Find out WHY a positive online presence is so important and HOW you can build a positive online presence for your local small business.
Many small businesses, especially those with physical locations that serve just their communities, underestimate the importance of building and maintaining a positive online presence. The internet covers the entire world, so why is the worldwide presence of your small local business so important?
Studies have shown that over 80% of online searchers follow up via an in-store visit. That means that your local customers are using the internet to find businesses around, and your next customer is more likely to find you online than driving by your storefront or billboard advertisement. If your business lacks an enticing web presence, you risk losing business to competitors found in the same internet search who have ensured they have a positive online presence.
What Does It Mean to Have a Positive Online Presence?
Even if you well aware of how important your online presence is, there may be a need for clarity around what exactly a positive online presence entails. Your business’s online reputation is made up of everything online, including things like unsolicited reviews, web site comments, complaint forum entries, “best of” and “worst of” lists, blog post mentioning your business, social media comments, and photos tagged with your company name.
Your online presence is comprised of three main factors when looking at how future customers find you in search:
- Content you create such as web pages, blog posts, and social media that can show up as links in search results.
- User generated content that shows up on third-party sites such as Yelp or ComplaintBoards.com in the form of reviews, ratings, and complaints.
- Mentions of your business by third party websites such as the Yellow Pages or Chamber of Commerce (also known as citations).
Don’t assume that your online reputation is being managed by your marketing efforts. Your website and the advertisements you send out locally or online do not encompass your web presence. Internet searches, social media, review websites, and complaint forums are top of mind activities and destinations as consumers search for the best service at the best price. Your company can provide a great product, with exceptional customer service, and at unbeatable prices but if it is not perceived as such online, and social signals show any negativity, new customers will hesitate to give their trust or money. When trying to influence new customers, it is vital to create a positive online presence and control the way you appear in these three areas.
When a customer searches for the type of service or product you provide, in your city, does your company show up in search results? Does he see a professional provider with great reviews? If the answer is no to either of these questions, chances are high you just lost a customer.
Why Do I Need Online Reputation Management?
Ensuring a positive web presence has many benefits for small businesses. Online reputation management actively establishes your credibility as a reliable business and gives your company a competitive edge over others in your industry. It helps you position your business as the first and best choice when customers are researching online before making a decision where to spend their money.
Reputation management also ensures you are controlling much of what is being said about your business online and lets you influence those conversations towards positive messaging. Your online reputation serves as 24/7 advertising, getting the word out about your company to customers searching on the internet, specifically consumers in your community searching for your specific service.
The importance of managing your online reputation is clear considering online reviews, business social media profiles and company websites rank higher in searches and provide exposure to a wider pool of prospective customers when sound SEO practices are combined with effective reputation management techniques and tools.
How Can My Local Business Build a Positive Online Reputation?
Building a positive online reputation for your small business is vital to your local success and future revenue. While this may sound like a lot of work, a business should look at concentrating on just a few impactful activities to start.
Monitor Your Local Business’s Online Reputation
Monitoring your online reputation is no longer a “should do,” it is a “must do!” There are online reputation monitoring services and tools that will let you know what customers see online. You can opt to manually do this yourself, but whatever your method you need to monitor the online reputation of your business, so you always know what customers see online. With that knowledge, you can work fast to correct or handle any negative information circulating about your business in the form of negative reviews, complaints, or inaccurate business information such as wrong phone numbers or addresses.
Get More Five Star Feedback and Manage Online Reviews
Online reviews are huge as they not only show up in many places online and rank high in internet search results but more importantly, consumers trust these more than any web content or advertisement you could create and disseminate. Properly posted and promoted online customer reviews drive new business to your door more effectively than almost every other marketing activity. Think of how many times you have seen a one-star review and decided to purchase from that company. I would guess close to never. That is why you need to incorporate a system for soliciting, monitoring and responding to online reviews.
Claim your profiles on the major review and local listing sites. These profiles also show up high on search engine results, so it is vital that you be in control of how these profiles are filled out. Yelp, Google My Business, Angie’s List and similar sites let you claim and fill out your profile with ease.
Once you have established your profiles, you’ll need to work on getting real customer reviews posted on the sites that matter most to your customers. You’ll want to develop a system, with a dedicated manager, that works at acquiring feedback, works with customers who are less than very satisfied and pushes five-star reviews to the review profiles you have set up.
Just one more thing for you to add to your business owner To Do list, right?
Luckily, review management is one of the business operations you can easily automate with effective reputation management services. With the right software, it can be as “simple as set it up and forget it” to give every customer the opportunity to give you feedback or link directly to your review site profiles with just one click to leave a review. Honestly, you’ll wonder why something so useful as automated customer reviews management, when customer reviews are so vital to the success of your business, doesn’t come with your business license.
Manage the Business Listings For Your Local Business
Both people and search engines use your online business listings to find you (online and offline) and verify that you are a legitimate business. Search engines use business listings to deliver accurate business information to their users. Ensuring accurate and consistent information is contained in your business listings gives your business the edge over your competition by helping you rank higher in the local search results that attract new customers.
People use business listings to get your phone number and address information to find the businesses closest to them providing the specific products and services they are looking for. Missing, duplicate, incomplete, or inconsistent will inevitably hurt your business, and that is why it is so crucial that your business listings be monitored and managed. Read “The What, Why and How of Business Listings” to get a better understanding of what business listings are, how they work, and how you can automate the management of this crucial aspect of your online identity.
Get Serious About Social Media
Keep it simple, and select just two or three social networks to avoid being overwhelmed in the beginning. The key is to find which platforms your prospective customers and audience prefer and establish profiles on those sites (Twitter and Facebook are general front runners). Claim your company name, completely fill in your profile, and get a great photo to start to establish yourself.
There are three impactful reasons to claim and establish your social media profiles immediately on the social networks your customers frequent:
- A healthy social media presence is a great marketing tool that lets you promote your brand and your content while creating relationships with your customers where they spend the most time online.
- Social media profiles rank high in specific personal name and business name search engine results. If you have little else online that you have created, you can control a lot of what page one is showing about your business.
- Profile names are first come, first serve with social networks. Someone could claim your name and your business name, so grab yours as soon as possible. Best case scenario they never use the profile. Worst case scenario THEY manage a profile pretending to be your business and murder your reputation.
Social media marketing is an activity that can greatly enhance your online reputation, but it can become time consuming. First things first, establish your company’s presence and as you learn the ins and outs of your preferred networks look at starting a manageable social media marketing campaign for each.
Leverage Your Business Blog & Publish Quality Content Consistently
As part of the search engine optimized and mobile-ready website you already have, maintaining a blog does two amazing things: It shows you know your stuff and gives the web crawlers weighty information (links) to include in internet search results about your company or services in your area.
Consistent, and properly search engine optimized, blogging ensures that content, images, and web pages you create and control occupy the valuable space at the top of search engine results for your name and your business. If you don’t love to write, don’t have the time to write, or the budget to outsource your content creation, this may be the hardest thing on the list. However, it is one of the best ways to control what is being seen and read about you online.
Managing your online reputation to create a positive online presence with regular blogging, active social media profiles, review management and marketing, and a search engine optimized website gives you substantial control over what is showing up at the top of search results. You can learn more about online reputation management and steps you can take to better position your business by reading the BusinessCreator blog.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Ed can be reached at (or visit his websites)