Shopping Etiquette in a Pandemic

Coronavirus has officially become a global pandemic, but people still need to shop for the necessities.

In a matter of days, life in the United States has become upended, and many of us are adjusting to the realities of this new way of life. However, regardless of how contagious coronavirus may be, people still need to eat, clean, and take care of themselves, and that requires a number of necessities.

Most of us are now working or attending classes from home, but that doesn’t mean that life stops. Shopping is one of those things that people still need to do, and while you may not be shopping for new shoes or a new wardrobe any time soon, you still need the basics.

No one wants to be the reason someone else gets sick, and the fact of the matter is that this new reality means that there are now new rules that need to be observed when you’re out and about.

The Right Way to Shop in a Pandemic

#1. Don’t go out if you’re sick.

The number one rule of coronavirus club is don’t go out if you’re sick. Keep in mind that the virus can affect people differently, and even if you’ve just been sneezing or coughing, you shouldn’t ignore it or chalk it up to an itch in your throat of allergies. If you’re feeling under the weather, and you need groceries or anything else, utilize no-contact delivery or ask a friend or family member to go shopping for you.

#2. Stock up but don’t hoard things.

If you get sick, you should be ready to quarantine yourself for at least 14 days. And, even if you don’t get sick, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends staying home as much as possible and only going out when you need to. That means that many Americans will need to stock up on the essentials, but that doesn’t mean that you should hoard things.

There are a lot of Americans out there struggling to get what they need, and it’s not because there are widespread shortages of food or toilet paper. In fact, there aren’t currently shortages at all, but the fact that some people have decided to hoard things has left a lot of others without. So, be thoughtful and kind and only take what you really need.

#3. Keep your distance.

According to CDC guidelines, people should stay at least six feet away from one another as much as possible. This can be a challenge in a crowded grocery store, but for your safety and the safety of those around you, it’s important to try. Six feet is approximately the distance of two shopping carts, so when you’re out and about, try to keep that distance in mind.

Don’t crowd around others in the aisle. If someone is standing in front of something you want or need, let them grab their purchase and move on before you go other there.

#4. Shop with your eyes instead of your hands.

Some people like to physically touch things before they buy them, and some people like to compare labels before deciding on certain items. These are both perfectly acceptable most of the time, but with this new reality, the less we all touch things, the better off we’ll all be.

Whether you’re trying to find the right pasta for dinner or choosing a tomato, refrain from touching things as much as you can. Instead, shop with your eyes and only pick up when you intend to purchase.

#5. Make a list — and a backup list.

This is not the time to wander listlessly down the aisles looking for something to call to you. If you’re following CDC guidelines, you should be staying home as much as possible and limiting your time out in public. That means that, when you go to the grocery store, you need to be prepared, which means having a list.

Going into the grocery store with a list will help you get in and out as quickly as possible. However, it’s also good to be prepared just in case certain things on your list aren’t in stock. Having a backup list will help you avoid having to make up alternative meal options on the spot.

#6. Bring bags with you.

People have been flooding grocery stores and pharmacies for days, and while there may be plenty of toilet paper and canned goods to go around if people weren’t hoarding them, the one thing that is in short supply are plastic and paper grocery bags. Do yourself a favor and make it a point to bring your own reusable bags with you when you shop.

#7. Be kind!

Social distancing is important for staying healthy and safe, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice basic human decency. A little kindness always goes a long way, and that’s especially true during these times of uncertainty, so in everything you do, try to be kind to those around you.

Some people who could really use a little extra kindness of the men and women who work in grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the country. The risks that you take by shopping is nothing compared to the risks they take by serving you, so recognize that and show them a little extra kindness and patience, even if lines are long and shelves aren’t as stocked as you’d like them to be.

It’s also important to remember that while you may be healthy enough to get out and go to the grocery store, others may not be so lucky. If you’re heading to the store, ask friends or neighbors who may not be able to go on their own if they need anything, and while you’re out, grab a few extra canned goods to take to your local food bank.


When you’re out and about, keep everyone in mind who’s working hard and putting their health and safety on the line for you. Leave them kind words and encouragement in the form of a review on Top Rated Local®, your go-to local business directory!

How to Stay Safe While Supporting Local Businesses

These days, local businesses need your support more than ever.

Most consumers know that, by supporting local businesses, they’re putting money back into their own community and helping to support their local economy. It’s the reason why so many consumers choose to support local businesses rather than giant corporations or big box stores, even if it means spending more money or sacrificing small conveniences.

If you’re serious about supporting local business, it’s more important than ever before to keep doing so. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are facing the same uncertainty that we all are, and, inevitably, small businesses are hit the hardest in times like these, and they are relying on your support more than ever before.

Don’t get me wrong, supporting local businesses in your community is important, but it’s not more important than your health and safety. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to keep supporting small businesses in your community while also protecting your own health.

5 Tips for Staying Safe While Supporting Local Business

#1. Take advantage of delivery or carryout options.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the best way to avoid getting infected with coronavirus is to limit your exposure to it. That’s why so many people are working from home and taking online classes. But, work and school aren’t the only in-person activities people do each day. People also have to shop, eat, and live their everyday lives, but as much as you can, you should try to do so from home.

One of the best ways to protect yourself and others is to take advantage of delivery and carry-out options as much as you can. If you’re not sure whether or not a local business in your area offers one of these options, make it a point to ask. Businesses are working to stay ahead of the curve, and many of them are newly offering options like these in order to continue supporting their communities.

#2. Keep your distance.

Chances are, a lot of what you want and need will be available through delivery, but sooner or later, you’re probably going to have to get out in the world for one thing or another. But, when you do, it’s important for your own health, and that of others, to make sure that you always keep your distance from others.

When you do need to visit a local business in person, try to go when traffic is lite and the business is less busy. If you’re not sure when that is, you can always call and ask! In addition to avoiding a business’ peak hours, make sure that, when you do visit, you are always mindful about how close you are to others and maintain a distance of at least six feet from those around you.

#3. Stay home if you’re sick.

There’s a lot that we still don’t know about coronavirus, but there are also a few things that we do know, like the most likely way that it spreads. Although the virus can survive for a period on surfaces, and transmission can happen before symptoms even appear, for the most part, coronavirus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.

While supporting local business is important, it’s not more important than your health or anyone else’s, and since coronavirus is most effectively spread from people who are already sick and showing symptoms, it’s not a bad idea to play it safe by staying home when you’re sick (even if your symptoms don’t fit coronavirus).

Coronavirus is extremely contagious and isolating yourself when you’re sick is an important part of getting better, but it’s also an essential part of keeping others safe who may have underlying conditions that make the virus more dangerous. Do your part!

#4. Cover sneezes and coughs properly.

Not all coughs and sneezes have to do with coronavirus. You may just have allergies or a tickle in your throat, but if you’re out and about when that happens, it’s important to take proper precautions just in case. The truth is that coronavirus affects people very differently. Some people get very sick while others will experience a minor cold or might possibly display no symptoms at all, which is why it’s important to always be cautious.

Any time you do cough or sneeze when you’re out and about, don’t do it in the open or in your hand, do it in your elbow. This is the best way to avoid the needless spread of germs. And, afterward, make sure that you thoroughly wash and sanitize your hands.

#5. Make sure that you properly disinfect your home.

If you are taking advantage of delivery services, or you’re working with a local contractor in your home, like a plumber or a roofing contractor, it’s important to be mindful of the risks they’re taking in order to work with you. That means that you should make it a point to properly disinfect your home before you invite any contractors in.

According to the CDC, most of the EPA-approved disinfectants out there will work to kill coronavirus, and they advise using the appropriate disinfectant for the surface you’re cleaning. If you’re using bleach, use a quart of water for every four teaspoons, or mix five tablespoons of bleach for every gallon of water. If you’re using isopropyl alcohol to disinfect, make sure it’s at least 70 percent alcohol.

Stay safe while supporting local businesses in your community.

Protecting yourself in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t have to mean abandoning your support of local businesses. There are lots of things you can do to show your support while staying safe, and I hope that this article will help.

Whether you’re looking for a local plumber or a local grocery store, Top Rated Local® is your go-to small business directory. Start your local business search here, and read reviews from across the web.

Your Spring Cleaning Checklist

Spring is the perfect time to deep clean your home.

We’ve almost made it. We’re only a few short weeks away from the first official day of spring, but in many places throughout the country, it’s already very much in the air.

For many Americans, winter means a lot of time spent in the house, which means it’s not uncommon for our homes to get a little dirtier than they normally would. Furthermore, the short winter days sap a lot of our motivation to do those deep cleaning tasks that are necessary every so often.

The spring is the perfect time to refresh your home after a long, cold winter, and with longer, sunnier days, you’ll have the energy to tackle many of the tasks that seldom make it on your weekly to-do list.

Your 2020 Spring Cleaning Checklist

Throughout the Home

  • Vacuum and deep clean the carpeting or sweep and map the hard-surface flooring.
  • Beat and clean any rugs.
  • Dust and wash the baseboards.
  • Wash the walls.
  • Dust the blinds and/or wash the drapes.
  • Clean the windows and wash the screens.
  • Dust all surfaces, including overhead light fixtures and the tops of picture frames.
  • Vacuum out vents and dust vent covers.
  • Clean out the window sills.
  • Replace the batteries in all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
  • Replace any damaged or old extension cords or surge protectors.
  • Replace any lightbulbs that have burnt out.
  • Throw or give away anything you no longer want or need.
  • Check the expiration dates on any fire extinguishers and replace them when necessary.
  • Fill in any holes in the wall (like if you’ve moved a piece of art on the wall, for example), and touch up any necessary spots on the wall with paint.

As you can see, there are many tasks you’ll need to complete throughout every area of your home, but the most overlooked, by far, is the baseboards. Baseboards are frequently overlooked, and they can look grimy when left too long. Cleaning them will make a huge difference in how your home looks and feels.

The Kitchen

  • Clean out any expired food in your refrigerator, and, if necessary, reorganize it.
  • Remove the dust on the refrigerator coils.
  • Wash the inside and outside of the refrigerator, making sure to remove and clean the crisper drawers.
  • Clean the oven.
  • Clean the floor and wall behind the oven, refrigerator, and trash can.
  • Wash the cabinets inside and out.
  • Clean out any expired food in your pantry, and, if necessary, reorganize it.
  • Wash the shelves in the pantry.
  • Scrub the counters, the backsplash behind the stove, and the hood.
  • Clean the inside and outside of the dishwasher.

If you have a self-cleaning oven, there are some steps you’ll need to take before you turn it on, including removing any racks or liners inside and thoroughly reading the manual and following the instructions.

Bathroom

  • Clean out any expired or unnecessary (like leftover medication from old prescriptions) medication from the medicine cabinet, and, if necessary, reorganize it.
  • Wash the mirror, including the frame.
  • Clean out any unused or empty shampoo, conditioner, or body wash bottles, as well as any old cans of shaving cream or old razors.
  • Wash out the bathtub and the shower.
  • Recaulk the bathtub if necessary.
  • Clean the toilet inside and out, as well as the surrounding floor and wall.
  • Wash or replace the shower liner and shower mat.
  • Wash the shower curtain.
  • If applicable, clean makeup brushes.
  • Update and replenish the first-aid kit.
  • Wash bathroom mats.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about cleaning your shower curtains all that often, but it’s definitely something that should be done every once in a while. Depending on the fabric of your shower curtains, you might be able to wash them in the washing machine, or you may need to hand wash them.

Living Room

  • Vacuum and clean the upholstery.
  • If you have leather furniture, clean and condition it.
  • Reorganize and clean any storage cabinets you have, like bookshelves or a cabinet for video games or movies.
  • Dust and clean all furniture, and polish all wood furniture.
  • Move furniture so that you can thoroughly clean the floor underneath.
  • Wash all blankets and/or pillowcases.
  • If necessary, reorganize the cords of your electronic devices.

Cleaning the fabric and leather furniture in your living room will make a huge difference in how it looks and feels. If you’re aiming for something new in your living room, consider rearranging your furniture.

Bedrooms

  • Clean all bedding, including the mattress cover, blankets, and throw pillows.
  • Spot clean and flip the mattress. If you have a pillowtop mattress, rotate it.
  • Clean out winter clothing to put in storage.
  • Go through the closet and get rid of anything you no longer wear, and, if applicable, reorganize your clothes and shoes.

By cleaning out any clothes or shoes you don’t wear and reorganizing your closet and drawers, you’ll make what you do wear easy to find. Plus, your room will look less cluttered.

Outdoors

  • Thoroughly sweep and clean the porch, desk, and sidewalk.
  • Clean out the grill.
  • Remove any leaves that are leftover from the fall.
  • Clean out the gutters.
  • Replace any burnt-out lightbulbs.
  • Wash the siding.
  • Trim any out-of-control bushes or vines.

Tasks, like gutter cleaning, are not only essential for making your home look great, but also ensuring that water can run off of your roof. This will help you avoid roof leaks in the future.

Spring cleaning is a lot of work. Find the help you need with Top Rated Local®.

If this list seems long, that’s because it is. There’s no doubt about it, spring cleaning is a lot of work, and it is going to take a considerable amount of time and energy on your part to get it all done. If you’d rather spend your spring outside riding your bicycle or enjoying a cold one on a patio somewhere, I don’t blame you. Luckily, there are plenty of incredible local businesses near you that are ready to help.

Whether you’re looking for a house cleaning company, a painter, a window cleaner, a carpet cleaner, or a roofer, start your local business search with Top Rated Local. When you search with us, you can read a business’ reviews across all verified sites from just one place!

Find your spring cleaning help with Top Rated Local today!

Make the Most of Leap Day!

Leap Days only happen once every four years!

Most years have 365 days in them, but once every four years, there’s a magical 366th day. This day, my friends, is called Leap Day, and it’s necessary for keeping our calendars in sync with the seasons.

February 29th isn’t just a day that keeps our calendars and seasons in line; it’s an extra day that won’t come around again for four more years. What better time to seize the day than on a day that only comes around once every four years?

Seizing the day isn’t just about expressing your undying love to someone new or facing your biggest fear; there are lots of ways that you can seize this February 29th and make the most out of it.

A Few Ideas to Help You Make the Most of Leap Day

#1. Pamper yourself.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably more than a little busy. For most people, weekdays are full of work and the day to day of life, like cooking dinner, taking the dog for a walk, doing the dishes, etc., and weekends are a time to catch up with friends and spend quality time with family. That, unfortunately, leaves very little me-time leftover.

Take advantage of the extra day this year by pampering yourself just a little. For some people, that might mean going to a local nail salon, hair salon, or barbershop. For others, it might mean getting a massage or taking a yoga class. Whatever pampering means to you, the 29th of February is the perfect day to do it.

#2. Share a meal with a friend.

Remember back when you were in high school or college, and you would see your friends almost daily? Sadly, adulthood — and the responsibilities that come with it — makes it challenging for most people to maintain these kinds of friendships. Heck, most of us are so busy that, unless we put it into the Google Calendar, scheduling time to catch up with friends is nearly impossible.

Leap Day is an extra day, though, which makes it a perfectly reasonable day to blow off a few of your adult responsibilities and spend some time catching up with a friend over a delicious meal at a local restaurant.

#3. Learn something new.

Learning and growing are essential parts of a full life. They keep us evolving and changing as life does. Continually learning is also good for our health and wellness; it reduces stress levels, delays symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and improves memory. But, too often, we get so caught up in our busy schedules that we just don’t have time to sit down and learn something new.

Take advantage of the extra day this year by taking some time to learn something new that interests you. That might mean taking a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at your local martial arts center, taking a class on how to create flower arrangements at your local flower shop, or buying a book on a topic you’ve always wondered about at your local book store.

#4. Book a trip.

Few things in life are quite as magical as stepping foot for the first time somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. They say the secret to happiness is spending your money not on filling your home with material goods but on experiences. There are, of course, a lot of unbeatable experiences to be at close to home, but if you’ve always dreamed of going somewhere, near or far, Leap Day is the perfect day to seize the opportunity and finally book your ticket.

Whether you want to travel across the world or across your state, you want to get the best deal on your trip. Working with a local travel agent can be a great option when you want the very best deals. A travel agent can also give you guidance on attractions and tours to take advantage of, where to stay, how to get around, etc.

#5. Treat yourself.

As I’ve established time and time again in this blog, most people are busy. And, while we all need new clothes, shoes, etc. every once in a while, shopping isn’t what it used to be. In yesteryear, when people went shopping, they’d walk around, browsing, and getting out in their community! These days, people just search for exactly what they want online, and that can take the pleasure out of the experience for a lot of people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop online, and it’s often necessary when life gets too busy. But, there’s also something perusing a local boutique or retail store. You get to touch and feel things and try them on! Besides, when was the last time you bought something for yourself? I can’t think of a better day to treat yourself than Leap Day.

#6. Go to the movies.

The end of February is almost here, which means that another Oscars night has come and gone, when I recognized maybe two films that were nominated or received awards. Does this sound familiar to you? Most Americans like going to the movies and would see a lot more of them if they had the time, but having the time is where most Americans run into problems.

Leap Day is a great day to take a couple of hours off of your regularly scheduled life and catch up on a movie you’ve been dying to see. Besides, where else can you get popcorn that’s even remotely in the same league as the popcorn your local movie theater offers?

Make the most of Leap Day with Top Rated Local®.

It’s a day that only happens once a year, so go ahead, take advantage of it and seize the day! Whether your plan is to get your nails done or take a Taekwondo class, turn to Top Rated Local to help you find the right local business for your needs. We can help you find restaurants, movie theaters, beauty salons, nail salons, martial arts centers, travel agents, and more! You can also read reviews and compare local businesses.

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!

Basic Reputation Management for Limousine Companies

Figure out who you are and what you want to be known for

For many people, the choice to hire a limousine service means that they are looking for a service to help them add to or complete a specific kind of experience. It’s important for you to figure out what kind of

customer you are hoping to attract because these customers likely have the bar set pretty high in their minds. Are you the endlessly fun party bus company? Are you the luxury line, ready to whisk people away to their formal events? Or are you an airport staple, offering safety and ease with a touch of class and sophistication?

Whether your company offers one or all of these services, it is important for you to know which you are, which customer you want to attract, and how to show the world exactly what kind of experience it is you have to offer them. Before you even start to navigate the world that is your online reputation, you first need to figure out these basics about your company.

Once you have established who you are and what you offer, think about what your service basics include. It could help to establish a mission statement for your business. This gives you and your employees a guideline for the kind of service your customers should be expecting from you. It also gives you and your employees a common goal and a baseline understanding of what is required from you.

When you have this foundation firmly planted under you and your business, you can start to look at your online reputation with a bit more confidence about what it is you are working towards.

You need to have a great website

Your website is almost always going to be your customer’s first impression of you. More than ever, people are turning to Google to search for local products and services. When they click on your page, you want to not only impress them, but also give them all the information they need to feel confident in choosing you over any other business. Having a professional and informative website is a must.

One way to stand out to potential clients would be to make sure your website’s homepage includes a widget that showcases stellar reviews previous customers have left for you. Customers trust other customers, and nowadays, reviews are worth their weight in gold since the majority of people trust online reviews as much as they do a word-of-mouth referral from a friend or family member.

Another website must-have is a gallery of high-quality photos of your fleet of vehicles. People want to know what they are getting when they are dishing out money for a service, and having excellent photos, a 3-D tour of your cars, or a few action shots of your cars will act as a valuable form of marketing for your business, even if they are only posted on your own website. At the end of the day, your website is there to reassure people that you are the best choice, and they won’t feel certain about that until you give them a reason to trust you. Having high-quality photos of the car they would be paying for is one crucial way to build that necessary trust.

Having profiles of your drivers, complete with headshots and a few quotes from positive reviews, would be one simple way to make your website, and business, stand head and shoulders above the competition. Including a page like this builds familiarity and trust with your brand. People are essentially trusting your employees and your company with their lives and are often hiring a limousine service for an event that is really important to them. You need to do everything you can to show them that you are worth putting that must trust in.

Don’t skip out on social media

No matter what your personal feelings are about social media, it could be a crucial asset to the growth of your business. Social media can give you a valuable tool for connecting with your customers, past, present, and future, and apart from the time investment it takes to manage your profiles, it’s generally a free service.

Think of social media as a collaborative extension of your website. With it, you can establish an easily accessible representation of your company and the kind of service it has to offer. Connecting with your customers on social media is simple, and many may already be looking for the opportunity to follow you! Social media makes it easy to post photos, establish your voice, spread the word about promotions, and interact with your audience. With a well-managed social media profile, you can even turn your customers into your own best spokespeople by having them tag you in their photos and share your profile with friends!

Reviews are vital to your success

The cornerstone of your online reputation depends on the reviews your customers leave for you. More and more people are sharing their opinions and experiences online, whether they are prompted to or not. The fact of the matter is, you have an online reputation, whether you know about it or not, so, we suggest taking charge of it and using it to help promote your business. Good reviews are no longer simply a nicety; they are a necessity.

When you are ready to explore and manage your online reputation, we suggest getting started by claiming your business profiles. Claiming your business can help to build trust in the eyes of your potential customers by legitimizing your business, showing your customers that your business is real, and by giving you the power to make sure that basic information, like your phone number, address, and business name, is updated and correct. This can be a crucial first step in forming trust with your potential customers. If they google your business and call the phone number that is listed, but that number is disconnected or incorrect, they are likely going to think that your business is either closed or unreliable, and both of those options are no good for business, especially for a limousine service, where reliability is a vital trait your customers are looking for.

When your business has online reviews, good and bad, it appears to be more authentic and trustworthy than a business that has no reviews at all. When a business has no reviews at all, people will question whether or not the business is even operational! It is more important than ever to ask every one of your customers to provide their feedback. Good reviews are as good as a referral, and bad reviews give you the opportunity to make things right and show your audience that you genuinely care about the customer experience. We highly recommend responding to all reviews, positive and negative, because doing so shows your audience that you are present and that you care about what they have to say.

Reviews do even more than provide you feedback and provide potential customers with a snapshot of your business; they also help your search rankings! Reviews act as new content, which search engines love. Websites with consistently fresh content are favored by search engine algorithms, meaning that the more fresh and relevant content that is connected to your business, the better for your rankings.


We hope that these tips have been helpful to you and your business. If you are feeling ready to tackle your online reputation, we recommend getting started by claiming your business on Top Rated Local today!

An Online Reputation Carol

Don’t be haunted by the ghosts of your business’ online reputation past, present or future.

An Online Reputation Carol: A Tale of the Ghosts of Online Reputation Past, Present and Future

This Christmas Eve, we’re embracing the iconic holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, and its connection to the plight of the modern-day business and its online reputation. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge was haunted and transformed by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, so too can the ghosts of online reputation haunt businesses today.

These days, a business’ online reputation is everything, and while you may not be able to change what happened in the past, it’s important that you know how to learn from it and grow from it, just as Ebenezer did in Charles Dickens’ cherished Christmas tale.

To celebrate the holidays, we’ve set out to help you use the ghosts of online reputation past, present and future to build and maintain the kind of online reputation you want.

Ghost of Online Reputation Past

The decisions you’ve made in the past that have affected your business’ online reputation cannot be undone — nor can they ever be — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth looking at. In life, we rarely learn and grow without making mistakes or going through challenges, so if you have a few, let’s call them dark spots, in your online reputation’s past, there may be more to learn from than you think, and it might not be too late to turn a negative situation into a growth opportunity. You don’t necessarily have to be haunted by the past, so to speak.

Here are a few things that might be spooking you in the past:

  • Negative reviews – We all make mistakes, and we all drop the ball from time to time. One of those very human times might lead to a negative review, which can hurt, especially when they’re true. Negative reviews can sometimes feel like a blight on an otherwise pristine online reputation, but the truth is that they don’t have to hurt so much. For one, they can surprisingly have a positive impact on your online reputation, because a lot of people simply don’t trust a perfect online reputation (people are always looking for the catch these days) and also because you can turn lemons into lemonade by how you respond.
  • Unclaimed listings – Whether you’ve signed up for profiles or not, your business is listed on review sites and directories, which prospective clients are using to learn about your business and to try to get ahold of you. Unclaimed listings with inaccurate information may have left clients with wrong phone numbers or outdated addresses, which does nothing to build trust in your business.
  • Burying your head in the sand – Your online reputation is there — shaping the way people look at your business and having a profound effect on your future success — and that’s true whether you actively manage it or not. If you sit on your hands and never claim your listings or respond to reviews, you’re leaving your fate up to chance. Trust us, your online reputation isn’t something you want to say, “Bah humbug!” about.
  • Sending the wrong message – What may have seemed like an innocent joke or a cutesy story can easily be taken the wrong way in this day and age. Think about the infamous Peleton commercial that has been ridiculed across social media for days. While the message of this video was that the wife who received the exercise bike was nervous about embarking on her fitness journey but eventually got stronger for it and was appreciative of it, but it came across, to many at least, as a caveman-type husband demanding that his already-slender wife lose a few more pounds. Suffice it to say, sending the wrong message can and does have unintended consequences.
  • Attacks from competitors – Not every negative review a business gets is legitimate. Unfortunately, some businesses decide to attack their competitors’ online reputations by leaving fake reviews, leaving ethical businesses feeling hopeless and unable to defend themselves in many cases.

Ghost of Online Reputation Present

A lot of us are so wrapped up in our own worlds that we forget that everyone out there has their own experiences. Scrooge had the unique gift of being able to observe the experiences of those around him, as a phantom or a fly on the wall, but businesses don’t get that luxury. Businesses rely on reviews, as well as other forms of feedback, to help them get an understanding of what it’s like to be in their customers’ shoes. And just as Scrooge learned about the importance of love, family and togetherness from his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past, so can businesses learn from the feedback they get from their customers.

How to make the most of your brush with the Ghost of Online Reputation Present (Online Feedback)

  • Respond to it – Responding to reviews is a very important aspect of online reputation management. We’re all busy, and it can sometimes feel like pulling teeth to get people to take a few minutes out of their day to leave you a review, so when they do so, you should make sure to thank them for it! You should especially make it a point to respond to any negative feedback that you get. Responding allows you to tell your side of the story and demonstrate your customer service skills.
  • Own it – You should never brush aside or make excuses for feedback that you get from your clients. Even if you think the feedback might be unfair or unwarranted, it’s important that you own up to your part in it. People want to work with honest, transparent businesses that will treat them with respect. They also know that businesses are made up of people who make mistakes, and all they often want is for you to own up and apologize for it. Owning up to feedback will also help you gain more from it. You can learn a lot about how your business can get better by really analyzing the feedback you get from your clients.
  • Showcase it – If all of your reviews are negative, then the problem is much worse than just a mistake or two. Most businesses have as many, if not more, positive reviews than negative ones, but they can only do you so much good when they’re stuck on review sites. One of the best ways to make the most of your positive feedback is to showcase it. After all, it doesn’t always look great for a business to say that they’re the best, but when one of their clients say it, it means a whole lot more.

Ghost of Online Reputation Future

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s final encounter is with the Ghost of Christmas future, a dark, hooded figure that shows him his near future if he stays on the path of cruelty and destruction that he’s on, which, of course, is death. Luckily, for most businesses, even common online reputation management mistakes don’t lead them down a road this dire, but bad reputations have tanked businesses before. And while we can’t scare you with the shocking reality of your future, we can help you safeguard against what may threaten it by teaching you a little bit about how to properly manage it.

How to escape death (the metaphorical death of your business due to an irreparable online reputation) and save Tiny Tim (your business’ sickly online reputation) from his fate.

  • Claim your listings – Establishing trust online is one of the most important things a business can do, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by simply claiming your listings. As we mentioned, it’s not uncommon for unclaimed listings to have incorrect information, and at the very least, claiming your listing ensures that, when people want to call you, they at least get the right phone number. But claiming your listings also gives you more control by allowing you to respond to reviews and even flag reviews that you believe are fake or from jealous competitors.
  • Keep your content fresh – A big part of maintaining your business’ online reputation has to do with SEO (search engine optimization), which affects what position your business is ranked in on Google, and a big part of SEO is fresh, original content being added on a regular basis. In addition to helping you rank higher, producing useful content for your clients helps to educate and empower them, help to build trust in your brand and help you to make connections with them.
  • Be proactive when it comes to reviews – A one-star review does affect a business with two or three five-star reviews as it does a business that has 40 or 50 five-star reviews. It’s all about your average, but the problem is that not a lot of people will write a review unprompted after a good experience. People have high expectations when it comes to service, and when you’re constantly used to good service, it’s hard to be overly impressed with great service. However, the same is not true for people who have had bad experiences; they are typically ready to vent about their experience online and get their frustration out. But there’s hope; the vast majority of people will write a review when asked, and as long as you’re providing great customer service, you can rest assured that those reviews will be positive.
  • Use your past mistakes to change your future – If you’ve had more than a few negative reviews in the past, don’t miss the opportunity to learn from them and use them to do better in the future. Getting bitter never helps anyone to get better, and while your first knee-jerk reaction may be to get defensive or frustrated, a string of negative feedback should be a wakeup call. It helps to remember that clients aren’t out to get you; they want to help you take better care of them and of your other clients.
  • Stay in the know – Reputation management is an ongoing thing, and when someone says something negative about your business in a review, responding quickly and professionally can help to diffuse the situation and prevent the fire from spreading. The best way to stay in the know is by claiming your listing on Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local businesses get monthly email notifications with updates on their overall online reputation, real-time notifications when they get new reviews, a snapshot of their online reputation as a whole and so much more. Another great way to stay alert is by signing up for Google Alerts.

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

Stay in the know about your business’ online reputation and gain all of the benefits of becoming a Top Rated Local business. Best of all, like any good holiday gift, it’s free! Get started today.

A Guide to Turning Your Seasonal Shoppers into Loyal Customers

A Guide to Turning Your Seasonal Shoppers into Loyal Customers

For many small business owners, the end of the year comes with a serious upswing in sales. With so many people out and about shopping for their various holidays, you are probably going to see a surge of new faces turning to you for goods and services. While retail seems to get all the spotlight during the holiday shopping season, there are many businesses that will benefit from the winter festivities. Company parties will be looking for caterers; homeowners hosting their families will be turning to house cleaning companies; people will be headed off to nail salons, barbershops, and beauty salons to get ready to look their best in photos, and weary travelers who were trapped on a plane next to a sneezy toddler may end up making a trip to urgent care. At the end of the day, no matter what kind of business you are in, we encourage you to take the time during this busy season to turn these seasonal shoppers into repeat, and even loyal, customers.

Expand upon the basics

Now more than ever, you need to showcase your very best customer service skills. With traffic, travel, looming deadlines, and busier-than-ever stores, many holiday shoppers are feeling a bit more stressed out than usual. That means that they will be that much more grateful when you or your employees are able to listen to them, help them, and show them that you genuinely care about their experience.

It is easier than ever to take care of all of your shopping needs online, so it is special and important when people choose to shop local and support a small business rather than go the easy route of online shopping or the cheap route of big-box retail. For many shoppers, choosing a small business is a personal choice, made either out of a desire to fuel the local economy, or to experience the level of customer service you can only find in these kinds of stores. That is why it is so important to make sure you don’t neglect customer service during this busy shopping season. To read more about the importance of customer service, check out our previous blog, Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service.

If you feel like you can definitely handle an increase in customers while maintaining your standards of customer service, then we’re going to recommend taking it up a notch and thinking about some of the ways you can expand on and exceed your customers’ expectations. If you can find a few easy ways to stand out to people now, you will have a much better chance of sticking in their minds, impressing them, and ultimately, bringing them back in to do business in the future.

You can start by making sure your store is in tip-top shape, possibly even investing in a good deep-cleaning. It might be fun to decorate the space, turning it into a winter wonderland, creating a whimsical window display, putting up a hashtag wall, or going all-out with any seasonal decor of your choice.

Maybe you could offer free shipping on any in-store purchases over a certain price, giving your customers a chance to continue their shopping unencumbered by bulky bags. One surefire way to stand out is to offer the option of gift-wrapping! For many, the idea of wrapping a gift comes with an overwhelming feeling of dread, and even for those who don’t mind wrestling with yards of paper and tape, the option to save time or have a beautifully wrapped gift is a hard one to pass up.

Any way that you can enhance the experience of shopping in your store, whether by making it more beautiful or whimsical, having attentive and knowledgeable staff, or by making your customers’ lives easier, the more likely you will be to stand the test of time and come to the customers’ minds the next time they are in need of whatever you provide.

Expanding on your customer service basics can also extend beyond the time your shoppers are physically in your store. At the time of checkout, if you ask for an address, you could send a hand-written thank you note to them, reminding them of your business and the excellent service they received there. This small gesture is one way you can show your customers how grateful you are that they chose your business, and reminds them of the kind of personalized attention and care they can receive when shopping with a small business. These are the kinds of things that give small businesses an advantage over the big chain stores.

Give shoppers an incentive to come back

You can expect that seasonal shoppers aren’t only shopping at your business, and with the whirlwind of shopping, cooking, travel, and family that many people experience duri

ng this season, it can all pass by in a blur to them. If you want to stand out in the memories of these shoppers, you might want to consider giving them some kind of incentive to revisit your business.

One way to incentivize shoppers to revisit your store is to offer some kind of coupon or discount on a future purchase. Remember, this does not just apply to retail stores; a home cleaning company can offer a coupon for a spring cleaning discount, like, “Redeem this coupon in April for 10 percent off any one cleaning service.” Someone coming in to get their hair cut and colored before visiting family for the holidays could be surprised when you offer them a free conditioning treatment with the next service. Someone who signs up for a gym membership in the month of December could be wowed when they are offered a punch card to bring along a set number of guests for free. Since they are already committed to returning, maybe you can incentivize them to bring along a friend!

Many holiday shoppers are likely to be out purchasing gift cards for family and friends, meaning they may not spend much time in your store looking around or getting an idea of the out-of-this-world customer service you provide. You can persuade them to come back and spend some more time in your business by offering coupons or discounts with the purchase of a gift card. By giving them a coupon that is good through the end of January, or by providing an offer like, “If you buy a gift card worth $25 or more, you get 15 percent off your next purchase,” you are inviting this shopper to come back and check out your store for themselves. There are many bigger retail locations that successfully use a similar model: “For every $50 you spend now, get $10 off between this date and this date.” Giving your shoppers a discount in order to get them back in your store could end up paying off for you in the long run when they become familiar with you and your service, and become loyal future customers.

Stay in their minds after they’ve left

In addition to staying fresh on the minds of your customers through coupons and future shopping incentives, one simple way to stand out in the minds of your customers is by offering the option to email their

receipt to them. I know full well that, when a cashier hands me a receipt, I am shoving that thing into my purse, never to be seen again. With e-receipts, you cut down on unnecessary paper waste, your customer will have a hard–to-lose digital copy of their transaction, you can craft a sweet and personalized message to accompany the receipt, and you can send a follow-up thank you message to their email a few days or weeks after the transaction, reminding customers of your service and your business. While you never want to spam your customers into a state of resentment, a well-crafted, post-holiday thank you message could be really appreciated and could make you stand out in their minds. You could even send out a discount code as a message of appreciation, reminding people of your store and giving them a tangible reason to revisit.

Be ready for returns

While we may all be out there trying our best, sometimes, we don’t quite hit the mark with the gifts we give. After the holiday rush is up, you can probably expect to see a few people coming in to make returns or exchanges. Make sure your employees are well-trained and ready to handle these requests. When a customer is making a return, it might be worth it to see if they would rather exchange their item for something else. By giving them the chance to at least take a look around your business, you give yourself the opportunity to get to know this customer and wow them with your service. Even if they don’t want anything for themselves, they may be inspired to come back and get something for someone else. Make sure that you have a process in place to handle returns and exchanges, and make sure it is a simple process for your customers.

 


From all of us here at Top Rated Local, have a safe and happy holiday season!

Tips To Fix A Broken Reputation

Five Things You Can Do To Fix A Broken Reputation

Why your online reputation matters

It is the hope of any business owner that the business they have invested so much time, energy, and funding into will be beloved by all, and will be known for its reliability, excellent service, and quality products or services. While it’s great to wish and work for an easy time and a naturally stellar reputation, it’s entirely likely that some kind of trouble will end up finding you, and when that happens, you’ll want to be prepared to recover your reputation and maintain your status as a business people trust.

Warren Buffett once said,

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

We can’t stress enough how important your online reputation is. More and more, people are turning to the internet to do their research before deciding to give their business to companies. When it comes time for them to look into your business, you want to show them that you have the kind of reputation that means they will feel comfortable investing in you.

In today’s digital world, blunders and mishaps don’t often stay quiet for long, and once negativity starts showing up publicly, it often starts to expand and multiply. Whether your reputation has taken a small jab or has been knocked back by a solid blow, you’re going to need to do some reputation repair. When the time comes to manage and fix your online reputation, will you know where to begin? To give you some peace of mind, first, know that you are not alone. No business is immune to negative reviews or the eventual screw-up. What’s important is that you care and want to make things right. When the idea of repairing your reputation feels overwhelming, know that you have already made a big step in the right direction by simply making the decision to start! Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are not the first or last business owner this will happen to, and read on for a list of five things you can do to help fix a broken reputation!

Own Your Past. 

There are few things as powerful as a person or business that is willing to admit to its faults and make a sincere apology to those affected by the blunder. When you come off as defensive, defiant, or irritated, people rarely see you as in control and trustworthy, they see someone who is more concerned about their pride than their customers’ experiences. If the hit to your reputation came in the form of a scathing online review, take a minute to think about both what the customer said and what they felt. Chances are, this customer left your business feeling unheard or dissatisfied for a legitimate reason. Other customers and potential future customers will be able to read, not only this review, but also the way you respond to it. This is where a little humility and sincerity are going to take this negative and give you the chance to look good to your audience. By acknowledging that this customer’s concerns are noticed and worth responding to, you show your audience that you care and that you are paying attention. You don’t need to confess to any specific grievances, but think of it this way, this customer is sad, you are probably sorry that this customer is sad, so, say so! By saying something along the lines of, “I apologize that you did not get to experience the incredible customer service we hope to provide to each and every one of our patrons. I want to hear more about this visit, get the opportunity to make this right, and show you the kind of service we strive to provide. Please contact me at ___,” you can show this customer, and all potential customers, that you care, and that it is a goal for you to be known for providing outstanding service. By apologizing and showcasing that you have a plan of action to make things right, you come off as strong, reliable, and in control of this situation. 

 

If there is a specific incident that has come up that is harming, or could be harmful to, your reputation, you want to stay ahead of the curve by owning up to what has happened. Be honest from the start, apologize, and reiterate what is important to you or what you will do to make things right. One example would be, “I want to apologize for ___. This is not the way we hope to conduct our business, and we are sorry for anyone who was affected by these actions. We want to recommit ourselves to providing trustworthy service to our customers, who we value so much. Thank you for sticking with us through this, and know that going forward, we will always do what we can to earn your support and be the kind of company you are proud to do business with.” Looking at a statement like this, your customers will see integrity, compassion, and a commitment to them, instead of being left in the dark wondering if you’ll ever mention the incident in question. Being willing to address the concern, taking ownership of your part in it, and recommitting yourself to the values your business stands for give customers a reason to trust you, which is more important now than ever.  

 

Strengthen your reputation by creating and sharing engaging content

Content marketing is one very powerful way to promote your business because it connects you with your clients, builds up your relationship and trust with them, and boosts your business’ reputation by establishing you as an authority in your field. Content marketing can be done through a blog, through videos on YouTube or Facebook, by posting to Instagram, by creating infographics, and a whole host of other ways. That’s one of the beautiful things about content marketing, there are so many ways to do it that it really can be customized to your business and its strengths. 

 

Take something as simple as a blog. Many small businesses have found some level of success by using a blog to answer common questions their customers have. If you own a pool service company or a house 

cleaning company, you may think that there’s no way people would be interested in reading about your business, or that the internet is already full of information about your industry, but chances are, your customers do come to you for advice, or would benefit from seeing some engaging content about this year’s coolest pool floaties or how to handle their glass top stove between deep cleans. At the very least, creating and sharing information related to your field will put you a step ahead of your local competitors, which is exactly where you want to be! Regular blogging can help you to establish and build relationships with your customers as well as provide them with helpful content. 

 

Blogging is an easy way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. If you use your blog to address common questions your customers have, you provide them with a valuable tool that also showcases the fact that you are listening to their questions and concerns, and that you have a vested interest in helping them with their issues. The kind of trust you can build by blogging about real questions and concerns you’ve noticed your customers coming to you with is, in and of itself, incredibly valuable. People want to give their business to someone they trust and like, and a blog can not only help with this, but it can also help with keeping your customers engaged and interested in your business, even in times when a bad review or PR nightmare has you feeling down. Basically, a blog can help you establish enough of a baseline rapport with your audience to make it harder for them to turn on you in times of trouble. 

 

Whether it’s blog posts, Facebook videos, or well-timed memes, the content marketing you do will not only help get your audience familiar with you and your business, but it will also count as fresh content, meaning the search engine bots will be more likely to look on your site favorably when it comes time to rank your business. 

 

Smother the bad

You can’t just ignore or erase your bad press or negative reviews, and even if you could, that’s not a business tactic we recommend. Now, this does not extend to fake reviews, which you will want to discredit or get deleted, we’re talking about the everyday hits a business can be expected to take. While you want to address negative incidents and reviews like we outlined earlier, you also want to show people that you have more going for you in the form of authentic, positive feedback. Take a look at where your reputation stands at present. What do your reviews look like? Do you even have any reviews? Are the ones you do have pretty 

good, but a year old? 

 

Now might be a good time to reach out to your customers to tell them how much you would value their feedback and let them know how much it would help your business out. There’s a right way and wrong way to go about this, so make sure that when you are making a push for positive reviews, you are doing so in a way that is authentic and is not incentivizing people to say nice things about you. When people are checking out at your store, you can say something as simple as “Would you please leave us some feedback on our Facebook profile? It would really mean a lot to us.” You’re not begging, or asking for five stars, you are simply telling your customers that their experience with your business is important to you. 

 

Ideally, more and more people will start to share their feedback in the form of online reviews, giving you some much-needed content for people to base their opinions of your business on. You can also use positive feedback right on the front page of your website. If you have had any press about your business, make sure it is featured somewhere on your website. Here at Top Rated Local, every business ranked as one of the top five in its category is given the opportunity to receive a featured article about them. By accepting opportunities like this, those businesses now have a valuable asset in the form of positive press, which they can display in their shops, post about on their social media, and link to on their websites. If your business has had any positive press, like an article about your grand opening or a spotlight for the work you’ve done giving back to the community, be sure to display it where people can easily find it! 

 

Claim your listings and get your name out with social media profiles

You may not be aware, but your business is already listed on review sites all across the internet, including Google, Yelp and Top Rated Local. If you are ready to start managing your online reputation but have no idea where to start, we recommend getting the ball rolling by first claiming all of your business listings. Claiming your business online is free, easy, and there’s no better way to keep ahead of what people are saying about you online. Claiming your business can help to build trust in the eyes of your potential consumers by legitimizing your business, showing your customers that your business is real, and by giving you the power to make sure that basic information. like your phone number, address, and business name, is updated and correct. This can be a crucial first step in forming trust with your potential customers. If they google your business and call the phone number that is listed, but that number is disconnected or incorrect, they are likely going to think that your business is either closed or unreliable, and both of those options are no good for business. Taking your business’ listing off of these sites is not an option, but you do have the option to take control of those listings and give your website an additional SEO boost. Stop a reputation crisis before it begins by keeping up to date and aware of your online presence. 

 

Make reputation management a part of your business plan

With your claimed business listings, an outpouring of creative and engaging content, and a commitment to respond to your reviews in a timely and professional manner, it will soon become apparent that you must dedicate time to managing your online reputation and making that a vital part of the way your business operates. For some, this means carving out a set time of the day to dedicate towards reputation management. For others, it means hiring a full-time content creator, social media manager, or PR person. For even more companies, the time investment it would cost them, or the financial investment it would cost to hire a new employee, has them turning to reputation management companies. There are many reputation management companies out there, so be sure to do your research, ask around, and find one that fits your business’ needs. In any case, don’t leave managing your reputation off your radar until it’s in crisis mode. Recognize the importance of understanding and managing your reputation, and come up with a well-thought-out plan of action for the best way your company can stay on top.

 


We hope you have been inspired to take charge of your online reputation today. One of the easiest ways to get involved is to claim your profile on Top Rated Local. Check it out, and let us help take the stress out of managing your business’ online presence!

The Twelve Days of Reputation-mas

Twas the night before Reputaion-mas, and while on the internet
I learned of ways to manage my reputation
That I didn’t want to forget

So from us to you, we have set them to song
If you know the tune, feel free to sing along

On the twelfth day of Reputation-mas
my true love sent to me:

12 Bloggers Blogging

Generating content is going to naturally bring more traffic to your site. How’s this for power numbers? You have a 434-percent higher chance of being ranked higher on search engines if your website features a blog, and small businesses with blogs generate 126-percent more leads than those without. Regular blogging can also help you to establish and build relationships with your customers and provide them with helpful content. Blogging is an easy way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. By providing your audience with well-written blog posts about your industry, your business, and your target audience, you show your customers that you are an expert in your field. You can even use your blog to address common questions your customers have, providing them with a valuable tool that also showcases the fact that you are listening to their questions and concerns and that you have a vested interest in helping them with their issues. The kind of trust you can build by blogging about real questions and concerns you’ve noticed your customers coming to you with is, in and of itself, incredibly valuable. People want to give their business to someone they trust and like, and a blog can not only help with this, but it can also help with keeping your customers engaged and interested in your business.

11 People Sharing

When you have fun, meaningful, or engaging content, your audience can become your best marketers. Social media makes it easy for people to share the content you’re putting out there, whether that be photos of your product, blog posts about your industry, or information about an upcoming event. When your customers share your content, they are not only sharing your information with a wider audience, they are also giving you a kind of a recommendation, and all at no additional cost or time to you. People generally miss a whole lot of content on their social media feeds, so the more chances someone has of seeing what you’ve put out there, the better it is for you and your business.

10 Social Profiles

If you have any hesitations about your business having a presence on social media, we are here to offer you some insight into why and how social media can actually be beneficial to your business. I promise, it’s not all selfies and hashtags. Social media actually has a really important place in building your online reputation, as well as the connections you have with your current and potential future customers. The number of social media users has been on a steady incline for years and has absolutely no indication of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, over the last five years, the number of people using social media increased by close to a billion! That means that worldwide, there are around 3.2 billion social media users, or, 42 percent of the world’s population. Social media offers you a way to connect and interact with your customers, and even to share user-generated content, which offers a whole host of value for your business. Interacting with your customers on social media is one way to showcase your excellent customer service practices by showing that you care about your audience and are willing to take the time to engage with them. There’s no doubt, customers are using social media to search for products, recommendations, and services. Make it easy for them to find and interact with you! Of course, each social media platform offers its own appeal to different target audiences, and you’ll have to find the most effective one for your business. Here is a list of 11 of the most popular social media sites out there today:

YouTube – YouTube gives you the power to have your own channel where you can upload videos that your subscribers can watch, like, comment on, and ideally share with others. YouTube’s audience is huge, which means that no matter what kind of industry you are in, you likely have an audience that is active on YouTube. With over 2 billion active users, YouTube has been named the second most popular search engine, after Google. Ninety percent of viewers have shared that they’ve discovered new brands or products thanks to YouTube, so, why not yours?

Instagram – Instagram stories are having a big moment right now. Their usage has increased from 150 million to 500 million in the last three years, and it’s no wonder, since they offer fun and exciting ways to engage with your audience without having to make a more permanent post on your profile. Instagram stories can give your audience a feeling of being ‘on the inside’ or ‘behind the scenes’ since they are temporary and offer interactive features, like polls and Q&A’s.

Twitter – Twitter is known for being the social media hub for news, politics, and what’s happening now. For a small business, Twitter can be used to make announcements, promote special offers, reach new audiences, increase brand awareness, and handle customer service requests.

Facebook – Facebook’s audience is huge. With 2.41 billion monthly active users, there’s no doubt Facebook remains a powerhouse in the world of social media. Facebook offers a host of options for your business, including Facebook marketing, shopping options, insights on your business page, and messaging.

Snapchat – One study found that Snapchat has the ability to reach forty-one percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds every single day. Snapchat may have gained popularity for rainbow-barf and puppy-face filters, but it offers much more than that for small businesses trying to connect with a younger audience. Snapchat offers the option for businesses to post ads between stories, create interactive business content, and create and customize their very own Geofilter!

Pinterest – Pinterest is great at driving traffic to your website, and it easily integrates with not only your own website, but also with Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is also the leader of the pack when it comes to product discovery and purchasing power. Staying active on Pinterest can also help you to stay on top of emerging trends.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is made to create professional and business connections, making it an important social media platform for your small business to be a part of. It’s a great place to share your high-quality content, your company’s story, or your featured products. LinkedIn also gives your business some additional legitimacy and helps you to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Even if you don’t end up posting much of your own content, you can stay up-to-date on the news and trends within your industry by following leaders and organizations within your field.

Meetup – Meetup offers plenty of business networking opportunities that any small business owner can attend or host. Meetup offers the valuable opportunity to connect with people in your own community. Meetup’s overall goal is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize,” and according to their website, more than 9,000 groups get together in local communities every single day.

Waze – Though not a traditional social media site, Waze local allows small businesses to advertise to smartphone users who are using the navigation services of the app. That means that ads for your business can pop up like tiny digital billboards

9 Smiling Workers

No matter what efforts you’re putting into your online reputation, you’re not going to get very far if you forget the basics of offering good customer service to each of your customers. During this busy holiday season, your customers may be experiencing more stress than usual, and will greatly appreciate some quality customer service and care, while also being far more likely to notice when it is not present. In case you or your staff need a reminder, you can start by remembering to smile, or at the very least, make sure you are friendly and genuine. Make eye contact when you talk to people to show them that you are engaged and listening to them. It is important that your customers feel seen and heard, as that can make a world of difference in their overall experience. Introduce yourself and try to use people’s names when you speak with them. This added level of personalized attention will put you leagues ahead of any online retailer. Remember to thank your customers for their support. In today’s world, it would be very easy for them to do business at a chain retailer or online, so it means something that they chose to support you. The least you could do is tell them as much. Offering some gratitude is simple, meaningful, and most likely genuine. This one-on-one attention and care might be the reason they chose to shop at a business like yours instead of at one of the chains.

If you want to do a further dive into some of the incredible benefits of offering great customer service, check out our article: Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service.

8 TRL Facts

Here are 8 fun facts about Top Rated Local:

  • You can add the trusted Top Rated Local badge to your website to let your customers know that yours is a top-rated business.
  • With Top Rated Local, you can challenge reviews to ensure they are from actual customers, request re-ratings after you resolve an issue, and send private notes to your reviewers.
  • With the Top Rated Local stats dashboard you have access to a powerful tool for tracking the progress of your online reputation overall, or by an individual review site. With it, you can track your number of reviews, star ratings, listing clicks, your Rating Score™ compared to your competitors, and more.
  • By joining Top Rated Local, you will receive monthly email updates on your overall online reputation.
  • Top Rated Local gives you access to an embeddable review widget. That means you can embed the widget on your website’s review or testimonial page to automatically showcase your recent ratings and reviews!
  • Every year, Top Rated Local awards businesses in every state! Each business’s rank is based on its Rating Score™, which is calculated by aggregating customer ratings and reviews from verified review sites online, and the score is calculated using a proprietary algorithm that analyzes the business’s overall rating, number of reviews, and number of verified review sources.
  • Top Rated Local is built on five pillars of the customer experience; quality, value, timeliness, experience, and satisfaction. These pillars allow consumers to highlight what was important about their experience. It is a true, simplistic feedback system that has more value than reviews alone. It creates a place where the customer experience is amplified, and it creates a more meaningful environment for customers and businesses alike.
  • Once you claim your business, you will receive real-time notifications when you receive new reviews.

7 Online Shoppers

E-commerce is growing fast, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Online shopping is easy, convenient, and is the preferred method of shopping for many people. With so many people turning to online reviews before making any buying decisions, doesn’t it make sense that they can also get the product online where they can compare pricing options, see available options with the swipe of a finger, read dozens of customer reviews, and not have to deal with parking or putting on pants? Small businesses can take advantage of this booming industry by easily setting up their own e-commerce shops. In addition to showing your audience that you are able to stay current and up to date on the latest trends, e-commerce comes with a host of other benefits, like visitor tracking, easy customer feedback, and low cost of operation.

6 RM Statistics

  • Ninety-seven percent of people learn about local companies online. Your website isn’t the only way you can reach a broader audience. By using social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, more people will be able to interact with you, share your business page, and see your content. Having a strong presence online is necessary in order to stand out and be seen.
  • Ninety-one percent of customers ages 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Your reviews matter! Start taking control of your online reputation first by finding out where you currently stand. Claim your listings today to get started. Your positive reviews will give your business credibility and will act as referrals for potential customers. Even your negative reviews can be positive for you if you respond to them and show your customers that you care about their experience and are willing to reach out and make things right.
  • 82 percent of smartphone shoppers are doing searches, including the phrase ‘near me’, a number that has increased by 900 percent over the last two years. That means it’s more important ever to make sure that, when people are looking for a product or service you provide, you show up in their search! People WANT to support local businesses, but if they can’t find you, you might as well not exist.
  • Forty-three percent of consumers do online research even as they are shopping inside a store. You’ll want them to be able to find your business and the reviews people have left you. You will also want to be in the know about what they might find there. Are your prices competitive? Does another store offer an updated version of the product, or offer it in different colors? You might not know, but your customers certainly will!
  • Ninety-two percent of people conducting searches end up choosing a business that is listed on the first page of local search results. Working on your SEO (search engine optimization) and getting listed on the first page of Google is going to be vital when it comes to getting your business noticed.
  • Fifty percent of consumers who did a search on their phones ended up visiting a store within one day. Make sure your information is up to date and that your website is mobile friendly!

5 Good Reviews

Oh the power of online reviews, what more can we say about you? The fact of the matter is, reviews are a vital piece of your overall reputation and the way people see you and your business. Reviews act as the word of mouth of the modern world, and most people trust online reviews as much as they would a referral from a friend or family member. With most consumers turning to the internet to check reviews before making a decision about a product or service, it’s important that, when they turn to your business, there’s something there! Reviews help establish loyalty with your current customers and trust with potential future customers. Not only that, they also help your company’s SEO , which means they can help you show up in search results. One other crucial role reviews play is to provide you with valuable feedback about your business.

4 SEO Tips

  • Work on your meta descriptions – Meta descriptions are the snippet of text underneath the link in a search engine’s results page. This brief description often
  • helps make a person’s decision about whether or not to click on the link that will take them to your site.
  • Be consistent with creating and publishing content – If your site is constantly being updated with new content, it has better chances of having a higher ranking. Updating your site with new and engaging content offers your customers value and incentive for loyalty. Search engines also know that people are searching for relevant and up-to-date information, so when you provide that, they are likely to place you higher in the results.
  • Do your keyword research – Keywords help search engines understand what makes up your website and know where to rank it. Search patterns, SEO, and relevant keywords are constantly changing, so it’s important to do your research and stay updated on the latest trends.
  • Claim your business profiles – The more trusted websites your business is listed on, the more exposure your business website will get, the better your SEO will be. By claiming your businesses, you can also make sure that the information available about your business is consistent and correct across the board.

3 ORM Myths

  • No reputation is better than a bad reputation – When a potential customer is conducting a search and stumble upon a business with no reviews, they are probably going to think that business is new, has tried to get rid of negative reviews, or worse, is a total scam. Negative reviews are by no means the end of the world, in fact, a few negative reviews, and more importantly, how you respond to them, can actually give you a little more credibility than having only five-star feedback.
  • It’s rude to ask my customers for reviews – Many people have this very outdated notion that they can’t ask anything of their customers, or that it is somehow rude to ask them to leave you a review. When you are asking your customers for a review, you’re not asking them to go out of their way, lie, or to only rate you as the best of the best; on the contrary, asking your customers for their feedback shows them that you value their experience and opinions.
  • I should get rid of my negative reviews – Negative reviews don’t have to be a nail in your business’ coffin. While getting one may feel shocking or like a personal attack, it is important to stay calm and think about how you can use this kind of a review to show your audience the kind of business you want to be. Your response speaks volumes to the kind of business you are and your willingness to fix mistakes. Negative reviews can also give some credibility to your online presence. We can’t all be everyone’s cup of tea, and some variety in your reviews shows that enough people are actually customers of yours to give a varied opinion of you and your service.

2nd page on Google

The importance of a first-page ranking for your business is undeniable. The fact is, businesses with first page rankings end up getting over 90 percent of the traffic. Think about your most recent Google searches; when was the last time you continued your search past the first page? Once your business hits page three, the traffic going to your website will be under five percent. If you’re stuck on page two, get started on increasing your ranking by working on your keywords, claiming your business profiles, and generating more unique content.

…and a Reputation that is Pristine

I know it’s a catchy tune, but hopefully you don’t get this one stuck in your head all day. We hope you enjoyed this festive collection of reputation management tips. If you’re ready to begin on your own online reputation journey, we recommend getting started by checking out Top Rated Local today! Have a safe and wonderful holiday season from all of us here at Top Rated Local!