Online reputations are just like offline reputations: it takes a long time to build a good reputation, and only a second to destroy it. All it takes is one bad review, one bad quote from your CEO, or one smear campaign from a competitor.
That’s why reputation management is an important skill even for the smallest of small businesses. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your small business’s reputation management:
Recent Google Algorithm Changes Emphasize Review Websites
In days gone by, small businesses could easily dominate local search listings in small to medium-sized towns. Local searches had no effect on global searches, which meant that anyone searching for, say, “Restaurants in Smalltown, Anywhere” would get the same results from anywhere in the world.
In other words, it was easy to avoid attacks on your reputation. Basic SEO knowledge could help you squash competitors and dominate search listings.
Today, your location heavily influences your Google Search results. Today, even the smallest of businesses is competing with global giants like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urban Spoon in small towns around the world.
Take a look when you search for a popular restaurant in Dallas, Texas:
Fortunately, Fearing’s Restaurant has a pretty good online reputation: it has positive reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google. There’s at least a four star rating on every review site that pops up.
But if you were a smaller business, then you might not have hundreds of reviews from happy customers. You might have 10 reviews from happy customers. All it takes is one or two negative reviews – possibly from a jealous competitor – to give your business a serious reputation problem.
Ultimately, sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have far too much online authority for your small business to handle. You can’t beat them in search results. The recent Google algorithm changes have emphasized these review sites even more – which makes your job even harder.
Fortunately for Fearing’s Restaurant, their official website is at the top of the search listings page above review websites. But many small businesses can’t say the same. Their official websites might be outranked by TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Now that you know the importance of reputation management, it’s time to learn how to fight back against the system.
Introduce Yourself to Google
If a business doesn’t appear on Google Maps in 2015, does that business still exist?
Make sure your business is popping up in as many places as possible. Start by introducing yourself to Google by filling out your business’s information on Google My Business here.
If your business isn’t already listed, you might notice an impressive search engine rankings boost after filling out your Google My Business listing.
After entering your business’s information into there, consider adding it to some of the following listings websites:
Talk About your Company’s Address a Lot
The more you talk about your company’s address, the easier it is for Google to know you have a local company.
Practice good local SEO by announcing your company’s address wherever possible, including on your home page, on the footer of every page on your website, and on all your social media profiles.
Google likes to see one consistent address across all your company listings. If you have multiple addresses or an old address listed, make sure you change that as soon as possible.
Mention your Company’s Local Phone Number
Many companies have both a local phone number and a toll-free phone number. Your customers might appreciate the toll-free phone number because it’s free, but a local phone number gives you better local SEO benefit.
After placing your address on every page on your site, place your phone numbers everywhere as well (footers, home pages, social media profiles, etc.). Emphasize the toll-free number for customers but make sure the local phone number is visible as well.
Collect Real Feedback from your Customers Before Review Sites Get It
Give customers a place to complain about – or praise – your business. Collect feedback with an on-site survey. Or, collect customer emails and ask for any recommendations.
If the feedback is good, encourage the customer to “Read More” by visiting your Yelp page. Ideally, they’ll leave a review and help your business.
If the feedback is bad, then you can address the customer’s concerns before they appear on a highly-visible ratings website.
Give People a Reason to Talk About Your Business
Fight authority websites with some authority sources of your own. Sponsor a local charity or sports team and attract media attention for your business.
Or, organize a contest on social media where customers share pictures of their food with a special local hashtag for a chance to win a gift card.
The more clicks, buzz, and attention your business gets, the more authoritative you will be on the internet.
Ideally, you’ll attract local media attention. Positive news stories will be popping up online about you instead of negative news stories.