Small businesses need to start paying attention to their local search results, or suffer the consequences.
I just finished a two day social media intensive clinic at Lone Star College in The Woodlands, which is just outside of Houston. After discussing the details of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook, it becomes apparent that social media has a big effect on your search engine rankings.
So much of social media is now becoming integrated heavily into search engine results. In particular, this becomes incredibly important if you're fighting negative press in the search engine results.
Occasionally, we get a frantic call from a company that is being badgered by an aggressive blogger, a disgruntled ex-employee, or an unhappy customer.
Look at what's happening to this attorney. Howard's doing "great" in the local listings for the phrase "Cleveland Lawyer." He's consistently in the top local business results for that phrase.
The problem is, two reviews he has gotten are horrendous including this one.
The two negative reviews were written back in May 2007. They just sit there, festering.
We know that user-generated reviews are incredibly powerful. In the summary of a 2009 report by eMarketer we find:"...by 2013, 155 million of US Internet users will consume some form of user-created content, up from 116 million in 2008. The number of user-generated content creators will grow by similar proportions, reaching 115 million in 2013, up from 83 million in 2008."
And in a Nielsen study, they show "90 percent of the respondents said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent said they trusted consumer opinions posted online."
Please Howard! Do something about this. This is a great example for all my social media classes. But deep down inside, it's killing me. I'm tempted to manage this disaster just to get it cleared up.
Google Maps is the number one way people find local businesses. I'm quite sure this significantly cuts into Howard's bottom line. Howard should go to Citysearch and comment on each of these reviews to tell his side of the story. Then, he should e-mail all his (happy) clients and encourage them to post some reviews.
When I'm doing social media seminars, I usually tell people that they don't have to engage in the social media world if they don't feel comfortable doing it. However, if there's some significant negative content online, you might be forced to get involved.
This attorney has let these two terrible reviews sit online, in the top Google search results, for nearly three years with no response. His case wouldn't be too difficult to fix up and maybe even become a net positive for him if he would engage with it properly.
Google knows that people like these kinds of user-generated reviews. We'll likely continue to see more of them in the search results as time goes on.
In particular, most companies don't pay attention to local search. A lot of local search results point to small businesses that aren't watching their search traffic. They most likely have never claimed their local business listing in Google. So they don't have any idea of what it's doing for their business.
Take some time and see how you're represented in these kinds of listings. Maybe there's no problem at all. But there are enough listings like the one mentioned here which clearly shows that the word hasn't gotten out to most of the small business community.
If you have questions about how to go about this, leave a comment below and I, and probably other readers, will gladly see if we can help you.
Meet Sage Lewis at SES New York, March 22-26, 2010 at the Hilton New York.
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Sage Lewis is the president of SageRock Digital Marketing. SageRock has been a leader in Web marketing since 1999, offering search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and analytics.
Sage speaks nationally with SES and other prominent Web marketing organizations. He is one of the most sought after speakers and coaches in the field of Web marketing. From coast to coast, Sage has trained, coached, and consulted with some of the largest brands and conferences in the country.
Sage is also "The Web Marketing Video Guy" with nearly 500 Web marketing videos published. Sage writes as an expert for ClickZ in the "Search Engine Marketing" section. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.
His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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