Reviews and Stars Count

Your online reputation is essential to your plumbing company’s success.

When was the last time you searched online for a restaurant, movie or business before making a purchase or a visit? You probably do it more often than you realize. Think about it. When you are at a doctor’s office or in a long line to check out, what do you and the other patients or customers do? You are probably on your smartphones.

So, let’s say you want to buy a new refrigerator. If you are like most people these days, you’ll take to the Internet and Google “best refrigerators,” “most efficient refrigerators” or “most reliable refrigerators.” And you’ll get results. Then you’ll probably look for reviews from consumers, right? I know I do. And whether you are looking for reviews on the refrigerator brand, or the retailer nearest you that carries the specific model you decide on, the reviews are everywhere. Sometimes the review stars show up in the organic results, and sometimes they’ll show up on a map or Google Plus listing. But you can’t avoid them. And the other thing you can’t miss are the search results with no reviews, or even worse, bad reviews.

If you are the owner or manager of a residential plumbing company, the reviews your business receives online can help or hinder your company’s growth. It’s in your best interest to be aware of and monitor your reputation online. The thing that business owners, and especially in-home or commercial service business owners, dread is a terrible review. This happens to many good businesses as well as not-so-good businesses, but how do your customers know the difference if your good business gets a bad review?

Honesty is always the best policy, especially in light of today’s transparency in business practices and the proliferation of social media platforms. If you encourage your customers to review your business on Google or Yelp (and you should), you can expect that not every single review will be glowing. Here are some tips on how to handle reviews:

1. Monitor what’s being said: Search reviews of your business every week. Make sure you get to know who reviewed your business. Thank them for a good review quickly after one is posted.

2. Do not ignore bad reviews: Answer promptly and professionally. Never get into an argument. You cannot remove a bad review, in general, unless you can prove there was intent to harm a person or the review is untrue. Each review site has its own rules as to how to deal with bad reviews, but always answer, and if possible, ask the reviewer to contact you personally, offline.

3. Ask for a retraction or correction: Once you have resolved the complaint or bad review, ask for a new or a revised review. It can and does make a big difference when potential customers see that your business worked hard to regain the customer’s trust when there was a problem.

4. Monitor what’s being said: This was the number one tip, and it bears repeating. Reviews happen on many different platforms. Google Local or Google Business (pretty much the same thing) is one option where reviewers can “rate” your business through a star system. There are others that use similar rating systems. Watch your star ratings every week and encourage customers to leave star reviews with links and instructions on your bills, website, social platforms and emails.

You may wonder if potential customers really pay that much attention to online business reviews. Well, according to Constant Contact, an online email marketing company, 90 percent of consumers’ online reviews do have an influence on buying decisions. And, as mobile devices take over laptops or desktop computers when it comes to search, reviews will be easier than ever to write and see. If you haven’t checked your website analytics lately, check out how many visitors come to your website from mobile devices and how many come from computers. I’ll bet your visitor balance is changing, and more of them will come from mobile devices every year. 

Knowing this is important as you work to grow your home service business. It’s also important to know how to get Google or Yelp reviews and why these reviews (and the number of stars people see when searching for your business) are essential to help your business grow.

You probably have a Google Business listing. Google may have created one for you, or you may have created one for your business years ago. In any case, here are some steps to take to ensure you take advantage of your Google online presence and make the most of its marketing potential:

1. Claim your Google My Business Account or create one. To create one, go to business.google.com/create and follow the instructions. If you Google your company’s name and see there is already a listing for your business, then search Google for “claim my Google my business account,” and follow the instructions.

2. Check for existing reviews of your business. You may find there are already reviews on your Google business page. If there are, try to verify the reviewers are actual customers. If they are, and the reviews are old, you may just want to start responding to new or recent reviews. If there are bad reviews, take the time to find out who the reviewer is and see if you can resolve the bad comment(s). If you can, get a new review or comment if you have resolved the issue.

3. Add all the pertinent information to your Google My Business Account. A complete Google My Business Account gets more results. List your location, hours, link to your website and more. As your business gets more and more high-star ratings, your star ratings will appear next to your business name in search results.

Why is this important? Google stated that: “Once your business has obtained five reviews, your business can show up in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This is a highly desired accomplishment as once having attained this threshold, these reviews have been shown to increase click-through rates (CTRs) by as much as 20 percent.”

What this means is that with time and concerted effort, a business can help get more customers to visit its website and take action by having 5-star reviews show up in search results next to the business name. This is no small feat, as noted in Google’s own explanation of the importance of Google reviews above. Click-throughs are metrics that show how effective your call to action on your business page or advertisements has been. 

While some of these steps can be accomplished with due diligence and study of Google’s process, sometimes hiring a professional PR and marketing agency specializing in your industry, with solid and proven results in improving Google rankings through expanding reviews and by increasing the brand’s online awareness and clout, is the most effective plan. Whatever your business decides to do, keep this in mind: doing nothing could hurt your company’s reputation. 

Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global B2B public relations agency specializing in home service and building trades. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com. 

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