March 13

by Vossey

Five Major Online Marketing Shifts Affecting Local Businesses

Are you are running a local services business? A business like pest control, carpet cleaning, air conditioning or plumbing and electrical? Then this article will help you boost your lead flow and conversions in 2019 – by up to 3.5X.

You may not have spotted it, but there have been some big online marketing changes. These can boost or kill off your lead and customer flow.

And when you get to grips with the changes, it can put you in a position to crush it when it comes to getting new customers. All at the expense of your competitors.

Your  Reviews and Reputation Are Out There For Everyone To See

Go and search your company’s name online right now and you will see something like this.

Google Search result for a business
Google search result for a business. Note the ratings and the presence of reviews.

Nearly all local business have their business reputation exposed online. And let’s not forget that Facebook is basically the number two mobile app for searching companies online and they also show reviews and customer comments. Reviews are very important today – 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34).

This blog post was first published in 2015. I have updated it with the recent 2018 survey data from Brightlocal’s, 2018 consumer survey.  Watch my summary video of the blog post…and I do encourage you to read the whole blog about the survey.

Video Summary

The Trend To Use Reviews Continues

86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses

86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses


As Google gets on top of fake reviews, more and more people are using and trusting online reviews. And in 2016 and 2017, it seems Google is placing even more emphasis on reviews. Consumers value them.

Anyone Can Write A Review Online

It almost doesn’t matter where you look, Facebook, Citysearch, True Local, Yelp, Google…there are all sorts of local directories that show a company name, review ratings and reviews. This means that anyone can drop a review online whenever they want to via their Smartphone after a service delivery.

By anyone, we mean happy customers, unhappy customers, disgruntled employees, and even your competition. And if you get a few reviews like the ones below, your lead flow will dry up.

Examples of bad reviews

Unfortunately, it’s the upset ones who are most likely to go online. People who had an unhappy service interaction are 50% more likely to share that on social media and / or an online review site like Yelp.

Everyone Checks Reviews

You have probably noticed how helpful reviews are when you are looking for products on Amazon. Or how useful reports are on TripAdvisor when you’re looking for accommodation overseas.

In summary:

  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34)
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
  • 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks – up from 18% last year
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars

So what does this all mean?

  • First, you need to understand just want a potential customer sees about your business when they go online…and most of them do!
  • And it’s no wonder, considering that if you have a bad online reputation, nearly 80% of readers will rule out your business as a choice for them.
  • If your business has bad reviews somewhere you will have a lead flow 350% less than businesses with great reviews from that source.
  • You need to find out if someone has posted inaccurate or derogatory information that could tarnish your reputation and kill off your lead flow.

Reviews are the single most important factor in the choice of a local business. 51% of people say reviews are the most important. That is way higher than other factors like location and price.

And don’t think it’s just restaurants and cafes that are affected by this. Reviews are also critically important for trades related businesses like yours.

Going Online As Part Of The Buying Process Today

Is Word of Mouth (WOM) or referrals an important source of customers for your business?

While WOM is still useful, nearly everybody (92%) goes online to check out a business when they’re looking for a new home services provider like a Plumber, Carpet Cleaner or Pest Control Service. If a friend refers your business to someone else, it’s very likely the new prospect will still go online to check you out.

After being referred to a business, 52% look for online reviews and ratings.

52% 0f Respondents Looked At Reviews First

And this is true even of you are “doing networking” to generate new business. Your prospects will go online to find out more about you after you have given them your business card or after you have been introduced to them.

If you are advertising online (or offline) people will still check out your business reputation online before they call you. Google even includes review ratings in their AdWords ads from time to time. They know reviews increase click rates, making their ads more effective.

Excellent Recent Reviews Are Important

Let me ask you, which company would you choose from these three?

Three business with 2 stars, 5 stars and no ratings - which would you choose

In this survey, 1 in 2 needed a star rating of 4 or 5 before they would use a business.

New fresh reviews are important too. Nearly 9 in 10 consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. Think about that yourself when you’re looking for a restaurant, if the last review was six months ago would you trust it?

That combination can lead to a more than 350% increase in new customer flow. It could be more if you have low star ratings or only a few (or no) reviews.

Increase Your Customer Flow By 3.5 Times

Reviews and reputation have an extremely powerful effect on your flow of new leads and customers.

Businesses with a four and five-star rating can it expect to attract at least 3.5 times more prospects or leads than a company with no ratings or poor ratings! That’s huge.

You can also reasonably expect that the powerful effect of social proof would also make it much easier to convert prospects to customers when you are able to demonstrate that 10 or more people have given you positive ratings and reviews.

And you need to keep on top of what people are saying about you online. It’s likely taken years to get your business to where it is today.

All built on the back of great work and excellent customer service.

This should lead to an increase in new customers. If it’s not, there might be something wrong with your online reputation.

Imagine one day, that a customer tells you they read some bad reviews online about your business. And you realise that while you’ve been working hard delivering your service. But you’ve had not been keeping an eye on your online reputation and some of the reviews you have been not that great.

Swamp The Negative With The Positive

Your first priority should be to set up a business to deliver excellent service. That way you have the foundation in place to develop a stellar reputation.

While you probably use other marketing tactics, like social media, SEO, PPC and offline advertising, every potential customer is eventually going to want to learn more about your business. When they do, they’ll search for reviews.

Five Important Aspects of Online Business Reputation Management

If you want to take your business forward by creating, maintaining and protecting your business reputation, action these five points.

1. Use A Variety Of Review Sites

Yes, reviews on Google My Business have a major impact, but don’t assume that if you’re able to get a few positive reviews on Google My Business that your job is done.

You should take in a broader range of sites when managing online reviews. Post reviews to your own website and ask your customers to review you on social media, too. Also, set up profiles on relevant review sites like True Local, City Search, ProductReview and Yellowpages.

2. Ensuring Real, Truthful Reviews

Make sure that only real reviews are being posted. If you’re nervous about your online reputation, it’s tempting to have a few people write glowing, but made up reviews. Not only is this an unethical approach, but it’s easy to get caught. If Yelp or Google, for example, finds out that you’re posting fake reviews, they could remove your profile entirely – they may even prosecute you.

Instead, ask your real customers to review you online and suggest that they be as detailed as possible. Vagueness is a red flag of a fake review.

Ask people to leave you an honest review – don’t ask for a 5 Star review.

3. Keep Getting Reviews

It seems that Google ranks recent reviews more prominently than they rank reviews from several months or years in the past. Nearly 9 in 10 consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant.

You’ll want to make sure that you have a process in place to collect reviews as each service delivery is completed. This makes total sense if you rely on word of mouth as you want to know what customers are thinking and potentially saying about your business as a result of their most recent service experience.

4. Get Good Reviews

This is an obvious point, but some business owners think that having a high number of reviews is good enough. No matter how many reviews you have, a majority of them should be on the positive side, not just middle of the road. While having only five-star reviews is suspicious, you want most of the reviews to have a high number of stars.

5. Get A Lot of Reviews

Getting good reviews is important, but so is getting a lot of them. Consistency says a lot to a customer.

If one person had a good experience, that could have just been a fluke. If 50 people had great experiences, that shows that your company continually delivers on its promise.

Also, more reviews even out the variability of your review results and it pushes the effect of a few negative reviews out of the mix. Obviously, if you have one 5 star review and one 1 star review the average score will be 2.5 Stars. But if you have 30 5 star reviews and one 1 star review the score will still be 5 stars.

It can be tricky to get your customers to write good reviews. Most people are motivated to write a review when they’ve had a bad experience, but very few feel compelled to take time out of their day to write about a positive experience.

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Are You Doing Enough To Manage Your Business's Online Reputation?