From the Blog

Why Business Reputations and Reviews Matter

Remember a time not too long ago when the word “review” meant something like an article in the New York Times about the latest bestselling book or what Siskel and Ebert had to say about a movie? Only a select group of people, people versed in the past, present, and future of their respective areas of expertise were allowed to be called “reviewers”, and their word was gold because there were only so many opinions that could be delivered in a newspaper, magazine, or television show. The review was the realm of the professional critic, and as the gatekeeper of public opinion, those critics held a powerful position in our society.

Well, thumbs up or thumbs down, with the advent of the internet and social media, those days are in the past.

Now, anyone can leave online reviews on multiple media channels at lightning fast speed, and they generally do. Look at virtually any product, service, or place that you can find on the Internet – these days, it seems everyone has an opinion about everything. Ignore this at your own peril, because these reviews are the thing that might just make your business sink like a rock or swim like a fish.

Why?

The answer is because everyone’s not just simply writing online reviews – they are actually READING them, too! Research tells us that 86% of consumers read internet reviews for local businesses, and of those who read a positive review, 78% then go to that particular company’s website. Clearly, people take their online reviews seriously.

In fact, a large swath of the population (91% of 18-34 year olds!) consider online reviews as meaningful to their decision making process as a personal recommendation. That’s right, “Starfoxx83’s” Amazon review is just as important as Dad’s tried and true opinion! Furthermore, consumers who research businesses on the internet are reading upwards of ten reviews before they decide whether or not to engage your company.

Now think about that for a moment and consider your company:

  • Is your business being reviewed online? (and have you even checked recently?)
  • What is the spread between positive and negative reviews?
  • Are there criticisms or praise? How should you rank them?
  • Are you surprised by how many “non-google” places are rating you?

Remember, it doesn’t matter if a nurse on your staff was having a bad day when they were rude to that patient, or if the restaurant was short staffed on that busy Mother’s Day brunch.

Potential customers are holding your business accountable for what these reviews say regardless of situational context.

The perception of your brand is being guided and molded almost entirely through other people’s judgement, and these people can be harsh.

And remember, this isn’t just restaurants or other obvious businesses built around opinion: it’s every industry, from mechanics to medical doctors, gardeners to grocers!

While everyone has always had an opinion about everything, these days, they have the instantaneous ability to spread their opinions to anyone with an internet connection. There is an empowerment in doing so, and because of this, the online reviewing trend is just going to continue to grow. Everyone wants to be heard.

What Can You Do?!

So as a business owner, what do you do to stay on top of things? How do you take control of something that seems, at first glance, to be out of your control?

1) Well, the first step is to understand that checking for and reading reviews should now be a part of your everyday behavior as a business owner. Consider them the “fruit of your labor” and acknowledge that people are evaluating the outcome of all of your hard work through the reviews others are leaving.

In order to hone your brand you need to understand how people are talking about you and your products or services.

2) Open an incognito browser and Google your name AND the name of your business. Do a gut check on how much stuff is there – is it more or less than you would have presumed?

3) Create a list of the URLs (domains) that are mentioning you and what rating you have on each. If you have time, read a few, and see what people are saying.

4) If you want to get serious about tracking this, create a spreadsheet to track how you’re doing on each channel:

For example:

  • Google August 2018 = 4.1 stars for 43 reviews for “Taco Bomba Fairfax”
  • Google September 2018 = 3.2 stars for 80 reviews for “Taco Bomba Fairfax”
  • Google October 2018 = 4.1 stars for 102 reviews for “Taco Bomba Fairfax”
  • Google November 2018 = 4.1 stars for 103 reviews for “Taco Bomba Fairfax”

See what you can learn from the data. When are people visiting. What happened between August and September. Why didn’t anyone review between October to November? Use your data to evaluate sales, marketing and operations.

So, now what? You’re tracking… good… then…?

If there’s predominantly good customer sentiment – congratulations! Look for ways to keep doing more of what you’re already doing so well. Consider putting some of those good reviews on your website as testimonials to attract more clients.

If your business has a predominantly negative sentiment or enough to make you uncomfortable – call me. You need to fix it and I can help! Also, stay tuned for my next article, which will talk about what do when you receive bad reviews.

Finally, if you find absolutely no online customer sentiment about your business, again, email me! If no one’s talking about you online, that’s not good – it generally means your competitors are shutting you out by doing a better job in getting their message out to the customer.

Additional data available about reviews from BrightLocal’s 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey.

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