A foundational element of local marketing strategy could be changing. Rumors began circulating last week that Apple would be giving users the ability to add ratings and photos to local business listings on Apple Maps when iOS 14 releases this fall. That could mean big changes are in store for brand marketers who’ve grown accustomed to monitoring reviews and ratings on a core group of third-party platforms.
Apple’s move into the ratings and review space isn’t totally unexpected, but it’s still causing the local marketing community to question how the update will impact local search and discovery.
Google has taken several important measures to assist businesses during the pandemic, but none so far can prevent customers angry about coronavirus-related restrictions from lashing out at businesses attempting to follow public health best practices or the letter of the local law. “The review space has never been harder than right now,” wrote GatherUp co-founder and reputation management expert Mike Blumenthal.
But there are also possible strategies for survival.
Businesses that understand these changes and find ways to harness review attributes stand to see major gains in search. Google’s new feature could be a big improvement for small and mid-size businesses, in particular, since it provides marketers with both comparative structured feedback and sentiment. But whether businesses benefit from Google’s decision to expand review attributes into new categories depends largely on how they capitalize on the changes.
Not long before the COVID-19 outbreak was officially deemed a pandemic — it seems like years ago, but it was only March 11 — we planned to commemorate Street Fight’s March theme, Word of Mouth, by surveying a select number of experts in local marketing about the state of reputation management and what to look forward to in 2020.
Current events got in the way of our plans, and therefore we’re releasing this report in April rather than March. But we were pleased that the experts we asked came through and offered a great deal of valuable insight on the priorities and challenges of reputation management for local businesses. So let’s dig in to the insights provided by local marketing leaders at ThriveHive, Reputation.com, Chatmeter, Brandify, GatherUp, Uberall, and BrightLocal.
Important announcements were posted Friday by Google and Yelp as part of the effort to contend with coronavirus and its impact on businesses.
Google has published a new help page titled “Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19.” Before diving into the details in the announcement, I’ll mention the most important headline. Due to a rapid reorganization of priorities, Google has determined that at this time, they will disable the ability to leave new reviews, reply to reviews, and post new Question and Answer content.
In healthcare marketing, it all comes down to the patients. Adding patient reviews to a healthcare organization’s website can improve its ranking in the Google algorithm, particularly when those reviews are filled with relevant keywords. Just as importantly, though, patient reviews have a positive impact on the way other people view medical websites. Practice websites with user-generated content, including reviews, score higher in reliability, expertise, and professionalism.
Here are six examples of review generation and management platforms aimed squarely at healthcare organizations.
One of the oldest and still most influential drivers of local commerce is word of mouth. Though that’s sustained at a high level, the delivery vessel for local chatter has evolved. Social channels like Facebook and Yelp now shape the reputations of brick-and-mortar businesses, not to mention the kingmaker authority of Google.
This month, we will delve into the latest trends and insights driving reputation management, taking Word of Mouth as our theme.
Retailers scored best on average on listings, suggesting that management is succeeding at getting multi-location stores to optimize the fundamentals of their online presence. The poorest average category score, rankings, indicates brands are failing to pop up when consumers search for unbranded items. At a time when consumers are increasingly searching for items “near me” instead of brand-name stores where they could find those items, businesses stand to gain if they invest in non-brand-specific keywords.
If it had not already been clear that building up a significant inventory of positive online reviews is key to attracting new customers to a business, let doubt linger no further.
A whopping 52 percent of consumers ages 18-54 “always” read reviews when searching for local businesses, and only 53 percent will consider a businesses with fewer than four stars, according to survey of 1,005 US-based consumers by marketing platform BrightLocal. Eighty-two percent of consumers overall read online reviews.
Mike Blumenthal says the acquisition by ASG gives GatherUp greater access to organizational value, helping the company build better products and processes faster and more robustly. He expects there to be virtually no change in GatherUp’s day-to-day activities. All of the company’s teams—including sales, customer success, engineering, and management—will remain intact following the acquisition. Aaron Weiche will stay on as CEO. Although GatherUp was founded in San Jose, the company employs a distributed team that is now focused in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While customer feedback is coming in from every direction, the automotive industry has done a better job of funneling reviews into vertical-specific platforms than some other industries. Large auto retailers like AutoNation are making major data stack investments, while others are working to improve their online ratings and reviews by engaging more frequently on sites like Facebook and Yelp as well as on automotive-specific platforms like Cars.com and Edmunds.
For franchise businesses, specifically, Facebook is critical. The platform has rolled out a significant number of enhancements to help companies manage all facets of their digital reputation. And in the last year, nothing has been quite so impactful to franchise businesses as the rollout of Locations – the company’s local pages feature, which enables a multi-location business to link, and manage, individual franchise pages to the corporate brand page.
In order to leverage the network as a true reputation management tool, franchise brands must get accustomed to the three features outlined in this piece, which can be used to enhance the online reputation of every location and control public perception of your overall brand.
Operators of small- and medium-sized businesses can get by ignoring many of the tech innovations that large companies adopt. Managing online reviews is not one of them.
Like it or not, the widespread usage of review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Google and Facebook have changed the landscape of how local businesses attract and retain customers. Left ignored or handled the wrong way, a business’s negative online reviews can be a deterrent to potential new customers. Managed the right way, however, those same review sites can be a valuable marketing and customer service tool that leads to improved revenue.
With the reviews and other content being posted online about brands coming from an increasingly wide swath of sources, manual techniques for reputation management are no longer viable on a large scale. At the same time, the volume of online opinions bombarding potential customers is making it more important than ever for brands to constantly monitor what’s being said about them online. How are brands coping with the challenge?
Multi-location brands that use reputation and review management to manage local marketing and advertising are more likely to say that their marketing efforts are effective, according to Street Fight’s latest survey. Analysis of the survey identified several related strategies that correlated strongly with marketing effectiveness, including trying to respond to every review and working with a reputation specialist with its own technology.
Reputation management services should focus on helping businesses understand what consumers are saying and engage with reviewers by responding. Unbiased review content is a true goldmine for the brand who works with a reputation company to glean deep insights about consumer sentiment offered by consumers themselves for free.
Every multilocation brand today has a social media agency or department, and most, though not all, are running some type of local listings management program, whether internally or with a partner. But plenty of brands are neglecting to do anything about online reviews of local stores.
Well-known brands may have national platforms and campaigns for reaching out to customers — but none of that matters if the company does not know what customers think of their local stores. That is where Chatmeter says it can help.
If done right, online reputation management can act as an early warning system for multi-location businesses, and can ultimately prevent long-term brand damage and reduce the risk of decreasing profits.