These days your company is online, even if you don’t have a website. That’s because the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are putting a lot of focus on local businesses, which means listings companies like Yelp, YP.com, Yellowbook.com, and SuperPages are incentivized to create content by listing every company they can find in any given category.
At first glance, having your company listed for free by a third party might seem a non-issue. After all, who cares? Turns out, Google, for one, cares. And if Google cares, then you ought to pay attention. Here’s why.
Keep Your Listing Accurate
The search engines are all about relevancy these days, and nothing is more relevant than if your business is located in the same geographical area as the person who is conducting a search for a product or service. Let’s say a consumer queries her cell phone to find all the countertop companies within a 25-mile radius. Your company, most likely, will pop up somewhere in the results if you are within the specified radius.
But, let’s say Yelp, YP.com, Yellowbook.com, and SuperPages all have your contact information wrong. It could be a bad phone number, or perhaps you have upgraded to a new facility and the address has changed. Magically, it seems, that bad info is picked up by the search engines and is propagated throughout the Internet and, ultimately, is fed to the consumer’s cell phone when she conducts her search. The inaccurate listing means she can’t find your company and, whoosh—that opportunity disappears without a trace. You didn’t even have a clue.
Bad Reviews Can Cause Lasting Damage
But, it can get worse. Each of the listing companies actively seeks reviews from consumers. If you are like me, you regularly scan customer reviews before making a purchase online or booking a hotel, for example. In an industry like decorative surfacing, where excellent customer service and quality are life and death issues, having a bad review about your company can fatally turn off potential customers – whose decisions online can be measured in nanoseconds. Again, all this bad publicity could be out there right now, literally pushing customers away from your door, and you don’t even know it.
So, what’s a poor fabricator to do? First, you need to find out how your company is being listed and what is being said about you. Second, claim your listing with each of these online companies and update the information. This step requires some time and will require you to wade through a tidal wave of offers to somehow enhance your online presence by subscribing to each company’s services, but it can all be done at no cost. To quote a popular phrase, “Just say No.”
Third, you need to mitigate any bad reviews. I’ve seen instances where companies have had reviews attached to their name that had nothing to do with their businesses, or, where a customer complaint that has already been addressed takes on a life of its own and continues to bad-mouth the fabricator long after the issue has been resolved. What makes this so potentially hurtful is the search engines love to pick up reviews from these listing companies and feature them as part of the search results. Whether or not the information is accurate is not their problem—they just want the content.
How does one go about mitigating a complaint?
1. Monitor the review sites on an ongoing basis.
2. Contact your customer privately and ask her to take down the negative review.
3. Respond to customer complaints online in a positive way.
4. Encourage happy customers to post positive reviews.
There are specific strategies for implementing each of the steps listed above that help your business move from an online pariah to boasting a squeaky clean image—but that, my friend, is a topic for another day.