Author: Mike Blumenthal
I was recently asked, “what is your best local search hack?”. My answer:
The best hack (and it really is no hack at all) in the Local Search space is to
1) Run a great business and,
2) Leverage every opportunity to make that obvious to your existing and potential customers in a way that isn’t perceived as pushy or over selling both offline and on.
All of my research points in the direction that the idea of a single thing, a single tweak, or just the right keyword density will make or break your marketing just isn’t the case. And my research also highlights that your reputation both off and online are the key to both short and long term successes in local marketing.
We recently completed extensive research as to how consumers found and hired a lawyer. We surveyed 20,000 people and followed up with the 1500 that indicated that they had hired a lawyer within the past year. We asked them in the form of an open-ended question: How did you find the lawyer that you hired? .
39% indicated that they asked a friend, work colleague, family member or just relied on word of mouth to pick their attorney. Clearly that can only happen if you do a consistently great job for your customers.
The second most popular answer for choosing a lawyer was a Google/Internet search coming it at 16%. Ah, so there must be some special hack there right?
Well not any more. Even on-line word of mouth via reviews becomes a determining factor. Research indicates that 92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses. Google research shows that having reviews on your Google local listing will lead to a 140% bump in requests for driving directions and a 360% increase in visits to your website from Google. Who wouldn’t want that bump?
Backlinks to your website used to be the main “hack” that lead to website ranking but more and more other reputation signals are playing a role. In a recent Google patent they noted that the “In some implementations, rankings are combined based on the number of reviews [and] the popularity of the particular website… .” to determine rank.
As Aaron Weiche, my colleague has recently noted, reviews are like a human backlink, that is a very visible vote for your business and its excellence.
No one said it was going to be easy. Running a great business is hard work. But here are some tips that you can implement that will help in this new world where your excellence and your sins are no longer just between you and the customer:Audit your online reviews You need to know what people are saying about you on line and fix anything that isn’t up to snuff. Make complaining easy Many negative reviews can be prevented if you give your customers an outlet to inform you of problems and then you fix them quickly Ask every client for feedback & reviews Getting reviews is hard. It takes a long time. By asking every customer you will increase your reviews over time. Share the feedback and reviews on your site Not only is this feedback great “social proof”, this sort of user generated content keeps your site fresh and gives your site more reach in the search engines. Respond to every review both positive and negative Consumers expect that if they take the time to review you that you should notice. This is particularly true with a negative review where you have the opportunity to turn “lemons into lemonade” and show future prospects your integrity. Monitor & measure You can’t improve what you don’t measure Rinse and Repeat Only through an ongoing, regular approach can you both improve and continue to get good reviews
Measuring and tracking client feedback is at the center of this process, as you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Reviews are the public lever that allows you to highlight what a great business you actually are.
The feedback you receive will help you improve your business, can be used as testimonials to help with SEO and your happy customers can then be leveraged to carry the good word about your business into the marketplace via review and social sites.
So while it isn’t really a hack, the best thing you can do is put in place processes to measure the quality of what you are doing, use that information to improve and then earn reviews.
About The Author
Mike Blumenthal is a long time local search consultant, a founder of Local U and a principle in GetFiveStars.com, an online reputation development package that helps small business build a great reputation.