User feedback is a puzzle, and one piece that always seems to be missing from the brand side is engagement. User reviews and consistent customer experiences are the keys to a loyal user base. What’s more, reviews left without replies can be more devastating than no review at all or a negative one.
Nextdoor is the latest local platform to publish what it calls a Transparency Report, designed to offer information to the public about efforts made to maintain an online community that is free from problematic content. In Nextdoor’s case, the focus is on reducing incidents of hate speech and incivility in order to promote healthy community interaction.
Recent developments from the FTC mark a significant moment in the history of online review management. Practices such as review gating have been relatively widespread in the industry for years, despite warnings such as this Help Center update published by Google in 2018: “Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
Figuring out what type of Local Guides are leaving reviews, and what kind of reviews they are leaving, matters for a few reasons. First, Local Guides are responsible for writing more reviews of local businesses than any other group on the internet. Second, Local Guides write reviews under circumstances that make them different from ordinary consumers: They are self-selected volunteers who get rewarded, albeit in a non-monetary fashion, for their contributions. Fairly or not, they are often thought of as biased and their contributions as less valuable, merely “written for points.” Third, the true characteristics of Local Guides are not well known, because they have not yet been subject to this type of study.
Examining 3.7 million shopper reviews online, Reputation found that Google Business Profiles now have more impact on a location’s findability than any other factor. With 90% of consumers reading reviews before making a purchase, and review volume up 12% from 2020, retailers can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities that localized online marketing provides.
For Yelp, consumers’ stated preference for written reviews is good news to share, as the company forces reviewers to leave written text, whereas Big Tech rival Google, which has gained sway in the local reputation space in recent years, allows reviewers to leave a rating out of five stars without further commentary.
In an analysis of more than 4 million store reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, Uberall and The Transparency Company found that Google has the highest average percentage of inauthentic reviews across business categories. More than one in 10 reviews on Google’s platform was identified as fraudulent or fake in Uberall’s analysis. The category with the highest percentage of fake reviews was locksmiths, while pharmacies came in as the category with the lowest percentage of fake reviews.
Social distancing is here for the long haul, but consumers are still craving social connection. Brands can fill in the gaps by maximizing their digital presence on the key search and social platforms, such as Facebook, Google My Business, and Yelp, where consumers are spending increased time online.
Providing an outstanding customer experience can be your most powerful and cost-efficient marketing strategy. In a business world where dozens of other companies sell the same products and services as you do, creating an environment where customers enjoy dealing with your company will help your brand stand out from the rest.
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.