Many local business owners underestimate how much of an online presence their companies have, even though they didn’t play any active role in establishing that presence.
Your company’s web presence extends far beyond your own website and social media pages, and the first step to managing and polishing that web-wide reputation is to discover and understand how people who use search engines will see your company, and what sources will be working to shape their perception.
The next step is to get professional help in improving and managing that reputation, because the process is ongoing and time-consuming, and you’ve got a business to run!
Start by Googling Your Business
We Google pretty much everything nowadays: how long to cook chicken, where to get the best gyros, or why your car is making that weird noise. So, why not Google your business and see what your prospects and customers are seeing?
Most modern browsers allow you to use “incognito” or “private” browsing as a way to make Google searches (and searches with other engines) without any influence based on your browsing history, known association with the company you’re searching, your online behavior and interests, or recommendations from friends online.
Open a private browsing window or tab and Google your company. The results you get are fairly generic, and not the same results you’d see if you Googled with your normal browser window. One exception is the fact that even in private browsing mode, the search engine will use your IP address to determine your approximate geographic location, so your local keyword search results will be weighted toward that location.
You may want to make follow-up searches for relevant keywords, and “near me” searches using those keywords, to see how search engines rank you in comparison to competitors.
Read Like an Outsider
Take a look at your search results, and remember that what you’re seeing is similar to what an outsider would find when they searched your company’s name or keywords. Let’s focus on your company name to begin with. Is your company’s website or a claimed social media page associated with your company among the top results?
One important thing to know, which can give you simple places to start boosting your search engine result page (SERP) ranking and overall reach, is that the major search engines, including Google, give priority to “claimed” social media and review site pages.
In addition to any social media pages you own, like your company’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, this will include your Google My Business listing, Yelp listing, and a number of other pages you didn’t create, but they’re out there, giving people information about your company. Go through all the SERPs that actually pertain to your company. If you find listings you didn’t create and haven’t claimed, click through and claim them; there’s typically a button or link that says something like “This is my business.”
Once you’ve claimed the listing and optimized it, it will show in the SERP window at the top, besides the links, with a photo you provide, contact information, and buttons for mobile users to get directions to your location and to navigate to your company website.
All of these steps are places where working with a marketing partner experienced in online reputation management will save you a great deal of time doing tedious, repetitive tasks. And when you’re working with professionals, they will also optimize as they go through your listings, so you can get a boost in organic traffic because of your improved SEO.
Take the time to read any reviews, learn what people are saying about your company, and to respond. Thank people for good reviews and invite them to come back. If there are any recent negatives, respond to the people who left them with a sincere apology and an offer to take action to satisfy the customer. Not only does this give you a chance to save that customer’s experience, but it gives you a public forum to show that you care about having satisfied customers, and you’re paying attention.
Freeing your time up to handle these personalized interactions is an important benefit of working with a marketing partner help to manage the mechanics like finding, managing, and optimizing your listings.
Pay Attention to the Details
Seemingly small details like a correct physical address and phone number, updated business hours, punctuation, and correct spelling can impact your SERP rankings more than you’d guess.
For example, if one of your listings (maybe one you didn’t even make!) has your business name misspelled, or if you notice one of your listings has the wrong phone number, or a phone number that doesn’t ring to your direct line, search engines may consider your company suspicious and penalize your listings in SERP results.
Make sure that the small details are correct and consistent across every listing you find for your business, from your own website and social media to Yelp, and digital directories like Foursquare. Keep this in mind when you need to update in the future, as you’ll need to make sure all of the online listings for your business are updated.
Know the Process Is Never-Ending
Reviewing and revising your web presence is a never-ending process that needs to become part of your company’s routine maintenance. For many local businesses, this is simply too time-consuming, and for those companies, finding a marketing partner to manage all aspects of their web presence, including their online reputation and organic reach, is a smart move that’s well worth the investment.
One basic move you can make to keep a finger on the pulse of your web presence is to set up notifications like Google Alerts, which will send you an email when new search results for topics you choose show up online.
For example, you can set a Google Alert for your company’s name and receive an email alert for relevant posts, news items, and more. You can then select the types of sites, language, and region of the world you want to be notified about so you’re getting the most relevant information. Adding more fine-tuned topics like “business name complaints,” and “business name reviews” can help you sort out what needs immediate attention, and what can be done a little later.
Another important reason to keep a continual watch over your web presence is that new review sites and directory listings are popping up with surprising frequency, and though you may have meticulously scoured the web for unmanaged listings last month, there may be more to triage and correct this month.
Take Control of Your Company’s Web Presence
Respond to reviews promptly and appropriately, claim listings as soon as possible, and stay alert for what people are saying about your business online, and you’re likely to find your web presence improving and more leads coming your way because of the endorsements they find when they search for a company like yours.
Evaluate the comments you get, whether from your own social media or from review sites, and look for patterns that might help you adjust your business practices for stronger relationships with customers and fewer complaints in the future.