In the Digital word, your business standing means everything. Your reputation (in either scenario – good or bad) can quickly reach your potential customers. Most of these likely customers look up online for the businesses they need.
While a good positive review can be awesome thing to have, one negative review can hold the potential clients in their tracks. And as word spreads fast this could very soon mean hundreds of lost customers.
Google has always mirrored the real world while trying to ranking the businesses in local search results. It has sought to prefer and reward businesses that are more popular and well known within their specific market areas. These are the businesses that are held in high regard by their customers and are known as one of the best in their industry, these are the ones which people refer their friends to.
And this is exactly what the people as want to see in their search results. Nobody wants to know about businesses with poor reviews as long as there are other available with a much better track record of keeping their customer engaged and happy.
With the advent of digital, businesses have to be very cautious of their reputations as the word spreads fast. The entire history of their ability to satisfy their customers is available on hand for any prospective buyer.
What Makes Reviews Important?
On an average you will find close to 75% to 90% consumers reading online reviews as they consider a purchase. And quite a few of these consumers trust the online feedback as much as they would trust the suggestions from people they know.
When consumers read different feedback on multiple websites made by people of diverse backgrounds and different preferences and standards, they start trusting that feedback. Combined with the overall opinion of the business, they start relating to the factors that are more important to them. E.g a traveler might be more interested in the guest’s opinion of how reliable is the hotel’s pick up service and check in processes and less interested in other parameters.
Looking beyond managing reputation
Traditionally, reputation management has been more about the businesses’ efforts to influence the opinions of their prospective customers and what they read about them online. Their efforts have been more about being able to garner enough positive reviews to be able to douse any negative feedback.
For 2016 and beyond however, the companies need to be more proactive and focus on developing their reputation. The effort spent on reacting to poor reviews or reducing their visibility needs to be replaced with proactive effort on building a positive image.
Developing A Positive Reputation
There was a time when small businesses used to get by even while offering mediocre products or services and often times ended up doing quite well for themselves. As long as the office or store was located in a prime place and they advertised in the right places, it would get enough foot falls and new customers regardless of the quality and experience provided. Word of mouth did not travel very fast or very far in those times.
Today’s digital age is different. No business can escape from their customer’s feedback and views. Folks are all connected online through various mediums. Mobile devices, smartphones etc have become constant companions and are being used for constant exchange of ideas and views, for communication, to gather information and learn from experience of others. Customers of today have ready accessibility to all information about a particular business or store including the opinions of their other customers. Hence it’s important for businesses to continuously focus on building a positive reputation.
Impact of Reviews on Rankings
There was a time when reviews weren’t given much weightage for any local search. It was from 2009 onwards that Google revamped its local algorithm and provided a significant weightage to reviews and thus making it an important factor for search rankings. The idea was to incentivize local businesses to share more online reviews on Google.
This also led to a surge in the number of fake reviews, forcing Google to take steps to reduce them. These included having requirements like mandating a legitimate profile to be able to log a review and also reducing the weightage of reviews on page rankings.
Till date, reviews impact the rankings – though as per the latest view of search practitioners it carries less than 10% of the weight. You can still get rating stars for your site and it’s widely believed that if you have 10+ reviews on your page it does help your rankings. In the days to come, Google may toy with making the review sentiment also a factor in its ranking algorithms. That would mean its search algorithms start mirroring the real world as closely as possible.
Reviews: More Than A Ranking Factor
Businesses now need to really start considering reviews as more than just a ranking factor. They should now be looking to focus on developing their reputation through as many positive reviews as possible. The game is now more about proactively developing the reputation than just about managing it.
The customers will soon be looking for ways to know which the businesses that they should really consider. This is already being enabled in some industries through ratings. So while ranking will help only so much, it will really be a combination of the rankings and ratings that will eventually matter in getting the mindshare of your customers.
People are also getting savvier in how they search and what they look for. Quite often the search is for “best” of what’s available rather than just looking for what’s out there. Take an example of a search for doctors. Nobody these days would search for the cardiologists in their area, they will almost always search for the “best cardiologist” near their pace.
Your Net Promoter Score
This is a score that’s based on the likelihood of others recommending your business to their friends and colleagues. It’s a nice way of measuring how the reputation of your business is building up over time. If the Net promoter score for your business is on an increasing trend over time, it signals that you are doing a decent job of satisfying your customers and are able to a good set of online reviews that contribute to the growth of your business.
Whether you chose to use the Net Promoter Score® to grow your business or not, the concept behind this scoring methodology is really good. You need to be actively seeking feedback from your customers and take required actions based on the feedback received to help you improve your offerings.
Continuously monitoring and updating the process can help you to quickly respond to any kind of negative feedback or complaints and can help you to set things right before the customers go ahead and publicize any negative feedback.
Typically most customers tend to leave reviews only in exceptional scenarios i.e either their experience has been very good or really bad. Hence taking steps to mitigate any bad experiences by seeking feedback and by addressing the grievances is a good way to help you generate a positive opinion and good recommendations.
Actions Speak More Than Words
We can find plenty of examples where businesses’ refused to acknowledge the concerns raised by their customers and ended up getting really bad reviews. However, if you are able to demonstrate that the feedback was well received and necessary actions taken to improve the situation, the customers will appreciate it and will return for more business in future.
Your commitment to continuously improve your operations and business based on the feedback of your customers can help you differentiate yourself from the competition and make you one of the best and most preferred choices in your area. This approach will also help you draw more new customers.
Today, search engines like Google tend to reward the businesses online for being one of the best in the offline world. So it’s imperative that you work towards continuously building a good reputation and drive actions for enabling it.