The Internet has become a significant player that can’t get overlooked by small-town business owners. The good news is that online brand reputation is one of many marketing and advertising advantages business owners have today.
The new reality means that every business owner must know what their customers think and say about their company on review sites.
No small business or new business can afford to ignore reviews with negative content or comments posted on social networks like Google Business Profile, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Yelp, and others. The feedback people leave reflects on your brand image.
Much the same way no one wanted a lousy reputation in high school, no company owner wants a poor business reputation to ruin consumer trust within the local community. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes a long way back into the good graces. Every business needs to do its best to provide complete customer satisfaction.
What Is an Excellent Online Reputation?
An excellent online reputation reflects positive reviews and customer satisfaction. Consumers trust online reviews to help with making purchasing decisions. Often, people don’t want to spend their money with someone who isn’t trustworthy.
In a small or medium-size city or town, there might be a limited number of competitors in your area, so it’s essential to keep an eye on how potential customers perceive your business.
When working in a limited geographical area, it’s imperative to ensure you’re not losing new customers because you’re not on the first page of Google search results or your Google reviews are out of control.
How Do I Know if My Online Reputation Needs Work?
There are many ways to assess your online presence. The most thorough testing method is a specialized program that seamlessly collects data from multiple sources and analyzes it using core metrics. A technical assessment allows you to see where your online presence stands and identify areas that need improvement.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when monitoring and managing all aspects of your online reputation and completing digital marketing tasks. However, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Instead, start with a few key metrics and then add more as time goes on.
For example, take a look at these three metrics:
- Customer Satisfaction Rating – This metric shows whether customers are happy with your service. If your rating is low, you probably need to improve your business practices or approach.
Review Count – How many times is your business name? A higher count indicates better visibility.
Reviews – What kind of feedback have you received? Is it primarily good, bad, or neutral?
Positive reviews will help build trust among your current and future customers. Conversely, negative reviews can hurt your credibility and prompt customers to choose another provider.
What Isn’t Good for Digital Reputation?
Bad reviews, negative comments, and even fake reviews are not good for your digital reputation. They can hurt your business online and damage your brand.
A prompt response is vital if you receive an unfavorable comment or review. It shows that you care about your business and take customer feedback seriously. You’ll also avoid losing potential customers who might perceive a lack of interest if reviews don’t have a reply.
Your Small Town Company Needs to Be Present
Google’s search star continues to rise as consumers increasingly use it to discover products, services, and local businesses. While only an 18% increase, it’s still a significant leap and reaffirms the importance of developing and maintaining your Google Business Profile, as it’s a thriving platform for making company updates.
While Google is important and strategic, your efforts shouldn’t focus solely on Google. Your company needs to be present on multiple review sites. A large and growing proportion of consumers are looking to Yelp and other online resources to help them make their consumer decisions, so company owners could suffer if they overlook a bad review or reports of negative experiences.
How Often Do Consumers Read Online Reviews for Local Businesses Before Visiting?
According to BrightLocal, 61% of people who read customer reviews for local companies said this feedback didn’t impact their decision to go there. The remaining 39% said that they were “very influential.”
This statistic suggests that consumer behavior has changed as more potential customers turn to online reviews when deciding where to spend their money. In addition, online reviews empower customers to share their experiences with other prospective customers.
A happy customer who shares a positive experience on your Google Business Profile, Yelp, Facebook page, and other social media sites could become a loyal customer or brand advocate. In addition, these individuals can potentially spread the word about your business to others.
How to Build Social Proof, and Why It Is So Important
Social proof is the credibility your existing customer base and the general public provide to a brand. Not surprisingly, high social proof and social media mentions can directly impact sales.
For instance, a positive review by a celebrity can offer higher social proof, which drives sales. Conversely, negative reviews on social media profiles can push customers away. Not surprisingly, online reviews can significantly impact multiple types of businesses.
Other factors that contribute to establishing social proof include:
Trustworthiness – People tend to believe what they see and hear. If you’re trustworthy, you’ll gain the confidence of your audience.
Credibility – When people know that someone else has done business with you, they will assume you will uphold the same standards and practices when they do business with you.
Recommendations – People trust recommendations from friends and family. They also trust those with firsthand experience working with the vendors they recommend.
Authority – People tend to follow those who lead. By establishing your company as a trusted authority in your local area, people will look to you first.
Reputation – When people think highly of your business, and you have a positive reputation, they’re more likely to patronize it.
These four elements all work together to establish social proof.
How to Use Reviews as Marketing Tools
Online reviews are powerful marketing tools because they provide insight into how your customers perceive your business. You can leverage this information and use it to your advantage.
Here are some ways that consumer reviews can help your company’s online presence connect with your target audience:
Improve Products and Services – By understanding what your customers love and don’t love about your business, you can create new offerings and services to satisfy them.
Increase Sales – Positive reviews increase the likelihood that potential customers will choose your business over another.
Reduce Customer Complaints – Negative reviews motivate unhappy customers to leave feedback. In turn, this helps you identify problems in your business so you can fix them.
Build Brand Awareness – Consumers trust reviews when researching brands before making purchases. Therefore, Google My Business and other online reviews can help build your local, target market, or niche market awareness.
Get More Referrals – A solid online reputation can result in more referrals. Generally, personal recommendations tend to be a more potent form of promotion than paid advertisements.
Marketing trends indicate that consumers increasingly use online reviews as part of their decision-making process.
How to Generate Reviews
Reviews are among the top ranking factors in local search. To get more of them, you’ll need to keep a steady stream of review requests going out. There are several ways to do this. One of the most common options is email marketing. Up to 70% of online reviews come from business email messages after purchasing and leaving the store.
Another option is using text messaging or SMS messaging. Mobile devices already dominate local search, so you can easily reach average customers on their phones with just a quick message and a clickable link to submit a review or comment.
Don’t forget to follow the rules! While you might feel tempted to incentivize a single review, this practice is generally frowned upon or even disallowed by the review platforms to discourage disingenuous or fake reviews, which could damage your business’ reputation.
Among the best ways to generate more reviews is to show gratitude. For example, when a customer leaves a five-star rating, it would be best to thank them for being such a great customer.
The More Customer Recommendations – The Better
The recency of reviews contributes to an overall score. So, the more recent the feedback, the higher it counts. Generally, the quality of reviews also counts towards the overall score.
Savvy consumers agree that it’s essential to read reviews because they provide information about the services offered by companies. However, when reading reviews, the age of the comment comes into play.
Some companies may be changing their service or offering new features, so older reviews might not be helpful. However, reviews left within a month or two are more trustworthy than reviews left much longer ago.
Whether you decide to do review generation following a manual process or delegate this task to a professional small business reputation management company that uses reputation management software, sending review requests on a daily basis boosts the chances of getting lots of reviews.
After the reviews start rolling in, review management is often a minor component of a more extensive corporate reputation management, Local SEO, public relations, or search engine optimization strategy.
Review Monitoring Is Part of an Online Reputation Management Strategy
Monitoring reviews and social listening are vital in every online reputation management strategy. It’s not enough to ask for customer feedback. You have to pay attention to reviews and actively monitor these conversations to learn what people are saying about your business.
Regardless of whether your customers leave positive reviews, negative reviews, or neutral feedback, it’s imperative to respond to input with the highest level of professionalism, even in the case of a fake review.
Always strive to maintain a positive image in all your dealings. Avoid calling names, blaming, or arguing with the customer in a public forum. Take care not to get sidelined in non-businesslike behavior (that could reflect poorly on you) and offer to resolve issues quickly, privately, and professionally.
Business owners should consider setting up Google Alerts to respond to negative feedback when it happens. Consumers trust businesses that reply to negative reviews. Your customers will remember if you react to them, and it’s a chance to showcase your brand personality. Displaying the highest levels of professionalism when dealing with an unhappy client highlights your dedication to providing exceptional customer service.
Not surprisingly, companies that ignore negative reviews could struggle to get new customers.
Consumers want businesses to respond to both positive and negative reviews. Companies should try to improve their customer service by addressing negative reviews. Make an effort to respond to all reviews. The reason? Most people say they are more likely to buy from businesses that do.
Responding to negative reviews helps potential buyers learn about your company. However, responding to positive reviews is essential, too, as 52% of people say they might buy from a business if it only responded to positive reviews.
If you’re having trouble responding to reviews, consider the convenience of online reputation management services to handle the reputation monitoring and response tasks. With experience with businesses, companies, and industries, experts can help you identify the best strategies for responding to reviews.
Online Reputation Management Strategy: Why Is It Needed?
Building a robust online presence doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time, effort, and commitment, even for a local small-town business.
Many times, the customers most likely to leave a review are those who’ve had an unsatisfactory experience. Because of this, your online reputation might reflect the opinions of your dissatisfied customers, especially if there aren’t any positive reviews to balance things out. When the number of adverse reviews outweighs the good, you could be dealing with a bad reputation.
Fortunately, there’s a way for you to manage online reviews. An online reputation management (ORM) strategy can help ensure that the reviews posted by people who engage with your business on sites like Google and Facebook enjoy a positive experience.
Do you need to polish up or get on top of your online business reputation? Then, schedule a free consultation with our search engine marketing specialists today!