Your Small Business Reputation Management
Reputation management for your small business is important.
As a small business owner you can’t afford to ignore what people write about you online. Online reviews are reported to factor into 70% of buying decisions. Search Engine Land has found that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. How you handle your small business reputation management can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Positive reviews do drive business your way. And bad reviews can drive customers away.
Some quick facts from BrightLocal:
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
- 95% of people ages 18 to 34 read local business reviews
- 91% of 18-to-34-year-old consumers trust reviews online as much as recommendations from friends and family
- 57% of consumers will only buy from a business that has 4 stars or more
- Consumers read an average of 10 reviews online before they feel they can trust a business
It’s also been found that reviews produce an average 18% increase in sales.
How to establish and manage your small business reputation
There are four ways to ensure you have a good online reputation. And it’s important to pay attention to each of them.
Establish your expertise by creating content that’s not directly about you but provides useful information about your industry as a whole. For example, an accountant might publish easy to read explanations of recent changes in the law, explain how to file for government benefits during the current COVID-19 pandemic, or provide record-keeping tips for small businesses. You’ll see concrete examples of this kind of content in our own blog. Establishing your authority is an important piece of your small business reputation management.
Citations are mentions or listings of your business with at least your NAP — your Name, Address and Phone — on local search engines, directories, social media, maps and mobile apps. The more you have, the more prominent you are and the more easily your business can be found.
So be sure you’re listed on as many of these platforms as possible. And claim your listings at places like Google My Business, Yelp, SuperPages, MerchantCircle, CitySearch and YP.com.
It’s also very important that your NAP be consistent across all of them. Nothing is more confusing than citations with different variations on your company name, old addresses, and inconsistent phone numbers. If some of your citations have a previous address or some have your toll-free number while others have your local number, customers (and Google) aren’t sure which is right.
Prominence also helps you show up better in local search. A recent survey found that nearly 60% percent of small businesses aren’t optimized for local search, which is surprising when you consider that 45% of searches are for local businesses.
Shameless plug: Our PowerListings service will get you listed on about six dozen of these sites and lock in your information to ensure perfect NAP consistency among them all. You can learn more on our Local SEO page.
Be active on social media. GlobalWebIndex reports that there’s a growing role of social media to research products that can be leveraged beyond mere brand recognition to enhancing your reputation. They report that 40 percent of consumers use social media to look up businesses and products. Beyond that, Statista research showed that more than half of consumers have a more favorable view of businesses that use social media to engage with customer complaints and questions.
You can use social media to enhance your small business’ reputation by leveraging the content creation described above. Every new piece of content you add to your website should be promoted on all of your social media accounts with a link back to that content on your website.
Small businesses can live or die based on their online reviews. If you haven’t been paying attention to your online reviews, now’s the time to start. When someone passes along a word of mouth referral for you, the person they refer is more likely than not to look you up before calling you. More than your own website is going to show up when they do that. Your listings on Google My Business, LinkedIn, Yelp, and elsewhere will populate most of the results. Any of those sites that host reviews about you will show the average review stars in the search results. Those stars jump off the page and capture attention; they’re the most obvious reflection of your small business reputation. And if they are not universally good or excellent, that’s a significant dent in your reputation.
It’s important that you monitor your reviews online. If you don’t have any on a particular platform, it’s relatively easy to get one: ask a delighted customer to write one for you (just don’t tell them what to say about you). If a mediocre or negative review is written, it’s critical for you to respond promptly to that. A good response can turn a negative review into a positive experience for the person who reads it.
A survey found that more than 90% of consumers will avoid a business because of a negative review. But if you respond to it positively and act on it, that can enhance your reputation. Responding to negative reviews makes it more likely for 45 percent of people to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Shameless plug: To help our clients stay on top of this, our PowerListings service alerts them as soon as a new review appears on any of dozens of online review sites. You can learn about that on our Local SEO page.
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