Why Should Online Reputation Matter to a Small Business?

Small businesses (especially those with local brick and mortar locations) seem to underestimate the importance of having a positive online reputation.  Without national or international customers, you may ask – “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that 82% of searches done online are followed up with an in-store visit!

It is very clear that local consumers are utilizing the internet to research businesses close to them.  The real question is, “What is the internet telling them about you?”

Any business that is not taking this seriously risks losing business…to your neighbors that position themselves online well (even if their product isn’t better than yours)! 

Just How Important Is It to Create a Positive Web Presence?

When looking for great service or a great price, local consumers turn to their phones and tablets.  With just a few clicks, they are able to peruse Google, Bing, social media, other review websites and forums for businesses that have exactly what they are looking for.  

Your company may have an amazing product at an unbeatable price with the world’s best customer service, but if your online presence does not reflect this and you have negative social signals, you will have a very hard time convincing new customers to trust you…and pay for your product.

Many people are using word of mouth on social media, online reviews and company content to make informed buying decisions.  In fact, more than 90% of people trust online reviews as much or more than a recommendation from a friend or colleague!

Two important questions to ask yourself when it comes to your online presence are:

  • When your ideal client searches for your product (or service) near your location, do you show in the search results or the maps results?  
  • If so, does he or she see a professional online face to the world with glowing reviews?  

If you answered “No” to either of the previous questions, the chances are that you just lost a great customer.

What are the Benefits of Online Reputation Management?

You need to have a positive web presence for the survival of your business.  It can help:

  • Establish your credibility with positive testimonials
  • Give you an edge over your competition
  • Build trust with current and future clients

Position your company as the first and best choice for your ideal clients.  When they are researching, you need to be the obvious decision.

A well-positioned online reputation is also your best sales person, working for you 24/7/365, especially to those people in your community searching for your specific offering.

Finally, having good reputation management can help you rank higher organically in search engine results, which will expose your business to more customers.  Good reviews that mention where you are, what you do and your company name will help tell Google a bit more about your offerings.

How Can a Small Business Build a Positive Online Reputation?

Your website, print advertisements and social media posts are not the only things that make up your web presence.  It is a much wider net than most realize.  Your online reputation does include those things, but it also is made up of reviews from various review sites, comments on your website or blog, “complaint forum” threads, “Top 10” lists that your company may have made, photos tagged with you or your business and much more.  Anywhere that you (or your business) is mentioned, tagged, linked to online – that is all part of your online presence.

Managing all of this seems like it could be akin to “herding cats”, but there are a few impactful steps that you can concentrate on to start.  This will help ensure the future success of your company.

Step 1 – Monitor Your Online Reputation

The first step to taking control of your online reputation is to monitor it daily.  You can handle this yourself or you can outsource this activity, but it is very important that someone is watching.

You need to make sure that you know exactly what your ideal client is looking at online about you.  If you find any negative information, be sure to remedy that quickly.  With so many products and services available to today’s consumer, there is no reason for him or her to trust you (or buy from you) if there is negative information readily available about your business.

Step 2 – Acquire Positive Reviews and Mitigate Negative Reviews

Online reviews are one of the major factors when it comes to your online reputation.  Remember, 90%+ of people trust online reviews as much as or more than a friend or colleague.  This is why there are more important than any content that you could create.

How many times have you seen a company with multiple one-star reviews and decide to buy from them anyway?  I would bet on a very small amount.

Be sure to create an automated system for monitoring, soliciting and responding to reviews that you receive.

If you happen to receive a negative review, it is imperative that you respond to it quickly and with a level head.  Remember, your response is for your future clients and not the person that left the bad review.  Be sure to apologize that they had a negative experience and offer to talk about their issue offline.  This way, people can learn something positive about your company (that you care about your customers) from a negative review.

Step 3 – Get on Social Media

Where do your clients hang out online?  Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn?

Do a little research and find out where they are most likely to be active.  Then, concentrate on those social networks and build your profile to be attractive to your ideal client.  Be sure to completely fill in the profile and include photos and videos to keep it engaging.

By keeping your social media simple, it will help you avoid overwhelm and really concentrate on activities that will give you the best ROI.  Create a schedule for posting regularly and use a tool that helps you automate the process.  This allows you to use social media for your business, but cut the time that it takes in half.

Leveraging Your Online Reputation

You’ve worked hard on your business over the years to build up your name!  Don’t jeopardize that fact by neglecting to build and monitor a positive online presence.

Overwhelmed or unsure where to start?  Contact IFTS to learn more about our online reputation management program and steps you can take to better position your business.

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7 Facts You Need To Know About SEO

When it comes to SEO, there are many factors that determine the way your website is indexed and ranked by the search engines. That in mind, it’s obvious that by focusing on the right SEO techniques, you can maximize your marketing efforts and grow your business into a success.

But other than improving your visibility on the search engines, what else does SEO offer? 

Here are 7 facts you should know about SEO and why it’s so important for businesses when trying to take their brand to the next level.

1. Most traffic on websites comes from organic search

Organic search is currently the main source of traffic for websites. While you can direct targeted traffic to your website through paid ads or a social media marketing campaign, being visible on the search engines is always going to work in your favor. With organic search engine optimization (as opposed to pay-per-click ads) people will more easily find your website on search engines while they are looking for a product or service you provide. Making it more likely that they will convert from visitor to customer. No one searches for a product or service that they don’t want, so they’re already in the mood to buy. You just have to stand out among the competition. Additionally, when you rank on the front page of a search engine, you are showing potential consumers the legitimacy of your products or services because of your high ranking.

2. SEO is the best long term strategy to market your business

Results don’t happen overnight – organic search engine optimization takes time, patience, and consistency. While PPC or retargeting campaigns are great ways to reach your audience and sell more of your products, keep in mind that your ads will stop showing up the very moment you stop paying for them. With search engine optimization, that doesn’t happen. If your website is well optimized using the best SEO practices, it should continue to show up on search engines for months or even years to come. 

3. Good SEO is NOT expensive

Contrary to what many think, SEO is relatively cheap, considering the payoff. If you were reluctant to spend money to optimize your website for search, think of SEO as an investment. The sooner you invest in good SEO implementation, the sooner you’ll gain more visibility on Google and grow your brand for the long haul. 

4. SEO best practices are constantly changing

Did you know that ‘pausing’ an SEO campaign for too long can have a negative effect? While it’s true that SEO is a long term strategy to rank your business, what’s also true is that the search world is always changing. Google alone is known to make often algorithm changes. This means that, if you fall behind, getting back on track may be quite the challenge. 

5. SEO and User Experience are related

Few people realize that today, user experience is a big part of ranking well on search engines. Google already knows what a positive user experience looks like on a website and how to spot a negative one. The better your website is structured, the more likely it will gain more visibility. 

Google and other search engines take hundreds of factors into account when determining which pages rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). With that being said, today, elements of user experience have been rolled into SEO best practices. How easy is your site to navigate? Do you have quality content that makes visitors want to stay and engage? Is your site secure, fast and mobile-friendly?

Think of the partnership of SEO and user experience this way: SEO targets search engines and user experience targets your website’s visitors. Both share a common goal of giving users the best experience.

Some common website elements that impact both SEO and user experience are:

-headings

-easy navigation and site structure

-site speed

-mobile experience

6. Great rankings influence conversions

Customers today do a lot of research before buying something – whether it’s a product or a service. This is a big advantage! Not only does good SEO help you rank well in Google, but it allows you to send a positive message about your offer. Using this SEO best practice to outrank your competition will definitely have a positive effect on your conversions.

7. If you’re not on Page 1, you’re losing business

Obviously, if you’re not #1, someone else is! And that means you’re losing business… If you need assistance in improving your SEO, contact us at IFTS and we will help get you on the road to page number 1!

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