For small businesses, your reputation is your livelihood. Your store (or website) doesn’t see the foot (or website) traffic like the major corporations see, which means that every set of feet that enter your store or every unique visitor that enters your website is crucial to your success. If any of these folks have a bad experience and post it online, it’s like they’re standing in front of your store with a mega-phone shouting at folks as they walk by.
So, how do you help protect yourself from a reputation management issue? What’s the best way to avoid online negativity? Well, there is no possible way to completely avoid negative comments/reviews. The most important thing is to focus your efforts on the creation of a solid product/service, as this will help alleviate any potential negativity. Negative reviews, however, can actually help your business. See this post from Matt McGee over at Small Business SEM on “5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good For Business“.
After you’ve created that great product/service, and have a user-friendly website, which you’ve optimized, it’s time to start increasing your credibility with the gatekeepers (i.e. search engines > Google). For local businesses, ranking in the 7 pack is the holy grail. The visibility you receive is tremendous due to how much real estate the local search results receive in the SERPs.
There are a large number of factors that go into optimizing your Google Place Page (previously called Google Local Business Listings) for increased local rankings. David Mihm, one of the Local Search authorities, has compiled a list of top local search ranking factors. Review this closely and be thorough, every little bit helps as you’re fighting for one of seven spots. Competition is fierce.
Besides having a great product/service and achieving top local ranking results, the best method for creating trust and building a solid reputation is to have folks talk about you and your product/service. There are a number of ways to do this, which I’ll mention those I feel are of top importance. First, this graph shows consumer trust in certain forms of advertising. Very interesting that the most trusted forms of advertising are peer-focused.
Based on that graph, my first suggestion is, duh, obtain customer reviews!! Reviews help others gain knowledge of your product/service, as well as alert them to any concerns about features, service, etc.
Here are some other ways to help manage your reputation:
- Optimize your site – make sure you rank for your major keywords.
- PPC Advertising – create an additional online presence in the paid results.
- Twitter – a hugely valuable tool in understanding conversations about your store or your products. Join those conversations and start providing additional value. Don’t forget to ask for reviews
- Facebook – use this tool to provide additional value to your fans. This can be done through contests, photos, promotions, etc. The more you can engage the social media audience, the more likely you’ll be to have a positive reputation.
- Create press releases – get the word out about any new product releases. Press releases can also help gain additional organic rankings for short period of time (Google tends to show the latest new releases in Universal Search)
- Create a blog – search engines love blogs. If you have the resources to keep up a blog, and write meaningful, insightful posts, this is a strategy that can completely change your world. Build a following via a blog, you’ll most definitely receive increased reviews which can then lead to more revenue
To recap, the most important thing for small businesses is to ensure their reputation is intact. Your reputation, largely, depends on how well you can obtain visibility in the search engines. The more people that visit your website or Google Place Page, the bigger the opportunity that you’ll achieve increased foot traffic, which then leads to more reviews….bringing us full circle to your reputation.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are there any small biz owners, or agencies that work with small businesses, that want to share their story? Please write a comment and share your experience with the rest of us.