Back in the day big budget marketing meant a business got the best advertising money could buy. Your business reputation took the form of a glossy full page spread and you watched as the phone rang off the hook. Those glossy adverts haven’t gone anywhere, but the playing field has most certainly been levelled for those with smaller pockets. Customers love to share their experiences with local businesses and great service. So, what happens when something goes right or wrong? They write a review online of course!
With all of this consumer-generated content contributing to your business presence online, your reputation must be earned. The not-so-secret secret is that great service matters; Yelp research shows that yelpers that mention ‘good customer service’ are five times more likely to write a five-star review than a one-star review.
Search engine optimisation efforts on your own website aren’t enough on their own to control your reputation online anymore. The reality is consumer-generated content such as review sites, and blogs are being surfaced far more often than your own website. This content is being surfaced because it is crowdsourced from the community and is so useful for the consumer.
Think of your website as a place where consumers expect you to say ‘we’re the best’ and review sites and blogs as somewhere your customers say ‘they’re the best’. Let’s take an example; here are the search results for the term ‘Best Hairdresser London’ on Google. The search results are dominated by map directories, review sites and blogs with only three local business websites listed on a results page of 13 organic listings. For local businesses the importance of review sites, directories and social media is far more impactful when it comes to getting in front of consumers.
Optimising your presence on review sites on a regular basis and managing your listing on map directories is key to owning your online presence. Consumers are relying on the internet more than ever before to find your local business. Act like a consumer and search for your business online; are you found? If so where, and what is being said? Here are my top three tips to getting started and earning the reputation your business deserves.
The first step is claiming your business page where you have a presence. Once you have claimed your page on Yelp, for example, you can start to optimise your listing by uploading photos, updating business information and responding to reviews either publicly or privately. Engaging with your customers publicly is so impactful because that response is no longer for one customer but for every customer reading your reviews, deciding whether to do business with you or not.
Next up is making sure you are listed and that your business information is correct. Get your contact information right on all your listings, check your website, phone number and your map location is correct.
A great reputation is hard earned and well deserved so why not show it off? With the growth of new social media channels the demand for new content is huge. Share your favourite reviews on Facebook or Twitter and let your customers do the talking for you. When a customer checks in at your business they can choose to share through their other social accounts as well as in their Yelp activity. You can use check-in offers to entice those mobile customers, rewarding loyalty while growing your audience at the same time.
It can feel daunting at first, but try to remember that more often than not customers are sharing their great experiences online. In fact on Yelp 79 per cent of all reviews are three stars or higher. You can also learn from other businesses you admire, and gather lots of competitor research right there from your desk. It is important to take control and join the conversation, it’s about your business after all.
Katie Byrne is manager of local business outreach at Yelp.