With the continual evolution in the digital buying behavior of prospects and clients, the importance of having a strong online reputation has grown exponentially in the past several years. Consider this news: Consumers have become more reliant on your online star-rating than a recommendation from their neighbor.

Since the days of cavemen (surely), a solid recommendation from your neighbor has always been the absolute, heralded gold standard in finding the best option for anything you need—especially a home improvement pro!

But nowadays? Say my neighbor Wilson recommends your company to me. He says his experience was outstanding, the best he’s ever had! Terrific! Now, I Google your company to give you a call, only to see you have just 3.9 stars…ouch. Sure, Wilson might have had a good experience, but it must have been a fluke based on this rating. I’m calling the next company listed who has 4.8 stars with 250 reviews!

And so it goes. You just lost a referral from your customer. The same goes for prospects Googling you after they saw your TV spot, received a direct mail piece, or any other media. By having only 3.9 stars, you’re losing leads and driving up your cost of marketing.

It’s not just about inspiring consumers to choose to call you. A strong online reputation is important for another reason: SEO or search engine optimization. We all know Google and the others have algorithms programmed to find and display the best search result.

Logically, one indicator of a relevant result is a company with a good volume of relevant online reviews, posted with recency, most of which report a positive experience. Google not only considers its own reviews when determining result rankings, it also aggregates ratings across other leading review sites and even lists those results in your map listing now.

So, without a strong online reputation, the algorithms deem that you are not the best result, and the search engines thereby rank you lower, beneath the scroll, which means fewer people will see you and even have the chance to choose to click on you.

It comes down to this: You need to drive a strong online reputation because it will enable you to drive more LEADS at an effective cost.

Of course, you aren’t driving 3.9-star experiences regularly, and the vast majority of your customers are as happy as Wilson (I hope). The problem is unhappy customers are much more likely than happy customers to post a review. Why? They have an axe to grind. Most happy customers move on with their lives, with it simply not occurring to them to take the time to post an online review.

That’s why it’s imperative to develop a strong, well organized and managed strategy to drive positive reviews. At its simplest, a successful program simply functions to ask your customers to share their experience. With happy customers who just don’t think of it, simply asking them to write a review is, very often, enough to spur action. Whether it’s driven by incentivizing employees or rewarding customers, it is essential to the longevity of your business that you are proactively driving online reviews.

As you develop and execute your successful strategy to drive a stronger online reputation, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Your aggregate rating should be 4.6 or higher. Studies show that with anything less you are losing leads. Interestingly, a perfect five-star rating also leads to fewer conversions; apparently, in the consumer research psyche, perfection is suspect. The ideal range for star ratings is 4.6 to 4.9 stars.
  • Quantity and recency matter. If you have 4.8 stars with 28 reviews, and the last one was posted six months ago, that’s a problem. Consumers are going to pay more attention to your competitor with 4.6 stars and 300 reviews with the newest one posted last week—and so are the search engines. Recency and quantity also serve another purpose, which you may recognize from the catchy industry phrase “drown and surround.” Meaning, when the inevitable negative review is posted, you want it to fall into every growing sea of positives reviews.
  • Track and manage tightly. As with anything, successfully driving a stronger online reputation is going to require diligent monitoring and active management. What is your aggregate star rating when combining reviews from all prominent third-party sites (Google, Facebook, Angi, etc.)? You don’t know? You should; it’s how you will track and manage your overall online reputation. There are plenty of resources you can subscribe to that will do this for you for a monthly fee.
  • It’s not only about driving positive reviews. Minimizing negative reviews should also be an integral and instrumental piece of your broader online reputation strategy. Aside from focusing on strong customer service, add ancillary tracking and actions to take when the occasional negative review comes in. For instance, at Dreamstyle, every negative review deducts three positive reviews from reporting.

Drive reviews to drive your business forward! QR

Dawn Dewey is senior vice president of marketing and business development at Dreamstyle Remodeling, a full-service remodeling firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dreamstyle is a Renovo Home Solutions Company.

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