We've talked before about how important it is to appear on the first page of search engine results in "Small Businesses: For Best Results, Treat Your Website Like a Succulent" – first page results get 33 percent of the clicks, while the second page only gets one percent.
A new study finds that what appears on the page of results is important, too. A Google Consumer Survey conducted by Go Fish Digital found that businesses may lose as much as…
- 22 percent of potential customers by having even one negative online review in Google search results.
- 59 percent of potential customers if three negative reviews pop up in a search query.
- 70 percent of potential customers if four negative reviews appear in search results.
It makes sense when you consider the survey's other finding: almost 68 percent of respondents make purchasing decisions based on online reviews. (Another study we reported on found that number to be 88 percent.) If a user researches a company to learn more about its products or services, these negative reviews in the early stages of their search may signal that they shouldn't waste their time.
With online reviews, you can only do so much to influence what other people say about your business. You can work your buns off to give every customer the best experience possible and some may still be dissatisfied. Moreover, they may voice that dissatisfaction on the web and hurt your future prospects (and revenue) in the process.
Before you throw your hands up and welcome defeat, try to manage the risk of negative reviews by following these four online marketing tips.
1. Review Google search results regularly.
That's right: you have permission to Google yourself with impunity. You may even want to set up a Google Alert that notifies you when new content mentions you or your business. This can help you stay on top of what other people are saying about your work or your company so you can go into damage-control mode when necessary.
Also, the goal is for your business to appear on the first page of search results for relevant search terms. Reviewing your progress can help you reach and maintain this goal.
2. Engage with negative reviewers.
What's worse than a negative review? One that's left to fester without a peep from you.
Instead of ignoring a bad review and hoping it will go away, reach out to the reviewer on the site so others can see you are trying to make things right. Acknowledge the problems they voiced and offer solutions. Be courteous and patient while you attempt to address their issues. To learn more about responding to negative reviews, read "Small Business Brings $65k Lawsuit over Negative Online Review."
This effort may help assuage negative feelings enough that they take down the review or revise it. Plus, communicating with dissatisfied customers is one of the best ways to ensure the problem doesn't escalate into a lawsuit. Still, it's a good idea to carry Errors and Omissions Insurance just in case an unhappy client doesn't want to play nice.
3. Actively seek positive reviews from satisfied customers.
Reach out to loyal customers and request that they share their feedback about your company on the most relevant review sites for your industry. For example, if you run a spa or boutique resort, TripAdvisor may be your best avenue for visible reviews. Yelp is still a strong contender for restaurants and local shops, but the survey also found that Google+ Local and Amazon reviews carry a lot of sway. It states…
- Almost 21 percent of respondents go to Google Reviews.
- Almost 11 percent check out Amazon reviews.
Once you have a handful of glowing reviews, you can promote them on your website and your social media pages to increase the likelihood that they show up in search queries. These positive reviews may also counteract the blow if a negative review crops up later.
4. Implement SEO best practices to appear on your own terms.
If you practice effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, you can influence what content appears on that first page of query results. Even if a negative review is floating around in the Internet's ether, so long as it appears on the second or third page of results, it's unlikely that searchers will see it.
For a crash course on how to optimize your business's content, check out the SEO consulting company Moz's primer "The Beginner's Guide to SEO." And if you're really starting from scratch and don't have a website, read "Still Don't Have a Business Website? 5 Reasons to Reconsider."