On Wednesday April 29th we were joined by three industry experts to discuss how to make Reviews & Reputation Work for Local Businesses.
Online reviews affect the visibility of a local business, it’s potential to stand out from any competitors, and of course to convert customers. Management of a business’s online reputation an essential part of any local SEO strategy.
In this InsideLocal webinar we discussed why reviews are so critical, and asked our expert panel to provide some great tips & takeaways for managing a local business review strategy.
Watch Webinar Recording:
Our Expert Panelists
Thomas is Marketing Director of Bulwark Pest Control, a highly successful Pest Control business operating in 13 metropolitan areas across the US. Thomas has over 8 years experience of marketing an SAB business and is a regular speaker at search events and a contributor to the Local Ranking Factors Survey. Follow Thomas on Twitter & G+.
Phil specializes in helping small and medium sized businesses get visibility online. When he’s not running Local Visibility System where he provides consultancy services & maintains his excellent local search blog, Phil is an active industry speaker, having appeared at SMX West, SMX East & State of Search to name a few. He’s also a contributor to the Local Ranking Factors study. Follow Phil on Twitter & G+.
Aaron is the COO of Spyder Trap, a Minneapolis Marketing and Technology Firm. Aaron helped found MnSearch, is a faculty presenter for Local University and has 15 years experience in mobile, search engine marketing (SEM & SEO), local search, social media and other online marketing strategies. In addition to this, Aaron regularly speaks at local and national events on all of these subjects. Follow Aaron on Twitter & G+.
Don is President of Expand2Web, a company that offers tools & training to help small businesses succeed online. Founded in 2008, Expand2Web helps thousands of small businesses create websites & position themselves for top local search results. Prior to this, Don was a Technology Evangelist for Microsoft, and in his latest project, Don helps small business owners encourage online review at GetFiveStars. Follow Don on Twitter & G+.
About this Webinar
- Why ‘Reputation Management’ & How involved should SMBs get
- Helping SMBs to maximise their reputation
- How to Suppress Bad Reviews
- Will Google, Yelp & TripAdvisor kill other sites?
- Review Syndication & Republishing
- Wednesday 29 April 2015
- 70 mins
Please note, Linda has published the QA / chat log on the Local Search Forum where you can find all the chat links & resources from the panelists.
Why reputation management?
Phil Rozek started by delivering 4 main benefits of focusing on a review strategy:
- Your online reputation is something Google can’t take away from you
If done right, with online reviews, testimonials, or people saying positive things about you, then it is surely one of the few things that Google can’t touch. Even if your site gets punished by an algorithm update – you still have an online reputation for customer to find you.
- If you have reviews, you will get more clicks than your competitors do
Those clicks & behavioural signals will also benefit your rankings by moving them up slowly but surely over time.
- Having reviews on a variety of sites helps your ranking within those sites
Phil pointed out that there are search results within search results, such as in Yelp for example, whereby a Google search then leads to a Yelp category page, which will then display sites based on the amount and quality of reviews that a business has. This, Phil states, shows that reviews are a great Barnacle SEO tactic – they help you latch onto more influential sites in google.
- Reviews help with offline / online word of mouth
Online reviews help with word of mouth & constitute great referral power. If people hear about your site offline, sooner or later they are going to look you up online.
Aaron Weiche commented that by paying attention to your online reputation, you can certainly succeed without Google being the most major component to your business.
“Don’t ignore how your customers as a single, group, or collective, feel about you” – Aaron Weiche
In regards to benchmarking against competitors, Thomas Ballantyne suggested that as long as his company had more reviews than competitors then he was happy. If your business or client is in a position of dominance, thenbenchmarking takes on lesser importance – just keep doing what you do.
How involved should SMBs get?
Don Campbell considered that having ‘no reviews’ can almost be as harmful as having ‘bad reviews’; people don’t always run out and leave reviews for businesses in certain industries, and therefore if you don’t have any reviews, you can certainly be very exposed.
In a scenario where you have zero, or very few reviews, one negative review can stand out – and that’s dangerous.
Aaron Weiche indicated that a business or SEO’s goal should be more than just receiving a positive review. That should not be the tactical end-point. Instead, focus on letting your customers know that:
- You care, and are willing to listen to their needs
- You are showing your customers that there is a space on your website that invites their feedback
From this, you can then do real actionable things with that feedback.
Phil pointed out a key issue is that not enough people, businesses or SEOs actually read their own reviews on a regular basis.
Helping SMBs to maximise their reputation
Phil suggests that too many people are satisfied with receiving a positive review without actually monitoring them for further actions. Reviews can be a source of not only finding out common complaints are with your service or product, but also they are a valuable source of content ideas.
Learning why customers leave reviews can be a valuable exercise. Learn about what makes a happy customer ‘happy’, and then play up more of those factors.
Don agreed with this sentiment and suggested that you should mine information from reviews, which then leads to more reviews, and better reviews.
“The business that use their reviews to make their business better are the ones that do really well online” – Don Campbell
How many online reviews should you aim for?
On the subject of how many online reviews are required, Thomas Ballantyne suggested that approx. 7-10 reviews is ideal, but you can’t just stop there. It’s an ongoing process.
Recency is important – 10 great reviews from 10 years ago? – Who cares?
“I’m never going to stop asking for reviews.” – Thomas Ballantyne
Make your review strategy a company strategy
Aaron said the companies that are really successful at reviews and reputation are the ones that have it baked into their process, whether that’s using a tool like Get5Stars, or just having it ingrained into company culture.
However, even if a company has reviews and reputation as a priority, if staff on the front-line don’t buy into it, then it’s not going to work. It must be a top to bottom implementation.
Don agreed that the best examples are companies that have really trained their staff. It works best when the whole workforce understands the mission – which is to ask customers for feedback and get reviews.
Thomas Ballantyne explained to us that in his own working experience at Bulwark pest Control, their technicians know that it matters because promotions & firing / hiring are all based on reviews. Reviews can be linked to customer retention rates, and other success metrics, so make them an incentive for staff and tie it into their career progression.
Asking customers for reviews
Staying on the subject of asking for reviews, Phil stated that a lot businesses don’t follow-up on their requests out of fear of seeming pushy. Customers are busy and will forget, so don’t be afraid to follow-up with friendly email reminders – even if it takes 2-3 attempts.
Don confirmed that from his own experience at Get5Stars, recency in following up is very important. The most recent interactions get the most feedback – it’s more than double or triple the response rate (with email).
Don also confirmed that there are really high response rates on the 2nd or 3rd email, as often customers will flag a reminder to action, and then not actually get around to it until the 2nd or 3rd reminder.
Incentivizing online reviews
On incentivizing reviews, Aaron Weiche had these words:
“Don’t do it…the incentive should be great service every time.” – Aaron Weiche
As Phil pointed out, even if you incentivize reviews, those reviews are likely to be weak because they are incentivized. A page full of reviews with just 1-2 sentences are going to look fairly staged to a casual observer.
As Thomas pointed out, aside from anything else, incentivizing reviews cheapens your relationship with a customer. Whereas on the flip side, simply asking for a favour from your customers actually strengthen your relationship with them.
On paying for reviews, Aaron commented that if you’re buying reviews, you’re probably buying reviews from someone who doesn’t review at all – and a quick review of that persons profile will flag up & get filtered by Yelp. Additionally, it’s only a matter of time before Google will start to pay more attention to who’s leaving reviews.
Suppressing bad reviews
Don stated that the best strategy for suppressing bad reviews is just to be proactive.
If you only have 10 reviews, that 1 negative review is going to be amplified and will have more credibility. That’s why it’s important to get in front of the situation and ask for feedback – so you can sort out any issues before they turn into bad reviews.
Thomas said that, whilst one way to cover up negative reviews was to simply get more good ones, a good solution is to always reach out to customers who leave negative reviews. Apologise & ask them how you can fix it. Even if you cannot 100% fix the problem, just showing the customer that you are actively following-up with them shows that you care & you’ll appear more trustworthy for trying.
On replying to negative reviews, Aaron says to be smart about your approach. Understand that you can win back credibility if you respond right. Show empathy to the customer.
If a review site closes down or a site decides no longer to display reviews (See Yahoo / Yelp), what can you do?
Aaron raises the question of ‘Do you actually own your own reviews in case they disappear?’
It’s not good practice to republish reviews on your site, but if you ask customers for feedback on your site first (testimonials, general feedback), you can then utilize this content further down the line.
Don says don’t force customers into just 1 review site, usually there’s 2-3 review sites that are applicable for your business / industry – so use a variety.
Facebook, our Panelists agreed, is a real contender in the online reviews game. We’re seeing a lot of customers go to Facebook, because they’re already logged in and it’s easy to do.
Our panelists also mentioned a Mike Blumenthal poll in which readers voted for which site they were most likely to use for a local business review. Facebook came out second.
Phil reminded us that niche review sites are huge! They may not be as popular as Google+, Yelp, Facebook or TripAdvisor, but niche review sites like Houzz, Healthgrades & Avvo are excellent choices if you operate in those industries.
Additionally, people looking at reviews on these sites are probably very far down the funnel – they’re close to picking up the phone and are really looking closely at where you have reviews.
With review syndication, Don confirmed that it is better to own your reviews rather than syndicate around the web – and this can be done with feedback, testimonials, etc.
Phil thinks we should stop using the term reputation management, as it is both misleading & passive. Instead, we should call it reputation development.
Phil stated that as more people start writing reviews, you are going to have a reputation online. So get ahead of any problems, and focus on doing right by your customers. If you do this you’re going to win.
Don recommended a book, which is based around creating word of mouth marketing so good, you wouldn’t even need to advertise:
- The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, by Jon Jaannsh.
Aaron suggests looking at reviews & reputation as a long term play. Don’t see it as a shortcut to rankings. You want to listen to your customers and provide them with an easy route to feedback.
It’s like growing a flower. A planted seed. Grow it. Take care of it.