Online searches for local businesses continue to escalate, especially with users of mobile devices, which provide visibility in a way that traditional media marketers could only dream about. With this increased visibility, however, comes the possibility that negative comments about local businesses can be seen as well, which can have searchers that found a business first looking for secondary options.
Take, for example, two hypothetical pizza places in a small tourist town. They both have fine websites and similar products, but when searches are initiated for local pizza the second listing in the results for one of the shops is a post that complains about slow service and a soggy crust. The listings for the other pizza place include a newspaper article about participation in a local fundraiser, a blog about local events and a positive review from the local food critic. If people that are visiting that town vacation are going to go out for pizza one time during their stay, which shop do you think they’re going to choose for pizza?
This example brings up 4 important points about reputation management for local businesses:
- You’re a sitting duck if you don’t take steps to control your business’ reputation now – Negative comments can surface at any time, and if the only listing you have in local search is a website linked to the name of your business, a negative review that also mentions the business name will likely sit right below it when people do an online search. This can be avoided by developing a presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as creating profiles on the sites where people do their searches; Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- Engage locally – Being a participant or, better yet, a sponsor in local events can generate goodwill toward your business as well as coverage by local media, which can show up in search listings when your business is mentioned specifically. Generating press releases about participation in local events can also result in visible listings.
- Build an audience with your social media pages – Don’t settle for setting up static social media pages that basically function as an online postcard. Instead, build your audience through promotions, coupons and special offers that are available only on these sites. Look for posts and comments on these sites so that you can answer questions and engage with people who are reaching out to your business.
- Set up a blog – You can extend your reach into your community and occupy search listings with a blog. Topics can include anything of interest in the local area, whether you’re writing about kids going back to school, a local play, seasonal recipes, or local events. Just be sure that the blog is conversational and avoid posting anything that sounds like a sales pitch.
The most important factor of engaging in reputation management for your local business is that you can’t opt out of it for one essential reason; if you’re not controlling the conversation and messaging about your company, someone else can do it with a single negative post.