Protecting Your Online Reputation Like a Pro

From negative reviews to data breaches, there are a lot of things that can damage your business’ online reputation.

Every business needs to know how to protect their online reputation.

Reputation management isn’t something that you do once and forget about. It’s something that you have to focus on every day. Staying vigilant is of the utmost importance when it comes to reputation management because there are many things that can endanger your online reputation and undo all of the hard work you’ve done over the years. Here are the biggest threats to your business’ online reputation:

  • Negative reviews – While you can control what kind of service you provide and how you take care of your customers or clients, you can’t control what they say about your business online. Negative reviews can be helpful to both businesses and consumers alike when they’re honest, but they can also do a lot of damage to a business’ online reputation.
  • Brand ambiguity – The last thing that a business wants is for a consumer not to be able to understand exactly what they do or what they have to offer. Brands with ambiguous names (think Apple) have the additional challenge of ensuring that their branding makes what they do clear.
  • Data breaches – According to Statista, in 2018, there were 1,244 data breaches and 446.5 million records were exposed. When a customer entrusts a business with their personal and financial information, they expect that information to be protected, which is why a data breach can greatly damage a brand’s trustworthiness in the eyes of consumers.
  • Unprofessional employee or CEO comments – Nothing can affect a business’ online reputation quite as much as the public comments of the employees or even the CEO. With Twitter, Facebook and the many other social media platforms out there, it’s easier than ever to air grievances and give opinions in a public way, but when you represent a business, that can lead to trouble.

These are just a few examples of the kind of things that can have a negative impact on your business’ online reputation, but you’ll be glad to know that there are also a lot of things you can do to help you protect your brand and keep it strong.

How to Protect Your Business’ Online Reputation

#1. Make customer service your top priority.

Good service is worth its weight in gold, and most people are even willing to pay more for it. When you make it your mission to provide next-level customer service, you don’t have to worry so much about negative reviews, because you’ll be a lot less likely to get them. And when a customer does have a complaint or negative feedback for your business, having finely tuned customer service skills will help you resolve the issue in the most effective possible way.

Ideally, you’ll help to provide your customers with solutions, answers and satisfaction during every part of the process. A great way to avoid negative reviews online is to make it a point to ask frequently about the customer’s experience during the process, as well as after the process is complete. You can’t read your customers’ minds, but you can ask how they feel about their experience with you and make it clear to them that you really do care.

#2. Get more reviews.

For the most part, businesses that are genuinely interested in doing a good job for their customers instead of just making a buck will mostly have positive reviews. However, mistakes happen, as does miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can all lead to a negative customer experience and a negative review. Luckily, those will likely be few and far between, and if you can generate more reviews from your happy customers, they’ll help to drown out any negative reviews you might receive. Here are a few ideas to help you generate more reviews for your business:

  • Ask! – The easiest way to get reviews for your business is also the simplest way — all you have to do is ask! Unfortunately, most people won’t write reviews on their own, but the vast majority of them will write one when asked.
  • Explain why it’s important – People often don’t write reviews because they don’t understand how valuable they can be for the business in question as well as for consumers doing research about which business to work with. It never hurts to educate your clients on how big of a difference writing reviews can make.
  • Send out automatic review requests – Getting in the habit of asking every client to leave a review every time can be daunting, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to automate review requests, including follow-up emails and working with a review generating company.
  • Incentive reviews – This can be tricky, as incentivizing reviews can easily look like buying them, which is definitely unethical and against the rules of many review platforms. That’s why it’s important to incentivize every client to write a review, not just the happy ones, and you should never try to push for a specific star rating or for a certain kind of content.

#3. Respond to reviews promptly.

You can’t write your customers’ reviews for them, and it’s unethical and against the rules to try to persuade them to give you a certain kind of review. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to deal with a one-star review is not to try to get it removed or hidden, but to embrace it, learn from it and respond to it.

Although it’s important to respond to every review you get (after all, the client did take the time to write it for you and at least deserve to be thanked), there’s almost nothing more important to your online reputation than responding to negative reviews. When you respond, you’re able to share your side of the story and to demonstrate to the client (as well as any potential clients that see your response) that you are listening, that you truly care about meeting their needs and providing the very best customer experience, and that you’re willing to own up to your mistakes.

Whatever you do, don’t try to fight a negative review in your response, even if you feel that the review was fake, dishonest or unfair. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) take responsibility for a negative experience that wasn’t your fault, but your response is not the place to fight back. If you do, you’ll come across as petty and immature. The correct way to deal with situations like these is to apologize that they had a poor experience and offer to discuss the matter further personally. You should, of course, also let them know how they can get ahold of you to talk more.

The other part of responding to reviews is doing so promptly. The longer you leave a negative review just sitting there, the more credence it has and the more damage it can do to your online reputation. This doesn’t mean that you should respond to the review right away if you’re feeling defensive or upset about it; it’s always a good thing to cool off and not let your emotions take the wheel. Give yourself a minute or two to gather your thoughts and simmer your emotions, but don’t take too long to respond, or people will think that you don’t care about or aren’t paying attention to reviews.

#4. Be on alert.

When something negative is said about your business online, it won’t help matters if you don’t address it promptly. However, you can’t possibly respond or work to fix the problem if you don’t know that it exists. This is why it’s essential that businesses are on alert when it comes to online reputation. But how? It’s not as if your business is on one review site or one directory. The fact is that there are lots of places negative content about your business could be published, and the task of staying on top of all of it can seem daunting to say the least. Luckily, Top Rated Local® can help.

Top Rated Local is not a typical review platform; it’s more of an all-encompassing reputation platform. Yes, verified customers can and do write reviews on Top Rated Local itself, but it also pulls reviews in from any verified rating source a business is listed on, which could include Google, Facebook, Yelp, The Knot, etc. Additionally, Top Rated Local makes it easy to get a clear idea of a business’ overall online reputation with the Rating Score™ system.

A business’ Rating Score is calculated based on a wide range of variables, including the number of review sites the business is listed on, the number of reviews a business has, a business’ average star rating across review sites and more. The Rating Score is an excellent tool that businesses can use to gain a higher level understanding of where their reputation is at online, and it’s a great tool for consumers, too, because it helps them to choose the right business overall, not just the highest-rated business on Yelp.

Becoming a Top Rated Local business (and claiming your listing on Top Rated Local) also gives business owners several tools to help them keep track of their online reputation. These include real-time notifications when a business receives new reviews and monthly updates with information about a business’ overall online reputation.

In addition to becoming a Top Rated Local business, you can also stay on top of your online reputation by signing up for Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be notified when your brand gets mentioned, but you can also set up notifications to help you learn what people are saying about your competitors. Furthermore, Google Alerts are free and can be sent at whatever frequency you desire, from daily to monthly.

#4. Secure your brand name.

Your brand name is arguably the most important part of your brand, but if you don’t take the proper steps, someone may end up using it against you.

If you haven’t already, it’s important that you register a website with your business name as the domain — for example, BeautifulSmilesDentistry.com. This is one of the most powerful ways that you can protect your reputation online, because it helps to prevent other people (as well as your competitors) from stealing this essential piece of real estate from you and potentially even using it against you.

Registering your business name as a domain is critical, but you shouldn’t stop there. It’s also important to secure your brand name across all of your social media platforms. The last thing that you want is for someone with malicious intent to be able to pose as your business on Twitter or Instagram, and the best way to prevent that from happening is by securing your business name on social media.

If you want to truly control the conversation surrounding your brand, you’re going to need to be able to fill up all 10 spots on page one of the SERP (search engine results pages) when your business name is googled. Your website can only take up one of those spaces, and securing your brand name across several social media sites can go a long way toward filling up the other nine spots on page one.

#5. Prioritize publishing content.

Reputation management is about controlling the conversation that’s centered around your brand, and a big part of that is determined by what ranks when your brand name or another targeted keyword is searched online. In an ideal world, securing your brand name across your website and social media profiles would be enough to ensure that you rank well for what you want to, but there’s a little more to the story than that.

The truth is that securing your brand name is just the first step to achieving SERP domination; you also have to be willing to publish content regularly on your website and social media platforms. This may look like publishing articles or blogs on your website, posting tutorials and other videos on YouTube, or even sharing behind-the-scenes images from your business on Instagram.

Another great way to control the conversation about your brand is to publish press releases regularly. Press releases are the perfect way to announce upcoming sales, events and other goings-on at your business. Plus, the more content out there that you control, the farther down in the SERP negative content about your business will rank.

The benefits of posting content regularly are many. Not only does publishing content more often help to ensure that your website and social media pages rank in the SERP, but it also helps to establish your business as an authority in your industry. As an industry expert, you have a lot of knowledge to share, and when you publish content regularly that’s informative, in-depth and helps answer questions your clients have, it helps to build trust in your brand.

Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to start managing your online reputation.

Taking a proactive approach to reputation management with the above steps is far preferable than waiting for disaster to strike. An effective crisis management strategy starts long before a crisis occurs. Waiting for a crisis to act or being reactive with your reputation management strategy is a surefire way to endanger your business’ online reputation.

If you’re ready to start taking a proactive approach to reputation management, the best way to get started is to sign up for Top Rated Local and/or claim your listing. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll enjoy a long list of benefits, including the ability to reply to reviews, a prioritized profile ranking on Google, a Top Rated Local badge that you can display on your website and more frequent updates to your Rating Score. Become a Top Rated Local business today!

An Ode to Small Businesses

In honor of last week’s Small Business Saturday, we’re celebrating the many ways that small, local businesses make a difference in their communities and in the world.

Small businesses are absolutely essential.

Small, local businesses are often underestimated by their communities as well as by the people who own and run them, but the impact they have is anything but small. Last week, Saturday, November 30th, was Small Business Saturday, a holiday that celebrates small businesses and encourages communities to give back by shopping local, and in order to celebrate Small Business Saturday and the many small businesses that serve their communities, we’ll be discussing a few of the ways that small businesses make an impact.

7 Reasons Small Business Matters

#1. Small businesses create jobs.

There are a few big companies that employ a large percentage of Americans, but when it comes to employment, the big corporations just can’t compete with the power of small business. Did you know that 99.7 percent of all employer firms are represented by small businesses? Additionally, small businesses are responsible for paying out 45 percent of the private payroll in the United States, and they have generated up to 80 percent of the net new jobs every year for the past decade.

The United States’ 2018 Small Business Profile found that the 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S. employ 47.5 percent of the private sector and added 1.9 million net new jobs for the last year that was studied. Here’s what Acting Chief Counsel Major L. Clark, III had to say about the importance of small business:

“Small businesses are the United States’s economic engine. They are the key to the state’s ability to grow economic output, entrepreneurship, and private sector employment.”

#2. Small businesses help local economies thrive.

Unlike when you shop with giant online retailers and other large corporations, when you spend your money with local businesses, that money largely goes back into the local economy. Local businesses often have local suppliers, are more likely to offer local goods and hire locals to help them serve their customers. When those businesses need signage, they turn to local sign companies, and when those businesses need an architect and an interior designer to design their new location, they also turn to local professionals.

Each and every one of these factors leads to a multiplying effect for your money when you shop locally. In fact, every dollar you spend at a local business can bring as much as $3.50 into your local economy.

In addition to aiding local economies, small businesses also give back to their local communities through charitable donations and volunteering. According to the NFIB National Small Business Poll, 91 percent of small businesses gave back to their communities through direct-cash contributions, in-kind contributions or volunteering, and 41 percent of them contribute by doing all three.

#3. Small businesses offer one-of-a-kind products and services.

Small businesses are as varied as they are numerous. Every week here at Top Rated Local, we announce the award winners in a new state across 62 different categories, as well as the top 100 businesses in the state. Our categories consist of everything from accounting firms and barber shops to window cleaners and veterinarians, but in our top 100, there are always a few totally unique businesses.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the standard businesses, like jewelry stores, family doctors offices and restoration companies, but the most unique businesses are the ones that bring the most character to their communities. From lawn care companies that utilize goats instead of lawnmowers to escape rooms and board game cafes, each business is unique and special in its own way.

#4. Small businesses give access to expertise.

Small businesses give back to their communities in so many different ways, all of which are incredibly valuable, but there’s one way that’s all too often overlooked — through education! Small businesses are owned by experts in a variety of fields. Not every person who goes to beauty school has what it takes to own a beauty salon, and not every person who passes their CPA exam will go on to open an accounting firm. Furthermore, starting a business takes a whole lot of time and education, and it’s not something that just anyone can do or wants to do.

In addition to contributing to the local economy, the community’s well-being and creating jobs, when consumers choose to shop locally, they also give their clients access to their expertise. Whether they’re hosting a lunch and learn about how to save for your first home or giving free massages and teaching runners about proper form at a 5k, small businesses of all types are bettering their communities by giving them access to their knowledge and experience.

#5. Small businesses keep the world green.

As we previously mentioned, small businesses are more likely to utilize local resources, which means that fewer cross-country deliveries are required, helping to reduce the number of travel miles required each and every day. And when people make the commitment to shop locally, it also reduces the number of miles they travel to shop.

Another big environmental benefit of shopping at small, local businesses is land savings. Big box stores tend to be — well — big. These stores tend to require a whole lot of retail space, and that’s not even including the space needed for parking. Cities across America have seen green, open spaces get eliminated by the spread of big business, but by supporting local businesses, you can keep your open spaces open, protecting habitats of a wide range of species! On the other hand, when small businesses decide to expand, they often utilize existing spaces.

#6. Small businesses provide better service.

Let’s face it, for large corporations with all of the financial resources in the world, the stakes are about as low as they can get where customer service is concerned. If the service they provide is subpar and they end up losing a customer because of it, they’ll simply move onto the next customer. Corporations also have the resources to hire professionals to help them clean up the consequences of poor customer service.

Small businesses have a lot more at stake than large corporations, which gives them an incentive to invest in providing next-level customer service to each and every customer. Small business owners often work and live alongside the people they serve as well, giving them even more motivation to get it right when it comes to service. Last but not least, if a large corporation makes a mistake and gets sued, they’ll simply pay what they owe and move on with their lives. But for a small business, legal trouble can lead to disaster, and it gives them yet another reason to ensure that they get the job done right the first time.

#7. Small businesses keep the competition alive.

In this day and age, it’s easy to forget that there’s more than just a few different businesses out there, because it seems like there’s a monopoly in almost every industry. But still, for every big box store, there are thousands of local businesses that offer the same goods and products, as well as more educated staff and better customer service. And believe it or not, these businesses are the ones that are keeping the competition alive, which helps to set a higher standard of service and helps to keep prices low.

In addition to lower prices and better service, the competition that small businesses help to create also leads to increased innovation and choice for consumers. Think about it, with just a handful of big box stores, there’s only one sales plan, but with a multitude of small businesses, there could be thousands of sales plans all based on the individual needs of the business owners in the community, leading to a more diverse range of goods and services.

Make your small business stand out with Top Rated Local.

If you’re the owner of a small business, we salute you and commend you for everything you do for your community and the world. And we’d love to give back to you by helping you maintain the kind of reputation that helps you stand out online and get noticed.

With Top Rated Local, small, local businesses have the ability to keep a pulse on their online reputation as a whole — across multiple verified review sites — in one place. Our Rating Score™ is calculated by several variables, including how many review sites a business is a listed on, how many reviews a business has on those review sites and how many stars those reviews are, how recent the reviews are, and while it can’t give you a detailed look into your overall online reputation, your Rating Score is the perfect way to get a general overview of what’s going on.

These days, a business’ online reputation is everything, and with Top Rated Local on your side, it’s never been easier to build and maintain a solid online reputation. Get started today!

Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service

There’s simply nothing more important than customer service.

Both your business’ online reputation and its success are dependent on the kind of customer service you offer.

Let’s face it, customer service is a key part of your success, both online and offline. No matter how much money you spend on advertising, or how many man-hours you spend handing out flyers or hosting community events, none of that matters without great customer service. At the end of the day, your daily interactions with your customers are truly what determines what people say about your online and in-person to their friends and family.

When you provide great customer service for the people you serve, it makes asking for reviews — or simply reminding your customers that leaving feedback for you online is an option — all the easier. It will also help you rest easy in knowing that, regardless of which customer decides to give you a review, you’ve given it your all and are more likely to end up with a positive, five-star review than the kind of review that makes you cringe and want to hide it. And the more reviews your business gets, the more visible it will be because reviews play a role in SEO (search engine optimization).

8 Reasons Why Customer Service is Essential to Your Business’ Success

#1. Satisfy your customers.

While, ultimately, no one is in business out of the goodness of their heart — we all need to make money to eat and live comfortably after all — but any business that’s worth its salt aims to meet their clients’ needs first and foremost. And the very best way to do so — and to stand out while you’re doing it — is to make customer service your number one priority.

When you open the door to building relationships and communication with your customers by providing great customer service, you’ll also be opening the door to more honest feedback, which will only help to further the cause to satisfy your customers’ needs. Customers who feel more comfortable with you will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you as well, and you can use that feedback to ensure long-term relationships with existing customers, as well to attract new customers.

#2. Reap the benefits of repeat business.

Acquiring new customers is important for every business. Your business needs to stay relevant, and you want your brand to spring to mind when consumers in your community have a need you can meet. But here’s the thing about acquiring new customers — it’s not cheap, or quick for that matter. Whether you’re spreading the word about your business through a giant billboard on the side of the interstate, Google ads or television commercials, that sort of advertising may be well worth the money but it doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it costs approximately an average of five times more to attract a new customer to your business than it is to keep an existing one.

Not only does it cost a lot more to acquire new customers, but new customers — on average — won’t spend nearly as much money as your lifelong customers will. One study found that a repeat apparel customer will spend an average of 67 percent more in months 31 to 36 of shopping with a business than in the first six months combined. As a result, another study found that if a business can increase its customer retention rate by just 5 percent, it can yield a 25 percent increase in profit.

#3. Build an online reputation that speaks for itself.

The sheer number of businesses that come up when someone googles “restaurant near me” or “electrician near me” is overwhelming, and when there are pages and pages of plumbers to choose from, how could anyone possibly determine which one is which and which one is right for their needs? The one and only way for someone to differentiate between the many businesses online is through their online reputation.

Building and maintaining your business’ online reputation is not something that happens overnight and not something you can just set and forget. It’s something that you build and maintain over time through lots of consistent hard work. Much of this work happens online, but what it largely boils down to is the kind of service you provide for your customers face to face.

Providing above-and-beyond customer service is a great way to encourage your customers to write reviews for your business online (it doesn’t hurt to give them a little reminder as well), but it’s also a great way to protect your business’ online reputation. That’s because people who have a negative experience with your business are a whole lot more likely to write a review than people who have had a positive experience. In other words, you only have to mess up a little to get a one-star review, but you have to really go out of your way to compel a customer to leave a five-star review without any prompting. This means that, by making outstanding customer service a priority in your business, you’ll not only prevent negative reviews from tarnishing your reputation but when one does come up, all of your many positive reviews will drown it out.

#4. It reduces employee turnover.

Just as a commitment to providing fantastic customer service leads to happier, more satisfied customers, it also leads to happier, more satisfied employees. The fact of the matter is that most employees want to be seen as professional and capable and to satisfy the customers they serve on a personal basis. When a company treats its customers like pure gold, it creates a sense of empowerment in their employees and makes them proud. Additionally, no one likes to be the focus of a customer’s dissatisfaction or to be unfairly mistreated because of a company’s reputation for bad customer service. All of this leads to increased employee satisfaction, which leads to employees working harder and helps to reduce employee turnover.

Retaining more employees means that you’ll have to spend less money on attracting new employees, going through the hiring process — including paying for background checks — and training employees. It also means that your customers will consistently be served by people who have more experience and are better equipped to handle their needs, which will, in turn, lead to even better customer service in the future.

#5. Customers are willing to pay more for extraordinary service.

Your competitors probably offer a lot of the same things you do in terms of the services or goods that you provide, and for most businesses, the only real way to stand out is in the kind of customer service they offer. A lot of businesses may not think that that means much to their customers, but the reality is that consumers value customer service quite a bit — so much so that they are often willing to pay more for it.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay as much as 25 percent more for the same product or service if they also get better service. Not only that, but half of all consumers also feel compelled to spend more with a business after they’ve had a positive customer service experience. The best part is that all it takes is one out-of-the-ordinary experience to make a lasting impact on a customer.

#6. You can’t buy word of mouth.

When someone needs a roofer or a financial advisor, the first place they’ll look is likely online, but this doesn’t mean that word of mouth is dead — far from it in fact. When someone gets good service from a business, they tell their friends and family about it. Ninety-seven percent of customers will tell others, and that’s not a number you can easily ignore.

Although most people trust online reviews as much as they trust a referral from a friend, even online reviews aren’t quite as effective as word of mouth. Even if consumers’ needs are already being met by a business, 50 percent of them will be willing to make the switch for better customer service.

Not only is word of mouth the most effective form of advertising a business can have, it’s also one of the only free forms of advertisement out there. And the best, and possibly the worst, part of all is that word of mouth isn’t something you can buy no matter how much you may want to. The only way to generate word of mouth for your business is by earning it through exemplary customer service.

#7. Increase customer loyalty.

When you provide incredible customer service, it leads to customers who are more satisfied and more willing to remain loyal to your business. That means that whenever your customer needs a product or service you provide, they won’t waste their time by relying on your competitors or looking for other businesses; they’ll just turn to you.

As we’ve already mentioned in this article, customer loyalty leads to an increase in profits because long-term customers are more likely to spend more with a business they trust than new customers are with a business they’re in the process of getting to know. Customer loyalty also leads to referrals and reviews, which heavily impact your business’ on- and off-line reputation. The bottom line is that customer loyalty is worth its weight in gold, and the only way to get it is by providing the kind of service that your customers will remember.

#8. Reduce the chance of business failure.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of businesses will fail within 10 years of opening their doors — 96 percent of businesses in fact. And although there is a wide range of reasons why businesses don’t make it to their 11th year, the problems that can arise from providing poor customer service can’t be overlooked.

By simply focusing on customer service day in and day out, you can avoid (or at least reduce the chance of having to deal with) many different issues that can lead to business failure, including a bad reputation, a high employee turnover rate, profitability issues and even lawsuits.

Become a Top Rated Local® business today!

As we mentioned, focusing on customer service is a must for the success of your business, which includes its online reputation. And when you take the lead and become a Top Rated Local business, you can better show off your customer service skills online (in how you respond to your online reviews) and attract even more new customers to your brand. The fact is that, when it comes to your business’ online reputation, there’s no better first step to take than becoming a Top Rated Local business, and the absolute best part is that signing up is free! Get started today.

The Importance of Online Reputation for Family Doctors

The Importance of Online Reputation for Family Doctors

While a doctor’s service and interaction with their clients will happen almost entirely in-person, their online reputation is still critically important when it comes to attracting new patients and keeping old ones engaged. More than ever, people are trusting online reviews as their go-to when it comes to trusting businesses. If your online reputation is lacking, you will likely be losing out on some valuable business. Even medical practices who have gotten a steady stream of business thanks to in-network care can still see negative effects from having a less-than-stellar online reputation. In a recent survey done by Doctors.com, they found that approximately 80 percent of respondents have used the internet for healthcare-related searches, and that 63 percent will choose one provider over another based on their online reputation. That means that your online reputation is enough to influence your potential future patients’ decisions, and though many doctors get their new patients through network referrals, those patients are not likely to stick with you if your reviews are negative. In fact, in a 2016 survey, 48 percent of respondents said that they would choose to go out of network in order to see a provider that had better reviews than an in-network provider. All that being said, your online reputation matters now more than ever. If you have never taken the time to check on where your reputation currently stands, it can seem like a daunting task, but it is important to take that leap and take control of how your business is seen by your online audience.

We have compiled a list of our top five tips for managing your online reputation as a family doctor.

Find out where your reputation stands

To begin your journey towards a stellar reputation, start by finding out where your business currently stands. Claim your business online; it’s free, easy, and there’s no better way to get your finger on the pulse of what people are saying about you. 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, especially for a family doctor, where reliability tends to be one of the traits people value the most. Claiming your profiles can also help to boost your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings by providing details about your company and providing links back to your website and social media profiles. By having links from trusted sites point back to your website, you ultimately have a better chance of gaining a higher ranking in the search results. Another added benefit of claiming your profiles is that you can easily respond to your reviews. We highly recommend responding to all reviews, positive and negative, because doing so shows your audience that you are present and that care about what they have to say.

Ask for reviews and feedback

The long and short of it is businesses need reviews in order to thrive. While that is true regardless of industry, that is especially important for doctors. Many people feel nervous about going to the doctor, and seeing positive, or negative, reviews about your practice can make or break a person’s decision to become your patient. Some business owners don’t feel good about asking for reviews, but there is absolutely no shame in doing so, especially when you share with your customers how valuable their feedback is. Most people won’t write a review on their own, but according to a 2016 survey, 70 percent of customers said that if they were asked to leave a review for a business, they would. So, at the end of a visit, when a patient is thanking you for quick and compassionate care, or telling you how great your staff is or how welcoming your waiting room is, it is perfectly acceptable to tell them that the best way they can thank you is by leaving a review online. When asking for a review, you want to shy away from pushing or asking for a five-star review. It’s important to hear about your patients’ genuine experiences, so we recommend asking every patient for their feedback, and wording your request in that way. While asking for feedback in-person is a great start, there are a few other ways to kindly remind or prompt your patients to give you their feedback. One of those ways is through an email follow-up, where you can even go so far as to link your preferred review sites. Another great way to ask for feedback is through hand-written notes! This could be in the form of a thank-you note, a seasonal or holiday greeting, or a birthday card. People appreciate the time and effort it takes to write and send a letter, and even if they don’t end up writing a review, they will be more likely to refer you to a family member or friend and remember your practice when it comes time for them to get medical services.

Monitor and respond to your reviews

Once the reviews start pouring in, it’s important for you to be proactive about responding to them. Doing so boosts your credibility and likeability in the eyes of your audience. When you get a positive review, make sure to thank that patient for taking the time to leave you some feedback. When a negative review comes in, don’t panic. Though it may feel like a personal attack, people who leave negative reviews are usually feeling pretty bad, and that likely stems from feeling unheard, disregarded, or somehow not taken care of. It’s important to show your audience that you are receptive to all forms of feedback, and that you value the opportunity to improve your business or fix a bad situation. Simply responding to reviews is enough to show your audience that there is someone real on the other side of the screen who is paying attention to them. In a previous article, we outlined some of the best ways to handle your negative reviews. It is important to keep in mind that however you choose to respond and engage with your online audience, you must stay in compliance with HIPAA.

Learn how to navigate HIPAA when responding to your reviews

In the healthcare industry, it is important to remember that you have HIPAA to contend with, and that can be tricky land to navigate when it comes to responding to reviews online.

If you are worried about violating HIPAA when responding to your business’ online reviews, we suggest starting out by having a template you can draw from for both positive and negative reviews. First, you need to know what you can and can’t say, and then, you need to show your clients that you genuinely care about their experience, whether that experience was positive or negative. Even in the case of a positive review, it is important that you cannot confirm or give details about anyone’s time as a patient.

Keeping in mind that you need to avoid posting any information that identifies or confirms someone as a patient, saying something like, “I am sorry you had to wait longer than anticipated before being seen,” is in violation of HIPAA, as is, “I’m so glad you loved your experience with Dr. Mendoza!” Both of these phrases confirm that the person who left the review did, in fact, visit your practice as a patient.

When it comes to responding to a negative review, you could try something more like this:

“We strive to provide our patients with the best quality care and experience, and your feedback could help us improve. Please call our office at xxx-xxx-xxxx, and we will make the time to personally address any concerns.”

With this, you have shown a personal investment in the experience of your patients; you have highlighted a value that you hope to uphold or have shown your patients the way you hope to be known or are otherwise known; you have shown that you value feedback and are open to growth; you have shown future clients that you value online reviews, and you have not violated any of HIPAA’s privacy laws!

While not necessary, you could also feel free to mention HIPAA in your response. This might serve as a reminder to the reviewer that their concerns will not be solved or addressed further online, prompting them to take the conversation offline, as requested. If you wanted to mention HIPAA, you could add to your response:

“Due to HIPAA privacy laws, we cannot address your concerns publically, but we do want to connect with you and look forward to hearing from you.”

Inviting a patient to address their concerns offline shows them that you value them and their feedback. Oftentimes, when someone has negative feedback, their bad experience comes from a place of not feeling heard or valued. Use this opportunity to show them that this is not the case. Your actions could result in the person removing the negative review, updating it, or even becoming a loyal patient

Positive reviews deserve a little attention, too. A quick, HIPAA-safe response to a positive review shows your patients that you are paying attention to their feedback and care about them and their experience. One response could look like:

“Thank you for this feedback. We always strive to deliver the best in quality care, and we love to hear about positive experiences.”

Or:

“We value this positive feedback, and love to know when we’re doing something right. We try to always uphold our commitment to offering great value and excellent service. Thank you!”

Of course, you don’t want to copy and paste the same exact response to every single review and comment you receive, but hopefully, these templates can give you a place to start, so that you can feel confident and comfortable navigating the restrictions of HIPAA online. Remember to always be polite and professional, and to set an appropriate tone to any response you give.

Maintain a regular social media presence

Keeping an updated and interesting presence on social media is an effective way to keep in touch with your audience, earn some organic search traffic, and even give you some credibility as an expert in your field. Social media doesn’t have to be all selfies and hashtags; it can be a valuable way to show off what’s new and upcoming in your practice, highlight your exceptional staff, or even be a place where you publish articles specific to your industry. Especially in the medical field, you can show your patients that you are keeping up with the current trends and studies in the world of health and medicine, which is really important for many patients’ peace of mind! By doing this, you are not only providing useful and engaging content, but you are also establishing yourself as a leader in the industry. Maintaining a regular social media presence keeps you fresh in the eyes of your patients and gives them some familiarity with you and your practice. This might give them some extra incentive to leave you some positive feedback or share your profile with others. You can also lean into the fun side of social media and host giveaways, post silly photos, or share a bit about the behind-the-scenes life of your employees. This kind of post humanizes your practice and shows that you are fun and engaging, which can help to ease the nerves of patients who might be nervous about visits to the doctor.


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!

How to Show Your Customers How Thankful You are for Them

Without your customers, your business would be up the creek without a paddle.

This year, show your customers just how grateful you are for them.

Regardless of what industry your business is in, or how big or small it is, your customers are the lifeblood of your business. You rely on your customers day in and day out, and when they show you loyalty, going out of your way to show how grateful you are can go a long way.

Not only will showing your customers how thankful you are for them help to encourage them to keep coming back to you instead of your competition, but when you go out of your way to show that you care, it will also encourage them to leave reviews for your business online. Every business needs reviews. Let’s face it; gone are the days when people would ask their friends and family for recommendations when looking for a local business. These days, most prospective customers research local businesses online instead, and if you don’t have any reviews, the fact of the matter is that you’re missing out on business.

In addition to helping you attract new customers online, reviews also help to make your business more visible online by improving your rankings.

The bottom line is that it pays to show gratitude for your customers, and we’ve come up with a long list of ways to do just that!

10 Ways to Show How Thankful You are for Your Customers

#1. Provide next-level customer service.

One of the best ways to show your customers how thankful you are for giving you their business is to go above and beyond when it comes to customer service. Go out of your way to ensure that, regardless of whether they’ll be spending a lot of money or a little money with you, they’ll always get an unbeatable experience with your business.

How does providing good customer service show your appreciation when it’s something you should be doing anyway? Customer service isn’t always focused on by all businesses, and the ones that do focus on it don’t always focus on it enough. And you’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make to simply take the time to listen to your customers and to follow up with them to ensure that their needs have been met.

Furthermore, consumers highly value customer service, and many of them will even be willing to pay more for it. In fact, 86 percent of consumers say they’d be willing to pay up to 25 percent more for the same service in order to get superior customer service.

#2. Politely educate your customers.

From plumbers and electricians to financial advisers and real estate brokers, local businesses are littered with industry experts with a wealth of knowledge to share. And if you really want to impress upon your customers just how thankful you are for them, then it behooves you to share some of that knowledge with them! This doesn’t mean that you have to — for example — give a client a crash-course in replacing knob-tube wiring, but it’s important that they understand why it’s important to replace it.

No one wants to feel stupid or like the wool is being pulled over their eyes, and that can, unfortunately, be how a customer might perceive the situation if you don’t take the time to educate them on the problem, as well as on the various options available to them to solve the problem.

When it comes to educating your customers, it’s important to talk to them on their level. You should never talk down to your customers, but it’s equally important that you don’t overcomplicate the situation by using a lot of industry jargon that no one can understand. Be honest and straightforward without using more detail than you have to, while still ensuring that they’re well-informed in the end.

One great way to educate your customers (and to gain exposure and attract new customers) is to host a class or a tutorial on something related to your industry. For example, if you’re an electrician, you could host a class on holiday lighting safety.

#3. Say thank you in person.

So you want to say thank you to your customers? Hands down, the simplest and — arguably — the most effective way to say thank you is to literally say thank you at the time that service is rendered and in person.

Almost nothing is more meaningful for people than a heartfelt thank you, and the fact that you took the time to express your appreciation will show your customers just how genuine you are. Saying thank you will also have a big impact on your clients and help to make the experience you’ve provided a memorable one.

#4. Remember who they are.

Depending on what kind of business you are in, it may or may not be possible to remember all or even most of your customers, but the more you can remember about who your customers are, the more of an impact you’ll make, and the more appreciated your customers will feel.

Remembering your customers’ names and/or what they like to order or how best to interact with them is a great way to separate a business from the pack. However, this is easier said than done for businesses that work with a high volume of customers, but even in this case, you could keep track of something simple, like their birthday, and send out birthday wishes by mail or email.

#5. Host a customer appreciation event.

People love to be wined and dined, which makes hosting an event for your customers — both past and current — a truly wonderful way to show your customers how thankful you are for them. Does the idea of throwing a big party for your clients sound exhausting and downright expensive? There are a lot of different ways you could honor your clients with an event, including:

  • A picnic
  • A lunch and learn
  • A beer/wine and cheese pairing
  • A yoga or art class
  • An event featuring a renowned speaker

Hosting an event may cost more than many of the other options we’ve discussed so far, but it can have far-reaching impacts for your business in more ways than one. In addition to saying thank you in a meaningful way to your customers — helping you create customers for life — hosting an event will help your customers get to know you in a new way and will help to attract new customers to your business. So yes, it may cost more and take more time to host an event, but if done right, it can certainly be a net-positive for your business.

#6. Create a loyalty program.

One of the biggest benefits of genuinely thanking your customers on a regular basis is the long-term service it helps to earn. The fact is that it’s much cheaper to hang onto your existing customers than it is to put forth the cost and effort to attract new ones. Plus, long-term customers tend to spend more than new customers, creating even more value for you.

Those long-term customers don’t happen overnight, and a loyal customer today can easily become your competition’s customer if you don’t make sticking with you worth their while. And one of the best ways to do that is to inspire continued loyalty with a loyalty program!

Create a VIP program for your long-term customers to reward them for sticking with you for so long. With this program, you could offer your customers discounts or free services, an invitation to select events, access to premier services, regular check-ins from management, gift cards, etc.

#7. Listen to and respond to feedback.

A big part of appreciating your customers is making sure that, when they have feedback, you take the time to listen to that feedback fully and take it to heart. The fact of the matter is that people like to be heard. And when someone has a complaint about your business, they want to know that someone is there to hear it.

Listening is just the first step; you also have to show your customers that they’ve been heard by enacting change. This may mean big, sweeping change, like putting a new policy in place or replacing an old piece of equipment, but it could also mean making a small change, like additional training with an employee.

Listening and responding to feedback should be done whether the feedback is given in person or online in the form of a review, and if you play your cards right, it can could end up with you earning long-term loyalty from the customer in question, as well as anyone who has read the negative review and your response to it.

#8. Give them some love on social media.

Every business needs an active social media presence, which means that posting on a regular basis is a must. The problem is that it’s not always so easy to figure out what to post. After all, there are only so many tricks and tips you can share that are relevant to your business. Luckily, you can both fill up some of those posts and demonstrate your appreciation for your customers by giving them some love on social media. Before you post about a customer, though, it’s important that you ALWAYS ask for their permission first.

Not only should you use social media to say thank you to your customers, but you should also encourage your customers to interact with you more on social media and to say thank you to those customers who already interact with you. When a customer “likes,” comments on or shares one of your posts on social media, or they start following you, offer them freebies, swag or discounts to say thanks!

#9. Surprise them with swag!

Nothing says “thanks” quite like a physical gift does, and whether a gift is given on a special occasion, like a birthday or a holiday, or it’s given after a customer has reached a certain milestone, i.e. years of service, money spent or number of service calls, it can have a big impact. There are so many great gift ideas that won’t break the bank and can make an impact, including tasty treats, flowers, cards, phonebooks or organizers, stamps, etc. But nothing makes a better gift than swag.

Swag, like pens, sticky notes, t-shirts, koozies, bottle openers, keychains, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets and so much more, makes such a great gift because it’s often something useful and it has the added benefit of having your name on it! Every time your customer sips a beer out of their koozie or jots a note down with their pen, they’ll see your brand, reminding them that you exist and keeping you fresh in their mind.

Take the first step toward getting the swag you need today!

#10. Give back to your community.

Your customer base is made up of the people who live and work in your community, so when you give back to your community, you’re also giving back to your customers. You’re also making a name for your business as one that truly cares and is dedicated to making a difference in the world.

There are a number of ways that you could choose to give back to your community. You could sponsor a local team or make a donation of gear or equipment to a local school or retirement community. You could organize a paid day of volunteer work for your employees to build a home, work in a soup kitchen or even help to run an event. You could donate a portion of your profits to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.

There are so many things you can do to make your community — and the world — a better place, and it can make your customers feel appreciated and like you truly care about their needs. Plus, you get the extra brownie points that come with the good publicity that giving back earns our business.

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

As we discussed, one of the easiest things you can do to show your customers how thankful you are for them is to respond when they have feedback, especially when that feedback is a review. When you sign up to become a Top Rated Local business, you’ll get real-time notifications of new reviews, giving you the ability to respond promptly to your customers’ feedback. Best of all, becoming a Top Rated Local is easy and free! Get started today!

Five Easy Ways To Make Your Small Business Stand Out On Black Friday

Five Easy Ways To Make Your Small Business Stand Out On Black Friday

Black Friday, the unofficial kickoff to shopping season, is finally upon us. Traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, for many, the upcoming season can make up the majority of a business’ yearly revenue. So, you’ve got your inventory stocked, your shop cleaned up, and your staff caffeinated. The competition is fierce, especially with retail giants and online shopping, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact on your shoppers. We’re going to outline a few simple ways you can stand out to all the busy, likely stressed, shoppers that visit your store. It can be easy to let a day this bustling with energy rush by in a blur of customers and transactions, but remember that you have a chance to show off what makes your store so wonderful and worth facing the crowds for.

Know your product

You have a significant advantage over online retailers here. If people have a question about a product, if a customer wants to see an example of what they are purchasing, or if they want to know what a product looks like in another color, you have the opportunity to talk with them, show them, and interact with them. You and your staff get to be the experts here, and it is important that you establish trust with your clients by showing them that you are knowledgeable and prepared.

Practice the basics

Today more than ever, you will need to showcase your finest customer service skills. You’re busy and people are stressed, so taking the time to show them that you are willing to give them individualized care and attention will stand out that much more to your customers. These might sound like the basics, but it is more important than ever to maintain and practice them. To start, smile, or at the very least, be 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.

Share on social media

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to share content and show off the excitement of the day! Now is a great time to show your followers that people are turning up and getting what they want from your store. This might just be the motivation someone needs to get up and out of the house and into your store. This can also help you set the tone for the kind of reputation you want your business to have. Are you guys fun and silly? Genuine? You can use this day to show your audience that that is who you really are, even on what might just be the most stressful day of the year.

Say thank you

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.

Ask for feedback

Black Friday and the approaching shopping season means an influx in traffic, and each of those customers should be reminded that you would love to get their feedback online. Ideally, you will get a huge boost in your online reviews, ultimately helping out your search engine optimization, your online presence, and your overall reputation. By remembering to provide the kind of service and attention that nobody is expecting on a day as busy as Black Friday, you’re sure to stand out in peoples’ minds as being a five-star establishment worthy of a five-star rating.


We here at Top Rated Local wish the best to you, your business, and your customers during this busy season!

The Importance of Online Reputation for Locksmiths

Why Your Online Reputation Matters

Word of mouth and online reputation are vital to the success and growth of many small businesses, and that is especially true for locksmiths. The world of online reputation management may seem a bit much for your local, family-owned locksmith business, but it should not be overlooked or brushed off as being only helpful or important for younger generations. Let us fill you in on why your online reputation matters so much in the locksmithing industry and what you can accomplish by taking control of it!

People want to know that they can rely on a locksmith to offer prompt service at a reasonable price. For many, contacting a locksmith is something that is done in a moment of panic or necessity, so it is crucial to make a good first impression that reassures your customer and shows them that you are someone who is worth placing their trust in. Imagine the average person deciding they need a locksmithing service: perhaps the sun is setting, it’s getting cold, and they can’t get into their house! Or maybe they are on their way to a friend’s birthday party. They get in the car, turn it on, and start backing out the driveway, only to remember that they’ve left the gift on the dining room table. After retrieving the gift, they discover that they have locked their keys in their car. How are these people going to find a reliable locksmith? Most likely, they are going to start a frantic Google search! That is why it is so important for any reputable locksmith to make sure their company shows up on top and has some stellar reviews.

Unfortunately, there are many scammers and frauds out there looking to take advantage of people who are stuck and in need of quick locksmithing services. That has resulted in more and more people being wary or distrusting of locksmiths in general. These scammers generally work by flooding an area with fake phone numbers and business names, all of which sneakily link back to one operation. The person who shows up to perform the service will overcharge for lackluster work, often demanding cash, and will then vanish, becoming completely unreachable. Sometimes this kind of scam will even result in damaging the reputations of legitimate locksmiths, who may get flooded with angry calls because their name looks similar to the scam business.

One way you can help to stop people from getting scammed and boost your own business is to focus on having a strong online presence. Customers are more likely to trust you or see you as reliable when you pay attention to your online reputation. Think of Google, your website, and your social media pages as a more wide-reaching version of word of mouth. Here are some simple ways to take control of your online reputation today.

Claim Your Listings

Having verified listings helps to establish trust with your audience. Simply claiming the listings is enough to show your customers that yours is a valid business and that there really is someone on the other side of the screen. Claiming your listing also allows you to make edits or changes when it comes to important information, like your business name, address, and phone number. Especially in a market like the locksmithing industry that is so flooded with scammers, if a client tries to call you, but the listed number is disconnected, they are probably going to assume that your business is not a legitimate one. Claiming your business makes it easier for your clients to find you across multiple review platforms where they can leave you a review. It can also provide you an easy way to interact with your clients by compiling your reviews and allowing you to respond to them quickly. Locksmiths that have been in business for a while may have a long list of clients who could have left reviews across many different platforms, like Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, Facebook, and Google — Top Rated Local can help you keep track of where your reputation stands right now by bringing all of your reviews to one place!

Ask For Reviews

For locksmiths, customer reviews are incredibly important. When you consider the number of scams out there, you can understand why seeing real people leave their feedback about a business gives that business some credibility. Ninety-three percent of people say that online reviews impact their buying decisions, and 85 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Long story short, reviews matter. If you are feeling weird about asking your customers for a review, you can say something as simple as, “It would mean a lot to us if you could go online to provide us your feedback.” This helps show your customers that you care about their experience and gives you either glowing reviews or crucial feedback, as well as credibility and a stronger online presence. Online or off, there’s no doubt that communication is valued in the service industry. Online reviews give you a unique platform where you can communicate with your customer base quickly and publically. While positive reviews will help drive business your way, there is also the chance someone will have something negative to say about your business. This isn’t the end of the world, and, when handled correctly, even a negative review can be positive for you and your image. In the chance that a negative review comes in, you can quickly address the issue, showing potential customers that you are not only communicative, but that you also value customer feedback. In some cases, you can even turn around a bad review by addressing the customer’s concerns and showing them that you care about their experience.

Post Often

At the end of the day, familiarity forms trust. One simple way to show potential customers that your business is legitimate is to update your website and social media pages regularly. People generally tend to enjoy engaging with small businesses, so whatever you can do to interact with your customers will make you stand out in their minds. Post photos of your truck, give a shoutout to a loyal employee, post a blog about how you decided to be a locksmith, or host a giveaway on Facebook! If you can add this human element to your online presence, people are going to be more likely to trust you and remember you when they are in need of the service you offer. Your social media pages can give potential customers some great insight into who you are and how you run your business. If you post a new photo every Monday at 4 pm sharp, you may be seen as consistent. Maybe you post useful tips about home safety, showing clients that you are thoughtful, or maybe you share touching stories, showing your audience how much you care about the work you do. In any case, you have the power to take control of your reputation and image.


Make managing your reputation easy with Top Rated Local

Claim your businesses and start taking control of your online reputation today with the help of Top Rated Local. It’s never been easier to get started, and best of all, it’s free!

Ethics and Reputation Management

An Ethical Approach to Reputation Management

Word of mouth has always been one of the main ways small businesses have gotten their name out and grown. While the value of word of mouth is undeniable, online reputation is playing a bigger and more prominent role than ever in how a business is seen by its potential customers. One of the key functions of your online reputation is offering a presentation of your company, and ideally, giving customers a reason to trust you. Trust plays a huge role in whether or not a potential customer will choose you over any other business. In this day and age, trust is one of the most important things your business can have. In a 2013 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, customers identified authenticity as one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand, and according to BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews from other customers just as much as they would recommendations from peers. In other words, a bad reputation, or no reputation, can kill your business.

It is important to navigate the world of online reputation management in a way that is viewed as ethical. Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. With that in mind, there are some simple ways to stay on top of your online reputation while acting in a way that is also ethical.

Here are five simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing your online reputation ethically.

Don’t:

Don’t assume your reputation will speak for itself

It’s entirely possible that you’re the best at what you do, you have incredible employees, and your customers have absolutely loved and benefited from your service. While all of that can be true, if you are not actively monitoring and promoting your online reputation, you will stay practically invisible to a large potential audience. When a potential client first discovers your business, they will be quick to make judgments and buying decisions based on what they find online. At the end of the day, your reputation isn’t going to speak for itself. If you don’t showcase a strong online presence, that potential client is just going to turn the other way. One easy and ethical way to start promoting your business is by asking the people that have loved your service to leave you some feedback online.

Don’t create fake reviews

While this one seems like it should be a no-brainer, fake reviews are actually, sadly, pretty common and definitely unethical. This one goes two ways — don’t create fake negative reviews for a competitor, and don’t create fake positive reviews for yourself. This shady tactic is not only unethical, but it’s also not legal. According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online endorsements cannot be misleading, cannot publish fake or unfounded claims, and must disclose any relationship or connection between the reviewer and the company. The cost of violating these guidelines could be steep since the FTC has the legal authority to charge significant fines or even shut down a business. In one case in 2017, the FTC fined a car dealer in California $3.6 million for encouraging its employees to pose as customers and post fake positive reviews about the company.

Don’t create negative content about your competitors

In a continuation of the last point, keep in mind that creating fake reviews is certainly unethical, and sometimes illegal. It is absolutely not worth risking your business to trash talk the competition. When it comes to defamation and libel, the traditional rules apply to online content, which means that leaving fake negative comments for a competing business is likely going to get you into way more trouble than it’s worth. If you want to do something that is actually beneficial to your business, take a look through your competitors’ actual negative reviews and see if the ways they are failing are things that your company can excel in. For example, if their customers have commented about their cold and unwelcoming waiting room, you can really stand out by offering a comfortable and fun space for your clients to hang out in! By monitoring actual feedback instead of inventing fake feedback, you might end up learning something valuable about what your potential customers are looking for.

Don’t spam

Spamming, or ‘spamdexing’ the internet, with lackluster or false content can have an effect on search results and your ranking in them, and is definitely an unethical practice. There are many ways to create content

spam or link spam, many of which are deceptive. Algorithms are used by the major search engines in order to figure out where to rank a website by figuring out what keywords and category the website is relevant to. Some businesses operate under the idea that any content is good content and will create spam content in the form of articles or blogs that, to a reader, will look like garbage, but to an algorithm, might be full of keywords that might boost the website’s standing.

Don’t try to erase the past

There is a false notion out there that managing your online reputation means getting rid of the mistakes or criticisms your business has run into, and instead, showing the public a flawless and perfected version of your business. While you do want to highlight the good, it’s unethical to simply pretend the bad doesn’t exist, or to try and hide it from the world. Besides, the ‘delete’ button isn’t going to wipe you or your mistakes from people’s memories.

Do:

Practice transparency

Trust is everything for small business, and one simple way to build trust is to offer transparency to your audience. By offering transparency in your business, you are showing your clients that your business is open, honest, and worth trusting. One study found that 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. If you are willing to be upfront about your practices, you are that much more likely to gain bought-in, loyal customers. If you can’t offer it, potential customers can all too easily continue their search until they find a company they are happy to place their trust in.

Establish your business’ core values

This is one simple way to show your audience the kinds of things that are important to you as a company. It can also help to make sure your employees are aware of the kind of business you are, and how to act according to the values you establish. When your employees and your potential clients understand what you stand for, it helps them to decide if you are worth investing time and money in.

Learn from your mistakes, and from the mistakes of others

Accepting feedback and doing something about it is a responsible and professional way to handle your business. Customers will take notice that you care about their experience and are not too proud to learn and grow. In some cases, making a change after receiving negative feedback will make you and your business look even better than if nothing had been wrong in the first place! People respect someone who can learn and change, and customers certainly want to feel heard, appreciated, and valued. You can also learn from the mistakes of your competitors by seeing where they are falling behind in reviews and focusing on being great in those areas.

Publish valuable content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to add value to your business. By creating content, you are able to share information with your clients and become known as an expert in your field. When you share quality content, you make it clear that you are knowledgeable, useful, and worth following. The things you share are able to help you connect with your audience, establishing a relationship based on trust and familiarity. If you want to be seen and remain relevant, you need to participate in content marketing.

Stay Active

Keep in mind that consistency is key when it comes to marketing your business and keeping up with your reputation. Maintain a schedule when it comes to posting content, checking your reviews, and responding to your reviews. Again, this links to trustworthiness. Show your audience that their time matters by showing them consistency and excellence in all you do.

When Near-Perfect Beats Perfect

Believe it or not, having a near-perfect rating score may actually be better for your business than perfection.

When a 4.50 Average Star Rating Beats a 5.00

At Top Rated Local®, we’re not your typical review site. Rather than just scoring a business based on the reviews on our own website, we aggregate a business’ reviews on a wide range of verified review sites to come up with their overall Rating Score™, giving small businesses a chance to more effectively monitor their online reputation from one place and giving consumers the chance to truly understand what kind of business they are working with. And because of the nature of the job, we see a wide range of Rating Scores.

Although we can and do recognize those top-tier businesses that have achieved impeccable five-star averages (see our Top Rated Local awards program!), there’s no denying the power of a near-perfect Rating Score when it comes to attracting new customers to your business and establishing trust online.

The Benefits of Having a Near-Perfect Star Rating

#1. Consumers don’t trust perfection.

It wasn’t so long ago that it was a common practice for businesses to pay companies to write fake reviews for them, and it’s a large part of why so many people are less trusting of five-star reviews, especially if every review is a five-star review. Luckily, people are also less trusting of one-star reviews, because many know that competitors and irrationally angry ex-employees or ex-customers will sometimes try to destroy a business’ reputation online in the form of a one-star review.

A study conducted by SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk looked at how trustworthy consumers view businesses based on their average star ratings. You may or may not be surprised to learn that people are more trusting of a business that has a three- or four-star average rating than a five-star rating. The study found that only about 10 percent of people trust five-star ratings; while, 35 percent trust four-star ratings and 22 percent trust three-star ratings.

Not only might a consumer believe that a perfect five-star rating might be inauthentic, but if you don’t have any reviews that are lower than five-stars, they might think that you’ve somehow deleted or hidden any reviews.

#2. It’s the content that matters.

While a business’ average star rating is certainly important, the content of a business’ reviews is what truly matters to consumers who are researching new businesses online. Five-star reviews will only get you so far if there’s no content to back them up. Reviews appear much more authentic to consumers when there’s an explanation for why the business was ranked a certain way.

And it’s not just the content of the review that matters; it’s also the content of your response. No matter how many stars a review is, you should always make it a point to respond. Responding to positive reviews is essential because it shows your customers how much you appreciate the fact that they took a few minutes out of their day to give your business a shoutout online. And responding to negative reviews gives you a chance to apologize and fix any mistakes, share your side of the story with the world and show off your customer service skills.

#3. A lot of consumers seek out negative reviews.

Surprisingly enough, when a consumer is researching a business online, they will actually specifically seek out negative reviews, which means that, even if you may have a one-star or two-star review, it might not be the worst thing for your online reputation.

Consumers want to see the negative star reviews because they want to know what the worst-case scenario is if they work with you. There’s a big difference in there being an hour-long wait at a restaurant at 7 PM on a Saturday night and a restaurant giving its patrons food poisoning.

People don’t just look at the star rating; they’ll actually read the review and make their own judgment. And luckily for small businesses, people will by and large take one-star reviews with a grain of salt.

#4. Five-star reviews don’t give you any room to grow.

Reviews are the modern-day word of mouth, and they’re one of your most powerful tools for building trust with potential customers online. When there’s a list of 20 plumbers to choose from, consumers utilize reviews to help them choose which one to turn to. And if your average rating is four stars, the fact of the matter is that consumers are even more likely to trust you.

In addition to attracting new customers online, reviews have one other big advantage for your business — they’ll help you grow and learn how to get better and do better for your customers. That’s why it’s essential to read and internalize reviews, even if they seem overblown or irrational. There’s usually a lesson to learn, and at the end of the day, when you learn that lesson, it will only help your business grow and flourish.

#5. People are more likely to leave four-star reviews themselves.

One other big reason why people are more likely to trust a business that has a four-star average rating than a five-star average rating is that people themselves are more likely to leave four-star reviews than five-star reviews, even when they have nothing to complain about.

Part of the reason for this is that people see star ratings differently. For example, some people will only give a business five stars if they went above and beyond to serve them, while others will give any business that they have nothing to complain about five stars. Furthermore, some people are more subjective in their reviews — writing about their experience with the company as a whole — while others are more personal in their reviews — for example, writing about their experience with a specific staff member.

People don’t often take reviews at face value for this reason, and that’s a good thing for small businesses.


Start Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation With Top Rated Local

Whether your average rating across review sites is five-stars, four-stars or one-star, managing your business’ online reputation is a non-negotiable part of its success. With Top Rated Local, you’ll be able to learn about your business’ overall online reputation across a range of different review sites in just one place! And when customers leave reviews on our site, it allows them to rate you based on various parts of the customer experience in addition to simply leaving a comment. But the best part of all is that signing up with Top Rated Local is absolutely free. Don’t wait. Take control over your business’ online reputation and get listed today!

California’s Top Rated Local® Businesses: 2019

The Golden State has a rich history of entrepreneurship, and it is certainly still going strong. Only a select few have risen to the highest level of customer service and quality, and that’s what makes us so proud to announce our 2019 award winners!

The total number of verified review sites, the average overall star rating a business has on those sites, and the total number of ratings/reviews they have posted on those sites all play a role in the overall Rating Score™ calculation. The more ratings/reviews a business has posted on verified review sites, as well as the higher the average overall star rating, the higher the Rating Score. The highest possible Rating Score is 100.

These business owners and their phenomenal employees have worked tirelessly to ensure that they are successful and that their customers are happy. With nearly 3,321,000 small businesses in the state, our California winners have accomplished quite the feat. They have an average rating score of 100.00 and an average star rating on verified review sites of 4.98.

We’d like to give a very special shoutout to The Inn on First, our number one business in the state of California. They’ve earned both a perfect 100.00 Rating Score and a perfect 5.00 average star rating on verified sites.

Congratulations to all of our California award winners, and thank you for your continued work and support for your community!