Own Your Online Listing Before it Owns You

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Listings, as those who grew up before the aughts know, used to refer to a company’s contact information published in physical directories such as the Yellow Pages. Have you ever wondered why there are so many automotive repair, plumbing and pest control companies with names beginning with AA, AAA and AAAA? It’s so they were at the top of listings and potential customers would ring them before calling their competition.

Today’s listings are much different from their paper counterparts. Most of your guests aren’t flipping through hundreds of pages of local business listings to find you or other businesses. Your online presence—which includes not only your location and contact information but ratings and reviews—is what guests depend on to find you and decide if they want to visit you. (By the way, the Yellow Pages still exists and has a digital presence.)

The president of RankHammer, Steve Hammer, explained during the 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show not only how listings have evolved but also why you absolutely must own your listing.

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Listings Evolved

Social media channels like Facebook allow businesses to create profiles that are basically enhanced business listings. Digital listings such as those found on the world’s most infamous social network allow you, the business owner, to interact with guests. They give you the opportunity to read and respond to reviews. You can also make posts about what your business is up to, complete with photos. According to Hammer, businesses that add photos to their listings see 35 percent more clicks through to websites and 42 percent more requests for Google Maps driving directions than those that post without pictures.

Another benefit of owning your listing—that is to say, creating an official, confirmed listing or taking one over that has been made by someone else for your business—is access to analytics. Own your listing and you’ll be able to track:

  • how customers searched for you (mobile, desktop, etc.);
  • where they come from (search engine, social media channel, etc.);
  • the number of people who called your business directly via local search results;
  • enhanced metrics, such as the effectiveness of ad words in dedicated campaigns.

Claim Your Listing

It’s not difficult to claim your listings online, it will just take a bit of time. Head over to Yelp, Google My Business or other listings sites and begin by searching for your business. If it isn’t listed (presumably because your brand new), create a new listing and follow the instructions. Should a listing exist (likely since many guests are eager to rate and review every business use), claim it as the owner and correct any inaccurate information. Either way, choose the business category that best fits your establishment. Enter the phone number you prefer customers use to contact you, along with your website URL.

Read this: Your Website Still Matters

You will be asked to verify that you are indeed the owner of your business. This can be done over the phone, via text or email, or even a postcard if for some reason you really enjoy being at the mercy of the USPS. Be aware that you can put off verification, but the listing won’t do you any good until you complete this task. To access the full capabilities of your listing you’re going to want to complete verification ASAP.

Once you’ve been verified as the owner you can really make your listing useful to those who seek it out or stumble across it via search. Add your menu, select a specific landing page to which you want to drive website visitors (like a reservation page), let people know what you offer, and even boast about your venue’s best attributes. As Hammer pointed out, a listing on a site like Google can be enhanced with videos and photo galleries. He highly recommends taking advantage of these capabilities to stand out and engage with guests.

Should verification go wrong somehow, contact the listing service immediately. In the case of Google My Business, call 1-844-491-9665 Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. You can also contact them through Twitter at @GoogleMyBiz. The key to remember is: take care of this situation right away. Doing so can give you access to some awesome perks, like ready-to-use social media posts, promotional materials, and ready-to-print posters and stickers through Small Thanks with Google.

Respond to Reviews

Another situation to take care of immediately is responding to reviews. Monitor them so that you can answer in a timely manner. If you receive a good review, take the time to thank the reviewer. Recognize that they’ve taken the time to leave their review and you appreciate it. Let them know you look forward to their return.

If you receive a negative review—and it’s going to happen, regardless of how amazing a staff you’ve put together and trained—do not lash out. I repeat, do not allow your emotions to take over. Do not attack the reviewer. I’m not saying to not take it personally; you’re going to be offended by some negative reviews. After all, it’s part of your identity and you should be proud of your business.

Read this: Nightlife Pro Tips: Effectively Managing Your Online Reviews

Step away from the computer or put down your phone for as long as it takes to cool off if necessary. When you’re calm and collected, thank the reviewer for their time and address their criticisms politely and without a defensive tone. Attacking or being defensive will just paint you in a negative light and make others reading the review think it’s accurate.

Also realize that a percentage of negative reviews are beneficial to you and your business. Some of the biggest and best brand names consider customer complaints—both in person and online—to be opportunities to review internal processes and improve training. If you’re more of an emotional, reactionary person, revisit negative reviews after you’ve calmed down. Ask yourself if they ring true and represent an opportunity for you to improve your business. All operators should learn to see “bad” reviews as educational moments.

Defend Against Review Weaponization

Living in the age of the Internet and social media as we do, you may eventually find that someone is attempting to weaponize negative reviews to spam you with 1-star ratings. Again, don’t engage through their reviews directly. Rather, contact the listing service professionally. Let them know you are experiencing a high and unreasonable amount of negative reviews from one profile/user.

If you’ve reached out and tried to resolve the matter, let the service know you’ve done so. Request that the negative reviews be flagged or removed. To move through this process quickly and show your professionalism, provide your business’ full name, your current address (if you’re a multi-unit operator let them know you have multiple locations), your current phone number, and your website. Make certain to also give them the negative reviewer’s profile URL. Request that you be contacted regarding possible resolutions so the listing service knows you mean business.

Don’t Fear the Reviewer

You may feel anxious after reading about how to deal with negative reviews in the section above. That’s understandable, but living in fear of negative reviews is just going to add to your stress. Besides, you can’t escape the inevitability of receiving negative reviews. However, a resource called Whitespark Reputation Builder can help you manage them and lower your stress level.

After choosing a package (they range in cost from $35 to $215 per location, with multi-unit pricing available) you add guest names, email addresses and/or mobile numbers. Whitespark then sends these people a friendly email or text message requesting their feedback. The guest is asked to rate you on a scale of 1 to 10. Scores of 7 or higher (you can customize this parameter) direct the guest to online profiles you’ve pre-selected to leave positive reviews.

Negative reviews (6 or lower), on the other hand, direct the guest to a private, internal feedback form which gives you the opportunity to address issues directly. This private form lowers the chances of your business receiving negative reviews online. No need to fear the reviewer.

Additional Tools

You’re likely familiar with the big names that encourage people to rate and review businesses. Yelp, Facebook, Google, OpenTable, TripAdvisor… If you operate a bar, nightclub or restaurant, you know those names. Hammer, however, shared a couple more resources available to you to help manage your listings and reviews. There’s Whitespark, which I explained above, but you should also consider the tools below.

One of these is called Moz Local. This service saves you time and effort by sharing your approved unit data with the most used major aggregators, search engines, directories, and apps. Fill information out one time per unit and Moz Local does the rest. Need to make edits because your information has changed? Change it across the board quickly via this service. Gain trust with your guests (Moz Local claims that 73 percent of guests lose trust in a business if listings contain inaccurate information), save time, and improve your ratings and reviews.

Yext is another listing management solution. It’s powerful, cleansing your internal data; suppressing duplicate listings; building SEO-friendly pages to increase inbound search traffic; managing listings, menus and global data; giving you the ability to manage Google My Business, and more. You can even optimize voice search with Yext. The brand claims that by 2020 half of all searches will be conducted by voice or image—get ready now. Click here to request a demo.

Owning a business today requires more than just opening your doors. Fully own your online presence before it owns you…and takes you down.