Online Reputation Shortcuts?

Every business owner knows there’s no short cut to success. However, as anxiety around online marketing sets in, a good sales pitch from a shady operator can land a business owner in a tight spot.

Clients who are new to digital marketing often want their online image to match the “brick and mortar” reputation they’ve built up over the years.

However, trying to manipulate rankings and ratings can have disastrous results as Yelp reported earlier this week:

We recently heard reports from business owners about a company called YelpBooster (aka YelpMotion) purporting to sell five-star Yelp reviews and first-page placement in search engine results. The company's solicitations were extremely misleading. Even worse, they suggested falsely they were affiliated with -- or even calling from -- Yelp. We took aggressive action to shut down this fraudulent company and were successful.Darnell Holloway, Yelp Business Outreach

How Cheaters Get Caught

In 2012 Yelp introduced their Consumer Alert program to warn businesses when they detect attempts to manipulate their ratings and reviews service. Companies hoping to quickly build up positive reviews often write a lot of glowing, 5-star submissions about their own company. However, when Yelp sees a flood of reviews coming in from the same IP address, they know the feedback is fishy. This is when the Yelp investigation team gets involved.

It’s important to keep in mind that Yelp doesn’t take issuing a Consumer Alert lightly. They set up online stings and painstakingly gathers evidence against offending companies. Once confirmed, they slap a big old Consumer Alert notice on the business’ page. If the offending behavior stops, the Consumer Alert warning will be removed from the business’ page after 90 days. But who wants a sign hanging around their neck that says “cheater”!?
You can read more about Yelp's Consumer Alerts program in their official blog post.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of third-party companies offering to boost your online image for a fee. How do they do it? Well, the simple answer is: they can’t. Giving these companies your money only puts you at risk of looking very, very bad.

"Clients want their online image to match their 'Brick & Mortar' reputation immediately. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to the top."

So What's a Company to Do?

In life and business, there are no shortcuts to success. The same is true when managing your online image. The secret of getting ahead of your competition is getting started! Here are a few steps every client can take to start taking control of their reviews and rankings.

  • Ask for Positive Reviews

    When you have a great experience with an obviously happy client, take that opportunity to ask them to give you a glowing review!

  • Respond to Feedback

    We've all read jerky reviews online. If there is no response, we tend to believe the reviewer. However, we rally behind business owners who respond professionally and fix problems.

  • Create Lots of Local Citations

    Citations are mentions of your business on other webpages. Examples of good citations might be a profile on your local chamber of commerce page, business association sites and local directory listings.

  • Keep the Conversation Going

    The most successful businesses stay in touch with their customers through blogging, social media and email marketing.

When you have a great experience with an obviously happy client, take that opportunity to ask them to give you a glowing review on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Yelp pages. To avoid getting "dinged" for manipulating the system, have cards printed showing your customer where and how to leave their reviews.

Google takes reviews seriously. According to MOZ's Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. Surprisingly, Google hints they don't really care if a review is good or bad. They just like to see businesses interacting with customers. So should you get a negative review, don't try to hide it, jump in and respond with a professional, caring answer to the problem.

At SOLID we think of our Digital Marketing Service as a landing strip for our clients’ business. We surround their SOLID website with a series of virtual “bright lights” called citations. As a key component of the ranking algorithms in Google and Bing, these digital beacons send out signals to the search engines telling them which audience should land at your site. All other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.

Once in the spotlight, we encourage our clients to give their best sales pitch with captivating, creative content. The most successful clients then keep the conversation going through blogging, social media and email marketing.

Get Started Today!

Getting traffic into your site is only half the job. You have to deliver what they came to find. Only then will you catch the big fish! Don't worry, you probably won’t publish perfect content the first time. Developing effective content is an ongoing, evolutionary process.

If you’ve got questions about how to design a content strategy or more fully develop an existing site, contact us today for a free SOLID evaluation.

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