Content Marketing Tips for Local Businesses

With content marketing, you control the conversation online.

There are many aspects to a business’ online reputation — one of which consists of what people say about your business online, and the other has to do with what comes up when someone searches for your business online, which is all about SEO (search engine optimization).

You can’t control everything people say about your business online, and, in many cases, you probably won’t be able to get it removed or taken down — at least not without a good amount of effort on your part. But, through SEO, you have a lot more control over what people see when they look for your business using Google, Bing, or another search engine.

SEO can be intimidating, and a lot of business owners don’t even attempt to master it because they believe they don’t have the technical skill or know-how. But, if you had a chance to read our previous blog this week — Simplifying SEO for Local Businesses — then you already know that it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The basics of SEO are keyword research, content, and backlinking, and once you have those down, you don’t have to worry too much about the technical side of things.

Today, my focus is on just one aspect of those SEO basics, and that’s content.

We’ve said it many, many times before in past blogs, but it bears repeating — when it comes to SEO, content is king. But, it’s in producing that content that many business owners get caught in the weeds.

5 Content Marketing Tips to Help You Get Started

#1. Know your target audience.

When you’re creating content for your brand, it’s important that you always do so with your target audience in mind, which means that, before you start creating content, you need to know who your target audience is.

Take a few minutes to think about the customers you have, as well as the ones you’re trying to reach. Do you work mostly with homeowners, or do you work with other businesses? Are your services geared toward a specific gender or age group; what about a specific socioeconomic group? Do you want to target people within so many miles of your shop, office, or warehouse? Are your services designed for married couples, or are your services most useful for people with certain kinds of lifestyles?

Your target audience can be as broad or as narrow as you want it to be, but before you start creating content, it’s essential that you define what it is. Once you do, you’ll be able to start creating content specifically for them.

#2. Don’t limit yourself to a content type.

Too often, when business owners think of creating content, they think of writing blogs. And, while blogs are certainly a powerful form of content that you should absolutely utilize as a part of your SEO strategy, they aren’t the end-all-be-all that they are made out to be.

There are so many different types of content that you could create for your audience, including videos, images, articles, and more — all of which can be incredibly effective when used correctly. The type of content you choose to produce will depend on what the message is that you’re trying to get across, as well as where you’re trying to get that message across.

For example, let’s say you own an HVAC business. Your blog may be the perfect place to share tips and advice for choosing the right furnace for your needs, but if you’re looking to share that information on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have better luck if you do so with an infographic or a video.

#3. Think about your keywords.

Knowing which keywords you want to target is another important aspect of content marketing (be sure to read more about it in our previous blog — Finding the Best Keywords for Your Brand). And, once you identify which keywords you want to target, you need to start using them!

Whether you’re writing blogs, social media posts, or creating descriptions for your YouTube videos, you should always keep your keywords in mind. The most important thing about using keywords in your content is that you use them naturally. If you try to stuff keywords into awkward places, Google can actually penalize you for keyword stuffing, which can hurt your website’s ranking in the SERP.

You also don’t have to worry about using your keywords exactly. While exact-match keywords are great, the most important thing is still that keywords are used naturally, even if it ends up being a variation of a keyword.

#4. Include a call to action.

When creating content, it’s important to take the time to think about what you want the end result to be. Are you hoping to convince people to buy a product or use a service, or are you just hoping to establish yourself as an authority in your field? Once you identify the result you’re looking for, create a CTA (call to action) to support it.

Whether your goal is to earn more followers on Facebook, get people to visit your store, or to subscribe to your monthly newsletter, direct your audience toward it by including a CTA in your content.

Be sure to test out your CTAs, the wording, the placement, the format — everything. You may think you know what kind of CTA will get you the most engagement, but there’s no way to know unless you test it.

#5. Get help!

The thought of being the one person managing and producing all of your own content can get overwhelming quickly. And, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t necessarily have to do it on your own.

Collaborating with others is a great way to keep your brand content fresh and original, and it automatically leads to a bigger audience, as the person you’re collaborating will likely want to share it, too. If that person links back to your website, that will also help to improve your rankings in the SERP.

Who should you collaborate with? Industry associations, your local chamber of commerce, and businesses that are related to yours (but are not your competitors) are all great options.


Content marketing is one small aspect of your business’ online reputation. Learn how to take control of your online reputation today by signing up/claiming your Top Rated Local® listing!

How to Get the Most Out of Google My Business

Google My Business is one of the best weapons in any local business’ arsenal.

When someone is looking for the right local business to work with — say an accounting firm or maybe a physical therapy clinic — they’ll often start that search online, on Google specifically. And, when someone looks for your business online, what will they find?

If, let’s say, someone was looking for your business email address or phone number, how easy would it be for them to find it? Or, if someone wanted to know if you’ll be open on the weekends or during a holiday, would they be able to easily find that information?

This is where Google My Business comes in. Although a lot of that information can be found on your website, Google My Business makes it easy to find because it shows up right in the search results. That’s also why it’s so essential that you either sign up for Google My Business if you haven’t already, or claim your listing if there’s already one for your business.

Be sure to check out our previous blog to learn how to claim your Google My Business listing.

Get the most out of your Google My Business listing by optimizing it!

Signing up for Google My Business or claiming your listing is a great first step, and once you do, you’ll need to learn how to make the most out of it. Optimizing your Google My Business listing will help to ensure that your business gets found online, which is what it’s all about, really.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your Google My Business listing:

#1. Update your information.

Your core business information — business name, website, phone number, address, category, attributes, and, finally, description. A part of your optimization process should include making sure that all of this information is up to date and listed exactly the way that it’s listed on your website.

Google Maps uses this information to index your business, which makes it the basis of your SEO strategy, so it’s essential that you get it right. If there are any inconsistencies between your Google My Business listing and your website, it can hurt your website’s rankings in the SERP (search engine results pages). For instance, if “drive” is spelled out on your website and abbreviated on your listing.

#2. Add high-quality images.

Your Google My Business listing is often the first interaction potential customers will have with your business online, and it’s important to make the right kind of first impression. Using high-quality, high-resolution images is one of the best ways to do that.

Blurry, low-quality images make it all too easy for people to skip over your listing. After all, there’s a lot of competition out there, and you need to give people a reason to choose your business over the many others. That’s why, if necessary, hiring a photographer that can help you capture your business in the best light is not the worst idea.

#3. Generate more reviews.

People check out your Google My Business listing for a lot of reasons, but the two main ones are to learn how to get ahold of you and to read reviews about your business. Think of reviews as the word of mouth of yesteryear.

Don’t get me wrong, word of mouth is still a powerful thing — probably the most effective form of advertising there is — it’s just not as common for people to ask for personal referrals as it used to be. Instead, most people will turn to Google, and they’ll read reviews to help them determine whether or not to work with your business.

If you have only so-so reviews, only months- or years-old reviews, or, worse, no reviews at all, most people will move on to the next listing. That’s why it’s important to put an effort into generating reviews for your website. Here are a few ideas to help:

  • Ask for reviews! – Asking is the most effective and most straightforward way to get reviews. You might be surprised at how many people are more than willing to write a review for you when you just ask.
  • Send follow-up emails – After the sale has been made or the service has been completed, follow-up with your clients or customers in an email, telling them how much you value their feedback and letting them know where they can write a review for you (make sure to include links!).
  • Incentivize reviews – Offering to enter customers who write reviews in a drawing or sweepstakes is an effective way to get more reviews. But, be careful with this one. Google does not look kindly on businesses that bribe customers for five-star reviews.

#4. Respond to your reviews!

When your customers do take time out of their busy schedule to write a review for your business, it’s important that you also take the time to respond to it. Responding is important, and you should respond to every review, not just the positive ones. In fact, it’s especially important that you respond to negative reviews.

Your response to a negative review is your chance to share your side of the story, but make sure that you’re not minimizing their experience or responding in a defensive manner. And don’t get in a public argument with someone, either. You’ll only come out looking petty to anyone reading the reviews. Instead, give the reviewer your phone number or email address, and invite them to contact you directly to discuss it.

When done correctly, your response to a negative review gives you a tremendous opportunity to turn a negative experience around, earn a customer for life, and let any prospective customers know how much you value providing a great experience for them.


Take your online reputation to the next level with Top Rated Local®.

Optimizing your Google My Business listing can do great things for your business’ online reputation, but it’s not the only thing you can do to keep it strong. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today to take your business’ online reputation to the next level!

Simplifying SEO for Local Businesses

SEO isn’t as complicated as you may think.

Being visible online isn’t something any local should take lightly in this day and age, and there are two basic ways to ensure that your website is visible online — paid ads and organic results. Paid search ads are a great way to get your name out there when you’re just starting out, but when you’ve dominated the organic search results, you’ll save money with each and every lead that you get.

SEO (search engine optimization) is all about increasing both the quality and the quantity of the organic traffic that your website gets from search engines. And it’s something that every local business should think about. After all, a business that learns how to dominate local search results through SEO not only saves money on paid search ads but also benefits from better, more qualified traffic to their website.

As important as SEO is, it’s often an overlooked piece of the online reputation management puzzle for many business owners. That’s because SEO can seem like an overly complicated thing, and while it’s true that it takes time and hard work, it’s actually a lot more simple than you probably think.

The Basics of SEO for Local Businesses

Keyword Research

Keywords are what people type into Google, Bing, or other search engines to find the topic they’re searching for. Identifying the appropriate keywords to optimize your website for is done through keyword research, and it’s the first — and arguably the most important — aspect of your entire SEO strategy. The bottom line is that you need to be able to identify which terms you want your website to rank for, and once you do, you’ll be able to base the entire rest of your SEO strategy off of it.

The keywords you choose will have a direct impact on both the quantity of the traffic your website gets and the quality of that traffic. Choosing broader, more general keywords will mean more competition, and choosing irrelevant keywords will hurt your ranking and diminish the quality of your organic leads.

Want to learn all about how to find the best keywords for business? Check out our previous blog.

Content

If you’ve talked to many people who work in digital marketing, there’s a common saying about SEO you’ve probably heard — “content is king.” Everything in SEO has to do with content, and it’s one of the easiest and also one of the most challenging aspects of SEO for local business owners.

The good news is that SEO won’t require you to have a whole lot of technical knowledge or marketing savvy, but the bad news is that it requires you to create original, high-quality content on your website, social platforms, and beyond on a regular basis. That can be daunting for business owners who may not exactly think of themselves as writers or who may already have an over-flowing schedule to contend with.

Luckily, Google doesn’t expect every business owner to be Hemingway, but they do expect them to create content that adds value. And for the benefit of your website’s SEO, that content should be built around your keyword research. Keep in mind that it’s more important to use keywords naturally than it is to force them into your content as many times as possible.

As a business owner, you have a lot of knowledge about your industry that the average consumer does not, and a great strategy is to use that knowledge to create content for your website. Tips, how-to articles, and client testimonials are the perfect things to put in your blog.

It’s important to know that content isn’t just text. There are many different types of content that should be added to your website, and when optimized correctly, videos and photos can be valuable commodities when it comes to organic rankings.

Not many businesses think of them this way, but reviews are actually another type of content that can help a business rank higher organically in the SERP, and the best part about reviews is that you don’t have to write them yourself! Google also weighs what other people say about your business more heavily than what you say about yourself, and reviews can be a major boon for your SEO.

In addition to adding content to your website consistently, posting on social media should be a regular part of your SEO strategy. Excerpts from blogs on your site, tips and tricks, photos of your team, and client testimonials are just a few examples of the kind of content that works well on social media.

Links

The other major aspect of SEO is link building. Link acquisition can be challenging, and it will take a solid investment of time and hard work to achieve it. One of the most straightforward ways to acquire it is to email website owners directly to earn links.

Contacting website owners directly is just one aspect of earning links; you also need to have link-worthy pages on your website to link to. What makes a page linkable? Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to determine linkability:

  • Is the content useful? – Link-worthy pages are informative and useful. How-to guides, advice, and concept explanations are just a few examples of the kind of pages that are linkable.
  • Is the content original? – In order for a page to be link-worthy, it can’t have the same information that’s available everywhere else. Use your industry expertise by taking a new perspective on something, or share original data or research to create link-worthy content.
  • Is the content entertaining? – There are a lot of ways to make an impact with your content, but the best way is by creating content that entertains. Humorous content, as well as interactive content, like quizzes or games, can be very entertaining and link-worthy.

In general, the most linkable pages appeal to a wider audience, which means that they probably won’t be your highest-ranking pages. But as long as your content is strong enough, you’ll earn links to those pages anyway through your manual efforts to reach out to site owners. And when you do, those links will add credibility and authority to your website and your brand.

SEO often gets a bad reputation for being overly complicated, but it really doesn’t have to be. Neglecting SEO can hurt your business’ visibility and online reputation, so it really isn’t something you should overlook.

Take the first step toward building a strong online reputation by becoming a Top Rated Local business today!

The Basics of Online Reputation Management for HVAC Companies

HVAC companies depend on having a solid online reputation.

In this day and age, HVAC companies can’t depend on word of mouth as much as they used to. While word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising today, it’s also not something people seek out like they did back in the day.

It used to be that, when someone needed air conditioning repair or furnace replacement, they’d ask for referrals from their friends and family. Now, most of those people will simply turn to Google or the search engine of their choice to find the right HVAC company to work with.

Chances are, you’re already well aware of how much competition your business has online. There’s no shortage of companies people could turn to for their heating and cooling needs, and the only thing that separates your business from the pack among all of those listings is your online reputation.

While it’s true that aspects of your online reputation are out of your hands, you’ll be glad to know that there are a lot of things you can do to influence and build on that reputation.

Online Reputation Basics for HVAC Companies

Claim your listings.

The first step you should take when building your online reputation is to claim your many business listings across review sites and directories. There’s a strong possibility that, whether you know it or not, your business is already listed on many of these sites, and if you don’t take the time to claim those listings, there may be inaccurate or outdated information about your business out there.

When you take the time to claim your listings and update your business’ information, you can create a more cohesive brand across the web. You can also ensure that, whether someone finds your business on Facebook, Google, or Yelp, they’ll always be calling an active number or visiting your current address. This helps to establish trust, which could easily be undermined if someone ends up calling a number that’s no longer active or travels all the way out to your old, now-abandoned location.

Provide great service.

Not every aspect of online reputation management happens online. In fact, a strong online reputation starts with providing great service to the people you serve each and every day. After all, your online reputation is just a reflection of your service, and If you don’t provide great service in-person, how can you expect to have a good online reputation?

People expect at least decent customer service, and while they may not always jump at the chance to write a review for your business based on good customer service alone, you can bet that, if they’re upset, they’ll tell the world about it. People can be reluctant to share a positive experience, but that reluctance evaporates in a negative experience. When people feel they have been wronged, they typically want to shout it from the rooftops.

Focusing on providing great service is something you should be doing anyway, but it’s also a key part of online reputation management. And while it may not generate a whole lot of five-star reviews, it can go a long way toward helping you avoid one-star reviews.

Start asking for reviews.

Reviews are the bread and butter of your business’ online reputation, and there’s never such a thing as too many of them. People like to read about other people’s experiences, and many of them use reviews when determining which local companies to work with. So if the decision comes down between an HVAC company with a handful of reviews and an HVAC company with thousands of reviews, it’s easy to tell which option people are likely to choose.

There are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to generating reviews for your business online, and the first place you’ll want to start is by looking at the rules of various review platforms. But in general, you’ll want to avoid bribing people to write reviews, trying to influence how many stars people give you or what they say about you in reviews, or only asking specific clients for reviews. As long as you’re following these rules, most review sites are perfectly fine with you asking clients for reviews, which is a good thing since it’s also the most straightforward way to actually get them.

Respond to your reviews, negative and positive.

While it’s true that most people will write reviews if you ask them, in time, you’ll come to really appreciate the people who take the time to write reviews for you. Although you may not see the problem in taking five minutes to write a few sentences about your business online, you have no idea how busy a client’s schedule is or what’s going on in their life. The fact that they took the time to give you feedback online means something, and whether that feedback is positive or negative, it’s important that you respond to it.

Not only does responding to your reviews demonstrate how thankful you are that your client took the time to write them for you in the first place, but it gives you a chance to show the world how dedicated you are to great service.

It’s not always easy to get negative feedback, especially in such a public way, like with a negative review, but if you really listen and learn from that feedback, you can use it to make your business better and make your clients happier. The right response to a negative review should always include thanks for the feedback, an apology for the bad experience (even if it wasn’t your fault), a commitment to making the situation right, and a gameplan for how you’ll use that feedback to get better. This kind of response could not only win back the dissatisfied customer but could convince anyone else reading it to choose your business over the competition.


These are all great first steps toward building and maintaining a solid online reputation for any HVAC company, but truly effective online reputation management is an ongoing thing, and one of the best weapons you have in your arsenal is Top Rated Local®. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today!

Finding the Best Keywords for Your Brand

Keyword research is a key part of any online reputation management strategy.

Maintaining your online reputation is a multi-faceted beast, and a major part of any successful online reputation management strategy involves being in control of what people see when they search for your business online. This is accomplished through search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is all about managing both the quality and the quantity of the traffic your website gets through organic search results, and it all starts with keyword research.

While often overlooked as just a small aspect of SEO, keyword research is actually the single most important aspect of any digital marketing strategy, as well as any online reputation management strategy. If you don’t know which keywords will lead to your website — and which keywords to optimize your website for — you won’t find success in driving traffic to your website. Furthermore, when you optimize your website for certain keywords, you’re telling search engines what your website is all about.

Understanding the importance of keyword research is one thing, but actually doing it effectively is a whole other ballgame.

How to Find the Right Keyword for Your Website

Use your intuition.

As a business owner, you understand what your business is all about and what you have to offer better than anyone else. You also probably have a pretty good idea of what kinds of keywords people may search that are relevant to your business.

Put together a list of possible keywords that you think people may enter when looking for businesses like yours. Add any keywords that are relevant to the services and products you offer as well. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for ideas from friends, family, or even your team.

When brainstorming keywords, put yourself in a consumer’s shoes when they might need your services. For instance, if you were a homeowner with a frozen pipe that burst, you might use keywords like, “emergency plumber near me,” “local plumber,” or “emergency plumbing services.”

Use the Google Keyword Planner tool.

Google offers a free keyword planning tool that business owners can use to find relevant keywords for their website. With the Google Keyword Planner tool, the keywords you’ve come up with when brainstorming can be used to find thousands of related keywords.

People search in all kinds of ways, and the Google Keyword Planner tool can help you pinpoint the most common ones. The great thing about the tool is that it shows you search volumes for each term, helping you avoid optimizing your website for a search term that only a few people are using, or a search term that is far too competitive. Google’s keyword research tool also allows you to search by location, helping you to find the keywords people in your area are using.

Tips for Finding the Right Keywords

You’ll find that keyword research tools generate thousands upon thousands of results, and not all of them will be relevant to your website. Besides, it’s not going to be possible to optimize your website for all of those keywords, and you’re going to want to choose a few top options to focus on primarily. Here are a few tips for finding the best keywords to focus on:

#1. Make sure that keywords are relevant.

No matter how much search volume a keyword gets, it won’t pay off to optimize your website for it unless it’s relevant to your website. The biggest benefit of SEO is that it drives better, more relevant traffic to your website, and it does so without the need to pay for ads.

Relevancy is probably the most important aspect of keyword research, and in addition to driving the right kind of traffic to your website, choosing to optimize your website with relevant keywords will also help to establish trust in your brand.

Think about it. If you optimize your website for “emergency plumber near me,” but you’re only available Monday through Friday 9 – 5, it’s not going to create a good impression of your business if someone who really needs emergency plumbing services during after-hours can’t get ahold of you.

#2. Get the best results with long-tail keywords.

The more search results a keyword has, in general, the more competition you’ll have in trying to rank for it. Small to medium-sized businesses often don’t have the resources of large corporations, which means trying to compete with them on Google can be a real challenge. But when you target long-tail keywords, you’ll have less competition and a higher chance of success.

Let’s say that you own a men’s shoe company. You’ll never compete with an overly basic keyword, like “shoes” or even “men’s shoes,” but you’ll have a lot more luck when you target relevant, long-tail keywords, like “brown leather oxford shoes for men.”

Not only does targeting long-tail keywords make it possible for small businesses to be competitive players online, but they also lead to increased conversions. People who use more specific keywords are more likely to be ready to buy; whereas, people using more general search terms are more likely to still be in the research phase.

#3. Look at what keywords your competition is using.

When you need a few more ideas for keywords to target, looking at what your competition is doing is a great place to start. Knowing which keywords your competitors are going after can help you determine which keywords you might be forgetting. It will also help you expand your ideas,

Start by making a list of your competitors, and then find their websites online. From there, you can look at the metadata and read their content to figure out which keywords they are targeting. There are also tools out there that can help you figure out what keywords your competitors are actually ranking for.


Keyword research and SEO are just one aspect of online reputation management. With Top Rated Local, you’ll gain an understanding of your online reputation overall. Claim your Top Rated Local listing today to start managing your business’ online reputation like a pro.

A Roofer’s Guide to Reputation Management

Every roofing company needs a solid online reputation management strategy.

The fact of the matter is that it can be difficult for a roofing company to acquire new clients. After all, it’s not like anyone needs a new roof on a monthly basis or even needs roofing repairs or maintenance that often. Roofing companies are unique in how seldom clients need their services, which means that, when someone is searching for a roofer online, you absolutely want your business to show up.

Making sure that your roofing business is visible is just the first step though. There are a ton of different roofing companies consumers could choose from, and they need a reason to choose your business over the many others out there. And they’ll find that reason in your business’ online reputation.

Reputation Management Tips for Roofers

#1. Claim your listings.

First and foremost, a roofing company absolutely must claim ALL of its business listings online. It’s not enough to just claim your Google My Business listing. You want all of your information to be accurate across the web so that, no matter how someone finds you, they’ll always have the right contact information to get a hold of you.

Ensuring that your contact information is accurate will help to establish trust with consumers and make your listing more legitimate in their eyes. If someone finds your listing on a directory or a review site and ends up calling a number that is no longer in service or visiting an old location, they’re going to think that your business is either invalid or has gone out of business — either way, it doesn’t bode well for your business.

Another big reason why consistency across business listings is important is that Google looks at consistency when determining whether a business is valid or not. If there are multiple addresses and phone numbers across Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, and other listings and directories, Google isn’t going to rank your business as high because it appears less legitimate.

Finally, when you claim your business listings online, it gives you more control over them. In addition to giving you the ability to update your contact information, you’ll also be able to update and optimize your business description, add photos, and even respond to reviews.

#2. Earn more reviews.

Reviews are the number one thing consumers will look at when determining whether or not they want to work with a roofing company. Let’s face it, there’s a lot at stake when hiring a roofer. It’s not like going to a nail salon or finding a jewelry store — the roof is the number one thing that stands between you and the elements, and you want to be able to trust the company you’ve hired to take care of it.

If your business doesn’t have a solid average star rating — or worse, if you don’t have any reviews at all — it doesn’t bode well for your chances of attracting new clients online. It also means that you should start working on generating more reviews for your business.

Although you should never bribe your clients for reviews or presume to tell them what kind of a review they should leave you, simply asking for reviews is perfectly acceptable, and it’s also a super-effective way to generate more of them. While many people won’t write reviews on their own, believe it or not, the vast majority of people will write a review if you just ask.

#3. Generate content.

A big part of online reputation management is controlling what consumers see when they find your business online. When someone searches for your business name, ideally, your website should be the first thing that pops up, along with your listings on directories and reviews sites and your social media pages. What you don’t want to pop up is bad press about your business, and that’s where SEO (search engine optimization) comes in handy.

By optimizing your website, business listings, and social media profiles, you can ensure that consumers will find what you want them to when they search for your business online. And although SEO can get pretty complicated if you let it, the most basic and powerful strategy you can have is to simply publish content consistently online.

As a roofer, you have a lot of valuable knowledge to share with consumers. Your average Joe Blow won’t understand why a metal roof may be a better option for their needs than an asphalt shingle roof, or how important regular maintenance is for the longevity of your roof. This is the perfect kind of content to publish on your website and social media pages.

#4. Respond to reviews.

Generating more reviews is a great step in the right direction toward maintaining your business’ online reputation, but your job isn’t done yet — you also need to respond to those reviews. And that’s true of all reviews, whether they’re one-star, five-star, or somewhere in the middle; however, you especially want to make it a point to respond to any negative reviews you get.

When you respond to negative reviews, it gives you a chance to share your side of the story with not only the person who left the review but with anyone who may happen to read it. Unhappy clients often don’t understand why something happened the way that it did, and by simply explaining your side of the story, you might be able to effectively defuse the situation.

It’s important, though, that you always take ownership of the situation, even if you feel that it’s not your fault. This doesn’t mean that you have to claim responsibility, but you should at least apologize that their experience with your business wasn’t what they expected or wanted. You should never argue with a reviewer or insult them, and if necessary, give yourself a little time to cool off if you’re upset before responding to a negative review.

One of the best things you can do when responding to a negative review is to invite the reviewer to discuss the matter offline. This will save you from having to argue or set the record straight with a client on such a public forum, and it shows other people that you’re willing to work to correct a bad situation.

#5. Sign up for Google Alerts.

When it comes to your business’ online reputation, you can’t effectively manage it if you set it and forget it. A good online reputation management strategy means ongoing, real-time management, which means that you have to be in the know what people are saying about your business online.

One of the best ways to stay on top of what people are saying about your business online is to sign up for Google Alerts. Google Alerts are totally free, and you can use them to monitor all kinds of things, including brand mentions. You can even use Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying about your competition online, giving you a much needed leg up.

Become a Top Rated Local® roofing company!

There are a lot of things that go into building and maintaining a strong online reputation, and it can all seem overwhelming when you already have so much going on. Luckily, it’s easy to get started — sign up or claim your Top Rated Local listing.

Becoming a Top Rated Local business means that you’ll get real-time notifications when you get new reviews, the ability to reply to your reviews, monthly breakdown of your online reputation overall and so much more. Get started today!

Why and How to Claim Your Google My Business Listing

If your business isn’t listed on Google, it may as well not exist at all.

With more than 63,000 searches per second, 3.8 million per day, 228 million per hour, and 5.6 billion per day, it’s no wonder that Google currently holds approximately 90 percent of the worldwide search engine market share.

As far as online search is concerned, Google is king, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. That means that, for any local business, being found on Google is an absolute must for success online and off.

These days, more and more people are finding local businesses online, and that’s true whether they’re looking for a barber shop, a jewelry store, or even a locksmith. And when someone searches for services or products you provide online, you want to ensure that your business shows up on top of the SERP (search engine results pages). Otherwise, what’s the point?

Signing up for Google My Business or claiming your Google My Business listing is the first step toward ensuring that people can and will find your business online.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Claiming Your Google My Business Listing

Step #1. Sign in.

You’ll need to either sign in to your existing Google account or sign up for one if you don’t already have one. If you’re creating a new account, be sure to choose a professional-sounding email address, preferably, one that includes your business name. The best option is to create an email address that ends in your domain name — for example, kurt@guitarsrus.com.

Step #2. Search for your listing.

Chances are, your business already has a Google My Business listing that just needs to be claimed and optimized. To find out if your business already has a listing, simply search for your business name and city online.

Step #3. Manage the listing.

Once you’ve found your listing, you’ll click on the link that says, “Own this business?”. From there, you’ll select “Manage now,” and you’ll have to agree to Google’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service before continuing.

Step #4. Verify.

Google doesn’t allow just anyone to claim a business listing, and you’ll have to verify yours before you can manage it effectively. Google will require that you enter a PIN to verify that you’re the actual owner of the business. This can be done in a few ways, but the easiest is to call your business phone number with an automated recording. You can also have them send the PIN via text message or postcard, which is, of course, the slowest method, and if your postcard gets lost in the mail, you can always have them send you another one.

Get the most out of Google My Business by optimizing your listing.

Having a verified Google listing is the first step toward a strong online reputation and more visibility for your business, but you’re not done yet. Next, you’ll want to optimize your listing in order to get the most out of it.

Tips to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing Like a Pro

  • Choose the right category – You’ll have to select a category for your business, which Google will use to determine what searches your listing will show up for. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t allow businesses to create their own categories, and you’ll have to choose from their list. Niche businesses should choose a general category that bests describes their goods or services, but all other businesses will want to select the most specific category that fits what they offer. For instance, a bagel shop will find a lot more success categorizing themselves as a bagel shop rather than a restaurant.
  • Set up a listing for each location – If your business has multiple locations, it’s important to set up a different listing for each one. This way, your customers will always find the closest, best location for their needs.
  • Use high-quality images – A Google listing isn’t complete without images, and it’s important to choose the right ones. According to Google, listings that featured photos and virtual tours generate twice the interest that other listings do. Make sure that you choose high-quality, high-resolution images that show your products or storefront in the best possible light.
  • Make sure your information is accurate and consistent – Consumers can learn a lot about your business through your Google listing, and it’s important to ensure that the information they find there is accurate as well as consistent across all listings. It could actually affect your business’ Google rankings if you don’t. A part of Google’s algorithm looks at the consistency of business’ listings across different websites when verifying its legitimacy.
  • Avoid getting your listing suspended – There are a number of offenses a small business could make that could end up with a suspended Google My Business listing, including having multiple listings for the same location, awkwardly and obviously over-stuffing keywords into the business name field, making false or misleading claims, utilizing explicit or offensive content, using a URL that redirects to the business’ website rather than the direct URL, and using an address that isn’t the actual storefront or office where you meet customers.
  • Generate reviews! – When consumers are searching for businesses online, they need a way to differentiate the listings they find. The number one way they do that is by looking at a business’ reviews, which means that if you don’t have any — or if your average star rating is poor — chances are high that your listing won’t get clicked on. That means that you need to start letting your clients know where they can leave you reviews and to even start asking directly for reviews. Be sure to check out our previous blog to learn the dos and don’ts of asking for reviews.

Claim your Top Rated Local® listing!

Your Google My Business listing isn’t the only listing you should claim; in fact, you should claim and optimize all of your business’ listings, including your listing on Top Rated Local. Claiming your Top Rated Local listing comes with many perks you won’t find anywhere else, including real-time notifications when you get reviews, monthly updates on your overall online reputation and so much more. It’s also free, so you have nothing to lose!

Sign up/claim your Top Rated Local listing today!

How to Create More Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is a must for any business.

The simple fact of the matter is that It doesn’t matter how awesome your products or services are if no one knows you’re there.

Despite the many corporations, online stores and big-box stores out there, local businesses are having a heyday at the moment, and it’s, in large part, thanks to the many ‘shop local’ campaigns out there highlighting the benefits of supporting local businesses.

Although everyone loves the convenience and great prices they find when they shop online or turn to a big-box store, people understand why it’s important to support local businesses, and many of them are passionate about doing so. However, in order to reap the benefits, local businesses need to be able to build awareness in their brand.

5 Tips for Increasing Brand Awareness for Local Businesses

#1. Claim/optimize your Google My Business listing.

Whether someone is looking to support a local business or not, the first place they’ll likely look for the good or service they need is online. That search often starts on Google, which is why it’s so essential that your business can be easily found.

Did you know that 46 percent of all Google searches are people looking for local information and that 97 percent of search engine users have looked online for local businesses? The best way to ensure that not only people can find you but that they find accurate information when they do is to claim/optimize your Google My Business listing.

Although your Google My Business listing is probably the most important one to claim and optimize, Google isn’t the online place people go to find businesses online. It’s essential that, no matter how your customers find you — be it Facebook, Yelp, or Top Rated Local® — they find accurate information, which means that claiming and optimizing all of your listings is key to brand awareness for any local business.

#2. Give back.

For local businesses, community is everything. Your community is what supports you through thick and thin, and when you make it a point to give back to your community, it can do great things for your brand.

Local businesses benefit from getting their name out there as much as possible, and there are plenty of awesome ways to spread the word about who they are, what they do, and what they have to offer while also giving back to the community that supports them. Here are a few ideas to run with:

  • Volunteer – Give your team a day off of work at a soup kitchen or build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Or, better yet, volunteer your services to people in your community who need them.
  • Donate a percent of your profits – Nonprofits and charitable organizations always need financial support, and one awesome way to provide that support is to donate a percentage of your profits for a specific service or product. Not only will you be giving back, but you’ll be incentivizing people in your community to take advantage of your products or services.
  • Sponsor an event – Whether it’s the 40 under 40 awards or a marathon, there are plenty of local events that your business could sponsor.

#3. Brand your vehicles.

Service-based businesses, like plumbers, roofers, and home contractors, travel around town from one job to the next on a regular basis. Getting your name out in the community is easily done when you’re out and about with branded vehicles.

If your work vehicles aren’t branded, you’re missing out on a plethora of great opportunities to get your name out there. The more people see your brand, the more familiar they will be with it and the more they will start to trust it.

Of course, you may get a call or two because of your branded vehicles, but this strategy is more about building familiarity and trust in your brand than it is about attracting customers in the moment. Not every person who sees your branded vehicle will want or need your services, but the repeated exposure to your brand will help to keep it at the top of their minds when they do need your help.

#4. Give out swag.

One of the best ways to get your name out there is to give out branded swag, like pens, t-shirts, notepads and even reusable grocery bags, to both your employees and customers. This is a fantastic option because it gives you a chance to give something to the people who support your business most while reminding them that you’re there and spreading the word about your business.

When determining what kind of swag to invest in, it’s best to consider what your clients will get the most use out of, as well as what swag will offer the most visibility for your brand. This is one of the reasons why reusable grocery bags are a great idea.

People use those bags for everything, and every time they do, they’ll see your brand and be reminded of who you are. They also offer a lot of visibility for your brand because a lot of other people will see them, from the person who bags the groceries to the people walking by in the parking lot.

Pens are another great choice because they are so mobile and functional. People always need a pen, and they often misplace them or lend them out, which means even more visibility for your brand.

#5. Get help from local influencers.

When most people hear the term “influencer,” they think of social media influencers with thousands of Instagram followers. However, this same idea can be translated to local communities with similar — and sometimes even better — results. Local influencers in your community are simply people who affect the choices of others, and you can use their help to gain more awareness for your brand.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you own a local store that offers fitness gear or vitamins and supplements. With the help of Molly, a local yoga instructor who teaches several classes around town and has a large following on social media, you could spread the word about your brand far and wide.

In order to gain the help of local influencers, you’ll need to give them a reason to use your brand — and a reason to get excited about your brand. One of the best ways to do this is by offering discounts or free samples.

Start creating more awareness in your brand by becoming a Top Rated Local Business.

Take the first step toward the kind of awareness you want for your local brand with Top Rated Local. Signing up/claiming your listing is free, easy and will only take a few minutes, and it will give you the opportunity to respond to reviews, provide you with real-time notifications of reviews, and so much more.

Sign/claim your listing today!

Starting Your Year Off On The Right Foot

Claim your business listings

Claiming your business listings online is going to be step one of your New Year’s Resolution to have a stronger online reputation. Many people overlook this vital task because they don’t realize how important having a claimed business really is.

When you claim your business, you are showing your customers, current and future, that yours is a reliable and authentic business. The fact of the matter is, more and more customers are searching for local businesses online, and ranking ahead of your competition is very likely going to be what makes or breaks their decision to choose your business over any other.

Think about it, when a customer is going online to search for a business, but ends up finding an unclaimed business profile with inaccurate information, like their phone number, address, or business hours, they’re not likely going to trust that business with their time or money. Claiming your business and making sure your information is accurate and up to date is really simple considering how important an outcome doing so has. In fact, according to research done by Google, three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results to be helpful are more likely to visit stores in person. Thankfully, claiming your business listing is also usually free.

Claiming your business listings doesn’t only show your potential customers that you are a reliable business, it also gives search engines a reason to trust you and give you a better ranking. Search engines look for and promote legitimacy. By claiming your business, you not only show search engines that you are legitimate, but you also help boost your SEO (search engine optimization) and the likelihood of your business being seen more frequently. By claiming your business on verified sites, you improve your chances of increasing traffic to your website by making it more accessible and easy to find.

Claiming your business profiles should be one of the small business basics, and since claiming your businesses is such a simple way to get the attention of customers and search engines, it’s surprising that more small businesses don’t prioritize the practice, but that just means that a business that does claim its listings is going to stand out among the crowd.

Build Your Online Presence

When you search for your business on Google, take notice of what comes up. How does your website look? Are there reviews for your business? What kinds of photos are there? Is your website mobile-friendly? What about social media? Which social media profiles are your target audience likely active on? Are you easy to find there? Making it simple for your target audience to connect with you makes your business appear accessible and personal, which is important when it comes to building trust and showing your customers that you are reliable.

Your potential customers need to be able to find you, and when they do, you want them to be impressed by what they see. Start by investing in an awesome website. Your website will be many customers’ first impression of you, and no matter what business you are in, you will find that an eye-catching and professional website will be beneficial to your business.

Even a company that has traditionally operated by word of mouth, like tree removal or lawn care, can benefit from having a nice, up-to-date website. Your website can tell your customers your story, humanizing your business; it can showcase some of your favorite reviews, giving customers a reason to trust you, and it can give your customers the basic information they need, like your address, hours, phone number, and pricing options.

Too often, businesses that have gotten by thanks to word of mouth have lost out on potential new customers because so many people are turning to the internet to find new local services. In fact, the number of local searches is on the rise, with 46 percent of all Google searches being people who are looking for local information and 82 percent of smartphone shoppers using the phrase ‘near me’ in their searches, a number that has increased 900 percent in the last two years.

You need more than to simply be present; you need also be active in order to have a strong online presence. That means updating your website and social media pages with new photos, current reviews, blog posts, and updates. Always respond to your reviews, both positive and negative, in order to show your customers that you care about their experience with your business.

Ask for reviews

Just like having a great website, having a handful of reviews on verified websites is crucial to the overall success of your business. Reviews are a vital tool when it comes to generating trust and increasing your overall sales.

Nowadays, almost everyone is turning to the internet to do their research before making their purchasing decisions. Customers can turn to websites, like Google, Bing, Facebook, and Top Rated Local, to read about the experiences of past customers. While each of these sites has its own way of collecting and prioritizing reviews, reviews left on any of them will count as fresh content in SEO algorithms. Reviews will end up helping your business ranking by improving your overall SEO since fresh reviews count as fresh content, which search engines tend to like.

In addition to helping out with your SEO, reviews can also help you to connect with your customers. Your customers will naturally have some feedback for you, and their feedback is undoubtedly going to be incredibly valuable to you and your business, whether it is positive or negative. Positive reviews offer a great incentive for others to trust you with their business, and negative reviews offer you some insight into where your business might be slacking. Negative reviews also give you a chance to show others how you would like your business to be seen. For example, if you receive a negative review, you can respond to it, showcasing your responsiveness as well as your willingness to receive feedback. In your response, you can highlight some of the things you hope your business will be known for, like:

“We’re very sorry you did not get a chance to experience the outstanding customer service we hope to provide to every person who visits us…”

Customers like to see that someone will be attentive to their needs if anything goes wrong, and the fact of the matter is, they are more likley to trust a business that has had a few things go wrong. When they see only five-star ratings, they start to become suspicious that the feedback may not be authentic. A sprinkling of less-than-perfect reviews with well-worded and thoughtful responses is more likely to inspire trust in potential customers than a hundred bland five-star reviews.

Knowing how important it is to have online reviews, you should also know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for them! Chances are, you really do value and appreciate honest feedback, and there is no reason not to say so to your customers. As long as you are not paying for or somehow incentivizing people to leave you feedback, you can be confident that you are acting ethically in your request for reviews.

Revamp your customer service policies

Now is a better time than ever to make sure your employees are all on the same page when it comes to the kind of customer service your business offers. Establishing some customer service basics, a set of values, and even an overall business mission can unite your staff and help to set the baseline for how to behave with the customers.

Having a solid foundation in excellent customer service is a surefire way to gain the kinds of reviews that will instill some trust in your business.

Your customer service skills need to extend into your online presence as well. If you have multiple employees responding to reviews, posting to your social media pages, and interacting with your customers online, you need to have a unified voice that you feel best represents your company. It might be beneficial to start out by having a few templates for responding to customer concerns or negative reviews.

Consider Getting Outside Help for Online Reputation Management

Taking on the responsibility of managing your online reputation may seem daunting and could take more time than you have to invest into it. For many companies, the role of online reputation management is a full-time job. While most small businesses don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a full-time staff member to perform these duties, many are turning to reputation management companies.

If outsourcing your reputation management is something that appeals to you, make sure you do your research and find a company that feels like a good fit and can perform the job you want done. If you are interested in learning more about reputation management and its benefits, check out Top Rated Local, today!

Resolutions for a Stronger Online Reputation in 2020

A New Year, a New Online Reputation for Your Business

The year that was 2019 has finally come to an end, and whether you’ll look back on the year with a smile or you’d rather not look back on it at all, there’s no denying that it had many lessons for us as far as online reputation management is concerned, which you can learn more about in yesterday’s blog — Five Important Online Reputation Management Lessons From 2019.

Good or bad, you can make the most of 2019 by taking the lessons you’ve learned and using them to change for the better, which is true of both your personal life and your business’ online reputation. And while we won’t presume to tell you to eat healthier or exercise more in 2020, we can give you a few New Year’s resolutions that can help you build the kind of online reputation for your business that you really want.

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Make Your Online Reputation Strong in 2020

#1. Claim your listings.

One of the most important things a business can do for their online reputation is to claim their listings across review sites and directories. These directories are pulled in by algorithms, and those algorithms don’t automatically update things, like your phone number or address, which can leave people unable to get ahold of you. When a client is trying to get ahold of you and ends up at your old location or on a call with the wrong number, it can seriously undermine their trust in your business. Claiming your listings is free and is an easy way to ensure that, no matter how a client finds you, they’re able to contact you when they need to.

Where should you get started? Why not start with Top Rated Local®? Claiming your profile with Top Rated Local means that you’ll have access to every verified review site your business is listed on from one convenient place, as well as your Rating Score™, which will give you an overall view of your business’ online reputation across the web. And don’t forget about the real-time review notifications and monthly updates that will give you an overview of your online reputation as a whole.

Claim your Top Rated Local profile today!

#2. Respond to your reviews.

If you haven’t already started making it a habit, 2020 is the time to start responding to as many of your reviews as you can, positive and negative, but especially the negative ones. Not only should you make it a point to respond, but you should make it a point to respond in a timely manner — that’s what your clients expect at least. This is also why becoming a Top Rated Local business is such a good idea; with real-time notifications, you’ll get an alert every time you get a new review, which will give you a chance to respond as soon as you’re able.

Responding to your reviews is so important because it gives you a chance to share your side of the story. Reviews are often only reflective of the client’s perspective, and while you should never make excuses in your response, it does sometimes help to resolve the situation when the client can see it through your eyes. That being said, you should always make it a point to apologize, not necessarily for your action but because of the fact that they had a bad experience. It’s also a good idea to invite the client to take the conversation offline by providing them with a phone number or email address they can reach you at.

The right review response can make all of the difference after a customer has had a negative experience. In fact, the customers that are won over after a negative experience are the ones that are often customers for life. Not only that, but the right review response can convince other readers online to choose your business as well.

#3. Say it with a video.

Search engine optimization (SEO), which is a huge part of reputation management, is all about content. In fact, in the world of SEO, the phrase, “Content is king,” is a favorite and oft-repeated line. This, of course, means writing blogs, social media posts and other forms of text-content, but today, “content” can and should mean a variety of media, which absolutely means video.

Video is an incredibly powerful thing in this day and age, and every business should make it a point to use it more often in their marketing efforts. Part of the reason why video is so important is that YouTube has actually become the second biggest search engine behind Google, and it’s the way that millions of Americans are discovering new brands and products every day.

There are so many great ways that you can harness the power of video for your business. When you’re writing a blog post for your business, you could accompany it with a video tutorial. When you’re creating a social media post about how awesome your team is, accompany it with a video of your annual awards celebration honoring them. When you’re creating a page on your website about your efforts to give back to your community, accompany it with a video of your team building a home for Habitat for Humanity or running a food drive. When you’re designing an ad for one of your services, accompany it with a video testimonial from one of your satisfied clients.

#4. Start earning more reviews.

People want to know that, when they find a business online, they can trust that they’re in good hands with them, and these days, the best way to do that is by reading the business’ reviews. When a client chooses to work with you, they’re taking a gamble, particularly if they find you online and don’t know a lot about you. When they can read about your other clients’ experiences with you, it helps to give them peace of mind. That being said, you can see how damaging it can be if you have a lot of negative reviews, or, worse, no reviews at all.

Reviews are essential, but they’re never going to just magically appear. Even businesses that wow their customers with next-level customer service often have trouble getting reviews; whereas, one slip-up can mean a one-star review. That’s because people remember and want to share negative experiences more than they remember positive ones. The key to a healthy online reputation is to encourage all of your customers (which hopefully means an overwhelming number of satisfied customers and only one-off dissatisfied customers) to leave reviews, and if you ask them to, most people will be happy to write one.

There are so many great ways to incentivize your customers to leave you reviews, but it’s important to tread carefully. Every review site has its own policies on what they deem acceptable, and we highly recommend reading them before proceeding. For the most part though, you’ll want to avoid bribing your customers to leave you specific star ratings or saying certain things about your business. You’ll also want to ensure that you ask every customer for feedback, not just the ones you think will leave you a good review.

Once you start building up more reviews for your business, there are a lot of great things you can do to share them. They don’t have to stay on review sites; you could display them on your website via the Top Rated Local badge; you could post them on social media; you could use them in videos or ads; you could even use them in physical displays in your brick and mortar location.

#5. Get help if you need it.

A business’ online reputation is more important than ever before, but managing that online reputation has also become a bigger job than ever job. Even with the help of awesome tools, like Top Rated Local and Google Alerts, managing your business’ online reputation can be a big job, especially when you consider the fact that it’s not even your first job. Whether you’re an accountant, dentist, plumber or roofing contractor, your first priority is your clients or patients, and sometimes, that can leave your business’ online reputation neglected and ignored.

Not only does it take time and energy to build an online reputation, but even if your business has a strong online reputation already, you’ll need to put a certain amount of time and effort into maintaining it. This can all be a lot of business owners who already have so much on their plates, and if this sounds like you, a better option than letting your online reputation fall by the wayside may be to get help from a reputation management professional.

Most small businesses don’t have the budget to pay someone a full salary plus benefits to manage their reputation in-house, and luckily, these days, you don’t have to. There are plenty of reputation management companies out there that could help you keep your reputation on the up and up. You’ll want to do some research to find the best option for you, but at the end of the day, the important part is that you recognize the importance of getting help when you need it.

Interested in working with an online reputation management specialist? Learn more today!

Take the first step toward a stronger online reputation in 2020 with Top Rated Local.

You don’t have to wait until 2020 to start building the kind of online reputation that will be the envy of your competition. Get started today by claiming your Top Rated Local listing. It’s free, easy and comes with a host of can’t-miss benefits. From all of us at Top Rated Local, have a happy new year!