If your local business is hoping to attract potential customers who are searching online for the kind of products and services you offer, it’s critical that you are able to establish and sustain a positive online business reputation.
Unfortunately, not everything that appears online about your business can be shiny and sparkly. In fact, there are aspects of your online reputation that are out of your control. Just “Google” your business name, and you’ll quickly understand that there are situations wherein negative content about your business has been posted online – and that it appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) for everyone – including your potential customers – to read and consider.
Here are 3 search engines results that can derail your marketing efforts and destroy your online business reputation… plus some bits of advice on how you can manage them.
1. Negative reviews and low ratings
Thanks to the popularity and success of online review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and Urbanspoon, a negative review can quickly spell doom for any local business owner. Consider this: 88 percent of consumers today read online reviews to determine whether a local business is good or not. So, in a way, a low rating or a negative review can be equivalent to a person outside your shop door standing and holding a sign that reads, “Don’t go in.”
What makes reviews particularly powerful is that local business ratings and review highlights – from today’s leading review sites – typically appear on search engine results pages.
What you can do: You can minimize the impact of negative reviews by implementing a review management strategy and proactively listening and responding to what your customers have to say. With a well-crafted, professional, and polite review response, you can quickly change the conversation, improve your image, and demonstrate to review readers that your business greatly values customer feedback.
2. Wrong local data
One of the things that frustrate consumers the most is searching online for local business information… and getting results that prove to be completely useless. It could be a wrong business address, a wrong telephone number, an old, outdated menu, a missing directory listing, or a dead link that was supposed to lead to the business website.
According to a recent study, approximately 43 percent of businesses in the US have at least one incorrect or missing address on various local directory sites. And in total, about $10.3 billion worth of potential annual local business sales are lost because of wrong, missing, or incomplete local data.
What you can do: As a business owner, you can combat the costs and consequences of wrong local data by making sure all the information that appears online about your business is accurate and up-to-date. Start by updating your website and managing all the business info that’s published there. Then make sure you claim your business on social networks, online review sites, and local listings. (One of the tools we love for planting flags is KnowEm.) Guarantee that the data you provide in these places is correct. Double-check to see if you have the right business address, business category, phone numbers, URLs, names, operation hours, and map location.
3. Slanderous or defamatory comments, blog posts, social mentions, and website pages
It could be an angry ex-employee talking. Or a frustrated customer whose problem was left unresolved. Or a competitor trying to blemish your business reputation. Whatever: a slanderous post about your business can do big damage to your image, sales, and performance. You certainly don’t want these types of content to appear whenever potential customers Google your business.
What you can do: You may not be able to quickly delete these defamatory comments on the Internet, but there are ways around it. First, contact the publisher to see if you could request for a removal of the content. (It’s always worth a try.) Then find a system that allows you to track and listen to online conversations about your business – try HootSuite and (of course) ReviewTrackers. In cases where a response is necessary, respond.
It’s also important that you’re able to regularly generate content of your own – like company news and announcements, product updates, photos and videos, special promos and deals, customer testimonials, and happy employee stories – and publish these wherever you could, like your website, blog, social networks, and review site profiles. Search engines will soon crawl all the fresh stuff you’ve cranked out, and slowly but surely, it will help push away those negative search engine results.