These days, people will rarely visit a business or buy a product without doing some research first. I mean, would you? Especially if it’s as easy as whipping out your phone, typing a word or three and then instantly seeing information on… well, almost any kind of business. In fact, according to a report by BrightLocal, 90% of consumers used the internet to find a business in the last year. So if you’re part of a local business, ask yourself: is my online reputation is good enough to get someone from the internet to my doorstep?
In our connected world, a business’s reputation is predominantly online. While in-person word of mouth does still have an impact (people love to share their experiences with each other and value the opinion of people they know), it’s nothing like the scale of what happens online. Between social media, blogs, influencers (or wannabes), review platforms, and so on, there are dozens of ways for people to share their opinions online.
The trouble is, some of these opinions are about your business, and not all of them are flattering. In fact, a report by American Express revealed that Americans will tell more people about bad experiences than good ones.
In this piece we’ll unpack everything that makes up your online reputation, and if you thought it was just about your reviews, buckle up. It’s so much more.
The first category is online reviews. In case you wonder how important reviews are, take a look at these stats:
Reviews are important, but just as important are where those reviews appear. Depending on your business, they might be in a few places:
Google My Business – When someone searches your business, what’s one of the first things they see? Often, it’s your Google listing and the review score that goes with. For many local businesses, your Google reviews are the first place to start. Check out our resource page for loads of info on getting more Google reviews.
Yelp – Most local businesses know Yelp well, but many don’t realize that using it properly can result in huge dividends. In fact, a study by Harvard Business School revealed that a single star-rating increase can boost revenue up to 9%.
Facebook – While not as popular as the previous two, Facebook is yet another place where folks can recommend you, assuming you’ve set up a Facebook business page (check out this post for more on using Facebook).
Other Review Platforms – There are dozens of other websites where folks can write reviews about companies in specific industries. Healthcare, legal, and even pest control markets all have their own review platforms. Check out this piece to find the ones relevant to you.
Any anonymous punk on the internet can just blast vitriol toward your company through an online review. Not fair is it? Well don’t worry, because there are some tricks to making sure you get plenty of high-quality reviews. Check out this page for more information on getting lots of reviews.
The average local business might not deal with the media much, and when they do, it’s likely they will appear in the news for the wrong reasons. Some publications have regular articles about restaurant closures, and even list out specific health violations—imagine seeing your business’s name on a list like that. The stain on your reputation wouldn’t go away easily. Still, that’s not to say new restaurants, interesting retail concepts, and other businesses can’t attract the attention of the press. We’ll cover specific tactics in another post, but here are a few places where write-ups or reviews might appear:
And just remember, it’s not a bad idea to take some time and find out what lists are relevant to your business and keep tabs on them from time to time. If you experienced a sudden change in customer traffic (for good or bad), it would be because something happened in your local press.
Whether you like it or not, bloggers and influencers can have an impact on your online reputation. Depending on your industry, these folks might write reviews or create videos about your establishment, products, and so on, then they’ll post them on the internet for thousands of strangers to see. They might make you look good. They might not. Influencers might also promote your business or products in exchange for free goods, or even do it as part of a marketing promotion you pay for.
As with traditional media outlets, local businesses won’t necessarily interact with bloggers or influencers unless they want to. Influencers often have a huge built-in audience of loyal fans, which means a quick name drop of your business can quickly get you serious return. An online review from a well-respected blogger can also help boost your reputation. We’ll cover the ins and outs of working with influencers in another post.
People gather in all corners of the internet to nerd out about nearly anything. As I write this, someone is sharing a campsite review on Campingforums.com. Someone else is sharing a story about their new favorite bike shop in a Facebook group. Someone is complaining in a subreddit about a bad experience they had. The list goes on and on. It’s important to note that people might be talking about you and what they say there can have a lot of impact. The visitors of these forums tend to be the hardest of the hardcore, and they often visit forums and groups to learn where to spend money and where not to.
We’ve talked about a few online places where people can basically say whatever they want about your business. You can’t really control the message, other than doing your best and hoping your work is recognized. But your website and social pages are different. They’re the few places online where you get to control the message, at least for the most part. Since that’s the case, it’s critical that you get everything right. These places are where you get to impact your own reputation. You should look polished. Your messaging should speak to how your business can solve your customers’ problems. It should be fast, easy to navigate, and it should include convenient ways for prospects to interact with you (see this post on why online chats matter). This is your time to shine—take your time so you can get everything right. Ask yourself, would you like navigating your website? Many local businesses have terrible websites. Make sure you’re not one of them by hiring someone who can help you make your website absolutely kick butt.
Let’s face it. If your online reputation is awful, or even just a little bad in some places, people may not bother trying you out. Afterall, there might be ten more just like you with a better online reputation, so why take the risk? And though there are many things that can affect it, there’s a trick that’s not such a big secret: your business earns its reputation. You’re not at the mercy of your customers, influencers, and bloggers. You’re in control of your reputation because you’re in control of the customer experience. Get it right and you’ll be just fine.
And yes, this might seem overwhelming. But fear not, the other posts on our online reputation resource page will show you exactly how to do everything the easy way. The results? A crap-ton of new customers and growth you won’t believe.
In our next post, we’ll explore how to assess your current online reputation as well as your competitors, so you can identify ways to improve.