Here’s the situation. You’re trying to get your business to improve its web presence. Lots of people say that without really understanding what it means. There’s a lot to it, but one of the biggest things you can do boils down to four words:
Get better on Google.
That’s it. When people search for a business in their area (and a recent study shows that about 50 percent of people search a business on mobile devices before they visit it), they’re doing it because they intend to visit or use one, and soon.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has algorithms in place that pull up the most relevant local businesses related to their user’s search. So imagine what would happen if 50 percent of customers in your field saw your business as the top Google result, just as they’re actively trying to choose who to take their business to?
How to Improve Local Search Rankings
That’s right, you’d see a lot more business coming through your doors. So we’re going to help you get your business into the top local search results, by discussing one of the parts of that Google equation you have the most control over: reviews and ratings.
What They See
Part of how Google determines what “the most relevant results” are is from user feedback. Google collects user reviews of businesses on a five-star rating scale, and simply put, the best ones will show up first.
Go ahead and search “auto parts” in Google, see what you get. There will be a few ad placements at the top, followed by a map of three auto parts stores close to your area. And you’ll probably notice they’re all highly rated. That top three is where you want your business to be.
A place that’s rated poorly is less likely to show up highly in search results. These are Google’s “recommendations” to its users, so it’s not going to recommend a place with five consecutive 1-star reviews, much in the same way you’re not going to recommend a pizza place that gave you food poisoning.
Even if a user dives in past the first three search results (which is unlikely), if they see a poorly rated business, why would they even consider giving you their business?
This brings us to the first thing you can do to improve your search placement: Improve your reviews.
What to Do About It
Internet reviews are a funny business. Negative reviews tend to be more common than positive ones. Angry customers enjoy trashing a business more than satisfied customers enjoy praising it.
So obviously, the first thing you can do is, from a customer service standpoint, make sure you’re generating more satisfied customers than angry ones.
“Well, duh,” you say. “We’d have been out of business a long time ago if we didn’t understand that.”
Fair enough. So let’s assume you’re doing a great job and your customers overwhelmingly love you. Do they know how to write you a review? Have you given them an avenue to express their thanks?
It’s a simple thing, but the most proven way to generate positive reviews is to simply ask your satisfied customers to write them for you. If they’re happy with your service, they’ll let people know about it – if you show them how.
Make this as easy as possible for them. Don’t just tell them, “eh, just search us on Google and give us a good review. Give them a direct link to the review page in a follow-up email.
Post links to the review page on social media. Make it as simple as possible, and you’ll see your conversion rate go way up, and your Google placement will go right with it.
What NOT to Do About It
The moment you think you can game the system, you’ve already lost. Here are some things that people think they can do to improve their Google review scores.
- Write fake reviews yourself,
- Have someone else write fake reviews on your behalf,
- Pay for incentivized reviews,
- Try to alter the content of reviews or
- Delete bad reviews.
This stuff here? Don’t do it. DON’T.
First of all, Google knows people are trying to cheat the system, and they know the telltale signs. You won’t get away with it. Second of all, when (not if, when) they catch you, you’ll be severely penalized, sometimes to the point of having your business delisted or suspended from Google results entirely.
Now, sometimes you’ll end up with a bad review no matter what you do. It happens — you can’t please everybody. And it can be tempting to lash out against a negative reviewer, especially if what they have to say is particularly vitriolic.
Unless it’s truly a spam comment, don’t delete or defend yourself against a bad review. Instead, take it as an opportunity. Respond directly to the comment, acknowledge their problem, and offer a solution.
Best case scenario, you win the customer back over and get a second chance. Worst case scenario, anyone else who sees that bad review sees that you went out of your way to make it right. Either way, you look like the good guy.
If you’re doing good work, you don’t need to resort to underhanded tactics. Don’t get impatient — the good reviews, and the corresponding boost in business, will come over time. This is a long-term strategy, not a quick sprint for a cheap bump in traffic.
Google Search Photo via Shutterstock