The rise of online culture has changed so many things about our lives: Digital marketing has affected how we shop; streaming services how we consume entertainment (and even how the songs we love are written). And the interactive nature of social media has forever altered how businesses are perceived. The ability for consumers to comment about your establishment in the online space has “broken the fourth wall” of advertising.
In other words, we (business owners, marketers) are no longer communicating down to them (potential customers). Crucially, they are communicating with each other. How big a deal is this? According to some analysts, online reviews directly influence over 90% of consumers.
That’s why now more than ever, you can’t afford to lose control of your online reputation. In addition to influencing purchasing decisions, it can have an oversized impact on SEO. That’s why we’ve focused on reputation management for years, and it’s something we take with the utmost seriousness. Here are a few tips on what you can do to manage your online reputation yourself.
Reputation Management: Control the SERP
SERPs, as you likely know, are “search engine results pages”: What Google (or your search engine of choice) delivers when you punch in “best dispensary digital marketing agency,” just to give one completely random example.
Obviously, it’s in your best interest to make sure that properties you manage—your dispensary website, any social media accounts you maintain, your GMB platform (more on this in a moment)—are showing up first.
Listen, Consider, Engage
With so many opportunities for consumers to comment on your business, keeping track of negative (and positive!) comments can feel like a heavy lift. There are tools to help you keep track of such mentions—Google Alerts is a great place to start—but even more important is what you do about them.
While it may be tempting to ignore (or tear into) a negative or unfair-seeming comment, remember that there’s a real live person on the end of it. It should be intuitive, but listening to what your customers have to say should be second nature. So should responding to them courteously and appropriately (even when our buttons have been pushed.) Stay engaged; it not only helps smooth over most customer frustrations, but maintaining a healthy presence here is also in service of your larger goal: Controlling your SEO ranking.
How? A few years ago, online reviews accounted for roughly 5% of a website’s overall SEO signals. Two years ago, that figure had tripled. In other words, what your customers say about you has an outsized impact on your reputation.
Look After Your GMB
We’ve written a good deal about Google’s free business listing platform before: What it’s for, why it’s so important, and how to make the best use of it, among other topics. In short: If you haven’t already claimed your GMB listing, you need to make that a top priority. Once that’s accomplished, be sure to use relevant keywords in your business description to increase your chances of being found.
Slight sidebar: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that you share updates about service hours, precautions, and other relevant information with your customers there. It’s one of the most effective ways we know to do some corrective PR and get out news fast.
Of course, there is a downside: Establishing a GMB presence means that you can be reviewed there. And you really have no control over those reviews. Think of it as an opportunity: Any review—positive or negative—is a chance for you to engage and show potential customers who you really are. If you respond to adversity with poise and grace, it can go a long way towards minimizing the sting of any negative comments.
Make Your Own News
Finally, we want to wrap up by reminding you of a cardinal rule of reputation management. If you’re concerned about the impact of negative comments or reviews, invite the potential for positive ones by creating newsworthy events of your own:
- Engage with your community through special events (yes, even during COVID-19, there are plenty of ways to connect).
- Make sure your efforts are aimed at everyone in your customer base (including people you might not have thought of like senior citizens).
- Brush up on the art of writing a great press release.
You can learn more about reputation management with our webinar, Star Power: Learn How to Get More Reviews & Keep a 4.7+ Rating.