Why online reputation management matters for local businesses

Summary:

  • Reputation management is the best way to attract more customers
  • Review sites show up in local internet searches ahead of your company website
  • Online reviews are critical social proof as customers decide where to spend money

Every year, we survey thousands of small business owners to ask what keeps them up at night, and attracting customers routinely comes in at the top of the list. More customers means more money, and that’s a very good thing!

If you care about attracting customers, you should care about online reputation management. As we’ve noted in previous articles, word of mouth is still the #1 way people find local businesses, but word of mouth has moved online. When people want to find a local business to patronize, they reach for their smartphone.

More than 500,000 local businesses use Womply. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

In fact, research by Google found that foot traffic to brick-and-mortar businesses is down 57%, but each visitor is 3 times more valuable. In other words, people are researching businesses online and only visiting when they’re pretty sure they’ll make a purchase.

In the past, “foot traffic” was synonymous with window shoppers browsing your business. Today, most customers who enter your place of business have already done research online and are ready to make a purchase. That means it’s critical to have a pristine online presence or you’ll miss out on opportunities to get more customers and make more money.

Your listings on online review sites are more important than your company website

Try this quick experiment: grab your smartphone and do a Google search for restaurants nearby. What shows up? We’ll bet you 1 million Schrute Bucks you’ll see Google business listings and links to sites like Yelp, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor appear high in your search results. You could do the same thing for retailers, auto shops, accountants, plumbers, or any other category and see similar results.

This is how potential customers find your business. They don’t drive around and window shop. They don’t flip through the phone book. They don’t even look for your company website most of the time. They just search for your product or services and let Google serve up what it considers to be the most relevant options. So, if you want more customers, you have to show up in local internet searches.

Here’s where online reviews come in. Online reviews make up roughly 10% of how search engines like Google rank your business in search results. And often, reviews are precisely what searchers are looking for, so they are more likely to click on content generated by review sites. There’s no getting around it—online reviews are part of your “digital storefront,” even for physical businesses.

Most importantly, 3 in 4 people on review sites will visit a local business within 24 hours. Local internet searches lead to sales, and fast, because online review sites are a magnet pulling interested buyers to your business. That’s why it’s vital that your business gets found—and shows well—in local internet searches. In fact, managing online reviews is the single most important thing you can do to attract more customers and market your business.

How you show up on online review sites determines if customers will spend money with you

Assuming potential customers can find your business in online searches, the next question is, “Will they like what they see when they find me?”

The answer comes down to the three main criteria consumers use to evaluate local businesses:

1. How many reviews you have

Social proof matters, and right or wrong, consumers assume that popular businesses should have more reviews. All else equal, consumers will choose the business with 300 reviews over the one with 30.

At Womply, we’ve also seen a strong correlation between businesses with high review counts and high revenue. A recent Womply study showed businesses with more than the average number of online business reviews make 54% more average annual revenue. Get more reviews, make more money—it’s really that simple. Also, 3 in 4 people say reviews older that 3 months are no longer relevant, so you really need a constant flow of reviews to appear current and up-to-date.

2. What people say in their reviews

Potential customers will read the content of your reviews to understand what people like and dislike about your business. It’s especially important that your recent reviews send a positive message, as 90% of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews to formulate an opinion.

Here again, recent reviews matter a lot. Glowing reviews you scored a year ago probably don’t count in customers’ minds. Online reputation management must be an ongoing effort of responding to reviews and getting new ones.

3. How many stars you have

58% of consumers say a business’s star rating is most important, and 94% will use a business with at least four stars. The single most important thing you can do to attract more customers is to get and keep at least a four-star rating on key review sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

For most businesses, getting more reviews is the best way to improve your star rating. And don’t worry that getting more reviews will hurt your star rating, as that’s almost never the case. Two-thirds of all reviews posted on Yelp are 4 or 5 stars, so people are more likely to leave a positive review than a negative review, especially if you’re focused on providing a good customer experience.

You might also like: Why online reviews are the best thing to happen to small businesses (Forbes).

Online review sites are a magnet pulling interested buyers to your business.

Take action: See why local businesses in nearly every U.S. zip code use Womply’s small business software solutions. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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