review on your Yelp page or a Google review.
After talking with friends, family, and regulars, go through your email and remarketing lists, if you have them, and begin reaching out. If it makes sense for your business, offer a discount at the time of purchase or at their next visit! Remember to always get legitimate reviews and not to fake them from ghost accounts or “bots”, these will be flagged quickly by any site and can result in your account being banned or, worse, real legal action. The point of review sites is for an open and honest conversation, not a place to plant fake stories.
At the end of the day, being passive only gives the control away to those who want to hurt your business, being active on review sites allows you to take control of your business’ narrative online and reaps rewards in terms of SEO.
If the idea of managing your local presence seems overwhelming, there are plenty of tools out there to automate the process and give you more ease of use. Our agency recommends Yext & Moz to help manage local listings and reviews across the web. Both platforms partner with a wide variety of directories and review sites, notify you when any reviews go up, allows you to quarantine bad reviews to work with customers, as well as providing custom insights about your business.
Using this information to help your business in the long run is where things can begin to get tricky, if you have any questions about managing local reviews and taking advantage of these resources, the Momentum Digital team is always here to help.