5 Digital Marketing Tips for Local Businesses

Reputation management is just one of the many things you can do to grow your local business.

If you’ve read many of my Top Rated Local® blogs, then you already know a thing or two about building and maintaining your business’ online reputation, as well as why it’s so important. But as essential as online reputation management is to the success of your business, it’s just one small aspect of what digital marketing can do for your business.

It’s also important to realize that digital marketing and online reputation aren’t mutually exclusive. Online reputation management is a form of digital marketing, and many aspects of digital marketing, including social media management, SEO (search engine optimization), and even paid ads, directly affect your business’ online reputation.

That’s why, today, I’m going to branch out from the typical Top Rated Local blog and give you a few tips on digital marketing as a whole to help you grow your local business both online and off.

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Growing Your Local Business

#1. Make sure your site is listed on the right directories.

The number one place people go when they want to find a local business is Google, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place people go. People search for local businesses using all kinds of different directories for local businesses, and the key to success online is to be where people are looking.

It’s obvious that you need a Google My Business profile for your local business. After all, it’s the main place people are looking for local businesses online. But, your business also needs to be listed on other common directories, like Top Rated Local, Yelp, and Facebook, as well as all applicable industry-related directory sites. For example, home contractors should be listed on Angie’s List, Houzz, and HomeAdvisor, and wedding photographers, caterers, and event planners should be listed on The Knot.

Making sure that your contact information appears uniformly across all directories will ensure that people can easily get ahold of you no matter where they find you, and it will also help to improve your rankings in the SERP (search engine results pages).

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#2. Get active on social media.

Local businesses have an advantage over e-commerce stores and other online businesses that serve their customers from a distance; they get to meet with customers and potential customers face to face! People often expect the worst from people when they’re anonymous online, but when they can see your face and hear your voice, it makes building trust easier.

However, just because you’re able to meet people in person, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only way that you should connect with them. Social media gives you a powerful tool for making connections with your customers, as well as with any potential customers, online. It also gives people a chance to see a different side of your business, and that can have a big impact.

Social media is a great place to share things about your business that others might not ever get by just visiting your office or your website. The kind of content that’s perfect for social media (and that also strengthens your online reputation) is pictures of your staff volunteering, videos of your annual holiday party, funny memes that relate to your business, etc.

#3. Use targeted ads on Facebook and Google.

One of the biggest reasons to advertise on Facebook and Google over traditional forms of advertising, like billboards or television ads, is that they’re visible only to people who are actively searching for what you have to offer. That means that you won’t be spending your hard-earned money advertising to people who aren’t interested in your products or services and won’t be any time soon.

Another big reason to advertise on Google and Facebook is that they allow you to specifically target your audience online. Both of these platforms allow you to target your audience as broadly or as narrowly as possible.

Whether you want to target everyone in a certain area or you want to target only male homeowners who are over the age of 50, you can do that with targeted ads. Not only that, but you can target specific audiences for specific products or services. This allows for more effective advertising since it’s geared only toward the people who are most interested.

#4. Add local schema markup to your website.

Schema markup is a structured data markup code that tells Google and other search engines what type of business you are and what you have to offer. It’s added to the code of your website, and it’s a major ranking factor for Google.

Using schema, you can provide consumers with a more user-friendly, clickable ranking in the organic search results. There are all kinds of things you can use schema markup for on your local website, including reviews, information about upcoming events, contact information, your logo, and more.

#5. Optimize your Google My Business listing.

Think of your Google My Business listing as the front door to your business online. For anyone who finds you on Google, Google My Business is the first impression they’ll get of your business online. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the impression you make is a good one by optimizing your Google My Business Listing.

Optimizing Google My Business involves uploading high-quality images, adding a compelling business description that includes relevant keywords, selecting the right business category, and more.

In addition to optimizing your Google My Business listing, you should also make it a point to keep it up to date. Do this by generating more reviews, responding to reviews when you get them, keeping your contact information current, and answering your clients’ questions.

These digital marketing tips can help you grow your business online and off, and they’ll help you keep your online reputation strong. If you’re looking to take the first step toward building a strong online reputation, sign up/claim your Top Rated Local listing today.

Reputation Management Tips for Lawyers

Every law firm needs an effective online reputation management strategy.

Regardless of whether your law firm specializes in family law, bankruptcy, personal injury, estate planning, or anything else, there’s a strong possibility that you have more than a little competition online.

With so many different law firms out there claiming to be the most experienced, the most dedicated, the most reliable, and the most communicative, how do you make yours stand out online?

Your law firm’s online reputation is what makes it unique, what makes it stand out, and what gives its visitors a reason to stick around and learn more about it. However, if your online reputation isn’t what you need it to be, it can have the opposite effect.

These days, most people trust online reviews just as much as they trust a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member. So, for the sake of your future success, it’s critical that you learn how to manage your online reputation properly.

4 Online Reputation Management Tips for Law Firms

#1. Get listed/claim your listings.

The most common place people look for lawyers and law firms is Google, but there are plenty of other places people could be looking. You never know where someone could be searching for a law firm online, and to ensure that your business is as visible as possible to all potential clients, you need to be listed on a variety of review sites and directories.

Whether someone is looking for a law firm on Google, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau’s website, it’s critical that your business is listed — and that the information listed is up to date. Not only should your law firm be listed on the most popular review sites and directories; there are several others out there that have been made specifically for law firms, including Findlaw.com, Lawyers.com, Avvo, and Legaladvice.com

You may find that, on some of these sites, your law firm is already listed. However, even if you already have a listing, your job isn’t done yet. You should also claim the listing, which will make it possible for you to update your business’ information and respond to future reviews.

If you’ve found listings that you didn’t create, they’ve probably been pulled in by an algorithm, and they may not contain accurate information about your business. These listings may have inaccurate or out-of-date contact information, and if someone tries to get ahold of you and ends up calling a number that’s no longer in business or visiting your old law firm, it does nothing good for your online reputation. But, by claiming your listing, you can keep this information up to date.

#2. Earn more reviews.

People don’t often seek the help of law firms when everything in their lives is peachy keen. Most of these people are stressed, under a lot more pressure than they’re accustomed to, and in need of professional and compassionate legal advice. There’s a lot on the line for your clients, and when they can read reviews about your business, it will help to give them peace of mind and confidence.

If the majority of your law firm’s reviews are negative, or if it only has a handful of reviews online, it can greatly damage its online reputation. In cases like these, it’s critical that you start earning more reviews. However, even if your law firm has dozens of five-star reviews and a solid average star rating, earning more reviews should always be a focus for you, especially because people expect recent, up-to-date reviews.

The fact of the matter is that people put a whole lot of stock in online reviews. People looking to work with you have a lot at stake, and the decision to hire you or not might come down to your online reviews. Make sure that you have plenty of them for people to read and reference by making it a point to ask your clients for reviews.

#3. Respond to your reviews.

Asking for reviews is a great way to start earning them for your business. However, you should never ask your clients to say anything specific about your law firm in a review or hint at how many stars they should give you.

While you can start generating more reviews by asking for them, the one thing that’s completely out of your control is what your clients will say about you online. Even if you provide the best possible experience for your client, there’s no guarantee that they’ll leave you a positive review. It’s, unfortunately, out of your hands what people say about your law firm online, but what’s not out of your hands is how you respond to it.

Responding to your law firm’s online reviews demonstrates to your client just how grateful you are that they took the time to write reviews for your business. And, in the case of negative reviews, it also gives you a chance to soothe an upset client and share your side of the story to anyone who might be reading the review and your response to it.

For most types of local businesses, responding to reviews is a lot more straightforward, but as a law firm, you have a code of conduct to consider, as well as binding agreements with your clients on privacy. Make sure that you always keep this in mind and that you never share anyone’s private information online.

#4. Closely monitor your online reputation.

An effective online reputation management strategy is ongoing, not a one-time thing. You can’t just claim your listings, ask one client to leave you a review, and respond to a single review, expecting your online reputation to be what you want it to be. It takes time and consistency to maintain your law firm’s online reputation, and that requires close, regular monitoring.

One of the best ways to stay on top of your law firm’s online reputation is to sign up for/claim your firm’s Top Rated Local® listing. Unlike any other review site, Top Rated Local compiles your reviews from a variety of verified sites across the web, and it offers lots of great tools to help you manage your online reputation as a whole.

A few of the Top Rated Local monitoring tools that you can take advantage of when you claim your listing include real-time notifications of new reviews, an up-to-date Rating Score™ that reflects your reputation across review sites, and a monthly overview of your online reputation as a whole.

Don’t leave your law firm’s online reputation up to chance. Sign up/claim your Top Rated Local listing today!

Repairing Your Online Reputation Part 2

No business wants a bad online reputation.

Most businesses have a seemingly endless amount of competition online, and when someone is doing research about your business, your online reputation will make the difference between them becoming a new client or them moving on to the next business on the list.

A bad online reputation can hurt a local business quite a bit. People simply have too many options, and they’re not likely to settle for less than the best. And, unfortunately, if you haven’t been actively managing your online reputation, it can easily get out of hand — and not in a good way.

If your business’ online reputation isn’t what you want it to be, you’ll be glad to know that all hope is not lost. There are a number of things you can do to restore your business’ good name online, and in Part 1 of this series, I went over a few of them. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already, and keep reading to learn about more things you can do to rebuild the kind of reputation you want.

3 More Ways to Repair a Broken Online Reputation

#1. Earn positive reviews.

If you have three reviews and two of them are negative, it’s devastating to your average star rating on any review site. However, if you have 100 reviews and two of them are negative, it’s not a big deal at all. In fact, in cases like these, a couple of negative reviews can even be a positive thing for your business’ online reputation.

It’s never a bad thing to have positive reviews, but if all of your reviews are positive, it can make you seem inauthentic to some people. If your reputation appears to some people as “too good to be true,” even if it is true, it might lead them to believe that you’ve bought fake reviews. When you have a couple of negative reviews in a sea of positive reviews, though, it shows that you’re human and make mistakes, but that you learn from them and provide your clients with a five-star experience the majority of the time.

In my last blog, I talked about the importance of responding to negative reviews, and that is one great way to help minimize the damage they can cause. But, in addition to ensuring that you respond promptly, you should also make it a point to start earning positive reviews for your business.

A few ways to start earning more positive reviews:

  • Focus on customer service – Not every review you get will be fair, but for the most part, your online reputation is reflective of the kind of service you offer your clients every day. Providing great customer service may not be enough to prompt people to write reviews, but it will ensure that, when they do, the reviews will be positive.
  • Follow up by email – Following up with your clients after a service has been delivered is an important piece of providing great customer service anyway, but it’s also a great opportunity to remind your clients to give you feedback online. You can even provide them links directly to the listings that are most important to you.
  • Ask for reviews – Only a small percentage of people will leave a review on their own, even if you wow them with the kind of service you provide; however, the vast majority of people will write one if you ask.

#2. Publish lots of content.

Just as you can push negative reviews about your business down and drown them out with positive reviews, you can do the same with any kind of bad press about your business through search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is all about exercising more control over what ranks when someone searches Google for your business name, as well as helping your business to rank in organic search results for relevant keywords. Luckily, with the right SEO strategy, you can help to reduce the visibility of any negative articles or pages about your business and increase the visibility of your business online.

A lot of business owners are intimidated by the concept of SEO, and that’s because a lot of marketers tend to make it much more complicated than it has to be. You can easily get lost in the woods when trying to master the technical side of SEO, but the basics of SEO are simply keyword research, links, and content – the emphasis being on content.

In the world of SEO, content is king, and if your reputation isn’t what you want it to be online, publishing more content is a great place to start. There are lots of ways to go about this, including how-to blogs, tips and tricks blogs, guides, case studies, press releases, and so many more.

#3. Monitor your online reputation closely.

The longer you leave negative reviews or press about your business online unaddressed, the more damaging it can be to your online reputation. Not only that, but when people write a review for your business, they expect a response, and they expect one promptly.

Whether you’re repairing a broken online reputation, building an online reputation from the ground up, or working to maintain an already-glowing online reputation, it’s not a one-and-done thing. It’s an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring.

Monitoring your online reputation could mean logging into 10 different review sites every day to check for new reviews, but it doesn’t have to. There are a lot of different tools out there that help you monitor your online reputation, including Google Alerts and Top Rated Local®.

When you claim your Top Rated Local listings, you’ll enjoy a lot of benefits that will help you keep a close eye on your online reputation, including real-time notifications of new reviews on a variety of review sites, a Rating Score™ that’s updated regularly and reflects your online reputation as a whole, and a monthly overview of your overall online reputation.

Is your online reputation in need of repair? A great place to start is by claiming your Top Rated Local listing. Get started today!

Repairing Your Online Reputation Part 1

If your business’ online reputation isn’t what you want it to be, all hope isn’t lost.

A business’ online reputation says a lot about it, and it could mean the difference in earning new customers and hearing crickets instead of the phone ringing. However, even for businesses with less-than-stellar online reputations, there’s still hope.

Just as there are a lot of things you can do to build your business’ online reputation from the ground up when you’re just getting started, there are also many things you can do to rebuild an online reputation that you’re not thrilled about.

Having a poor online reputation can feel pretty hopeless, and in this situation, many desperate business owners turn to professional reputation repair companies to help them dig their way out. However, with a little know-how and a willingness to put in some time and effort, there are a lot of things you can do on your own to repair a broken online reputation.

I won’t lie, repairing your online reputation probably won’t be easy, nor will it be quick, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done! All it takes from you is a little know-how, a lot of patience, and a willingness to put in the work.

3 Ways to Repair a Broken Online Reputation

#1. Claim your business listings.

Some review sites and directories require you to sign up to get your business listed, but not all of them are designed this way. Some sites, including Top Rated Local®, pull in listings using an algorithm. So, there’s a chance that, even if you haven’t specifically signed up for a certain directory or review site, your business is listed there anyway. And, if the information that’s listed isn’t accurate or up to date, it does no favors to your online reputation.

When someone tries to call your business using outdated information they’ve found on a listing, it doesn’t exactly create a positive user experience. When they can’t get ahold of you because the phone number listed is no longer active, they’re going to think one of two things — 1) that you’ve gone out of business, or 2) that you’re not even reliable enough to ensure that your phone number is correct. Neither one of these options is a positive thing for your business.

Another problem that can arise from having inconsistent contact information across listings is the damage it can do to your organic rankings. Even small discrepancies in how your address or phone number is listed can hurt your organic rankings, so it’s important to get it right.

Claiming your business listings give you the power to manage them properly, which includes keeping all of your contact information up to date. This goes a long way toward establishing trust with anyone who finds your business online.

#2. If applicable, ask Google to remove a page or website.

Oftentimes, when someone publishes something that’s not exactly complimentary about your business online, there’s not much you can do to counteract it besides flooding the organic rankings with positive sites and pages about your business. But, on occasion, Google will remove pages or websites that violate its policies.

Google certainly won’t remove just any site or page if you ask them to. In general, the only time Google will remove something is if the content is demonstratively false or defames your business, is inappropriate, or violates a copyright.

If you think that something negative about your business online fits these criteria, then you can always contact Google to request that the page or site be removed. However, before you do, it’s always a good idea to contact the owner or editor of the site directly to ask that the offending content be removed. This will be much, much faster than going through Google, and, in many cases, much more successful.

#3. Respond to negative reviews.

One of the most common things that can hurt a local business’ online reputation more than anything else is negative reviews. Research has found that just one negative review could drive away as much as 22 percent of your prospects. I don’t know many local businesses that can afford to lose that many prospects, and if the same is true for your business, your only recourse is to learn how to respond to them.

You have zero control over what a customer or client might say about your business in a review. And, unfortunately, getting a negative review taken down is not always easy or possible; even if you can prove that the review is fake or defamatory, it’s still not a walk in the park to get a review removed. So, that leaves you with only one option: to respond.

Your response is the one thing you can control when you get a negative review, so it’s important to get it right. Here are a few quick tips to help you do just that:

  • Apologize – Apologizing doesn’t have to mean taking responsibility for a situation that’s not your fault, but at the end of the day, you want every customer you work with to have a positive experience. If you believe wholeheartedly that you’re in the right and the review is in the wrong, you should still apologize that they had a negative experience with your business.
  • Demonstrate that you’re listening – Sometimes, unhappy customers just want to vent and be heard. And, it’s important to show them that you are indeed listening and that you care about the feedback you’re being given.
  • Cool off – Sometimes, negative reviews can feel personal and upsetting. Don’t respond in the heat of the moment if you’re upset. Give yourself a few minutes to cool off so that you can respond professionally.
  • Take the conversation offline – Getting into a public argument with a reviewer is not going to be a good thing for your online reputation no matter how you spin it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to invite them to discuss the matter with you directly by giving them your phone number or email address.

Want to learn about more steps you can take to repair a broken online reputation? If so, stay tuned for Part 2 of this series!

Why Your Local Business Needs a Website

Does your local business really need a website?

It used to be that the only way for your business to be online was to have a website, but all of that has changed. These days, there are lots of ways to have an online presence, from social media to review sites and directories; however, regardless of whether or not you’re on Facebook or Google My Business, you need a website. It’s simply non-negotiable when it comes to the future success of your business.

Here at Top Rated Local®, we have an awards program that recognizes the businesses with the best reputations in each state across a variety of industries. While auditing our award winners, I’ve been struck more than once by just how many contenders still don’t have websites, and they’re not alone.

Did you know that fewer than two-thirds of all small businesses have a website? The reasons for this may vary, with some businesses believing that they’re too small to need a website, some business owners citing the cost of building a website, and some believing that a website is irrelevant for their industry, among other things. But, the fact of the matter is that, no matter what size your business is, what industry you’re in, how many clients you have, or how many word-of-mouth referrals your clients give you, having a website isn’t optional for your local business or, for that matter, your business’ online reputation.

5 Reasons Why a Website is a Must for Your Local Business

#1. To build an online presence.

The first and most essential reason to build a website for your business is that it’s the first step toward establishing its online presence. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a Facebook page and a Google My Business listing, you’ve got an online presence, but without a website, it’s missing its main hub.

Think of your business’ presence on review sites, social media, and directories as the introduction to your business online. Often, these are the places where people can find your business online, but they’re not their final destination. In most cases, when someone finds you on one of these sites, and they’re interested in the possibility of working with you, they’ll go to your website to learn more about who you are, what you do, and if you have what it takes to meet their needs.

#2. To establish credibility online.

When someone finds your business on a directory or a review site, the next logical step in determining whether or not they want to work with you usually consists of visiting your website. As a result, if you don’t have a website, it can turn visitors off, and many of them will move on to the next business on the list.

Although there are still a large number of small businesses that don’t have a website, consumers still expect that you have one, and if you don’t, it can lead to questions about the credibility of your business. In fact, a majority of people won’t trust a business without a website.

Think about it from a consumer’s perspective. First, they find your business on a directory — let’s say Google My Business. They then spend a few minutes reading your reviews, and you seem like a decent company to work with. Now, they’re at the state where they want to learn more about your business, but there’s no website to visit. Without a website, they’re left wondering if you can meet their needs or if your business is even legitimate. Finally, they decide to move on to the next listing.

#3. To gain more control over your online presence.

There’s a lot that goes on online that’s totally out of your control as a business owner. You can claim your business listings, write your own business description, and respond to your customers’ reviews, but you have no control over what those reviews say. On social media, too, you can start the conversation, but you can’t control it. You have some measure of control over your online presence across the web, but your website is the one and only place where you’re totally in control.

On your website, you decide which testimonials to highlight, which images to use, how to describe your business, etc. It’s the one place where you get to fully decide what kind of impression you make on your visitors and what they come away with.

#4. To inform consumers about what you have to offer.

Too many businesses make the mistake of believing that having a Facebook page or a Google My Business listing is the only thing they need to do online. And, while these sites are great for helping people find your business online, they don’t tell people a whole lot about your business or what you have to offer.

Let’s say someone is looking for a specific service, like the dry foam method of carpet cleaning. They know enough to know that they don’t want a typical carpet cleaner, but there’s no “dry foam” category of carpet cleaning on Yelp. So, when they find a carpet cleaner that looks like they have decent reviews, they go to their website to ensure that they offer what they need.

Directories and listing sites often allow businesses to write their own descriptions, but it’s not always easy or possible to give consumers the information they need to confidently choose their business in a few sentences. Your website is the perfect place to go into more detail about what you offer and how you can help.

#5. To get your name out there.

Staying competitive online means making your business as visible as possible online. That means that, regardless of whether someone is searching Google, Facebook, or Top Rated Local for a local business, your business needs a presence.

Having a website is just one more avenue for people to find your business online, and what’s more is that there are a lot of things you can do on your website that you can’t on your Facebook page or Google My Business listing that will help it rank higher in the organic search results, and for lots more keywords.

Online reputation management is important for every business to think about, but your presence online will never be as strong as it could be unless you have a website. If you’re interested in building your own local business site, visit Websites 360® today!

3 Reasons to Make Customer Service Your Top Priority

Great customer service goes hand in hand with a strong online reputation.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, then you are probably aware that building and maintaining a strong online reputation is a multi-faceted process that involves managing a number of moving pieces. But, at the end of the day, there’s nothing more important than providing great customer service.

You can get your business listed on every review site and every directory. You can check in on your online reputation every day. You can do a number of things to earn more reviews and respond to them religiously. You can make it a point to follow up with your customers after every service or purchase.

All of these things can go a long way toward building the kind of online reputation for your business that will speak for itself, but unfortunately, none of it matters if your customer service isn’t where you need it to be.

At the end of the day, no matter what you do online to manage your online reputation, it’s always going to be a reflection of the kind of service you provide your customers face to face.

3 Reasons to Make Customer Service Your Top Priority

#1. It gives people a reason to choose your brand.

Most businesses in this day and age have quite a bit of competition, and that’s true for businesses in every industry and businesses of all shapes and sizes. So, how do you ensure that your business stands out when there are 20 others in your area that offer the same services or products? By focusing on fantastic customer service!

Seventy percent of consumers say that they will support a company because it provides above-average customer service, and 90 percent say they consider customer service to be a factor when determining whether to do business with a brand. And, if you have a reputation for providing wonderful customer service, people will be willing to spend an average of 17 percent more with you.

People value customer service highly, and with so much competition out there, making customer service a top priority is one of the best things you can do to make your brand stand out.

#2. It leads to brand loyalty.

While it’s always a positive thing to get your name out there and gain new customers, nothing beats customer loyalty. And, how do you ensure that your customers will turn to you time and time again when they have a need for your products or services? By making customer service one of your top priorities!

Thanks to the efforts of friendly customer service representatives, 68 percent of people will remain loyal to a brand and 93 percent will be likely to make another purchase with the company in question. And, an increase in customer retention by just 5 percent can lead to an increase in profit by as much as 25 percent.

In addition to earning repeat business and loyalty, if you can prove your customer service chops to your existing customers, they’ll also be more likely to spread the word about your business. After just one positive experience, 77 percent of customers say they would recommend a brand.

#3. It helps you avoid the pitfalls of poor customer service.

Poor customer service can have just as much of a negative impact on your business’ online reputation just as much — if not more so — than great customer service can have a positive impact.

Did you know that the number one reason why someone decides to switch to a new brand is feeling unappreciated? Unfortunately, even if you do it right more times than not, all it takes is one poor customer experience for 49 percent of Americans to switch to a new brand. Furthermore, it can take up to 12 positive experiences to make up for just one negative experience. Seventy-eight percent of customers who have gone as far as initiating a transaction with your business will back out mid-purchase if they’ve had a negative experience with your customers.

The effects of poor customer service can be long-lasting, and sometimes, it can take companies years to recover. Approximately 39 percent of consumers say that after they’ve had a bad customer service experience, they’ll avoid the business in question for two whole years.

Not only can poor customer service lead to lost customers; it can also lead to negative reviews for your business online, which can hurt your chances of attracting new customers. Forty percent of consumers will tell others not to do business with a company after a negative customer service experience, and 62 percent say they share their negative experiences with other people.

What does great customer service mean to you?

Understanding the importance of focusing on customer service is one thing, but understanding what exactly great customer service means is a whole other ballgame. Is great customer service greeting your customers by name and remembering their order? Is it always having someone there to answer the phone when they call? Is it following up after a service is performed to ensure satisfaction?

Customer service can mean all of this and more, and it can mean different things to different people. But, in general, customers expect quick responses to inquiries, knowledgeable and friendly customer service representatives, the ability to be contacted in a variety of ways, and to enjoy a consistent experience.

How do you translate great customer service into a strong online reputation?

People are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones only, and, sometimes, no matter what you do to please your customers, only a few of them will actually end up writing a review for you. Luckily, it’s easy to get glowing reviews for your business; you just have to ask!

So, the next time one of your customers is going on and on about how satisfied they are with your work or how happy they are with your customer service efforts, do yourself a favor and ask them to share their experience online!

The Basics of Online Reputation Management for Architecture Firms

Having a solid online reputation could be the difference between success and failure for any architecture firm these days.

Gone are the days when people asked friends or neighbors for recommendations for an architect, or when people would look for an architect in a phonebook.

When someone wants to hire an architect nowadays, the search usually starts online. And, when people find your architecture firm online, it’s critical that you’re able to make the right kind of first impression. Otherwise, they’ll move on to the next architect in the search results.

Online reputation management is all about managing what people see when they find your architecture firm online, and it’s an absolutely critical piece of marketing your business online.

Think about how many architects come up on Google when someone searches in your area. Chances are, you’ve got a lot of competition out there, and your ability to make the right kind of impression makes or breaks your ability to convince clients to choose you over your competition.

Understanding the importance of online reputation management is one thing, but actually knowing how to properly manage your online reputation is another. Today, I’ll be going over a few of the basics.

Basic Online Reputation Management Tips for Architecture Firms

#1. Get your business listed on the right sites.

Typically, the search for an architecture firm starts with a Google search, usually for something like “architect near me.” However, that’s just one of the many ways people could find your business online. There are also countless review sites and directories that they could find you on, but in order for that to happen, your business has to be listed on them.

Of course, you want to make sure that your business is listed on Google My Business, Facebook, and other popular sites, but there are several industry-specific sites that you’ll also want to be listed on. Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and Houzz come to mind as a few sites any architecture firm should be listed on.

Once your site is listed on appropriate review sites and directories, you’ll also want to ensure that you claim your listings. This will allow you to update information about your business on those listings.

#2. Ensure that your contact information is the same across listings.

You’ll want to claim and manage your listings on your most valued sites and directories, but there’s a strong possibility that your business is actually listed on many more. And, because you never know how someone might find your business, it’s important to make sure that your contact information is accurate on all of them.

Another reason why this is important is that, any discrepancies in your contact information, like your address, phone number, etc., can negatively impact how your website ranks in the SERP (search engine results pages). It also creates a poor experience for users when they can’t get ahold of you because an outdated phone number or address is listed, which can create distrust in your brand.

You could go to each website and directory your business is listed on one at a time to update your contact information, but who has the time for that? A much easier way to go about this is by utilizing Local Listing Ads® from Marketing 360®, which makes it easy to update more than 50 of the most popular listings across the web in just a few minutes.

#3. Earn more reviews for your business.

Regardless of whether someone finds your business on Google, Yelp, or Houzz, when they do, they’ll read your reviews in order to determine whether or not they want to work with you. People place so much stock in reviews that most trust them just as much as they trust a recommendation from a friend or family member.

However, in order for people to read reviews to learn more about your business, you need to have them in the first place! If you don’t have very many reviews currently, or if your reviews aren’t current, it’s absolutely affecting how people view your business and could be hurting your ability to gain new clients.

The importance of having reviews — current reviews that is — can’t be overstated. Almost nothing is more important to your business’ online reputation than having reviews, and every architecture firm could benefit from making it a point to earn more of them. How do you earn more reviews? The simplest way is just to ask!

#4. Respond to your reviews.

If you’re like most architects, you’ll probably find that most of your clients won’t leave reviews on their own but are more than happy to when you ask. And, if you ask your clients for a review, and they take the time to write one, it’s in your best interest to respond. That’s true whether the review is five stars or one star.

When you respond to your positive, five-star reviews (which will hopefully be most of them), it demonstrates to your clients how thankful you are that they took time out of their day to write the review. It also shows that you listen to their feedback and take it seriously.

But, where you can make the most impact by responding is with your negative reviews. A response to a negative review can be an incredibly powerful thing — so powerful, in fact, that it could turn an unhappy client into a client for life. However, you have to get it right, which means apologizing, owning up to your mistakes, showing the reviewer that you’re listening to their feedback, and showing the reviewer how you’re using their feedback to get better.

These days, having a solid online reputation is not optional for most architecture firms. And, if you want to make the right first impression online, a great place to start is by claiming your Top Rated Local listing! Get started today!

Your Guide to Managing Your Business Listings

There are so many directories out there that your business could be listed on.

You never know how someone might find your business in this day and age. While Google is, by far, the most common place where people search for local businesses, they could also find your business listings on many different directory sites and review sites.

This is a double-edged sword for many businesses. On one hand, when your business is listed on a plethora of review sites and directories, it means that there are a plethora of avenues for people to find your business online. This potentially means more customers and more sales, which is the end goal of any marketing effort.

But, on the other hand, when your business is listed on multiple review sites and directories, it means that you have listings on multiple review sites and directories to manage, and that can quickly become overwhelming, especially if your business is listed on dozens of sites.

If someone finds your business on a directory that you haven’t updated in a while, it’s possible that they’ll get an old phone number or an old address. If people can’t get ahold of you, it will lead them to believe that either you have gone out of business or don’t care enough to keep your business information up to date — neither of which is a good thing for your business’ online reputation.

Another reason why it’s important to ensure consistency in your business information is that, if you don’t, it could hurt how your website ranks organically in the SERP (search engine results pages). Google rewards businesses that diligently take care of their online presence, and that means managing your listings.

Today, I’m going to break down a few steps you can take to make managing all of those listings easier.

How to Manage Your Business Listing Across the Web

Step #1. Figure out where you’re listed.

Sometimes, your business is listed on directories and review sites because you signed up for them. Other times, your business information gets pulled in by an algorithm. Either way, the first step to managing your business’ listings is finding out where they are.

There are lots of tools out there that you can use to determine where your business is listed. Yext even offers a free scan of business listings online across more than 50 services, including Google, Yellow Pages, Bing, and many, many more.

Step #2. Pick your most important listings.

Once you run a listings scan for your business, there’s a good chance that you’ll find that your business is listed on dozens of sites across the web. The idea that you’d be able to manage all of them is nice, but not practical for most small business owners. There is a fast way to, at least, ensure that your business information is accurate across all listings, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

There are only so many listings that you’ll really be able to manage, so it’s important to figure out what your top priorities are, as well as how much time you’re willing to spend on managing your listings. A good place to start is by choosing 10 or 15 listings that are your highest priorities. You can always manage more listings in the future if you find you have the time, or fewer if you’re feeling pressed for time.

When you’re selecting your top listings to manage, be sure to consider both popular sites and sites specific to your industry. There are many review sites and directories that are industry-specific, and you’ll want to make sure you choose the most popular options for your industry. For example, if your business has anything to do with weddings — like if you’re a photographer, caterer, event planner, etc. — you’ll want to make sure that you’re listed on The Knot. And, if you’re a home contractor, you’ll want to make sure you’re listed on HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List.

Step #3. Claim your listings.

Now that you have a good list of your high-priority listings, it’s time to claim those listings. Claiming your listings gives you greater control over the information people find on them, and it allows you to optimize listings for increased conversions and better representation of your brand.

When you claim your listings, it allows you to update your contact information, which will ensure that people can always get ahold of you when they need to. It will also allow you to upload photos and a more personalized business description, which you can optimize with your most valued SEO keywords.

Step #4. Update your contact information.

There’s a lot of business information that you’ll want to keep secure and protected, but any information that can be used to get ahold of you or visit your business, like your phone number, address, and business hours, needs to be shouted from the mountaintops. And, that means updating that information on all of your listings across the web.

Ensuring that your business is listed correctly establishes trust in your brand, makes it easier for people to contact you when they need you, and is even helpful for your SEO. However, if the idea of updating dozens of listings one at a time seems daunting, that’s because it is. Luckily, though, there’s an easier way.

The Local Listing Ads® program from Marketing 360® helps you get listed and manage your listings across more than 50 of the most popular sites and apps without the arduous task of updating them one at a time. It’s a program that will save you time — which means that it will save you money — and it will give you peace of mind knowing that your information is listed exactly the same way across the web.

Managing your listings across the web takes some time, but it’s an important piece of the online reputation management puzzle. A great place to start managing your listing is by claiming your Top Rated Local® profile! Get started today!

Tips for Creating Content More Consistently

Consistent content creation is an important part of the online reputation management puzzle.

There are many things that go into an effective online reputation strategy. You’ll need to claim your listings and keep them updated, consistently check in on review sites for new reviews, and respond to your reviews on a regular basis — just to name a few of them.

However, reputation management isn’t just about exercising some level of control over what people are saying about your brand online; it’s also about controlling the results people find when they look up your brand online.

When someone googles your business online, are they inundated with negative reviews and bad press, or do they find your website, social media profiles, press releases, and more?

Ensuring that, when people google your business, they find what you want them to is all about SEO (search engine optimization), and when it comes to SEO, there’s almost nothing more important than creating content consistently.

Google recognizes businesses that provide their customers with content that’s original, high-quality, and valuable on a regular basis, but creating content consistently isn’t always easy. What do you write about every day? How do you come up with fresh, new ideas?

5 Tips for Creating Content More Consistently

#1. Share your own unique knowledge.

As a local business owner, chances are, you have a lot of knowledge to share. Whether you’re a chiropractor, a plumber, or an arborist, you know a thing or two that the rest of us don’t, and that kind of knowledge makes the perfect content to put on your website and to share on social media.

When Google ranks sites, it’s not looking for who can regurgitate the same information the most over and over and over again; it’s looking for content that’s original and authentic. And, as an industry expert, you’re in the best place to provide that kind of content.

How do you figure out what kind of knowledge to share? Pull examples from your day-to-day. If you’re an arborist, and a lot of your clients have been asking how often they should get their trees pruned or why it’s important to get them pruned, share that information in a blog or on social media!

#2. Save ideas for future content as you find them.

If you wait until you’re ready to sit down and start blogging to think of a topic to write about, it’s going to make the whole process a lot longer and a lot harder than it has to be. You’ll be a lot better off (and you’ll be able to produce content a lot more consistently) if you have a few ideas socked away for future topics.

Oftentimes, when you’re doing research or on a job, you’ll come up with a great idea for a blog or a social media post. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of believing that you’ll remember it later. As a business owner, you have a lot going on, and the reality is that you’re probably not going to remember it.

Instead, take a minute to jot down any ideas you have in the moment, and keep them saved somewhere you can reference them later on. This way, you’ll always have something to write about.

#3. Let feedback guide you.

There are all kinds of content that you could be creating for your audience, but not all of it will be effective or helpful for your brand. Luckily, you can use feedback on the content you’ve created so far to guide you when it comes to the type of content you’ll be producing in the future.

There are many places you could go to get feedback into the type of content you’re creating. One way to go about this is by using social analytics to find out which of your social media posts get the most engagement and clicks. On your website, you can keep track of how your content is ranking. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to feedback in any comments.

Another way to go about gathering feedback about your content is to simply ask for it. When you talk with your clients, it doesn’t hurt to ask them what they would like to learn or about any questions they may have that your content could answer.

#4. Outsource some of your content.

No matter how much knowledge and experience you have, and how many sources of fresh topics you have at your disposal, keeping up on consistently producing content can be a lot of work. It can also get old quickly and easily become something that gets put on the backburner when your schedule starts to fill up.

But, there’s no rule that says that you have to produce all of your own content. In fact, if you are able to outsource some of your content to others, it will stay more fresh and interesting for your audience.

One great resource for content might be other businesses that you partner with. Ask them to publish content on your blogs in exchange for publishing content on theirs. This is also a great way to earn backlinks to your site, which will help with your organic rankings.

#5. Remember that there are many different types of content!

Traditionally, when most people think of creating content, they think of publishing new blogs on their website or giving followers tips on social media. However, it’s important to remember that content creation goes far beyond text, and whether you’re sharing a video tutorial, an infographic, or even photos of your team volunteering or celebrating at your annual company party — it all counts as creating content.

If you limit yourself to text-based content, it’s going to feel like consistent content creation is an uphill battle. But, when you open yourself up to all kinds of content, it will help you tap into your own creativity and make it easy for you to consistently produce new content.

Consistently creating content is an important part of SEO, which is an important part of building and maintaining a strong online reputation for your business. And, the good news is that there are lots of things you can do to make creating content on a regular basis easier and less time-consuming.

How to Monitor Your Online Reputation

An effective reputation management strategy involves regular monitoring.

Reputation management is akin to physical health. Just as you can’t just go to the gym one time and expect to be in great shape for the rest of your life, you can’t expect your online reputation to get strong by merely claiming your listings or responding to a single review.

And, just as building physical strength and maintaining that strength takes constant vigilance, so does building and maintaining a strong online reputation for your business. It’s not an overnight thing; it takes time, hard work, and, maybe most important of all, consistency.

In order for your reputation management strategy to truly be effective, it needs to be about staying up to date on how your business’ online reputation is doing on a regular basis.

A negative review is really not a big deal and can sometimes even be a beneficial thing for your business, but only if you’re able to turn the situation around with your response. And, the longer you leave a negative review unresponded to, the more weight and truth you’re giving it, at least in the eyes of anyone researching your business online.

You don’t have any control over what other people say about your business online, and you also never know when someone is going to surprise you with a one-star review. That’s why monitoring your online reputation should be a regular thing in your schedule.

Tips for Staying on Top of Your Online Reputation

#1. Check review sites.

It may be obvious, but one of the most critical parts of monitoring your online reputation is checking any review sites your business is listed on regularly. Responding to reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, is a great habit to get into, and what’s more is that your customers expect a response from you. That means that you need to be in the know about any new reviews by checking on your review sites.

Not only do your customers expect a response from you when they write a review for you; they expect a prompt response. If you only check your review sites sporadically, you can’t possibly respond to them in a timely manner.

#2. Keep track of social media accounts.

Most business owners know that they should post on their social media profiles consistently. But, even if you don’t post on social media every single day, you still need to login and check on your social media accounts.

Just as people expect you to respond when they review your business online, they also expect you to respond when they engage with you on social media. And, the only way that you will keep up is if you monitor your social media accounts consistently.

In addition to logging into your social media profiles, it’s also important to be aware of any mentions of your handles or any time your hashtags are used. This will help you avoid using a hashtag that overlaps with another business’.

#3. Keep up with your blog.

Blogging is an essential part of ensuring that your website stays visible online, and it’s important that you are publishing new blogs on a regular basis. Blogs should be informative, original, and helpful to your audience. Blogs should be your outlet for sharing your knowledge and expertise with the world. What they shouldn’t be is totally self-promotional.

Not only should you publish new blogs to your website regularly, but after you publish blogs, you should watch out for comments if you’ve left them on. There are pros and cons to leaving comments on. When people legitimately comment, it gives you valuable insight into what people think of your content. However, leaving comments open also leaves you open to spam comments, which can hurt the legitimacy of your blog.

#4. Set up Google Alerts.

One of the best available tools for monitoring your business’ online reputation is Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be in the know every single time someone mentions your brand online. It can also notify you when new content is published that contains keywords you’re targeting.

In addition to using Google Alerts to keep up with any mentions of your brand online, you can also use it to help you stay on top of what people are saying about your competition. This will give you a competitive edge when planning your digital marketing strategy.

#5. Claim your Top Rated Local® profile.

There are so many things you can do to stay on top of your business’ online reputation. Unfortunately, monitoring four different social media accounts and six different review sites can get exhausting, and there’s a good chance that you don’t have a whole lot of time in your schedule to stay on top of a lot of different sites. Luckily, there’s a solution — Top Rated Local.

Top Rated Local is your one-stop shop for reputation management, and, when you claim your profile, you’ll have lots of reputation management tools at your disposal. For example, Top Rated Local businesses get real-time notifications of new reviews, which means that you won’t have to check review sites individually for new reviews. You’ll also get a monthly report on your online reputation as a whole, as well as a Rating Score™ out of 100.00 that’s kept up to date and gives you a quick look at your overall online reputation.

Another benefit of claiming your Top Rated Local profile is that you’ll be able to put a badge on your website that will make it easy for people to read all of your reviews from one convenient place. Furthermore, having the Top Rated Local badge on your site will help to give it authority and establish trust in your visitors.

Monitoring your online reputation doesn’t have to mean visiting dozens of reviews sites and social media profiles. Stay in the know about your online reputation by becoming a Top Rated Local business today!