Local Business Online Reputation: Where Your Focus Should Be

Written by Nick Leffler | Comments Off on Local Business Online Reputation: Where Your Focus Should Be | 12 min read

Your local business online reputation is an important part of how consumers see your business online.

Monitoring your online reputation means you’re looking closely at how local consumers find you, what they’re looking for, and what their experience with you is.

Your reputation isn’t only about what your previous customers thought of you. It’s also about how potential new customers experience your business.

This post will help guide you into finding how consumers find your business online and help you do better at guiding customers to you.

We’re going to take a look at how people are looking for local businesses, what they’re looking for, and figure out where you should focus to build your local business online reputation.

How People Look For A Local Business

The way people search for local businesses might not work the way you think it works. If you’ve ever observed how people find a place to spend their money it may surprise you.

Just the other day I observed a business owner claiming that review sites such as Yelp are useless and that nobody looks at reviews except people who eat alone and don’t have any friends or family.

In other words, his whole premise was that everyone asks their friends and family for recommendations for where to spend their money, nobody consults online review sites.

That is a dangerous view for a small business owner to have and a good way to ensure your demise as a business owner.

Nothing is more dangerous to your small business survival than not trying to understand your customer. Share on X

As a small business owner, one of the most dangerous things you can do for your survival is to think you have it all figured out. Your job is to help local consumers find your local business wherever consumers may look.

Thinking you know every way your customer looks for a local business like yours can be your demise at worst or leaving a lot of money on the table at the least.

Do consumers really look at online reviews?

Most people use reviews whether they get a recommendation from family, friends, or nobody. Much research points to people looking at reviews even with a personal recommendation, including the data below from a BrightLocal survey.

How many times have you used the Internet to find/search for a local business in the past 12 months?

Yes, people search for reviews online no matter what their personal situation is. Only 5% of those surveyed haven’t used the internet to find or search for a local business.

That’s a can’t miss opportunity right there!

How people look for local businesses may surprise you though.

No matter if a consumer picks up their Android phone or iOS device it usually starts with a search on Google. And Google paid a lot of money to make sure it stays that way.

An observation of how someone looks for a local business

I asked my wife who’s not tech savvy AT ALL how she finds a hair stylist when she needs a new one.

No guidance was given, I simply asked clarifying questions to make sure I saw each step rather than a glossed over account of her search. She really just wanted to tell me that she picks up her phone and searches for one.

Here are the steps she touched on:

  1. Opens default web browser on a smartphone (Safari).
  2. Searches in the search bar with the default search engine (Google).
  3. Uses a search term with a location qualifier (“hair stylist in roseville” but location qualifiers in searches are becoming less common according to Google).
  4. Looks at Google Business listings first (the top 3 listings).
  5. Sometimes she goes onto the first result in search results which is often Yelp.
  6. Often she clicks the more button to get more business listings from Google.
    • Checks out only listings with 3-5 star reviews.
    • Reads through reviews to see if she can find a good hair stylist.
    • Checks out the business website to find services offered and pricing.

That’s the extent of her entire search process to find a local salon. While all of these steps wouldn’t apply to all small businesses, for the most part, the process is similar to a lot of consumers.

That means a local business online reputation is heavily reliant on how Google sees that small business.

A video example

I made this video recording of the general process she walked me through:

Hopefully, that gives you a better idea of how consumers look for a local business. Reviews play a big part in that process which is why you can’t afford not to get as many online reviews as possible. Not all in one place, though. A review strategy is extremely important.

It looks an awful lot like people are guided towards search. In most places that search is Google because they pay a lot of money to be that first search choice.

In fact, Google is estimated to have paid Apple up to $3 billion USD to be the default search engine on iPhones.

People are searching but their search isn’t what a lot of people think.

It’s not always about the search results.

What People Are Searching For

People are searching and they’re using Google to do that searching to the tune of 3.5 billion searches every day.

That’s a lot of searches!

But what are they really searching for?

Consumers aren’t searching for a business directly. Nobody’s path to finding a local business is that straight.

Nope, it’s more of a squiggly line all over the place towards the thing they’re looking for.

They’re not searching for a business in the search results that they click on and then pay money. It’s more about weighing the pros and cons of each business they find from their search.

The pros and cons come from many things such as:

  • How others have rated the business (star ratings from 1-5) because consumers are looking for the best.
  • The actual content of the reviews that other consumers have written.
  • If the right services are offered from the local business.
  • The price and if it matches the budget of a consumer.

All of these things combined make up the local business online reputation. That means a consumer passes through search, business profiles, and websites in their journey to find the right business.

If everything matches up then there’s usually a clear winner between 1-3 local business. A call might be in store or just the luck of the draw between the 2 or 3.

There's often a clear winner between the top 3 businesses a consumer finds from search. Share on X

At this point, it should be obvious how important managing a local business online reputation is.

You may not be convinced that this is how people find a local business but your lack of being convinced probably stems from assumptions you’ve made.

Stop assuming!

Don’t Assume

It’s easy to assume that everyone behaves the same way you do. The problem with that is we all live in a bubble of our own creation.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course unless we’re stubborn and don’t acknowledge that bubble or care to understand what’s outside that bubble.

If you bubble yourself then you’d never understand all the different ways people use to find a local business. For me, I have to look outside the digital sphere at different audiences who still use older methods of finding a local business.

Even though I’m very much separated from using older methods such as magazines, yellow pages (I still get them on my driveway!), and mail advertising I still have to weigh them as an option for different audiences.

How to not learn about consumers

I talked about my run-in with a gentleman who thinks that online review sites such as Yelp are unimportant and nobody uses them to find a local business.

He’s wrong. Dangerously wrong.

If you live in a bubble and refuse to look at the wider world then you’ll risk extinction as a business.

The old methods still work at this point but as they shrink the digital methods are still growing. They won’t stop growing soon either.

Family and friends aren’t nearly as important today for getting local business recommendations. If there are recommendations from friends and family then they’re most likely verified online.

I have received recommendations from family and after doing my research opted for my own finding (and am thankful I did!). Sometimes you have better judgment than family members.

Family and friends often go with who they know or who’s their friend but not the best option.

A lot of people use search to find a local business. Not everyone ends up using the Google Business results though.

That’s why you need to know where to focus before putting all your resources into one place.

How Do You Know Where To Focus?

There are hundreds of different review sites you can focus on to list your local business. Most of them are insignificant for the number of consumers it’s going to drive to your business.

That doesn’t mean they’re meaningless but it also means you want to limit your time investment in them.

Find what works for you before you invest a lot into that resource. Don’t spend months getting reviews for Thumbtack when it’s really Yelp that will drive you the most business.

For some businesses, Thumbtack might be the best place but others it might be TripAdvisor.

Look at your competition

Figure out what keywords consumers are using when searching for your type of business. That means you’re going to have to do a bit of keyword research.

Spying on your competition is a necessary part of planning your strategy. Share on X

If you know the keywords consumers are using then you can perform those same searches yourself. Doing this will let you see how a consumer is likely to find a business in your industry.

Now you know where to focus

In many cases, that means your primary focus will be to have a complete and awesome Google Business Profile and do your best to get lots of reviews on it.

There’s more to it than that though. The first result in many searches is from other review sites and marketplaces.

I did several searches each under a different industry to find what sites were typically first after Google Business results.

Here’s what I found were the most common after Google Business in no particular order after the first:

  • Yelp <- most common
  • TripAdvisor
  • HomeAdvisor
  • Angie’s List
  • Thumbtack

Out of all the searches I did, there was a lot of variety in the top search result but none of them were actual businesses themselves.

That means local business reputation management shouldn’t be focused on ranking #1 in search results. That’s too much work for very little payoff.

Your reputation is often based on being on review sites with a complete profile and lots of good reviews.

After you spy on the competition you’ll have a good idea where you should focus.

There are many tools available that are very affordable to get your business listed everywhere and help manage a good review process. A good local marketing automation tool will help you manage your listings online and manage reviews.

How do you get to the top of those sites for your listing though?

Get To The Top

How do you get to the top of where people are looking?

You know where to focus but the sites people are finding your competition on aren’t as easy as just getting listed.

The top spots often go to businesses with a large quantity and high-quality reviews among other factors.

The quantity and quality of your reviews is one way to get into the top spots beyond paying a lot of money.

Being found in local searches often comes down to lots of high-quality consumer reviews. Share on X

If you’re just getting started in your business and you have no customers yet then your option is to either spend money to advertise or networking a lot.

That means effectively networking at local business events and proving that you’re the expert in your industry.

Local business online reputation is often based on the quantity and quality of your online reviews so once you start getting customers, make sure you ask them ALL for reviews. Download these easy email templates for asking for reviews from your customers.

That doesn’t mean a business can’t survive without those reviews though. Without the reviews or with many negative reviews then it’s going to be a lot harder.

That’s not to say a business cant’ turn bad reviews around, though. It’s possible with a lot of attention and a change in attitude that new good reviews can outweigh the bad reviews.

You get to the top of the list by doing great work and get lots of people to leave you an honest review. Honesty is important though which means you need to do an amazing job.

Build Your Local Business Online Reputation

A local business is more dependent on the internet and online reviews from consumers whether owners realize it or not.

It’s more important to spend the time to manage a local business online reputation than it is to fall victim to it. If you don’t manage it then you could easily fall victim to it and you wouldn’t even know it.

Your focus will vary depending on your industry, but there are many general local business directories which you’ll want to regularly update. With a local marketing automation tool that helps you manage your business directory listings, keeping your business updated everywhere won’t take your time away from your business.

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