This article was updated on August 18, 2021
Local Reputation Management Tips for Small Businesses
According to the 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal, 87% of consumers are reading online reviews for local businesses. That means your business reputation matters.
If you think that your business is too small for your online presence to matter, think again. A negative review is a lot more powerful than a positive review, which means you need to be aware of your online reputation at all times if you want to maintain your business’s trust and credibility.
How can you manage your brand reputation and avoid negative content? This guide will break down a few online reputation management tips for building an authentic, credible small business presence:
- Create an SEO friendly website
- Manage your business’ online listings and citations
- Manage accounts on social media platforms
- Ask for feedback and respond to online reviews
- Your employees’ online activities matter
Create an SEO friendly website
Ensuring your site follows search engine optimization best practices helps people find your local business. When designing your website, focus on creating a user-friendly experience with quick loading times and easily navigable layouts, in addition to:
- Creating website content with valuable keywords to drive traffic to your website
- Optimizing headers by using your business’s name consistently in headlines and copy
- Implementing internal links to draw search engine users to your website
- Making sure your website is readable to make your information accessible to everyone
- Using a responsive design, so the website can load on all devices. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see whether your site is mobile-friendly.
An SEO-friendly website gives your business professional appeal and improves web traffic to your business’s services or offerings. You can also use your ‘About Us’ and ‘Home’ pages to keep customers interested by sharing your value propositions and brand messaging, in addition to customer testimonials and reviews. If you are a small business owner, local SEO should be a part of any effective digital marketing strategy whether you are trying to create an online presence or reach new customers.
For example, Atlanta real estate agent Quiana Watson customized her website to engage customers with sleek designs and a search tool that allows potential home-buyers to navigate through her site easily to find houses, apartments, and condos available with specific details, such as the number of bedrooms, location, and price.
Why was Watson’s strategy to make her website more human-friendly a wise SEO decision? Because at the end of the day, when you make your website more user-friendly, you’re optimizing it for SEO.
Google constantly strives for their search engine and AI technology to experience and evaluate digital content in the same way a real-life person would.
So by ensuring your website experience is intuitive, informative, and insightful, you’re guaranteeing a positive interaction for both your potential customers and Google’s ever-evolving search engine technologies.
Manage your business’ online listings and citations
Accurate business listings boost your local SEO and shouldn’t be ignored. Many search engines create listings for your business by gathering your information from online listings like:
- Better Business Bureau
Even if you have a website, there is still a chance that customers will only view your listings to access information about your business, such as:
- Contact information
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
Keep your future customers and neighbors up to date by manually updating your business information on third-party websites. Alternatively, you can look for service providers who help manage search engine listings to keep your information up to date across all platforms.
Up-to-date information shows your neighbors that your business is savvy, streamlined, and ready to take on more customers.
Manage accounts on social media platforms
Social media platforms are an easy way to interact with your client base while building your brand’s reputation and crafting your brand’s voice. If there is any negative content or reviews on any of your social media channels, take that opportunity to address it personally.
According to a 2021 Forbes article, Americans spent more than 1,300 hours on social media—and, considering that Millennials spend about 5.4 hours on social media daily, it’s worth your time to participate, too. A reputation manager can help support any negative content and manage your business's reputation on all social networks.
A social media account on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Linkedin can give businesses a human touch and gives you an opportunity to:
- Know your audience
- Expand your audience
- Build relationships with customers
- Follow popular social media trends
- Share your values, services, and offerings
Make sure to set up profiles on the social sites that have the biggest impact in your industry. For example, Instagram is highly recommended for owners of retail shops, eateries, and art galleries, while Linkedin is typically a top choice for B2B businesses.
You can also make your business more visible to potential customers in your specific neighborhood on Nextdoor by claiming your free Business page, which enables you to appear in front of registered neighbors and receive recommendations from your customers.
Also consider creating profiles on online review sites, like Angie’s List and Google My Business. Remember, the more online presence you have, the easier it will be to build a strong and credible reputation with your customers.
Ask for feedback and respond to online reviews
Negative customer reviews can hurt small business owners—customers value the reviews they find online as much as a personal referral. Instead of waiting for negative reviews to show up on third-party review sites, gather customer feedback firsthand through Nextdoor or your business website to build your reputation proactively.
By investing in your customers and hearing their feedback, you can mitigate future issues and build relationships with customers to show them that their experience matters to you.
Additionally, you can contact customers directly to gather feedback through:
- Online surveys
- Comment cards
Once you receive new reviews, reply to them promptly to communicate to your customers that you’re receptive to possible improvements or negative feedback.
If a review points out an actual problem, be sure to address it as soon as possible. Consider responding to valid low-star ratings and bad reviews both publicly and privately with the reviewer. Responding quickly and professionally to negative online reviews can easily diffuse a potential PR nightmare and communicate to customers that you care.
Remember: Be polite, professional, and calm when responding to negative reviews. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Even in cases when the reviews are unfavorable or sometimes a little hyperbolic, you can tell your side of the story with poise and positivity. In fact, digital marketing savant Neil Patel recently lauded a small wedding cake business, Cake de Jour, for their professional response to a negative review (which may have had a few fictionalized details).
After calmly explaining their side of the story and providing context for the decisions made, the Cake de Jour team finished off their review response with an empathizing statement and well wishes:
“I am so sorry that you felt dismissed. That is never our intention, but rather the opposite. We are so pleased that you have found another venue that could accommodate your needs. We wish you a happy and blessed marriage. Most sincerely, Jessica and the Cake de Jour team."
Patel called out why the Cake de Jour team perfectly exemplifies how careful review responses will be beneficial to any business in the long run:
“When you can gracefully articulate the facts and show off the benefits of your business at the same time, you can take a negative situation and spin it into a positive one.”
You may also choose to showcase positive reviews on your website. Louisville, Kentucky realtor Joe Hayden displays numerous client testimonials on a designated page, in addition to personal audio in which he tells listeners how he helped each of his customers find their dream home. It’s that extra level of personalization that will go a long way with past and future customers alike.
Your employees’ online activities also matter
Poor employee reputations, due to negative online activity, can reflect poorly on your business.
For example, an unflattering photo or negative comment online could easily make customers question your business by association, as well as your choice of employees.
When training employees, encourage positive positioning of content when discussing your business online. Additionally, it may be beneficial to create an online and social media policy that your employees must follow that:
- Protects your brand’s reputation
- Increases employee advocacy
- Keeps employees accountable for their online activity
Strengthen your business’ reputation with Nextdoor
A small business’ reputation management strategy must be effective and incorporate review management systems, reputation monitoring, SEO practices, and social media management to foster a brand image and gain trust with customers.
Solidify the trust you garner with Nextdoor. Nearly 67% of our members share recommendations with their neighbors to help propel your small business to the next level.
As a business owner, you can also build relationships with potential customers and connect with your neighbors on Nextdoor’s newsfeed to build your business and your community.
BrightLocal. Local Customer Review Survey 2020. https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
Forbes. Americans Spent On Average More Than 1,300 Hours On Social Media Last Year. https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2021/06/24/americans-spent-more-than-1300-hours-on-social-media/?sh=6924cf652547
Social Media Today. 12 Local SEO Stats Every Business Owner and Marketer Should Know in 2019. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/12-local-seo-stats-every-business-owner-and-marketer-should-know-in-2019-i/549079/
CMG Local Solutions. Yes, Negative Reviews Can Impact Your Business But You Can Overcome. https://www.cmglocalsolutions.com/blog/yes-negative-reviews-can-impact-your-business-but-you-can-overcome
Futurism. Top Google Scientist Says We Need to Emphasize Humanity While Developing AI. https://futurism.com/top-google-scientist-need-emphasize-humanity-developing-ai
Neil Patel. Why Your Business Needs Negative Reviews. https://neilpatel.com/blog/your-business-needs-negative-reviews/
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