Reviews and Reputation Management for Local Businesses

For local businesses, first impressions and good reviews are very critical. In fact, it has been reported that negative search results by potential customers can be detrimental to your business. According to TurnTo’s latest research, 99% of consumers consider user-generated content and online reviews prior to making any purchase decisions.

For local businesses, specifically, it is crucial that they create a strong foundation for their online presence and reputation. Known as online reputation management (ORM), this “digital firewall” is geared towards the improvement of customer perceptions about your online business and, consequently, drive website traffic (and foot traffic) towards your direction.

Online reputation management is about monitoring and controlling mentions of your brand on digital spaces, websites, and social media. ORM covers various techniques and online platforms such as SEO, social media, and other online community management tools.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The term “owned media” refers to online properties pertaining to your business over which you have ownership.  For instance, if a potential customer goes on an online search, your business must figure out prominently over others. In internet parlance, this means ‘owning the results’ of the search.

For local businesses, SEO involves improving (a) your website and (b) your social media profiles. Of particular importance is website optimization since it undergirds the foundation of your online reputation and digital marketing strategy.

Owning search results is thus of prime importance since makes your business visible in search engine results. SEO practically includes an array of digital marketing practices, such as developing good-quality content, establishing, claiming and optimizing your business directory pages, and building quality backlinks.

Google My Business (GMB)

Another free tool which can serve as your second storefront, GMB allows interaction with prospective customers via Google search results and Google maps. It has been proven to be a primary driver of web traffic and a fool proof way of attracting potential customers at no cost to you and your business.

GMB is indeed a powerful tool in shaping the online reputation of your business. Leverage your GMB profile to improve your online reputation by simply claiming your listing, verifying that your business information is accurate and up-to-date, and optimize, adding photos and videos, connecting with customers and responding to reviews.

Social Media

While Google is the primary search engine for internet users, social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube can likewise boost your internet presence. They are also critical players when it comes to ORM.

In the past decade, social media has become a powerful platform that can supersize information and get things popular or even viral across the globe.

Here are five tips to effectively manage your online reputation and positively shape the customer perception of your business:

1. Claim and update your business listing

Secure your business name, claim your listing on Google, and register to social media platforms using your brand or business name. Regularly update your listing and provide as much information as possible in your website, online directories, and social platforms as well as making sure that this information is relevant and up to date.

While posting scanty information may not doom your business to failure, you will be missing out on a lot of potential customers and opportunities. Updating information is especially important since outdated and incorrect information will lead to disappointed customers. 

2. Build an effective digital marketing strategy

Take steps to make sure that your digital marketing campaigns cast your business in a positive light. Remember that your website posts, ad campaigns, blogs, tweets, videos, organic content, and everything you publish will make or break your public image and reputation.

Yes, marketing, public relations and brand management are essential keys in building a good reputation. 

3. Manage your social media accounts

Build your online reputation by effectively managing your social media accounts. Create and post relevant, useful, engaging and good quality content. Build your pages up, engage with followers and take advantage of user-generated content.

Managing social media has been made easy with various publishing and media marketing tools. Leverage these tools to scale your engagement and analyze results. Tap into these data to generate insights and achieve a more accurate view of the customer experience.

4. Read and respond to online reviews

Online reviews have supplanted word-of-mouth customer feedback during these times. These reviews reflect positive/negative impressions of customers about your business and thus, greatly influence decisions about potential customers about engaging with you or patronizing your products and/or services.

Displayed prominently in your GMB page is a review rating as well as feedback about their experiences. Reports say that 85% of prospective customers trust these reviews as personal endorsements and patronize businesses with high review ratings. It is thus recommended that you respond to reviews about your business so as to address problems, answer queries, and enhance customer loyalty.

You may as well consider creating auto-responses such as “thank you”, compose positive review responses, and address negative reviews and comments upfront. In responding to negative reviews, make sure to stay professional, present the facts, apologize for the customer’s concern, and provide subsequent steps to address the matter. 

Responding to good or bad reviews and comments straightaway and with empathy will surely make a difference to your online reputation. If you are pressed for time in running your business, you may use a review software or reputation management system to help you automate these steps.

5. Monitor your digital space and be proactive

Monitor mentions and conversations about your business on your social media, other websites and digital platforms . Be proactive in gathering and taking note of consumers’ sentiments, comments, reviews, and blog/vlog posts pertaining your brand from all around the world wide web.

Discover what people say about your products, follow up on positive comments, and find dissatisfied clients and take action to address their concerns. Do this regularly or you may also set up an alert to receive notifications whenever your brand is mentioned.

Following these tips and going the extra mile will make a lot of difference in your business at very minimal cost to you.  While building and maintaining your business reputation is a long-term undertaking, ORM doesn’t necessarily require a big budget. You may simply use various tools and resources that are available online.

Remember that reputation management is critical to establish and maintain accurate and positive customer perception and will help you build a better and trustworthy company.

Have you been consistently monitoring your social mentions and reviews online? If not, what has been your biggest challenge in managing your online reputation?

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