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Protecting your online reputation is an absolute must for businesses. Actively monitoring and responding to online reviews is a necessity. Great reviews can quickly lead to even more great customers coming through your doors.

Review management isn’t an option – It is a MUST for a local business. You may have resisted setting up a business website or social media profiles (although we highly recommend you set those up too) but when it comes to reviews – they may already be out there, whether you want them to be or not.

How your business may have reviews you don’t know about

Most online directories pull in their information from public data. You’re probably most familiar with how this information gets pulled in by the likes of MapQuest, Apple Maps and Google Maps which then use their algorithms to make sense of the masses of information (to help get you where you’re going). That means if your business is registered at any kind of physical address then it’s likely that it will show up on some or all of the online directories.

So, your business is already showing up on directories – and for free! – what more do you need to do? Quite a bit, actually.

In many cases, the information showing up on un-monitored listings isn’t completely accurate. Imagine a customer is searching for your business, but you moved two years ago and the information hasn’t been updated. Maybe a customer is looking for you on Google Maps, but the previous tenant’s business name is still showing up at your address instead of yours.

Getting your directories claimed, updated and optimized is vital. But, in this blog, we’re here to talk about your business and online reviews. Just as your business may be showing up on directories without you realizing it, your business may be getting reviews online without you knowing it.

In order to respond to existing and new reviews and to manage your online reputation, you’ll need to get your business claimed and optimized first. Below we’ll talk you through how to do just that on the three most important review sites.

Why Google is such an important review site for your business to be on

What makes Google such important directory for local businesses is simple: search. Google is the king of search. 63% of desktop searches and about 95% of mobile searches happen on the search engine. This means that the likelihood of someone finding your business (and its reviews) on Google versus other platform and search engines is pretty high.

One of the things that usually comes up when someone searches for a local business is the star rating for that business. That’s something that can influence a potential customer to scroll down to the competition faster than it took Google to populate the search results. That’s why online reputation management – especially on Google – is so important.

How to get your business set up on Google

Google requires that businesses claim their businesses on Google Maps through a Google My Business account. After you’ve submitted your claim, Google will then go through a verification process that involves good old-fashioned mail and takes a few days. The great news is that setting up your Google My Business account is free.

Once you’re verified you’ll have full access to your account which means you can then add photos, update all of your information and – you guessed it – respond to customer reviews. For more information about how to set up and optimize your business listing on Google you can check out our recent webinar.

Why Facebook is a great place for your business (and its reviews) to be

There are a couple of really good reasons to make sure your business is on Facebook. It is the most highly trafficked social network – over 1.2 billion people log on every day. Media Tech Blog recently reported that 70% of consumer businesses have acquired a customer through Facebook. The network is chock full of potential customers for your business.

How to get your business set up on Facebook

Anyone looking to keep business and personal separate can rest easy; Facebook does not require someone to have a personal account on the platform to set up a business page. And just like setting up a Google My Business account – setting up a page on Facebook is free too. To set one up, simply navigate to “Pages” within the menu and click “create page”.

After initially setting up a Facebook page, there are two different levels of authentication that can be acquired. For most local businesses, having Facebook’s grey checkmark next to their business name is all that’s really needed. The grey checkmark is Facebook’s way of indicating that they have confirmed a particular business location is real.

You may have seen a small blue badge next to the account names of celebrities, politicians or big brand name companies you follow. This is really reserved for more high-profile accounts who are at risk of people creating accounts and pretending to be them. What it indicated is that: “Facebook confirmed that this is the authentic Page or profile for this public figure, media company or brand”.

Neither of the Facebook badges are necessary for business owners or managers to start posting or responding to reviews; all that is required for that is control of their page. That’s another great reason to get your business on Facebook, even if you don’t plan to post much (although you should consider it) – setting up a page initially is almost too easy. We advise businesses, as a bare minimum, to get themselves set up on Facebook and their location confirmed with the grey checkmark (before someone else does!).

Why being on Yelp is necessary for every local business

Review on Yelp works a little bit different than they do on Google or Facebook. According to the company itself: “Yelp uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for the Yelp community among the millions we get. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp.” That sums up what most of us have come to know as the “Yelp Algorithm”.

Many disagree with the principles of Yelp’s algorithm and have difficulty trusting or relying on it. Some consumers choose not to factor Yelp reviews into their decision-making, and some businesses have reported that many of their great reviews get stuck “behind the filter”. But, the fact of the matter is – avoiding Yelp at this stage of the game isn’t realistic for local business owners.

Just as is the case with Google, Yelp is a directory, and a company’s listing can appear without the business owner’s knowledge or consent (it’s a publicly listed address, consent isn’t required). Over 2.8 million local businesses have taken the hint and appear on the review site – which is a smart move, considering Yelp sees an average of 145 million unique visitors every month.

How to get your business set up on Yelp

The process for claiming and verifying a local business on Yelp is very similar to the process required by Google. The business may or may not already be appearing as a listing; see if you can find your business by searching for it on Yelp. If it’s there, you can click on the “edit” button next to the company information; on the next page there will be an option at the top to “claim” your business.

If your business has been claimed by someone else you can reach out to Yelp through their business support page. If you don’t see your business on the site at all yet, then you’ll want to create a new business. At the bottom of the Yelp search feed, there should be a link that says “Can’t find your business? Add your business to Yelp”.

The Yelp verification process is usually a bit faster than Google’s. Yelp often handles verifications through business phones and can complete the process in a few minutes (while Google’s mailing address postcard can take days). If all goes smoothly, you could be up and running in no time.

Just like with Google and Facebook, verification is required before you can start replying to customer reviews on your company’s Yelp profile. Setting up the account is free here as well, although, Yelp does offer added features and benefits at a cost. These aren’t required but could be worth a little research.

Why simplification is key to streamlining the process (and how outsourcing can lessen the burden)

Online reputation management is – admittedly – a lot of work. Even with just one business location, keeping on top of reviews requires real-time management (most reviewers expect an immediate response, or at the very least within 24-48 hours). We haven’t even delved into how to respond to reviews (there’s more to consider than you might think).

In our next few blogs this spring we’ll walk you through how to actually respond to reviews – what to say, when to say it, as well as the key limitations and rules on each of the big three review sites. We’ll also show you how you can start proactively building up your review reputation by requesting real customer feedback – including how and when to ask on each site.

The key to success with review management is simplification. If you don’t have the right tools, you’ll never stick with it—and we’ve already proven why you need to actively manage your reviews. So where does that leave you? You need the right tools. Preferably, look for an all-in-one solution that minimizes the need for you to log into multiple sites or platforms. Remember, consumers want quick responses, so finding tools that make it quick and easy to monitor and respond to reviews will go a long way towards helping to keep your online reputation a positive one.

Interested in learning about how Vivial’s all-in-one marketing platform can help ease the burden of review management? Contact us today!