There’s no denying the importance of SEO when it comes to growing your business now that the internet is king.
If you want to increase your revenue and sales, you have to be visible “out there”. Problem is, all industries are saturated and competition is tough under the vast world wide web. For you to be noticed, everyone is encouraged to optimize their website and content to make it easier for search engine crawlers. Getting the crawlers to serve you up over your competition is one of the biggest 1st world problems.
To simplify, SEO has been traditionally made up of a 3-process framework:
1. Crawlers typically look for your website index. This is the “map” behind every part of your website, very similar to an index in a book. When it’s built right, it adds credibility to your business from the crawlers’ viewpoint…said like the crawlers have feelings?.
2. The second is seeing to it that you have relevant content, pictures titled and tagged, and words that your audience would use in searches to find what you have. But this must be balanced with creating an excellent user experience as your audiences scroll through your website.
3. Finally, you should have promotions running that drive people to your website because once you rank, you “rank” with the crawlers too! This falls under the same general saying, “it takes money to make money”. You demonstrate more cache’ if the crawlers see there’s “something going on over there”.
Mastering SEO can help your business especially when you are starting out, but no amount of SEO can help you if you are underwhelming your peeps with inferior products or services. How you present the value and credibility of your offerings and how well you provide service-excellence to your customers are two pretty hefty topics we can address separately another day!
Building a credible reputation online for small businesses is critical to TODAY’s SEO!
SEO search results are getting so crowded with great SEO strategies that the crawlers have had to add filters…one of the most recent filters has to do with your reputation! Let’s say you’ve spent years working on ranking high online with your desired audiences, now, someone with a better reputation will outrank you and dominate over your website.
Just like real life on-the-street, the big stores kill mom-and-pop stores, except if the small store is out-servicing the competition in several ways. Similarly, in digital platforms, the big players who have more exposure swoop away all the leads and sales. Those who have just started online are left hidden in the second or tenth-page results where no one really checks. This is a common struggle and all businesses start at this stage.
But pay attention and you can win, and keep winning…and become the biggest brand…and keep dominating your marketplace! Things are slowly changing. Google has been rolling out search algorithm updates and one of these is being able to sort results by reviews. We’re talking 5-Star reviews, and lots of them, and getting them publicly posted exactly where you want them online.
Companies like Google have invested $hundreds of millions$ into “Local Services Directories” that even enable a consumer to sort by a company’s reviews. This is not just happening to Google, other search engines are also filtering top choices by number and quality of 5-star reviews. To take advantage of these changes, what you need to do is to build your reputation to get more reviews. But where do you start? How do you do it? How do you control it?
Reputation is the new SEO. There has been a drastic change in the selling and advertising platform from brick-and-mortar to smartphones in the palm of our hands. The internet has taken over household decision-makers. But business is still business — thus reputation is important. Being able to lay down a strong foundation by providing excellent products and services is still the priority.
Say you have an excellent product that is able to solve the problems of your audience, or you provide exemplary service, the next step in building credibility is to build your brand.
Why branding matters
Branding goes beyond your logo or color themes. Building a brand is based on the interaction of your business with your audience. Apple is a strong brand because it gives people a certain kind of feeling that they can only have when they have an Apple product. Looking back, Apple Mac was launched as a product for oddballs, dreamers, the square peg in round holes, it’s for those who … you guessed right — think different.
Although it has been expanding, the Apple story is consistent with its early promises. That’s just a part of what makes Apple a good brand. They also see to it that their audiences resonate with how they speak, look, and advertise themselves. They have an emotional connection with their audience. That is the secret to branding — consistency and knowing your audience.
A good brand opens a lot of doors for you. Not only does it help give you a great first impression, but it also makes you stand out, price your products and services better, it encourages people to start buying from you and return for another purchase.
Once that you have a good product and a relatable brand, you already have a solid online selling foundation. But closing a sale or finding good leads are not magic. There is a lot of legwork that you have to do for people to start recognizing your products or services as the thing that would fill up some blank spaces in their lives.
Reviews, business, and ruin
Ever heard of “Dell Hell”? It was bad for the multinational company in 2012 when journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis took his negative experience with Dell’s customer service into the internet. Overnight a 144-word blog post turned into a viral hell hole for the company. The decline in sales was drastic when people started picking it up.
And it’s not just Dell, United Airlines destroyed David Caroll’s guitar and refused to pay for it. A song was created, it was a hit and the airline company suffered a $180 million decrease in shareholder value, stocks fell by 10% all because of a song.
It doesn’t just happen to the big guys, Yelp is a famous review platform that helps customers make decisions about where they need to buy things or get services from. Some negative reviews on the platform even resulted in lawsuits.
Reviews come in many forms and word count. They are press and bad reviews mean bad press. Studies show that around 80% of people will not consider doing business with a company, a shop, or a store with negative reviews. Let’s be honest, we read the reviews first on Amazon before deciding to Add to Cart.
This is the age of the empowered customer. And they don’t even have to make a scene and shout at the store keep. All they need is a smartphone and a few dozen connections to make or break your business reputation. Then, one of the biggest questions is, why do happy people stay silent and negative people spread the bad word, and fast?!
The good, the bad, the nonexistent, and the fake
People don’t listen to home shopping ads anymore, they trust genuine reviews from genuine people. These people aren’t the only ones with a high following on social media who get sponsorship for a product review video. They are those who bought your product or availed of your services who can go online and talk about their experience. Ergo, everybody.
No one gets more excited than business owners who get good reviews. Those with short insightful and authentic messages that say they enjoyed our products and services are music to the ears. Not to mention the 5 yellow stars that seem to shimmer in their splendor. After all, satisfied customers not only become repeat customers, they refer others people too.
But we can’t please them all. There are those who just really won’t give you at least 4 stars plus a little explanation why you didn’t get the keys to their hearts. Some reviews are not even reasonable. These bad reviews are something you should be looking out for, for reasons we’ve already stated. And think of this, you need 12 positive reviews to make up for 1 negative one. How are businesses supposed to keep all of this under control?
Traditional approaches to automated reputation management have been intrusive, limited, cumbersome and often unethical. Many of them have been banned from direct integrations with the public review sites and business directories, and deserve 1-Star reviews themselves, but many of them are still around. There might be one, or might be two newer iterations of reputation management automated systems that are doing it right, that are white hat, and that have direct integrations, even with Yelp! Buyer beware.
Negative reviews are also important for other customers to make informed decisions. Negative reviews tell them what can go wrong and whether or not this matters to the person. Reviews present the pros and cons and all businesses have that. It’s natural. It’s just important to have the good outweigh the bad and to know what is being said about your business, and to adjust and practice service-excellence.
A mix of good and bad reviews makes your business more genuine and reputable. No one is perfect and people flag those who present themselves to be.
Negative reviews can kill your business. We choose to deal with businesses with good reviews, not those who no one has even bothered reviewing. It doesn’t and won’t excite anyone to actually buy from your company.
Creating FAKE reviews, or working with sneaky reputation management companies are not the answer. There are a lot of fake reviews around and it wouldn’t be that hard to point out especially if it’s a tacky this-company-is-heaven-on-earth style review that every business wishes it would have been said about them.
Don’t get it wrong. Reviews are good for a business whether they are positive and negative, especially the real ones. Reviews that you would like to be getting are:
1. Reviews from customers who admit that your product or service actually worked for them when you didn’t expect it to – Testimonials are never offseason. These reviews are gold. It means that you were able to convert a skeptic which encourages other people to believe your product actually works!
2. Reviews that actually tell what they liked about the business or how excellent an employee treated them – Being specific means that the review is genuine and they also tell others which of your products/services are the best or give the most value. Talking about your employee and how well they were treated is a plus to your branding.
Actually, did you know that reviews that are about people are significantly more successfully engaging and 8x more likely to be more positive than an inanimate review about a product, service or brand?
3. Reviews from experts and influencers who know the ins and outs of the industry – Again, this is about reputation. People believe and respect those who they know what works best in the industry or niche where your business belongs to. These reviews tend to stand out.
4. Reviews that criticize the same thing about your business – Getting the same review over and over means that you need to change something about your products or how you run your business. Having the latest similar negative reviews comes across as you not listening to what your customers are saying.
You need to come up with a game plan so that your customer service representatives or anyone in the company would know what to do and how to respond to these reviews. You have to reply to these negative reviews and offer help or ask them how they can make the experience better for them now that they already have the product or used the service. You can provide an explanation of why it happened you can also give discounts or even an exchange.
Being able to handle negative reviews shows that you have the initiative to handle the situation and credibility that you do not want it to be tarnished because something unforeseen happened.
You will also be getting reviews from competitors. Bad reviews that have been written to pull you down. To handle this, you can report it and flag it as fake so that Google, Yelp or any other platform or search engine will take it down. Also, you have to stay on top of it and monitor the progress of its removal.
Rewards for a job well done
Your reputation is not built in a single day. There are those in the background with you who make sure that everything is running smoothly, your promises are kept, your branding is on point, and that your customers are happy.
Businesses are built by a pool of good talent who know how to work together. The strongest companies in the industries share “a piece of the pie” with their employees and value the employees as active influencers of their brand and reputation. While pats on the back, birthday cakes, holiday greetings are important, employees who drive you to the top deserve top-level performance rewards.
Being able to give your employees what they deserve plus rewards apart from their salaries would make them perform better. Their attitudes trickle down to your audience, can make customers happier, thus, build a better and stronger reputation for you. Do what you have to do. Put metrics in black and white, set up key performance indicators, or objectives and key results. Challenge your employees to perform better and give them enough compensation for the early mornings and late nights…and simply said…service-excellence! A company that exercises true service-excellence might get a bad review here and there, but most consumers know that there are always bad eggs in the bunch.
Bottom line, you better get those positive reviews flowing out to Google, Facebook, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Healthgrades and others or your competition will kick you to the curb. You won’t be found, you won’t look good, you won’t be chosen. Neglecting all elements that build your public reputation can kill your business.